Friday, 29 January 2016

Only Room for 'Sparks of Joy'




Marie Kondo's ideas have been linked to 'decluttering' (how I hate that loaded term, basically good ol' fashioned Spring cleaning) and OCD neatness (OCD is an actual anxiety disorder) the much more positive theory of her 'sparks of joy' that objects can give their owners is much less covered.

What a spark of joy it gives me to hear that someone recognise the happiness that a seemingly humble object can bring.  She doesn't mean a wonder of the world (if there'll be any left soon) or a rare museum specimen, but anything coveted by it's owner because they just love it and deem it joyful to have around.  It fights off the idea of having something because it cost a lot or because everybody else has one and puts the responsibility back on to ourselves for choosing what we surround ourselves with. 

Linda Grant's The Thoughtful Dresser (2009) went towards this joyful idea but never thought-up a slogan to fit the theory. The message is with more consideration and discernment and less fervent searching for yet more bargains that often end up stored in the box room we can indeed be happy with our lot.  Though most concentrate on the things that Kondo disposes of, like the things in our own lives that give us our sparks of joy, let's concentrate on the positive side of the message and really enjoy the things we already own. 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Planning to go to the Sales? Plan Ahead!

Far be it to encourage seasonal sales fever. Just let me give you a few tips that will minimise physical damage, mental anguish or pointless spending:


Photo credit STV

Tips*:

1. Check ^%$^.com site after midnight every evening (if you're still up) or first thing. The sale in the stores will almost certainly start the same day.

2. Check on-line sale inventory, buy on-line if they have what you're looking for, it will go very quickly and they may not have what you are looking for in store. If what you are looking for has gone or they don't have the size then you can think about the stores. 

3. Check the price and talk to yourself. Is 10-20% off really worth settling for your least favourite colour or the not-so-desirable version of the range?

4. If what you wanted is not on sale, but still showing at full price on-line, it very probably won't be in the stand alone stores either this sale, but you could check dept store concessions, because there have been some strange irregularities at sales particularly at dept stores when communications from brand to concessions get muddled. 

5. Some dept stores and big chains also 'price adjust' if you've bought the same item recently and is now on discount. It never hurts to ask (if you can get someone to answer a phone or email). 

6. If you intend to go to the large stores and you know what you want (and you know the store). Prioritise your strategy. Basically, if shoes are the most important go straight to the shoes area and then visit the other sections in order of want/need.

7. At many of the high-end designer leather goods and fashion houses, bags are the most popular trophies (followed by SLGs, fashion jewellery and accessories and shoes and then RTW). If you want a bag, go way before it opens, almost everyone in the queue will be wanting one, so count the people in front and that is your position regards bags.  Quota may apply, go with a list, number 1 being priority number 1. If they stop you from buying after 1 or 2, you won't be so heart broken. 

8. Menswear goes as faster than women's and there's less of it around. Some men will buy their entire wardrobe at sale time, so if you want anything specific, are a popular size (or are a woman needing a present for a man) get to it! Note too that trophy hunting guys tend to be the slimmer sort, XXXL guys will usually score the designer bargains way after everything small and average has gone. The last point doesn't always apply for shoes, as it's the daintier male feet that can afford to be later to the party. Ladies, men's shoes are often better made than ours, if your looking for a brogue, lace-up or loafer you may like to wander into a whole new world ;-). 

9. It's simple arithmetic, but it's hard to think straight at sales. The saving on higher priced goods will save you more money. Buying things which never interested you will actually cost you dearly. Get the thing you really really want or go home

10. Even when returns are possible consider the purchase as though they aren't. Do you really want the bother of hauling a set of 'stuff' back somewhere in/out of town unnecessarily or paying for shipping there and back for nothing? 

11. Nothing's worth losing an eye for and hideous experiences are harder to forget than positive ones, there's always next season. Please.  

* These are tips for seasonal sales and not sample sales which are entirely different, and which I shall pontificate on soon i.e. when the season's sales are over and people can think straight again 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Gucci Charm Offensive

The Onward March Of the 'It' Charm





I was never a big fan of bag charms but I suddenly see the appeal. Never mind buying a new bag, just brighten up an old one with its own accessory. No doubt about it, naming the 'it' bag is over, identifying soles so passe and the trophy jacket has its day, now it's all about that little thing dangling off your oldest carry case, keys attached or not.  







