Culture

Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You To Love Me

Miles Aldridge

I know this post, like many, is woefully late but I was on holiday when the press preview happened and didn’t get my act together very quickly afterwards, so shoot me. Anyway, I finally got around to seeing Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You To Love me at Somerset House last week and it came close to genuinely rendering me speechless. Obviously the fact that I adore his brand of high fashion meets pop culture more than pretty much anything but even if the idea of combining couture with congealed caviar leaves you cold I urge you to give it a try anyway, Aldridge is truly a camera toting genius.

Miles Aldridge

The allure of Miles Aldridge’s work lies in it’s inherent contradictions; beautiful yet brash, unsettling yet compelling, a heady blend of luxury and debauchery served up in saturated hues which only add to the feeling of excess. From a fashion photography perspective – and please do bear in mind, my experience extends to reading lots and lots of magazines and generally spending more time on the editorials than anything else AKA I’m no expert – it’s perfection. The composition, the lighting, the choice of model and the way she’s styled, exquisite. But then something’s always off, and that’s what stops you looking away. Whether it’s an element of haute trashiness – think Vegas plus Russia plus a rotting lobster head or broken egg – undertones of subtle social commentary, irony or vulgarity, there’s an inherent fucked-up-ness to it all that takes it beyond the realms of “fashion photography” and truly makes it art. Domestic rituals, social customs, religion and even the mundane likes of obsessive tanning are transformed from mundanities of everyday life to hyper real yet troubling images… With the help of exquisite garments and the world’s most talented models of course.

Miles Aldridge

I’d better wrap things up before I go and give you a blow by blow of the whole exhibition but seriously, go and see Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You To Love Me as soon as you physically can. On the surface the images are bold, bright and arresting. The more you look at them the more everything is – or perhaps isn’t – deeper, darker, more humorous and not what it seems. On until September 29th so get yourself there toute suite!

Love Ella. X

 

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Reviews 2 Comments

Keith Haring: The Political Line

Keith Haring

Paris really does have a hell of a lot going for it. Breathtaking architecture, delicious food, handsome men, A-MAZING shopping and last but certainly not least, cultural happenings to convert even the most committed of philistines. One such cultural happening is the Keith Haring exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne.

Keith Haring

Whether or not you’ve heard of Keith Haring, you will have definitely seen his work. The American artist’s oh-so-distinctive style – all bold lines, vivid hues and figures that appear to be leaping off the surface – still adorns many a public space, not to mention a seemingly endless array of popular merchandise encompassing everything from t-shirts to homeware and mouse mats. But while I, like the rest of the world, had seen God-knows-how many Haring reproductions, nothing compares to getting up close and personal with 220 of the real things.

Keith Haring

The experience of walking through room after room of eye-popping, dizzyingly animated Keith Haring creations is incredible enough merely in terms of visual spectacle. However, as the name suggests, that’s not really the point of this exhibition. Living in 1980s New York, Haring responded both to his adopted home and the world at large, giving his work an intensely political dimension. He campaigned endlessly against for equality, freedom and the power of the individual, with the lasting ambition to create truly public art carrying social messages. His iconic “subway sketches” led on to the artist etching his powerful designs on billboards, murals, buildings and even the Berlin Wall. The exhibition explores Haring’s support of social and political issues with a thematic arrangement leading you from his early works rebelling against the the state, through his revolts against capitalism, mass media, racism, ecocide, nuclear threat and apocalypse before poignantly finishing with his last works looking at sex, AIDS and death. For me, this layout was the perfect way to understand more about the life and work of Keith Haring.

