Saturday, 30 October 2010

Sweet Song Saturday



'I Want the World to Stop', Belle and Sebastian (album: Write About Love)

Distinctly funkier than their usual sound, Belle and Sebastian's 'I Want the World to Stop' is devastatingly catchy and characterized by refreshing musical simplicity in this world of heavy synths, wistful lyrics and complementary breathy, soft, clear-as-a-woodland-pond vocals.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Culture Vulture: All That Jazz - PDX Jazz Project @ Jimmy Mak's



Following on in the vein of my prior ode to elegance, I have begun numerous attempts to inject more luxe into my life. I mean, a girl needs some champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries every once in a while, right? (Dude, it’s fruit! It’s healthy.) I have purchased a beautiful printed strapless maxi dress to pair with a cropped faux fur jacket and long silver tasseled necklace (where the hell I’ll go dressed like that, I have no idea), I have experimented with Nylon’s numerous cocktails of the month, in a period far shorter than a month (but maybe we shouldn’t talk about that), and… I have discovered my love for jazz at Jimmy Mak’s.

Described by Down Beat Magazine as “one of the world’s top 100 places to hear jazz”, Jimmy Mak’s in downtown Portland’s Pearl District is every inch the bona fide jazz club: red velvet curtains and jazz-themed art (whether it’s monochrome photographs of the greats or sweeping portraits of pianos in classic scarlet hues) galore.

Despite its reputation, however, Jimmy Mak’s is not content to rest on its laurels. No sir - instead, they continue to host evening shows of excellent live jazz, including the one I attended on Tuesday: a show featuring talented high school musicians involved in the PDX Jazz Project. The PDX Jazz Project is currently housed at Portland State University’s Music Department, and aims to nurture talent and foster self-confidence in talented young performers through the avenue of public performance.

Well, it’s obviously working. The show on Tuesday - featuring performers Kyle Molitor on trombone and Tree Palmedo on trumpet (both are members of the 2010 Monterey Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and potential Julliard attendees) - was spectacular. The individual sounds from the instruments didn’t so much blend together as complement each other, and that was what I liked about the performance. The music was fluid and complete, yet each element - piano, bass, brass and drums - shone in its own right. Palmedo’s and Molitor’s styles, in particular, added unique flavour to the performance: Palmedo’s flamboyance and extravagance stood out as much as his skill, as he practically performed a vertical cobra pose as he really felt the music and lifted his sounds to the heavens. Molitor’s skill showed through in his smooth performance and incredible range - probably factors that led to his being selected to perform at the Grammys. Two years running.

The standout tune of the evening was the group’s performance of ‘So Tired’ composed by Bobby Timmons. I am tempted to deem it ‘jazz tango’: I could imagine beautiful women from seasons past in this season’s long skirts swaying to the music with their equally beautiful counterparts.

Jazz is an underappreciated art form, in my opinion, especially among young people these days. Hopefully, the PDX Jazz Project will help to change that; I for one have faith that the Project, and its talented young performers, will blossom into the (very promising) future of jazz. My interest is entirely self-serving, of course: I could get used to a life of jazz and elegance…

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Friday, 22 October 2010

Culture Vulture: The New Age of Elegance & The Rise of the Dinner Party



Fashion seems to be suffering a bit of an earthquake right now. The key concepts of fashion have been shaken (and stirred, too) - first, models started looking somewhat like they might not snap if you hugged them, and now, suddenly, mini skirts are out. Yes, just like that, the dynasty of overtly-sexual dressing (when it comes to the legs at least) has been toppled. Easy is out, and elegance is in.

Long skirts (and the accompanying lean, relaxed-luxe look) were first championed by such taste-making legends as Fendi, Dries Van Noten and Marc Jacobs (for both his own line and at Louis Vuitton, above) at the A/W 2010 shows, and showed no signs of stopping there. The look has continued on into the Spring 2011 shows (and, no doubt, trends), and I for one am rejoicing.

The shift from ‘sexy’ to ‘elegant’ in fashion signifies so much more than an engineered change in consumer demand. For me, the focus on elegance indicates a return to fashion’s golden days, before the recession, when women dressed to be beautiful, and ‘glamour’ wasn’t a dirty word. Fashion is all about creating an aura, a projection of how you would like to be perceived, and elegance certainly creates an enticing one: it says you’re wealthy, you’re sophisticated, you’re cultured, and you have better ways of getting men into bed than flashing some leg (and more skill when you get there, too).