After the Hermes Rodeo galloping up the resale charts and furry Fendi monsters attacking every high-street there are some new cute adult 'toys' up for grabs.

How's about a Gucci Doll Charm? 48 hours in the hand-making and each one slightly different.

My favourite, and totally worth investing for one reason alone: the lift boy was the original Gucci icon. His figure graced luggage and bags way before Guccio Gucci's son Aldo changed him into an aristocratic shopping knight.

Gucci Gucci was that lift boy who fetched and carried in the Savoy built up the Gucci business and name on the back of Florentine expertise and quality in craft and leather making. A rags to riches story any man or woman should be proud of. All that history in the Art Deco shape of one little key chain, that's what I call charm!







Sunday, 26 April 2015

TMI



So many wonderful style blogs, practical and purely inspirational, it has never been easier to check up on the latest offerings or feel empowered by the sartorial majesty of someone who doesn't look like a model and shops on a shoestring budget. Whatever image I'd like to create or recreate, it's all here at my fingertips. But while I'm shopping?  Browsing through on-line shopping sites from uptown-uptempo to high-street brands, I'm shocked by how many commercial businesses offer me 'advice'. I can 'get inspired' by the style of celebrities I've never heard about on Matches, I'm told to have a pedicure before you wear our "pretty ugly" shoes (Clarks) and stay away from bolder prints (M&S). When did the store that wants my money start to think it's alright to dictate my grooming habits, what I should be buying and how to dress? If stores spent more care making sure their items didn't fall apart and a bit more time making sure their merchandise fit a human figure and less thinking they were the next Vogue advice column, we'd all dress a lot better and I might decide to spend some money with them.  

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Chanel Realigns Pricing for a New Global Pricing Policy



Chanel 5 Euro Coin issued 2008 held by Karl Lagerfeld 
The solid gold version was ltd ed and priced 5900 

Is it a new world order or is Chanel simply trying to cut out the 'middle men' known more commonly 'resellers' that buy in Europe and resell in Asia with a profit to them in between? I am not going to try to explain Chanel's decision  (although many commentators have tried) I promise I won't do my usual history lesson of the development and cultural analysis of these iconic pieces because that would fill a book, and I'm certainly not going to rant about the unfairness of it all (not exactly talking the need to access fresh water here). I will give you quick run through of how the rare and almost sanctified classic Chanel bag began to look ubiquitous on the streets of Asia and beyond, even in schools.  

There was a time that a select few exceedingly discerning ladies of a certain age would take the plunge and 'invest' in a once in a lifetime purchase at a Chanel boutique. Then came a select collective of hip and happening young ladies, rediscovering their mothers', even grandmothers' bags would toss them over jeans, shorts or minis in a cool nonchalant way. The irreverence of treating such a formal artefact so casually part of the charm (and I'm sure very much in the spirit of a young Coco Chanel too). An army of slightly less creative types picked up this trend with (quelle horreur!) brand new bags in ever increasing (and even younger) numbers.  Then the fakes. Then the super fakes. Then the on-line swapsies (selling one to buy another). Then the designer quilted looky-likey bags. Then the high-street copies. Then the realisation that nearly every little 8 year old has a bubble-gum pink, fake, quilted Hello Kitty bag with a shoulder chain. 

There are obviously quite a few factors that are rubbing, one against another.  In previous years Chanel have put up its prices, ostensibly for a way of maintaining these bags' exclusivity. From 2008 many of these pieces have approximately doubled at retail, classic perennials such as Classic Flaps, Reissue quilted shoulder bags and the newer but equally popular Boy bags are now priced out of reach of even most the middle-class, professional lunching ladies, the very market that had bought Chanel's cherished prizes when they were considered too bourgeois and old fashioned for the fashion crowd. Conversely, the company has slashed the traditionally comparatively much higher Asian market prices to tackle the profiteers. 

