Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gucci's CEO On Michele's Revolution

Ahead of this afternoon's Gucci autumn/winter 2017 show - which will take palace at 2pm UK time - the brand's CEO, Marco Bizzarri, has revealed that it will be a “stronger and more powerful presentation” from creative director Alessandro Michele.

The show, which is set to take place in a former airplane hanger (which Bizzarri describes as “a white box that Alessandro can decorate as he wishes”), comes as the brand is celebrating its "spectacular growth trajectory" (as Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault put it last month), which in financial terms equates to a 23.6 per cent rise in 2016 revenues compared to 2015. Bizzarri attributes the figure to Michele's bold change in aesthetic, which he debuted in 2015, and ability to foresee what the fashion world wants.

“In time, what he’s doing has become more accepted," he told WWD. "We say that our world must think of and listen to consumers and this is true, but not too much, in the sense that if you want to change and innovate you must also think with your own head. Maybe you make choices that the market is not ready to accept, but that will be accepted in 18 or 24 months. The beauty, skills and genius of Alessandro are that he understands what will happen, not what is happening. What is happening is already passed."

He also credited Michele's distinctive reinvention of the Italian house's famous logo, which is now not only a dominant element of its catwalk collection, but has a widespread presence on the street.

"When I saw Alessandro for the first time and we started to speak of Gucci, we were both convinced of the power of the logo,” Bizzarri continued. “You can’t be ashamed of its logo and what it represents, but you must think of it in a contemporary way. Alessandro has been able to mix the animal world, the bees, the head of a lion to the logo, or mix different signs together. This makes the pieces basically impossible to copy. Because you can copy a logo, but when you put additional craftsmanship and creativity on the fabric and the logo, it becomes really very difficult to copy that product." All eyes on this season's take on the birds and the bees this afternoon.

Jenny Packham On The Trouble With Fashion

Jenny Packman may have built her brand on making women feel like a better version of themselves in her easy-to-wear evening gowns, but the designer herself has revealed that her own process isn’t quite so feel good. A favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, Packham has built a raft of high-profile red-carpet fans - including Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and Kate Hudson - but when it comes to show day, her self-assurance disappears.

“That is the catch with fashion,” Packham told Page Six. “I know I am happy right now, but the minute that first look comes down the runway I am already criticising the looks and breaking it apart to see how I can make it better. It is a kind of self-appraising, mean thing I do to myself every season.”

Hopefully the designer will be a little happier this weekend when the Oscar looks are unveiled. Packham dressed actress Viola Davis for the BAFTAs earlier this month, where Davis picked up the Best Supporting Actress award, so could be in line to dress her again – and another Packham fan, Emily Blunt, is also sure to be in attendance meaning a red-carpet outing is very likely.

Jennifer Lopez Collaborates With Julien Macdonald

Julien MacDonald has been a busy bee. Following on from a stellar show at London Fashion Week led by Winnie Harlow, the British designer has partnered with Jennifer Lopez to create a bespoke look for the next round of her Las Vegas residency, “Jennifer Lopez: All I Have”. Adorned with over 120,000 Swarovski crystals, Lopez will take to the stage in a dramatic, billowing feather coat only to then seamlessly reveal a sparkling mini dress, embellished with an opulent crystal-encrusted fringe.

“It was fabulous working with Jennifer to create these incredibly glamorous Swarovski pieces for her Las Vegas show”, Macdonald commented. “I loved the idea of designing within her theme of a modern-day showgirl and drew inspiration from the glamour and charm of the Twenties performers. Jennifer looked absolutely incredible."

Richard Nicoll Blue, A Tribute

When  Richard Nicoll died suddenly last October, his passing left a void that his creativity and innovation once joyously filled. Now, four months after his death, his friends have come together to remember the designer in a way that represents his love of the arts, his gentle nature, and his trademark shade of choice: blue.

"Richard’s closest friends and collaborators have chosen creativity as a way to deal with the loss of such an inspirational human," Vogue creative director, Jaime Perlman, who commissioned the film, said today. "I asked Richard’s friend Tim Walker to make a film inspired by Nicoll Blue, the Pantone colour, which was designed as a tribute to him. The film project became a group effort of other people important to Richard, including Harry Alexander, Lulu Kennedy, Madeleine Østlie, and Sian Ahern and Ben Crook from Eaux who did the music. I truly think Richard would have loved the final result."

The film isn't the only way the fashion world is remembering Nicoll this week. In addition to Pantone introducing Nicoll Blue into its official palette, at the Central Saint Martins show this evening at 8pm, a minute's silence will be observed to reflect on the life of a man whose life and work left an indelible imprint behind.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bay Garnett To Stage Oxfam Show

Ahead of London Fashion Week officially kicking off tomorrow, Vogue contributing editor Bay Garnett is starting proceedings this evening with a special catwalk show for Oxfam. Known for her love of vintage and pre-loved sartorial treasures, Garnett has been scouring the charity's expansive warehouses for the last few months, finding pieces to feature in the show. However, rather than be a mishmash of styles that one might expect, the show has the finesse you would expect from a Vogue editor's eye.

"I've found so many nice things, but instead of mixing it up - like a wedding dress with an army jacket, all idiosyncratic - I wanted it to be much more than that," Garnett told us (insisting that it's not "her" show and "anyone could - and should - do it"). "It's going to be full fashion looks. If it's a bride, it's going to be a full-on bride; if it's a club kid, it will be an authentic club kid; and if it's all about a great pair of jeans and the ultimate T-shirt, then it will be that. I am thinking of it like a big fashion issue of a magazine, and each look is a page pulled out of each shoot."

The catwalk is set to follow in the same high-fashion vein, with Stella Tennant, Bella Freud, and Jean Campbell among the famous faces that are preparing to walk in the show, which Oxfam says is essential to shine a spotlight on why the charity's work is so important. "This fabulous fashion show will enable us to make - and strengthen - the connection in the public’s mind between Oxfam fashion and Oxfam’s reason for existence, which is to fight extreme poverty and its root causes around the world," it said today. "It’s fashion fighting poverty, one piece at a time."

