‘A good fashion shoot is about much more than pretty clothes’
A good fashion shoot, one that not only catches the eye, but also captures the imagination, is about much more than pretty clothes. It tells a story. The carefully selected outfits may be the protagonists, but they are also meant to act as a catalyst for other forms of artistic expression –whether photography, that delicate manipulation of light and shadow, angle and expression, stillness and movement; or the transformative power of make-up, which reduces the human face to a blank canvas.
This month, we use clothes to tell the story of an incredible place that has been all but forgotten by the annals of history. The Rachid Karami Tripoli International Fair sits in the heart of the Lebanese city and is a moving symbol of what the country once was – and aspired to be.
Lebanon’s former president, Camille Chamoun, hoped that a large-scale trade fair would inject a new lease of life into Lebanon’s second city. The famed Pritzker-prize-winning Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was enlisted to create a space that embodied his pared-back, playful style. He envisaged a series of experimental buildings, including a theatre, a vast exhibition hall, an outdoor concert space, a bowling alley, communal housing project and a pavilion featuring elegant Islamic arches.
Construction was interrupted by the onset of the civil war in 1975. Plans to put the grounds to use in the wake of the conflict have proven unsuccessful.
As a result, this abandoned architectural marvel is now an eerie tribute to Lebanon’s pre-war ambitions. A huge, unfinished domed theatre inadvertently acts as a whispering gallery – echoes overlap in the dark as our model changes in the shadows. Lakes that might have provided endless reflections of Niemeyer’s creations stand empty; and signposts saying “dangerous structure; do not enter” mar the landscape. The place is infused with a sense of nostalgia – at every corner, it begs the question of what might have been.
Nostalgia is also the guiding sentiment behind two new exhibitions dedicated to Azzedine Alaïa. There is something incredibly sad about the fact that Alaïa had been working hand in hand with London’s Design Museum on an exhibit of his life’s work when he passed away in November. While he will not see the fruit of the collaboration, which opens in May, visitors will be treated to a particularly poignant showcase. They will get a glimpse of the man through his exquisite creations, but will also get a rare insight into how he wanted those masterpieces to be perceived.
Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier will feature 60 dresses by the Tunisian designer, once dubbed the “the king of cling”, and pays fitting tribute to one of fashion’s true greats. “We want to give a sense of how a man like Azzedine Alaïa creates, because he stands apart from so many fashion designers today,” Alice Black, co-director of the Design Museum, says in our feature examining Alaïa’s legacy.
As this exhibit highlights, Alaïa was the very antithesis of fast fashion. He was a perfectionist who cut all his own patterns, eschewed the traditional fashion calendar and only showed his creations if he genuinely thought he had something worthwhile to share with the world. Quality over quantity, always. If only others would follow his example.
Selina Denman, editor
The sari makes its mark on global runways
Opening the show for Prabal Gurung’s autumn/winter 2018 collection at New York Fashion Week last month was Gigi Hadid, dressed in a fuchsia-toned wrap skirt paired with a patterned scarf that was draped across her torso. The scarf was also wrapped around her neck, with one fringed tail hanging over her shoulder.
To some, it may have just looked like an interesting form of draping. Those in the know, however, might have seen a subtle nod to the sari. And as the show went on, the latter appeared more likely. The Nepalese-American designer’s collection showed all the makings of an autumn/winter line, with cable knits, turtlenecks and checkered trousers. But in the asymmetry, diagonal lines and wrap silhouettes were noticeable allusions to sari-tying techniques dating back centuries. Gurung’s adaptation of these age-old elements was clever and innovative, and avoided putting the brand at risk of any cultural-appropriation controversy. Some references were so contemporary you could easily miss them – like a black blazer designed with a one-sided white lapel, and an off-centre tie closure.
Sari, in Sanskrit, translates as “strip of cloth”, and it usually measures six to eight metres in length. The garment is believed to have originated in the Indus Valley as early as 2800 BC, and today represents the national dress of countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Traditionally, women wear cholis, or blouses, along with a petticoat, or long skirt, under a sari. There are many different ways to drape the cloth, although it’s usually wrapped around the waist a few times, pleated and tucked into the waistband, with the remaining fabric draped over one shoulder. In South Asian circles, draping a sari is something of an art, lost on younger generations who, without the help of a grandmother or elder relative’s help, must resort to YouTube tutorials to guide them.
Gurung’s autumn/winter 2018 showing was not the first time that sari influences have been spotted on an international runway. Who can forget the flamboyant sari-inspired costumes paraded by John Galliano for spring 2003, or the pre-fall 2012 collection by Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld paid homage to Rajasthan, and even adorned his models with Indian-inspired head jewellery? Or the Marchesa spring/summer 2013 show, where dresses were given a Bollywood upgrade, complete with delicate Chantilly lace, one-shoulder drapes, elaborate beadwork and bare midriffs?
Though the sari has evolved to reveal more and more skin, many elders in South Asian societies wear theirs without showing an inch of flesh, even covering their head with the excess fabric. At times, Indian designers take the complete opposite approach, replacing the traditional blouse with a skimpy bralette, and opting for sheer textiles for the draped portion – these are particularly prevalent in Bollywood movie dance sequences. But since modesty has had a heavy hand in inspiring international fashion trends of late, Indian designers, too, have reverted to traditional concepts. Rahul Mishra, for instance, added jackets and capes to his saris – a styling method used previously by Indian queens.
In many cultures throughout India, a red sari is the traditional outfit of choice for a bride on her wedding day. But light, pastel tones featuring washed-out, vintage-inspired floral prints are currently in vogue. Renowned Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee is one of the garment’s most vocal enthusiasts – he recently courted controversy by saying that every Indian woman, young or old, should know how to drape her own sari. Although best known for his heavy, ethnic pieces, Mukherjee has also created a range of lehenga-saris – wide, voluminous skirts with short blouses and shorter scarves draped across the torso. His recent designs feature wallpaper-style floral skirts, paired with embellished silk blouses and bedazzled net scarves.
