Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wardrobe Love

Now, we all love Hugh Grant. And I adore Sandra Bullock. So what's not to love about Two Weeks' Notice? At the moment, though, I am especially in love with Hugh Grant's wardrobe in that film.

Don't get what I'm saying? Skip to 3.24 in this video:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

John Lobb

I walk down St James's Street very often, and that part of St James's is one of my favourite areas of London - deep in clubland, surrounded by the grandeur of gentlemen's clubs, and with Jermyn St, Savile Row and New Bond St so close. I often stop by and gaze lovingly through the windows of John Lobb, the finest shoemakers in town, and indeed any town. 

They are located at No 9 St James's St, thirty seconds' walk from Henry VIII's St James's Palace - at the very centre of Regency London. The interiors of the store are just beautiful, and not for nothing did Esquire call it "the most beautiful shop in the world". But it's not the pretty shop decor that distinguishes Lobb - it's the sense of history and maintenance of craftsmanship that sets this shoemaker out as unique. Each pair of shoes (and prices start in the thousands of pounds, so I could never afford them!) is crafted to perfection by hand, and lovingly tailored for the owner. Lobb sets out nine aspects of the craft: bespoke shoe-making at its best.

I own two pairs quite like the "Wallace" shoes in the picture above - one tan and one black - but they were bought in India at one hundredth the price of a Lobb pair. And whilst they're not Lobbs, for now, they must suffice. In the mean time, for your viewing pleasure here's an excellent video from The Guardian.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Style Icons: Paul Newman

Looking at the trends for the season, preppy is definitely in, and no one did preppy like Paul Newman.

Whether dressed up in evening wear, or in motorcycle gear, Newman's look was always effortless, elegant and subtle. Perfectly fit, cut and tailored, and with that leading-man eye for detail.

But more than just the fit and cut of the clothes, it's his style and personality which set them off. That way in which the clothes are never more than the man. That's a look that can't be studied and imitated - only possessed. True style.

Vita Brevis

For a while I've wanted to write a blog. What is this blog going to be about? I don't know. Perhaps it's the need for egotistical self-expression, which is made so easy in our time. But then there are the inescapable questions and lingering self-doubt. The desire to write is tempered with stage fright. What is my first post going to be be about? Who will want to read it? Any why should anyone care?

This post has been taking shape for a while. The day I sat down to write my first post, news broke of Alexander McQueen's death. Wanting to write about it, somehow I didn't quite find the words. Then a few days ago, his last ever collection was shown at Paris Fashion Week. 

Enough has been said about the collection. It's absolutely breathtaking - a colossal final bow from a creative genius. The bold colours and the meticulous detail, coupled the soaring scope of the vision and crafstmanship involved are incredible. What makes it even so much more poignant is the grand, eloquent, Fifteenth-century-art inspired theme, juxtaposed against the fact that it is and always will be unfinished. Here is Art, pure Art.

Ars Longa
vita brevis
occasio praeceps
experimentum periculosum
iudicium dificile

says Hippocrates, in the words as commonly rendered into Latin. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, isn't talking about Art in the way we perceive it today - fine art, for example. He is using the word to refer to craft, technique - like that of a physician or a warrior. But looking back at the original Greek text, rather than its Latin translation, reveals an insight which is far deeper than just the reversal of the order of a few words:

Life is short
Art is long
opportunity fleeting
expermentation fallible
judgement difficult

The simple reversal of the first two lines works almost as if to impart hope - Life is short, but Art is long. The task is great - it requires the use of fleeting time and opportunity, which is like a razor's edge ("kairos", sharp, fleeting). Hazardous and difficult, but the results are immense.

And so, we have Lee McQueen's last collection. It ecapsulates the grandeur and scale of ambition which is admirable in the human spirit, the sheer levels of imagination and attainment it can reach, and yet - like Icarus, its soaring will be cruelly cut short. It will be guilty of the fatal flaw, the hamartia, the missing-the-mark.

But somehow Art lives on. It is memorialised and unforgettable.

In the words of another great artist, Yeats (in 'Sailing to Byzantium'):

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

And through the Art, the Artist shall live on. He shall never be forgotten. Life is short, but Art is long.

R. I. P. Alexander McQueen.