Keith Haring

The arrestingly graphic quality of his work, intricate detail and never ending imagination involved in every piece made for fascinating viewing as did the way in which Haring seamlessly adapted his aesthetic to every imaginable media. Even more fascinating was the close relationship between Keith Haring’s work, and his political conscience. Where the message behind some contemporary art is murky, his is clear to see and, as I learned from the handy information panels, directly corresponded with what he was doing to support these causes. As you probably know, Haring died from AIDS in 1990 at just 32. This, along with the unpleasant realities Keith Haring still makes us face, makes for an exhibition that is both awe inspiring and impossibly tragic.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Reviews 1 Comment

A Day at the Polo with Avenue 32

avenue 32

Aren’t British Summer traditions just the best? Admittedly they would be that bit better if the weather wasn’t quite so *ahem* unpredictable but drizzle aside, few things beat an afternoon spent watching tennis, cricket, racing or as is the subject of this post, polo. A couple of weeks ago a very exciting email arrived in my inbox, inviting me to spend a day enjoying that poshest of pursuits courtesy of cooler than cool designer e-tailer, Avenue 32. But, as I soon realised, this invitation wasn’t just to watch polo, oh no, Avenue 32 would be treating us to an actual polo lesson at Guards Polo Club too!

As you may or may not know, I spent most of my childhood and early teenage years clad in jodhpurs and aboard (or not aboard) various stroppy ponies. So when the opportunity arose to get back in the saddle, I didn’t need to be asked twice. In fact I got so over excited about the whole thing I even dug out all my riding gear and felt pretty profesh and generally smug as I set out for the Karla Otto offices (where we’d be meeting to get our suitably posh coach to Windsor)… Until I arrived that is. I don’t know whether you ever had the experience of dressing up to the nines for home clothes day at school only to discover that the older, cooler girls didn’t bother and subsequently feeling like world’s biggest fool in your spangly frock. Well, I had the unpleasant experience of re-living that feeling of mortification when I arrived clad in head-to-toe riding gear (including a “Keep Hunting” polo shirt… cringe) to discover that everyone else was wearing Current Elliott jeans, flat sandals and leather jackets. Add to that the fact that my fellow polo goers included journo’s from Grazia, Vogue, i-D and POP Magazines and it should come as no surprise to hear that I felt like a prize idiot. Still there was no going back so I decided to just try not to give away how embarrassed I was. After forty five minutes of merry chatting on the bus I’d almost forgotten about my attire and arrived ready and raring to go.

Avenue 32

We drew up alongside the immaculate polo pitch to be greeted by a line up of equally immaculate ponies and two tables laden with coffee, croissants and bacon sandwiches. Once we’d all re-caffeinated ourselves three dashing chaps (who, it transpired, were in fact England team polo coaches!) appeared and it was time to get the lesson underway.

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

After kicking off with a bit of on-foot hitting practice we progressed to wooden model horses (so we could practice using full size clubs without risk of knocking real life nags unconscious) and then finally to the beasts themselves. As one of the few of us with much riding experience, I was assigned “Black Bird”, a gratifyingly up for it animal who lept to attention at the slightest squeeze of my heels. The horsey ones among you probably know this already but for those that don’t, riding polo style is totally different to other types. With one hand devoted to holding the wrist achingly heavy stick, steering, stopping and starting is done solely with the other hence why, as one of the dashing coaches told us, polo players are dubbed “cowboys” by the rest of the equestrian community. This one handed riding style means that the ponies have to be insanely well trained and riding Black Bird was like cruising in a well oiled automatic sports car. But while I loved being able to turn my steed with a subtle flick of the wrist, actually trying to hit the ball was another thing. I did manage a couple of decent shots but there was a lot more random flailing than stick/ball contact. Flailing aside, by the time our hour was up I was hooked. Black Bird better watch out as I may be returning soon!

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

After a couple of semi-successful attempts to get a group shot of us all on horseback we dismounted and piled back onto the coach to hit the spa for a little post polo beautification. Much as I love riding gear, I was pretty relieved to change into something that a) didn’t smell of horse and b) wouldn’t make me feel like quite such an over keen loser. Given the murky weather, even I didn’t feel brave enough to attempt bare legs so opted for the paisley trouser suit I bought in Topshop last september. Once everyone was suitably groomed it was back onto the bus (didn’t actually have to walk all day, awesome) and off to the Avenue 32 pop up boutique AKA the reason we were enjoying a lovely day at Guards Polo Club. I can’t imagine that recreating a store ambiance online is exactly a walk in the park but translating a slick website into an actual, 3D “thing” must be seriously difficult. The fact that the hub of stylish cool that is Avenue 32 managed it perfectly was both impressive and entirely unsurprising.

