Breakfast at Tiffanys
Some Iconic Women’s Items
Men Fashion Icons
Some Iconic Men’s Items
CARTIER TANK WATCH designed by Louis Cartier in 1916, an icon of modern watchmaking.
With terms like gender fluidity, gender-bending and androgyny becoming buzzwords, designers are sending men in skirts and women in tuxedos onto the catwalks.
Until the eighteenth century, both men and women of the elite class decked themselves out in elaborate dresses. An abundant use of silks, velvets, laces, as well as wigs and scented powders, were the norm. Men in pink embroidered jackets, gold and silver jewellery, high heeled shoes, were considered very masculine.
Fashion became feminised again in the nineteenth century when sexual difference through clothing was important in the social order.
It was Coco Chanel, in the 1920s, who first made trousers popular for women, pioneering masculine tailoring. She took inspiration from the country wardrobe of her lover The Duke of Westminster.
In the 30s, the golden age of Hollywood glamour, Marlene Dietrich appeared in white tie and tails in the film Morocco. Audiences were mesmerised!
The attitude was forced to change during the austerity years of the 40s and 50s.
And then, with the unisex fashion of the “Swinging Sixties” and the social revolution, the gender lines became somewhat less clear.
David Bowie & Rod Stewart
David Bowie and Rod Stewart’s psychedelic outfits we’re the epitome of androgyny.
Yves Saint Laurent & Catherine Deneuve
In 1966 Yves St Laurent introduced “Le Smoking”, a tuxedo for women. The masculine line was revolutionary. Later, he would interpret the mannish silhouette in gangster striped suits and safari jackets.
With the introduction of trousers, it was said that Chanel liberated women, and Yves St Laurent gave them power.
When Nan Kempner, a New York socialite, was refused entrance to a Manhattan restaurant wearing her YSL suit, her answer was to drop the trousers and march to her table wearing only the jacket as a mini dress. Et voila!
Bianca Jagger married Mick in St Tropez in a white version of “Le Smoking”. Today, style icons Kate Moss and Alexa Chung wear theirs with or without trousers.
Fashion has always been a mirror of its time – in art, politics, commerce…
Since the 1990s, it has been trying to blur the gender lines, and today gender-neutral clothing is back in vogue.
Dries van Noten
Because of globalisation, fashion houses have to be constantly innovative and think outside the box. When international brands started turning their shows into girl-boy platforms and decked them in similar outfits, it was indicative of a gender political wave that will only get bigger. It reflects the social and sexual changes.
Harry Styles & Pharell Williams
Fashion houses and jewellers claim that men are beguiling to buy pearls earrings and necklaces that were once associated with their grandmothers. An assortment of celebs, including Harry Styles and Pharrell Williams are helping to spread the idea that a modern man can wear pearls.
Today, the younger generation has a different attitude towards sexual identity. They often borrow elements of clothing from each other’s wardrobe – shirts, sweaters, blazers, hats, and caps.
Labels like The Kooples, encourage gender-swapping clothes, and unisex underwear is now a big thing. Clavin Klein was the first designer to cash in on it.
At a college last year, a group of male students stepped out in skirts proclaiming to counter the heatwave!
The A-list often swap their cocktail or evening dresses for something masculine. Among the sheer dresses and split skirts, tuxedos are bucking the trend. This does not mean forgoing flesh. Just leave off the shirt.
Young men care about their appearance, spend a lot of time at the gym, and money on clothing, skin and hair products.
Some men labeled “Metrosexuals”, are prepared to experiment with a man-skirt. It has been trying to go mainstream since the 1960s, and Jean Paul Gaultier has been its pioneer.
Recently, “cross dressing” has become a subject of press interest, and an antidote to concepts of society and gender. Grayson Perry as Claire his alter-ego, has become an accepted figure in the art world.
The Victoria & Albert Museum recently displayed a kimono owned by Freddie Mercury, pointing out that he was drawn to the garment for its ability to challenge ideas about gender and sexual norms.
In 2017, the #MeToo movement opened our eyes to gender roles and behaviour, and to the importance of equality between the sexes. In a very short time, we have become aware of identification. It has probably been the fastest evolution in history, thanks to the internet and social media.
Backed up by the voices of new generations, “genderlessness” has become a hot topic.
Technically WHITE is not a colour. Well, it’s my favourite colour!
It is the symbol of purity and romance. The list of clichés is endless. The dove of peace; the meringue dress of the bride; the linen sheet; the carpet of snow; the sheet of paper in front of the writer or the composer; and, in history, the famous Malevich painting “WHITE on WHITE” which opened the door to avant-garde art; or the floating icebergs symbol of our changing world.