For those that can't make the show, there are other ways to get involved with the event. Garnett and Oxfam have created a special baseball T-shirt to mark the occasion - the profits from which will help the charity with its ultimate end goal: to end poverty worldwide. To find out more about Oxfam, go to

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remembering Richard Nicoll

Friends and family of the late Richard Nicoll have collaborated with Pantone to celebrate the life of the fashion designer, by creating an official shade in his name: Nicoll Blue.

“Richard was a designer whose talent and character inspired all around him," said Sarah Mower, the BFC's ambassador for emerging talent. "He registered his affinity for the spectrum of blues hundreds of times in the collections he showed in London. For a decade, Richard’s life-enhancing gift for bonding people together contributed immeasurably to the spirit of a whole London fashion generation. The visual presence of Nicoll Blue throughout the main fashion week venue is a way to remember and celebrate a great London friend and to convey our respects and eternal gratitude to his family."

The London designer died last year from a heart attack, aged 39. He was living in Australia at the time, having returned to the place he grew up to focus his attention of new creative projects. During his successful and highly regarded career, the designer became synonymous with the colour blue, adopting it in countless collections and winning critical praise from editors and buyers alike.

"We were so pleased to be able to work on the creation of Nicoll Blue, a unique new blue shade in memory of esteemed fashion designer Richard Nicoll," said Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. "Modest and humble, yet at the same time lively and playful Richard Nicoll’s Nicoll Blue embodies the elegance and sensitive spirit of this much beloved designer whose innate kindness, loving soul and good natured sense of humour held a special allure to all that entered into his orbit."

Mango Launches Committed Collection

Mango has taken a new step towards making sustainability a major component of its business model by launching a new collection called Mango Committed, we can reveal today. The 45-piece collection (comprising 25 women's and 20 men's styles) launches online and in store this week, but has been much longer than that in the making.

“Mango has been working in different initiatives related to sustainability for many years now and this collection seemed like a natural step," communications director Guillermo Corominas told us about the launch. "We have carefully selected the materials and suppliers we wanted to work with, and it has been more or less planned at the same time as the rest of collections of the season. It's a thoughtfully crafted collection for women and men featuring fashion pieces committed to environmental sustainability."

So what about its credentials? Manufactured in factories in Portugal, Turkey and Morocco, the entire collection has been made with environmentally friendly organic and recycled cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel - which have been dyed with environmentally friendly inks - and comes with individual international certificates "guaranteeing their sustainable origin".

“The sustainable fabrics used for this collection such as organic cotton and recycled polyester have international certificates, such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OCS (Organic Cotton Standard) or GRS (Global Recycled Standard) among others," continued Corominas. "Our Corporate Social Responsibility department has been working closely with the design team to ensure that the results meet the level of quality and sustainability planned for this collection.”

The result is a minimal collection with modern sensibility. Shot beautifully by regular Vogue photographer Josh Olins on real-life model couple Raquel Zimmermann and Mathias Lauridsen for the accompanying campaign, the collection up close feels as luxurious and substantial as the images suggest, but without presumably much-higher price point that comes with increasing production costs, which being a sustainable company inevitably results in.

“On one side, the price point of this collection is slightly higher than the normal Mango collection and ranges from £20 to £100, due to the use of premium sustainable fabrics, however, it is still an affordable collection which is part of Mango's DNA, and we have adjusted the margins to be able to offer a fashion collection of great quality at affordable prices,” explained Corominas.

The brand's work doesn't just stop there. While 100 per cent of the Committed Collection is sustainable, the brand says currently 44 per cent of Mango's other collections comprise of natural fibres and that it is currently "developing an internal tool to calculate the company’s water footprint and identify the processes, garments and installations with the greatest water-saving potential, which will help it reduce its water consumption".

Baby Number Two For Versace

Francesca Versace  is expecting her second child with her partner, the actor and model Cristhopher Meireles Leoni.

London-based Francesca - who is the daughter of the family fashion house's CEO Santo, and niece of creative director Donatella - told us that the baby is due in July and will be a sibling for two-and-a-half year old Ayla Leonor.

A fashion designer herself, she runs her own fashion label, fev By Francesca E Versace, and is currently presenting her autumn/winter 2017 collection in Milan and New York showrooms. With the family lineage, odds are that the new addition to the celebrated Italian family will have a creative streak.

Samantha Cameron: Picking Up The Threads

For the past few years - as only close friends knew - the dining room at 11 Downing Street doubled as an impromptu atelier. In the January issue of Vogue, Samantha Cameron told Christa D'Souza why the time to unveil her new label is now.

Having overestimated how long it would take for me to get from my house to Samantha Cameron’s - seven minutes - it is still a smidgen too early when I eventually pitch up at the rented terraced house where the ex-prime minister’s family currently live - indistinguishable from any of the others on the little street, save for the fact that there is no number on the front door and two armed policemen are posted outside. After a good few minutes (it seems rude to ring the bell more than once), a voice beckons me downstairs into the basement, and there is Samantha, dressed in towering snakeskin platforms and a belted linen dress the colour of a blood orange, from her brand-new design label, Cefinn.

Looking much taller and thinner than I remember - “I suppose I might have lost a little from dashing around so much, which is very rare considering how greedy I am” - she leads me past the famous yellow sofa (remember the one that Michelle Obama sat on when she came for coffee at 11 Downing Street?) to the kitchen-dining area. Strewn across a spotless work surface are her bag – a well-worn cross-body from Smythson, where she was creative director from 1996 to 2010 – and a set of keys, on a ribbon so she won’t lose them. “That was the strangest thing about moving into Downing Street,” she smiles from beneath that glossy fringe. “It was the first thing that hit, not having keys."

Curtailed by lack of space, for the moment this is where the much-anticipated collection hangs. Although “much anticipated” might be the wrong way to describe it, given the fact that, until very recently, only close family and friends knew of its existence, despite endless rumours. Comprising 40 pieces, and soon to be available through Selfridges and Net-a-Porter, its logo is a loose acronym of her children’s names: Elwen, Florence, Ivan, who suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy and died in 2009, and Nancy. (As an aside, “Sefin is also the name of a Welsh female saint and I am partly Welsh through my mother.”) She apologises for some of the collection being missing and for any toothpaste stains that might be on the clothes (which of course there aren’t), because she has personally test-driven every single one of them. “In my view, you can never test them enough,” she murmurs as she rifles through the samples: perfectly tailored black cropped trousers, sleeveless bow-fronted blouses with orange and khaki detailing, peplum tops which zip up the back - minimal but not severe, smart but in no way corporate, it’s the ultimate urban uniform for the busy working mother - each piece of which she has worn and washed several times “to check they don’t do anything strange”.

