As journalists writing about the luxury industry, we often find ourselves in those murky waters mid-way between the sublime and the ridiculous. Truth be told, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the two.
Case in point: the Saint Laurent stiletto skates that feature in our fashion shoot. A towering, pop-art-emblazoned, high-heeled shoe balances precariously on three immoveable wheels, in what can only be described as an act of madness. But we love them because, to us, they are a big conspiratorial wink from this fun-loving fashion brand – a reminder that fashion needn’t always take itself quite so seriously. Plus, how cool would they look encased in a Perspex box on your bedroom wall?
Those who question fashion’s credentials as a bonafide art form may be swayed by two museums opening next month, in Paris and in Marrakech, dedicated to the oeuvre of the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. We explore his longstanding ties to the Moroccan capital and look at how its colours, crafts and creative energy informed his work time and time again.
The mini-me trend was one that we had placed squarely in the ridiculous category. As far as we could see, the idea of mothers dressing their children in identical outfits to their own was the ultimate vanity - especially if those designer outfits cost a small fortune, and were chosen specifically for their Instagram-ability. What we hadn’t considered was “the emotional component”, as Candice Fragis, buying and merchandising director at Farfetch.com, puts it. “The moment of dressing up with your child is a real draw for some,” she points out. The luxury childrenswear sector is experiencing massive growth at present, and we explore some of the factors driving that surge in popularity in Rise of the Min-me.
Sublime or ridiculous? You decide.
Selina Denman, editor
'If we lose the handwork,
we lose the beauty'
“Couture is the heart of fashion. For me, it’s an art, like painting, like music,” says Zuhair Murad.
I am sitting across from the famed Lebanese couturier in his atelier in Beirut. Having dressed some of the world’s most beautiful women, in exquisite gowns made entirely by hand, Murad could be forgiven for being a little aloof. Yet here he sits, smiling and utterly charming, as if he has all the time in the world.
With a fashion empire that spans haute couture, ready-to-wear, bridal, shoes and accessories, Zuhair Murad is a very busy man. Based in Beirut, he is actively involved in every facet of his company – from the initial designs through to the production of fashion shows in Paris (where he has a second atelier). But, despite being a self-confessed workaholic, Murad has that very particular skill of making you feel as if you are the most important thing in his day. I tell him I feel fortunate to have caught him during a week that is a little quieter than normal, and see a flash of mischief in his eyes. “Just a little quieter,” he counters.
It is always difficult to pinpoint exactly what lies at the heart of a designer’s success, but in Murad’s case, it would probably be his uncanny ability to halt time and conjure up parallel microcosms where everyday life seems to slide away. His couture collections, waves of whispering silk laden with intricate beading and embroidery, seem to be perennially illuminated by a romantic half-light. Like a magician, he has the ability to transport us to a softer, more beautiful place.
Born in Ras Baalbek in 1971, Murad is clearly proud of his heritage and all that it has instilled in him. “I grew up in this beautiful country, with all this beautiful nature and these beautiful women,” he tells me. “It is filled with positive people and positive vibes; even during the war, they never gave up. They are always happy and enjoying life.”
Pre-war Beirut has often been described as the jewel of the Middle East – a vibrant, glamorous city that straddled Europe and Arabia. Hamra Street was likened to New York’s Fifth Avenue, and Brigitte Bardot, Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra all spent time in the city. Even now, high-octane glamour is the lifeblood that runs through Beirut, and this has always informed Murad’s aesthetic. “There is something about glamorous women who like to take care of themselves, who like to be beautiful and elegant. This [fuelled my] imagination, and helped me grow up with beautiful memories.”
Driven by a desire to create – “I don’t recall a day in my life without a pen in my hand,” he says – Murad studied fashion in Paris before opening his atelier in Beirut in 1997. He debuted his first couture collection during Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris in 2001, launching ready-to-wear four years later. In 2007, Murad’s Maison de Couture opened in Paris, and by 2012, the company was robust enough to warrant the commissioning of an 11-storey, custom-made headquarters in Beirut. That same year also saw Murad elected as a guest member to the highly prestigious Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (recently renamed from Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture).
Five years later, and despite assurances that he rarely considers the red carpet when he is designing, Zuhair Murad is a go-to for award-ceremony gowns. Jennifer Lopez, Marion Cotillard, Blake Lively, Jessica Biel, Kristen Stewart and Miranda Kerr have all donned his creations, and when Sofía Vergara married Joe Manganiello in 2015, she did it in custom-made Murad. More recently, he dressed Nicole Kidman for the premiere of Top of the Lake. The actress opted for a fitted bodice and flared skirt in champagne-coloured toile from Murad’s autumn/winter 2017 couture collection. “I love her,” Murad exclaims “She is elegant. With her beauty and the colour of her hair, she looked stunning.”
Does he, I wonder, draw inspiration from a particular woman when he is designing? “Many things inspire me. For me, for couture especially, we are selling a dream. And I think without a dream, we cannot create. In fashion, couture is the heart, the base, and there are no boundaries to it. I think about dreams and stories, and express them in my collection every season. My perfect client is every woman. There is no specific women I design for, and the woman I have in mind has no nationality; she is not blonde or brunette. I have a muse in my mind and I design for her every season, but she doesn’t belong to any category.”
His muse may not be a specific woman, but one can assume that she leads a very particular lifestyle. The Murad woman is glamorous, feminine, sensual and, no doubt, very, very rich.
For his autumn/winter 2017 couture collection, Murad took as a starting point the exaggerated silhouette of the Gibson girl – a depiction of feminine attractiveness captured in pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Charles Dana Gibson in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The sketches depict women who are youthful, ephemeral, grand and ever so slightly haughty, which clearly struck a chord with Murad.
He translated this into an expansive collection of sumptuous gowns, many with capes and/or trains, that progress in colour through a subtle but striking gradation of blacks, greys, ballet pinks and nudes. Each piece is covered in swirling hand-applied beading, in a tone-on-tone palette that belies the lavishness of it all.
