August 20, 2012

Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

London has been in the spotlight a lot this year. Our sporting heroes have become household names and the royal family is as popular and as loved as they've ever been. But with all these wonderful celebrations going on, fashion has had to take a step back. Of course Stella McCartney did us proud designing the uniforms for the Olympics and Kate donned some undeniably British attire during the Queens jubilee, but overall fashion hasn't taken centre stage in London this year.

Thankfully the Victoria & Albert museum in South Kensington has paid tribute to British fashion design in the most fitting way. We've partied in frocks all summer, and we've seen princesses in evening gowns so it seems only right that the exhibition celebrates the very best of British glamour. 

The exhibition costs just £10 for adults and £7 for students but I couldn't resist treating myself to a year long V&A membership. The museum is practically my second home and I didn't mind paying the £48 to enjoy it all year. It gives me so much in the way of inspiration so it felt good to put something back into it. The membership entitles me to free entry into all the exhibitions as many times as I want, along with a guest of my choice. I also enjoy the benefit of membership only preview days, the V&A magazine and exclusive events- including talks from designers! There is even a members room to enjoy some lunch without getting caught up in the crowds. For just £48 I was able to take my sister and I into three exhibitions without any extra costs (It would have normally cost £7 each per exhibition) and I've still got the rest of the year left to use it! It also means I can go into the Ballgowns exhibition as many times as I want, to sketch, to admire, or to just sit and dream. I'd recommend the membership to anyone who lives in London as you save money in the long run and enjoy so many benefits - it would also make the most wonderful gift! Click here for more information on memberships. 

The exhibition itself is held in the newly restored fashion galleries that provides the most elegant backdrop for the gowns. The mezzanine floor houses a collection of modern dresses as where the downstairs exhibits gowns closer to the 1950's. I began the exhibition downstairs and I quickly became mesmerised by all the chic, glamorous evening wear that was on show. This included couture gowns commissioned for royal occasions and one notable dress that was worn by Princess Diana. The iconic 'Elvis dress' designed by Catherine Walker is adorned with white pearls and a turned up collar. It is just as splendid in person as it is in the famous pictures, although Princess Di made it sparkle in a way that no designer could ever replicate. David Emmanuelle, the designer of Princess Diana's wedding dress was also represented throughout the exhibition with several dresses including one very pretty pink taffeta dress that was designed for Joan Collins in 1983. The craftsmanship was outstanding, with fine embroidery, delicate lace and quality fabrics. 

The exhibition shows the changes in society, taste and class with couture becoming popular amongst celebrities and not confined to the debutantes who wished to display their wealth. Downstairs evening gloves, kitten heels and charming purses are displayed, expressing the formalities of the age. 

I made my way up the Hollywood inspired sweeping staircase to the more modern part of the exhibition. I was instantly immersed into the world of contemporary couture by the elegant chandeliers, revolving mannequins and stunning photos of the dresses projected onto the magnificent architecture surrounding the mezzanine. The sheer contrast between the contemporary numbers and the full-skirted 50's frocks shows just how much society has changed, how the industry has developed, and how much more freedom designers have to push boundaries. The upstairs level is a dazzling celebration of design, imagination and British intuition. The collection includes dresses by Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Zandra Rhodes, Gareth Pugh and Ralph & Russo. Whilst the majority of the downstairs gowns were commissioned for the likes of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother the dresses upstairs were designed and worn by celebrities including Elizabeth Hurley, Beyonce and Sandra Bullock. Here are some of my favourite gowns from the exhibition.
Giles Deacon's spring 2007 number, by Tim Walker
Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, winter 2011
Victor Edelstein, 1986
Gareth Pugh
Nicholas Oakwell - Digitally printed silk
Elvis Dress - 1989
Roksanda Ilincic silk dress S/S 2009
Atsuko Kudo - lace print on latex

Here is a video for the exhibition featuring interviews with Bruce Oldfield, Nicholas Oakwell, David Sassoon, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Ilincic - definitely worth a watch!

The museum shop is selling an accompanying book that I hope to buy very soon. I'll post a review of it along with some scanned photos as soon as I do.

The exhibition is showing until the 6th of January 2013.

Thank you for reading!

August 14, 2012

Christian Louboutin Exhibition at The Design museum, London.

