Sir Hardy Amies: 10 lessons I have learned

What happened.

In the last couple of weeks I finally watched Phantom Thread and coincidentally stumbled upon the autobiography of Sir Hardy Amies, a fashion institution of many facets, from couturier to the Queen to the man who pioneered the democratization of menswear and author of the ABC of Men’s Fashion.

Some more explanation. And coincidences.

Haute couture had just showed its marvels in Paris, after sharing an image of a Schiaparelli gown somebody told me that haute couture is “for old ladies” and this story how a millennial got himself closer to the world of couture.

Here’s what I learned. You can take notes, if we get one more couture lover it’s only extra good we do to the world, nothing bad will happen.

On style vs. chic

If you are still team chic.

On zippers.

“Few things bother me more than hearing the sound of a zipper closing in the final stages of a [theatrical] piece: usually, it comes from the bag of a woman whose intention is to communicate her husband that she wants to leave and get a taxi before anyone else.”

I mean, just in case you were a lover of bags with zippers, seriously.

 

On chocolate.

“I adore dark chocolate only with a sweet filling. If it were for me, I would ban milk chocolate illegal.”

I knew it. It all started when I was 12 and we spent a summer in Lausanne and I developed this sweet tooth for dark chocolate with raspberry filling. I must have been a couturier in one of my past lives.

 

On gold chains.

“It think it was Michael Roberts, the journalist, who defined the stacks of gold chains popular years ago ‘status identifier’. Personally, I don’t believe that gold chains enhance the status of a man, of any age.”

 

On gardening.

“I find all plastic [gardening] utensils utterly horrible, to the touch and to the sight.”

 

On working.

“Designing garments, since 1934, gave me the greatest pleasure”

(when you have a passion, stick to it, ignore the naysayers, jealous and detractors)

 

On tailoring.

“Tweed, first of all”

The sleeves in the jacket must be narrow

The waist is essential (this is something Oscar de la Renta always said)

For all the (single) ladies: “Often the ladies needed to be reminded not to wear jackets that fit too tight.”

And for all the men out there: ''I hate strapless bodices, for example, because any man looking at one thinks, 'How does she keep the thing up?' ''

“The simplest suits turned out to be the most successful.”

This makes all the sense, from a man who believed that “A man should look as if he bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them.”

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On mini-skirts.

“It’s really minimal the number of women that look good in a miniskirt. Too many women have big knees. Let’s not forget that miniskirts are still around us: perfect to go dancing, when we are younger. Or go to the beach, for the less young.”

Shade.

 

On clothing.

“I love thinking at clothing as not something that is worn, but something that is used.”

 

On being a snob.

''Being a snob simply means that I think the top is the best.''

 

 

That time that Big Dick Energy rocked Miu Miu Croisiere 2019

 It's The Summer of Rage, says Rebecca Traister on The Cut, and white men are the minority, they feel threatened, challenged and uncertain. 

In times when we are happy to count calories (bathing suit test anyone?), carbs and BDE as in Big Dick Energy, it all makes total sense. 

BDE is a quiet confidence and ease with oneself that comes from knowing you have an enormous penis and you know what to do with it.
— The Cut

Good thing, you don't have to have a D to possess some BDE

I'm going to show you via the Miu Miu Cruise 2019 show that just happened in Paris how much BDE was in the room. Some show notes, first.

The show space designed by 6-time Academy Award nominated designer Sarah Greenwood (maj BDE crush) , bathed with infused light to emulate the twilight atmosphere known to cinematographers as the Golden Hour. The contrast between the cinematic set design, a Belle Epoque luxury hotel setting, and an ancient symbol of radical resistance (hello, la signora is living through these words) perfectly sets the stage for the Miu Miu collection.  

