Thursday, 29 September 2011

Mode Parade had a Tumblr

Having collected around 4000 images of preserved cultural ephemera, I began to consider that I may really need a Tumblr to indulge my appreciation. I finally launched this morning and am already having a little bit of fun with it

In the interests of simplicity, the URL is as simple as this column's - - as is its title, On The Mode Parade. Perhaps I shall see some of you there

All best,


N.B. The Tumblr was suddenly murdered exactly a year after it began. It may not be missed

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Design Lust Object No.6 - George Nelson's Pretzel Chair

George Nelson, born 1908 in Hartford, Connecticut, studied architecture at Yale University. A fellowship enabled him to study at the American Academy in Rome from 1932-34. In Europe he became acquainted with the protagonists and major architectural works of modernism.

He joined the editorial staff of Architectural Forum in 1935, where he was employed until 1944. A programmatic article on residential building and furniture design, published in Architectural Forum by Nelson in 1944, attracted the attention of D.J. DePree, head of the furniture company Herman Miller.
Shortly after this, George Nelson assumed the position of design director at Herman Miller. Remaining there until 1972, he became a key figure of American design, also convincing the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Girard to work for Herman Miller.

In the 1950s, George Nelson and his New York office developed an individual and expressive range of seating pieces, several of which have long since achieved classic status. In 1952, even before the famous Coconut Chair or the Marshmallow Sofa, Nelson designed a chair made out of bent wood that was initially referred to, simply, as the Laminated Chair. The bold yet elegant curve of the single wooden piece forming the back and armrests soon inspired the nickname Pretzel Chair. Bent laminated wood is used not only for the backrest and its twin supports, but also for the four legs that cross underneath the seat. The downward taper of the legs contributes to the chair's slender appearance. Due to insufficient manufacturing techniques, the Pretzel Chair was removed from the market after only a few years, which makes it highly valued among collectors today.
His collaboration with Vitra began in 1957. From 1946 onwards Nelson also ran his own design office, creating numerous products that are now regarded as icons of mid-century modernism.

Nelson's office also produced important architectural works and exhibition designs. George Nelson died in New York in 1986. His archive belongs to the holdings of the Vitra Design Museum.
From Vitra

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

African Bloggers Council

Via Street Etiquette's Tumblr, a blue jacketed coalition of style writers converged over this past weekend on, appropriately enough, Savile Row post Ozwald Boateng's presentation. Pictured with me are Eli and Anthony of the site Ape to Gentleman

 I am wearing a "Sunday Best of British" ensemble: suit by Pokit, shirt by Deborah & Clare, necktie by Mr. Fish, footwear by Alan McAfee, boutonnière pin by Rose Paradise

Photograph by Joshua Kissi

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Man of Wealth and Taste

The late Sebastian Horsley aside, what decadent could look as striking in a red suit as Mephisto of Marvel Comics? How very Thierry Mugler of him. Note the tall shirt collar - just the way I like them, these days - and the unaffected lack of neckwear - also a recent proclivity of mine. Insert your own "the devil is in the details" reference here

And the grooming! In the words of the demon himself, "I have the most luxuriant sideburns in all of creation"

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Girl in Terry O'Neill's Soup

Marion: Are you trying to get me tight?
Robert: You're frightening enough sober.
   Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the private viewing for starshooter Terry O'Neill's 'Guys and Dolls' retrospective at Chelsea's Little Black Gallery, whereupon I inadvertently managed to position myself in the hinterland between knowledgeable and know-it-all; a stance that comes as no great revelation to the semi-regular readers of this column, I'm certain

   Take this excellent shot of enduring - give or take an early death - actors Goldie Hawn and Peter Sellers in 1970. Observe the unstudied, spontaneous nature of it that loudly proclaims "Paparazzi Surprise!" as the two stars prepare to adjust to all seeing eyes of the media hounds who sniffed out a liaison in the sun and pounced upon their return. One might wonder, though, as to whether these two were ever involved, particularly as this was roughly around the time that Sellers became involved with Miranda Quarry, whom he married that year. Is this where the construct starts to fall apart?