Over the years I have designed WHITE clothes and WHITE rooms. My house in the South of France is all WHITE. I have also given some memorable WHITE parties (see White Parties post).
Vintage Roland Klein
Chez Moi en Provence
For me, home has always been a special place, somewhere I can shut the door to the outside world and feel calm and refreshed. At the end of any trip, business or pleasure, the best moment is when my keys open the front door.
A WHITE space can be like the perfect little black dress – simple, stylish, classic, and yet modern.
ALL WHITE ON THE NIGHT
The coolest way to upstage the guests. The only rule – keep red wine at distance.
Time and time again I have referred to Coco Chanel’s motto “Le luxe c’est la Simplicite” (luxury equals simplicity).
Think beyond flat white.
It’s a misconception that a WHITE room looks cold. WHITE is not just one colour. There is an enormous palette of WHITES, all different shades and tones, but nonetheless WHITE.
WHITE not only brings a room to life, but it also accentuates architectural details, mouldings and woodwork.
I often use several different tones of WHITE to decorate one room. In a recent project, I used WHITE with a tinge of lilac for the walls, chalky WHITE for the cornices, and plain WHITE for the ceilings.
Lighting is very important. Too bright and the room can then look sterile.
One of the joys of decorating a WHITE room is that one can play by adding colours with rugs, cushions, plants and flowers.
And a WHITE wall provides the perfect canvas to display artwork.
You can give a new lease of life to any old piece of furniture with a coat of WHITE paint. A wooden floor painted WHITE will look regenerated and stylish.
In today’s hectic life, a WHITE room can be more valuable than anything in the search for peace and harmony.
It’s A Jungle Out There
Fashion is always a reflection of what’s going on in the world, be it politics, art, culture or commerce… and interior design trends often follow fashion trends.
Blame the climate crisis, carbon footprint or the Amazon fires, but forests, jungles and oceans have been front-page news recently.
Several fashion houses – Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana in particular, all had jungle fever. And the interiors world soon followed.
Lots of wallpapers and printed fabrics are now available. China and ceramics are also decorated with jungle motifs.
Versace Dries Van Noten Versace
Here is a selection of some of my preferences…
ceramic and wood platter by John Lewis
Working from home
La Vie En Rose
The coolest colour to have in your home right now?
It has to be pink!
It is curious how the meaning of colours has changed over time. Pink relationship with gender has long been challenged.
In the 19th century, girls started to dress in powder blue, and Pink became the colour for boys.
In the 1940s marketers decided pink was the colour for girls.
Jayne Mansfield, Hollywood star of the 1950s had her home referred to as The Pink Palace.
India Mahdavi, today’s designer extraordinaire, created the decor for the trendy Sketch in London, using swathes of marshmallow velvet.
If pink has recently been a colour of high fashion, in interior design it is breaking free of gender stereotypes. Scandinavian brands have embraced it wholeheartedly.
Pink is now a colour that men are happy wearing and might even consider for their homes.
It’s a colour who goes very well paired with darker colours – black, brown or cobalt. Mixed with yellow, orange, lime green, terracotta it adds strength and drama. It becomes dusty and romantic mixed with white, soft grey, silver.
They say pink and red don’t go together… They do.
It can be adapted to any interiors, traditional or contemporary.
As we use our homes not just as a place we live and breathe, but often as a place to escape from our hard edge existence, pink environment creates a sensation of energy and well being. It brings calm and serenity.
Therefore, who could resist the power of pink?
Old age ain’t what it used to be!
“You must never think your age, and you must certainly never dress your age.”
1. Helen Mirren, 2. Diane Von Furstenberg, 3. Jean Dujardin, 4. Glen Close, 5. Giorgio Armani, 6. Grace Coddington, 7. Christine Lagarde, 8. Brigitte Macron, 9. Charlotte Rampling, 10. HRH Queen Elizabeth, 11. Jane Fonda, 12. Andre Leon Talley, 13. Iris Apfel, 14. Ralph Lauren, 15. Christina Scott Thomas, 16. Catherine Deneuve 17 Prue Leith, 18. Emma Forbes, 19. Dame Edna Everage, 20. Harrison Ford.
Let’s face it, no-one likes the ageing process, but since you can’t stop it, you might as well embrace it. Look on the bright side – no more exams to sit, no more job interviews, no more objects of desire to impress… It’s freedom! And there are ways to make it more palatable.
Here are some of my tips…
1. First and foremost is your attitude to life. We live in an increasingly stressful world, it’s the modern disease. Be positive, open up to new ideas, new faces, new adventures.