As you might be able to tell, I’m very taken with this whole idea, romantic that I am. I am rather inclined to begin living, as well as dressing, in an elegant manner, and what better way to showcase a stunning floor-length gown (and a newly-honed knowledge of opera) than by hosting a dinner party?

Now, there is one thing that (I believe) must be said about dinner parties: they rely on their presentation - that is, the dinnerware used. One may hold a dinner party wherever one would like (a garden party can be charming), and any sort of fancy finger foods may be served, however the postmark of taste in this case is undoubtedly the dinnerware sets used. Formal dinnerware is a symbol of elegance, just as is a long skirt or dress within the area of fashion. Nothing says ‘sophistication’ quite like a glass ice bucket or decanter set (I’ll have mine in cut-glass crystal from Tiffany’s, please).

If any of you want to follow suit and live a life of luxury and elegance (at least in part), the best thing you can do for yourself is buy some formal dinnerware from Mikasa. They offer a range of casual dinnerware, as well as the more formal selections, so you can entertain in less stuffy style, if your social circle requires that. If casual dinnerware is your choice, I’d recommend you check out Mikasa’s Italian Countryside dinnerware - clean, crisp, and simple, recalling classic Italian architecture, the Italian dinnerware line reflects minimalistic, simple elegance. There are also various flower-motif plates and dinnerware pieces, for those charming garden parties at 3 o’clock sharp.

If, however, you are like me, and want to really embrace elegance after its long absence, Mikasa also offers a magnificent range of formal dinnerware for a really splendid occasion. There are some beautiful dinnerware pieces, my favourite of which has to be this Mod Plaid Champagne Flute - very fresh, very Burberry, very elegant.

No matter which dinnerware set you choose, remember the spirit of living elegantly: that of good company, good times, and friendship. Canap├ęs and Krug optional.

Monday, 18 October 2010

10 Questions: Personal Style



1.) What’s your favourite fashion accessory?
Right now, it has to be my Michael Van Der Ham silk scarf for Topshop. Like many folks involved in fashion, I have a habit of dressing in a cheery pallet of black and grey, so the vibrant collage-themed scarf helps me inject some colour and surprising edge into my outfits. Not to mention that prints are very on-trend for this season, and I love the wearable-art-like style of the scarf. Silk scarves also scream ‘Parisian cool’ (something I’d frankly give my right arm to embody) and are incredibly versatile.

2.) Who’s your favourite fashion role model?
Carey Mulligan. On her journey from indie darling to Hollywood star I have never yet seen her wear a less-than-flawless outfit. She possesses taste (on the red carpet, she avoids anything “above the knee, girly, or ridiculous”) - a rarity these days - and embraces her natural body type (she reportedly told her personal trainer she wanted to look like a ‘normal person’, not an actress), something to be celebrated in these days of unhealthy ‘heroin chic’.

3.) What do you always carry with you?
My iPod touch. I quite literally couldn’t live without it. Aside from just the musical aspect (which helps me fall even more in love with the geniuses behind Oh Land, Maroon 5, Two Door Cinema Club and Young Empires), I can also check my emails, access my facebook (addiction right there!) and give myself a cultural education with numerous free apps from various art museums (the MoMA app, for example).

4.) How would you describe your style?
Put together. I’m a bit of a style chameleon - one day I’ll wear a faux fur-collar cropped leather aviator jacket, black sequin leggings and wedge heeled ankle boots with a faux fur covered rucksack; another, crystal-studded sheer nude leggings, cream bodycon jersey dress and sheepskin-lined jacket, red lips, smoky eyes and messy hair - but no matter what mood I’m in, my outfit is always thought out. Every aspect reflects my inspiration for the look, or something that’s going on inside me emotionally.

5.) What’s your favourite? Jeans, sunglasses, or heels?
Definitely heels. I couldn’t live without them! They add polish, glamour, and sex appeal to any outfit. What more could a girl want?

6.) What inspired you to blog about fashion?
Just the desire to get my voice out there, basically - to have something to refer potential employers to (I knew from a very young age that I wanted to go into fashion journalism) so that they could get a feel for my voice and focus, and really just to have something in my life to feel incredibly passionate about.

7.) What’s your favourite fashion store?
Topshop! I swear, I could quite happily shop exclusively from that store for the rest of my life and be ecstatic. There’s glamour, there’s a youthful, fresh quality, there’s edge, and there’s a boundary-pushing, I-don’t-care-what-you-think vibe to their clothes. Everything is feminine but tough, strong. That’s a knife-edge I like to balance on.