Payal Singhal’s saris feature head-to-toe feminine blooms, while Archana Rao’s versions are white and sheer, with embroidered floral motifs. Other Indian designers, such as Anamika Khanna and Sonaakshi Raaj, have taken to pairing the sari with trousers, a style commonly called the sari-pant, popularised by Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor.
One year ago, Gurung’s runway show featured feminist slogan T-shirts, and his new, sari-inspired pieces celebrate women, too. His colour choice for Hadid’s opening look was was directly inspired by Gulabi Gang, an Indian activist group that speaks up against domestic abuse. Their uniform consists of saris in the same shade of pink that Gurung draped Gigi in – “gulabi” means “rosy” in Hindi. The gang’s members could never have dreamed that their saris would inspire a New York designer in such a profound way. And while saris might never fully make it into the mainstream, could “gulabi” become the new millennial pink?
* Hafsa Lodi
Dance of the planets
A sun made of pink gold sits in the centre of the dial. Around it revolve a mother-of-pearl Mercury and turquoise Earth, which have been meticulously hand-cut into perfect spheres. Venus, meanwhile, is represented by a green enamel bead, and the moon is a brilliant-cut diamond. “An invitation to plunge into the cosmos and observe the dance of the planets” is how Van Cleef & Arpels describes its Poetic Astronomy family of watches. And in the instance of its new Midnight Planétarium, the flowery pose is more than warranted.
The bejewelled planets are set against a midnight blue background that is granted depth through the use of seven aventurine discs, which are placed in concentric circles and rotate individually. As a result, each celestial body moves at its actual speed, orbiting the dial in 88 days in the case of Mercury, 224 days for Venus and 365 days for Earth. The moon, meanwhile, rotates around the Earth in 29.5 days. Should you also wish to use your watch for something as pedestrian as telling the time, a rhodium-plated gold shooting star on the outer edge of the dial will do the job.
The case of the watch measures 38 millimetres in diameter and is set with diamonds on the bezel and sides. A new self-winding mechanical movement was specifically developed for this smaller case size, in collaboration with Christiaan van der Klaauw. There are two options when it comes to the strap: a blue-glitter alligator option with a white gold pin buckle, or a white gold bracelet set with diamonds. The back of the case features a turquoise circle that sits snug within a half-moon picked out in diamonds.
This lady’s watch comes four years after the unveiling of the Midnight Planétarium for men, which has been carefully restyled for its new audience. It was launched at the SIHH watch fair in January, but made a trip to Dubai last month, so it could be presented to select clients and members of the press.
Continuing with the celestial theme, Van Cleef & Arpels also unveiled the Midnight Zodiac Lumineux Poetic Complications watches for men – a series of 12 timepieces that take their inspiration from the signs of the zodiac. The symbols for Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn are illuminated on the dial via an electrical charge. This is generated by the watch itself and created via the vibration of a ceramic blade – a highly complex process developed exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels. www.vancleefarpels.com
* Selina Denman
One imagines that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, a long-standing patron of the arts, would have been delighted by news that the fashion house she founded has donated €25 million (Dh114m) towards a renovation of Paris’s Grand Palais.
Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the Grand Palais is a historic exhibition hall and museum complex on Paris’s famed Champs-Élysées. It already shares strong links with the house of Chanel – Karl Lagerfeld has been presenting his ready-to-wear and haute couture collections here since 2005.
As a result, over the years, the building’s impressive nave (which, at 13,500 square metres, is the largest in Europe) has been transformed into a classical Greek amphitheatre, brasserie, shopping centre, airport terminal and even the launch pad for a rocket ship, as part of Lagerfeld’s ever-inventive runway shows. It has played host to covetable clothes and chic celebrities, as well as ice sculptures, wind turbines, waterfalls and even, for Chanel’s autumn/winter 2017 haute couture collection, a statue of the Eiffel Tower.
The dimensions, walkways, decor and original interior lighting of the Grand Palais are all to be restored. A new Rue des Palais will cut through the monument at basement level, becoming a central artery that will connect the complex’s various spaces, which have so far remained isolated from one another. Surrounding areas will also be redesigned.
The project is scheduled to begin in December 2020 and culminate in 2024, with a partial reopening in 2023. “Chanel and the Grand Palais have developed a close bond, which was initiated by Karl Lagerfeld in 2005. For Chanel, the Grand Palais, and especially its exceptional nave where our fashion shows are held, is much more than a simple monument in the heart of Paris. Its remarkable architecture makes it a true source of inspiration and creation for Karl Lagerfeld,” says Bruno Pavlovsky, fashion president of Chanel.
In this, the French fashion giant is following a trend set by its Italian counterparts. A number of leading luxury brands have lent their support to high-profile restoration projects in recent years, after Italy’s government admitted that it was no longer able to afford their upkeep. Bulgari contributed a reported US$1.7m (Dh6.2m) to help restore Rome’s famed Spanish Steps, best known, perhaps, as the spot where Audrey Hepburn met Gregory Peck in the 1953 classic Roman Holiday.
Fendi donated $3.2m for the restoration of the Trevi Fountain and the Quattro Fontane, both in Rome.
Florentine fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo donated $817,000 to restore a wing of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. The trend was kick-started by Diego Della Valle, president and CEO of Tod’s, who pledged €25m for a restoration of the Colosseum that was completed in 2016.
There are many reasons why fashion brands have taken to displaying such altruism. In the instances of the Italian brands, cynics will point to the fact that there were tax breaks to be had. But beyond that, luxury brands benefit from Italy’s glamorous image and have a stake in ensuring that illusion is maintained. Furthermore, Valle has been consistent in his opinion that businesses that are successful have a responsibility to give back to the country where they are based. In many instances, these brands are irretrievably linked to the place where they are headquartered. It is a part of their identity, but also a source of endless inspiration.
