Showing posts with label article. Show all posts
Showing posts with label article. Show all posts

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mode Parade Reviews Canali S/S 2017




   I don’t know about you, but I am getting older

   Tastes shift, body parts misalign, hormones may mellow. The rebel often becomes the classicist. Mick Jagger has a knighthood (and he’s far from the only offbeat example). I don’t dress in the same excitable, though somewhat haphazard fashion I once did in my 20s. Nothing is truly set in stone. Even traditions

   Traditions need to reinvent themselves – where necessary –  to stay relevant; often, someone with a love for such things does this themselves. In this milieu, it was the modernisers, modernists and mods that made suiting a desirable thing to the young in the 1950s and 1960s; the likes of Michael Fish, Tommy Nutter, Edward Sexton and Antony Price in the 1960s and 1970s that catered to a flamboyantly refined rebel; Giorgio Armani imbuing suits with a certain relaxed loucheness in the 1980s and Hedi Slimane veering deftly from luxurious, aristocratic minimalism in the late 1990s to tight insouciance in the ensuing decade. Simply put: suiting always finds a way to stay interesting; often even the most interesting form of menswear available





   Canali, who approached me to review their upcoming spring/summer collection, are normally viewed by the online cognoscenti as stalwart traditionalists, albeit with a signature Italian flair. Message board mavens have mused over their cuts and craft, whilst wondering how many sprezzatura points their patronage will earn them when prepping their next What I’m Wearing Today home shot editorial. I like to think of Canali in the vein of tradition refiners. They don’t seek to reinvent the wheel; rather, they evolve carefully with the times or reprise adventurous ideas that worked and could easily become part of a canon





   One of the best reasons to buy into Italian-made clothing products is the sheer range of great fabrics on offer, an area this collection does very well in. Given its seasonal aims, cotton, linen and lighter woven wool are naturally present and correct; however, in keeping with the Italian bravura approach, standard items are rendered in upscale, inventive versions of stalwart materials. I look to the suits and separates made from malfile cotton, a normally rougher looking material suddenly evolved into a refined, natural graphite version of itself. Or the subtlety of the reversible pique jacket that enables the wearer to hint at the bold geometric print of its cotton-silk side when worn as its leather self. Or the neckscarves that make one want to periodically run their fingers along them

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   And that’s to say nothing of the overall tailoring. Canali can be relied upon to cut clothing and cut it well. And given the season, it’s also cut for comfort, resulting in an appealing paradox of formal looks that are nevertheless aimed at the nearest party (how’s that for an Italian tradition?). Jagger would be very tempted. Perhaps you may be, too



Sunday, 22 February 2015

Moments in Cocktails - Armistice



   Over a year ago, I found myself pondering how to get around the requirement of paying the price of a London cocktail in order to enjoy a cocktail whilst living in London. The answer is weirdly simple: acquire a cocktail sensei and obsessive tendencies. Adjust to taste

   Mixologists, practicing or otherwise, naturally develop signature peccadilloes and mine tend towards the sour, like my opinion of metropolitan humanity on a Thursday night, and the dry, like my humour. The Armistice cocktail, in a near-totemic manner, embodies the latter

   It's not intended to (sweetly) charm and the already endearing result is all the more so for it. It is calibrated for one who is content to drink alone, or in rare company - the sort that only offers trenchant remarks and observations, once every so often.  Despite the vaguely esoteric combination - Last Word/Final Ward stalwarts Green Chartreuse and Maraschino plus the latter's Brooklyn bedfellows, dry vermouth and rye - it is not fancy, but rather a base-heavy aromatic that produces pensive pleasantry through its mixture of herbals (no recipe puts the ever-distinctive Green Chartreuse in the corner) anchored by the rye (alright, a little fancy - quietly so). With this one, it's all in the aftertaste

  • Created by Erik Hakkinen, Zig Zag Café, Seattle
  • 1 1⁄2 oz Rye (Rittenhouse100) 
  • 1⁄2 oz Dry vermouth (Noilly Prat, 'officially;' Cocchi Torino, in my case)
  • 1⁄4 oz Green Chartreuse 
  • 1⁄4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 ds Bitters, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged
   Stir it with ice, strain it, drink it. And ponder

