Louise Wilson Dies

WWP has chosen to interrupt radio silence (I’ve somehow incurred a real job writing for a real magazine) to lament the death of Louise Wilson, professor of fashion at Central Saint Martins and infamous personality.

Wilson, in the greatest of all colours.

I didn’t know her, never met her and had only ever come across her name in a brief mention in Vogue On…Alexander McQueen. But after reading through the obituaries and Emily Sheffield’s brilliant interview with her for Vogue, I’m saddened that I was not more aware of her unashamedly personable character. Her early death at the age of 52 is infinitely more saddening.

A mentor to many of the ‘modern greats’ in fashion (Christopher Kane, Jonathon Saunders and Mary Katrantzou to name but a few), some have accredited her with shaping the UK fashion scene into what it is today. But what also needs to be celebrated, and revived in the wake of her legacy, is her ability to speak her mind – a trait which is horrifically lacking in the fashion industry.

She was first and foremost an academic, which perhaps explains her relatively low-profile and absence at after-show parties. This retreat into scholarship and dedication to her students was both a blessing and a curse to the fashion world: if only she had written a column slating shows she didn’t like, or a book on the real workings of the industry that glossed over the glossy. God knows she would have been the woman for the job.

What struck me the most from Sheffield’s interview was the observation of a postcard on her office wall, which read: “Same shit, different year; we have nothing to say and we’re still saying it.” Has any quote ever summed up the fashion world better than that? It shows she had a wry sense of humour, an acute awareness and a huge understanding of reality beyond the world of fabrics and flashbulbs.

The industry, and the world, is crying out for more people like that. Which makes the fact that she left it too early all the more tragic.

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Tales of the Recession: My Wardrobe

My-Wardrobe.com – the site which regularly makes me cry with poverty – quietly entered administration last week.  It was bought by Growth Capital Acquisitions on Monday, and will now ‘refocus on the UK market’ and set lower prices.

This is hardly surprising. The luxury fashion E-commerce market has gradually been filled to the brim with the likes of Far Fetch, Matches, Net-A-Porter and My Theresa (one of the worst names for a company ever) and it shouldn’t take a genius to realise that supply is vastly outstripping demand. It’s difficult to see how far a lower price point will get them – God knows there’s a huge vacuum in fashion between £150 and £500. But it’s strangely comforting to know that even the expensive and untouchable can collapse.

We can only hope that Jack Wills will be next.

Style Watch: Rebekah Brooks Trial Special!

Despite the fact that she’s clearly a hardened, evil criminal, I’ve always had a small soft spot for Rebekah Brooks. Her hair is pretty awesome – like a better version of Vivienne Westwood’s or Grace Coddington’s – and, notwithstanding her current peril, she held her own in a men’s newsroom. She also took on the Leveson enquiry with style, in a black dress adorned with Peter Pan collar. (Of course, those less educated in fashion happenings made tedious comparisons to the cast of The Crucible – proving they really missed the point of that play.)

But the real test is how well she stands up in court. For the courtroom entry/exit has produced some of the most timeless photos of modern time. See Marianne Faithfull stepping out on the arm of Mick Jagger, drenched in fur, or Amy Winehouse turning up to her assault trial dressed like a 1950s Cuban prostitute in 2009. I doubt we can expect the same from Mrs Brooks, but let’s see what she’s got.

Appears initially strong – a classic wool – but no pale skin can truly do the camel coat justice.

 

Rebekah Brooks and Charlie Brooks, Old Bailey, 29/10/13

A boucle jacket! The separate poised to overthrow the hideous trouser suit! Nice one Becks.

 

I spoke too soon. Have a terrible feeling this is a trouser suit. Girl needs some blusher and lipstick to brighten up that anxiety-ridden face of hers.

 

Better. Do not have full bosom in photo so cannot see whether she can pull off the hipster-button-up (there’s a fine line between chic and matron). But a refreshing change of pace.

 

Oh Jesus Christ. Judging by this cardigan fiasco, I’m guessing that she couldn’t pull off hipster-button-up. STEP AWAY FROM THE MONOCHROME REBEKAH.

 

…GO BACK TO MONOCHROME, I REPEAT GO BACK TO MONOCHROME!