“I am truly inspired when I get home and I look at the colours of Rome – the colours are so special, from the sky to the buildings to the architecture. Rome is an open museum. I can go around a corner, and maybe I’ve done it a million times before, but I’ll see something new and I’ll think – that could be a motif for a pair of earrings. So Rome, for me, is fundamental,” says Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari’s creative director for jewellery.
The fate of this historic brand is inseparable from the fabric of the city – which is why it paid so much to spruce up those 135 steps.
The trend: 1950s-inspired menswear
A classic buttoned-up shirt is brought up to date in vivid orange and paired with high-waisted trousers, caught at the ankle.
The Hawaiian shirt comes untucked and loose over pleat-front trousers, which are cropped short at the ankle and worn with slides.
The Urban Cowboy theme is revisited, with a Western-shirt-inspired jacket worn over a mint-toned long top and straight trousers.
A silken bomber jacket – now in aqua – feels fresh over an olive green collared top. Perfectly balanced with tan shoes, this is modern-day rock and roll.
A perfectionist who played by his own rules, Azzedine Alaïa passed away in November, leaving the industry in shock. Francesca Fearon looks at two exhibitions celebrating his life
There’s a hushed, reverential silence as Parisians slowly wander around the displays of sculpted gowns, studying every stitch and detail as if in awe of the mastery. These 41 dresses present just a snapshot of Azzedine Alaïa’s work over 40 years, and are being showcased in a special exhibition at Alaïa’s atelier in Le Marais, the site of his last couture show in July 2017.
The exhibition, which takes its title from one of Alaïa’s famous quotes, “I am not a designer, I am a couturier”, is one of two this year devoted to the Tunisian designer, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack last November, leaving the industry in shock. The second exhibition, Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier, will open at London’s Design Museum in May. This exhibit had already been in the works when the legendary designer passed away, so he was heavily involved in its planning. It will explore the career and creative process of this notorious perfectionist, who cut all his own patterns and was known to work on a single garment for years before sharing it with the world. It will showcase more than 60 examples of Alaïa’s works until October 7.
The museum has decided to not change its approach, or replace it with a retrospective, but instead, to stay true to the designer’s vision for the exhibition, while adding some more biographical details and photography elements. “We want to give a sense of how a man like Azzedine Alaïa creates, because he stands apart from many fashion designers today,” explains Alice Black, co-director of the Design Museum. Alaïa stands as one of the most influential designers of his generation, famed for introducing the body-conscious silhouette.
The Paris exhibition opened during haute couture week in January, giving the designer a presence during the collections, and will run until June 10. It has been curated by Olivier Saillard, the former director of Paris’s Palais Galliera, who worked closely with Alaïa to produce the first retrospective of his work in 2013 at the Galliera, so is familiar with the designer’s dresses.
Tightly edited to black or white (with the exception of one red gown), each iconic dress is set out on individual, pearly-hued podiums lining the atelier – Saillard says he wanted the exhibition to look like a string of pearls. Devoid of any captions, you wander around the space with a leaflet featuring each dress and simply the year and season of the design, nothing more.
It makes for a contemplative experience. What is particularly striking is the timelessness of the designs – each dress could be sitting front row at the shows that week, whether it’s a white Grecian-draped mini-dress from 1981 or a body-hugging black dress from 2003 that unravels with a circular zip. In the centre of the exhibition is the dress that Naomi Campbell wore on the runway of Alaïa’s last show in last July.
The designer once said: “My obsession is to make women beautiful. When you create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion.” Timelessness was one of his mantras, but he also had an obsession with defining womanly curves. He would strip away all ornaments and colours on his dresses to leave only the actual construction of the garment, and its relationship to the body, on display. He would literally sculpt the body. To do that, he had to strike a relationship with the client, explains Black. “He was making not just for the physical person, but for the kind of woman she wanted to be.” Dresses, the foundation of the two exhibitions, “are the absolute creation that the couturier never ceased to perfect throughout his career and are the expression and avowal of his desire for eternity”, says Saillard.
Alaïa always worked in pure black, using it like a sculptor to carve the body. Colour would dilute the effect, he believed. He also favoured chalk and plaster whites because they reminded him of his student years at the Beaux-Arts in Tunis. He used animal print because of the powerful, animalistic sensuality it gave models and customers such as Campbell, Grace Jones and Yasmin Le Bon, who remembers wanting “something [to wear] that had attitude and was sexy and had an edge to it. I will never forget the first time I put an Azzedine Alaïa outfit on,” she said at the British Fashion Awards tribute last December. “That was it, it was a done deal. His clothes were sexy, they were cool, they made you feel incredibly confident. They supported us and empowered us in every way possible.”
and publicity-shy designer became something of a father figure to his models. Campbell forged a particularly close friendship with him, moving into his house as a 16-year-old model and even calling him papa. “He was the most generous, kind, compassionate and humble man I have ever known, with a mischievous humour and glint in his eye; he filled my life with joy and light,” reveals the supermodel.
American model Stephanie Seymour shared a similar experience: “He was also my papa; he clothed me, he fed me, he protected me, he walked me down the aisle. He did poke pins into me every once in a while, but I am sure I deserved it. He taught me how to dance and he taught me about love, loyalty and emotion.”
Azzedine Alaïa was born into a farming family in Tunisia in 1940, but his parents split when he was young, and he moved to Tunis with his mother and sister. He entered the École des Beaux-Arts at 15 with plans to be a sculptor, but in an effort to make some pocket money, he learnt to sew from his sister, and started making clothes. He found work with a local dressmaker and discovered his passion for clothes. He arrived in Paris in the late 1950s and worked briefly at Dior before moving to Guy Laroche, where he learnt tailoring. In the mid-1960s, he ventured out on his own, supported by a coterie of well-connected clients.