Avenue 32

It’s basically an unwritten rule that no matter what time a fashion event is held, large amount of champagne must be served. Generally speaking, I steer clear of the booze until at least 6 o’clock but decided to make an exception on this occasion and accepted a glass while we cooed over Avenue 32′s exciting new designers. Over a long and extremely delicious lunch in the exclusive Guards Club House conversation expanded to cover everything from love lives to leather trousers. It’s not that often I get to sit down and have a good, long chat with the editors behind my favourite fash mags and the founder of a hotter-than-hot designer emporium so it was a real privilege to get to last week.

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

By the time we’d polished off pudding (a delectable fruit parfait type thing) it was time for the Cartier Queen’s Cup Semi Final to begin and we headed, or rather waddled, out to take our seats alongside the pitch. As with any sport, professional polo players make it look like an absolute piece of cake. Having experiences how impossible it is to hit a ball while sitting on a walking horse just hours before, I was truly awestruck by the handsome chaps galloping around the field. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t entirely understand what was going on or who was who but still got stuck in whooping and cheering until it was time to go home.

Avenue 32

Avenue 32

Thank you Avenue 32 and Karla Otto for a fantastic day! Watch this space for my potential career change…

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion 1 Comment

London Fashion In Film Festival

fashion in film festival

Much as I love a glamourous bash – and I really do love them – now and again it’s nice to do something a little different. You know, wear flat shoes after 6pm and challenge your mind rather than your liver. Luckily for me, such events do exist even in the world of fashion. For the past week, London has played home to the 4th Fashion In Film Festival. Entitled Marcel L’Herbier: Fabricating Dreams, this season focused on the work of “one of France’s most innovative but internationally overlooked directors whose career straddled the avant-garde and mainstream cinema”. Apologies for quoting the press release but, philistine that I am, hadn’t heard of him before this so any description I gave would either be rubbish or copied from Wikipedia. Just to give you a bit of background, Fashion In Film is a fascinating project encompassing the festival itself, exhibitions, publicaions and research into the subject. Curated by Marketa Uhlirova, Caroline Evans (both tutors at Central Saint Martins besides being fashion history and theory authorities) and Dionne Griffith, it aims to explore the relationship between clothing and the moving image (that is, fashion and film… duh) by enlisting a range of seriously smart speakers including designers, writers, filmakers and archivists to join the conversation and share a little of their expertise with anyone who cares to find out. Suffice to say, I was both intrigued and a little nervous to go along.

We arrived at The Horse Hospital in Russel Square expecting to be immersed in an environment unlike your usual stylish soiree and we certainly weren’t disappointed. After slipping and sliding my way down a slightly trepidatious ramp (damn grip-free ankle boots) I entered a darkened, underground space with a projector screen at the front around which a gaggle of intellectual chic attendees were already seated. Having read not the evening’s description entirely thoroughly I was delighted to discover that writer, Ken Hollings would be the first speaker up. The evening began with a discussion of the bizarre (at least in 21st century terms) spectacle of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, an extravaganza designed to give civilians a glimpse into the industrial future.

fashion in film festival

Ken is both witty and wise in equal measure and his deadpan delivery of facts such as the working title for Dali’s “Dream of Venus Pavillion” being “bottoms of the sea” sent many a ripple of mirth through the audience. Interesting though it was learning about the Fair, after a while I began to wonder how Marcel L’Herbier’s work would play into it. Had I actually read the Fashion in Film pamphlet I would have known full well how it would all tie together, but of course I hadn’t so when it finally transpired that the French government had commissioned L’Herbier to make a fashion film for the event I had a bit of a lightbulb moment.

