Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.
Pure Collection Ltd.
Net-a-porter UK

Friday 19 December 2008

British Design Awards

Check out the fashion shortlist here

More to be added, I believe.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Adios amigos

The Thoughtful Dresser decamps tomorrow first to Washington DC, then to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where I will be obliged to spend many hours in our villa, lying by the infinity edge pool and having delicious meals prepared by the chef. I will not be taking my laptop.

The collapse of Lehman Bros in September forced upon us this act of economic compassion. Personally, I would rather have stayed at home, but rental villas were lying empty, so what could we do? We must save the world economy.

See you in January.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Invitation from Cocoa

I wrote a couple of days ago about my Sonia Rykiel bag bought from Cocosa, the membership only designer sale site at a 50 per cent discount

Cocosa have contacted me and have created an exclusive invitation code for Thoughtful Dresser readers.

It's free, you don't have to buy anything, and the items they sell and the discounts are very, very good.

Click here to jump the waiting list and join

Whatever happened to

That thing you bought at Primark?

I have only once been to this emporium, the week its megastore opened opposite Selfridge's, and unable to stop myself buying something I purchased a bronze green anorak thing which I wear in wet weather to go to the shops. It cost £10.

As far as the eye could see was a top. In every size and every colour. The same top. A whole room of one top.

Where does that cheap crap from Primark go when no-one wants it anymore? A long and informative piece in the Times today tells the depressing tale.

In his textile recycling factory on the industrial outskirts of East London, Lawrence Barry wades across a floor feet-deep in other people's discarded clothing. Above him, precarious fabric dunes lean against the walls and reach up to the corrugated iron roof. The air is heavy with mothballs and the sweet, cloying stench of stale sweat.

There was a time, 58-year-old Barry says, when the clothes coming into his warehouse reeked of love, instead. “People used to buy a good-quality suit and that was it. That was their suit,” he says. “The clothes that ended up here were worn to death, treasured, loved.” Now the 100 workers at LMB Textile Recycling spend their days sorting through the detritus of our addiction to throwaway fashion - cheap, synthetic, often unworn, rarely loved. And Barry and his employees have unwittingly found themselves at the cutting edge of British eco-policy.

Textiles have never been a great concern for keen-to-be-seen-to-be-green governments that get more brownie points from an easy tonne of glass or paper. But the textile problem has become too vast to ignore.

In February the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will launch a “sustainable clothing roadmap” to try to reduce the environmental impact of our clothes. In preparation, it has commissioned a series of studies in which the true extent of our shopping habit is revealed in stark detail.

In the past five years, with the rise of “value retailers” such as Primark, H&M and TK Maxx, and supermarket fashion ranges, the price of clothing in the UK has plummeted by up to 25 per cent. At the same time, the amount of clothes we buy has increased by almost 40 per cent to more than two million tonnes a year.

Instead of two annual seasons for clothes - winter and summer - we are now offered, and can afford, new apparel every few weeks. We buy fresh holiday wardrobes, which we wear for a fortnight. Our style icons are celebrities who are never seen in the same outfit twice. And as our high street stores reel from the credit crunch, still we are cashing in - packing out the shops, desperate for discounted clothes.

As a result, textiles have become the fastest-growing waste product in the UK. About 74 per cent of those two million tonnes of clothes we buy each year end up in landfills, rotting slowly (or not at all) in a mass of polyester, viscose and acrylic blends.

Monday 15 December 2008

Graduates leave fashion schools with no basic skills

I'm sure Greying Pixie will have something to say about this piece in the Independent (perhaps this is why they don't know how to make sleeves)

While British designers dominate the world's fashion houses, the skilled artisans needed to translate the designers' visions into reality are becoming scarce. More than 3,000 fashion students graduate from UK universities each year, yet only 500 can expect to get jobs in their chosen field, with designers claiming that they could employ more graduates if they had the requisite technical skills.

"As a luxury goods manufacturer, craftsmanship is what sets us apart from the high street," said Ian D Scott, supply director at Mulberry. "There used to be a big pool of skilled labour, which has gone now. We did some research a couple of years ago and found that 50 per cent of our workforce is over 50, which shows that there are fewer young people coming through."

So concerned are the designers that they are lobbying the Government, with the aim of drawing attention to what they call a "growing education crisis" in fashion.

"If graduates do not have pattern-cutting, computer-aided design and production skills, they can't put their creative ability to use in the industry," said Linda Florance, chief executive of Skillfast UK, the sector skills council for fashion and textiles.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Bah humbug, etc.