“Because of everything I did with David and getting photographed, I always had to worry about a piece of clothing behaving in a way it shouldn’t,” Samantha goes on. “It’s why every time you ever try anything on in a changing room, you should always sit down in it.” She pulls out a sheer - but somehow not transparent - shirtdress with giant black poppers. “See?” she says. “It’s stitched from the waist to the knee, so when you sit down you don’t gape.”

In terms of other first ladies who got it right, she immediately cites Michelle Obama: “A woman who looks happy in her own skin and whose love for fashion never detracts from her dignity and intelligence. She doesn’t have that insecurity that some women [in politics] do of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to
be like a man in order to operate in a man’s world.’ She’s got the confidence to never feel like that. I think she’s an amazing woman.”

But back to the collection. Like the food at, say, the Wolseley or the Delaunay (or, and I don’t mind saying this, Kitty Fisher’s, the teeny Shepherd Market restaurant her brother-in-law Tom Mullion opened last year), there’s nothing remotely bells and whistles about it. It is, quite simply, just what you want. It suits her body (lean and somewhat boyish, honed by years of regular running and Ashtanga yoga), but it will suit mine and it will probably suit yours, too. Like Maje or Carven, Cefinn has that femme du peuple feel. I compose a preliminary edit for myself in my head: a schoolishly sexy black pleated skirt that hits the knee in exactly the right place; a khaki gabardine zip-up top which could be worn to the office or, with nothing underneath, at night; a cropped blood-orange trouser suit paired, as styled by Samantha herself, with a salmon-coloured T-shirt; a baseball-style sweater in both red and navy and khaki and black, which feels like cashmere but is in fact very high-quality merino wool “because it lasts so much longer. It’s so depressing somehow when you buy a jumper and two weeks later it’s only good for telly-watching because it’s bobbled…” Prices are around £200 to £300 for dresses, sweaters about £150, and tops £100 to £200. “Cefinn sits between Joseph and Whistles,” as Cameron puts it. “I felt that there were a lot of American and French brands out there that fit that bracket of designer contemporary with the right price point and the right styling, but there aren’t that many British brands which fill that space.”

And she designed the collection around herself? “Well, obviously you’re thinking about yourself, but at the same time it can’t be all about yourself because that would be pointless. I’ve spent a lot of time trying stuff on my friends because I wanted to research how they wanted to enhance or disguise different bits of their bodies.”

It is testament to Cameron’s discretion and the company she keeps that the collection has remained a secret until now (the press did eventually get wind of it but wrongly assumed she was going into business with her former aide, Isabel Spearman). A testament to her sheer fortitude, too, when you consider the upheaval of the past six months.

Of the Camerons’ sudden departure from their home of six years she says little, except: “It was on the Tuesday and I remember Dave calling me the day before - the Monday Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the race - to tell me we had to move out of Downing Street on Wednesday. At that stage we thought we’d be there until September, you see. My first reaction was that we had better tell the kids,” she goes on brightly. “We had to get Nancy back from her school trip in France so she could have a last night at home. We had to get them sorted out, that was the main thing. It happened so fast that we just had to deal with it. I think to some extent politics and the situation with Ivan have meant I’ve learnt to live for the day slightly and deal with the next thing tomorrow. If you think too much about something, you never get it done.”

We sit down for lunch – a delicious cold collation of poached salmon with teriyaki sauce, couscous and tomato salad, which Samantha has called in from a café near her “office” in South Kensington. (“Really it’s a shed in the garden of my mother’s shop.”) Thankfully, she and her “teeny-weeny” team will soon move to roomier premises. There are only five of them for now (six fewer than her staff at Smythson) – Samantha, a pattern-cutter, a machinist, a production manager and an assistant.

The idea to design her own line dates back to somewhere between doing her A levels at Marlborough College and her foundation year at Camberwell College of Arts and continued throughout her long career at Smythson. Her best friend, Venetia Butterfield, whom she met before either of them had children and whose husband Chris Lockwood was later to become deputy head of David Cameron’s policy unit at Number 10, recalls how she would always admire what Sam was wearing when the four of them were out for dinner: “And Sam would point to her waist - she’s very good on waists - and say, ‘Yes, but I haven’t quite got it to fit here,’ and I would realise she’d actually made it herself. Since I’ve known her, she’s always been really interested in what I’m wearing, how it fits, why I’m wearing it. The function of clothes fascinates her.”

It was in 2011, a year after her husband had become prime minister and after the birth of Florence, her fourth child, that Samantha decided, having scaled down her job at Smythson, to take the idea further and have a professional teach her how to pattern-cut. And so it was for the next five years, unbeknown to the outside world, that the dining-room table at 11 Downing Street became her workspace, where she’d spend hours on her trusty sewing machine and overlocker, with BBC Radio 6 on, knocking up samples. Still unsure as to “whether I would go for it and turn it into something real; at that point it was a project to keep me mentally agile and artistically preoccupied”, she refrained from seeking advice from the designers - Erdem, Roksanda or Emilia Wickstead - she was getting to know through her role as an ambassador at the British Fashion Council, instead corralling Isabel Spearman, “Hellie” Bonham Carter, her four sisters and her sister-in-law and fellow Marlborough pupil Clare (through whom she met David when she was just 16) to try it all on for her.

“It became a sort of joke,” recalls Plum Sykes, who had collaborated with Samantha on the Fashion Diary project at Smythson and subsequently became a friend. “How we all knew, once we went through that door, that we’d be asked to strip down to our smalls. But what impressed me was how she took her time to learn her craft, how she wasn’t in this massive rush; she wanted to be absolutely ready. She was the exact opposite of the deluded mid-life-crisis lady we all know who is producing a film or launching a jewellery line or has gone into interior decorating, and not only does it in five minutes but has to tell everybody about it.”