Murad’s recent resort 2018 collection is far less formal, offering trousers, shirts and even a zip-through bomber (admittedly covered in lace and beads), but even here, the collection builds in glamour until it gives way to couture-esque pieces. Murad is seemingly unable to help himself – you can take the man out of couture, but you can’t take couture out of the man.
“I wanted always, even in ready-to-wear, to keep a certain standard. If I do a very simple shirt, it should be done in a very specific way, because in the end, I am a couturier. I cannot imagine my ready-to-wear being very mass production. It’s not in me.”
Such obsession with detail is the hallmark of every great couturier. Each gown is a labour of love that begins as a simple sketch, and requires the work of countless highly skilled artisans, and involves countless hours of intricate, painstaking work, to become a reality. Entirely made by hand, with the finest materials and most intricate embellishments, there are no shortcuts when it comes to couture.
“I am lucky to have all my team here,” Murad says, gesturing to the spacearound him. “From the designers to the embroiderers to the tailors, everything is done in-house. It is very easy, because I can change everything at the last moment, and follow my pieces, day by day.”
It is clear that Murad revels in the process, and in celebrating the hand of the artisan, but he acknowledges that these skills are becoming increasingly hard to come by. “Why is couture very expensive? Why is the value of couture dresses so high? Because it is all done by hand, point by point. It is,” he pauses, “not industrial. If we lose the handwork, we lose the beauty. It’s an art. If you see them working, pearl by pearl, bead by bead, it’s very impressive. And we need the passion of the person who works eight hours a day – sometimes when we are preparing the collection, it’s 12 hours – making sure each bead is perfect.
“We have older people [in the atelier] who have the experience already; they started 10 or 15 years ago in my house, and have good experience. But for the younger generation, we have a big problem. From the new generation, we can’t find people that want to work in the atelier. All of them want to work either as a designer, in the marketing department, in fashion or in public relations. It’s very difficult to find those who want to work as craftspeople – tailors, sewers or pattern-makers. I don’t know what the solution is going to be later on, because every year it gets more difficult to find them.”
But that is a concern for another day. For now, Murad is revelling in all that he has achieved and looking forward to the future with customary verve. “Every day there is a new challenge, a new project. For me, we are at the beginning, with a lot of things to do. Maybe there will be a perfume, maybe make-up. I am lucky because I do something I really love. I have worked very hard to get here, and it’s not easy to get to this level. It is a little stressful, but I enjoy what I do. This is my life and it is amazing.”
As we sit in his purpose-built headquarters, watching a playback of the final parade of his latest couture show, his dreamlike gowns passing in a blur of opulence, I am inclined to agree.
Investing in vintage fashion
Vintage Versace. The phrase itself has an aura about it, one that whispers of swishes of fabric and whirls of colour, lovingly brought together in high-fashion garments that have remained relevant over the years.
To mark the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s untimely death, a collection of the designer’s timeless creations will be available from next month on online shopping platform Farfetch.com, in collaboration with William Vintage. The London-based boutique specialises in high-end collections of vintage clothing, and often welcomes the likes of Amal Clooney, Helena Bonham Carter and Victoria Beckham.
The boutique’s Versace trove features more than 500 pieces, from Gianni’s early 1977 designs through to his final autumn/winter 1997 collection. This includes the Andy Warhol-inspired Pop range from 1991, the Miss S&M pieces from 1992 and the Punk collection from 1994. “The focus for this vintage Versace collection was to celebrate Gianni’s life and career 20 years after his death, and also to build out those pieces that reflected his extraordinary, luxurious and opulent approach to clothing,” says William Banks-Blaney of William Vintage.
So why invest in vintage fashion? Exclusivity, for one. Wearable vintage fashion is finite, and its collector base is growing exponentially, as compared to a few decades ago. “Luxury is all about pieces that no one else has. And, to be totally candid, there’s nothing worse than walking into a room and seeing another woman wearing exactly the same dress as you,” says Emily Bothwell, founder of London-based Peekaboo Vintage. “By the same extension, if you see a piece of vintage you love, grab it. Even if it’s not quite the right fit, still buy it; it doesn’t cost much to alter the arms or waist of a garment. Because, usually, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good,” she adds. Plus, in the fast-disposable versus sustainable fashion debate, vintage emerges the winner.
The market for these one-off pieces skyrocketed in the early 2000s, when Hollywood stars looked to vintage haute couture for red-carpet events – notably Julia Roberts, who picked up her Oscar for Erin Brockovich in 2001 wearing a resplendent velvet and satin Valentino gown, from the designer’s 1982 collection. Since then, celebrities such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Beyoncé (who collects vintage Chanel) and Alexa Chung have increasingly turned to vintage for high-profile events and everyday wear. Of course, Moss somewhat infamously ripped the vintage Christian Dior satin dress that she wore to the Golden Age of Couture gala in 2007. While that was fellow attendee Courtney Love’s fault – she mistakenly stepped on the gown’s train – it should perhaps serve as a reminder that when investing in vintage, it is important to verify not only the provenance of a piece, but also its quality and condition.
“The mark of good vintage is unprecedented quality that stands the test of time,” agrees Candice Fragis, buying and merchandising director at Farfetch, who says that, thus far, vintage bags and accessories have been the most sought-after items on the portal. Banks-Blaney adds: “Condition is the first requirement and it greatly increases the rarity of a piece. When you invest in vintage, focus on condition, relevance and on pieces that are intrinsically representative of their designers – these will always be coveted items.”
As with any investment decision, knowledge is key. This is where specialist vintage stores and auction houses come in. Farfetch, for example, only works with boutiques that have been certified by the brands that they stock, or with those that hold the official archives of specific collections and designers, so they are in the know about the history, make, maintenance requirements and rarity of the clothes, shoes, bags and accessories they are selling. For instance, Banks-Blaney reveals about the Farfetch vintage collection: “A number of very rare and high-value pieces will be available, but the 1992 harness dress and Gianni’s spectacular Oroton metal pieces are among the most important and expensive. We have focused on pieces that are uniquely and unmistakably Gianni in his golden period, and they range in price from £200 to over £30,000 [up to Dh140,000].”