He dressed Tina Turner for the cover of her album Private Dancer, as well as Madonna, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama and Brigitte Macron, among others. He worked to his own schedule, not participating in fashion weeks unless he had something he wanted to present. He then assiduously kept every design he ever made, offering a superb archive for the two exhibitions to draw from. “He made the first cut of which dresses would feature at the Design Museum, with co-curator Mark Wilson from the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. We were in full swing with preparations when, sadly, he passed away,” says Black.
Alaïa was familiar with the new location of the Design Museum in Kensington, Black adds. “He loved the architecture – the light and the oak – and so, asking him was like pushing an open door,” she says. He was an avid collector of vintage designer fashion and also furniture, so the set includes screens created by the designers he admired, including Marc Newson, Konstantin Grcic and Kris Ruhs, among others. The clothes, then, will be in conversation with their surroundings.
The exhibition coincides with the opening of a new Azzedine Alaïa boutique in London. And the Association Azzedine Alaïa will hold further exhibitions from his archives and collections, in both Paris and the Tunisian town Sidi Bou Said, where he was laid to rest. A ready-to-wear collection will be presented in Paris this month, marking a new era for the maison. It will be shaped by the many talented people who have long been part of the Alaïa family, some of whom worked with him closely for 30 years. Continuing to work from his ateliers and his archives, this family will keep alive Alaïa’s vision of style and timeless beauty.
My luxury life: Olivia Culpo
A former Miss Rhode Island, Miss USA and then Miss Universe, the 25-year-old model, actress and fashion influencer has just landed a starring role in the upcoming reality television series ‘Model Squad’. She was in Dubai last month to launch the Beauty Pop lifestyle fair, which will take place from April 19 to 21
You’re sitting down to the perfect meal. Where are you, whom are you with and what are you eating?
I kind of miss my home right now, so my perfect meal would be at Back 40, the restaurant in Rhode Island that I own with my family. I’d be dining with all of my family and friends.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
I love a lot of stores like Barneys, Intermix, H&M and Topshop, and I love shopping online at Revolve.com. I pretty much go everywhere.
What does your dream home look like?
Anything on a beach. A nice beach, though, doesn’t matter what country.
What is your favourite item in your wardrobe right now?
I just got a pair of really great-looking red Balenciaga boots. They’re booties, so they’re short, but the heel is big.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
Today, I’m thinking my song would be Crazy in Love by Beyoncé.
Are you a collector? If so, what items do you collect?
I think I am becoming a handbag and shoe collector – I’ve only realised that lately.
What is your favourite city in the world?
I really cannot pick one. Every single place that I go to has something different to offer – different people, different food, different weather – it’s so hard to pinpoint one.
What are your go-to beauty products?
My go-to beauty products would be anything from SK-II, La Mer and Dr Barbara Sturm. I also love Mac lipliner, and I really like Koh Gen Do foundations.
What was your first-ever luxury purchase?
I think it was a pair of Uggs – they were fur-lined, and I remember when I wore them to school, everyone made fun of me, because at that time they weren’t as popular as they are now.
What, in your opinion, is the ultimate luxury?
Quality time with your loved ones.
What is your definition of good style?
Style is feeling confident in what you’re wearing and what you’re doing.
What’s the best piece of fashion advice you have ever received?
I’ve received so much great fashion advice. I guess the best advice that I can take away is to just keep an open mind. Sometimes you look at something and think, ‘I would never wear that,’ or ‘that looks so strange’, but style isn’t about what’s trendy; it’s about expressing yourself and making it fun, and because of that there are no rules, and you can’t judge it.
Talk us through your beauty routine.
Since I’m always working and on the go, my typical beauty routine is very simple. I usually wear a tinted moisturiser and lipliner, and I curl my eyelashes, and that’s it. But for red-carpet events when I’m getting hair and make-up professionally done, it takes about two hours.
* Hafsa Lodi
Bailey’s final bow
There’s a phrase in the fashion lexicon: doing a Burberry. It’s when a brand that is widely believed to be past its best, is given a new lease on life and, almost against the odds, goes on to achieve global success.
That’s Christopher Bailey’s legacy – as creative director and then chief executive of Burberry, he took a flailing brand and made it an enduring symbol of British style. But, after 17 years, Bailey presented his final collection during London Fashion Week last month. Appropriately presented under the tagline “Reflecting the past. Celebrating the present. Heralding the future”, the February 2018 collection was a fitting send-off. Bailey exited in a blaze of technicolour. Silhouettes were exaggerated, layered and unexpected; prints roamed from garden floral to graffiti-inspired, and from tie-dye to camouflage. Fabric choices were similarly broad and included everything from fleece and silicone rubber to laminated Swiss lace, towelling, tulle and faux fur. “A patchwork of characters and identities. A collision of ideas. Ballgowns with hoodies. Lace with Lycra. Floral and fleece. Technical and precious, romantic yet precise,” is how Burberry sums it up.
The collection includes three new bags: the Link, which features Burberry’s 1983 check, trimmed in patent leather or punched with metal grommets; the Belt Bag, a leather tote for men and women; and the Grommet Detail, an oversized leather sack.
Long-standing Burberry fans and collaborators were there to see Bailey off, including Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Keira Knightley and Naomi Watts. One of Bailey’s strokes of genius was the 2013 My Burberry campaign, which featured two generations of British supermodels in one image. By pairing Kate Moss with Cara Delevingne, and then Naomi Campbell with Jourdan Dunn for the brand’s spring/summer 2015 campaign, Bailey created a strong sense of continuity between the past and the future – something that was the lynchpin of Burberry’s renewed ethos.
