Friday, 17 June 2011

Star Turn - G-Star's A/W collection hits its stride

Casual/smart dressing is the biggest trend from the A/W Milan catwalks according to Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino and Gucci. Combining jeans and tailored jacket is a cinch though compared to getting your footwear right for this in-between look.

The above might just might be the solution: G-Star’s Hybrid Specialists. These babies combine a tough leather upper with a pale sportswear sole. Hitting the street to walk to work has never been more comfortable, or on the money, style wise.

G-Star Hybrid Specialists £145

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sisleyum, Sisley's first men's anti-aging skincare

Benjamin Button can defy the fundamental laws of the universe and grow younger while I, and the rest of humankind, like speeding bullets, head towards epidermal entropy. How I respond to this truth is dictated by being male. A fact both cultural and biological. A well-matured man, like a bottle of vintage Port is often savored. Older women - perversely - are dismissed like corked plonk. It's the age-old double standard as unrelenting as time itself.

It also explains why I don't want to speed up or in any way ignore the fact my skin is wrinkling, sagging and will eventually resemble a mud pie. My face needs all the help it can get. Luckily, it might not be heading geriatric intensive care quite so soon. It's been given another throw of the dice of youth. For the past two months my face has been lapping up Sisleyum, the new men's skincare from French skincare power house, Sisley.

The smart thing about Sisleyum is that it's a straight-forward, twice daily application after cleansing. The other smart thing about it, is that once applied, it's a speeded up multitasker. Take hydration. Extract of wild pansy helps Aquaprin-3 develop which encourages water to circulate around the skin, making it appear smoother. It also puts the discomfort of razor burn behind you. White horehound and shea butter repair and sooth grazed your post-shaved skin alongside allantoin which is used to treat cuts. Tired looking skin? Olivine stimulated skin cells natural defenses and ant-free radicals malachite and smithsonite keep the troubler makers at bay. And fine lines and wrinkles flatten out from collagen producing extracts of alegkengi calyx and padina pavonica. While Vitamin A helps regulate the growth of new skin cells. There are more ingredients in Sisleyum than a book of recipes and they all work. I know. I look in the mirror. Sisleyum comes in two versions - a gel and a cream depending on your skin's oiliness and the time of year. It costs £150. I'm not sure why it's called Sisleyum. I might rename it Benjamin Button Butter.

Find Sisleyum in Harrods, Selfridges and House of Fraser stores from 15th March 2011

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Quiet Storm - Roland Mouret's low-key menswear revolution

Roland Mouret’s first menswear collection is a smart take on subtle dressing. Men start forming an orderly queue now for these are highly covetable clothes.

‘It’s more of a wardrobe than a collection. Men over thirty like to dress quietly rather than to shout about the clothes that they’re wearing,’ says Roland Mouret about his new menswear label, Mr..

These are perhaps surprisingly low-key words from a man who over the past 15 years has been dressing fashion’s heavy-hitters such as Demi Moore and Carla Bruni. These women pull on his dresses for head-turning body-con sexiness. Whatever else Mouret’s womenswear might be, it’s rarely quiet.

‘It’s a mistake for a mature guy to try and look too trendy,’ he says, as if finding a wholly new aesthetic by designing for men. ‘It doesn’t work. He needs to keep things classic, tailored with just a little edge. Not in your face’.

This is Mouret’s personal philosophy of masculine dressing that also describes his own below-the-radar style. Is he more at ease with well- cut jeans and a tailored jacket than a super-slick, skinny suit? ‘That’s right, I am my own guinea-pig with this collection. Would I wear it? is a question I kept asking myself.’ He also tapped his female design team enquiring of them what they look for in a well-dressed man.

‘They told me the butt is really important which is why I’ve created a square shape with a horizontal pleat at the back of my jeans,’ he says, ‘this really flatters you from behind’. And hands up who doesn’t want his rear to look good in jeans? His are made from robust Japanese denim which with their subtle detailing and cut does indeed flatter even the most broad-in the-beam man.

Mouret’s care with fabrics runs throughout the line. Cashmere for the knitwear is from Italy, cotton poplin for the shirts is Swiss and the tweed for coats and suits is from England. There’s even a remarkably soft scarf made – strangely - from a form of milk protein. Mouret’s ideal man may leave the peacock dressing to his wife, but he obviously doesn’t deny himself the luxury of fine textures and fabrics.

Touching these tactile materials pleasurable enough, but it’s when you pull on the suiting in particular that Mouret’s startling talent for cutting becomes clear. These are skills he’s obviously honed from designing his intricate women’s line.

A pale grey wool suit hangs from broad, masculine shoulders. Assets I formerly didn’t know I possessed. ‘Everything starts with the shoulder,’ say Mouret reading the pleasant surprise on my face, ‘If you get the shoulder right, everything else falls into place.’ I look as if I’ve been intensely training my upper body in the gym for the past month.