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mode Parade Patron Saint: Jason King



Author's note: This was originally written in 2012 for the Mode Parade Tumblr; since deactivated

   When it comes to personal style, few today are able to do it as well as the fictional

   Mode Parade Patron Saint Jason King blurred the aesthetic lines between himself and his actor, Peter Wyngarde, to the point that one of the few ways they could be told apart is that King preferred women

   Wyngarde is quite a charismatic fellow, by all accounts, so it is quite sad that the press, the public and his profession would not let his career-damaging homosexual indiscretion slide - precisely the sort of inflexible moralising that can make the world a less engaging place to live in. It’s the calibre of charisma that made him a star and sex symbol, and here makes him the picture of enviableness, inhaling from a Sobranie whilst wearing one of his many Peacock-era matching shirt/tie ensembles, practically baiting the Good Taste Brigade as so he does

   Very much of the moment, in so many ways. But moments are all we ever get, and some last far, far too briefly

Sunday, 9 November 2014

XTC - 'In Loving Memory of a Name' (1983) (Lest We Forget)

   I freely admit to being the type that ranks Mummer rather highly in the XTC canon. And since I'm no longer an adolescent, I won't mind much that this is purportedly among the more combustible opinions one can share over the combined works of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, Swindon's very own Lennon and McCartney (if such a thing is indeed comprehendible. It's Swindon

   Should one wish to stereotype the band's leaders in the ultra bland sense, Moulding was always the more contemplative one - I'd try "sensitive," but Moulding wasn't the one singing screeds about his ex-wife and the denouncement of God. His best moments make gliding melodies of mournful wistfulness and this, rather than composition or clever lines, is exactly what 'In Loving Memory of a Name' exemplifies. Partridge provides my favourite emotive moments on Mummer - no surprise, given his larger rate of songwriting output - but '... Name' is the tune that brings me closest to its narrator's state of mind, where impressionistic imagery, getting lost in the moment, an ambiguous aside at Christianity  and a respect for England's fallen fighters give direction to the motoring rhythm and perhaps what feels like every rockist musical flourish Britain has produced between the 15th century and 1983. The sweet sort of sincerity, in essence

   And aptly, one for Remembrance Day. "England can never repay you," indeed


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cathal Smyth - A Comfortable Man, Live, October 2014



   To Wilton's Music Hall in East London last night, on the invitation of my old friend, artist Andrew Hancock, where I produced a set of photographs of the man we still call Chas Smash of Madness, resplendent amongst a sonorous orchestra, a songbird in black and the work of 50 contemporary artists directly inspired by Smyth himself. Nice work, if you can get it

   What bodes well for this album launch, which has two further nights at Wilton's to go, and indeed, the album itself is that the roguishly avuncular Smyth (who made your author, at least, feel as if in the company of the favourite uncle who casually turns the air blue and quickly moves along before the matriarch tweaks his ear) somehow managed to start out strongly and end on an even better finish. I suspect the builder's tea that he periodically topped up from with the appetite of Popeye


   Madness is one of this country's most resonant (and entertaining, lest we forget) bands. So, for anyone who may be in attendance tonight or tomorrow, or plans to be, I can assure you that rarely do you get a safer pair of hands to guide you through his new and warmly folkish material. Anticipate big choruses, assiduous charm, precision timing, band crushes and one big, open heart

   For you'll need every ounce of that goodwill whenever you try to get served at the Mahogany Bar




Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Dutchman by LeRoi Jones; The Crate Gallery, 2014


Kedar Williams-Stirling as "Clay," September 2014

   Jotham Annan is a RADA-honed actor and director of stage and screen, whose credits include the BBC's Holby City and Casualty, and versions of As You Like It and The Browning Version (everyone's favourite Rattigan?). To disclaim, he is also my cousin. I'm proud

   Over the past month, I have provided photography and costume styling for a new production by Jotham of 1964's The Dutchman, an interracial two hander written by Jones, later Amiri Baraka, whom I have discovered late in life. An African-American playwright, activist, writer and critic with a penchant for trenchant monologues and non-sequiturs of the disquieting kind, judging from this particular work, he was a natural attractor of the controversy that dogs the outspoken; doubtless, I will find pronouncements and quotes of his to embrace and discard with time