“What I love is the history of this brand, being able to talk to all different types and characters, roots, genders, cultures and lifestyles, and that’s what we always try to celebrate in the campaigns,” Bailey told Luxury magazine in an interview in 2016.
“We are not defined by a particular time or age, but probably by a bit of an attitude. Thomas Burberry was this immense pioneer, and he believed in things, and took risks,” he revealed. So says the man who can be credited with transforming a small, licensed outerwear business into a fashion powerhouse.
What makes this watch worth Dh2,938,000?
That's what this vintage watch could fetch at auction this month. Here’s what makes it so special
This Patek Philippe Reference 1518 belonged to King Farouk, the penultimate monarch of Egypt and Sudan. The Reference 1518 was launched in 1941, and only 281 examples of the model were ever made. It is lauded as the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch produced in a series by any watch company.
King Farouk was a renowned collector of fine watches. The caseback of this particular piece features an engraving of the Royal Crown of Egypt, with a star and half-moon, as seen on the country’s flag. The watch back also features an engraving of the letter “f” – Farouk’s father believed that the letter was lucky for his family, and gave all six of his children names beginning with it.
The watch will be sold at the Christie’s Important Watches auction, which is taking place in Dubai on March 23. This and 180 other timepieces will be on display in the emirate from March 19 until the sale takes place at Jumeirah Etihad Towers Hotel. The pre-sale estimate for this exquisite vintage piece is between US$400,000 and $800,000 (up to Dh2.9m).
Adding to the watch’s value is the fact that its dial has never been restored or cosmetically enhanced. Having not been used for decades, it shows only very light signs of wear.
“King Farouk’s Patek Phillipe Reference 1518 is a crowning element of Christie’s Dubai watch sale this month – it is a storied piece with provenance from the Middle Eastern region, and is already attracting tremendous interest from the region and beyond,” said Remy Julia, head of watches for Christie’s Middle East, India, and Africa. “Having previously found a home for this watch at auction several years ago, Christie’s is delighted to be trusted again to offer King Farouk’s timepiece to a new generation of collectors.”
‘The fusion of the digital, physical and biological worlds’
Miroslava Duma is persona non grata after footage surfaced of her airing a range of unpopular opinions – but that shouldn’t taint the work that she has been doing with Future Tech Lab, argues Sarah Maisey, who recently met the Russian entrepreneur in Dubai
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, actually do,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said.
It is easy to get caught up in the glitz of fashion. But beneath all the gloss and the glamour, there is a darker side. Fashion, for all its pussy-bow necklines and seasonal must-haves, is now the second largest polluter on the planet, beaten only by the oil and gas industry. While it may feel like a stretch to picture a handbag as being nearly as destructive as an oil spill, unfortunately, the facts speak for themselves. Globally, our desire to always wear nice clothes and carry new bags is wreaking havoc on the environment.
An estimated 65 billion animals are killed every year for food, the leather from which is used for bags, shoes and coats. The waste from abattoirs creates lakes of blood that leech into groundwater, while the demand for fur coats and handbag pompoms leads to the annual slaughter of a reported one billion rabbits. Dyeing cotton uses chemicals such as alkylphenols, which are harmful to aquatic life, while phthalates, used to soften plastics, PVC and artificial leathers, are classed as “toxic to reproduction” in Europe. Azo dyes, the most commonly used dye compound, break down into aromatic amines, which are linked to cancer and banned in the EU. Sports clothing that has been treated to reduce body odour, often owes its magical properties to organotin compounds, including tributyltin, which can cause respiratory disorders.
Our jewellery, sparkly as it may be, is not exempt. Gemstones and precious metals have long been used to fund conflicts (hence the moniker “blood diamonds”), while largely unregulated mining has destroyed vast swathes of top soil, polluted rivers and laid bare great tracks of once-fertile land. Working in all-too-often appalling conditions, miners themselves have little or no legal protection, and there are documented cases of forced child labour in many mining communities.
Nonetheless, while most of us seek absolution with a “what can I do” shrug of the shoulders, there are some brave individuals and entities tackling the problem head-on. One such organisation is Future Tech Lab. Founded early last year (as Fashion Tech Lab – it changed its name to better reflect what it is trying to achieve), it describes itself as “a disruptive movement of innovators bridging together fashion and science to create a sustainable future”.
It was founded by Miroslava Duma, a well-known fashion journalist and speaker who grew disillusioned by her role in the industry. “My 4-year-old son asked me: ‘Mummy, what do you do?’” Duma told me when we met in Dubai a couple of months ago. “I tried to explain that I work with all these great brands, and I help them sell more stuff. But then I thought, there has to be something else. Later, I was sitting in one of the fashion shows, looking at another set of clothing and thought: ‘This is my contribution to the world?’ I felt quite ashamed.
“I was looking at the faces of people sitting front row, and they were acting as if they were saving lives. And I thought: ‘Wake up, people. We aren’t saving anything; we are only adding to garbage and pollution.’”
Duma’s answer is FTL, a think tank, investment company and incubator. Unfortunately, soon after we met, Duma become embroiled in a scandal that threatens to derail all of FTL’s good work. Recently, footage has surfaced of her airing homophobic and anti-transgender views and, although she has since apologised profusely and the footage is undoubtedly several years old, the uproar has seen her publicly denounced.
But if FTL’s positive efforts are cancelled out as a result of the scandal, no one benefits. Aside from FTL, Duma also founded Peace Planet, to supply aid to children, and is on the panel of the Stanford Philanthropy Innovation Summit. She is an investor in the green fashion label Reformation, and supports the Naked Heart Foundation. While her now disavowed views clearly belong to some bygone, bigoted era, Duma’s capacity for thinking big is clearly ahead of the curve.