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Gwendoline Christie'

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Uma Thurman 

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Naomi Campbell

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Chloe Savigny 

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la signora

 

 

DIOR CRUISE 2019, WHERE FEMININE AND FEMINISM MET

There's never really a quiet time when you live by a fashion calendar, January is men, February is women, March is Couture, then we have awards and red carpets and then the cruises, those collections that were born to serve customers that used to hop on around the world cruises and needed those mid season novelties. 

Cruise collections are the best sold in the market these days, they are vivid and colorful, bold and big houses like Chanel, Dior and LV bring the fashion caravans of editors and stylists and magazine honchos in the most exclusive locations. 

Maria Grazia Chiuri has been at the helm of Christian Dior for a little less than 2 years, sent down the runway already 6 to 8 collections, not quite sure, the point here is that I was disappointed. Her first Dior collection was the equestrian, all white, what a contrast when at the same time we were under the Alessandro Michele's Gucci spell of all the colors all the shapes everything goes, add sparkles and Jared Leto.. 

After that it was a blur to me, all the same sameness, monochromatic tulle everything, logoed strings, the saddle bag revamped (John Galliano anyone?), kitten heels with bows and when the graphic T-shirt came out I shut down. It was the vulgarization of the codes of la Maison. When it comes to the fashion houses that have made the history of Fashion, whose head of the house had muses that inspired generations, they are venerable and almost untouchable to me. Leave LouLou de la Falaise to YSL, Valentino for the Radziwill sisters in Capri and there's no Hubert de Givenchy without Audrey.

Strange feeling for a liberal feminist as I am when the "we should all be feminist" graphic shirt didn't speak to me, while I had devoured and highlighted the entire book that Cecilia had bought at the local indie bookstore. She is a 50-something Italian woman leading a French house, what's wrong? 

Not interested. I thought it was a commercial choice, she had to resurrect the numbers, sell sell sell, she wanted to appeal to the Millennials, but why? these Millennials are making tabula rasa, too affordable, too available, here and now, too knock-off-able, why? The inspiration were all good, feminist, powerful, relevant, but somehow the final result wouldn't deliver.  You know how I am obsessed with reading the show notes or trying to grasp words from the press presentation in the backstage before the show, a collection for me is not complete if I don't know what's in the mind of the designer. 

Still, not interested.

Could it be that during fashion month there are other fashion shows happening almost simultaneously and I had more choice to go "next"? Whatevs, this Cruise was on Memorial Day Weekend, that is "get locked in, don't get out for the love of your life, plus there's a tropical storm coming" weekend in Miami. As my IG feed started trickling down images of women in a rodeo dressed in folk dresses, wearing cowboy boots and embroidered full skirts, and the models walking under the rain, something caught my attention. And it wasn't the fact that in Chantilly it was raining like in Miami, I still didn't feel in a castle, but all of a sudden the tulle was feminine yet the boots meant power, the Bar jacket suited with the long pleated skirt was fascinating and that raincoat in toile de Jouy. 

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One of the captions said Chiuri's  daughter was the catalyst of her inspiration, that made her a badass woking mom, yes please, go, Maria Grazia, go! you can do this! Apparently the teenager on the eve of her internship at Dior was intimidated and “had this idea that she wouldn’t be able to dress like herself – that there was some mould she had to fit,” says Chiuri. 

Women always feel they have to change themselves to get on in life. I wanted to show that there are so many different ways to be strong.
— Maria Grazia Chiuri

Very interested. 

Alexander Fury writes on AnOther: "the notion of the Amazon woman was something of an anathema to Dior – he wanted to dress women not as wartime Amazons but as flowers, he stated – but he did dedicate styles to the elegant notion of the Amazone, the French female horseback riders" and truly it reconciles with the Saddle bag and plenty of equestrian hints in the history of Dior, from Ferre to Galliano. 

Chiuri’s message was one of strident, strong femininity – motivated, militant, and free.
— A. Fury - AnOther

Could it be that finally feminine and feminism reconciled? There was power and feminine in the Bar jacket with the plissee asymmetrical skirt, the strength of the military boots was smoothened by the tulle, leather and lace would coexist under the trench coat. 