The appeal of a one-off item also lies in its heritage and the stories it can tell – or that its new owners can build on. As the owner of Los Angeles-based Rococo Vintage puts it: “Antique clothing is either steeped in history or mystery, and learning about it or dreaming it up is half the charm of wearing it. It’s rather like having a bunch of wonderful imaginary friends hanging out in your closet.”
“You can also switch your look based on an era you admire. So one day I might be in 1970s gear and the next day in 1930s dresses,” adds Bothwell. She says she advises her clients to wear vintage regularly, but never more than one piece at a time. “To me, that would be overdoing it. I would invest in a beautiful white cotton dress, because that never dates, but I would pair it with a contemporary belt and shoes, maybe a lived-in leather jacket when it’s cooler.” She lists designers such as Ossie Clark, Halston, Theo Porter and Frank Usher as her favourite vintage go-tos.
There’s no real cause for concern about the aesthetic appeal of a piece that was produced many moons ago, though, because, as Fragis explains: “Fashion is cyclical. The house Gianni founded, for example, is still an enormous voice in the fashion world, and his designs are the bedrock of that. Often, the styles and trends of today were created yesterday. Buying the original design in the form of vintage is, in fact, a more authentic and unique way to reference ongoing trends.” This might explain why some of the most stylish women and men in the world choose to invest in decades-old designs.
'I have a very disturbing relationship with independence.' A freewheeling chat with Chanel ambassador Caroline de Maigret
What is your most treasured possession?
My passport. I have a very disturbing relationship with freedom and with independence. Going to a wedding for a whole weekend can drive me crazy – knowing people will be telling me where to have lunch, what I will be doing in the afternoon, and what I will be having for dinner. I usually never show up. I need independence. Work is different, but in the rest of my life, I have to have independence. It is quite neurotic.
Are you a collector? If so, what do you like to collect?
I am not a collector at all. I do buy a lot of photography, but I have no interest whatsoever in material things. My house could burn down and I really wouldn’t mind. I could just walk away. It would not be a trauma at all, but sometimes it is hard for people around me. It makes it hard on them as I can be a bit selfish.
What is your favourite city?
Paris, because, to me, it is the essence of what I like. The architecture, the stories; when you walk around, you are amazed by the beauty. There is so much going on, so you can take your time and relax, if you want, but you can also be active. You can be both. I am from Paris and I lived in New York. Paris is the best balance for me. It gives me time to think. When it’s all going too fast, I get very anxious.
What is the best journey you have ever undertaken?
Motherhood. I know to others it is boring and a cliché, but for me, I have this eternal flame in my stomach that drives me through the day. This incredible love that makes me able to breathe every day.
What is the greatest luxury in life?
Health. Definitely. It’s the one thing you cannot buy. You can learn how to take care of yourself, and be as good as possible, but in the end it is so simple. Health. Your life depends on it.
What is the most important lesson that you have learnt?
The best lesson I learnt in life is not to be scared of failing. I love doing things and I do not mind if it is not successful. That’s where I have the most fun, when I meet people and we say, let’s try things. Most of the time, I have a huge stomach ache as there are so many things I don’t know how to do, but I am just going to do anyway. You plant the seeds, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. Like when I did my music, it didn’t work out in the end, but I had so much fun and learnt so much. It helped make me the woman I am now, so who cares if things don’t work out? I think it is still a success if you learn things. It’s more fun that way.
What is your favourite book?
I have a lot of favourite books, but I really love the story of Martin Eden by Jack London. It is a story of a sailor who falls in love with a very bourgeois woman. He decides to become an intellectual, and read books and fill himself with literature. He is such a good man, but so raw at the same time, and so not ready to go into those salons. It is very interesting to see how real grace comes from this man, rather than conformism. It really is a beautiful book.
Why did you agree to become a brand ambassador for Chanel?
I love Chanel because it has the same values that I cherish, which is a strong feminism and a way of living. Gabrielle Chanel freed women’s bodies, and she believed life was to be lived. She believed in freedom of gesture, of mentality. She was brave and smart, and surrounded herself with artists, from Jean Cocteau to Igor Stravinsky. It is something I have really learnt from, and I want to live that life as well. I am lucky enough to have had an opportunity to come quite close. I particularly love Chanel’s new Gabrielle bag, because it is made from vintage leather, which I love. It looks timeless, but like you have worn it forever. All the chains make it really rock and roll, which is what I like. It is classical yet modern, and full of paradoxes.
Purple footwear - in pictures
How the humble bumbag
became a fashion must-have
A lavender-toned purse topped with sparkling brooches was wrapped around the waist of a hand-embellished Elie Saab dress on the Haute Couture Week catwalk in Paris earlier this year. Karl Lagerfeld also incorporated skinny belts topped with rectangular pouches, no doubt inspired by bum bags, in his haute couture looks for Chanel. That’s right – bum bags. This typically unfashionable accessory has been given an extravagant makeover, with fashion houses like Gucci, Prada and Moschino all delivering luxury renditions. And, surprisingly, they’re selling like hot cakes.
The accessory has humble roots, and was likely inspired by early Native Americans who wore buffalo pouches around their waists instead of sewing pockets into their clothing, or by European lords in the medieval ages who would store their weapons in pouches attached to their belts. In terms of contemporary fashion, the bum bag has never been described as covetable – until now, that is.
Traditionally offered in a slouchy, inverted trapeze shape, and fitted with zippers and a canvas strap with a buckle, the bum bag went mainstream in the 1980s. Crafted from neon neoprene and vinyl textiles, sometimes with gold or silver metallic colours, it was a convenient, utilitarian and hands-free alternative to a bulky handbag. But it seemed fated to remain in the realm of the unstylish, and by the 1990s, bum bags quickly became symbolic of out-of-place tourists, dishevelled joggers and flustered mothers-on-the go.