Names such as Austin and Gabriela Hearst; Livia Firth, founder of the Green Carpet Challenge; Diego Della Valle, chief executive of Tod’s; designer Diane von Furstenberg; philanthropist and model Natalia Vodianova; and Ian Rogers of LVMH have all lent their support to FTL, acting as advisers or mentors.
Small companies such as Modern Meadow and VitroLabs are both backed by FTL, and are pioneering the growing of artificial leather in a laboratory setting. They can now, between them, replicate ostrich, cow and crocodile leathers, if only on a small scale. Born of lateral thinking, VitroLabs was founded by a scientist and surgeon working with burn victims. Creating artificial human skin for grafts in Petri dishes, the pair realised that the same technology could be applied to leather as a whole. With sufficient funding, there is no reason not to believe that one day, they will be able to mass-produce leather for fashion and meat for eating, without having to kill a single animal.
Another company under the FTL umbrella is Worn Again. A British company that has already partnered with H&M and Kering, Worn Again has solved the issue of how to separate mixed fibres in recycled clothing. While pure cotton garments are easy to recycle, an estimated 65 million tonnes of clothing (approximately 200 billion items), made from a cotton/polyester mix, are produced every year. About 80 billion of these are purchased, with the rest disappearing into landfill, where it will take close to 200 years for them to break down.
As a solution, Worn Again can now separate polyester fibres from cotton, allowing the polyester yarn to be returned to the manufacturer. Imagine a Nike T-shirt comprising 80 per cent polyester and 20 per cent cotton. Now imagine technology that separates the polyester and returns it to Nike, which can produce the same style of T-shirt over and over again, reducing the waste. With much talk about the need for the world to move to a circular economy – a business model that trades resources again and again, instead of using them once and discarding them – Worn Again is a huge step forward.
In the jewellery arena, FTL and actor Leonardo DiCaprio are both backing Diamond Foundry, a company creating jewellery-grade diamonds in a laboratory. While so-called lab-grown diamonds were invented in the 1960s, only recently has interest developed for their use in jewellery, as mined diamonds are becoming harder to find.
EnviGreen is another company on FTL’s radar, and it creates bags from plants that are 100 per cent biodegradable, dissolve in water and can even be consumed without ill-effect. Offering a solution to the millions of plastic bags that currently blight every vista, the same materials could potentially be used to make single-use hotel bedding, which is dissolved when no longer needed. It could do away with the mountains of laundry created by hotels and even hospitals, on a daily basis.
“The two main generations that everyone is talking about now are millennials and Gen Z. Millennials alone exercise US$2.5trillion (Dh9.1trillion) per year in spending power, and are the biggest living generation in the United States right now. For millennials, if you are not socially visible, environmentally conscious, or responsible, you are not a modern brand,” Duma says.
One high-end success story comes from the Italian luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo. In April, it collaborated with FTL-backed Orange Fibre, which invented a luxury fabric made from waste from the citrus industry. Ferragamo launched a capsule collection made from the material, bringing cutting-edge technology to its highly discerning clientele.
At the company’s launch event in Paris (which coincided with Fashion Week in September), the upper echelons of the fashion industry converged – from José Neves, founder of Farfetch.com, to Demna Gvasalia, the designer behind Vetements and Balenciaga, to Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior and, in what might have been his final public appearance, the reclusive Azzedine Alaïa. Showing that the ideas behind FTL were too important to overlook, the rival houses of the Pinault and Arnault families, as well as Chanel and Hermès, all stood in the same room, at the same time.
“The luxury industry is pushed and driven mainly by beautiful design that creates emotions, and makes us spend more money,” says Duma. “At the same time, if you look at the tech world, it is amazing technology, but the design is ugly. The people in the fashion industry see the world through a prism of beauty and design, which is why, as yet, they haven’t connected with tech people. This is what FTL is trying to do: to translate technology into fashion language.
“We live in an era where the biggest taxi provider in the world, Uber, owns no vehicles. Where the biggest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no real estate. Where you can download and listen to billions of songs online, where you can have access to countless books online. The forces of revolution are the fusion of the digital, physical and biological worlds.”
Duma may have voiced some extremely upsetting views, but she also has some that could transform the world. There is no denying that Duma’s present eloquence is in sharp contrast to her past crudeness. And while her historical mistakes will never be defended here, this author, for one, believes that the work being done is too important to be allowed to be tainted. FTL must be allowed to continue, even if it transpires that Duma’s involvement with it cannot.
More than skin deep
Our skincare needs have changed dramatically – but the products we use haven’t kept up, celebrity facialist Linda Meredith tells Selina Denman
When Dennis Hopper sends you a note saying “you saved me”, you know you’re on to something. But Linda Meredith is used to receiving such missives. The facialist has a client list that features the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Madonna, Jude Law, the late Alexander McQueen, Zoë Kravitz and Colin Firth – and their thank-you notes are proudly displayed on her website. “You are a joy and a riot,” writes Kate Beckinsale. “Thank you for my skin,” proclaims Emma Thompson.
“We have built up a reputation within the TV and film industry, so that film directors and make-up artists send clients to us, as they know our treatments are effective and not invasive, and therefore would never halt any film production, which could cost millions to the production company,” explains Meredith, who has worked in the beauty industry for the last 40 years.
Her flagship salon is located in London’s Knightsbridge, but her treatments and products are available around the world – in the Mandarin Oriental hotels in London, Boston and Barcelona, in the Akaryn Samui and Aleenta Phukey spas in Thailand, and since last month, at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Next on the list are the Palazzo Versace and Address Downtown Dubai.
So, given that she has come face-to-face with some of the most beautiful people on the planet, does Meredith attribute good skin to lifestyle or genetics? “Approximately 60 per cent comes from genetics and the rest is lifestyle,” she says.