Strange to think that Chanel that talks of valuing exclusivity so highly, hiking European prices by as much as 20% recently on top of the eye-watering increases year upon year. Though the caché of the 'Frenchness' of the brand (though many leather goods are made in Italy too) is most appealing to the Asian and American market, it will be a very loyal or mega-rich European customer than will consider a Chanel classic bag purchase in the future, whist still no bargain, with tax rebates and a holiday thrown in a non-European can enjoy a little sweetener buying in Europe. 


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Unexpected All Change at Gucci: Men's AW 15/16

Alessandro Michele (and Team) Takes A Bow At Gucci







I've wondered why, since women have borrowed from men so often in the last century, why there seldom seemed any 'reciprocal arrangement'.  Exceptions of course, for years I've known (male) friends buy women's jeans and T shirts, occasionally and deliberately for the fit, but more for the variety, especially colour, finishes and prints. And of course everyone is screaming 1970s references at Alessandro Michele's Men's collection for Winter. Doesn't anyone remember Kurt Cobain in a dress, the androgyny of utility-wear, and unisex fragrances?  Far more grunge than glam, this show had all the hallmarks of generation X in their heyday. A few more designers now seem to be questioning the devisions between menswear and women's wear, Slimane and Prada included, and so Michele is not alone. The HUGE rise of interest and sales in men's RTW has led to more focused and experimental thinking altogether, perhaps about time, now roles in society have changed so much.  From that point of view I welcome Gucci's collection, why shouldn't a man wear a pussy bow around his neck? However there was a whole lot of unfinished business about this collection, and I'm not just talking about Giannini's early exit.  

Dare we raise the question of who will buy this collection? There are plenty of hipsters, artists and wannabe artists of all kinds who would buy pre-loved women's wear in charity shops (goodwill) but hipsters and my thrifty friends are not going to be buying Gucci, and Gucci's regular customers won't go near anything from this catwalk, so I hope Gucci will have their usual shirts 'at the back' (I'm sure they will). In a way, and maybe sadly, that will make this collection redundant.




No doubt there is also a pressure on designers to concentrate on bottom lines, and I'm not talking about trousers.  Hedi Slimane has taken Saint Laurent back to its bohemian routes in many ways, and with it we are told, huge profitability. Valentino has gone rock star crazy, and Kenzo has re-awakened to the cash tills roaring approval of everything tiger. Obviously, rock n roll, no matter how mainstream is still a money spinner now we can all be Stars for 15 seconds on YouTube. Will it work at Gucci? Only time will tell. Gucci has always been about sex and sensuality. Tom Ford or Frida Giannini, the focus has always been on confident femininity and masculinity, no matter the sexual predilection of the wearer. Butter soft leather, feathers or crisp wild silk, there was never an air of ambiguity and self doubt about the Gucci woman or man, Gucci was never street fashion but a fantasy, light years away from the mundane. The vibe for AW15/16 is entirely different. 

As for the '5 day' wonder collection.  With all the will in the world, Gucci's huge budget and their own factories those clothes were NOT designed, developed, made and styled in five days.  The women's-themed menswear was more style-ploy to join a lot of previous year samples and 'found' clothes together and present it as a show. Michele obviously went shopping from Gucci's own closet plus perhaps a hunt in Rome's own thrift shops (kidding). I can see those trousers have had the hems let down, some of the coats are women's (just look at the black Astrakhan!), the rings are cast offs . I think it was more a case of cast the model and see what we've got that fits :-D

All pictures from Gucci.com 


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Storing Silk Scarves

Storing Silk Scarves

La Femme aux Semmelles du Vent Carre* 

Scarves were obviously made to be worn, but if you, like me, have quite a few (publishing no figures here LOL) where do you put the ones you only wear in Summer/Winter/Christmas/For best until their time comes around again? Or perhaps you are a collector of fine vintage designer silks, when condition is paramount rather than access. It would be lovely to have the resources of Catherine the Great and design something purpose built in collaboration with your finest cabinet maker to be housed in a vast annex the size of an average room at the Hermitage but alas we are not, so we can't. 

