Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Alex Wilson Portrait Shoot, Part One

   It's a touch distracting  - but also pleasing - to recall that I first met Alex Wilson 20 years ago, but our recent reunion brought some lost time between us into focus. And if this entry's title was not enlightening enough, that tasteless unintentional pun should reference clearly that Alex is now a professional photographer, in whose current project I was more than pleased to participate. The call for subjects has been free and open; my friend Danielle Meder of Final Fashion has also answered it, resulting in more of Alex's signature striking imagery, illuminating as he does, the nuances of his subjects in every portrait that he crafts

These two were taken using Alex's Canon 1Ds Mk II:

And this shot is good old fashioned 10x8 film:

As taken with this wondrous contraption:

Fun fact for the details fiends - I am wearing a Sulka silk bow tie with a moiré pattern, which is most evident in photograph no.2. As I wrote before, the nuances always benefit from a little illumination

All photographs are the copyright of Alex Wilson:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Rubicon (2010)

Cancelled by AMC far too soon; one doesn't get to watch modern homages to 1970s conspiracy dramas very often. I do hope that the cast is advancing to other high quality projects, especially the ever-fetching Miranda "Queeny" Richardson

A review may be produced one day. You have been warned

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lest We Forget

It's been a shade over two years since the death of the King of Pop. Fortunately, Michael Jackson's regal leadership of popular culture, fashion and kinetic grace will be in bed with posterity for lifetimes

And there's still all that indelible music:


   In honour of a vintage silk suit that I did not get around to buying earlier this year, here is a post about the French fashion house Francesco Smalto

via Made By Hand, taken from a particularly worthwhile article from a focused, intelligent tailoring dissection column

   Francesco Smalto is one of those operations that jumped at the seemingly ineluctable call of wide scale commerce in the late 20th century. This is not to say that it wholly lent its brand to the same sorts of aesthetic and quality degradations that engendered a great many unkind memories of legacies that should be ironclad, such as those of Pierre Cardin and Ted Lapidus, and subsequently required the sort of Lazarus-like re-emergences of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Dior Homme (both made interesting again by Hedi Slimane - there's a thesis in that, I suspect), to say nothing of Lanvin, but the business certainly progressed rather far from its origins as a purveyor of rather excellent bespoke under the auspices of the Calabria-born Smalto himself. Nowadays, Monsieur Francesco, who wove his own way after having blossomed as a cutter at Camps, one of the great French houses, is retired, although it is said that he occasionally furnishes the odd wealthy client with new suits; from what I've read, the prices could be rather Bijan-like, although the house presently presents high-end made-to-measure as full bespoke. Purists, check your blood pressure

   Many exposed to Smalto's advertising campaigns over the years probably cannot remove the following phrase from their minds: "Francesco Smalto, you make me weak!" This tagline is more amusing when one considers that he sent suits to the late Gabonese president Omar Bongo by way of an escort service, terming the women "corporate gifts," for which a Paris court in 1995 convicted him for pandering and fined him 600,000 francs, although the slogan actually accompanied one of his colognes. Incidentally, the court estimated that Bongo's regular orders of Smalto suits roughly equated to 3 million francs yearly. I understand that his Middle Eastern clients were kept similarly satisfied; whilst many dressers may like a little sex with their tailoring, I am not certain whether to commend Smalto for his enterprise and consideration or condemn him for being a touch overfamiliar. One probably doesn't get this at Cad & the Dandy - and they are the ex-City boys

   Other achievements include designing the garments of astronauts, creating the world's lightest-weight dinner suit in black China crepe and amassing a global client base sated by an attention to detail, luxurious fabrics and an impeccable fit; all good reasons to minimise the case of the whores when it comes to crafting his epitaph. There's ready-to-wear too (my father once owned a couple of shirts in fine lightweight fabrics), but of course, the bespoke is where Smalto shone