The threats faced by our skin as a result of our lifestyles have changed radically in recent decades – while the beauty products that we use to combat those threats haven’t, Meredith maintains. “Since the 1950s, we have all lived in a world full of toxins and synthetic chemicals, in the form of medication, hormones and preservatives in our food. This has dramatically changed the natural balance inside our bodies and, of course, our skin.”
Meredith is of the opinion that no big beauty company “has adapted a new philosophy for skincare in the 21st century”. She suggests that established brands cannot radically overhaul their product lines and philosophies because these were put in place “long before the introduction of chemicals. That philosophy and the hundreds of products that have been developed over many decades cannot just be changed without huge financial cost.”
With the medical industry now encroaching on the beauty industry in increasingly aggressive ways, and unrealistic ideals of beauty being proliferated daily by the marketing industry, it has never been a more challenging time for those in Meredith’s field. “Advertising and marketing show us perfection in their ads, which most of the time gives false hopes to women, as pictures and TV ads have been retouched. Celebrities are still people, and have the same skin problems as we all have at some point.”
Other misconceptions about skincare that Meredith regularly encounters are that the more expensive a product is, the more effective it will be. “Not true. Products that are ridiculously expensive return huge profits, which are needed to pay for celebrity endorsements, even when the celebrity rarely uses that product – I know from the celebrities that use mine, but endorse others.”
Other myths are that a skin product can prevent ageing (“No. It can, however, slow it down,” Meredith says), and that drinking water will hydrate the skin. “When we drink water, it works first and foremost inside the body. It flushes out toxins, regulates body temperature and keeps our organs functioning before finally reaching the surface. This is why using the right products on the outside is as, if not more, important,” Meredith maintains.
Since the skin is facing a new barrage of threats, does that mean that the old cleanse, tone and moisturise model is dead? “No, not at all,” says Meredith. “The only change is with toners, which were originally made with high levels of alcohol simply to help remove heavy cleansers that had a base of lanolin, or sheep fat. Most cleansers today are water-soluble, which means they are easily removed with water.”
Meredith’s own skincare range is designed to address skin problems, rather than skin types. Her signature product is LM1, a thick, buttery cream for those who prefer a more matte finish. Designed to rebuild the skin’s moisture levels, LM1 contains bio-oil to even skin tone and Dermaxyl, from the peptide family, which is important for anti-ageing.
With so many different kinds of products on the market – serums, emulsifiers, masks, creams, oils, lotions – it can be difficult knowing what you actually need. What’s Meredith’s advice? “Yes, there are far too many products on the market today, but that is because most of the cosmetic giants don’t discontinue many products; they just keep adding more. We do need a variation of products, or I should say ingredients, that deal with different problems. We need humectants, which draw moisture from the environment to help hydration; emollients to improve and replace lost nutrients; and then occlusives to seal in the first two and prevent dehydration.”
And her biggest skincare no-no? “The biggest no-no for me is too much skin peeling. Chemical peels, which are more aggressive than natural peels, and laser re-surfacing can become addictive, as the skin feels much tighter. The problem is that with overuse, the skin will become thinner. Part of the ageing process is the skin getting thinner, so why would you want to speed that up?”
As world-class milliners descend upon the UAE ahead of the Dubai World Cup, Panna Munyal looks at the painstaking craftsmanship that hat-making entails, and how headwear is evolving to appeal to a younger audience
When it comes to race-day hats, sumptuous fabrics, luminous ornaments, ostentatious feathers, flowers and even fruit are all par for the course.
Case in point: Princess Haya bint Al Hussein’s bespoke Philip Treacy hat with a vertical black straw design, edged with a stripe of white and trimmed with a silk rose under the raised brim, with a cluster of feathers on top, worn at the Royal Ascot races earlier this year; and Anabella Pribylova’s winning creation – a jagged wave pattern in metallic rose gold – at last year’s Dubai World Cup.
Pribylova is a milliner herself, and her hats are a regular feature at the Meydan racetrack, seen alongside the colourful creations of the hordes of other international designers who descend upon Dubai at this time of year. Horse-racing season sees milliners such as Asim-Ita Kingsley from Nigeria, Edwina Ibbotson and Lee Edmondson of Designs by Christiane, from the United Kingdom, and Australia’s Liza Georgia, displaying their wares at pop-ups and exhibitions around the emirate. Most of them are set to return for the March 31 World Cup event, joined this time around by Emily Baxendale of Emily-London, who is a milliner for the British royal family and also counts a number of celebrities as her clients. Baxendale was in Dubai last month to showcase her latest collection, which will be displayed at Harvey Nichols - Dubai at Mall of the Emirates until the end of March. She was also on-hand to offer styling advice for the upcoming race and to take bespoke orders.
Unlike the over-elaborate head baubles one has come to associate with Dubai’s racing set, a quick glance through Emily-London’s in-store and online collections reveals a cleaner, more classic aesthetic. “I’m a huge equestrian enthusiast, but often at the races, the press only zoom in on hats that are more like showpieces. These aren’t necessarily representative of the general aesthetic of the time,” says Baxendale. “I think a hat should complete an outfit, without being over-the-top gaudy. To me, having feathers and beadwork and multiple colours all together would be a big no-no. It’s all personal taste, of course, but we usually design pieces we would like to wear ourselves.”
By we, Baxendale means the team of five women in her London studio, each in charge of a different aspect of the hat-making process. Everything, from the moulding of the base to the dyeing and draping of the fabric, is done by hand, as is any crystal or beadwork. Emily-London sources its handmade wooden hat moulds from Luton, the heart of hat-making in the United Kingdom, and the only “gadget” the ladies use is a simple sewing machine. In that sense, millinery seems to have retained some of the old-school workmanship that translates into individually crafted, hand-worked pieces.