   Tonight ushers in the opening night at Notting Hill's The Crate Gallery, helmed by my old friend Matthew Gerrish. The Crate is not known for its voluminousness and thus each performance of this short run (tonight to Friday, this Sunday and next Wednesday and Thursday) will accommodate less than 30 people only. Nevertheless, compromised though I may be, it is worth purchasing tickets for next week's performances, which were added after the promising selling out of this week's

   In these days of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, to name but two, a text like The Dutchman is not only entertainment, but something of a yardstick for America's entangled multiracial structure, exactly 50 years prior, with which to compare to today. And it is exactly this challenge to muse on where America has been going in light of these atrocities that makes it worth producing today

BON




Wednesday, 10 September 2014

My Sony NEX-5N and Me (An Introduction)



   I don't often lack for adventures. And since I have been documenting some of them with my beloved Sony NEX-5N for some time, the memories, no matter how twee, shameful or comedic, don't easily leave me either. So given that I've a high threshold for public personal embarrassment, I've no qualms about occasionally sharing some of them here

   Given my antique status, the majority of my lenses for this respected, latter-day interchangeable lens system are vintage; a decision that has resulted in some proudly protean and beguiling results. The glass that took the image above was a Canon FD 50mm, on the occasion of a Chinese installation at my recent alma mater, Chelsea College of Arts

   I'll conclude on this note for now - photography is gaining me access to an increasing number of lively weddings. But that's a topic I'll cover in detail another time

BON

Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Review of Czech & Speake's Vetiver Vert



   In a niche cornered by the likes of the renowned Vetiver by Guerlain and Tom Ford's more recent Grey Vetiver, Czech & Speake's own offering, Vetiver Vert, provides an alternative to the former's classical, earthy character and the latter's colder, sensual sportiness. Pleasingly traditional in its "greenness" and ingredients, Vetiver Vert emphasises a more citrus-heavy take on this herbal scent, making for a striking initial impression that exchanges sharpness for smokiness as the topnotes fade

   This produces something of a nontraditional take, at least where vetiver scents are concerned; although some may find it alternately redolent of burning incense or a scented ashtray, it still produces an intriguing effect. At this stage, the vetiver note also begins to assert itself, lending the expected woody character. Once the drydown takes hold, the spice ingredients and the woody notes guide the fragrance in the natural fashion - reassuringly so, given the tendency amongst some contemporary interpretations of vetiver to produce more synthetic results

   Although intended for unisex consumption, Vetiver Vert succeeds as an occasional companion for modern gentlemen and more of a curio for today's ladies past the initial stage of zesty top notes. Nevertheless, I would recommend at least a sample to those in search of a green fragrance for their collection

Monday, 16 June 2014

Barima at Chelsea College of Art's Interior Design Summer Show

   
   So, it has come to pass that I will soon conclude Chelsea College of Art's Graduate Diploma Interior Design course and henceforth have to update my calling card from "Student Interior Designer" to "Former Student Interior Designer" 

   To celebrate my release graduation, my friend, photographer and college staff member Gavin Freeborn interviewed your author as part of this year's promotional rollout for the annual Summer Show. And yes, I really do sound like that:



   The Summer Show has already commenced and will end later this week on Saturday 21st June. It takes place at:

16 John Islip Street
London 
SW1P 4JU

   It is open to all until 8pm each eve - perhaps some of you will pop your heads around the door and wave a finger. I will share more about my own work and experiences in due course

Friday, 16 May 2014

What Chelsea College of Art & Design Has Turned Me Into



Hand rendered interior elevation by BON, 2013

If I have an ethos as a budding interior designer, I am, like the belated and late modernist American architect Paul Rudolph, concerned with what he considered “the unique element of architecture” – the birth of “living, breathing dynamic spaces of infinite variety. ” Or to put it another way, it is about, as Willheim Dudok once stated, “this serious and beautiful game of space” 

Inevitably, it is a rational approach to space planning that my studies at Chelsea have begun to hone, along with the freedom to channel my interests in storage solutions, theatrical minimalism, colour schemes, illustration and 20th century French design into my project work. Indeed, many spaces may impress or intrigue, but they are ultimately at a remove if they do not feel inviting or habitable. And as I progress, I hope to master the ways in which everything, especially the inhabitant, can be ensconced in its rightful place