I already loved Louboutins, but that’s expected; what woman doesn’t love Louboutins? I loved that flash of red and all the wonder it lay beneath. But until I received the Christian Louboutin book my appreciation for the coveted shoes was more of a “if I win the lottery shopping list” appreciation. A year or so later I now have an understanding for the shoes as an art form.  Each Loubi is a fairytale in its own right, a creation that has been formed through the spirals, studs and Swarovski crystals that lie in Mr. Louboutins imagination. Having matured my lust for all soles red I was ecstatic to find out Christian Louboutin was holding an exhibition at The Design museum in London.

"It's been a real pleasure to see a lot of my 'babies' featured all together for the first time. It's not only an entire collection of shoes that I saw there, but for me a huge collection of souvenirs, precious moments, and very rarely sorrows."

After attempting to fit the visit into my crowded diary, days and weeks went by without me going. It wasn’t until the day before travelling home for summer did I realise this was my only chance to see the Louboutin extravaganza. So, as any fashion lover would, I promptly changed all my plans, said farewell to my power nap and dragged my tired self across Tower Bridge. The exhibition cost just £6 for students, plus £1 as a voluntary donation to the Design Museum. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed in the exhibition but I had taken a few snaps on my IPhone before I was told this so I’m able to put them up. At the end of this post are some other photos from across the Internet to give you a better glimpse of what’s inside.
I was guided up a staircase towards the exhibition, in the centre suspended from the ceiling were a variety of Louboutins, circling and twinkling much like all the eyes that were gazing at them. My little heels carried me up to the top where I was met with a glorious entrance. It instantly reminded me of an old fashion show with red lights and a bright “Entrée” sign directing you to a black, mysterious entrance.

Inside the showgirl theme continued, with over 200 Louboutins balanced on carousal, a helter skelter and an oversized spinning top.  Burlesque Queen Dita Von Teese also shone down on the viewers via a life size hologram that saw her dance next to dazzling crystal Loubis.  I can’t stress enough how real Dita looked, it was as though she was dancing in front of us, on stage –I was mesmerised. In the centre of the main exhibition room a 17 metre long red sole provided an elegant shoe arena that displayed a dream come true amount of shoes. New collections and old, everything provided a unique insight. 

“For me, the front and back of the shoe evoke the different aspects of femininity. The front is about poise, allure, stature, elegance, immobility, it's Marlene [Dietrich] always sublime from head-on, arched foot. The back is the gait, the movement, the heel. It's Marilyn [Monroe] who, moreover, was often shown from behind... There are these two types of women with regard to shoes ­– those who symbolise the look and those who symbolise the walk.”

Before I knew it I had stumbled into Mr. Louboutins Parisian atelier. The walls were covered in full-scale photographs of his actual studio bringing the room to life. I felt as though I’d fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in a storybook that would make even Lewis Carroll dizzy. I had stepped into Louboutins mind, his creative world and everything he loved and found wonderful was shown in the most ore-inspiring way. The process of the shoes being made was also shown, but seeing a bare red sole made me feel as though I’d just accidently wandered into someone undressing; I felt like I’d seen a Louboutin heel…naked! I learnt a lot about the creation of a Louboutin shoe, like how Christian designs his A/W collection in a cold climate, and then travels to places like Egypt to design S/S. Also, the first pattern is always a size 37 because Christian Louboutin “considers it preferable to look upon a small thing” – seeing as I have size 35.5 feet and stand at 5ft2 this has become one of my favourite quotes.

A short film about Louboutins life was also shown in another room, telling a charming story of his early life and what moulded his lust for shoe design. Louboutin himself talks about his love for showgirls; “Ever since I was very young I have been obsessed with spike heels, the showgirls influenced me a lot. If you like high heels, it's really the ultimate high heel; it's all about the legs, how they carry themselves, and the embellishment of the body. They are the ultimate icons.”

As if I hadn’t already felt spoilt enough, I was then treated to a sub-exhibit of 20 of his most iconic designs that have been re-released for his 20th anniversary.  Equally iconic were his 8inch ballet pumps that were worn in Yves Saint Laurent’s final catwalk show. The sight of the heel made my eyes water and yet, somehow I could find the heart to wear them.