A week ago we saw a woman become the Duchess of Sussex, walk the aisle alone, wear a dress made by a woman for a woman, catapult the British Monarchy to the most modern and feminist version of itself. And now a woman putting down a show to show her daughter glass ceilings are there to be crashed. 

 

 

 

 

Fashion Revolution in Miami

It happened and here's how. 

WHY

Fashion Revolution was first born to honor the lives lost with the collapse of the building in Bangladesh and really all the ones related to the same issues: landfills at capacity, scarce or inexistent hygiene conditions, labor law disregarded, fair wages, carbon footprint, waste of water in production chain, copyrights infringement and violation of intellectual property. 

Like the UN 17 Goals for a Sustainable Life, they are many, and, to my advise, as long as everyone takes one or two at heart and does anything in their hands to raise awareness it's a batch of battles that will help win the war. There are big words like circular economy, zero waste, greenwashing, an entire Glossary that can be learned if you are a bit nerdy. I am attending the Fashion and Sustainability course (online and available for free) organized by Kering, the industry compound of the most luxurious brands in the world, and London College of Fashion's Centre for Sustainable Fashion. So there's that: you can document yourself, investigate, read, ask, watch documentaries, participate. 

SIGN THE MANIFESTO

There's a Manifesto  available to sign that explains why we are Fashion Revolutionaries. I bet that everyone, even the skeptics and the naysayers, will find some agreement on, because it wouldn't make any sense their living on this planet and not wanting to leave the planet to the generations to come. Everyone is an active citizen, everyone has some sort of power, skill, ability to bring this big mess generally called "fast fashion" to a screeching halt. The same way we all have contributed for it to become what it is. 

My personal take? "I am a fashion lover and I commit to do something, one act every day, to bring fashion back to when fashion was Fashion".

While I was writing the book, I wasn't as involved as I am now, but by attending last year's MDC panel for sustainability in fashion with Orsola de Castro and my own icon, fashion hero Barbara Hulanicki (the 9th chapter of the book is dedicated to her interview, BTW) I have realized that I have a shortcut, that my book could serve as a guide, an ironic and fact-filled one, to start taking actions. The way we are born and raised approaching fashion and style could be a remedy to start distancing yourself from fast fashion. I understand now things have changed in Italy too, because the reality of fast fashion, street style, influencers, see now buy now is a worldwide epidemic, my book talks about the true Italian way, made of many individuals, professionals, professors, designers, creatives that keep contributing to the Made in Italy.  This is why I want to bring fashion to when fashion was Fashion, with the big F. 

PANEL, WORKSHOPS

There was a panel discussion on circular economy with local entrepreneurs that gave examples of how they have built a sustainable business. Circular economy had a good dose of sexy. 

FIRST, SHOP IN YOUR CLOSET

There are stories, many lives, travels, jobs. It takes time to learn to love your wardrobe, changing the seasons, learn about fabrics, details, finish, stitching, staples. It can be overwhelming at first, but the way we dress, what we put on is our first unspoken language, before shaking hands to whom could be your future employer or partner. More on this on the chapter. 

RECYCLE, MEND, UPCYCLE, REPURPOSE, THRIFT, SWAP.

How did we do that? With a huge clothes swap in partnership with Global Fashion Exchange (if you don't know about it, check it out). The idea of a clothes swap in most people has a veil of mothball, dirty and not clean. Just think of it as giving a new life to an item that doesn't fit you anymore, it still has tags on and or you just don't wear any longer. That item with the same characteristics in somebody else's closet could be your next favorite. 

We collected 125 lbs in one afternoon. If they hadn't been swapped, just the fact they were saved from the landfills it's just a relief. 