- Excerpted from my designer statement for Chelsea College of Art & Design's 2014 Student Catalogue

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Khalil Musa Portrait Shoot




As mentioned in my event coverage, Khalil Musa was the photographer-in-residence for I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman's coming out party at Gieves & Hawkes last week

Khalil is the sort of portrait shooter that goes for sharpness and flash in the studio; in concert with his direction, his results show the confident sides of his subjects - whether they are or aren't, I suspect - whilst rendering their differing personalities and appearances in bold, bright strokes. Put simply, his work is worthy of several advertising campaigns, which I mean in the best way possible

To whit, if The Balvenie are looking for a new ambassador, I would like to think that this shot sets out my candidacy. But who knows? They might not care for my shirt

Friday, 20 September 2013

I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman x The Last Tuesday Society, 21/09/13

   Next up for the dynamic duo of Rose Callahan and Natty Adams after the two successful carousels of tailoring and drink that were London's launches for I am Dandy is a 9pm talk on the book and the topic tomorrow evening at The Last Tuesday Society's The Orphanage Masked Ball tomorrow evening. It is held at The Adam Street Private Member's Club off The Strand, London. Apparently, debauchery follows directly afterwards

   Rose and Natty have some previous form at this sort of thing from a year ago in their stomping grounds of New York City, and as I know them to be garrulous and possessed of an awareness that guides their work rather deftly, they should leave a few quotes, anecdotes and admissions to stick in the mind. Indeed, on Tuesday night's Gieves & Hawkes signing party, it was Rose who summed up the labour of love that has taken her from her The Dandy Portraits blog to co-authoring its coffee table-bound evolution with a quote that encapsulates the personal ideals of at least some of the book's subjects: "Beauty and elegance matter"

   It will be my first time at the LTS rodeo and I haven't a mask to wear, other than what I let the world see. Still, if there's dancing to be done, rest assured of one thing: I'm your Huckleberry

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman - Take Savile Row


Photograph by the delightful Kira of Scarlet Fever Footwear. L-R: Guy Hills, Winston Chesterfield, Robin Dutt, Dickon Edwards, Ray Frensham, Rose Callahan, Michael "Atters" Attree, Zack MacLeod Pinsent, Natty Adams, Tony Sylvester, your author, Gustav Temple and James Sherwood. In absentia: Nick Foulkes and Amechi Ihenacho
   For every human alive or dead who has considered the maxim "Be yourself" a trite speed ramp on the fast track to a lifetime of misunderstanding and bullying, there are those who have fashioned idiosyncrasy and self-editing into an armour against the world, a means to traverse that of others, or a charismatic gateway to bring different people into theirs. Combined with a particular grasp of tailored masculine presentation and a dash of absinthe (to start with), it is those latter three categories that comprise the myriad subjects of Rose Callahan (photographer; The Dandy Portraits and Rarebit Productions) and Nathaniel Adams (writer; Lives of The Dandies and The Chap)'s photographic text I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman, released this autumn by Berlin's Gestalten. Apparently, there was room for the additional category of "Dashing Dork," because thanks to a recommendation from my dear pal Winston Chesterfield, Rose and Natty readily incorporated your author into the book, with a generous page allowance, several captures highlighting Rose's shutterbug talent and a molecular surgery-level editing of my ramblings that may have taken Natty 72 hours, not including naps

   Last night, the UK-based subjects took the stage alongside the creators at Gieves & Hawkes, No. 1 Savile Row, to see in the first of the book's series of international launches, before impelling a minor frenzy of mutual tie straightening and fabric comparisons. I kid. If anything, as a launchpad for the blatantly spreading fame of Callahan and Adams, and an opportunity for me to double fist with a champagne flute in one hand and a tumbler of delightfully caramel-accented The Balvenie scotch in the other, the night's success was a prepotent portent of the action that will follow in Paris and New York over the next 4 weeks. And through that process, two special copies of the book will have been signed by practically every man in it. More will be made (out) of that in time, I know