And, as if understanding his new customer better than that customer knows himself, these suits are cut from one of two blocks – narrow or classic. This nods to the current trend for slimmer fitting suits while acknowledging the reality of the stockier body men acquire as they age. Mouret himself wears the regular cut suit.

Also in keeping with this quieter voice, Mouret showed his first men’s collection in Paris as a presentation rather than on a bells and whistles catwalk. ‘I wanted the press and buyers to see the construction, to feel the fabrics to see the details,’ he says patently excited about the feedback he has already received.

‘By getting up close you can see this small fold at the back of the shirt or the drape on the epaulettes, it’s a drape not cut. These small details are so important.’ But especially to men it would seem.

Mr. is available from Harrods, Selfridges and Browns. Suits start from £1400

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A first whiff of Fornasetti's room fragrance

'It isn't really a step down to develop a room fragrance rather than a regular perfume,' said world class 'nose' Olivier Polge at the launch of the opulent Fornasetti shop space in Selfridges today. He was talking about the brand's first room aroma, also known as, '8'.

Polge, the man who created Dior Homme fragrances and perfumes for Balenciaga, you might imagine could have been sniffy about this new project as he's a legend in the sometimes snooty world of haute perfumerie. 'It was an interesting challenge,' he said, after talking to a crowd of beauty editors while surrounded by a glistening array of Fornasetti fragranced products, 'the aroma has to fill a room rather than stay close to a body.'

For a brand that is a by-word for a particular kind of witty decorative chic for the past 50 years, Fornasetti's scented candles, sprays and burning sticks have been made, unsurprisingly, with the world's finest collaborators. Each candle's wax comes from CIR, France's oldest candle makers, for example, and are placed in ceramic pots by Ceramiche Dal Pra, the classic Vincenzan china company.

'My brief was to channel the smell of fine old furniture', said Polge of the distinctive cedarwod, tolu balsam and thyme aroma. Entry level Fornasetti, maybe, but in a world of it's own compared to anything in the world of Glade.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Eye's right - the trend for vintage face furniture

I blame Steve McQueen. When it comes to the sunglasses we want to wear now, it's the undimmed power of McQueen's style we’re striving to channel. Let’s face it, who in his right mind would say no to his favoured face furniture, the super-chic, all-black square-framed, Persol 649S?

Just imagining the square-jawed, crop-haired actor who made women swoon, behind the wheel of his Porsche 911 and wearing his signature shades is enough to getting men Google-ing Persol's web address (to save you time, here it is: But Persol isn’t the only eyewear who smartly look back to the future.

‘Ever since we launched back in 1987 we’ve always been ahead of the pack when it comes to referencing the past,’ says Larry Leight, founder and creative director of Oliver Peoples. This is the LA-based eyewear brand that has helped more than any other to inspire our obsession with styles gone by.

When the company first showed their eponymous line of eyewear at a NYC expo in the same year, their vintage-inspired collection was about as far as you could get from the wrap-round, geometric styles popular at that time in the late 80s.

Check out the Riley or Sheldrake clip styles from the current Oliver People’s collection. These are modern flip-up clips combining ophthalmic lenses with witty ‘up/down’ sunglasses. With the lenses pushed up you look both surprised and stylish, an unlikely but good combination. These styles are as much about the 1950s as they are about today. And with this winter’s trend for quiff hairstyles, longer length jackets and beetle-crusher shoes, the 50s are on our style radar again.

Leight, originally an optician, kicked started his business by selling original, box fresh Baume and Mercier and American Optical frames from the 1970s. But it is his recent use of original frames tha has set this brand alight. "This Original Vintage Collection is part of my family heritage,” says Leight, recalling the humble beginnings of Oliver Peoples.

Responding to a recent feature in the New York Times bemoaning the tweaking and upgrading that goes on with classic products, Leight dug around in his company’s headquarters in LA and stumbled across perfect condition MP-2 and O’Malley styles from his initial 1987 collection. These have been repackaged and launched on a retro-hungry public. All these styles require is a striped business shirt, braces and a brick-sized mobile device. I think an i-Pad will suffice.

And their collaboration in 2008 with legendary Hollywood producer and sunglass wearer, Robert Evans again produced a raft of retro styles the brand has become synonymous with. It has also made collections high end fashion brands like Prada, Paul Smith and most recently, Balmain - ‘Those who want the best in runway turn to Balmain,’ says Leight, ‘and those who want the best in eyewear turn to Oliver Peoples.’ And those who want the best of the past turn to Oliver Peoples as well.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Shooting from the hip

'We’ve just launched our very own Tweed,’ says Niels van Rooyen, the jocular and ruddy creative director of Holland and Holland. ‘It was in the archive from 1830 and we’ve dusted it off and had it woven again by factories right here in the UK,’ he says beaming like a prowling Cheshire cat. He’s pointing at a subdued beige and brown fine tweed, a little like a puppy tooth check with a subtle line of purple thread of window pane check running across it.