“Oh, Sam’s the real deal,” says Mark Esiri, co-founder and partner at Venrex Investment, which bought out Smythson in 2005 (it is the backer behind Charlotte Tilbury, among others, and is now an investor in Cefinn). “In order for us to back you, you need to eat, breathe and sleep that industry, you need a burning desire to create a solution to the problem. Well, she has that. She also has managing skills. When she was at Smythson she had an extremely loyal team. Very low - in fact, no staff turnover in her department, despite the fact that they worked on top of each other in a very unglamorous windowless basement below the shop on Bond Street.”

“That’s a little-known fact about Sam Cameron, how hugely creative she is,” agrees Sasha Sarokin, former buying manager of designer ready-to-wear and all non-apparel at Net-a-Porter, and founder of the design and merchandising consultancy Sasha Natalia. “I remember going to Downing Street last winter to look at these beautiful sketches and asking her who had done them. I had no idea she had done them herself…"

“But at the same time she’s very much created a collection based on women’s needs,” Sarokin continues. “Her muse is reality. I remember her once telling me how happy she’d been when someone had said to her, ‘They’re just clothes that work!’ and wanting to use that somehow in the merchandising.”

Graphic designer Stephanie Nash, whose company Michael Nash Associates designed Cefinn’s logo (former clients include McQ by Alexander McQueen, the Rolling Stones and John Galliano), remembers being struck by her breadth of experience and knowledge of her field. “She knew exactly what she wanted, she knew how to shortcut quickly and she was very decisive and specific. But then, having been a brand director and being used to commissioning work, she had that business savvy.” Nash was impressed, too, by Samantha’s phenomenal drive, a drive she recognises, having a severely disabled child herself (who was treated at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington at the same time as Ivan). “I remember seeing her sleeping on a mattress on the floor by Ivan’s side – that’s what we all had to do. There were no special favours, though the care was excellent; it was all quite hardcore. This was before we worked together but there was always this unspoken camaraderie between the parents. When Ivan died - every parent’s worst nightmare - my admiration for her just grew and grew. The loss never evaporates,” she goes on, “but because of that connection we often laugh about how we quickly accept ridiculous situations as normal. Like trying to source almost adult-size nappies, unreliable feeding tubes or travelling in a car stuffed full of medical equipment only to arrive at the destination four hours away from home without that small but vital piece of the kit.”

“I’m always rather cross when I read these pieces about Samantha because they never portray her as she actually is,” says Venetia Butterfield. “This image of her as the quiet, doting wife, for example. She’s actually very tough, in the nicest possible way. When she decides to do something, there is nothing that will stop her doing it. David and she, they’re very equal,” she adds. “Sam can get very feisty with him. They definitely both wear the pants.”

Born in 1971, the eldest of eight (she has one full sister, Emily - Vogue’s deputy editor - and six half-siblings through her parents’ subsequent second marriages), Samantha may come from properly posh, almost indecently well-connected stock – her mother, Annabel (Viscountess Astor, to use her formal title), a descendant of Charles II, is the granddaughter of Reuters chairman Sir Roderick Jones (and the novelist Enid Bagnold, who wrote National Velvet), her father Sir “Reggie” Sheffield is the 8th Baronet of Normanby, her stepfather, William Astor, a descendant of John Jacob Astor, was brought up at Cliveden – but it is her roots in trade and retail (“I come from a family of merchants!”) of which she is most proud. And it’s the women of the family, just as much as the men, who have made their mark. Annabel, obviously, with her multi-million-pound furniture company, Oka, was a huge influence, as was her aunt, Sue Jones (a co-founder of Oka), who worked for Jasper Conran throughout Samantha’s teens. Conran was one of the first designers she was exposed to as a young teen in the early Eighties. “Both my mother and stepmother had loads of his jackets, which my father hated because he thought Jasper Conran was trying to make women look like men, but I loved that androgynous look.”

Born and brought up at Ginge Manor in Oxfordshire, her stepfather’s family home, Samantha recalls a happy childhood, despite the fact that her parents divorced when she was only four. “By the time I was 10, all the parents were best friends and we’d spend Christmas together, all eight children and four parents. Brilliant.” Holidays were often spent either in Yorkshire, where her father lived, or on the Isle of Jura, where her stepfather has an estate. (He and her mother got married there in the winter of 1976 when Samantha was five - Annabel in a Fendi fur given to her by her mother, Pandora; the wedding cake a replica of Cliveden, baked by the chef at Annabel’s.)

“Scotland was a very emotional, evocative place for me in a kind of Alexander McQueen way,” says Samantha. “The heather, the sea, the smell of it. I remember becoming obsessed with the idea of a green velvet cloak with a hood. You know when you’re a child you fantasise about the sort of person you’d like to be when you grow up? That’s when I first got a sense of clothes as semaphore, a way of playing with image.”

Both grandmothers, too, were inspirational - on her mother’s side, the glamorous society beauty Pandora Clifford, who was briefly married to Michael Astor and the Swinging Sixties plastic surgeon Philip Lebon (father of Buffalo boys Mark and James Lebon) and the more classic but equally stylish Nancy, née Soames, on her father’s side.

“Granny Sheffield, a sort of property developer, was one of those rare people who was artistic and business-minded at the same time.” So speaks Samantha’s first cousin Cath Kidston, she of the eponymous home-furnishings empire. “Of all us cousins, she took Sam and me under her wing, making us more visually aware of our surroundings, helping us both look at things in a certain way. Sam’s extremely creative but she’s also got a very considered eye.”

Meanwhile, it never occurred to the pre-teen Samantha not to make her own living, watching her mother, whose Knightsbridge-based jewellery business Annabel Jones flourished during the Seventies and early Eighties, in her curlers every morning getting ready for work. As “my friends all thought she was so glamorous, and I think it’s why I never felt particularly guilty being a working mother. I always respected her for being her own person.”

It was Annabel who first taught Samantha to sew – “She’s an amazing seamstress, still spends hours on her machine” – and by the mid-Eighties, Samantha was making her own things, customising pieces bought on frequent trips to Kensington Market, tearing things up and sewing them back together again. “I was a bit of a goth in those days,” Samantha recalls. “My hair was hennaed, there was this pair of black velvet leggings I used to wear all the time, covered in skulls and crossbones. God, I absolutely loved them."