l-herbier-mode-revee-6

L’Herbier’s film, La Mode Rêvée, premiered in the “Hall of Fashion” at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Designed to reassert the supremacy of Parisian Haute Couture, the film and indeed the entire pavilion offered an often shamelessly self promoting but undeniably impressive look at some of the world’s most exquisite garments designed by the likes of Patou, Worth and Nina Ricci. I won’t describe the film from start to finish because you really must watch it for yourselves, it’s mesmerising. While slightly silly at times (e.g when the women in a Watteau painting come to life, skip out of the Musée du Louvre and off for an afternoon’s shopping), La Mode Rêvée is enormously interesting in that it demonstrates a desire to escape to an idealised past at odds with the rest of the Fair’s future focused bent and no doubt related to the international uncertainty that would shortly herald the start of World War II. Besides that, L’Herbier’s bizarre and beautiful piece of work also perfectly illustrates the power of material on the move.

I’m not sure how much more I can write about my experience at the Fashion In Film Festival. Despite annoying everyone by making notes on my iPhone throughout, none of them seem to make much sense out of context! All I will say is that if you are remotely interested in fashion or film beyond the odd trip to Topshop or evening at Odeon then I seriously recommend checking it out. On Sunday (May 19th) it wraps up with a screening of L’Argent and I’m pretty sure tickets should still be available. See www.fashioninfilm.com for more info.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion Leave a comment

Laure Provoust Private View

Picking up where we left off last Tuesday evening, after a brief glass of bubbly and bite to eat at the Salt Resortwear x Saloni soiree, my party pal Charlie May and I braved the unseasonable chill to make for event number two, the Max Mara Art Prize for Women Private View at The Whitechapel Gallery. With a will of steel (and a wallet of small change only) I resisted the temptation to leap in the nearest cab, a decision both of us regretted when we somehow managed not only to get off a tube stop too early but then walk for ten minutes in precisely the wrong direction. Once again, my sense of direction had failed me (despite having made the exact same journey just five days before) so I deferred to the far superior navigating skills of Google Maps and we made it. I’m not an art expert by any stretch of the imagination but I do adore visiting exhibitions, with fine free wine and fabulous company thrown into the mix it’s one of my favourite pastimes. As East London’s mekka of cultural cool, any event at The Whitechapel Gallery attracts a stellar crowd. With this year’s Max Mara prize winner, Laure Prouvoust being one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary artists around, last Tuesday place was packed fit to burst with the city’s artistic elite.

Laure Provoust

Laure Provoust

Laure Provoust

Me wearing Whistles & Anne Bowes Jewellery

After dumping our many, many layers and trying to make ourselves look slightly less windswept we made our way into the exhibition space where Laure had created a vast, cylindrical installation. The inner walls were covered with kalaidescopic collages and monitors displaying mesmerizing moving images. Once we’d passed through the installation (no mean feat given the number of guests ogling the artwork) we emerged the other side to be confronted by a vast screen displaying the second part of Prouvoust’s installation, a film featuring fragments of footage ranging from birds and fish devouring fruit to women bathing in idyllic waterfalls. Prouvoust cited the “aesthetic and sensual pleasures of Italy” as her inspiration and these influences came through both subtly and clearly in the exhibition.

Laure Provoust Max Mara Art Prize for Women

Laure Provoust

Laure Provoust

Laure Provoust

The two part installation felt both seductive and innocent and the experience of entering it was immersive without being overwhelming. A air of dreamlike exoticism came by way of brightly coloured tropical fruit, background birdsong and the way in which we were directed from one slightly surreal, often out-of-focus shot to another. On one level, Laure Provoust Swallow was an inspired and imaginative feat of contemporary art, on another it was a welcome if all-too-brief escape from the bitter London weather.

The exhibition runs until April 7th, admission is free and I’d definitely recommend going to see it!

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Parties 3 Comments