Van Rooyen is talking me through the men’s winter collection, the core Holland and Holland kit (70% of its customers are men). This is essentially tough, practical and classic all weather gear for the shooting set. These sports are the brand’s DNA but for a while a few years ago H&H re-pitched itself as a luxury lifestyle brand, a kind of English Hermes but with hunting rifles instead of saddlery at it’s core. It was always an uneasy fit.

This move alienated the regular country set who had always bought their shooting gear from H&H, and it didn’t drive the sales to justify the changes. Van Rooyen left the brand during this difficult time, returning in glory three years later once this flirtation with fashion and luxury had faded from the house like an expensive exotic odor.

Yet, Van Rooyen isn’t one to miss the opportunity of pushing his product towards the young or newly rich who are making their first strides towards country pursuits. ‘I’m amazed by the popularity of trousers, ‘ he says with just the faintest twang of his South African roots and sounding ever-so slightly bonkers. ‘I think it’s the younger Royals, they’re less inclined to wear the cropped trousers and shooting socks that the Prince of Wales prefers.’ In Holland and Holland’s world, this is obviously a seismic shift of taste, decorum and etiquette.

In this collection there’s a navy blazer with silvered gun cartridge buttons in a crease-resistant super 150 wool that would perfectly suit a formal dinner after a shoot. This is about as ‘fashion’ as the collection gets. And the necessary direction the brand has moved, explains Van Rooyen, seeing Holland and Holland as exclusively a shooting lifestyle company which produces ties, cashmere shirts, knitwear and their famous shooting socks (‘knitted with four needles by about 75 women in the north of England’) in an assortment of candy bright colours.

Loden, twill, corduroy, recoil pads (in leather to protect your shoulders from the gun’s kick back), shooting vests and tweed make up the lexicon of Holland and Holland’s unique offering. It’s a world of stiff upper lips, stout boots and making no fuss over driving rain, freezing fog or not getting a full brace of grouse on your first day’s shoot. It’s the world of the English upper classes at their most thrusting, sturdy and vaguely absurd. The hide bound world of Jeeves and Wooster, nanny and croquet feels only a paneled morning room away.

Which is all, of course, reassuring. The world may be going to the dogs, but the good folk at Holland and Holland are still making their ingenious ‘Fitwell’ shooting jackets – the distinctive double pleat over each shoulder which enables just enough give to raise your double bore shotgun to your shoulder. Which does make one feely a teensy bit sorry for the poor little grouse.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Louis Vuitton’s boite of tricks

A deliberate disorientation by the store’s leather-capped, architect Peter Marino? Shoppers will feel so relieved on reaching their destination they’ll be more than happy to lay down £999 on a monogrammed ‘Keepall’ weekend bag if they arrive in one piece. This kind of purchase needs to fly off these shelves many times an hour to make this lavishly bedecked store pay. No doubt they will. Then the customer will then have something soft, squidgy and expensive to land on if they take a tumble back on the vertiginous stairs.

This is a titan of a store, the Vuitton’s most luxurious. ‘Maison’, excuse me. It is made from Aniegre wood, Corian, French embossed leather, Afromosia wood, French Lacquer, Portland stone, glass and engineered high-gloss wood veneer. Custom-made is the starting point for rugs, shot silk and leather chairs and sofas and drunken hand beaten metal tables stand tipsily on the menswear floor. There are also ceiling-suspended rotating planets made from glass and plastic, and in the sunglass area has a ‘central oculous’ like a big brother all-seeing eye, but way more chic. It is in fact a light feature resembling the human iris a useful reminder of what sunglasses are meant to protect.

I know Louis Vuitton’s schtick is travel, but with this store they manage to take you off the planet entirely to a universe far, far away. It’s a mighty achievement for the luxury French leather good manufacturer who first opened a shop in London 125 years ago. And in keeping with the 11%, global economy-defying profits LVMH posted over the past year.

Of course all this conspicuous, open-to-anyone access of these first three floors might feel a little too democratic, or even dangerous to some of the ‘maison’s’ most discreet, famous or fearful customers. These special customers will be whisked to the ‘Apartment’ – an open plan space on the 2nd floor that is sectioned off into private shopping suites, each decked with fireplaces, antique and vintage furniture. Access is via a private lift.

The LV ‘Maison’ is a sort of art gallery too. ‘Kiki’ a sculpture by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami who has worked closely with the brand producing a candy-bright monogram, greets shoppers on the ground floor. Works by Richard Prince are also featured throughout the store. Downstairs look out for ‘Paws’, a work by Gilbert and George in the menswear department.

Unfortunately, the most fun piece of art on display, Michael Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine, will moved to a new home shortly. It was placed at the bottom of the stairs for the opening launch party. This brilliantly-named art work – a Heath Robinson-esque machine of stuck on grotesquerie - fright masks, doll faces and severed limbs, bells and whistles also scribbles abstractions onto pieces of A4 paper. Of course, it has to be moved. As all the credit card destroying – or, indeed, melting - will now be managed in-house by Louis Vuitton itself.