   In-between sampling from the abundant generosity of our hosts, our publisher and our sponsors - The Balvenie; Reyka Vodka, which I'm tempted to use in my next Gimlet cocktail batches for unexpected guests - I took the opportunity to acquaint and re-acquaint myself with a number of folk that I've connected with via The Mode Parade over the years - Davide Taub (G&H's masterful head cutter); rising tailoring star Michael Browne; Shoe Snob Justin Fitzpatrick; tiemaker Shaun Gordon; my drinking buddy, Giant Beard - and those I would have eventually encountered the more I shed my self-professed avoidance of scenes: the other British-based subjects of the book, around half of whom I've already befriended or met - nonpareil party host Guy Hills of Dashing Tweeds; diarist and master of arcane recall Dickon Edwards (clad, as expected in his "Double Dandy" look: one of the late Sebastian Horsley's velvet suits); "gentlethug" punker Tony Sylvester of Turbonegro; The Chap founder Gustav Temple, whom I've even written for (to say nothing of the real world friends who lent their support in person). I particularly enjoyed reuniting with Rose's black watch-clad beau and husband, Kelly Desmond Bray, and meeting Victoriana Boy Wonder, Zack MacLeod Pinsent, with whom I shared the most effete fist bump in history, what with us both wearing chamois dress gloves as we did so

   Also in attendance was the quietly sagacious Stewart Gibson, correspondent for Dandyism.net - experiences with which loom large in I am Dandy's profiles - who has already written up his bemused impressions of last night's function. Intriguingly, his choicest descriptor - "representatives of a more considered contemporary dandyism" - was reserved for Winston and me, a generous stand to take on the appearance of a man wearing a bold Holliday & Brown archive print shirt and a Spider-Man pin in his buttonhole

Your author posing for the main event photographer, Khalil Musa, via Stylesight's coverage of the book party
   My actual thoughts on I am Dandy, having lived with my complimentary copy over the past week, and indeed on dandyism itself are topics for a later day. For now, I have to bask. Not in the prestige of being part of the project. Not even in the faintly ridiculous filmed interview I gave Gestalten five minutes after the bar was finally drained. And certainly not in having the spotlight shone on me and these other interesting individuals for one soggy London evening, knowing all the while who really merited the attention and feeling happiest that way. It's in the fact that this book is allowed to exist in this very world at this very time and people will care for it

   And also because in spite of ending the night in a tiny dive bar that was once a brothel (was it bigger on the inside in those days?) and being shot serrated daggers by a jittery man whose girlfriend gave me a friendly peck on the cheek, my head has remained pain free all day. Though that may be the only part I've gotten wrong

Monday, 30 April 2012

Metal Lust Object No.8 - Only Built For Dreicer Ladies



This is a 14 kt. gold makeup purse with a set sapphire by Dreicer & Co., one of the great defunct and all but erased names in American luxury jewellery. For a time, this enterprise stood in preeminent stead with the likes of Tuffany & Co. and Cartier, New York, supplying the gilded class with imaginative designs, dedicated craft and the finest precious stones that Europe could proffer. Indeed, it was Cartier that bought the company's liquidated stock for $2.5 million in 1924 after Michael Dreicer, son of founder Jacob Dreicer, expired in 1923. The Michael Dreicer painting collection now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here, Daphne Lingon, Senior Specialist in Jewelry at Christie's, New York, discusses a Belle Époque exceptional coloured diamond ring that was retailed by Dreicer & Co. This piece was sold only last month; proof, as if it were needed, that the finer things will always whet someone's appetite:

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Guest Article: 'Stephen Tennant – Sartorial Young Thing' by Imogen Reed


In times past, I've toyed with the idea of guest writers to diversify this column's content. I'm glad that I didn't often persist, as it impelled me to research the different areas I was interested, but not knowledgeable in. Consequently, my connoisseur's guide to pornography will see print any day now; the internet should really know the difference

