Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Summer in the city
There's something about August in London that can be quite restful -- less traffic, more time, and space to admire the roses in the inner circle of Regent's Park -- but not this week. The city is heaving with people -- not just tourists, but Londoners -- so perhaps more of us than usual are staying at home, or working through the summer. In one way, it feels quite comradely, but still, it's a surprise to see the traffic jams snaking through Hampstead, and down Regent's Street, and around Hanover Square.
Anyway... I went into Vogue today, where I used to work; saw some old friends, and felt nostalgic about my time there. Different clothes on the rails, ready for shoots, but similar sense of anticipation about the forthcoming autumn issues; and even though everything changes in glossy magazines, and in fashion, sometimes it goes full circle, and reminds you of how we were and still are...
Still, there are shifts in the landscape, one of which is the new Vogue blog.
Oh, and I think now is the right moment to wear an old tweed jacket, rather than a new one. And feathers, in some shape or form. Speaking of which, here is my column from the Sunday Telegraph (hopefully better late than never, and just in time for tomorrow). Oh, damn, have just noticed that the online version isn't opening (so much for new technology, or maybe it's my technological illiteracy). So here it is again (thus proving that today is cyclical, like everyday)...
It might seem surprising that the determinedly urban fashion industry should turn to the British countryside for inspiration, were it not for the fact that this happens on a regular basis. Indeed, it is a tradition almost as firmly established as the start of the grouse-shooting season on August 12th; for barely a year goes by without country classics being cited as a starting point for a slick designer collection. Tweeds, head-scarves, twin-sets; they all get trotted out on a regular basis. Not that I’m complaining, because I like the look of them, particularly the ancient faded variety worn by my grandmother, who proved an exception to Nancy Mitford’s rule in ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ that tweed skirts ‘always bag, except on very smart little thin women’. (My grandmother’s tweeds were as redoubtable as she, and would never have had the temerity to go baggy on her.)
Anyway, this year there are new variations on a theme. Prada’s autumn collection includes some startling thigh high leather wading boots and teeny-weeny tweed shorts, which may or may not prove to be popular amongst grouse-shooters. ‘I didn’t want to do anything about the city,’ said Miuccia Prada, in explanation, ‘more something about sport and the outdoors in general – freedom and nature… It was serious, in a way. It was about a need for feminine empowerment.’ So, now you know: the thigh-high boots and hot-pants are liberating, rather than fetishist constrictions.
There are also oodles of grey tweed at Luella, Gucci, and Burberry, and houndstooth at Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. It all looks quite lovely; but personally, I’m even more preoccupied by the pheasant feather pieces at Graeme Black, the Scottish designer who set up his own label after leaving Armani. He’s had a flurry of private orders for these covetable garments – an iridescent feathered skirt, along with a feathery bolero the colour of dusk, and a feather-trimmed silk coat – from a number of clients who plan to wear them to shooting parties in August. I have no idea whether the pheasant feathers will prove to be a camouflage or a distraction for other game birds; nor whether the shy grouse will be startled by the sight of crystal buttons on the moors and mountains.
Nevertheless, there is something irresistible about feathers, which may be why we pursue them in glorious and inglorious ways; and although I know nothing about the merits of woodcock over snipe (nor will I ever do), I always feel a tug at the heart whenever I see a feather floating from the sky.