Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style


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Entries in couture (30)


Grass Roots

I am not sure if it is the connotations of summer that I love so much about woven accessories, or if it is the very tactile pleasure of the texture beneath one’s fingertips. I prefer them in more natural, neutral colours than dyed brightly—although further down this story there’s a pair of Hermès tomato red wedges that I might we willing to put on my feet, if I was willing to pay the trifling sum of $1,355. I also love the fact that these very solid objects have been constructed from such seemingly flimsy materials.

Weaving is a beautiful technique evocative of ephemeral nature made to last …

Weaving is a beautiful technique evocative of ephemeral nature made to last, of admirable dexterity and artistry. Traditionally a distinctly feminine craft, it alludes to tribal histories, to earth mothers (and experimental couturiers) keeping ethnic crafts alive, by appealing to acquisitive fashionistas of more urban jungles.

It really seems such a simple, elemental and practical craft, but it is amazing to see what can be achieved with a good eye for design, nimble fingers and patience. It’s also simply beautiful.

A few of my own favourites

I was delighted when I spotted this vintage basket case (ha!) in an op shop (thrift store) a few weeks ago, for the princely sum of $3. Two of the hinges at the base were completely broken, and I had to repair them – I was in a hurry to use this as part of a costume for a fancy dress party, so I used what I had nearest to hand: some twine that camouflaged well. It wasn’t easy to weave it through the flush hinges, but waxing the end did help. My original intention was to use it for storage; scarves perhaps.

The hat I pounced on last summer at Country Road, recognising it for its—ahem—‘inspirational’ source: a hat by Burberry (see below). I do love it though for a fun sunhat: it’s far more edgy than a regular floppy cartwheel, and much less common than a fedora.

I purchased the slingbacks on eBay from a Frenchwoman who told me although she liked the shoes, she couldn’t wear them because they were too low! They feature a pretty, geometric pattern in black and natural straw. I have a sneaking fondness for the kitten heel, which often seems to get a bad rap in fashion magazines simply for not being as sexy as a stiletto.

I also absolutely adore this lovely little woven handbag. It too came from an op shop, and my guess that it is someone’s travel souvenir, bought on a whim then discarded in a nonplussed moment. I really like the intricate design in the weaving of this one, and the handles are plaited – a pretty, extra little detail.

When to Wear

If it’s not enough to say such materials are too (visually) synonymous with summer to wear in winter, then at least, while I don’t subscribe to prescriptive fashion rules (such as no white after Labour Day – which is American anyway and doesn’t apply here in Australia but still sounds ludicrous to me), one must be pragmatic about straw, grass, raffia, cane, et al. They are not suitable for winter simply for the fact that any sudden downpour is likely to ruin them! Obviously, they won’t keep you very warm either.

High Fashion

Weaving has enjoyed a season in the brilliant sun of high fashion in recent seasons, with Salvatore Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry all taking a hand. Some of these garments are deliciously impractical and incongruous, such as the sculptural and quite surreal D&G corsets and dresses, but I enjoy them all the more for it. I adore the Burberry trench too (above), but really, when is it suitable to wear? Not in winter surely, and such a closely-fitted coat (probably silk-lined to boot) in warm weather? Or am I merely forgetting the chilly realities of what the British humorously term ‘summer’?

Scroll down for some couture inspiration. (Admittedly these tearsheets are probably a year or two old, but I still love them.)

Photos: December 2015


Alice Blue

I’ve had a very strange and surreal May, so to celebrate it I’m sharing Annie Leibovitz’s beautiful photoshoot inspired by Alice in Wonderland, for US Vogue’s December 2003 issue.

Natalia Vodianova models unique gowns by eleven designers, each of whom appear on the pages with her as different characters from Lewis Carroll’s famous story, which I have loved since I was a child. The gowns are wonderfully imaginative, not surprisingly all rendered in the blue made famous by Disney’s animated film. It is one of my favourite shades of blue.

The book was written in 1865, and it has stood the test of time, inspiring so many – from children whose imaginations are sparked by this magical tale, to Hollywood master storytellers.

Scroll down and be transported along with Alice. (Don’t forget you can click on the images for larger versions.)


