Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Blue/Green Again

   It's the return of that  allegedly irredeemable colour combination; a suitably optimistic presentation for the latest wedding I attended recently. And I barely believe in marriage, so my high spirits surprised even me

   ADG, a member of my personal Band of Blog Brothers, has written an exceedingly kind and trenchant tribute to your author, with one commenter noting an accessories trifecta of mine; namely, my rose pin, pochette and pen. This time, on the grounds of ensemble dissonance, my writing instrument remained at home

   Even I have my Coco Chanel Moments

Monday, 30 August 2010

Akwapim Hills

   Aburi, one of Ghana's cuter townships, is favoured as a weekend retreat from the pulse-pounding bustle of Accra and its ever-fractal traffic. It nestles amongst the Akwapim Hills, which provide the benefits of a reasonably high and pleasant altitude, as well as a more moderate temperature. One easily feels at home in tailored linen, mohair, ramie or cotton, reclining on the porch of one of the various colonial or neo-Ghanaian residential forms that dot the area

   The area seems to offer more than one different viewpoint: ex-pats from various walks visit often to meet, discuss, broker and recline. The cleaner air may be more conducive to bonhomie and reason - perhaps it is provable by science

   I just go for the air. And the abandonment

Plug 1, Plug 2, or, Leather Lust Object No.4

   Some of you Paraders will have noticed the recent addition of a hotlinked Ettinger of London graphic in the right hand column of this... column

   And in response, some may have wondered as to whether I'm "selling out, maaaaaan" or simply turning mercenary

   I find it the height of bad taste to even mention in passing that producing The Mode Parade requires a certain amount of dedication, which can sometimes mean that I appreciate the odd incentive to help sustain my irregular rate. For the record, I often use that last line with a number of my girlfriends

   Recently, I noted a fact that's obvious to anyone with a bluffer's knowledge of clothing-related blogs - it can lead to courting from entities much larger in scope and resources than we passionate keyboard ramblers. And so it was with Ettinger, but at least they have the decency to make absolutely covetous and well crafted lust objects of leather, refinement and colourfully ludic finishes. The other e-mails I receive actually believe that I would consider endorsing fashionable sportswear; that would be more germane if your author was Henry Holland, I'm sure

   And let's face it - that vintage leather-covered magazine rack of theirs strikes a credible blow for intelligent decor


   The second plug is for a fine new directory devoted to the arts that a friend of mine thought might be worth a mention here. So like a radio DJ answering the request line, I'll be nothing but obliging

   The Omnivore collates newspaper reviews for confections of the filmic, written and stage varieties - the information age version of reading the quotes on a film's poster before instantly summoning the fully authored piece for further edification. It's rather useful if you need more than 5 reasons as to why, say, Salt is not worth seeing. If you're the rubberneck type, as am I, who enjoys opinionated writing that may often turn vituperative, you may also enjoy the articles exhibited and linked to on The Omnivorous Blog

   I'd like to mention, in conclusion, that my friend asked if I could work this little advertorial into a Leather Lust Object post. I have to say, I have surprised myself - a promotion within a promotion within a rumination on promotion, and thematically on point where one lucky lady is concerned

   Sometimes, I do deliver

Friday, 27 August 2010

Go Faster

As it was unwritten in Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the Ghanaian sun"

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Metal Lust Object No.1

Hermès aluminium suitcase with leather straps, designed by Gabriele Pezzini

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Inspiration Illustrated

   Thanks to the diligent dandiacal detections of Matt and Charles at Fine And Dandy, I recently learnt a little about a favoured illustrator of mine, John E. Sheridan, who produced a cornucopia of fashion plates for Hart Schaffner & Marx during the Gilded Age, as well as covers for the Saturday Evening Post and propaganda imagery for the United States' World War I campaign