Imogen Reed, on the other hand, is more the persistent type, having gotten in touch during my last AWOL period to craft the sort of article she believes you Paraders would like. Her portfolio revealed a variety of subject matter, as well as a tendency to guest on the blogs of others (why she does not have her own is one of those unanswerable ponderables, I suspect); her biography revealed aspects I've sometimes wanted for myself, such as full-time writing and a period spent living in New York. And so, this is her highly unedited article on renowned Bright Young Thing Stephen Tennant, a fellow for whom I've long felt ambivalence, despite his MP-friendly sensibilities; something - many things - about his lifestyle always struck me as being surfeited with little but vapidities; a lightning rod for the self-justifications of much less interesting, would-be Des Esseiteses (reportedly, one of his great ambitions was to rival the beauty of his sister Claire). On the other hand, I do appreciate that for far too long, Tennant suffered from the unique difficulties and megrims that are sadly forced on one by mental illness

But who knows? Imogen might make a believer out of me yet. His biography is now in my Amazon list; I've always liked its title

------



Stephen James Napier Tennant (1906-1987). A constant and nefarious work in progress, he was born in a time of great social and cultural upheaval.  He lived through some of the most daring and outspoken decades in the 20th century and indeed created many of his own stories and headlines by being famous just for being, well, “Stephen Tennant”. Apocryphally, he is said to have spent most of his later life in bed at the family home, Wilsford Manor. 

Auspicious Beginnings



The son of Lord Glenconner and his wife, Pamela (formerly Wyndham) he was the youngest of five children.  The most notable and upsetting event of his childhood was the death of his elder brother, Edward (affectionately known as “Bim”) who was killed during the First World War.  At the tender age of four, he is alleged to have gone into the family garden in the company of his nanny and stopped dead in his tracks when he came face to face with the beauty of the "blossom of a pansy." This moment was said to be a defining one in terms of his life path.  Always dedicated to the arts, fashion and literary matters (though ultimately producing little of his own to add to any of these canons) he was devastatingly attracted to colour, form and beauty in all shapes.  He was a fine artist and sketcher and had one unfinished and unpublished novel to his name “Lascar”.

He was, and remained for much of his life a sickly human being.  An early case of Tuberculosis in his teens rendered him quite weak and after various trips abroad for sea air, rest and recuperation his health failed to improve.  However, this didn’t stop him from exploring nightlife, from visiting theatres and generally living it up – all of course, done with his customary verve.   


Bright Young Thing

Sartorial elegance, louche living and artistic altruism in one effete, beautiful package. 

During the 1920s, in his heyday Tennant – along with his friends Ceil Beaton, Rex Whistler, Siegfried Sassoon and The Mitford Sisters became society’s hottest property.  For many years he and Sassoon were engaged in a relationship which had a lasting impact on the both of them after it ended.  Today, they would be front page of all the glossy magazines.  Back then they were known as “The Bright Young Things” and Stephen was at the very forefront of it.  Along with such other society luminaries as The Right Hon. Elizabeth Ponsonby and Brenda Dean Paul these people attended parties and did little else, living on allowances from their parents and never having to worry about credit cards or relying on balance transfers. But they did it fabulously, darling…

Alabaster in Human Form


Tennant was the most beautiful, picture perfect alabaster sculpture ever formed.  His portraits, mostly taken by his friend – the aforementioned Cecil Beaton show a delicate frame; Marcel waved blonde hair – sometimes dusted with actual gold to make it more ethereal and photogenic, his features were almost supine.  Rarely smiling, often looking into middle distance, his perfect rosebud pout and piercing eyes were apparently enhanced by a little application of Vaseline before photos were taken.  The idea is often put forth that the greatest work of art of Stephen’s life was himself.  This notion is supported by his infinite interest in clothes and make up and jewellery.  In 1927, after a very famous “Bright Young Things” event, The Daily Express were quoted as saying: “Stephen Tennant arrived in an Electric Brougham, wearing a football jersey and earrings”.  He cared little what people thought of how he dressed.

Vanity Fair 

A naturally vain man however, he is alleged to have uttered: "My tongue is already flickering like an adder, lest one iota of foreground is denied Me," upon learning he was about to have his picture taken with a group of his friends. 