   In actual fact, it falls apart if one has seen the film. The snappers might not be acting, but the luminaries certainly are, for this is more or less a still from the third act of Roy Boulting's There's A Girl In My Soup. And yes, that revelation did spoil it for at least one person that night. That's verisimilitude for you

   And that person might derive even less cheer from seeing the film, itself adapted by Terence Frisby from his own play; to some, it's a cute, stylish little document of the rigid, punctilious yet surreptitiously naughty mores of the gilded class rubbing up against those of the brazen, hedonistic, everything-is-permissible ones of the hippies; to others, it is overly focused on a self-involved, amoral sybarite whose only concerns are hardwired to his genitals and the out-of-town girl who eventually has him eating out of her hand simply because she deconstructs his seduction routine to the hackneyed wealthy lothario tricks it comprises. Naturally, I rather like it


   Dressed peculiarly and exclusively by Mr. Fish of Clifford Street, Sellers's Robert Danvers is the archetypal selfish shagger who discarded with bedposts long ago due to the damage done from adding the notches. I suspect that his "Hairy Chested Love God" (as Grant Morrison memorably describes the 1970s incarnation of Bruce Wayne/Batman) has no small measure of influence on fellow fictional Peacock Austin Powers; indeed, he comes equipped with a devil may care-attitude, an almost irrepressible belief in his own virility and a catchphrase that the swingers of the '60s cannot help falling for - "My God! but you're lovely," as is uttered practically every time he meets a woman, before, during and after game time. Hell, when we first meet this almost irritatingly charismatic "rotter," he attends the wedding of an old lover to seduce the bride one last time and takes a fetching upperclasswoman home as a palate cleanser, playing the cookery show that has secured his in-story fame and excesses on his television as a background boost to his ego

   What does a writer do with the tale of a fashionably attired, Bolly-swigging pure pleasure seeker who lives only for the delights of women, Rolls Royces and gastronomic consumables? Why, one introduces a little anarchy into his decadent little heart. Enter Goldie Hawn's Marion, the perfect Ossie Clarke-clad hellcat for a catalysing touch of the old chaos and disorder

   What is interesting is that rather than have Danvers spend much of the narrative vaingloriously striving to make Marion his, the relationship that forms between them begins rather quickly, but in essence is mostly on her own terms. Belying their wide age difference, she deflects his aforementioned tricks rather easily, only to move herself into his luxurious London flat, direct him to drive her back to the squalid basement where he first spotted her, argue awkwardly with her self-involved, unreconstructed boyfriend and have Danvers flail around with her heavy suitcase as he tries to avoid despoiling his expensive finery. She spends most of her time during the wine tasting trip to France she accompanies him on embarrassingly inebriated and yet able to bed or make a fool of him on a speedy whim. No wonder he does the obvious and begins to fall for her - it's practically a text for "How to Keep a Man Forever 101"

   But inevitably, the tale is a flawed one. The entertainment value of our protagonists is undermined by how unlikeably they behave, although Marion may come off worse, for whilst Danvers learns little about himself, Marion learns nothing at all, content to run with the values of free love and free living for however long she can, utilising her insight and intelligence for little more than manoeuvring the men in her life as she pleases. Which is a conclusion I'd rather not have drawn, for there are some fun moments watching the two trying to fit into each others worlds - that war of the mores again - and though clichéd a storytelling device, even in the late 20th century, what potential there was for such an odd couple to blend their worlds together is lost in the denouement, though I suppose there is a point to be made there as well. Had Frisby been more prescient, Marion's fate would likely have been rather unhappy, for it is more or less clear that Danvers will be fine, no matter what indignities come to him

   The saving graces? Sellers's aforementioned charisma, Hawn's nascent, now time-honoured knockabout persona, the odd Mike D'Abo-written song - nothing that's a patch on 'Handbags and Gladrags,' sadly - and, oh, a veritable goldmine of Peacock Revolution style. All that, at least, gives segments of this production a decidedly delicious flavour

Some of these screen caps were filched from Precious Bodily Fluids. Andrew, I could not have done it without you

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Alex Wilson Portrait Shoot, Part Four - Victoria & Albert Revisit

   Part Four involved a return to this city's venerated and adored Victoria and Albert Museum; long-term semi regular readers might recall that this was also the site of last year's Jamie Archer Portrait Shoots. But the V&A is a big form and spaces were found to avoid overlapping with that other lensman and friend's fine work:

 It was humid enough that I donned my tie indoors before proceeding to pose; I accomplished this without the use of a mirror and Alex was too polite - read: British - to warn me that my Deborah & Clare shirt collar was askew

   Some of you may be amused to know that a curious gaggle of young black girls asked me if I was in costume. And of course, I responded in the affirmative