   Although his male subjects were less openly dandified than those of his contemporary and my favoured sartorial sketcher, JC Leyendecker, they connoted the fine tailoring ideal that HS&M wished to impart upon the world with a rarefied aplomb. These fictional men were depicted as carrying themselves with a certain perfection, as well as an athletic gait; unsurprising given Sheridan's background in college sports advertisements. And pleasingly, some of the 1920s designs look covetous today, as evidenced in places like Junya Watanabe Man's Spring/Summer 2010 Paris presentation

   A little sporty elegance goes a long way

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Leather Lust Object No.3

Henry Maxwell bespoke leather and suede brogue detailed loafers

Saturday, 14 August 2010


"Eduardo [Agnelli, upon his decease in a plane crash, 1935,] left a wife and seven children. His lady was Virginia Bourbon del Monte, Princess of San Faustino - because once the Agnellis made all that money, only the bluest blood would do. The princess, half American and thus relatively emancipated, indulged her own appetites with the ease that comes from an abundance of domestic help, and this with a clear conscience, given her husband's amorous adventures. Ten years after Eduardo's untimely demise, Virginia died in a car crash in the company of a male friend. The Agnelli family let it be known that she was strangled like Isadora Duncan of old, whose scarf had caught in the wheels and choked her to death. In fact she was amusing the trouser-less driver, who lost control in the wrong place and at the wrong time"


The Out Group - 18th July 1967

Back Row: Tom Maschler, David Benedictus, Nicholas Tomalin

Centre: Cathy McGowan, Jonathan Aitken, Tom Hustler

Front Row: Christopher Gibbs and Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon

   Revisiting the theme of Luminaries United, this counterpart portrait to The In Group was also commissioned by Jocelyn Stevens, then the publisher of Queen Magazine, to take place on 18th July 1967

   Don't be fooled by the veneer of respectability this photograph uses to juxtapose itself with its sibling: former Conservative MP Mr. Aitken, for one, is not known for his aversion to a little indelicacy. One should also take note of Chelsea Set leader, designer and dandy, Christopher Gibbs - we have him to thank for giving velvet ties their moment under the club lights

   It's been said that Lord Lichfield's gift lay in eliciting an air of relaxation from his subjects (and let it also be said that his gift was certainly not in lending his name to transient menswear brands). Nowhere, I feel, is this more aparent than in his group portraiture and his more candid work at country piles, Hollywood homes and ambassadorial residences

   But as I said, he had a way with the human reaction. One only has to observe the subjects in this Studio-set shot to notice that

Friday, 13 August 2010

Cutting Class

   I'd planned to secure an interview for Mode Parade with world class tailor Edward Sexton before exiting London, but alas, this did not materialise in time. His cutting talents remain pleasingly sans pareil in your author's eyes, as well as in those of the people that respect and patronise his creations

   Below, Finch's Quarterly Review style editor Tom Stubbs demonstrates the second stage fitting and the finished article of a bespoke Edward Sexton commission that is not flagrant enough to have him removed from Annabel's but immediate enough to elicit commentary and, I should hope, approbation. Personally, I think he should be pictured with it in a private study with gilded and gilt festooned 19th century French furniture, hand blown Cartier crystal desk adornments and a bikini-clad model on each armrest:

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Peculiarly, Mr. Fish

Michael Fish (centre), shirtmaker, Turnbull & Asser alumnus, In Group member, "high priest" of the Peacock Revolution (as described by Hardy Amies) and creator of the kipper tie, with his staff at his 17 Clifford Street, W1 haberdashery in the late 1960s:

... A holocaust of see-through voiles, brocades and spangles and mini-skirts for men, blinding silks, flower printed hats... all the surface mannerisms and mouthings of hippy, but none of the intent

Nik Cohn on Mr. Fish's shop and output
   Very much my sort of shopping experience, then 

   Mr. Fish's work can be seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum

   Cigar to Sharp Dressed Men

Monday, 9 August 2010

Sergei Rachmaninoff - 'Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14' (1912)

   Whenever I'd like a feeling of equanimity, this sort of piece normally helps. It is particularly notable for containing no words other than "ah"