2. By now you know who you are and don’t give a damn. Who cares what people think? So, express your true nature.
3. Never indulge in bitterness. Do that and you end up a bitter person. Let it go.
“The price of peace is forgiveness.”
4. Live for the moment. Today is the most important day of your life.
5. Too many people are wrapped up in the past, “In my days …” You often hear from older folks. Things were not all better. They were just different. That’s why I strongly advise having young friends. Let them be your role models. They bring to the table different viewpoints as well as educating you to the modern way of life. Remember “it’s never too late to teach old dog new tricks”.
6. Make some plans for tomorrow, as well as for next year.
There are also practical ways to embrace the ageing process:
1. The key to good health is what you eat. The Mediterranean diet is often recommended by nutritionists. Eat lots of vegetables and make sure your plate is half filled with vegetables, preferably green ones.
2. Don’t drink alcohol to excess. You will regret it “the day after the night before”. Drink lots of water instead.
3. Next is exercise. Do some form of excise every day – a long walk, yoga … Get off the bus one stop before your final destination. Mental exercises, like crosswords, Sudoku… keep your brain active.
4. Sleep is very important. If you have difficulties falling asleep, don’t try, just relax. If you had a bad day, don’t dwell on it. Think about tomorrow and the pleasures it will bring.
5. Only a few minutes of meditation will clear your full head.
6. Smile a lot. Everybody reacts positively to a smiling face.
7. Travel helps your brain, with new experiences and challenges – foreign languages, money systems… And while new places bring new pleasures, new faces feed the soul.
My Fashion Tips
1. Don’t gain weight, but don’t get too thin either. Women who diet themselves to a stick don’t look good.
2. Plastic surgery? The problem is, one only notices badly done jobs. Successful processes can achieve miracles.
3. I think hair and make-up are a giveaway. Don’t stick to the ones you wore in your twenties, and please cut off the locks falling halfway down your back. Nothing is more ageing.
7. Beware of this season “must haves”, they are not necessarily going to be your best friends. Last year’s outfit will look “right on the money” with this season’s shoes. This season’s outfit with last year’s shoes definitely won’t.
8. Because you can just about zip up your old favourite frock, it is not going to make you look slimmer. Au contraire!
9. Don’t let clothes wear you. The maxim of Molyneux, a Thirties couturier, was that you should not notice what a woman is wearing, only how wonderful she looks.
13. Invest in a pink shirt. It’s cheaper than a facelift, and it will make your skin glow.
14. Don’t wear a designer head to toe (unless they are paying you).
15. Finally, dress for yourself, not for others. It will make you feel good and therefore look good.
4. A good hairstyle, a good pair of shoes and a good handbag. Everything else is about attitude say French women.
5. Not too much flesh on show. Watch the neckline and the hemline. But short skirts are fine if you have great pins – “if you got it, flaunt it”. People won’t notice your wrinkles so much!
6. Wear simple clothes, always with good accessories. Less is more in every way. This may not be breaking news, but it’s sound advise. Chose quality over quantity. Invest in quality basics. They will form the base of your wardrobe.
10. Don’t underestimate the importance of being comfortable. Tottering around in high heels is never a good look and you certainly are not going to relax. Comfort, until recently was a dirty word. Today it’s cool, a way of signaling youth and dynamism, the two most important status symbols of our age. Which means elegant flats, brogues, loafers and even trainers.
11. Don’t try to be sexy, be sensual.
12. Clear your wardrobe, it’s therapeutic. Make three piles: one for clothes you wear regularly, one for the one you wear from time to time, and the third with clothes you haven’t worn for a couple of years. Send these to your favourite charity. You will feel liberated. Next time you go shopping, look at what’s left and build around it.
1. “Bad HAIR days” can be avoided with a good hair cut. Short is probably the best option, but if you have nice locks, it can be attractive, as long as they are controlled and washed regularly.
2. BEARDS are currently fashionable. Well trimmed, they can look good on young faces. But they are definitely aging and should be avoided by any one of a certain age – Graham Norton.
3. TATTOOS are my pet hate. David Beckham used to be very attractive before he covered his body with them. Think about what they are going to look like when the skin starts to age.
4. GLASSES can enhance a face if they fit their shape. Trust your optician for a professional opinion.
5. Clothes that fit properly will always make you look slimmer and younger. So avoid anything that’s too loose or too long. Make sure your trousers don’t fall heavily on your shoes, like Simon Cowell’s. A slightly shorter trouser will make you look taller.
7. There is nothing more youthful than a crisp white shirt.
8. Keep the wrinkles on your face, but off your clothes.
9. A pair of simple white trainers can look smart and modern when worn with chinos or jeans, or even a suit (not stone washed and no holes, please).