“I selected the colour [red] because it is engaging, flirtatious, memorable and the colour of passion”

My favourite room however was the fetish room. The risqué creations were designed for the 2007 Paris exhibition titled “Fetish” which was produced alongside film auteur David Lynch. I had previously seen the photos in the Christian Louboutin book and found them mesmerising, but nothing could have prepared me for an up close and personal look at the shoes themselves. What I love about the shoes is the meaning behind them, the idea that they prevent the wearer from physically walking instead leaving her helpless and submissive. Yet this is done in a sophisticated and classy way, not to mention pushing boundaries and contouring the foot into forms it probably shouldn’t be in. Louboutin has managed to create the power of dominatrix and submissive sexual liaisons through the use of one single item. From the shoes alone, the body is forced into positions and shapes, controlling the wearer’s entire physical movement. I think why I love it so much is that the collection goes beyond fashion, its pure design. It’s a pretty amazing thing, for a shoe to have that much power over your physical form. Forget bondage or wrist ties, Fetish Louboutins provide a new bedroom taboo that EVERYONE wants to talk about.

“Most people see shoes as an accessory to walk in, however some shoes are made for running – and some shoes are made for sex. If there was to be just only one fetish element in a woman’s wardrobe, I think it would have to be her shoes, even without being stilettos.”

Since living in London, I’ve been to countless exhibitions and many have left my heart fluttering like a lovesick puppy. But the Christian Louboutin exhibition was the most dazzling spectacle I’ve ever seen, and it’s going to take a lot to beat it! It was honestly the show of a lifetime. 

Take a look at the exhibition trailer 

August 13, 2012

London 2012 – A year of celebrations, pride and people at their best

For the majority of 2012 London has been a sea of blue, white and red. Endless Flags, painted union jacks on cheeks and patriotic statements have lined the streets on more then one occasion. The first lot of street parties took place in June celebrating the Queens Diamond Jubilee. I’ve always loved our royal family, and I’ve been brought up to have a huge amount of respect for our Queen, so the fact I ended up in London in time for the Jubilee was wonderful. I can’t describe the atmosphere that had engulfed London; everyone was excited, proud and friendly. I was lucky enough to see the Thames pageant from Tower Bridge, I packed an umbrella, poncho and painted my nails red, white and blue. It rained constantly but still people watched in their thousands. I was stood right near the Spirit of Chartwell and was lucky enough to hear the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra singing. They were soaking wet but still stood smiling and singing their hearts out throughout the performance. That alone sums up the spirit of  the British public. Their smiles travelled to the Thames banks where the crowd joined in singing Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen. I proudly sung as loudly as I could along side young children and elderly couples, it was a celebration for every generation. I was also lucky enough to get right to the front of the crowds for the Balcony appearance. I can’t explain what its like to look behind you and see thousands of people, and even more incredible when you hear a wave of sound that eventually brings the national anthem to you. The crowd sung “singing in the rain” with big smiles, nobody cared that it was slightly raining! To this day it was one of the most atmospheric moments of my life. Of course I’m not going to deny that the Jubilee parties also topped off that week!
The past two weeks have seen London in the spot light once again – for the Olympic games. I’ve never been very interested in sports and in the past I’ve never taken any notice of the Olympics. Yet the last two weeks has left me crying, laughing, smiling, hugging strangers, cheering, screaming at my TV and feeling a huge, unexplainable amount of pride. The Olympic games has really given meaning to the saying “it’s the taking part that counts.” I wont look back & remember the amount of gold’s we won, or the statistics, instead I’ll remember moments. To me every athlete who competed in the Olympics is a champion in their own right.

The opening and closing ceremonies brought me to tears but of course every fashionista’s favourite part was when the supermodels came out wearing the very best of British fashion. Giant billboards circled the stadium sporting photographs of Britain’s supermodels shot by Nick Knight. Each model was wearing a golden dress by the finest of British designers. The billboards were ripped down revealing a real version of the photos.

Kate Moss & Naomi Campbell both wore McQueen, Karen Elson stepped out in Burberry, Georgia May Jagger in Victoria Beckham, Lily Donaldson in Vivienne Westwood whilst Stella Tennant wore Christopher Kane. Lily Cole looked radiant in Erdem and Jourdan Dunn dazzled in Jonathan Saunders and Stephen Jones. Joining the British beauties David Gandy truly gleamed in a golden suit by Paul Smith. The Union Jack centre stage became their catwalk as they strutted to the middle. Foot soldiers dressed in all black followed them, stopping at a certain point to form the iconic Alexander McQueen skull.

Heres a snippet of the photos that will be in Vogues September issue.

Thank you London, and every single British person who celebrated 2012 with pride and happiness – I have never been so proud of my country.

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