DONATE 

To close the circle and make our afternoon even more purposeful, Nathalia from "Maria loves Green" and I collected about 15 to 18 lbs and with extra 25 lbs contributed by the Nomad Tribe, we donated them to the Lotus House, a women shelter in Miami. And while we were at it, we did some thrifting at their Lotus Thrift Boutique, run by alumni of the shelter and whose 100% of the proceeds go to fund the activities of the shelter.

EMPOWER

The real closure of the circle will happen when I'll visit the shelter and provide a job readiness workshop to the "guests" who are ready for their first job interview, because empowered women empower women. Many of the guests have children and finding a job that will sustain their family nucleus will give them a future and will be of example for the new generation. 

 

When sustainable is tainted with greenwashing

On the daily newsletter I receive from my favorite online magazine, I read this title accompanied with a chic picture. 

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With no hesitation I clicked to read to find it was sponsored by H&M. 

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And I understand that online magazines need to charge ads to live or what else, I mean if Facebook does it. But talking about clickbait, this insistence on obfuscating the principles of sustainable living on behalf of H&M is revolting. I have seen influencers and reality TV stars posing in front of H&M Conscious panels and that consciousness ain't true. 

A lie, or fake news, which is a contradiction in terms, since "news" is something that happened and gets reported by people who by education and profession are entitled to report on. News cannot be fake by their own identity, yet interpretations, manipulations, distortion and distance from the truth is already not news, they are forged information.

How can you forge numbers? You put slices of prosciutto on top of people's eyes: they smell delicious, the taste heavenly and while eating them you forget why did you even go where you are. Kinda what despotic head of states do with propaganda and gaslighting. 

The image below comes from an article written in the website The Fashion Law

As a reminder, 2013 was the year of the devastating accident of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh where 1138 people died under the rubble of the edifice where they were reduced to work and live under conditions close to slavery and no fair wages. 

A movement was born, Fashion Revolution, that united millions of people who from many parts of the world, different upbringing and professions, love fashion but also care for our planet and demand that our clothes are not made by exploiting people. Some of the most salient facts:

  • 80% of garment workers are women;
  • fast fashion conglomerates like H&M, Zara, Target employ people by paying them below fair living wages that is, with no exaggerations, in some cases compared to slavery;
  • working, safety and health conditions are "below standard" to be close to abusive;
  • environmental standards are by-passed.

The fashion business has become the second polluting industry in the world and a stop must be put.  

We should all have one single purpose with pursuing our love for fashion: go back to where fashion was just fashion, that is creativity, artisanship, ethical behavior, technical wisdom, skills, knowledge, dedication. 

So, no dear H&M, it's not OK to be a glutton and pretend we don't know what you promised 5 years ago and clap your back because you have created a collection called Conscious. 

If you are interested in knowing what they haven't done, read this open letter that Clean Clothes Campaign wrote to H&M. 

 

 

 

Fashion month continues

This year again I have admired, from afar, Milan Fashion Week.

Obviously, it was circus madness, some influencers and the usual front rowers looked some caricatures off of the floating carts of the Carnevale di Viareggio (which, if you don't know, is as majestic and celebrated as the one in Venice and a bit less creepy). As a reminder, we arrived in Milan after HM the Queen graced Richard Quinn's front row sitting on a plastic throne next to Dame Anna Wintour. I couldn't help but thinking

Dear London Fashion Week,

the bar is high now, what are you going to pull off your sleeve next season? 

As for Milan Fashion Week, I had to work hard and use my investigative tricks to make the Fashion magic happen. I had to zigzag through mediocrity, cliches, starlets turned V.I.P.s of their own little world donning borrowed looks from designers whose name they barely knew how to pronounce correctly.

I said it. 

My skills didn't fail though (if you follow me on Instagram you have had a preview), the search proved itself to be exhilarating and the result is a selection of talents as intoxicatingly promising as your birthday cake. Designers like Luisa Beccaria, Arthur Arbasser, Erika Cavallini, brands like Blaze', Manfredi Manara, Lodental, The Gigi are some of those talents that we know in Italy but I don't see in the American circuit as much as I would like.  