Courtesy of George, the New York Times explains that we love It's A Wonderful Life - because we actually live in Pottersville.

Friday 12 December 2008

Cocosa, for when you just have to buy something

The dreadful events since Mumbai have sent shopping and fashion far from my mind (which has been focussed on certain scumbag freelance journalists quick to make a buck out of others' misfortunes).

But at a certain point, life has to return to a semblance of normality, a scrap of reality. And since I currently am reading 112 books for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, an element of superficiality has to enter my day at some point, in the form of the Cocosa site.

Cocosa is a membership-only fashion sale site. A couple of times a week it offers a small number of sale items from major designers. You get advance notice of the sale, then the date of the sale, then the sale preview, and then the sale opens for three days. With some items you have to very quick off the mark. The mark-downs are significant, usually 50% or more.

For some time I had been brooding over the Sonia Rykiel bags and yesterday at noon I pressed click and bought one. I bought it because I have long wanted a Chanel 2.55 without wanting to buy an actual 2.55 (my sister has one, and that would be copycat) and this is a version thereof.

All went smoothly. I bought an £800 bag for £399 plus £6 postage and this morning it arrived at my door less than 24 hours later exactly as described.

Cocosa keeps its membership numbers limited but you can join the waiting list. It doesn't cost anything and from what I've seen since it launched a couple of months ago, it has some spectacular bargains on very very good (mainly British) designers. There are sales coming up from Beatrix Ong, Luella, Jonathan Saunders and Richard Nichol. And they opened with McQueen and Lacroix.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Pear shaped women with bad legs are in fashion (with a caveat)

in days of yore

The 70s maxi-dress is definitively back, according to the Telegraph, which says that the iron rule that economic austerity goes with long skirts cannot be overturned, and this is not even a recession but a Depression.
According to designer Sonia Rykiel, the new longer lengths are there to lift us up above the mundanities of daily life, and on to more ethereal planes. "The thing about the long silhouette is that it is an intelligent way of dressing – light and powerful, hiding what needs to be hidden, and showing what needs to be shown," Rykiel tells me. "But long dresses this autumn and winter should be worn in different, cheery, colours: bright and pale."
Excellent. Avsh Alom Gur at Ossie Clark (see following) told me it was fine to wear my Booker dress at a lunchtime event as long as it was styled differently.

The new long dresses are best suited to pear shaped women who will not mourn being unable to show off their knees. But of course only tall pear-shaped women.
For pear-shaped British women the look may be heaven-sent, but there is one body type ill-suited to the drowning pull of drapery. "If you're short, this style will only shorten you further," says celebrity stylist Hannah Bhuiya. "So the best thing to do is wear a very well cut panelled long dress, say by the newly relaunched Ossie Clark label, one that accentuates your waist, Pierre Hardy clunky shoes and a large winter hat which will help you alter your proportions."

Can anyone explain what are the styles which make pear-shaped women's hips look smaller and which simultaneously elongate them? Stylists are strangely silent on this topic. I am 5 feet five inches, which I would describe as average height and always looking to make myself seem taller and slimmer. Perhaps it cannot be done (except, of course, by becoming slimmer, but that's a subject for new year's resolutions.)

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Various items

I spent yesterday at the hospital with 'Harry', Will and Kelly. Please be patient, there will be more to report.

I am very pleased to have it pointed out to me that Helen Mirren is now so exasperated by the struggle to find sleeves that she's thinking of designing some herself.

"Dresses With Sleeves," is what she'd call her range. "There are no dresses with sleeves and we need to bring back the sleeve: fine, see-through ones, long or short," she says.

"There are so many wonderful things you can do with sleeves that people used to do, and then they stopped."

And bizarrely, The Thoughtful Dresser has been shortlisted in the British Design Awards in the fashion category. Er, I 'designed' this site myself.

Helen Storey with Tony Ryan, Wonderland – biodegradable materials
Italian Vogue: A Black Issue, July 2008
Linda Grant, The Thoughtful Dresser blog
Louise Goldin, Spring/Summer 09 – Knitwear
Basso & Brooke, Spring/Summer 09
Alber Elbaz, Creative Director, Lanvin, Spring/Summer 08
Miuccia Prada and James Lima, Trembled Blossom, Fashion Film
Duckie Brown, Spring/Summer 09 – Menswear
Maison Martin Margiela, Spring/Summer 09 – 20th Anniversary Collection
Barbican Centre and Siebe Tettero, The House of Viktor & Rolf Retrospective
Prada by Miuccia Prada, Spring/Summer 09

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Fabric care from the Bagpuss mice

On the sad death of Oliver Postgate, aged 83

This was voted the most popular children's television series of all time by British viewers. Note the state of the art animation.