"Being stuck in what felt like the middle of nowhere” - in her early teens, Samantha went to day school in Abingdon, 25 miles from home - “I’d spend a lot of time on my own in my bedroom reading novels by John Le Carré or Günter Grass and listening to the Cure and the Smiths. Debbie Harry was my total pin-up, and actually Paula Yates was, too. She was so original and she had such confidence, wearing what she wanted to wear, not necessarily what was on trend at the time.”

The next formative period on the style front was the exchange year she spent in East Berlin while studying fine art at Bristol Polytechnic. “Being obsessed about the whole Bauhaus period and always having wanted to be a spy as a kid, I was just desperate to go,” she says, “and it completely lived up to all my expectations. The wall had just come down and it had this incredible atmosphere with grass growing through the cobblestones and these crumbling concrete buildings… more like Havana, almost. I met this group of ballerinas and poets and writers, all of whom were completely wonderful-looking but tricky to communicate with because their second language was Russian and my German was so bad. But I just loved that whole modern, minimalist, punky urban look they all had. It was so different from the whole flowery, loose boho look that was going on in London, which just never suited me.”

Sitting here with Samantha on this sunny London afternoon, thinking of the mauling she got for not wearing a hat to the royal wedding, for having the audacity to show her shoulders at the Queen’s 90th-birthday celebrations, and the way the press so microscopically picked over every inch of her body when she was photographed in a bikini last summer, I can’t help but ask whether she didn’t kick her heels slightly with joy when her husband handed in his resignation. How liberating it must feel not to be so yoked to public life, what a relief to get back to normal life as the full-time working mother she was, let’s not forget, before she became Britain’s “first lady”.

“Well, it’s not quite as clear-cut as that,” Samantha says hesitantly. “Even though I didn’t have a formal role there was still a certain amount to do in representing the country. And being a perfectionist, I wanted to do it well...But the public scrutiny wasn’t something I particularly yearned for... I don’t feel relaxed or like I can be myself in the spotlight. And yet at the end of the day I was there as his wife, it wasn’t my gig. It was a slightly odd position to be in. I don’t know if that quite explains it.”

Hearing her say this reminds me of the time a group of us were invited to Chequers for Sunday lunch some time the year before last, myself and my partner, Kate Reardon and Anya Hindmarch included. I remember how we left in convoy from London at what felt like the crack of dawn, with our wellies in the back, having been told the night before that it might be nice to have a pre-lunch walk, and then well into the M40, one of us got a call to say there’d be no walk because of the rain... Could we come at 1pm instead of 12? The Beaconsfield Services branch of Starbucks. Let’s just say, there’s a group of us who know it well."

“Yes, though I remember thinking when you arrived how it would actually have been fine to turn up early,” Samantha says, her blue eyes sparkling playfully at the memory. “You don’t think of yourself as being the sort of person who would worry about what time guests turned up, you always think of yourself as being so laid-back, so it always surprised me when people took the formal side of Dave’s job so seriously."

Laid-back. Is that how I’d describe Samantha? A mixture of laid-back and determined, perhaps, with a rather sweet way of gobbling her words and a habit of reverting from “I” to “you” when she feels the conversation getting a bit close to the bone. She’s got a sense of humour, too, recounting how she gets her lefts and rights mixed up and how a step class she once took was “total chaos! While I was going one way, everyone was going the other!” And, on another occasion, how, when Dave came to stay with her in her somewhat dive-y flat in Bristol, “there’d be prostitutes standing outside and he was always slightly worried, working with Norman Lamont at the time, about getting propositioned.” Then there’s how, standing on the doorstep of Downing Street with David, she always panicked that they’d turn to go in and the door would be locked. And how she hated having to wave. “It became a family joke,” she giggles. “My children would say, ‘Have you practised your wave?’ I was just so bad at it. I’d say to Dave, ‘Please, don’t do the wave!’ It felt so strange. I mean, if you’re not part of the royal family, it doesn’t come naturally, exactly.”

Not having to wave, being able to have control of the radio station in the car again, being able to holiday outside Europe - “I’ve never been to South America and I long to go to Russia and Mongolia” - these are just some of the perks of life back on civvy street. Then, of course, there’s being able to move back to their house in North Kensington. “Dave and I are actually very homey. You like to think when you are younger that you’re this free spirit, but I’ve worked out that I am not. At all. I like my little rituals.”

And where does she see herself and Cefinn in five or 10 years’ time? If her record at Smythson is anything to go by - transforming it from the fusty stationer it was into the luxury accessories brand it is now – the sky, surely, is the limit?

“I wanted to keep it small to begin with, in order to give me time to work with the customer and find out exactly what she wants. Right now it’s about me solving a problem for women who are busy and need pieces that are going to work really hard. What I’d like to do in the future, if the business goes well, is accessories - not bags, because I feel I’ve already done them, but shoes. Sexy mid-heel shoes, ones you can run around in in your lunch hour and that won’t sink into the grass if you’re going to a summer wedding. But how do you do that without being frumpy? That’s the challenge, and I’ve always adored a challenge..."

Exclusive First Look At Malene Birger’s New Brand

It started with rye bread, progressed with Borgen and The Killing (by way of Arne Jacobsen lighting), and really took hold with hygge: Britain’s nation-crush on Denmark is extensive. But before the infatuation with nubbly wool socks, open fires and bikes with woven willow child safety seats – there was Malene Birger.

The Danish designer is the country’s best-loved fashion export (can you name another who has been immortalised on a postage stamp?) having founded a slew of successful brands in her 20 plus years in the business, including Day Birger et Mikkelsen in 1997, with business partner Keld Mikkelsen; By Malene Birger in 2003; and Birger 1962, a project-driven studio, in 2014. Leather trims, a monochrome palette with a careful injection of colour, rustic knitwear, minimal tailoring, discreet anti-It bags – all are in your wardrobe thanks to Birger.

Now, she is launching a new brand, A Journey. Conceived of as a mini wardrobe, the collection is based around the items one would take on holiday. “The main idea is this,” Birger tells me, in her quiet, measured Danish clip, as we sip coffee in her Kensington kitchen. “I pack a suitcase twice a year, and what I have a need for on that specific journey will be expressed in that suitcase. I’m thinking that its wearer could have a business meeting in Paris wearing the lightweight summer suit, then fly to the coast and wear the kaftan. It’s not about trends or being trendy. It’s me: a modern, travelling, busy woman who is also thinking practically.”