8.) What’s your favourite fabric in clothing?
Probably silk. Silk always looks good and adds a touch of grown-up glamour and sophistication to any outfit. It’s also an extremely versatile fabric - you can get very feminine, opulent silk blouses, masculine button-up silk shirts in The Talented Mr. Ripley-esque tobacco shades, laidback Alexander Wang-cool silk t-shirts and silk scarves.

9.) Who or what inspires your style?
‘Regular’ peoples’ outfits on lookbook.nu. You can get so many ideas and a wealth of inspiration from this online source - there are as many different looks as there are personalities in a group of friends, yet all of them work in different ways, and emit different vibes. Sometimes, a certain je ne sais quoi quality to a style you’ve been trying to pin down can just click when you see someone using a particular key piece to work it.

10.) Would you choose to buy something high quality or make it yourself if you could?
I would always spend the money. In my opinion, it’s not really about whether you possess the raw skills to be capable of stitching together the patterns for a dress, but about a gift you possess, and the experience you build up with mentors. Just because I can create a garment, does not mean I am capable of evoking something truly beautiful or magnificent, like Sarah Burton’s skilled management of the Alexander McQueen legacy.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Must-Sees for the Month (and beyond...)





1. 'Black Swan' starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, at the London Film Festival, 13th-28th October (though it is rumoured to be sold out). This dark and sophisticated psychological thriller from Darren Aronofsky centers around a dedicated dancer, Nina, who dreams of playing the lead in the New York City Ballet performance of Swan Lake. First, however, she must convince her artistic director that she has what it takes to play both the innocent White Swan and the erotic, dark Black Swan, fending off competition from a new, sensual dancer, Lily. This film explores the complex changes in mental state that Nina undergoes as she truly becomes what she seeks to simply evoke as she is driven to devastating ends by her desire to dance. As a former ballet dancer and an athlete obsessed with performance and success, I found the premise of this film extremely intriguing and entirely (perhaps worryingly) believable.

2. 'Drawing Fashion' exhibition at the London Design Museum, 3rd November - 6th March 2011. Drawing Fashion will showcase original works from the collections of Chanel, Dior, Comme des Garcons and McQueen, among others.

3. An exhibition by Marina Abramovic (the controversial artist whose MoMA show included requiring visitors to squeeze between two naked life models flanking a small doorway) at the Lisson Gallery in London, 13th October - 13th November.

Friday, 8 October 2010

"Natural opulence, oxymoron intended"



This is my first look for lookbook.nu, channelling the A/W '10 faux fur trend (would you LOOK at that rucksack?? I know, I know, 8th wonder of the world, no?).

Check it out here http://lookbook.nu/look/1161603-Natural-opulence-oxymoron-intended and hype if you like it (oh go on, you know you want to. Please? Just click that button and I'll love you forever).

Faux fur rucksack, Topshop
Cable knit leggings, Topshop
Faux fur leather aviator, Jane Norman

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Glam, Glammer, Glammest






I, apparently like many designers this S/S, appreciate many different types of glamour. There's something unexpectedly sexual about Paul Smith's variation on androgyny (top), while at Temperley London it's animal fever (2nd from top) and at Sass & Bide shades of grey are seriously sexy (like my alliteration there? Yeah, I worked on it).

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sweet Song Saturday



'Obsession' by Sky Ferreira.

Firstly, let me just say that I love this girl. Her songs are catchy and totally have me singing along at the top of my lungs in the car (shower, in public...okay, just kidding on that one!). Honestly, I appreciate 'good music' - the kind that is evidently 'structured' with the vocals merely complementing the musical genius, but I also love good old move-your-body beats. And 'Obsession' is definitely one of these. Watch out, pop charts, Sky Ferreira's coming. Mark my words: this girl's gonna be big. You can quote me on that.

On a purely aesthetic note, I must say that I have total face- and hair-envy when it comes to Sky. Her look (crazy-long, loose, unfussy blonde locks, smoked-out eyes and statement lips) is very sensual and glamorous, but also tough yet somehow vulnerable (a very pretty oxymoron, if I may say so myself). It's a perfect example of the new limited edition 'Heavy Duty' makeup look from Topshop (yes, I have almost everything in the collection already).

To get Sky's sensual-chic look, all you need is Topshop's lipstick in Beguiled, kohl pencil in Coal, and eyeshadow in Greyscale. Watch this video (http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StaticPageDisplay?catalogId=33057&storeId=12556&brdcrmb_trail=&identifier=ts2-all-laquered-up) and you'll be all set to have boys Obsessing over you.