Friday, 31 October 2008

Classic twist

The best vintage clothing is typical of its era, but also has timeless appeal. The sort of things that are always useful to have in your wardrobe are well made garments with enduring quality and investment potential. You will need to consider the designer, the rarity of the item, the condition of the fabric, the workmanship and the provenance of each piece. There's also the wearability factor to take into account ... and some items of clothing simply never seem to go out of fashion. So long as your weight doesn't fluctuate, you observe the washing instructions and protect garments properly, you can go on wearing them until they fall to bits - like Mrs Haversham.

At ShopCurious, you'll find classic vintage clothing that is worth its weight in wool, silk and velvet. Take this fabulously stylish Jackie O-style suit, with its beautifully tailored velvet trimmed dress coat and matching figure hugging shift dress. The tweedy fabric looks like a sort of Prince of Wales check to me, but if you're knowledgeable about such sartorial details, perhaps you'd be so kind as to offer your expert opinion. I did read somewhere that the Prince of Wales check is a name often wrongly attributed to the Glen Urquhart check?

We've also got some wonderful 1980s vintage Celine - like this rear-buttoning printed silk top and a very fine wool double breasted trench coat with ample shoulder pads (for those into power dressing). Neither would look out of place today...

Nor would this glamorous Yves Saint Laurent sequined suede wrap skirt of a similiar vintage, or this forever classic vintage Hermes silk scarf.

There are other things that you can keep in the wardrobe for a few years and then bring out again... like this classy ladybird spotted silk 1980s Georges Rech cocktail dress. Perfect for Sloane Rangers wanting to save their pennies for other essentials - like champagne cocktails and seats at the opera.

Will you dahling?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Country folk

Do you wear a Barbour, green wellies and grow your own veggies, or do you run high-heeled for the bus, whilst simultaneously stuffing a croissant in your mouth?

What is the whole City yuppie vs. country Sloane Ranger thing about? Surely now’s the time for country bumpkins in isolated damp cottages and hard-pressed-to-fund-the-mortgage urban commuterites to club together for mutual help and support during these economically challenging times? Perhaps we could start by learning a few things from each other...

My impression of country folk is that they know a fair bit about keeping warm and surviving all sorts of harsh conditions during the Winter. Now that town and country dwellers alike are trying to save money and conserve fuel, how about these for some ideas:

1) Turn off your lights and use candles instead. You could even buy these country-style vintage carved wooden candlesticks from ShopCurious.

2) Turn down your heating and wear something warm. Lots of layers work well – check out these folksy country combos, combining stylish French chic with Winter- warming wearability.

3) We all know that most heat is lost from the head, so why not wear a scarf. These rural nature inspired vintage silk scarves should fit the bill as an affordable luxury.

4) Give up over-priced modern branded designer fashion and opt for unique accessories to add a quirky luxe look to any outfit. Vintage jewellery that’s both individual and collectable will do the trick, like these curiously original brooches from ShopCurious.

Of course, you could always read the Department of Health’s Winter guide - Keep Warm Keep Well (its political correctness certainly made me chuckle, which I suppose is one way of keeping warm) … or you could simply don a tracksuit and trainers and turn that run to the tube, or across those muddy fields, into to a healthy sprint.

Will you?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Hunters and gatherers

As we know, men are natural hunters - and if economic circumstances worsen any further, they may even find themselves out foraging for food. Of course, men also have something of a herd instinct, tending to follow each other in terms of many things - including their dress. Continuing with our vintage theme, let’s take a look at some slightly more original clothing for the man who likes to stand out from the rest of the pack, but retain his classic country style:

If you’re a man, I presume it’s quite easy to choose what to wear every day. After all, there are only a few items you need to pick out: a pair of trousers, a shirt, perhaps a jacket, maybe a tie – it can all be very simple, as men tend not to like unnecessary bother.

But style doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Even when out and about practising the curious country pursuits that some enjoy, men can still jazz up traditional country cords and tweeds by adding quirky and individual touches. I’ve noticed fellow men complimenting associates on their fashion sense and, at some predominantly male sporting events such as clay pigeon shoots, they often have prizes for the best dressed man (or ‘gun’, as these are dangerously called).

So why not add a bit of personality to your weekend attire with an unusual pair of vintage cufflinks, or a stylish recycled vintage silk cravat from ShopCurious?