Depending on where you are in the world, bum bags are also referred to as hip sacks, waist packs, banana bags, belt packs and moon bags. While all indicators suggested that the bum bag had made a hasty (and welcome) retreat into fashion history, over the past few seasons, international brands – Italian, Parisian and even Middle Eastern – have shown an eagerness to revive it.
There have been bum bags in glossy jewel tones at Emporio Armani, oversized pouches buttoned onto wide belts at Marni, minimalist drawstring designs at Celine and leather envelope styles dangling off belts at Stella McCartney. Dubai-based label Bouguessa, which specialises in shirt-dresses and abayas, recently adorned its tunics and trenches with self-typing belts, with removable, oversized pouches attached. Likewise, lace gowns created by Madiyah al Sharqi for the 2017 summer season featured matching pastel-hued bum bags.
But if you really want to witness the newfound stardom of the bum bag, observe the ensembles of fashion week ticket-holders, and you’ll spot the controversial accessory, adorned with designer logos and emblems, around the waists of high-profile fashion editors, designers and influencers. As a matter of fact, the new, cooler way to wear your bum bag is slung over one shoulder, à la Louis Vuitton’s 2017 and 2018 menswear offering. Men, too, are at risk of succumbing to the craze – new Hermes, Lanvin and Gucci collections for men all include bum bags.
Some style-conscious consumers are managing to adopt this trend without actually splurging on a designer bum bag. Instead, they’re simply doubling up the shoulder straps of their luxury Fendi or Mulberry handbags, and wrapping them around their waists in a layered fashion, to emulate the appearance of a bum bag. It’s a clever way to cheat the system and still sport the trend. After all, Gucci’s turquoise-coloured bum bag in quilted velvet may well become a fashion staple this autumn. But will you feel confident enough to fasten it around your waist three years from now? Perhaps not.
Yves Saint Laurent's Marrakech connections
Rue Yves Saint Laurent looks much like any other street in Marrakech’s “ville nouvelle” – if ever so slightly less dusty and dishevelled. It is only as you head up the road, away from the tooting horns of Avenue Yacoub El Mansour, a busy thoroughfare that transects this part of the city, and slip into the gates of Jardin Majorelle, that it becomes clear how special Rue Saint Laurent really is. To escape into Jardin Majorelle’s shaded, cobalt-blue environs is to find an oasis of greenery and quiet in a city desperately lacking in both. It is not difficult to understand why Yves Saint Laurent fell in love with it.
The famed fashion designer first visited Marrakech in 1966 with his partner Pierre Bergé, the famed co-founder of the Yves Saint Laurent brand who passed away on September 8. They were greeted with a week’s worth of rain. But once the sun came out and they ventured out from La Mamounia hotel’s legendary confines, Saint Laurent became captivated by the city, entranced, in particular, by the quality of the light that washed over it. He would go on to write of the city’s “benevolent pink magic”.
By the end of that trip, he had bought a house there and would return regularly for the remainder of his life. It has been described as “an exceptional case of love at first sight”.
In many ways, Saint Laurent was returning to his roots. He was born in Algeria in 1936, enjoying a privileged upbringing in the port city of Oran. “Oran, a cosmopolis of trading people from all over, and mostly from elsewhere, a town glittering in a patchwork of all colours under the sedate North African sun. It was a good place to be well off, and we were well off. My summers swept by as if mounted on clouds, at a villa on a beach, where my relatives and friends with similar roots formed an enclave,” the designer said in 1983.
It was a world of wealth, coloured by that colonial tendency to romanticise the motherland, so Saint Laurent always had one foot in North Africa and the other firmly in France. “There were many lovely dinner parties at our comfortable house in town, and I can still see my mother, about to leave for a ball, come to kiss me goodnight, wearing a long dress of white tulle with pear-shaped white sequins,” he recalled.
Long after he moved to Paris and found fame, creating couture for Christian Dior and then his own eponymous brand, Saint Laurent would return to Oran for a few weeks before each show, working on new designs at his old desk, and returning to his atelier in Paris with a suitcase full of sketches. In 1962, after Algeria’s independence, Saint Laurent’s parents, Charles and Lucienne, and sisters, Brigitte and Michèle, moved to Paris, leaving most of their possessions behind and relying on him to rent them a tiny apartment. The ladies of the family were able to adapt to Parisian life, but Charles was filled with longing for the life he had left behind. Perhaps his son felt the same, and found a substitute in Morocco.
In Marrakech, he could stroll anonymously through the souqs of the old city, taking inspiration from the colours and clothes. The city had yet to be tainted by mass tourism, and was avant-garde enough to attract the likes of Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones and French philosopher Michel Foucault, who had been visiting since the 1960s.
It was also during that first trip to Marrakech that Saint Laurent and Bergé came across Jardin Majorelle. The garden was the brainchild of French artist Jacques Majorelle, son of the famous furniture designer Louis Majorelle. Much like Saint Laurent, but 50 years earlier, Majorelle visited Marrakech and was immediately bewitched by the city. In 1923, he bought a four-acre plot on a palm grove on the outskirts of Marrakech, which promptly grew to 10 acres. He commissioned architect Paul Sinoir to design a cubist villa on the grounds, and set up a studio on the first floor. A passionate amateur botanist, Majorelle created an incredible garden surrounding the villa, which would ultimately become his life’s work.
“We quickly became very familiar with this garden, and went there every day,” Bergé wrote in the book Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion. “It was open to the public yet almost empty. We were seduced by this oasis where colours used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature … And when we heard that the garden was to be sold and replaced by a hotel, we did everything we could to stop that project from happening. This is how we eventually became owners of the garden and of the villa. And we have brought life back to the garden through the years.”
As it was then, the garden today is a maze of shaded lanes and towering trees. Bamboo thickets nudge against enormous cacti; birds flit from the treetops; and burbling streams lead to pools laden with lotus flowers and water lilies. At the heart of the garden stands a building in vibrant blue.