The clothes subscribe to her life-long design philosophy that “beauty and function go hand in hand”. There’s a classic blue-striped shirt that comes short for the city and long for the beach; pyjama-style trousers that could go from desk to dinner; a black cashmere sweater for cool evenings or chilly flights. The dresses are particularly useful: a roomy evening dress in a flowery print looks just what one would want to float round Capri in, as does another which depicts tiny “Persian angels”, a design inspired by the arch of an Indian palace photographed in a book she regularly leafs through. The palette is neutral: dark brown, navy, black and cream, with sharp injections of fuchsia – Birger’s favourite colour. “That’s in the collection as ‘the joker’,” she smiles.

Birger, who founded the brand with commercial director Malene Majlund, a friend and colleague from her By Malene Birger days who runs a sales agency in London, plans to design two small collections a year. They’ll deliver in May and November, just before people go on holiday. “But these are also items you can wear at home, in your own city. They’re timeless.”

It’s hard not to be seduced by Birger’s vision – especially when one is sitting in her beautifully proportioned, eclectically decorated apartment. She has lived in London for the past few years, after a long spell in Majorca, and is married to an Englishman. The British-Danish affection’s mutual, then: “The UK was always our biggest market at By Malene Birger, since the first collection and throughout the years I was there,” she muses, of the business in which she sold her shares in 2010, and left at the beginning of 2014.

Her home is everything you’d expect: a wild but considered mix. “I combined the 1970s with Arabian style,” she elaborates. “My Carlo Bugatti items are my favourite, combined with the very busy, over-the-top design from the 1970s. That’s the clash I love – and that’s how I like my collections, too.” Minimal white walls are offset with her own artwork. Piles of Moroccan Berber rugs cover all the carpets – she never had carpet before she came to London. In her bedroom, a bedspread from Kashmir made to her design brings a warm atmosphere to more white, along with Belgian art deco lamps. The surfaces throughout the apartment are covered in exotic pieces picked up on her travels to India, the Middle East and Mexico: a small pair of shoes from the Ottoman period sits alongside an Eske Kath sculpture. Ceramics she made herself are carefully arranged next to a Joe Colombo lamp and those wooden Carlo Bugatti chairs; a brown leather Flexform sofa holds court beside a pair of Arne Jacobsen swan chairs, and beneath a 1930s vintage lamp.

Birger has always used interiors as a way in to fashion design. “I always used World of Interiors as my key inspiration over fashion magazines,” she says. “My first education was actually as a decorator, so I like to place things in a certain way. I’m very into symmetry, which is to do with Arabian architecture. You always have that organisation.”

Discipline seems key to Birger – but with it comes an incredible work ethic. “All my life I have worked and worked and worked. I completely immerse myself in things, and perhaps sometimes a little too deeply,” she says. “I never really knew what it meant, to have free time. I had holidays, but they are when I find the peace to make my new collections.” She is keen to impress upon me that A Journey will be a small, controlled undertaking – she is about to begin renovations on a recently purchased villa in Lake Como, after all. “There’s a lot going on – but I hope I can express all my journeys in this little brand,” she pauses. “We have to create a good business, but a small, good business is also OK.”

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rosie Confirms Her Pregnancy

Rosie Huntington Whiteley has confirmed her pregnancy with a picture showcasing her growing bump on the beach. The model and entrepreneur - who has been the subject of pregnancy rumours for some months - chose to share the news on her own terms, directly with her almost seven million Instagram followers, via a picture taken by her fiancé, actor Jason Statham.

The model has spoken before of her desire to be a mother one day, as well as of her own upbringing in the countryside outside Plymouth. Two of her model friends - Candice Swanepoel and Behati Prinsloo - welcomed babies towards the end of last year and, while it was thought that Huntington-Whiteley's next focus would be her wedding following her engagement to Statham just over a year ago, it now appears that the event will be delayed a little, at least until her baby has arrived.

Riccardo To Versace: The Sticking Point?

While many publications and industry insiders are positively salivating at the prospect of Riccardo Tisci’s mooted appointment at Versace, the news has not come our way just yet – so why the delay? Despite many speculating that the deal is a foregone conclusion, shoppers may have a wait on their hands to grab the first Versace by Tisci pieces thanks to the industry’s ubiquitous use of non-compete clauses.

A non-compete clause exists in the employment contracts for many top-level roles, in fashion as well as other industries, and prohibits the employee from working in a similar role in a company deemed to be in competition with the one they are departing. These clauses exist primarily to protect the company’s confidential material, but have the added effect of making high-profile designers and executives less desirable to poach if they’re not able to begin a new role for six or even 12 months.

Although he never addressed it directly, Nicolas Ghesquière assumed his position at Louis Vuitton a year and a day after departing Balenciaga and, while the timing could be seen to be a coincidence, other designers have spoken about the existence of such a contractual obligation. A recent musical chairs situation between designers at Nike and Adidas revealed that Nike operates a non-compete of one year, since teams are working on secret designs that won’t be released for several years to come. Raf Simons was linked with the job he now occupies at Calvin Klein in the weeks following his Dior departure, but didn’t take the reins for some nine months – a situation that sources reported was also down to a non-compete.

So what will happen now if, indeed, a non-compete clause is in place? Tisci could wait it out - as many speculated Hedi Slimane did after leaving Dior Homme before joining Yves Saint Laurent – occupying himself with other creative outlets, from styling to photography. He could make dresses independently for his gaggle of famous friends – creating red-carpet gowns under his own name for the likes of Kim Kardashian and Naomi Campbell, in a similar way to John Galliano’s creation of Kate Moss’s wedding dress before he joined Masion Margiela, and therefore avoid "competing" since they wouldn't be for sale.

Or there is always the chance that Givenchy might release him from such an obligation, allowing him to assume another role more quickly than originally agreed, as YSL did for Slimane, but this comes with its own problems: Slimane appealed for the clause to be reinstated when Kering released him from it, along with the financial remunerations that go with it. Whatever happens, a lengthy holiday is surely in his future after 12 years uninterrupted service at the French house – and we hear his friend Donatella, who has Versace hotels in locations from Australia to Dubai, is a fabulous host.

