Monday, 28 February 2011

Dance For Imaginative Miss Potter

   I have had Tales of Beatrix Potter on my mind of late. Perhaps it's the delightful music that accompanies the fleet of feet in its performance. Perhaps it's the surreality of ballet, the kinetic interpretive expression of passion, composure and the vagaries of life, executed by professionals garbed in outsize 'human animal' costumes. Perhaps it's Oscars Night and I am musing over whether Black Swan's chances would increase had Natalie Portman danced in an outfit representing an anthropomorphic cygnus in a bonnet

   If the talking animal genre has elements of parody in its whimsical little heart, then this might be its apogee: humans dressed as animals that behave as humans, yet lacking any discernibly natural behaviours beyond the motions of the dancers, wearing eyes that remain utterly unmoving and mouths that never part, making no sounds to complement their hybrid disposition. Like The Nutcracker, such a fever dream of the stage requires a child or a childlike mind to see such things as they should be; playthings brought to life and their absurdities then rendered through a slightly off-kilter (in its own right) yet resolutely elegant medium. It is also a testament to the varied methods for telling a well loved story

   Besides, this sort of fun is the perfect gateway drug for ballet if one wishes to start them young. For this arrested developer, it's very much perfect

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Metal Lust Object No.4

Antique emerald, rose cut diamond and rose gold tie pin, via Andrew Hartley Fine Arts

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Worn Out

   The recent loss of my various autumn/winter dress trousers and jackets from Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Gucci (vintage) and Loewe (vintage) has impelled something of a re-evaluation. No, I have not become that fellow who burnt all of his worldly goods to rid the taste of liberal guilt he felt over living in a branded world from his mouth; neither am I about to lose my Barimanastic (copyright: Maxminimus) sense of presentation and start purchasing my looks wholesale from whatever is dictated by Topman, The Guardians's Petridis column or The Daily Mail's style section this week

   But I did dump around three recycling bags' worth of clothes at an undisclosed charity shop in an undisclosed borough of South London at an undisclosed point in time, rather recently

   Wardrobe purges require a ruthless, confident style of self-editing to make a dent in the overabundance of styles and clothes that comprise one's clothing collection. I, by contrast, threw a great many things in a plastic bag and swore off the chemical cocktails I'd been consuming at the time of purchase. It's a rehabilitative experience all round

   One of the dominant aspects of my wardrobe was a fondness for a particular vintage brand: Father's Hand-Me Downs. Certainly, the sentimental sway of his 1980s and 1990s suiting and accessories was assiduous, but there was a key to the pleasure they gave me: I was matching them with my own finds and when the pieces that form the real cornerstone of my ensembles are lost, much of the cohesion goes with it

   So, out have gone formerly loved garments crafted by the likes of Turnbull & Asser, Hawes & Curtis, Hermes, Jaeger, Haines & Bonner, Savoy Tailors Guild and myriad others, even including a very well made but very well dated suit by the venerable Italian tailoring house, Angelo Roma. So, who are my replacement names? I am pleased to say that a mental list was drawn up in mental crayon over the past year; this was subtly threaded through various Mode Parade entries as I wrote about those whose wares I desired to wear. So, in step the likes of Mr. Fish, Holliday & Brown, Tom Ford-era Gucci/Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Hedi Slimane-era YSL RG, Prada and Etro to mingle with my remaining perennials from Junya Watanabe, Miu Miu, Hilditch & Key, Maison Martin Margiela, Aquascutum, H&M, Turnbull, Dries Van Noten, Paul Smith and Liberty. If my intended return to full-time London life succeeds, there may even be tailoring - perhaps Pokit, possibly Cad and the Dandy; maybe the budget might even stretch to Edward Sexton, Chittleborough & Morgan or one of the Lamb's Conduit Street houses

   Oh, and the fondness for 1950s - 1970s vintage is not going away. There's nothing like seeing a pair of lapels stretched right across my chest like a hang-glider; the pleasure increases when it's double breasted
   To reward all of you that have willingly read (or hastily scrolled down) this far, here is a photograph of me playing with some lizards:

   More as it develops

Friday, 25 February 2011

Mile High Confidential

Maestro? Some travelling music, please:

When they banned smoking and stopped opening the bar seconds after lift off it changed it for me. Drinks were free and it was expected that you needed a buzz ASAP if you were flying. A shorter flight, like SF-Seattle, they would come by 2-3 three times with drinks

There was glamour in taking people to the airport and seeing them off. Or waiting at their gate for them to arrive

The better airlines had a full roast beef on board that they carved for you to order. They used to pass out free playing cards and mini packs of smokes

TWA used to have an open bar and buffet on the SFO to St Louis route. You didn't really mind if the flight was delayed. They would just open the bar and let you eat and drink yourself silly