Saint Laurent came here twice a year to design his haute couture collections. On June 1 and December 1, he would travel to Marrakech for two weeks at a time, and it is here that he found the space, clarity and inspiration to create. The city’s influence can be seen in the clothes themselves, as the designer drew from local fashions, crafts and colours, and by the billowing silhouettes of the jalabiya and the burnous cape. It is often said that it was here that he “discovered colour” and there are obvious examples: a cape in silk faille embroidered with bougainvillaea flowers from his spring/summer 1989 haute couture collection; the burnished orange and hot pinks of a silk-satin off-the-shoulder dress from his autumn/winter 1987 collection; and the elaborate turbans sported by many of his models.
“In Morocco, I realised that the range of colours I use was that of the zelliges, zouacs, djellabas and caftans. The boldness seen since then in my work, I owe to this country, to its forceful harmonies, to its audacious combinations, to the fervour of its creativity. This culture became mine, but I wasn’t satisfied with just absorbing it; I took, transformed and adapted it,” he said.
Saint Laurent’s life in Morocco was captured in an iconic shoot for the August 1980 issue of Vogue, by the legendary photographer Horst P Horst. One particular image sees a handsome Saint Laurent reclining in the grounds of Jardin Majorelle, surrounded by all the accoutrements of a traditional Arabic home – colourful Berber rugs in shades of rust red, deep yellow, orange and green; floor cushions emblazoned with geometric patterns in rich shades of turquoise and pink; and oversized platters and bowls brimming with brightly coloured citrus fruits. Jardin Majorelle was the site of key events in Saint Laurent’s life – and after he passed away on June 1, 2008, in Paris, his ashes were scattered in the garden. A memorial was set up here, in the form of a Roman pillar on a pedestal with a plate bearing his name.
Saint Laurent’s ties to Marrakech are to be further cemented next month when, 51 years after the designer first visited the city, a museum celebrating his career, designs and life will open just up the road from Jardin Majorelle. An initiative by the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, which was established to safeguard the couturier’s legacy, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech will span more than 4,000 square metres, and feature a permanent exhibition space, a temporary exhibition gallery, research library, auditorium, bookshop and cafe. A reported 50 couture outfits will be on show in the Morrocan city at any given time, while the library will hold a reported 6,000 books on fashion, Yves Saint Laurent and Berber culture.
“I don’t think that people fully understand that the upcoming Yves Saint Laurent museum is not just any other fashion museum; it is the largest cultural project happening in Morocco,” says Stephen di Renza, creative director for retail operations at Jardin Majorelle, who visited Abu Dhabi earlier this year. “There will be temporary galleries for different exhibitions. Pierre Bergé owns the largest collection of Moroccan and Andalusian manuscripts, which will be available for reference. There is an amphitheatre for symposiums. And at the moment, we are discussing what kinds of cultural programming we’ll have – the idea is to have music, dance, arts etc.”
With its clear, uncluttered lines, the architecture of the museum echoes Saint Laurent’s work. And its opening on October 19 will come a couple of weeks after the launch of another Yves Saint Laurent museum in Paris, in the pre-existing Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent at 5 Avenue Marceau. That this remarkable designer will be honoured by two museums is a mark of the impact that he had on fashion in the 20th century, but is also, arguably, a sign of the rising stature of fashion as an art form in itself. Either way, much like it did in his collections, Marrakech will take centre stage.
Own the streets: a wander
through Beirut, captured the
old-fashioned way - on film
Tilting the scales
Nicholas Kirkwood is no stranger to luxury collaborations. In the past, the celebrated British footwear designer has created calf leather loafers for Erdem, bow-embellished velvet pumps for Roksanda and suede Oxfords for Peter Pilotto. Now, for the first time, Kirkwood is applying his signature architectural and graphic design style to a handbag. But not to any old purse: to Bulgari’s iconic Serpenti Forever.
The resultant four-piece capsule collection, which is available in select boutiques from this month, features a sinuous chevron pattern designed to reflect the lithe movements of the serpent, a recurring Bulgari motif since the 1960s. The zigzagging lines are a striking move away from the original bag’s structured shape, and are rendered bolder still for their use of colour: pink spinel, royal sapphire, bright gold and stark monochrome. The richly textured calf leather further evokes the snake’s scales, while an enamelled snakehead clasp glints with gemstone-inspired eyes.
“The serpenti motif has such an interesting design ethos behind it, which is what I love about the collection,” says Kirkwood. “In mythology, the serpent represents sublime perception, transformation, immortality and, best of all, fertility. Who knows what will happen when you wear this handbag?”
Kirkwood also used various types of rubberised studs with faceted ends, which he says reminded him of the “diamond settings and spectacular gemstones [he] saw at the Bulgari high-jewellery atelier”. It was a visit to the atelier last year, where he observed Bulgari’s master craftsmen bringing one-of-a-kind pieces to life, that sparked the collaboration in the first place.
This was followed by Bulgari’s SerpentiForm exhibition in the Museum of Rome, where Kirkwood was able to appreciate how the snake motif has inspired a number of artists, sculptors, filmmakers and photographers through the ages. Apparently, he also realised that the house’s aesthetic was perfectly in keeping with his own penchant for boldness, and for blending unconventional colours, patterns and materials together. The ornamentation on the Serpenti Forever capsule collection, for instance, is a seemingly erratic combination of flat, round and pyramidal studs, both varnished and matte. The sleek clasp, too, gets an update – interpreted as it is in a two-tone palette.
The limited-edition bags are available in four styles: a backpack, shoulder bag, wallet and an envelope clutch. Kirkwood has said that this first foray into designing bags felt like a natural move for him, and he hopes to offer more than footwear from his eponymous brand in the future. The collection is currently available at select Bulgari boutiques around the world including those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Confessions of a make-up mogul
It’s hard not to like Charlotte Tilbury. Make-up artist to the stars, instigator of countless make-up trends and, since 2013, founder of a much-loved, eponymous make-up brand, she is also a human whirlwind. Whether she’s talking about lipstick, shoots in the desert or Jennifer Lopez’s contouring, she is so enthusiastic and animated that it is impossible not to get swept along.