A photo-shoot for his birthday in 1927 reveals an otherworldly creature; he wears a dark pinstripe suit, striped shirt, silk tie and over the whole outfit threw a black leather mackintosh with chinchilla fur collar that he had fashioned himself.  When the prints of the shoot arrived, in his own shy and retiring style he commented: ''I'm nearly crazy at their beauty'' 


1927/1928

“London's Bright Young People have broken out again” wrote the Daily Express. All the guests to the party had to come as someone well known. Tallulah Bankhead came as Jean Borotra the famous tennis player of the era.  Stephen went as the queen of Romania. A group photograph of Stephen, Tallulah and other members of the party was featured in The Tatler with Stephen's costume easily the most beautiful. Evelyn Waugh was notable by his attendance. Indeed, this party was the inspiration for his novel “Decline and Fall” and it’s subsequent follow up “Vile Bodies”.  Characterisations of Stephen carried on, even appearing in the form of Sebastian Flyte in “Brideshead Revisited”. 

By 1928, people were beginning to tire of the antics of Stephen and his illustrious band of friends.  The biggest causal factor was “The Depression”.  Many people throughout the country were suffering.  Unemployment was at a high, workers were striking and the cavorting and game playing of a group of seemingly over-privileged twenty-somethings was seen as frightfully self indulgent. 


Stephen’s society swansong and indeed the end of the Bright Young Things came that very year with a final flourish at a “Bath and Bottle” Party arranged at St George’s Swimming Baths on Buckingham Palace Road.  The invited parties drank and danced to the strains of an orchestra.  For the occasion, Stephen wore a pink vest and long blue trousers…

Inauspicious Endings

Stephen outlived nearly all of his contemporaries.  Elizabeth Ponsonby died young (1940), possibly as a cause of her alcohol and drug addictions acquired during her years of partying.  Brenda Dean Paul eventually died in 1959 of a heroin overdose in her flat – for years she had survived on a steady diet of salted peanuts and Brandy cocktails.  He also outlived the two most cherished people in his life, Cecil Beaton (1980) and Siegfried Sassoon (1967). 


Living mostly as a recluse (though a rather decorative one) he retreated back to his childhood home, Wilsford, until his death at the age of 80.  Desperate to recreate the fond memories of holidays he had had in the Mediterranean he imported twenty two tons of silver sand and had it liberally spread on the lawns to evoke his French dreams.  There were Chinese fan palms planted, and tropical birds and lizards let loose to cavort in the grounds. 

He had many tales to tell of his years as a Bright Young Thing that were only finally realised by the author Philip Hoare in his wonderful biography of Tennant’s life “Serious Pleasures”. A louche life less lived. 


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Vintage Post

   Today, I'd like to ruminate on "vintage." Currently recognised as a market unto itself, it not only encapsulates clothes, furniture and underthings, but wildly ranges in price, from the cheap yet aesthetic baubles one can dig up at flea markets to the priciest of overly pricey rarities hung on the wall of a "high-end" trove in West London, which is all the more ironic when the best top-range pieces can be found in less saturated or more interesting areas like York, Peterborough or California. You know, the places where the actual makers of taste went to retire and die, leaving their belongings to either be passed down to their scions or absorbed into the dust inhalation-hazard zone that is the thrifting system. The truly fiendish and ingenious, meanwhile, put them up for auction, allowing stories of bitter bidding rivalries with the likes of Hamish Bowles to circulate across the interweb for amusement's posterity

   From the tone of that introduction, I hope you're not expecting me to be kind, dear Paraders

   Originally, this post would have followed its predecessors with recommendations to source nice threads, but other sites are more than capable of providing such information, and I suffer from thrift envy of the Americans, which encourages me to withhold my databank until I'm competing on more level ground. So, what with the slant Mode Parade has towards classicism, old films and the odd Fabulous Dead Designer, I felt that I should write a few words on the use of old things and classic inspiration in the present world. For I have seen many examples of it in the flesh, as well as on the world wide spiderweb, and it is my considered opinion that a great many people, as the kids say, suck at it

 


What of approximations of old styles? The fellow on the left pays homage to the Palm Beach holidaymaker/Go-to-Hell aesthetics once practiced by the likes of W Clifford Klenk, but the necessary colour sense, nonchalance, details and good cut quite obviously elude this evolutionary successor. On the other hand, he may know his way around a good cocktail

