Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Are You Afraid of The Dark?

Are You Afraid of The Dark?

Illamasqua emerged from the shadows in Autumn 2008, creating a ripple of excitement with their distinctively dark and individual take on beauty. Their highly pigmented cosmetics are available in a range of shades so varied they make a rainbow seem positively dull in comparison. Their foundations alone run the gamut from Nicole Kidman porcelain to Alek Wek blue-black, giving Illamasqua kudos and credibility as a brand that truly has something for everyone. The superior formulas offer the wearer the opportunity to experiment with application. Lipsticks may be worn traditionally or blended across the cheekbones as a cream blusher. A simple eyeshadow can be used to contour the face or to create graphic shapes when applied wet with a slanted brush. A cream blusher doubles as a lip stain and eyeshadow - it can even be used to shade and contour the face. The versatility of the products is limited solely by the imagination of the wearer. The brand mantra is "Make-up For Your Alter Ego", there's a major emphasis on exploring the different facets of one's own personality. The brand and product literature notes the cabaret culture of 1920's Berlin as a major influence, bringing to mind the illicit and decadent Kit Kat Club - made famous by the Oscar-winning film Cabaret. Liza Minelli turned in a career-defining performance as the film's protagonist Sally Bowles. A highly complex character, Sally was a flurry of contradictions, managing to be both fearless and vulnerable, sexually provocative yet innocent. With Illamasqua, the wearer is able to tap into a multitude of "characters". Whether it's vixen or virgin, hero or villain, the scope for exploring one's own psyche via the creation of alternate personas is endless. The Sirens collection for Summer 2009 was a rich and exotic blend of opulent gold, bronze and terracotta highlighted by coral pink and a jewel-like turquoise. Dangerous and beauteous creatures, Sirens were said to seduce men with their song, luring them to their deaths. The make-up was as enticing as the name suggests - and the palette so opulent it would have made King Midas green with envy. For AW09, the brand's vision is less Gold Rush and more Blade Runner. Taking inspiration from the film Metropolis, the Dystopia collection represents the opposite of Utopia. Chaos and darkness prevails in an imagined reality of the future. The collection's black, grey, silver and iridescent ultraviolet pigments have a cyborg-feel reminiscent of Daryl Hannah as Pris, the lethal replicant with a penchant for acrobatics in the cult 80's Sci Fi film Blade Runner. The campaign imagery features Kabuki-esque looks reminiscent of 80's Blitz Kid era pop icons such as Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Strange, Toyah Wilcox and Boy George. The neon accents of pink and purple could be straight out of the iconic 80's cartoon Jem and the Holograms, in keeping with the tough 80's punk aesthetic evident at key AW09 shows such as Marc Jacobs, Gucci and Versace. Above you can find images from Illamasqua's exclusive blogger event at Kettner's in London. The brand's Creative Director Alex Box was on hand to create a unique Dystopia look on a fellow blogger - it was quite the experience. Alex's signature style would best be described as the love child of Cruella de Vil, Dita Von Teese and a Blonde Ambition era, Gaultie bustier-clad Madonna. She has created catwalk looks for McQueen and Stella McCartney, not to mention editorials for the world's leading style bibles. A book of inspirational photos is launching in October, after a collaboration with snapper to the stars Rankin. Alex's make-up artistry viewed through Rankin's lens is bound to have created a visual feast - I can't wait for the launch party in October.

Lipstick in Avenge - £14
Intense Lip Gloss in Galactic - £12.50

Intense Lipgloss in Explode - £12.50

Nail Varnish in Obsess - £12.50
Nail Varnish in Velocity - £12.50
Powder Eye Shadow in Synth - £14
Powder Eye Shadow in Machine - £14
Powder Eyeshadow in Matter - £14
Pure Pigment in Android - £15
Pure Pigment in Static - £15
Liquid Metal in Phenomena - £16
4-Colour Eye Shadow Palette in Pink - £29
4-Colour Eye Shadow Palette in Purple - £29
No.21 False Eye Lashes - £11


Light My Fire

Light My Fire..

As the nights grow longer and colder, people inevitably turn to the comfort of luxury candles to create ambience in their living space. Diptyque have long dominated the beauty pages of the world's glossiest magazines. However, having recently come across Votivo candles, I personally feel that Diptyque have approached the end of their wick. At £35, Diptyque's offerings are £7 more expensive than Votivo's. This is understandable given their iconic status - but hardly economical given that their olfactory impact is about as noticeable as a slap across the face with a feather duster. Votivo's kaleidoscopic Color collection candles burn for 50 hours and are stocked exclusively at Liberty. They retail for a comparably reasonable £28. That's approximately £1.79 per hour, which seems like a small price to pay for exquisitely scented surroundings. What they lack in price they make up for in aesthetics - and most importantly, strength and complexity of scent. The brand has gained something of an A - List following since their launch in 1994. Madonna, Oprah, P. Diddy and Jessica Simpson are all fans. Each candle is hand-crafted, each tissue hand-wrapped and each pewter seal hand-printed, making each one a true labour of love and all the more special. My personal favourite is the Green Pepper and Coriander candle, it's fresh and invigorating, the perfect antidote to a gloomy Autumn.

