In the midst of colourful Christmas-time shops overflowing with decorations, each window of Stephen Jones' millinery salon in Covent Garden displays only two hats against white background. In the left window sits a ladies headpiece made of what is best described as cerulean blue leafs reaching up to the sky. It's so extraordinary that even the plain black bowler hat next to it begins to seem suspicious.
Stephen Jones is Britain's most famous milliner next to Philip Treacy. His whimsical, witty and playful hats are made in the workshop in the basement of the salon, with a pinch of surrealism that reminds me of Elsa Schiaparelli. The milliner's other connection to surrealism is Gala Dalí, who used to be his client. More contemporary fans include Madonna, Dita Von Teese, Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue, and the late Isabella Blow and Anna Piaggi.
In 30 years of designing, Stephen Jones has worked with almost every major fashion house you can think of. He's been getting a lot of press lately for his collaborations with Marc Jacobs, both on Jacobs' eponymous line and his Autumn/Winter 2012 collection for Louis Vuitton. However, many still remember Jones for his 15-year contribution to the opulent theatrics of John Galliano's Dior.
The runway is a show, therefore it can afford the exaggeration that has little place in everyday life. As I learned upon my visit to the salon, Stephen Jones' hats for people like you and me are not toned-down versions of his runway pieces. They retain the same complexity and sense of humour. I imagine wearing a Stephen Jones hat is like walking on your own small runway.
Male students protest against longer hemlines at Michigan State University, circa 1947. When a friend of mine posted this photo on my Facebook wall some time ago, I immediately thought this was one of the most interesting moments in fashion history I've heard of. 1947 was the year Christian Dior introduced the "New Look" in his groundbreaking Spring/Summer collection - the silhouette would have small waist, large bust and - you guessed correctly! - long skirt. If the photo really had been taken the same year (Dior presented the collection in February), the New Look must have paved its way across the pond rather quickly.
I don't think people should tell others what to wear unless asked to (and yet, I love fashion, guilty of the very same "omniscience" ... the irony! the contradiction! the beauty of it all!). Kevyn Aucoin nailed it in one of his make-up tutorial books: "Those who create rules for others are often insecure about themselves and control freaks." I wish we knew more about the context of this photo (or is it that being from a different culture, I cannot read into it in more detail?). Only then would it be clear whether the hemline protest was a clever, dallying joke or meant very seriously.
Zara top, circa 2005
I like it when clothes from H&M, Asos or Zara look like Dior. It pokes fun at high fashion's exorbitant cost* and proves that the impression given by clothes (expensive/cheap, put-together/random) depends entirely on the wearer. So actually, I like it when people wear clothes from cheaper brands like they're Dior (I'm using Dior as example because recently someone said my old Zara top reminded him of this brand, an outstanding compliment both to me and the top). It denotes a true understanding of fashion spiced with self-confidence and desire to make the clothes your own. To let yourself be the princess or prince at all times.
I'm sure most of us know instances when, say, this girl at school wore a scarf around her neck and pulled it off so well she made it a trend. In just a couple of days other girls started wearing a similar or even the same scarf. Of course, the scarf never looked so great on other girls. The secret was not in the scarf but in the girl and the way she wore it. Other girls couldn't achieve the same magic with the scarf because it's not what you wear, it's how you wear it.
On the other hand, even an exquisite Dior gown can look very much unlike Dior if you're not in the right mental place to wear it. Remember those thousands-of-dollars red carpet outfits that didn't work despite the best celebrity stylist, the most precious Harry Winston jewelry, the beautiful Louboutin pumps? You'd think it's impossible to go wrong with such sought-after pieces at your disposal. Wrong. Fashion can help immensely, but it cannot guarantee you that you will look amazing.
Since I know that how I look depends more on myself than my clothes, I don't believe in stratification of fashion. Zara tops and Yohji Yamamoto blouses are equally important in my closet. What I seek in clothes is not an expression of love for a certain brand or style, but a refined, dignified manner and character, the same qualities I wish to exude when I am wearing them.
* not to say the prices are always too high, though the crazy hole-ridden Balmain top will always remain questionable
A gift from mom. "For your good grades," she said. I'm happy that studying like a maniac didn't pay off in just good grades.
My story with make-up is that I wore exactly zero until I was 18, and even then the first year it was only soft smudged brown eyeliner. I'm much more into make-up today, it's especially useful when I go through bouts of lack sartorial inspiration and wear lazy clothes - I compensate by doing more innovative and detailed make-up (lifts your spirits immensely too).
Here are some of my current make-up favorites:
Mascaras: ArtDeco All in One (blue), Diorshow Iconic and Blackout, Maybelline Falsies Black Drama. Iconic is my everyday "I'm-not-wearing-make-up" brown mascara. When I want really intense eyelashes, I apply one layer of Blackout and two layers of Black Drama.
Collistar eye shadow and violet eyeliner. They're from their current "Italian Look" collection, which I raved about extensively on Twitter. The colors are so wonderful.
MAC Aquadisiac eye shadow, Collection 2000 Glam Crystals gel liner, Chanel eyeliner. The brand Collection 2000 was completely unknown to me until I found this gel liner in a duty free shop when I was waiting at Gatwick airport in London alone on a Sunday evening and my flight got delayed for 2 hours. Oh, fate.
Lip glosses: Maybelline, MAC, Maybelline. I used to ignore lip glosses completely because my hair stuck to lip gloss in windy weather. Now I know better and choose lipstick for such uncanny occasions instead. In the meantime I've also learned lip glosses are much more practical to apply than lipstick; during warmer months you'll always find one in my bag.