   Will there be more of this collaboration in the autumn and winter seasons? Time will tell, Paraders; it always does

All photographs are the copyright of Alex Wilson:

Design Lust Objects No.5 - Daum Crystal

   The trying time I am having whilst seeking to have repairs effected on a Daum crystal cactus in London has inspired this post's content. I suppose that some good should come out of this laboured endeavour

   The artisanal crystal craftsmanship of Daum has been in operation since 1878; its studio still based in Nancy, France, to this day. These valuable and scarce examples of its creativity are a winter-scene nightlight with bronze mounts and a miniature vase featuring a scene of sailboats on a river circa 1900, which I sourced from the Art Nouveau Glass website. I also quite like this acid cut cameo vase circa 1905: 

   Aside from the quality guarantee given by its longevity and handmaking expertise, Daum is also renowned for its practice of the pâte de verre (literally, "glass paste") glass casting method, which allows for the richness and complexity of its myriad forms and sculpting techniques. The effects can be viewed most pleasingly under the right sort of light

   But that is enough for now. This pesky cactus won't fix itself

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Handsomeboy Technique - Adelie Land (2005)

I hear the drummer strike the sky. I hear the drummer strike the sky!

   ... So naturally, as a consequence of becoming enraptured by Shibuya-kei and J-Pop over ten years ago, I thought it prudent to see what had become of Japan's alternative hip hop produce since everyone's favourite abstruse-trivia-wielding-and-limited-edition-promotional-toys-branding, abstract instrumental hip hop label Mo' Wax first enticed me with it in 1997. Finding the very moment where Japanese hip hop very much became something worth taking seriously (and to much surprise, that moment actually occurred before the end of the 1980s),  James Lavelle's infamous concern issued a beautifully sturdy and artfully rendered boxset of over 40 songs released by Major Force, an exuberant imprint with a fine niche in broken English rap, deeply technical sensibilities, sample-seeking nous to rival their American counterparts and a particular attention to composition that broadened the compilation's appeal amongst demographics that could not easily stomach mangled hip hop slang in slightly off-putting vocal timbres

   8 years following my first experience with "Dope up cyber-rap from Tokyo" brought time wasted with DJs like Halfby and wee papa girl rappers like Halcali - a mainstream-breaking duo not much unlike their Major Force XX chromosome MC forebears The Orchids - but for all their talent, none were as adept at the indelibly memorable, 1970s-impelled party record as the one they called Handsomeboy Technique. Probably a disco biscuits-thing

   Adelie Land comfortably rests in the cut-and-paste party music canon that bursts with luminaries such as Steinski, The Dust Brothers, Coldcut and other DJ-producers for whom the 1980s was a testing ground for musical domination, though the beatific sequences, jaunty 1970s radio polish and heady psychedelic thread that distinguish the record are more in thrall to the itinerant beauty and density of The Avalanches' Since I Left You. Be that as it may, Yoshitaka Morino's debut LP is light on complexity and motors along on repetition, but it also simply gorges on effusiveness and what some particularly enthusiastic dancers and afficionados like to refer to as "the funk." And had this album a wider reach beyond its native Japan, many a breakdancing competition sequence could have been choreographed to the likes of the 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)'-sampling 'Miami Radio Flash' or the cheery, vintage rap of 'Season of Young Mouss,' whose childish go-go delights also mark Handsomeboy Technique as a potent contemporary of that more ramshackle and less rewarding concern, The Go! Team

   But in taking cues from his forebears to craft a wider scope, Morino successfully taps not only into the celebratory, but the wistful sides of nostalgia that can make it a more compelling aural aesthetic. The soulful 'Quiet Place' is one contemplative mood shy of a megrim, with bursts of strings and keys that apparate like primary colours in a paintball contest. This is also felt in the lone piano opening of 'Adelie Coast Waltz' (practically a direct reference to the exceedingly similar 'Two Hearts in 3/4 Time' of Since I Left You) through to the sweep of its twee disco romanticism that sounds much like the end of a beautiful "something" should, whilst my favourite cut, ''8000 Laurels,' combines the exuberant patter of a motoring hip hop break and a beatbox with a hooky tempest of turntable swerves, minor key choral vocals and orchestral grandeur gone pop, thanks to a particularly indelible keyboard line. With such a percolating emotional reach, it is no wonder that the closing 'Your Blessings' emphasises - thought not overwhelmingly so - the celebratory approach to end the proceedings, but cannily, it chooses the joy-in-living sonics and sentiments of Freda Payne's 'Cherish What is Dear To You' or the Motown sound (or rather a sample of The Cake's Spector-esque 'Baby That's Me') over simple, hedonistic joy. And that, to me, is always a tune worth stepping out to