Double Exposures

Louis Vuitton :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashA while back I posted some 1940s photographs of shop windows – many of them were taken from the inside looking out. Even more fascinating that the window displays were the glimpses of the people on the street, ordinary people in their day-to-day clothes juxtaposed against high fashion. So I was inspired to take my Hipstamatic to the streets of Melbourne, experimenting with different combinations of lens and black and white ‘film’. I knew I wanted something that looked both vintage, and captured detail with clarity. 

Although it was a bit hit and miss as far as the reflections were concerned – depending on the time of day, the cloud cover or lack of it, who or what was passing in the street – that is what I enjoyed: the surprise element in the result. I am especially pleased with the Louis Vuitton hot air balloon pictures.

Louis Vuitton :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashLouis Vuitton :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashChanel :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashChanel :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashChanel :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashReading about Eugène Atget recently, I discovered that the Surrealists very much admired and respected his work, especially his shop window photographs for the surreal effect they created. Atget himself did not consider himself an artist however, but a documentarian.  

I love both points of view, the often strange convergence of reflection with consumer goods, like a double exposure, and the documentation of current fashion that one day decades from now I will look back on in fascination. 

Gucci :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashHermès :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashRalph Lauren :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flashPrada :: Wonder // D-Type Lens // No flash


Cannes Do White

Petra Nemcova wearing Emilio PucciWhite was big at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and the fashion world is encouraging brides to look to the red carpet for inspiration. I love wearing white myself, and declare Women unite! Let’s reclaim this non-colour from the brides. Why should they have all the fun?

Tanya DziahilevaAfter all, white has only been a tradition since Queen Victoria’s wedding day – prior to the dowdy monarch donning white silk satin for her big day, brides wore whatever colour they fancied. Vicky’s choice was considered unusual in fact. I, as a bride-to-be once, never intended to wear it to my wedding. As much as I love white, I had bought a vintage 50s dove grey dress instead.

Most of the dresses on the red carpet of Cannes that caught my eye were white, black, or black and white – with a few brilliant shots of colour. Graphic cuts, fluid lines, beads, sequins or appliqué make them interesting. Here are my favourites.

Visit UK Glamour’s selection of the best ever Cannes red carpet gowns here

Marion Cotillard in Alexander McQueenDoutzen Kroes, in Calvin Klein CollectionJessica Biel, in MarchesaErin Heatherton, in Roberto CavalliCarey Mulligan, in Vionnet, with Brian Atwood shoes, and Justin Timberlake, in BalenciagaEmma Watson, in Chanel Haute Couture, with Repossi jewels, and Sofia Coppola, in Louis VuittonMilla Jovovich, in Chanel Haute CoutureDelphine ChanéacLiya Kebede, in Roberto Cavalli, with Boucheron jewelsJessica Chastain, in custom Givenchy Haute CoutureZhang Yuqi, in Ulyana Sergeenko CoutureAudrey Tatou in Prada


In Grace

I’ve been interested lately in fashion editorials that are directly inspired by master artworks. I have collected a few over the years, shoots inspired by Ingres, Bonnard, Gauguin and Tamara de Lempicka. From French Vogue (possibly a 90s or early Noughties issue) and photographed by Michael Thompson, here is a photoshoot styled in the manner of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

Sublimely beautiful in its simplicity, the image above is directly influenced by Ingres’ painting Half Figure of a Bather, (below) although my preference is for the second, The Bather of Valpincon (1808). There is a wonderful flavour of aristocratic indolence with the towels wrapping the hair as in a Turkish hammam. (Where else can one be literally waited on hand and foot these days?)

Half Figure of a Bather, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1807The Bather of Valpincon, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1808

I actually do not like these clothes much at all: they are far too fussy for me, even if I had occasion to don them. The hairstyling, and headdresses are great though – so evocative of historical paintings. The little black tiara in the third image is actually a nineteenth century comb (or a copy of one) – a wonderful gothic take on a traditional tiara. What an enviably beautiful glow these models possess too. I love the minimal, natural makeup; the heavy-lidded eyes – it’s quite startling to see naked eyelashes.

The photographs are beautiful works of art in their own right: here is the whole shoot below.

Click on images for larger versions.