I'm not talking about the cold-weather muffler types here, as they are an altogether different category, the scarves I'm talking about here are the more delicate scarves that are given as gifts and collected as prize possessions. Today's good quality silk scarves are actually hardier than one might imagine. Whilst no one in their right mind would wear one in a torrential downpour without an umbrella, wear it to pig-out with over all-you-can-eat in 30 mins 'restaurant' or teaming it with a barbed-wire necklace they won't mind a gently handwash, few spots of rain or using as an impromptu belt or strap.  There are many blogs that show you DIY storage solutions or their own fabulous walk-in wardrobes, and we are all probably aware of all the contraptions sold as scarf storage. Let's go through the challenges and solutions of storing your silky accessories:

Different needs, challenges and solutions apply to all people, so I have just tried to look at the most popular possible solutions. Obviously, the endless various shapes, materials and sizes will present different challenges. 

> Most people leave them in the boxes they were first given in. That's fine if you never wear them. Just stick a label on the outside of the outside of the box or write directly on it what's inside so that if you have a few in the same sort of boxes you'll know which one's which.

< Storing in boxes for scarves in use is not ideal but many, including myself think it's better than losing them or storing in a place where something can get at a range en masse. Crossed-wires about the suitability of packaging for storing seems to have happened because of Internet auction sites, people assuming that since collectors want original packaging all manner of things should be stored that way. That is not the case. Hermes SAs do not recommend leaving scarves (or bags) in boxes, the boxes are just sold as part of the packaging. Scarves, like their bags should be hung. 

< Once you've worn a scarf you should let it air. Hang it over the back of a chair or on a rail from the diagonal or however best to let the creases fall out. This is much better for the scarf than constantly ironing (always a clean towel between the iron and scarf) or steaming.

> Folding up in a draw, probably the way the way they were displayed in the store. Again, fine for brand new (and I don't mean new-to-you here) and absolutely newly clean scarves. Make sure the draw is lined and checked for any snags (including all edges) before storing. 

> Folded in a shelved cabinet is a good idea especially if it has a glass front. 

< Folding is also a highly contentious issue. Many collectors only accept puffy hemlines and original folds. That is a hangover from only accepting mint condition scarves that have never been worn. Actually, the silk will weaken and sometimes permanently discolour in the folds. If you have to fold, either do it loosely or take new/clean acid-free tissue paper, lay flat on top and fold the 2 sheets within the scarf. Even better roll the scarves with tissue paper in-between. 

> Poles/barres are an easy DIY solution and you will see your scarves better than in a draw but it means that your scarf will always have knot marks somewhere before you wear. Much easier for the larger or long scarf shapes as if you have to tie a knot at all it can be much looser. 

> 'Pegs' or pincer systems should be scrutinised for any rough edges and the closure mechanism should not be too strong or it will mark the scarf. Never pull the scarf from these, even in a tearing hurry (pun intended) open the peg and let the scarf fall out.

> Scarf hangers with holes are a great solution for scarves used in heavy rotation. Make sure the holes are absolutely smooth on the inside as well as the rest of the hanger, this especially applies to the wooden ones. The ones covered in velour or velvet are soft and the scarf has less chance of slipping. Again, don't tug or pull a scarf too quickly if in a hurry in cases the scarf finds a snag before you do and don't over fill these hangers or the scarves will look a mess . 

> Scarf hangers with bars are the original scarf hangers, again look for any possible rough edges and perhaps look for the ones that have thick rolls over a bar as they are easier, metal only bars will not hold your silk carres well, you will be forever picking them up off the floor. Another possible issue, is unless you only have 1 scarf per bar, you may not be able to see all the scarves.

< Any scarf hangers should have plenty of room around and not stuffed in a wardrobe, better to hang on the back of a door although some people find that too messy looking.

> Hooks and knobs will not work for silk scarves unless you hang them by the care tag and most of us would not want to do that. Even hooks with rounded or ball ends are not advised. 


Any other posh scarf storage solution/challenge please let me know 

I suppose my next post should be on how to store/what to do with a lot of empty scarf boxes :-D

*This is a picture taken by me of my scarf and bangle. If you see this picture advertising this scarf either item for sale anywhere else, with or without the watermark, it won't be me, this scarf, and most likely nothing like the scarf you will receive (KWIM?).