I recall sitting on the runway at JFK in route to St Louis in the late '70's. A electrical storm hit, so we just stayed on the runway for an hour and a half and had a frigging party in the back of the plane before taking off
-- PSG, 27/05/2010, The Forvm

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Award Tour

   I recently checked and yes, it appears that this column is actually vaguely over 2 years old. It's still of jailbait age, so I'd like to remind the predators out there - and I have your e-mails - to please stop touching my column. And yes, that phrasing is intentional

   And so to today's mandate: a celebration of some of my peers, rather than myself. Not that I don't celebrate myself often - today, for example, I took a shower and cut my nails. No, today involves the other denizens, swells and ne'er do wells of the blogosphere, for a month ago, I was tagged with the Stylish Blogger Award by one of my very favourites, P. Gaye Tapp of the sublime and delightful Little Augury

   This is how it works:
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you

2. Share 7 things about yourself

3. Award 10 other bloggers

4. Contact those bloggers and tell them about the award

1.    I can't stop at those felicitous adjectives about Gaye and her column, really. This Southern Belle produces Little A with a distinct and intrinsic dreamlike quality - more Little Nemo than Inception, thankfully - and displays an enviably wide knowledge of interior design (her chosen profession), couture, high culture, and arts and crafts. She is also disgustingly prolific, particularly compared to your slothful author, and if she didn't like my work, I would probably hate her. Like An Aesthete's Lament and some of her other contemporaries, she is the genuine article

2.   I have a tendency to obfuscate personal details - which is why some people honestly think "Vox" is my last name - but I'll endeavour to reveal as much as I feel like. If you re-read the previous sentence, you may realise that, however obliquely, I've already shared two things. Here are a few more:

  •    I'd like a job where I can utilise my writing, my marketing communications/PR experience and perhaps my burgeoning knowledge of social media, too. Failing that, I would like to live as a full-time journalist and writer. I also think sometimes of relocating to the United States. We all need ideals
  •    There's been a recent dearth of ensemble photographs because I've not been near a camera lately and some of my best pieces mysteriously went missing during a recent move. If anyone comes across wide legged or bootcut trousers from the likes of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Prada or knows of a talented tailor in London, do let me know
  •    My third favourite Prince album is Batman. It may well be the Purple sound of a Purple man summing up his work at the end of the 1980s, but much of it is so engagingly cracked due to his adoption of dance music's cut and paste ethic and several sampled slices of Jack Nicholson ham. Also, 'Vicki Waiting' is one of his most winning pop numbers
  •    The rumours you've heard are true: I do sound just like renowned British television news anchor, Sir Trevor McDonald. Pay me enough and I'll even dress like him. Then you'll have less trouble deciding which side of the sexuality divide I fall on for dinner party seating purposes
  •    I sang a few bars of 'Chain Reaction' to Diana Ross in a lift. I was seven

Now, this is Barimavox

3 & 4.   Now, the blogs. I considered this list very carefully by selecting the five or so others that leave comments on my posts and then searching Google at random. It took three minutes

   I thought of nominating my comrade in carousing and close friend Winston Chesterfield, but I thought it might skew the use of his Le Vrai Winston as an outfit showcase and occasional column. So this is an unofficial nomination unless W feels like producing one of these posts himself:
  • Maxminimus. For ADG's steadfast support and encouragement, not to mention his repository of Richard Merkin memorabilia and exemplary displays of fatherhood to the adorable LFG
  • Made To Measure NY. Ditto Dennis for his kindness and affability. He is also a fellow fan of David Bowie
  • Elizabeth Avedon. A curator enchanted with prodigious photography, a topic for which she has an eminently suitable (and not coincidental) surname and an insightfully incisive eye. Her website also displays her flair for design
  • Diary at the Centre of the Earth by Dickon Edwards. I don't know if, nor do I believe that Dickon should respond to this award, being an erudite diarist rather than an audience-focused blogger, but he is recommended for being London's most interesting flâneur. Like Winston and I, he was photographed for Stephanie Rushton's English Eccentrics project. Some of his personal aspects are also disturbingly similar to mine, but I've already answered question 2
  • The Merest Flâneur, whilst I'm on the topic, I suppose. Will C is a fellow forumite whom I think should capitalise on the very promising start his column made last year (Postscriptum: yes, the site has been shuttered, but Will assures me that he will return under a new guise in due course)
  •  The Grumpy Owl. Similar to Mr. Edwards, I suspect that this may not be Ryan Oakley's thing, but he is nevertheless a longstanding favourite, Canada's most cleverly idiosyncratic dandy and almost too intelligent to live. I'm looking forward to his soon-to-be-published novel
  • The House of Beauty and Culture. Similar in purview to Little A, HOBAC keenly refracts a love of aesthetics through a knowledge of myriad cultures, forms, designs, quotes and history
  • Pigtown Design. Another home for those in love with the pleasures of design. And occasionally, food
  • Perfect Gentleman SA. For anyone curious about 21st century South African sartorialism, Mxolisi Ngonelo has a perspective. He also has a fondness for Simply Red, but no one is truly perfect; once, I found Janet Reno attractive