Anyone who has held even a passing interest in fashion magazines over the past 25 years will be familiar with Tilbury’s work. A veteran of innumerable fashion shoots, she has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the industry.
Mario Testino, Mert and Marcus, Kate Moss, Miranda Kerr, Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian are some of the names that trip off her tongue, but I am still taken aback to learn that she was the make-up artist behind a 2002 shoot entitled Castaway Kate in British Vogue that sparked my own interest in fashion.
It starred a young Moss, whose bronzed skin (from her lips to her eyelids to her arms) was so beautifully matte that it triggered a trend for nude lips and matte skin that exists to this day. “Back then, there were no tanning products,” Tilbury says with a laugh. “To get the skin colour I wanted, I had to mix Ben Nye and Guerlain, and then I literally imprinted the mix onto her body with cotton wool. It took three hours. I wanted her to look naturally bronzed, gorgeous and natural. For her beige lip in the shoot, which I called Nude Kate, I was using concealer, a pinky lipstick and a bit of a brownish lipstick – it was a concoction. And it set off a massive trend. Afterwards, everyone was asking me: ‘Can we get that lip?’ So products were being born without me realising.”
With an approach to make-up that she herself describes as “alchemy”, Tilbury happily mixes products to get the precise colour or texture she is looking for. “Make-up artists have secrets and tricks that we keep to ourselves, and it’s part of the reason we are booked. Magic Cream is where it all started for me. I was working with a lot of celebrities, and they would come off planes, exhausted and dehydrated. How do I make them look gorgeous in under an hour? It became so famous backstage – it was then known as ‘secret cream’ – that make-up artists, celebrities and models all wanted it. When I launched my YouTube channel, I realised I couldn’t do it without my Magic Cream. When we went on sale in Selfridges, we had about 200 people queuing to buy it, and it’s still one of our bestsellers.”
Having spent years developing tricks and shortcuts, Tilbury is now keen to share her knowledge. Aware that many women feel intimidated by the sheer range of make-up products available on the market, her aim is simply to help women feel more confident. “All of my products come from me wanting to steal a celebrity’s DNA and put it a bottle,” Tilbury explains. “My WonderGlow Skin Care Primer is like shrinking Gisele Bündchen and putting her in a jar. She looks lit from within, glowing and gorgeous. So I wanted something that would do good for your skin, and make you look very glowy. Jennifer Lopez is the contouring queen. It’s an old Hollywood trick, and when I worked with her, it was all about cheekbones, highlighter and facial architecture. Filmstar Bronze & Glow is something I wanted to give to women in an easy format. The whole thing is about democratising make-up and coming up with a solution. This was all about taking my tips and tricks from the runways and red carpets, and giving it to real women.”
Aside from working on countless fashion editorials, creating red-carpet looks for celebrities – Kerr, Kardashian, Nicole Kidman and Sienna Miller are all devotees – and doing the make-up for both Moss and Amal Clooney’s nuptials, Tilbury is also the brain behind the launch of make-up lines for Helena Rubinstein, Giorgio Armani, Alexander McQueen and MAC. “I created the whole Tom Ford line with Tom Ford,” she confides.
The UAE’s first stand-alone Charlotte Tilbury store is due to arrive in The Dubai Mall early next year. Opening alongside stores in Kuwait and Bahrain, it promises to offer the same experience as her London flagship. “We are creating a Beauty Wonderland,” she says. “I wanted to create an old-school theatre that’s fun. You can come in and get a quick feline flick, or a five-minute smoky eye. I wanted to create different areas, a juice bar and a boudoir area, which is like Marilyn Monroe’s dressing area. There will be amazing artists and private sessions for VIPs.”
The Dubai store may be new, but Tilbury is no stranger to the UAE. She tells the tale of her first-ever visit to the country – and like most of the make-up maestro’s stories, it’s a good one. “I came here 13 years ago, when Dubai was just emerging. It was Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Mert and Marcus, Karen Elson, Amber Valletta and me, in the middle of the desert, shooting the Louis Vuitton spring campaign. There was nothing here then. It was like the Wild West.”
Top 5 beauty-tech developments to watch out for
Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Mirror is a feature in her Westfield London store, and the British make-up artist promises it will have a home in her upcoming Dubai boutique, too. The concept took two years to develop. “I had the idea a while ago, but didn’t launch it until the technology had caught up,” she says. The virtual mirror allows you to choose between set make-up looks and view them, superimposed, on a screen showing your face in real time. Users can switch between day and night looks with the press of a single button. And thanks to face-mapping technology, users can also turn their faces or move closer to the screen, and their superimposed make-up looks will stay intact. “It’s a new era in augmented reality,” says Tilbury.
Identifying what your skin needs and what it lacks is important when deciding what skincare products to use. A new app from YouCam Makeup and Perfect Corp, available on iOS and Android, allows you to do just that. The augmented-reality diagnostic tool works in real time to assess four signs of skin health: wrinkles, spots, texture and dark circles. All you have to do is upload a selfie on the app to get a detailed skin-health report, which includes your skin age and compares how your skin scores in relation to other people from your demographic group. You can track the results in the Skin Diary section, and use it to judge which products suit you over time. The tool relies on face-recognition technology, and is able to balance lighting conditions and other environmental factors. “The app helps users better understand their overall skin health and track skin conditions over time, in order to make more empowered beauty decisions,” says Alice Chang, chief executive of Perfect Corp.
This gadget is a handbag essential for women who are constantly on the move. Although it may appear to be an ordinary blush compact, the palette doubles as a phone charger. Within the compact is a mirror equipped with an LED ring light that can be turned on by double tapping a button. It houses blushes in four shades, which can be customised upon purchasing the device, and the formulas are 100 per cent natural. Users can also purchase make-up refills. The compact has a built-in portable charger with the capability to fully charge a smartphone or a tablet – an iPhone 6 will be fully charged within 52 minutes. The kits cost Dh540 each and are available in three colours, light blue, fuchsia or dark grey, from www.imup.melely.com.