Fashion Week: And We're Off

Fashion Week started yesterday, although not as we know it, with Tommy Hilfiger, among others, taking the fashion pack to LA ahead of the first main day of the New York Fashion Week shows (read Vogue fashion features director Sarah Harris's report here). But that isn't the only big change to note from the first leg of shows.

Absent this season are Vera Wang, Rodarte, and Hood By Air, while it will be Proenza Schouler's last show before it relocates its operations to Paris as of July.

Of those designers remaining, however, there is still plenty to make the seven-day stint well worth staying tuned into. Raf Simon's eagerly anticipated debut for Calvin Klein (that will see the brand adopt a co-ed approach) takes place on Friday and is arguably one of the hottest tickets of the week. A close rival will be Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia's debut for Oscar de la Renta on Monday, which will be shown alongside the autumn/winter 2017 collection for their own label Monse this season - an unprecedented move on the schedule to date. Elsewhere, Philipp Plein, who will relocate to New York from Milan this season, can be relied upon to deliver sartorial - and quite likely literal - fireworks on Monday evening, while Kanye West's fashion label, Yeezy, will be one to keep an eye on next Wednesday.

The usual big-name shows - including Victoria Beckham, Jason Wu, Zac Posen, Alexander Wang, The Row, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg, and Marchesa - are all expected to draw glittering crowds, while fashion-editor favourites - including Adam Lippes, Rosetta Getty, Prism, Frame, Altuzarra, and Delpozo - will dictate what we'll all be lusting after as soon as they hit the virtual and physical shop floors.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Melania Trump Settles Lawsuit With Blogger

Melania Trump has settled out of court with a blogger who she was suing for defamation. The first lady agreed to bring the matter to a close after Webster Griffin Tarpley, the blogger in question, agreed to compensate Trump with a “substantial sum” as well as issue a public apology.

“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her,” Tarpley said in a statement released by Trump’s legal team. “I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them. I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologise to Mrs Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”

Tarpley is not a blogger as we have come to imagine them, rather he is a 70-year-old author and historian, who often publishes conspiracy theories about major events including 911. He is also not the only publisher who has met with the first lady’s ire on the matter, since news of the settlement comes on the same day that Trump decided to refile her libel lawsuit in New York against the Daily Mail’s parent company, Mail Online. Trump asserts that the newspaper cost her a lucrative business deal, The New York Times reports, after publishing similar unfounded allegations.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What Is SJP Unclear About?

Despite enthralling her impressive 3.2 million followers on Instagram by going against the norm with her frank and unfiltered posts, Sarah Jessica Parker has admitted that she is still unclear about how to incorporate social media into her life.

"I'm not easy with social media and technology and I'm unclear of my own boundaries," said the award-winning actress. "I'm unclear of how much I want to engage and how to have it not be a personal experience and how to have conversations that I think are productive with people when they're feeling anxious or angry or they're wanting to say unfriendly things."

Many, however, would say that she's managing just fine. Frequently sharing images of her beloved hometown of New York, book recommendations, getting-ready selfies, and postcards from her worldly travels, the Divorce and Sex and the City star also delights in the curious and mundane (think drinking on trains, cuts on her knees from falling over, culinary experiments at home, and a cleared plate of burger and fries) that garners praise from her followers for "keeping it real".

But the star has a greater worry about the world's increasing reliance on technology, especially when it comes to watching her eldest child, 14-year-old James Wilkie, engage with it.

"I don't know what to do," she revealed to Red magazine. "James has a phone for travelling to school, even though I travelled to school forever without a phone, but we held off for longer than most parents."

Kylie Loses Trademark Case

Kylie Jenner has failed in her attempt to trademark the name Kylie, following fierce opposition from Kylie Minogue.

Jenner first filed a number of federal trademark applications relating to her first name with the US Patent and Trademark Office in April 2015. While there was no opposition regarding her filing the trademark for her full name, when it came to "Kylie" she was challenged immediately by Minogue's legal team.

At the time, lawyers on behalf of Minogue said that approval of the trademark would "cause confusion among consumers between the two Kylies", and that association with "secondary reality-television personality" Jenner who "has received criticism from disability rights groups and African-American communities" would "result in dilution of her brand". In comparison, they described Minogue as an "internationally renowned performing artist, humanitarian and breast cancer activist known worldwide simply as 'Kylie'."

But while the battle may be won, the war is not over. According to the Daily Mail, Jenner has already launched an appeal against the decision.

Tiffany & Co's CEO Departs

The CEO of Tiffany & Co, Frederic Cumenal, has departed the luxury label, it was revealed over the weekend. The executive, who joined the house from LVMH in 2011, will be temporarily replaced by the brand's chairman and former CEO, Michael Kowalski, while his successor is found.

"I am proud of what we have accomplished at Tiffany and would like to thank the management team and our many talented employees around the world with whom I have had the pleasure to work,” said Cumenal. “I have great confidence in Tiffany's brand, strategic direction and people, and I believe the company will have many exciting opportunities in the future."

While Kowalski said Cumenal had “enhanced the management team and taken important steps to position Tiffany for success in the long term" and wished him "the best in his future endeavours", he also pointed to disappointing recent financial results, reports WWD. He continued that the brand is committed to its “current core business strategies” and “believes that accelerating execution of those strategies is necessary to compete more effectively in today’s global luxury market and improve performance”.

It marks the second big change for the company in 2017. In January, existing design director Francesca Amfitheatrof (who had been a high-profile face of the house since 2013) exited the label and was replaced by Reed Krakoff, who had been collaborating with the company on a consultation basis since last June. Assuming the role of chief artistic officer, Krakoff said that "the exceptional opportunity to further Tiffany’s rich creative legacy of design and craftsmanship, and join the incredible talent within Tiffany, is truly inspiring." Neither Cumenal or Amfitheatrof's next moves are known at this point.

Riccardo Tisci's Next Move Post-Givenchy

Riccardo Tisci has left his role at Givenchy after 12 years at the helm. His departure was confirmed today by the house, who told WWD that his final collections have already been shown - during menswear and couture weeks in Paris.

“The chapter Riccardo Tisci has written with the house of Givenchy over the last 12 years represents an incredible vision to sustain its continuous success, and I would like to warmly thank him for his core contribution to the house’s development," Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of Givenchy owner LVMH, said today.