The Bethnal Green Bambinos and some reflections on Englishness

While matters proceed on the Harry front, in the meantime here is a little something going on at George Szirtes place. A clip from one of my favourite films, Passport to Pimlico, with a little light music from the Bethnal Green Bambinos. Stick with it so you can see what life was like buying a dress for Miss Pimlico at the Palais on the ration.

As George says:

Much of the film is a recap of post-war conditions, but the core of it is about state versus locality, not so much who is who, but what is what; the small versus the great. Your first ties, the film firmly states, are to your neighbours and to history.

I loved it the first time I saw it, for much the same reasons as I loved Frank Capra films. They were instinctively egalitarian, democratic and generous, a kind of idyll. Tribal? Yes. Sentimental? Yes, that too. But it was a broad tribe and the sentiments were, it seemed to me, good sentiments. Such sentiments were what, I suspect, the war was popularly thought to be about.

Meanwhile, "... the most remarkable thing about the bream is when he's courting...

I came along with a piece I wrote some years ago about this very film:
Passport to Pimlico’ is a comic investigation of Englishness. Not Britishness, which is rarely mentioned. Britain is an institutional entity, it’s government, Home and Foreign Office; it runs the Empire. Englishness is what the characters feel themselves to be inside. The film’s most famous line encapsulates how people felt about their country in the immediate post-war years, after a struggle against both fascism abroad and the dreary restrictions of living entirely by the rule book. ‘We’re English,’ a woman says, leaning her head out of an upstairs window to shout to the Whitehall bureaucrats below, ‘we always were English and it’s just because we are English that we’re sticking up for our right to be Burgundian.’

Monday 8 December 2008

On events of the weekend

On Saturday, in anticipation of Harry's homecoming, I went to our local Oddbins to buy him his requested bottle of single malt. A man was standing behind several shelves of whiskeys and stuff and I asked him where the single malt was. Here, he said, indicated with a broad wave of his hand.

And so I found myself uncharacteristically walking in the shoes of a man confronted with a make-up counter, who looks at all the indistinguishable creams, unguents etc - and panics.

Eventually, I pointed to a bottle of Laphroaig and said, I've heard of that one. And this is why so many husbands arrive home from business trips abroad clutching a bottle of Chanel No 5.

Last night Harry told me that often he goes into Oddbins just to peruse the single malts and engage in learned discussion with the sales person about their properties. Just as you or I might linger at the Bobbi Brown counter swiping lipstick on our inner wrists.

I would like to be able to report that the troubles of Harry, Will and Kelly are now over, that they had a comfortable flight back from Mumbai and that Will is now resting in an NHS teaching hospital with the finest medical attention this country has to offer. However what I have to report instead is so shocking that I'll wait until these matters are drawn to wider attention.

If you return from a poor and chaotic city like Mumbai you might expect to feel grateful and even proud to be British. You'd be mistaken.

UPDATE at bloody last, Will is now properly settled in hospital and his ongoing care is commencing. The Mumbai Hospital did an excellent job, by all accounts and can we all give a big round of applause for Harry himself who has been under appalling stress trying to ensure his son is properly cared for.

Sunday 7 December 2008

It's all in the accessories

Harry and his son and girlfriend are en route back to Britain, touching down later this morning.

Which means that I can afford to smile at these pictures of the queen in trousers, an unexpected sight - note the two scarves detail

Thursday 4 December 2008

A little more news from Mumbai

Harry's son is still in hospital and still not well enough to return to Britain.

If you are in the UK please take note of this organisation for future reference. Had we know about it this time last week things would have been considerably easier for everyone

To introduce an entirely unexpected fashion note, I'm pleased to say that a care package of small treats is being taken out by none other than Ossie Clark designer Avsh Alom Gur, who designed my Booker dress, and who is going to India tomorrow to source beading and embroidery for his next collection

Also he will be dressing me for this:

Literature continues to be an exciting category at the South Bank Show Awards with nominee Child 44, the serious crime novel by Tom Rob Smith, going up against the absorbing exploration of the notorious Road House murder case of 1860 in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant – a beautifully detailed character study and poignant family history – is also nominated.

Monday 1 December 2008

Post Mumbai

I am not feeling very much like writing about fashion at the moment.

To all regular readers, I'm sorry for the suspension of this site. My thoughts are absorbed with other things and as the week goes on there is a lot to do.