Of course, hunters have to be ready for all eventualities and all weathers. And, when left to their own devices, they love nothing more than to behave like a bunch of overgrown kids -

tinkering around, messing about with their toys, having a bit of horseplay and stopping off every now and then for a bite to eat … and occasionally for a drop to drink. Best of all: to tinker, play, scoff and quaff all at the same time.

I'm not a pheasant plucking sort myself, but us girls can lark about too and dress up in eclectic style for a bit of outdoor fun, as I did when fly-fishing in Scotland - though I doubt many men would be so bold as to team up purple hair with oiled dungarees, a Barbour and waders. Let us know the most original thing you've worn for a sporting occasion...

Will you?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Invest in the original

Back in what seems like the year dot – probably the early 1990s, Voyage opened a rather exotic looking shop on the Fulham Road. It was much talked about for its quirky door policy. Initially, if they liked the look of you, they let you in, but later on they issued cards and operated a strict ‘members only’ rule that famously excluded the likes of Madonna, Naomi Campbell and others.

I was one of the first regular customers - lured by the new and unusual nature of the clothing - which was totally different from the fashion of the day, with its power-shouldered, structured design. The prices were pretty toppish (that’s an understatement by the way), with tiny little cardies costing around £500 plus, figure-hugging long dresses at about £1500 and stylish coats up to £3500. However, all this paled into insignificance when offset against the reality of something that was completely unique, beautifully handmade and wildly trend-setting. What’s more, whatever the price-tag, Voyage also had the competitive edge of using old fabrics to create recycled clothing with a vintage feel.

Like many talented artists, the Mazzillis appear to have been challenged with the day to day business of budgeting and finance. I do recall writing cheques out to an establishment called Organic Clothing at one stage – all very progressive at the time – but an accurate description, since they were recycling vintage cashmere and silk, hand-dying the fabric and adding fancy trim embellishment to create individual and truly original pieces.

Tiziano and Louise Mazzilli were passionate about their work to the point of being slightly loopy. They virtually lived in their shop with their two young, charming and designer-named offspring: Rocky and Tatum. They worked with a close knit, probably poorly paid, group of artisans to produce the most wonderfully creative and unusual pieces that set the trend for silk petticoat dresses, velvet and marabou trimmed knitwear and comfortably creative clothing that endured for more than a decade. Or, have we just turned full circle?

The strapline that was added to later Voyage labels reads ‘Invest in the Original’. Only now am I beginning to realise just quite how original they were. At the time, all my friends, who were still wearing power suits and Chanel earrings, were appalled at the strange turn my taste had taken. For several years I was frowned upon when I rocked up in my double-layered flouncy dress-over-petticoat, tight fitting furry trimmed cardie and Prada wedges – or whatever Voyage’s latest collection dictated.

Of course, there were some who were also ‘early-adopters’ and shared my fondness for the label – like the youthful Jemima Khan and the late Paula Yates. Maybe the Voyage that became synonymous with being ostracised - for me, by the 'ladies that lunch' (I am eternally grateful!) and for celebrities, by the 'mad Mazzillis' - was actually the zeitgeist for the 21st century approach to dressing?

Now that Voyage is gone, the original is still available at ShopCurious. What’s more there’s plenty of lace, fringing, feathers and stuff that still looks current. And, of course, this is recycled not just once, but twice - so in today’s eco-friendly environment, it’s got added street-cred.

Do you?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Banking on vintage

I recently met a lady who worked as a theatrical wardrobe professional for many years – amongst other things, she helped to create the costumes for the original Brideshead Revisited series. I asked her for her definition of 'vintage' and this was her reply: “Vintage is such a wonderful word because it describes anything that's not new, but that’s beautiful and that people would want to buy.”

I’m not the world’s greatest expert on antiques (which apparently means over 100 years old, according to some sources), but a lot of people ask me how the price of vintage clothing is determined. To be honest, I’d agree that, to a large extent, it’s all a matter of taste – the value is very much in the eye of the beholder.

I found this useful definition of vintage on the internet:

"Stores featuring vintage clothing have become very popular in recent years, but many potential customers are curious about the difference between vintage and just plain old. Generally speaking, clothing produced before 1920 is considered to be antique, worthy of collecting or displaying in a museum but not for daily wear. Most clothing produced between 1920 and the late 1970s is considered vintage by most dealers, but some will extend this cut-off date to the mid-1980s. The term 'retro' is sometimes used interchangeably with vintage, but many vintage clothing stores only consider clothing of the 1960s and 1970s to be truly 'retro'. Clothing produced after the mid-1980s is generally considered to be bargain-priced or a charitable donation.