Looking at the runway shows, the show notes whenever I could land an eye on them, and always craving for creativity, I found a fil-rouge, a big conversation with a lot of points that leads to a renaissance of Italian style, as it was highlighted by this detailed article on W Magazine.

The Loden coat is a staple of every Italian kid, the Fay sport jacket exists pretty much in every man's wardrobe, the blazer, a "Borsalino" which is how we address a felt fedora hat, still now that it's no more. And in honor of true Italian style, it doesn't stop at clothing, it extends to food, design, arts, jewelry, accessories. It may run in the family (if it's noble you know for sure), like with the Visconte di Modrone and Perego di Cremnago, or be the creation of newcomers like LA-born Milan-adopted JJ Martin of La Double J or Nicolo' Beretta of Giannico who convinced his parents to use college money to invest in his shoe collection. 

Now follow me here: I have a quote here that I wrote down because relevant and smart, but nobody to attribute it to. I love closing this article here, good bye for now.

old clothes, shredded, mended, torn apart as they could be from years of wear, still hold their soul and their dignity.

 

 

somewhere along fashion month: between big shoulders and popcorns, it's all about the cowboy boots

It's only February and we already went to Florence for Pitti, Paris for couture, New York for a fashion week with zero to none pulse except for guess who? By now you should know. 

I will share some images, looks, ideas, and thoughts in chronological order.

Valentino Haute Couture defined a standard, it reached the stars and next time it'll be a challenge for anyone to top it off. 

“The essence of the dream of couture is its past,” [...] “But I was not the kind of kid who had a grandma who wore couture. So I wanted to take elements of classic couture — volume, ruffles, bows — but do them in the lightest way I could imagine, because it is only when you confront your past that you can face your future.”
— Pierpaolo Piccioli

Vanessa Friedman continues in the NYTimes Style section: 

"The effect was enthralling: Luscious though it all was, the stuffing had been let out. It was couture for the casual, everyday era, without pandering or gimmicks. Oh, this old (extraordinary) thing? I just threw it on this morning."

 

In January I had foreseen this cowboy boots epidemic

Here's proof that some of the most stylish babes got the memo. We don't follow trends, we set them, and here's an example of how to do it. 

Raf Simons is at the helm of Calvin Klein and he already set some pretty cool records. Exactly a year ago Kaia Gerber debuted in his debut collection, and from there history repeated itself, Cindy replaced by Kaia, denim on denim, cowboy boots. This time it was an apocalyptic farm-topia covered in popcorns. Leandra Medine thinks

"That’s not just a show — that’s a glimpse into the mind of an artist carrying the weight of responsibility for one of the greatest American fashion houses while reconciling his own complicated relationship with the country that employs him."

ALERT? My 2 cents: watch the explosion of the 80s volumes and feelings in 1 look. 

 sweater: DONE; coat: DONE; gloves: DONE; prairie skirt: DONE.  This is ME when I was living in Milan, early 90s and watch it, it'll be me again. 

sweater: DONE; coat: DONE; gloves: DONE; prairie skirt: DONE.

This is ME when I was living in Milan, early 90s and watch it, it'll be me again. 

So, while in NYC nothing was really worth mentioning, except for The Row and Marc Jacobs London, oh London. 

Creativity, freedom, fun, sartorial heritage. 

So far we awed at Simone Rocha and bid adieu to Christopher Bailey, can't wait for McQueen and Stella, for example. 

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What's up 2018? on cowboy boots, robes and wearing black, plus more

That time of the year when I have defined my intention, started already seeing signs of manifestation.

Now on to making all those hours of watching runways, reading reportages on the state of Fashion and studying the MoMa's course Fashion as Design  into use.