While brushing your hair may seem like a simple task, haircare experts advise that precautions be taken – the speed, force and intensity of your strokes can cause damage. The Kérastase Hair Coach Powered By Withings is a smart brush, and with its accompanying app, can help monitor the healthiness of your hair by analysing and tracking information as you brush it. It can detect if your hair is wet or dry, which will impact its readings, while a microphone embedded into the brush can determine whether your strands are frizzy or have split ends. Factoring in environmental elements such as humidity and temperature, it will score your hair quality and advise you on how to improve your brushing technique. The brush is best-suited to hair that’s longer than chin-length, and not too coarse or curly. It will be available to purchase in autumn from Kérastase.com and at select Kérastase hair salons.
With a vast range of beauty products on the market, consumers are often in need of some guidance. But even through research, it’s difficult to source unbiased product recommendations. MyBeautyMatches.com offers users both personalised product suggestions and competitive price comparisons. Users fill out an online quiz detailing what types of products they are looking for, and the artificial intelligence technology examines more than 400,000 products from 3,500 beauty brands. The website’s algorithm analyses the clicks and individual consumer profiles of users, along with data from its skincare, make-up, hair, body and fragrance brands, to make impartial product recommendations tailored to each of the London-based site’s visitors.
The rise of mini me
It’s always tough staying ahead of the fashion curve, and those wanting to stand out from the crowd this autumn/winter, are going to have to really up their accessories game, because the latest It bag or shoe du jour is no longer good enough. For those wanting to break the internet this season, the new must-have is an offspring, wearing the same outfit as you.
Welcome to the age of the mini-me.
Taking its name from Austin Powers’s tiny doppelgänger, this trend for twinning with the children has been steadily building in popularity. Fuelled by celebrity parents such as Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé, coupled with a seemingly insatiable need to post our lives all over social media, more and more of us are getting matchy-matchy with the kids.
In the digital age, small clothes are big business. A report by Global Industry Analysts, entitled Children’s Wear: A Global Strategic Business Report, predicts that the childrenswear market will be worth $US291 billion (Dh1.06 trillion) by the end of 2020. The report cited the increasing number of luxury labels catering to this segment as a key growth driver.
As Candice Fragis, buying and merchandising director at Farfetch.com, explains: “Our customers love the mini-me factor – kids’ styles that match a piece or print from a brand’s ready-to-wear line are some of our most popular items. For example, we recently launched Dubai-based label Bambah’s new children’s range, Little Bambah, which offers 24 mini-me pieces pulled from adult collections. The designer, Maha Abdul Rasheed, launched the line in response to overwhelming demand from mothers requesting matching outfits for their little ones. I think that social media can definitely be credited with influencing this type of shopping behaviour. The popularity of our mini-me kidswear styles is likely fuelled by the allure of capturing that perfect Insta-moment.”
As with every industry, fashion relies on profit margins and market expansion for continued growth. As womenswear reaches saturation point, brands are looking to move into other, less crowded segments, and childrenswear is ripe for the picking. Of course, the fact that children are literally still growing is a boon for companies, as this is an audience that is constantly in need of new things. It is also, in theory, a way of instilling brand loyalty from a very young age.
Traditionally, the majority of a child’s outfits were bought by mothers, with practicality in mind, while expensive, more frivolous clothes were purchased by extended family looking to lavish attention on a child. Now, mothers are also “investing” in those high-cost items, apparently willing to spend on a child’s wardrobe in the same way they spend on their own.
A key trendsetter in this particular arena is Blue Ivy Carter, the 5-year-old daughter of pop royalty Beyoncé and Jay Z, who has had a sizeable effect on what is deemed acceptable attire for the under-5s. Last summer, Blue Ivy and her mother wore matching Gucci sundresses in Paris, and opted for the label again for the premiere of Beauty and the Beast earlier this year. This time they wore matching green Gucci gowns, with the young Ms Carter’s dress retailing at Dh7,350. At the MTV VMA awards last year, meanwhile, Blue Ivy wore a Mischka Aoki princess dress that retails for Dh40,500, to complement her mother’s Francesco Scognamiglio couture gown.
Meanwhile, Kim and Kanye West’s daughter North, 4, and son Saint, 1, are already rumoured to be wearing custom-made Lagerfeld. Mind you, North was wearing child-sized Balmain long before it even existed. And last year, the then 3-year-old wore the same Vetements sequinned dress as her mother – all the more notable given that the brand’s creations are notoriously hard to get hold of. More recently, to attest to the fact that age is no barrier to twinning, Gwyneth Paltrow and her 74-year-old mother Blythe Danner stepped out in matching floral Prada ensembles.
While high-end children’s clothes are hardly a new idea – Christian Dior launched its Baby Dior line back in 1969 – having small versions of adult pieces is a much newer phenomenon. When British brand Burberry launched its children’s line in 2008, it offered a scaled-down version of its adult wear. And despite being slow to join the kids’s sector, both Balmain and Givenchy’s children’s lines, when they finally arrived this year, were almost direct facsimiles of what was seen on the autumn/winter 2017 ready-
The undisputed master of childrenswear, however, has to be Dolce & Gabbana, which has elevated clothes from sartorial swag to a statement of family devotion. Promoted as an essential part of the brand’s “Italian family heritage” philosophy, the brand has been building its children’s line as a complement to its adult range for the past two years, when it sent dresses emblazoned with the words “I love you mamma” down the runway.
This approach climaxed on the brand’s autumn/winter 2017 runway, when the show opened with the designer-model couple Jason and Amanda Harvey clutching their twins Noah and Rose, all dressed in head-to-toe matching feline prints. Far from being a flash-in-the-pan-trend, the mini-me movement seems to be gaining traction.
“The ‘mini-me’ trend is interesting because there is an emotional component to it – that moment of dressing up with your child is a real draw for some. Dolce & Gabbana has been very strategic with this, offering seasonal ‘mini-me’ printed styles that always perform well,” Fragis explains.