One of the few exceptions to the age rule is high-end designer gowns. One-of-a-kind designs by designers ... can be considered vintage after two or three years. In fashion, vintage denotes an exceptional example of period clothing, or clothing which still has some commercial appeal despite its age. Having a designer gown declared vintage is an honour for high-end fashion designers.

In most cases, vintage clothing is not less expensive to own than contemporary fashions. A pair of hip-hugging jeans from the early 1970s in good condition may cost twice as much as a brand-new pair of Levi's. Vintage clothing stores should not be confused with thrift stores. Selections at discriminating vintage stores are generally in excellent condition and carefully restored. Great care is taken to make sure the items are originals, not cheaper reproductions sold in general clothing stores. This is especially important when it comes to highly-collectable clothing."

All very interesting. So, if we were to apply a similar approach in terms of age to works of art, then I suppose modern pieces by Damien Hirst or Banksy would be the equivalent of recently made high end designer gowns?

There is certainly sense in:
1) investing in something that you really adore and don’t mind keeping hold of (better still if you can use, wear or even just appreciate it every so often) and
2) buying something that you believe has timeless style/artistic value/quality of craftsmanship, that might grow in value and be a good investment if you ever do wish to sell.

The whole idea that an item of clothing bought after the mid- '80s (or even last year) is worthless and fit only for a charity shop is, frankly, rather silly. Your clothes and what you do with them are simply a matter of your own personal taste and individual choice - and, of course, the value ascribed to them by you is probably different to what someone else is willing to, or can afford to pay - that's a matter of their taste, choice and spending power. The vintage clothing market is the place where people agree on a mutually acceptable price, according to subjective factors such as taste, style and uniqueness.

At ShopCurious, we’ve an extraordinary original, one-off made to order, knitted wool long dress by Julien Macdonald, that was featured in the Sunday Times Style Magazine on 19th September, 1999. You’ll find things for around £10 on our website, if that’s what you’re looking for, but we’re asking a cool £1,000 for this dress because it’s totally unique, (there’s not another in existence) and it’s a piece of vintage genius - a veritable work of art. What’s more, if you don’t snap this up, we’ll just hang on to it until someone else does.

If you’re ShopCurious, you might be inclined to buy it now as an investment for the future...
Are you?

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Paris party people

I took a whirlwind trip to Paris for the end of Fashion Week. It was even shorter than I’d planned due to problems with the Eurostar and endless taxi queues. I did find time to squeeze in the odd party, though.

Here’s top mover and shaker (hence two photos!) of the French fashion fair scene, Xavier Clergerie, who hosted a ‘premiere classe’ bash. I love the way he looks so stylishly French. And the arty vintage silk scarf looks totally fabulous.

I noticed that quite a few of the men in Paris were wearing rather distinctive silk scarves – like the wonderfully charming New York based singer, Faze, pictured left. The multi- talented Mike Sylla of Baifall Dream, who made the most delicious mint tea for us, was also sporting his own trendy scarf.

I hope they all know that we’ve got a wide selection of vintage silk scarves for sale at ShopCurious, as well as quirky vintage ties and curiously English recycled vintage silk cravats.

There were lots of party people I didn’t know, but they all looked to be having a great time – and in some cases they were really letting their hair down (or shaking it up as the case may be). Do let me know if you can identify any of those pictured here, including the flag-wearing Brit … and apologies if you were caught unawares.

I later bumped into this curiously dressed chap in black designer PVC. Perfect attire for Friday 3rd October - la nuit noire peut-etre?

And I finally met up again with the elusive M. Bonnet, pictured here in his workshop the morning after the night before (hence the uber-cool dark glasses). He kindly informed me, as I snapped merrily away, that I had become like the Japanese - some of whom, I have to admit, do seem to have bizarrely obsessive relationships with their cameras, especially when it comes to fashion.

But I was just soooo curious to see all the fascinating stuff in the hub of creativity that is his studio. It reminded me of one giant art installation with unusual hidden treasures like this unique, neigh(!) iconic sculpture... I think Crazy Horse might be an appropriate title?

Do you?