I am going to try and put my thoughts and intuition into fruition and reveal what the mood of he year will be. Never been following trends, but I love seeing them at their inception and letting my imagination run wild on the runways. Never like in the last couple of seasons, the runways have been a vivid pulse of reality, remember last year's the Women's March and the pink pussy hats. 

I feel the need of a couple of disclaimers before I show you my way. 

A) there's no outfit of the day, wear this, go buy that, I am only really really good at telling you the story and then friend like always and everybody take its turn. I am useless at making lists not boring, and there are so many websites that do that, for any budget, that I would be a needle in the haystack. 

B) According to moi, I have learned to talk like Miss Piggy, there are really two trend setters in the world of Fashion : Miuccia, still in pole position since her nylon backpack and Raf Simons, because once a genius, always one.  If you don't count Karl Lagerfeld that is, the kid is out of any human being league.

Cowboy boots.

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They have a social connotation that exudes their practicality in rodeos, bull fighting and in How the West was Won. They are hard core Americana, they mean rugged individuality and adventure, gold, horses, desert, dust, they are rebellious and unconventional. The pivotal moment of their return was Raf Simons’ latest fall Calvin Klein runway.

For me personally they are not a repeat, it’s not a “come back”, I haven’t lived in the US long enough to have experienced James Dean or Patricia Arquette in True Romance, or Thelma & Louise for that matter, but the image of them looks so damn good in all those settings, that I feel the time has come to go for them. 

If you have dem boots in your closet from back in your Thelma & Louise days, good for you, aim at the #30wears, infuse them with the new aesthetic of skirt suit and embrace them. If you don’t own them, like me,  but crave them, like me, venture the splurge only if you strongly believe in them. Do the exercise of the three looks: if you can’t combine them with ease, and by that I mean don't feel costumy but comfortable in at least three different occasions, they are not worth the effort.

ADDENDUM

Sure enough, look who showed up at the GG? Talking about the preview of the mood for 2018

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Robe de chambre

Wearing pajamas all day is not only an Instagram hashtag, it can be done with elegance and chicness. Miuccia has taken the elegant austere and understated Milanese bourgeoisie to a new level, adding feathers and repeating them for two seasons.

Alessandro Michele took the wardrobe of Mr. and Mrs. Chruchill in The Gathering Storm and transported it in the runways. The lush of velvet, damask, chintz, snakes, high teas should give you some inspiration.

How do you accomplish it?

Vintage markets and online treasures, explore Ebay for real kimonos, there are ways to keep it sustainable and recycled before wearing a knock off produced by underpaid, abused, enslaved, discriminated workers.

On this subject, I can’t refrain from discussing the Time’s Up movement, and the powerful statement that hundreds of women and men left for the books by choosing to wear black at the 75th Golden Globes.

It’s a stance, not a ‘fashion statement’, it’s an act of social readiness that uses Fashion as a powerful industry, it’s a political statement also, yes, it’s a byproduct of the times we are living, it’s an act of solidarity with all who have had the guts to speak up and denounce harassment, discrimination and abuse and with all the victims who deserve a voice, funds and to know that they, too, can speak up, fight intimidation and help stop unlawful practices of slavery and abuse.

There have been controversy around the movement that was launched on New Year’s Day, all the Joan Rivers (bless her soul) aficionados say that even if women are wearing black, they will be wearing see through lace and sexy corsets and provoke judgments. Honestly, what a missed opportunity to understand the principle that stands behind the movement. No matter the color chosen, see for example the “Green Carpet Challenge” that has been dominating the red carpets, it’s not the color, it’s not an attempt at censuring women and what they wear, on a contrary, it’s an message with a deeper impact aimed at obliterating the rooted practice of demonizing a woman’s (man) body. And watch it go great lengths, if only we have learned something from the pink pussy hats from last year’s Women March.  

The time is up on homophobia, transphobia, harassment, racism, we are in a revolution where our voice is the most powerful tool. And our dresses too. 

Oh and BTW, you’ll find me following the men collections next week from Pitti.