His shirt is vintage. As is his toilet paper


   The problem I see is a twofold one. There is an awful and comprehensive amount of total rubbish on sale in most second hand spaces. This is not an idle whine; on the two occasions that I tried vintage shopping in Camden, I wasted an hour touching more polyester than I have ever before done in my life. The second issue is pretty obvious - good taste is very much in its dearth throes and the only thing that separates most latter day, would-be Easter Paraders from the Jersey Shore guidos is that the former actually Mean It

   But then, this is being written by a man who describes himself to other humans as "a museum piece" and hasn't updated his mobile phone in four years

   Despite some previous and scattered thoughts on the topic, I am not disdaining the folks who, as far as I know, indulge in full period dress as a pastime, such as the attendees of the Jazz Age Dance Parties in New York or whichever appealingly decadent and fetishistic shindig the iDandy Andrea Sperelli is attending every other evening (his Marc Guyot-esque regular wardrobe is still fairly contemporary in its way, thanks to good fit). I'm just disdaining everyone else who's at it

Why go to the effort of a cohesive outfit when one can seek refuge in excuses like "Having fun" and "Retro humour"?
Thank you, Sparked. I was trying to keep a spit-free desk
   Gathering my thoughts on this became a chore; consequently, it's no wonder that the prelude to this post was published months ago. But then I was interviewed by a student from the London College of Fashion for an exhibition last month, and suddenly, my vitriol had a release. Naturally, little of that survived the  recipient's subsequent horrified editing, but that's why I hung onto the original

   We began with the obvious:
Why do you wear vintage?
BON: Primarily, for reasons of aesthetic tastes, quality and, if I’m lucky, rarity – a way of “waking the dead,” I suppose. Where a great many people take refuge in a specious sort of nostalgia, a rejection of the era they live in and/or simply want to be different (to varying degrees of success), I try utilising older stuff to supplement what I think are the best looks I can devise. I like the notion of re-incorporating past styles in order to refresh and juxtapose them with the times we live in, rather than simply donning a pastiche to signpost my “wicked free-thinking” and “seditious" ways; some of my favourite pieces are cut subtly enough to hint at the era they’re from, such as my father’s old suits, rather than advertise it
   Why didn't I tell the truth - that there was a burning envy that stirred within me when I started seeing photographs of Peter Wyngarde in his nut-hugging suits during the Jason King days? That I merely wished to take things back to the days when one could dress like a devout homosexual (or appear to be dressed by one) and still get women?

Wyngarde and his bulge accept the Male Personality of the Year Award from 1969's winner Barry Gibb, London, 15th August 1970
   Like two people hitting their teeth together during a premature bout of kissing, we then segued awkwardly into the philosophical:
What does vintage mean to you?
BON: A catchy label that goes better with alcohol and fragrances. But then, “antique clothing” has more of a fusty and inelegant flavour to it, so I can’t win
When did you first start wearing vintage?
BON: I’ve been wearing various pieces that were my dad’s since I was a teenager, but as I don’t consider post-1990 clothing to be vintage, I’d say since my early 20s
What piece means the most to you?
BON: The stuff that is genuinely irreplaceable, naturally. In this case, my Tommy Nutter leather duster, along with my Deborah & Clare shirts and Mr. Fish kippers from the 1960s-‘70s
We continued with the prosaic:
How far does vintage style extend into your daily life?
BON: A lot of my stuff is old, it’s true, and consequently, there will be at least one outfit component that’s lasted a while, usually before my birth. On a daily basis, I actually tend towards more modern clean-cut looks and tend to save my Peacock-era and old school politician references for my off-duty mode
And finally, we concluded with the depressing:

What is your perspective on the London vintage scene?
BON: Frankly, most of the good stuff, especially where men are concerned, is either online, in another town or in America. And, of course, prices are another issue; the confluence of all these factors does little to recommend London as a hunting ground. Moreover, interest seems concentrated on the first four or so decades of the 20th century, which weren't the most interesting for young people who actually lived through them anyway, and the scene, which I’ve always found fun in places, but narrow in others, tends to present as a costume-fest. There’s too much calculation, not enough spontaneity and I sometimes detect a clique-like mentality of broad, cheap shots being taken at different dressers. On the other hand, a number of the ladies look very good
Fin


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