“For example, the brand’s lemon-print dresses and swimsuits sold out simultaneously on Farfetch in both women’s and kids sizes. I definitely think that the luxury childrenswear market will continue to develop – the potential for growth is massive.”
What we're loving this month
Van Cleef & Arpels
In jewellery, the circle represents love, trust and fidelity – that which is everlasting because it has no beginning and no end. Van Cleef & Arpels has looked to this symbol of eternity for two new designs for its Perlée collection, unadorned save for rows upon rows of beads encircling a bracelet and a ring. The individually polished gold beads are hand-placed across three or five curved rows, creating an opulent three-dimensional effect, while craftsmen also applied the house’s mirror-polishing technique to lend an iridescent sheen to the underside of the pieces. The bracelets are available in three sizes, and have a discrete clasp mechanism hidden under a single, larger bead. Gilded beads have appeared in the maison’s creations since the 1920s, initially by themselves and later paired with rubies, diamonds and pearls. The simplicity of the two new designs, though, is no less effective, because they embrace the 120-year-old maison’s tradition of superior craftsmanship. The circle continues.
The Hermès Twilly silk scarf is a thing of great versatility: it can be wrapped around your head, tacked on to a handbag or, most famously, worn as a bow. Tutorials on how best to construct the playful Twilly bow are rampant on social media – that dynamic domain reigned over by stylish young women. It is to them that the house’s latest fragrance Twilly d’Hermès, by perfumer Christine Nagel, is dedicated. The scent is a twist of three ingredients: ginger, tuberose and sandalwood – an unusual combination, perhaps, but one that’s meant to reflect the free, cheerful and whimsical traits of youth. The colourful packaging comes expertly knotted like a scarf around the Twilly d’Hermès bottle, with a ribbon-tie of silk encircling the cap. Geneva-born perfume creator Nagel, who joined Hermès in 2014, is the nose behind such distinctive feminine fragrances as Galop d’Hermès and Eau des Merveilles Bleue for Hermès; plus Miss Dior Cherie, Dolce & Gabbana The One for Woman, Eau de Cartier, Chopard Madness and Versace Woman. Twilly d’Hermès is now available in-store and costs up to Dh565 for 85ml.
Maleficent eyes are situated in the centre of a rounded-square, or cushion-shaped, face. The number 12 indicates that this is, in fact, a watch, although it doesn’t quite look the part. The Swiss-made timepieces are part of the latest Momento Fendi Bugs Cushion collection, and are available in two distinct designs, catering to two separate consumers: those who prefer a more classic approach to luxury, and those who favour a bolder, more daring aesthetic. The first is a two-tone bracelet model, combining rose gold with stainless steel, and the second features a black lacquered dial and calfskin leather strap, with yellow-toned eyes. Both designs are set with two diamonds in place of the pupils, and every minute, at the moment when the minute and seconds hand align, the iconic Fendi logo is formed by the layering of the two. While timepieces depicting the Fendi bug faces are not new to the luxury market, this is the first time that the watches are available in on-trend cushion shapes, since previous versions featured circular cases.
Dries Van Noten
The work of fashion designer Dries Van Noten is being celebrated with the launch of two unique books that document a colourful career spanning 26 years. Having reached the milestone of 100 fashion collections, the designer is the subject of two retrospective tomes by Lannoo Publishers, which will launch in October. Entitled simply Dries Van Noten 1-50, and Dries Van Noten 51-100, the two books document a career that began in 1991, and take readers on a visual journey through 2,000 unique images. Described by The New York Times as “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers”, and considered to be an icon in his hometown of Antwerp, Van Noten is known for his highly intellectual approach to design, as well as his vivid use of pattern and a magpie’s eye for mixing references. Much of the text accompanying the photographs is written by Susannah Frankel (AnOther Magazine) and Tim Blanks (The Business of Fashion), who provide valuable insight into the collections. Covering both menswear and womenswear, these books are a detailed look at the work of a unique talent, and a must-buy for every serious fashion aficionado.
Would you pay Dh10,650 for a skateboard?
Here’s what makes this designer skateboard by Hermès the ultimate sporting accessory
As befitting a brand that specialises in discreet, exceptionally expensive subversion, French fashion house Hermès has unveiled a collection of skateboards and longboards. In the same vein as Chanel’s snowboard and Saint Laurent’s stiletto-roller skates (although, admittedly, the latter are just for show), the Hermès skateboard takes an item straight from the street and gives it a luxury makeover.
It was perhaps only a matter of time before Hermès made the leap from saddles and skipping ropes to skateboards; however, as with everything that the brand does, the quality here is superb. Available in two sizes, skateboard and longboard, and in three designs, these wheeled objets d’art are made from seven layers of laminated Vosges maple and flax. Maple is known for its flexibility and lightness, making it ideal for skateboards.
In this instance, the topside of the board is decorated with a Cavalcadour pattern. It was first envisaged by Hermès’s legendary artistic director Henri d’Origny, who has been behind many of the house’s most recognisable motifs since he joined in 1958. This particular pattern is inspired by the belts and buckles from horse riding tack, and has adorned scarves, pocket squares, ties, and now a skateboard.
Skateboarding is believed to have been invented in California sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, by bored surfers. Looking to recreate the feeling of riding waves when there were none, someone came up with the idea of nailing wheels to a plank of wood, and the skateboard was born. Refined many times since then, it has now officially made its way into the world of high fashion. Skateboards are short and light, offering enough flexibility needed for tricks, while longboards are longer and used for cruising and racing. This baby is probably best suited to the halfpipe, but, given its sizeable price tag, it’ll be a brave soul who takes it out of the house.
The skateboard will be available from late September, online and in select Hermès boutiques worldwide.
Luxury Editor: Selina Denman
Deputy Editor: Sarah Maisey
Art Director: Emma Tracey
Picture Editor: Olive Obina
Assistant Editor: Panna Munyal
Stylist: Hafsa Lodi
Contributor: Arti Jhurani
Videographer: Willy Lowry
Copyright The National 2017