Despite the seemingly hasty exit - which will not see him take a bow at the ready-to-wear shows next month, and the forthcoming autumn/winter 2017 collection be completed by the studio team - the parting has been described as "mutual and amicable" and was effective on the expiry of his contract on January 31st.

Speculation has been swirling for several months that Tisci is being lined up to take the helm at Versace. The designer is firm friends with Donatella Versace, even enlisting her for a Givenchy ad campaign, and his dark but sexy aesthetic is seen as a perfect fit for Versace. While speculation over Tisci's next move is nothing new, the chatter over who should fill his shoes will now begin. A raft of high-profile recent designer departures - Peter Dundas, Hedi Slimane, Clare Waight Keller and Peter Copping - could find themselves linked with the role, however unlikely, while Balmain's Olivier Rousteing is already being mooted for a move.

Tisci is the go-to red-carpet designer for a diverse collection of stars - from Kim Kardashian West, whose wedding dress he created, and Beyoncé Knowles, to Madonna and Meryl Streep. His unarguable skill, as well as his celebrity pull, make him a desirable appointment for any house, but he may be subject to a non-compete clause meaning his next move may not come for a while.

Ralph Lauren CEO Stefan Larsson Exits

After just over two years in his role, Ralph Lauren CEO Stefan Larsson has parted ways with the New York brand.

“Stefan and I share a love and respect for the DNA of this great brand, and we both recognise the need to evolve,” Ralph Lauren – the company’s founder, executive chairman and chief creative officer – said in a statement today. “However, we have found that we have different views on how to evolve the creative and consumer-facing parts of the business. After many conversations with one another, and our board of directors, we have agreed to part ways. I am grateful for what Stefan has contributed during his time with us, setting us in the right direction.”

The company’s net revenues were down by 12 per cent in the last quarter against last year, the Business of Fashion noted today as the announcement was made, but Lauren insists he plans to focus on the next chapter by following the strategy laid out by Larsson.

“We have built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team, refocusing our brands, evolving our products and our marketing, improving our operations and reducing our costs,” Lauren went on. “The board and I are committed to the execution of the 'Way Forward Plan' and continuing to move our business and iconic brand forward as we have done for the last 50 years.”

“I am proud of the progress the whole team has made and I am committed to ensuring its uninterrupted execution,” Larsson said. “Ralph will always be an inspiration to me, and I am grateful to have had this experience.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Naomi's 25-Year Return To Gap

Naomi Campbell has pulled on the same style of white Gap T-shirt and denim shorts as she did in an ad 25 years ago for the brand's latest campaign. Created to celebrate Gap's limited-edition Archive ReIssue collection - a capsule collection of iconic pieces curated from Gap's archives - the shoot sees Campbell at her most playful.

The supermodel danced on the set with a gaggle of young models and actors, who stepped into the shoes (or jeans) of their famous parents, who also starred in Gap ads over the past 20 years - from Lizzy Jagger wearing her mother Jerry Hall's black bodysuit, to Rumer Willis wearing the same denim jacket as her mother Demi Moore did. Campbell was the only one to step back into the same pieces she herself wore and the Londoner told us that, while the T-shirt was the same, a lot had changed.

“This ad was fun,” Campbell told us from Atlanta, where she is currently filming Star. “It was nice to be on set with all the children of people I knew. It was much more of a production than the original ad because it was moving film, whereas the ad in 1992 with Steven Meisel was much quieter. I was so excited to be in that ad when I got the call - and, of course, I loved working with Steven.”

After working with almost all of the major design houses and countless designers over her three-decade career in fashion, Campbell is an advocate of trying new things - her recently flourishing acting career being a good example of this - so why go back to Gap?

“I think it’s incredible to be able, 25 years later, to be appearing in an ad wearing the same T-shirt in the same size,” she said. “When I came to America, my friends back home – before we had Gap in England – would say to me, ‘Bring me this thing from Gap.’ So I would always bring home lots of presents. I remember it was a really big deal at the time. I didn’t sleep the night before because it was The Gap. When we shot the picture, it was really the first one I had done as myself – I mean where I looked like me, not really dressed up, just in a T-shirt. The pieces are just so comfortable and easy.”

Looking back to the ad in 1992, it's easy to compare that Naomi Campbell with the multi-hyphenate businesswoman who stars in today's ad. So could she offer any advice to her younger self?

“I think I’d just say enjoy your life,” she said. “Life if short and I’m not someone who predicts things or has expectations. There are lots of things I still want to achieve, and I never really have an end goal. I just try to be the best that I can be at whatever I’m doing at that time and stay optimistic. I don’t have a fear of missing out. Whatever everyone else is doing, they can do, and I just try to make sure I am where I need to be right now.”

Martha's Surprising Angel Meal Plan

Martha Hunt has revealed how her food intake changes before a Victoria’s Secret show, and while many of us might imagine we’d lay off high-calorie foods in the days before walking around in our underwear in front of the whole world, Hunt’s diet plan is quite the opposite.

“I eat more than usual, because the workouts burn so many calories,” Hunt told The New Potato. “I just make sure I get protein in every meal and I try to eat cleaner than usual. I’ll have Greek yoghurt or eggs for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and salmon, chicken or meat with vegetables and healthy carbs for dinner. Most of my snacks involve peanut butter or almond butter. I noticed my nails and hair were growing faster than normal before the VS show, so maybe that was due to me eating more protein and overall healthier foods. Last year I amped up the workouts leading up to the show. I probably worked out five times a week for three weeks. I don’t know if I will go that hard again!”

Hunt also shared her advice for those struggling with body image. The model has been vocal in the past about her own battle with scoliosis, which she underwent spinal fusion surgery to help correct when she was in her teens.

“We all have insecurities. Don’t focus on them,” she said. “Your self worth has nothing to do with your body. All female bodies are beautiful and unique. Your mind is more powerful than your body, so never stop working on that. I’m working on a project, trying to get awareness out there for all young people burdened by scoliosis, and to help boost their self-esteem. More funding is needed for research to improve treatment, so I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for that. Already treatment has changed drastically since 13 years ago when I was diagnosed. I would like to see treatment continue to evolve, so eventually we find a safe way to straighten spines!”