Politician Style Watch: Ed Miliband

In light of Wednesday’s egg-gate scandal, there never seemed like a better time to scrutinise the fashion choices of the leader of the opposition.  It comes as no surprise, however, that there really isn’t that much to scrutinise.  The guy appears to like red ties and nothing else.  After a particularly elusive parliamentary recess so far, out steps Ed into East Street Market wearing…a red tie. His face then came into contact with a mass of poultry by-products. Ring any bells?  Whilst the tabloids laboriously compared Prescott’s crazed reaction to Miliband’s slightly more laissez-faire approach, all WWP could see was the red tie.  Just as Woody Allen popped up at great historical moments in Zelig, so I feared the red tie will appear in Labour’s entire photographic history.

Credit where credit’s due, Miliband is able to mix it up every now and again. He is also capable of wearing purple.  And pink.  Yet following UKIP’s gradual rise in the polls, I sense that we may be seeing less and less of Ed’s ties that fall at the latter end of the rainbow spectrum.  It appears Miliband’s PR team think of the electorate as illiterate, drooling morons who, if presented with a Labour shadow minister wearing blue, will find themselves in a confused state in the voting booth.

You rarely see Miliband out of the red tie, but interestingly Clegg and Cameron do not – literally – follow suit.  David’s penchant for blue ranges from the lightest powder to the brightest indigo, whilst Nick appears to have done a tie-based supermarket sweep of Charles Tyrwhitt. Across the pond, Obama takes suit etiquette to entirely new level; regularly rolling up sleeves and loosening his neckwear to convey an aura of affability and, well, coolness. In contrast our politicians are ‘buttoned up’ in every sense of the world.

But Red Ed really takes it to another dimension.  Google ‘Ed Miliband on holiday’ and you simply get more pictures of his suit and red/purple tie combo. Perhaps this is because the press just don’t follow him on trips to the Balearics, or because he never really takes a holiday.  But whatever the case, he is never seen without his politician’s uniform: a strangely refreshing fact after countless pictures of Cameron in board shorts on the beach.

National Style Watch: Cuba Libre!

WWP was on her travels last summer. In June I packed up my backpack and flew to Havana with Friend From University, where we traversed the top half of the island by coach. Cuba was many things to me.  Communist (obviously), sexual (unashamedly), joyful (largely). Yet the description which has been stuck on the end of my tongue every time friends ask, is time-warped.  Cars run on black smoke and gaffa-taped exhausts, computers run on Windows ’98 and the people run on rum, salsa and cigars.  No, really.  The radio plays Greenday and Kelly Clarkson circa 2001.  And the women dress from a time WWP is struggling to pinpoint.

A typical Cuban chica’s daywear wardrobe would consist of: cotton shorts – strictly half an inch too long or five inches too short; an emporium of jersey halterneck tops embellished with diamante (delete as appropriate) Playboy bunny/’Sexy Bitch’/marijuana leaf; a selection of brightly coloured bras with thick straps (to be worn with the halternecks); an assortment of footwear, ranging from plastic white gladiator sandals to plastic white stilettos; and a jewellery box filled with even more diamante for good measure. A night spent at the Casa de la Musica? Never before have hemlines tested the boundaries modesty like they have been in Havana.

After spending only two weeks travelling through the country, it is impossible to grasp how exactly a communist system dictates lives.  I know that people queue for their bread in the morning and I know that the tax rate is incredibly high. I know that there is a prominent commodity-based black market, and I know that Cubans, who are generally the most gregarious and welcoming of people, will do almost anything to scam a few Pesos from an unsuspecting couple of English tourists.

However how this trailer trash look started, I do not know.  ‘Time-warped’ doesn’t cover it – the ’90s in the Western world may have been a decade of fashion sloth and purgatory, but at least we matched our underwear accordingly to our crop tops and distressed flares.  Cuba, I love you, but surely Communism is no excuse for looking like a ho.  And if it is, let’s hope an Iron Curtain is never dropped over us again.

N.B.: The picture above is from the website cubaabsolutely.com.  Another blog about life in Cuba that’s well worth a read is hereishavana.com/, written by an American woman living in the capital.