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Richard Burton interviewed by Kenneth Tynan (Acting in the Sixties, 1967)

From the Estate of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

   Hollywood Golden Ager and naval hero Douglas Fairbanks Jr., seen here in a 1940 portrait by Tino Costa, was the quiet perfectionist type when it came to matters of dress and deportment. However, as I've noted in the past, obvious sobriety does not a boring approach make and the sophistication evinced by Fairbanks Jr.'s tasteful cuts and respectable palette will always be worth 300 of the overly adventurous sprezzatura set any day

   Still, as ADG of Maxminimus and Tintin of The Trad, who brought the upcoming auction of Fairbanks Jr.'s effects by Doyle New York to the attention of many, have separately ruminated, it remains to be seen what sorts of prices quiet perfection fetches at auctions these days, whether the subject be famous or, in the case of the scheming Bernie Madoff, infamous and more than a little reviled. I expect that the prices will generally trend within the estimates, excepting perhaps the precious metal accessories such as the platinum, gold, cabochon and diamond dress stud set, and interesting knick knacks such as the personally inscribed first edition Salvador Dali book

   Included are some the pieces I'd be most interested in, were I in New York next Tuesday, 13th of September, and independently wealthy. Of course, it is not only the aesthetics of someone else's acquisitions that should be of interest; the stories behind them should hopefully be worth their prices at auction whenever one needs to spice up a conversation at the dinner table

McCULLEY, JOHNSTON. The Mark of Zorro. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1924. Inscribed by the author in 1925 to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and further inscribed and gifted at Christmas in 1951 from Mary Pickford to Fairbanks, Jr., with Pickford's tipped in Christmas card. Original gilt faux leather. Spine tips and corners rubbed, spine faded, with the bookplate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Fairbanks, Sr. famously played Zorro in the 1920 film, the year he married Mary Pickford. Using his affectionate nickname of "Jayar" for Junior, Pickford thought Fairbanks, Jr. "would like to have this book of your father's"

14kt. gold gufflinks

A selection of a navy pinstriped wool double-breasted suit, labeled Stovel & Mason Ltd. 32 Old Burlington Street, London W1., handwritten Sir Douglas Fairbanks December 1946 with a black silk woven with white oxford motif tie, labeled Crimplene; black herringbone wool Chesterfield coat, labeled Stovel & Mason Ltd. 32 Old Burlington Street, London W1., handwritten Sir Douglas Fairbanks January 1958; and a two-piece suit in black, white and burgundy Glen plaid, labeled P. Caraceni Roma, and handwritten Sir Douglas F 1953
14kt. gold cigarette case and lighter by Tiffany & Co. with a gold cigarette holder by Cartier
George III style mahogany partner's desk

The aforementioned dress studs and cufflinks set

9kt. gold dresser set from Finnegan's Ltd. of Bond Street, formerly owned by Douglas Fairbanks Sr.


Not included in the lots, these photographs are merely for illustrative purposes:

Pictured on the left and centre with Fairbanks Jr. are the late President Ronald Reagan and the late Cary Grant

With the late actress Virginia Field

Monday, 5 September 2011


   Some may recognise the drapey Neo-Edwardian on the far left from last year's post on Bunny Roger. The forward thinking Continental and the wide shouldered metro boulevardier  bring up the middle, whilst the far right demonstrates the sturdy aesthetic values of the people

   Myself, I am more of a mix-and-matcher, but if there's anything that can be taken from this, it is the variety of ideas for accessorising or the counter argument for minimalism that this little guide presents

   But for the love of God, please let's keep the dog out of this - the Frenchman might be capable of retaining a certain poise even as he thinks about how to clean the fur from his fibres, though that should only serve to remind mere mortals how far beyond them he operates

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sly Fox - 'Let's Go All The Way' (1986)

In spite of being somewhat unhinged, this energetic number is one of the best that 1980s New Wave pop has to offer:

Let's go all the way

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Leather Lust Object No.12 - Isaac Sellam