Votivo Color Candles are £28 - available exclusively at Liberty


Saturday, 5 September 2009

5 Love Forever Pieces

5 Love Forever Pieces..

The AW09 catwalks were awash with a variety of contradictory trends. There was 80's power dressing at Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani. Disco chic reigned supreme at Gucci and Versace, while rustic knits and prints were the order of the day at Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Burberry and Aquascutum. Add to this a heavy dose of a rock and roll tinged gothic aesthetic and you have a rather confusing array of fashion options. Thank goodness then for the LFP's (Love Forever Pieces) - those savvy investments that will neither date nor lose their appeal in seasons to come. The notion of cheap, disposable fashion isn't so economical when you've a wardrobe packed to the rafters with ill fitting, poor quality clothing. Given that most of the time we only tend to wear 20% of our wardrobe, surely it makes sense to invest a little money on good quality, beautifully crafted capsule pieces that have that FGF (Feel Good Factor) ?

I've hand-picked five sartorial gems from My-wardrobe.com that would enhance every man's wardrobe.

1. Paul Smith Blue Thin Striped Scarf

Accessories are the easiest way to update and add a little flair to your ensemble. This classic, graphic striped design would look as good with your work suit as it would with jeans and a jumper at the weekend.

2. Paul Smith Pitney Black Darby Lace Up Shoe

I can't help but wax lyrical about this shoe. A classic colour, quality glossy leather and an almond toe shape that isn't as extreme as the pointy styles that have been in vogue in recent years. The purple laces and floral print inner sole provide a subtle individuality that marks it out from the plethora of black shoes on the street.

3. Vivienne Westwood Blue Classic Wool V Neck Knit

Dame Vivienne Westwood is known for many things; punk, tartan, political activism and toppling Supermodels. Naomi Campbell famously came down to earth in more ways than one while negotiating her way down Queen Viv's catwalk in a pair of vertigo-inducing platforms. What you may not know is that she also designs some of the most sought after knits. The right fit is essential with knitwear lest you risk being mistaken for the Michelin Man. This blue wool V neck is the perfect item to stash in your manbag for freak weather changes. It's the perfect cover up for less than balmy late summer nights. Furthermore it would work equally well with a tailored navy suit in the office as it would with your favourite jeans at the weekend.

4. PS Paul Smith Grey Wool Velvet Collar Epsom Coat

Given that your winter coat is going to be on your back until spring next year (this is Britain after all), it makes sense to invest in one that you love. It's been well documented that Burberry have been giving Aquascutum something of a thrashing in the trench wars but between you and me I am a little bit over the whole urban spy look. Unless you happen to be starring in a remake of 'Allo 'Allo !, I recommend you opt for something luxurious and grown up like this single breasted grey wool coat with a sumptuous black velvet trim on the collar and cuffs. Worn over a suit, jeans or trousers, the sharp tailoring and simple cut is guaranteed to suit men of all shapes and sizes.

5. Vivienne Westwood Denim Classic Slim Jeans

If you're too trend driven when it comes to your jeans you run the risk of obscuring any hint of a body shape, or worse still, looking like an overgrown skater boy or indie rocker. Low crotch jeans may be all the rage right now but they also give you an air of incontinence. This presents something of a dilemma. Do you take the fashion route and look like you've had a 'mishap' or go for the safe option? Safe doesn't have to mean boring these days. These classic slim jeans in an indigo wash have a universally flattering cut. Trendy low crotch styles will obscure your posterior to the extent that you appear to have an extraordinarily long back. It's time to embrace your buttocks chaps (relax - I didn't mean that literally), believe it or not, people do like to see the junk in your trunk. Drainpipe skinnies can give men with rugby thighs the appearance of a tree trunk smuggler. Thankfully the leg of these jeans are slim enough to indicate you have a fully functioning fashion radar, but roomy enough to accommodate a larger leg. To quote David Bowie these are a Jean Genie. Whether it's a jumper, jacket, shirt or coat, they will magically go with everything.

Paul Smith Blue Thin Striped Scarf - £60

PS Paul Smith Grey Wool Velvet Collar Epsom Coat - £385

Vivienne Westwood Blue Classic Wool V-Neck Knit - £149

Vivienne Westwood Denim Classic Slim Jeans - £170

Paul Smith Pitney Black Darby Lace Up Shoe - £180


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts..