Monday, 14 February 2011

Flight of the Conchords - 'If You're Into It' (2007)

   It says much about my state of mind that my thoughts on modern romance must be articulated by two comedians from New Zealand. Though possibly not

   In summary: Happy V D

Friday, 11 February 2011

V D is for Lovers

   At Chittleborough & Morgan the other day, Joe Morgan and his staff were ever so slightly agog regarding the ancient hunter/warrior practice of eating another's heart. My relish was altered when Nutters alum Mr. Morgan revealed to me that the object in question was in fact a heart shaped cheese - with concomitant biscuits, no less - courtesy of Piccadilly's perennial and genteel gourmet department store, Fortnum & Mason

   So, for those of you that have a touch of romance in your lives - and are in London this weekend - I can think of few more charming endeavours for Valentine's Day than to indulge in some bloodpump styled delicacies at one of their in-house dining establishments, or picking up one of their widely renowned hampers, which tend to be so much better than real presents at Christmas, I've noticed. And if you want to make this special day that little bit more exquisite - or the meal isn't sufficiently spicy - don't forget that Soho and its assortment of shops are right around the corner

   There, like Fortnum's, they know how to put the love into their work

   One last tip for you Jermyn Street types: nothing demonstrates affection at this time of year quite like gifting your paramour with a luxury bath rack and tumblers from Czech & Speake. Sanitary Edwardiana starts in the bathroom

   This post is brought to you by the humble ampersand

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Pilati Vox

   Not consistently my favourite menswear designer - but damn close at times - or even necessarily a favourite dresser - though rather skilled indeed - Stefano Pilati possesses two traits I greatly admire: thought and insight, which he expresses in this excerpt from a David Bradshaw-written feature:
I'm a man and I want to dress well, and I don't necessarily mean fashionably. I want to look my age. I'm not going to wear a f------ skirt when I'm 50, and when I have to go to a board meeting I'm not going to wear Bermudas and flip-flops or an astronaut suit with white shirt and tie! I don't consider myself privileged to dress up in a certain way because I'm a fashion designer - I just feel that I know myself enough to wear clothes that make me feel good, feel my age and somehow represent me, my history and youth, and, in a sense, the man I've become

Of course you can play with fashion, of course you can be less boring, of course you can be attractive, even seductive, and maintain your power and masculinity. Challenge yourself
-- Stefano Pilati, 2008

Monday, 7 February 2011

Not For Mortals

   Tommy Nutter, seen here firing one of his cannonballs into the wilderness of the conservative doldrums, had a knack for bending my theory that fine tailoring can surmount almost any flamboyant flight of go-to-hell fancy when it comes to suiting. This definitely constitutes one of those moments

   Nevertheless, the structuring is rather exquisite - between the brilliant shape of the aircraft-grade lapels and the built-up form of the shoulders, he is a plaid-clad hero for the late 20th century. This should be little surprise - for all of the focus on Nutter's eccentricity, the product masterminded by Edward Sexton, Joseph Morgan, Roy Chittleborough and him, along with those who worked with him in the ensuing "Tommy Nutter" days, was pure Savile Row at its heart; the tailoring tradition of generations anchoring the theatrical preening of what might have otherwise been showy and difficult to wear clothing (to say nothing of the quality of their more conventional creations). Despite acknowledging the abrasiveness and humour of this look - and I've no idea what the original colours are - in all other aspects, down to Nutter's hair even, it is far from unsophisticated. The pattern combination alone lays Tom Ford's latter day ideas utterly bare

   The sobriety of thought and craft that went into this gleefully insensible ensemble makes an interesting counterpoint to the visual histrionics of Luca Rubinacci, Lapo Elkann and the Pitti crowd, who often strike me as throwing stuff against the wall to see if it sprezzes

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Plum Ken

Image by SAO! via I Lost I Found
   Prior to recent time spent with The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (edited by John Lahr), I knew precisely four things about this inspiration: that he was a slightly louche but defiantly stylish dandy; that he was an outspoken critic of some legendary standing; that he'd a fine line in sadomasochism - hardly unusual in an Oxford man, I know - and that he was the first person to "F-Bomb" the BBC, albeit by way of a stammer. It probably - in an aural manner of speaking - resembled this modern internet icon of desolate, frustrated displeasure:

   Oh, and the title Oh! Calcutta! seemed to resonate a great deal, for some reason. School plays, maybe

   I cannot easily resist the outspoken, so it's an utter pleasure to read of the lacerating effect Tynan's words could inflict on all and sundry. I suspect that those who called for him to be hanged after his 1965 expletive spree on the BBC were probably comprised of fellow masochists seeking a thrill they could experience in public (so naturally, these complainants included Members of Parliament) and their better known counterparts, Daily Mail readers. And with unknowing and perfect irony, Mary Whitehouse informed the Queen in a letter that she felt Tynan deserved nothing less than a punitive spanking; he must have rung her number for days

   Outspokenness and daring were two of his most immediate characteristics - these facets certainly spurred a number of things in his life, from his positioning as a high priest of filmic and theatrical criticism to his battles against censorship, his taste in plum coloured suiting, a yen for spanking and caning his sexual partners, and his staging of a nude revue. Ironically, despite his long pursuit and achievement of public note, he felt that he had created a less diverse body of work than one with his passion for the worlds created on the stage and in the studio ought to; his notoriety was achieved by his opting to be more of an onlooker than a participant. I  realise that he is not as well remembered as he could be - for a myriad of factors, I'm sure - but I nevertheless think he denigrated himself a little too finely on this point - the critical world of his day gained much from his way of thinking, his almost overly keen awareness of cultural movements and his archly beautiful prose, all of which saturated his writing

   Because this is Mode Parade, I will point out that these behaviours seemed to inform his dressing. One would be maybe a little surprised to learn that not all men named Peacock live up to the sobriquet, but even if they did, I doubt many could strut with Tynan's determined pleasure in his own individuality. The Tynan of the 1940s and '50s shows something of the studied languor of the Bright Young Things he shared an alma mater with and his tastes were rooted in simple, clean tailoring, give or take an extravagant waistcoat or a gold coloured shirt. But come the Peacock Revolution and the 1970s, his wardrobe juxtaposed a classicist's awareness of his age - the sober cardigans in which he relaxed and the stately fur coat I'd like for myself - with his natural flamboyance, boasting a resplendent collection of op art-like print shirts that he was able to blend with wide neckties and suits of off white and dove grey cloth in a way only gifted individuals and master stylists are wired to do. There's a reason that such looks - when done well - are described as fun; it's a game of achieving harmony and balance, and should be approached as such. And I've always believed that such success takes a particular physical and mental refinement, which is possibly why Corin Redgrave's Tynan look has the edge on that of Rob Brydon when they played the critic in separate productions over the past decade

   I think my favourite impulse of his is the daring, but mainly for puerile reasons, I admit. Such a ribald, filthy-minded adventurer, really; not just the smacking of girls' bottoms, but the very public reading of the Spanking Times on train journeys and the bloody comedy of errors that was his experience of consuming vodka rectally, having read a recommendation of it in Alan Watts's autobiography. I suspect that Tynan's biggest mistake was going out for an Indian right before having the enema tube inserted

   For all of that he was a dysfunctional scamp, he was also a magnetic personality with a laudable mastery of the language and what I admire about him the most is rather simple - he was the consummate individual and nothing if not self-aware. And so, I end this in my customary manner: a round of photographs and a final word from the subject himself. That's one to grow on

All of the preceding: Tynan and his second wife Kathleen during the 1970s, seen in the last with Roman Polanski

Rob Brydon and Catherine McCormack as Kenneth and Kathleen Tynan in the BBC production, Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore

Corin Redgrave in the Royal Shakespeare Company's one man show Tynan, adapted for the stage from Lahr's book of the diaries by Richard Nelson with Colin Chambers, in 2004

Without self-approval, there is no self-confidence, without self-confidence one has no secure identity; and without a secure identity one has no style

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A Hole in the World: John Barry, 1933 - 2011

   The fourth thing that came to mind when I heard of John Barry's passing yesterday was not about producing yet another tribute melding biographical data with a lack of insight into his creativity like most journalists are apt to, but instead indulge my appreciation of the underdog with a piece from his score to Walt Disney's The Black Hole

   I loathed the movie as a kid, but the sweep and Hollywood splendour of its score could not fail to connect; it made this little boy wish to be nothing more than the hero of his own adventure. Like many of my semi-regular readers, I imagine, my populist side gleefully devoured his deathless work for the James Bond 007 film series. Perhaps unlike some of you, my hipster side delights in the aureate pomp of The Black Hole's main theme in sampled form on The Beta Band's self titled debut

   Basically, thank you, John. I hope that whomever scores the remake to The Black Hole can keep up. It would make up for some of the work by David Arnold