Leather craftsman Isaac Sellam works out of a Paris-based studio - what he calls his "leather research laboratory" - having spent 15 years honing his abilities before debuting his creations under the Isaac Sellam Experience label in 2002. He focuses primarily on handmade, exquisitely pricey jackets and coats, as well as particularly relaxed knitwear that looks as if it may disintegrate one day. This 'animal 2' crocodile skin biker-style jacket, somewhat redolent of Loewe in the 1980s for some reason, is available at; Londoners such as I can see his work at Brompton Road's emporium of directional menswear, The Library

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Vintage Prelude (Fashion for Women)

   I am in the midst of slapping together my general thoughts on the state of the vintage clothing, as seen through the eyes of an overdressed, bi-cultural West African in late 2011 London; as such, the article is guaranteed to be impractical to all that are interested in quality guides, reputable dealers and low grade polyester

   Fortunately for everyone else, there are enterprises such as Devoted 2 Vintage that care for the practical side of informed decisions. As such, when I received an e-mail this morning offering '5 Tips to Identify Real Vintage,' I saw no reason not to disseminate it in the column. It concerns women's vintage entirely, which is perfect for my purposes - my eventual article will have a decidedly XY slant:

5 Top Tips to Identifying Vintage Clothing

Have you ever bought a "vintage" dress or shirt only to find out later that it is actually a modern reproduction? Well you are not alone, we see modern clothing everywhere you go purporting  to be vintage either because the seller doesn't have the experience or are simply trying to cash.
We would like to share some of our experience with 5 Top Tips to help you avoid making this mistake and maybe find that hidden vintage gem. There are always exceptions but by following these simple checks you should be able to avoid many mistakes.

Indicator 1 - Look at the Zip! 
 Does the dress have a metal or vinyl zip? Vinyl zips were not widely used on dresses until mid-late 1960's so the presence of a metal zip could indicate a pre-1970's dress. The location of the zip is also a key indicator. Also the location of the zip is important. Up to the 1950s the zips were often placed at the side of the dress, moving to the back during the 1950s and 1960s.

Indicator 2 - Look at the labels.  
There are three types of labels to look for; the makers label, the size label and care label. There is an excellent vintage label resource on the Vintage Fashion Guild web page were you can look up most important vintage labels. If you can't find your label here look at the other labels. Before the 1960's the size labels typically indicated the hip size in inches, after this sizes such as 12, 14 etc. were more commonly used. These standard sizes have change over the years so a 14 in the 1960s is equivalent to a 1970's size 12 and modern size 10 so check the bust measurement. Care labels are also a good indicator; they were only introduced in the mid 1960's and only became widely used in the 1970s. The Pure New Wool symbol was only introduced in the 1970s. The absence of any labels would normally indicate that the dress was home made and very common before the 1970's

Indicator 3 - Look at the Garment Construction.  
Vintage dresses are more likely to be hand made with details like hook and eye fasteners and poppers to secure the garments. Also, internal bra straps were common in the 1950s. Underskirts were common in the 1950's; look for net and muslin underskirts, often with metal hoops sewn in the hem to give the skirts more volume.

Indicator 4 - Feel The fabric.  
This is a skill that will be developed by handing vintage clothes. Modern mass produced fabrics are rarely the same quality as vintage fabrics. So it is worth spending time in a reputable vintage shop feeling the fabrics, when you then compare this with a modern dress the differences are apparent. The type of fabric used is also a good way of dating dresses. Rayon and taffeta were widely used in the 1950's and in the 1960's polyester; nylon and Crimpolene were commonly used. Lycra was only introduced in the 1980's.

Indicator 5 - Look at the Style of the Dress.  
This alone is not an accurate indicator because there are many vintage styles have been reproduced over the years. The 1940's shoulder pads were widely used but were also popular in the 1980's. The two most popular styles in the 1950's were the shirtwaist dress, with buttons to the front, a nipped in waist and full pleated skirt and the wiggle dress with lovely fitted hourglass shape. The 1960's saw the introduction of the classic mini skirt and simple shift dress. The maxi dress became more popular in the late 1960's and into the 1970's. The more flamboyant 1970s demanded more fitted styles with plunging necklines and angel sleeves.

Using all these key indicators should lead you through the minefield of buying vintage and help to prevent you from making mistakes. As your collection grows so will your experience and confidence but as long as you buy items that you love then even the mistakes don't matter too much.