What do you get if you cross the hottest denim label of the moment with Hoxton's hippest boutique? The answer is PRPS Hearts Start, an inspired collaboration between PRPS denim and uber-stylist Brix Smith-Start. The latter is the proprietor of Hoxton's Start boutique, the go-to destination for London's coolest fashionistas (and fashion Misters). You'll recognise her from Channel 4's Gok's Fashion Fix. In the show, she pits her wits against his, in a fierce catwalk battle of designer creations versus highstreet imitations. I caught up with Brix at the launch party while Ladyhawke spun feelgood tunes ranging from Stevie Wonder's Superstition to Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 for the cream of London's coolest cats. The collaboration is a highly limited collection of 56 pieces, comprising of 50 pairs of jeans and 5 leather jackets (there were six but they sold one that morning). Both the jeans and jackets were based on existing cuts and fabric treatments, though both feature distinctive stud details. Manufactured on traditional selvedge looms and distressed by hand, Brix said of the jeans, "they're not contrived, they look and feel authentic, like something you've had in your closet for some time". She explained that a studded heart motif is placed on the back pocket prior to washing, then removed to reveal a "ghost heart" relief design - rock 'n' roll tie dye for the Noughties. Brix told me the back pocket motif has become something of a PRPS signature, with previous mainline designs featuring a trompe l'oeil wallet design. The heart design was chosen because they knew the party was going to be called PRPS Hearts Start. The black washed leather jackets feature a silver studded heart motif on the back - as modelled by Brix at the event. On the topic of the boutique's history with the brand, Brix said "PRPS is the Rolls Royce of denim brands, their washes and fit truly set them apart. It started out as a menswear brand so we found ourselves selling small sizes to our female customers as boyfriend jeans". When I asked her about her must-have item for AW09 she said, "it's all about the PRPS Hearts Start black washed leather jacket with silver studded heart motif on the back. As soon as I saw studs at the shows I instinctively knew they defined the tough aesthetic for womenswear this season". Ladyhawke imbued the neo-grunge trend to perfection. With her heavy fringe, sheer black knitted hoody and black and white striped breton tee shirt she looked like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Kurt Cobain. At the other end of the style spectrum, Harrods fashion and beauty director Marigay McKee held court in an exquisitely draped corset-effect navy Givenchy dress. With subtly padded shoulders and minimal lines, it was reminiscent of 40's couture, particularly Schiaparelli. She accessorised with a pair of midnight python gladiator heels from cult designer Deborah Lyons' Mechante of London AW09 collection. Her fierce footwear only serves to highlight that tough chic is the definitive look for fall. Deborah Lyons says of her own AW09 designs "The collection is warrior/fighter inspired. A lot of the materials and shapes are suggestive of armour, but still elegant and very feminine. When I was naming the shoes, all of these women had a sense of that guarded powerful femininity and timelessness". It's not surprising Marigay opted for the Bouddeccia gladiator heels, she's something of a warrior queen in her own right. Despite a fiercely competitive market, with her guidance, the beauty turnover in Harrods has more than doubled from £30 million to £63 million. Ever gracious, she said of the event "I love the PRPS Hearts Start collaboration and greatly admire the unique ambience Brix has created in-store. I told her I wasn't sure I'd fit in with such an edgy crowd but myself and my colleagues from Harrods are having such fun. The collection, the music, the people - it's a magical combination". When I asked what we should look out for at Harrods this season, she said "I'm very excited about the French designers. We're really supporting Lanvin, Balmain and Givenchy - they're all super-important for autumn/winter 09. Roland Mouret has designed beautiful beaded pieces exclusively for us - and in very limited numbers. We've also recruited Susie Murray, former global sales director of Aquascutum, to be the new CEO of Jasmine Di Milo. With her on board, we expect to see immense growth in the brand's development. Snap up a pair of the Jasmine Di Milo leggings - they're a key piece". Before heading home, I chatted with Gareth Lindsay, personal shopper at Start. He earned his style credentials, rocking a sequinned Mr Start tuxedo jacket with a two tone Comme Des Garcons shirt, PRPS shorts and studded Converse shoes. When asked for styling tips he said, "Wear your PRPS shorts with one hem casually turned up for a skater feel". Being a magpie, I couldn't help but spy his remarkable finger candy. After a little digging from yours truly, he confided that the gold, baguette cut aquamarine and pave set sapphire and diamond ring was his own design. Having studied fashion, he'd been inspired to create jewellery. With a collaboration with high end jeweller Hannah Martin already under way, he's without doubt an emerging talent - and one to watch. When it comes to PRPS Hearts Start, I couldn't say it better than Kylie, "Two hearts are beating together. I'm in love, I'm in love".

PRPS HEARTS START is available exclusively from Start Boutique.



Spirit in the Sky

Spirit in the Sky..

I was recently invited to create make-up looks for award winners at the Body & Soul Teen Spirit Awards. Body & Soul is a unique UK charity set up by the late Dame Anita Roddick. It supports children, teenagers and families living with, or closely affected by HIV. Lovells, the world-class international law firm, kindly donated the use of their HQ at Atlantic House in the City for the event. I was overwhelmed by the optimism and courage of the young people I met. Many people regard fashion and beauty as trivial pursuits. However, events like this only serve to prove that something as simple as a make-over can put a genuine smile on someone's face.