The idiosyncratic Smalto lapel; like the Cran Necker/Parisienne, it is the sort of halfway house between a notch and a peak that is not so easily categorised. I'm certain that I saw them on Mubarak. Another detail that I spied on the 1980s suit I considered was a same fabric belt for the trousers that, unlike those of Chester Barrie or Spencer Hart, was thoughtfully backed in leather

   Smalto is an ideal tailor, really - strong talent and the willingness to lead a colourful, indelicate life make him what he is: one of the most gifted and industrious of his kind. And lest we forget, it is still considered rude in some places to refuse corporate gifts. And escorts

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Young Marble Giants - 'N.I.T.A.' (1980)

   I was originally content to post one song today, but that suddenly seems foolish:

   Although I've always had more than a mild weakness for new wave and post punk, Young Marble Giants spent a little too long below my radar. I am certainly on the road to rectifying that, these days. And this is certain to become one of my Summer Beauties; a pretty, peaceful piece with its heart on its sleeve and nothing to say other than the barest and yet most expressive things possible, in both music and rhyme

It's nice to hear you're having a good time
But it still hurts 'cos you used to be mine
This doesn't mean that I possessed you
You're haunting me because I let you

Shape up your body "Let's be a tree"
Visual dynamics for you to see
Nature intended the abstract
for you and me

No rain outside but tears in my eyes
Out on the rooftop for a surprise
Call you at teatime
In off the street
Sit down at table, Mummy is neat

Quannum feat. Lyrics Born & The Poets of Rhythm - 'I Changed My Mind' (DJ Spinna Mix, 1999)

   The funniest thing about my connection to this song is my preference for not one, but two of its remixes over the original. However, the Andy Votel version, which is a mildly psychedelic embellishment of the original with a hint of Kraut, is unavailable on YouTube. That doesn't matter for this purpose; this version is a punchier re-envisioning that just so happens to be the best iteration to dance to

   I know nothing about relationships. I do know that the funky fresh fellow who calls himself Lyrics Born has been one of my favourite MCs; a gravelly sing-song voice and prolix, complex lyrical capabilities make for the strangest bedfellows, yet an idiosyncratic warmth and charisma sit at the heart of his displays. He has no need of being a technically accomplished singer - one could not initially imagine his raspy tones lending themselves easily to many sonic palettes, the blues aside - and this is still as brilliant an oddball funk-pop song as 1999 was capable of producing in an era where such things possessed prepotent clout on radio and in memories (this being the year of 'Steal My Sunshine' and Midnite Vultures. Hell of a year, make no mistake)

   This is also one of the best confections to bear DJ Spinna's name; no small feat for a fluid producer with a protean feeling for hip hop, soul, disco, house and all the moods therein. Hardly a stranger to retro-inflected sounds, he creates a mini-history of around 30 years of black music in over 5 minutes, threading in old soul, a tougher funk aesthetic than that of the source material, euphorically energetic scratching and, for a technical flourish, he even structures the kind of anticipation-building breakdown more commonly associated with club sounds as if it was the most obvious and necessary of things

   In essence, he knows where his roots come from. And more deliciously, he always seemed to know exactly how to deploy them. There's no explanation for the deft use of that bell in 'I Changed My Mind' other than this rather plain one: some people are simply born with verve

Monday, 20 June 2011

Design Lust Objects Nos.1 & 2

A day's double from the redoubtable Paul T. Frankl:

Woodweave chair circa 1938

Faux zebra-lacquered finished wood console/occasional table circa the 1930s

Apparently, the Yale Press-published Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design, written by Christopher Long, is very much worth a perusal. And you semi-regular readers do know how much I appreciate the aesthetic and the skillful. Especially, that which comes in curvy, visually soothing, utilitarian forms

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Metal Lust Object No.6

18k solid yellow gold motif pendant with natural diamonds, via Weston Jewelry

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Patron Saint

Fabulous, long dead and born on this day in 1778: the first patron saint of dandies, George Bryan "Beau" Brummell. In his honour, please commit an act of pure profligacy, polish one's boots in champagne, run up an exorbitant and unpayable bill at an eminent tailoring house and eat a pea. I, myself, am forced to settle for H&M and Babycham