   This performance was conducted by Leopold Stokowski and sung by Anna Moffo

Friday, 6 August 2010

Leather Lust Object No.2

George Cleverley Gladstone bag made with Russian leather salvaged from the sunken Metta Catharina. Available from Leather Soul Hawaii. Enticingly expensive

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Black Tie & Décolletage

   My reinvigorated formalwear rig recently received a public airing at a "Bow Ties and Cleavage Party" that indulged me in more ways than one. My J. Hoare/E. Tautz 1960s textured dinner jacket was perhaps the most iridescent piece on display that was not set in sculpted metal. Whether it also adorned a low cut front at any point is not for me to say

   (Fun fact: the term "décolletage" is often mistaken for "décotege" by anxious conservative Ghanaian mothers who secretly wish for their daughters to convert to Islam)

   It's necessary here that I caution against donning such garments away from club or home-based black tie evenings and formally minded social parties. This casual aspect of black tie should not be misinterpreted as being adaptable to any casual setting, nor should it be seen at business award ceremonies. And please try not to dress it down, no matter what fantasies Lapo Elkann and the word "sprezzatura" fill your mind with

   In my opinion, this sort of neutral toned flamboyance deserves nothing less than the full bore treatment, from my lapel pin to my dainty, opera pump-clad feet:

   Of course, I like sculpted metal also, but in the tradition of my clothing choices, I made it the preserve of  my shirt cuffs and my face:

   Not long afterwards, I was commissioned by an uncle over lunch to teach him the ways of the self-tying bow for an upcoming event. I hope that he was the best dressed man at the Kenny G concert and concomitant gala dinner he was to attend

   And like me, I'm certain he was grateful that only the excessive air conditioning of Ghanaian venues allowed for our appreciative show of Western eveningwear in a hot climate

Photographs by Barrak El-Mahmoud of Capture Your Memory Bank, Ghana

Friday, 30 July 2010

Five Times Fly

   Highlighting the insouciant sharpness of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes is today's mandate:

   They also had quite a way with an indelible classic or two; thank God Gamble and Huff were on their team:

Thursday, 29 July 2010

See Change

   Of all the quotations on style one can dredge up from print and the internet and use them to beat others over the head on message boards in a manner that's both bloviating and fascistic, I currently favour this aphorism from that silkily spoken, maneating man of letters, Gore Vidal:

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”

   Amongst my reasons is its lack of dogmatic prose and prescriptive superiority inherent in these type of sayings that can be rather self-aggrandising, as well as snobbishly - or self-analytically, in the case of Yves Saint Laurent -  dismissive of the idea of fashion. No one does particularly well by living under repression and tight diktats: it tends to make them explode. Reference every bell tower-based sniper ever and those funny sorts who favour only basic black, whips and hot wax

   See, Vidal's position actually allows for interpretation and exploration. It is my belief that people do not fundamentally alter, but we can change the trimmings - what we want to say is prone to shift at will, no matter how secure we get. I should know - I'll probably amend and re-amend this entry within 5 minutes of your reading this

   To illustrate my own point, I decided to pore over the archives of my ensembles going back to late 2008. I learned that I am still the same Master of Offbeat Formality that I have always been (according to my favourite primary school teacher, at least). But now, I look as if I ingest slightly less drugs

   Look at this as the effects of better shopping choices and an expanding consideration. The ensembles don't contain any more or less thought than ever, and as was implied by my references last year to my unsteady employment, my budget certainly dwindled as 2009 wore on. But I changed because of my experimentation and my learning. And I experimented because I wanted to learn and to see myself change. The constants of this exploration were that I knew what I wanted and I didn't give a damn

   My inclinations can run towards the brash, but of late I find it entertaining to be saucy in less obvious ways. Has anyone else tried oversized stainless steel eyeframes with their conservative suiting lately? It's so much more fun than bumfreezer jackets with 10" long arms; I'll always choose to appear ludic over appearing insane