6. Avoid black, it’s a harsh colour to wear against older skin. Navy is far more flattering. However being a little older doesn’t preclude you from wearing strong colours, but only as accessories. Stick to one or two – shirt, tie, sweater, or a pocket square. But if you dare, go the David Hockney way.
10. However appealing a chunky cable knit sweater may look, it won’t be flattering if you are already a little chunky. A crew neck is a safe option. It looks great when worn under a blazer. Roll neck sweaters are back in fashion. They can effectively hide a multitude of chins.
11. You must call your old blouson a bomber jacket. No one says blouson anymore.
Rembrandt’s, Titian’s, Monet’s, Picasso’s, Hockney’s work never slacked with old age. Marie Curie learned to swim in her later years, Tolstoy learned to ride a bike in his seventies… and Cher, seventy-two, stole the show in “Mama Mia, Here We Go Again”.
Happiness is the goal we all try to reach, but the goal is a result of your attitude and your actions. Often people believe success makes people happy, but happiness is success.
As the French say, “Entre bien dans sa peau” – being happy in your own skin.
“Dream as you live forever. Live as if you die tomorrow.”
The Colours of India
Diana Vreeland, the Grande Dame of Fashion, once wrote “Shocking pink is the navy blue of India“
For my first trip to India, I chose to visit Rajasthan, the land of palaces, princes and maharajahs. India was a real culture shock for me, a mind-blowing potpourri of sights, sounds and colours.
From the kaleidoscope jumble of chaotic old Delhi to the breathtaking splendour of the Taj Mahal, floating in the morning mist like a dream, I travelled to the pink city of Jaipur overlooked by the colossal Amber Fort, and to Udaipur on the shores of the tranquil Lake Pichola.
As a Fashion and Interior designer, I was bowled over by the vibrant colours worn by the women, and sometimes by the men.
Back in London, I was thinking – could these colour combos be translated into European fashion? Probably not.
But I do feel they would work in interiors, and I am certainly going to use some of them in my next projects.
Here are some of the fashion images I came across during my travels…
That “Je ne sais quoi”
(also see Dinner Party Dressing)
In my not so humble opinion, style is one of the most used and abused words in the English language. Style is an elusive quality. No amount of money is able to buy it, although millions have been spent trying to do so.
A myriad of books and the media have wanted to demystify the allure of French women’s style. The old clichés abound. But, in essence, style is about attitude.
“Etre bien dans sa peau” (feeling good in your own skin).
French women know that the secret is not beauty, but style. And style is an attitude which permeates every aspect of life, from the decor of their homes to their cooking and, of course, the way they dress.
Ever since Brigitte Macron arrived on the arm of her much younger husband, she became a style icon and a role model to women everywhere. The lady has allure, a great smile, along with a sense of style.
So, what is it about French women? And what is their secret?
My 10 tips to get the French look:
1. Keep it simple – As Coco Chanel once said “Le Luxe c’est la Simplicité”
(Luxury equals Simplicity)
2. In order to create the right impression, French women know they have to invest in three things: a good hairstyle, a good pair of shoes and a good handbag. Everything else is about attitude.
3. French women wear simple clothes, often classical, always with expensive accessories.
4. Less is more in every way. This may not be breaking news, but it’s sound advice. Choose quality over quantity. Invest in quality basics. They will form the base of your wardrobe.
5. French women are often prudent with money. After all, they invented the capsule wardrobe, where one jacket will go with several different skirts or trousers. Instead of spending money on a glitzy dress you might only wear a couple of times, create your own capsule collection. It will serve you well on different occasions.
As Karl Lagerfeld said: “Some things never go out of fashion – jeans, the white shirt, and the Chanel jacket“. I would add a pair of well-cut black trousers.
6. Beware of this season’s “must haves”. They are not necessarily going to be your best friends. That’s when French women make the most of using good quality accessories to jazz up an old outfit. Last year’s outfit will look “right on the money” with this season’s shoes. This season’s outfit with last year’s shoes definitely won’t!
9. Do not let your clothes wear you. The maxim of another couturier from the thirties, Molyneux, was that you should never notice what a woman is wearing, only how wonderful she looks. Once again, it’s all about the attitude.
10. Dress for yourself, not for others. It will make you feel, and therefore look good.
7. Don’t underestimate the importance of being comfortable. Tottering around in high heels is never a good look and you are certainly not going to relax. Elegant flats, brogues, and loafers won’t cause any pain and can be worn day or night.
8. Clothes are often used by French women as a tool for seduction – the opening of a button allowing a glimpse of cleavage… but be aware, one wants to see less, not more. Subtlety is key.