In his latest column, Colin McDowell reviews Paris Haute Couture, Paris In The 1920s with Kiki de Montparnasse and The Big Book of Chic.
On the occasion of the 2013 International Woolmark Prize, Colin McDowell says it’s time to evolve international talent searches to eliminate disadvantages for non-English speakers.
PARIS, France — The weather was vile, the taxi shortage extreme. The gutters ran with filthy water from melting snow. We slid and slithered in ankle deep slush. In short, Paris was not at its best. But this was Couture Week (well, three days, which is symptomatic of how fashion ‘weeks’ have shrunk, but old habits — and titles — die hard in fashion circles) and we felt privileged to be there. But is everything shown in Paris during
PARIS, France — Couture! This magic word was all but forgotten 30-odd years ago, except in the most exalted and privileged of social circles. Since its high point in the late 1940s and 1950s, couture clients had shrivelled away just as the lifestyles the couturiers once clothed had withered as well. Fashion had taken its lead from the arts, generally, and jumped on the democratic bus called youth and freedom. Even Yves Saint
LONDON, United Kingdom — Did the world stop? Did it move? Were we changed? Did fashion leap into the public consciousness as a result of the 2010 Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which broke a number of records, not least in sales from the gift shop? I would answer in the negative. The Alexander McQueen exhibition was about tragedy, darkness, drama, fame, notoriety and even horror much
LONDON, United Kingdom — The making of fashion books for the Christmas market has become a serious business for the publishing industry, no doubt targeting shoppers increasingly desperate to find presents for kids, wives and husbands (not to mention boyfriends and girlfriends) that will interest them, have “cool factor” and not cost too much money. But all too often, the books on offer are potboilers with no real interest in them
LONDON, United Kingdom — Are we talking about London Fashion Week or a festival of childish self-indulgence? For me, fashion design is about cut, shape, body and proportion, as it always has been. But sadly, many of the recent London shows featured banal shapes hidden under a riot of digitally created patterns, sometimes in the crudest of colours. Just imagine if there was an embargo on the use of colour and pattern and designers
To coincide with the release of the documentary film “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel”, contributing editor Colin McDowell recalls the legendary editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. LONDON, United Kingdom — I first met Diana Vreeland at lunch in an Italian castle just outside Rome in the late 70s. It was a hot and sultry day and, although everyone there spoke English, albeit heavily accented in many cases, I think she was
LONDON, United Kingdom — To lose three people of great cultural value in a couple of weeks seems a cruel deprivation. First, Gore Vidal, then Robert Hughes and, finally, Anna Piaggi — belles lettres, art criticism and fashion knowledge lightly worn. They will be missed in their different ways. But each one of them had something to contribute to fashion, though I suspect that many, inside and outside the fashion industry, may not
LONDON, United Kingdom — All creative endeavours require critical feedback if they are to develop and mature. Ancient storytellers honed their craft by observing the reaction of their audiences. Medieval strolling players were pelted with manure if they failed to perform well. Vaudeville artists in the American South were physically threatened and run out of town if they weren’t up to standard. Indeed, art, dance and literature all
PARIS, France — Strange people in the fashion world. Take Dior. The couturier who founded the house with money provided by Marcel Boussac, the cotton baron, was secretive and superstitious, always looking for traitors hiding behind curtains. And nothing much seems to have changed since the man described by Cecil Beaton as “the Watteau of couturiers” first took the fashion world by storm in 1947, the year in which Christian Dior
LONDON, United Kingdom — “Bill Cunningham New York,” the ‘fly on the wall’ documentary devoted to the octogenarian photographer is very gentle. Pleasingly so, as he has gone from being a well-loved eccentric of the international fashion scene to public property. I saw the film in an art house cinema in London’s West End, where the size of the audience can normally be counted on the fingers of two hands. But for Bill, it was packed.