   A touch of the personal applied to entrenched standards usually creates the most interesting change in my eyes - there's nothing more exhilarating than making something your own: adding to the familiar without reinventing it utterly. After all, There Are No New Ideas any longer. Or so I've been told

   My idea of change is effectively my idea of style. It is not to build and destroy. It's the confidence to accept what is already there and still look for different ways to see

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Leather Lust Object No.1

Crocodile Leather Train Case by Hermès, dating back to the mid 1950s, from the estate of a French noblewoman and marked with her gold coronet and initials

Inside The Greenbrier

 Scans: Architectural Digest, November 2005

   Provider of respite to 26 Presidents of the United States and over two centuries-worth of the Great and Good. Once the host of an underground bunker, created for Congress in the event of mid-century nuclear attack. Masterfully furnished interiors devised by Dorothy Draper - gilt edges for gilded living and that sort of thing. Currently undergoing hard times and now under the auspices of entrepreneur Jim Justice, a man whose moniker delightfully elicits old world notions of cattle barons and the later Jazz Age

   Mr. Justice's innovations include a spacious underground casino - with a coats-only dress code! - that alone should make any downtimer want to book a room, I'd imagine. A fellow like myself, however, would probably spend most of his hours in the Victorian Writing Room. Writing Rooms Are Cool

   As eyepopping as Mrs. Draper and her successor Mr. Varney's upholstery selections are, I nevertheless hope that the new regime's not much interfered with the interiors. One may capitulate to modern vulgarity in the interests of turning a profit but the Old need not be devalued just because it is not the New

   If he doesn't want it, however, I'm certain I can find room for that leaf print carpet

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - 'Down From Dover' (1972)

   I never much took to The Go! Team, that irrepressible band of racket-making Brighton-hailing noiseniks who suggested a 21st century vision of Big Beat by removing all of the lager and amyl-fuelled white boy funk angst and replacing it with lo-fi, rarely refined, twee day-glo white boy funk angst instead. Never have I heard anyone so brazenly eject all nuance, charm and surprise from the careers of the Dust Brothers and the musicians behind the soundtracks of The Littlest Hobo, Highway to Heaven, The Waltons and Knight Rider, and get away with toddler-level raps and a desperate sheen of Americanisation that even Sasha Baron Cohen would find challenging to satirise. Actually, never have I heard a band more indebted to the quality of its source material

   The point of the above is that 'Ladyflash', one of the band's very few shining moments, was not responsible for introducing me to Sinatra and Hazlewood's duet-based Dolly Parton cover, though the tight, splendid musicianship of their version goes a way to explaining how those noiseniks could not screw it up

   For all the megrims of 'Down From Dover's abandonment-and-miscarriage-based narrative, it is almost concerningly pleasurable to listen to. Counteracting its misery is an almost upbeat, almost bluegrass funk-like take on the original's campfire tale music, leavened with wistful-sad strings, a relaxed strum of country guitar and temperate horns that suggest an equanimous state of mind: "This may be a sad story, but in Life, as you know, sometimes tragedy will sandbag you. It's best to get on with it." This sentiment likely suits the late Mr. Hazlewood, who, when not letting the Chivas Regal flow, spent his days rejecting most notions of fame and  later perambulating like a vagabond across Europe and the United States, dodging the income tax where he could

   Lee's throaty, almost growling rumble easily projects a hint of his character's unreliability that telegraphs the unhappy ending before his first line has ended, but Nancy's tremulous delivery is the standout; keyed into the same desperate emotionalism that makes Dolly's performance so memorable, she twists it by building towards a dance around lachrymosity as the story reaches its climax. With Hazlewood's errant lover to respond to, her reading takes on an equally desperate, but less desolate and more resolved tone, clutching to a bruised brand of hope until the final moment of devastation and disappointment arrives

   And then the song quickly fades to silence. Another journey through another complicated life is complete, but the road, as evoked by the music's laidback essence, winds its way on

   We couldn't have it any other way