Originally conceived as protection against the elements, headwear has undergone a long and fascinating journey – from being worn by women to protect their modesty, as a sign of respect in places of worship and, of course, to make a style statement. Baxendale, who did her apprenticeship under Rachel Trevor-Morgan, milliner to Queen Elizabeth II, says that despite majoring in English and French literature, for her, the storied history and present-day evolution of hat-making held the greater lure.
The same goes for Nigerian designer Kingsley, founder of Itam by King’s Signature, who is a trained architect. “I grew up watching my mum and grandmum making hats and head wraps, so it was always in my DNA. My background as an architect helps me to focus on form and visualise my creations in 3D even before I’ve made them, which is a helpful aid because a hat is only as good as its fit,” he says. He has set up a kiosk at BurJuman mall ahead of the Dubai races, marking his sixth year here in a row.
The right fit is the result of a number of factors. To start with, a “good” hat must be attractive in its own right, and suitable for the occasion it’s being worn to. Next, it must flatter the features and personality of its wearer, both in terms of size and embellishments. The shape and colour must also match the overall ensemble, and either be in keeping with current trends, or be a timeless design, such as the pillbox.
“The Jackie Onassis pillbox is a really flattering shape – it’s flat and sits on the back of the head – and it goes perfectly with a nipped-in waist and pencil skirt. We make that style quite often for bespoke clients. If styled properly with some volume to the hair, it can look amazing,” says Baxendale. Milliners, then, are often the go-to not only to construct a hat, but also to advise people on how to style it.
“Think about what you’re going to be doing at the event. Will you be meeting a lot of people? Are you going to be hugging a lot of people? If so, opt for a small or medium-sized hat,” says Kingsley.
Baxendale adds that the wires, bands or clips that bind the hat to your head or hair are an important element, too, as these will hold the topper in place if you’re bending down to sit, say, or to retrieve a fallen clutch. Practicality is the number-one priority when it comes to the milliner’s trade and, to this end, the quality of materials used plays a major part. In fact, the word milliner was originally designated to the hat merchants who came from Milan, the birthplace of luxurious fabrics.
“Like many things, the amount you pay for material, generally dictates the quality of the finished product. A better-quality silk, leather or straw can make all the difference to the look of the hat,” says Pribylova.
Emily-London, which usually works with fine lace, duchess silks, rich velvets and brocades, has recently started using fur-free fur. “As many designers will attest, until recently, faux fur simply did not look luxurious enough; the quality was cheap and that reflected in the finished product. That is no longer the case, with fur-free fur looking every bit as opulent, so there’s no excuse to not wear it. Our feathers, too, are ethically sourced, natural byproducts,” says Baxendale, adding: “Our Panamas are hand-woven in Ecuador, and we work a lot with natural linens and hessians, in addition to beautiful lace and lustrous silks and velvets. A lot of thought goes into whether a hat is for a summer or winter collection, which would then impact the weight and texture of its fabric as well as the luminosity and layering of the embellishments.”
For all the thought, hard work and expense that goes into making a single hat, the accessory’s newest consumers, millennials – who come armed with both spending power and the ability to make or break a brand or trend – seem largely unimpressed with traditional headgear, or so claim the milliners. “Young ladies, these days, will have nothing to do with hats, but they are quite big on fascinators and turbans,” says Kingsley.
Accordingly, most milliners have branched out into producing wraps, turbans, bands, clips and myriad hair accessories in the hope that they’ll find favour with this discerning set of spenders. The Emily-London pop-up at Harvey Nichols, for example, has just as many bead-encrusted head bands as it does regular hat styles. The team have also designed a cross between a hat and a turban, with an elaborate twist of fabric, available in a limited-edition print.
“It’s an interesting time for hats and other headwear,” notes Baxendale. “On the one hand, you have occasions, such as horse races, where most people try to get as creative as possible with traditional shapes; and on the other, you have the artistic, quirky and unconventional designs, be it a detachable veil for a modern-day bride or an exquisite bejewelled turban that can also be styled as a scarf, both for the experimentative dresser, as well as for the modest-wear wardrobe. In the end, as a designer, you always aspire by your clients and your contemporaries and, hopefully, they by you,” she concludes.
The Black Book
Anyone who has experienced a hammam spa treatment will be familiar with the term fresh – the centuries-old ritual that nurtures and purifies the skin can be a bit of a shock to the system, but remains as popular as ever. And now a UAE company called Hammamii, founded by Shawna Morneau, has launched a range of luxury skincare products that capture the essence of the ancient rituals of the hammam. There are five collections in the range, and they include soaps, milk baths, hair masks, shower oils, facial balms and elixirs, replenishing masks and body oils – each one made in the UAE. The ingredients are all natural and sourced as locally as possible, so you’ll discover within them camel milk from Dubai, lemons from Fujairah, dates from Ras Al Khaimah and salt from the region’s shores. Local spices and Arabic coffee are incorporated, too, and the sophisticated packaging has been produced in collaboration with a UAE-based henna artist, Amrin Wahid, and a local print house. The organic ingredients were chosen for their minerals and vitamin content, and the products have been specifically developed for use in warm, humid conditions. Hammamii is available to purchase at Dubai Design District, Building 1, with more outlets and leading spas coming on board soon.
Aspinal of London
If you’re the kind of person who looks back at the travel of yesteryear with misty-eyed nostalgia, Aspinal of London’s new spring/summer collection could be just the ticket. The English accessories brand, which was founded 18 years ago, offers designer handbags and purses for women, wallets for men, plus other luxury leather goods and, this season, its collection is themed around what it calls “the golden era of elegant travel”. Combining opulent textures, colours and materials, such as tortoiseshell and crocodile print, with velvet and patent leathers, the pieces offer a nod to the past, when travel was a truly luxurious experience. From a mini hat box inspired by vintage styles, to a wide array of bags and handmade cases for the discerning business traveller, there’s no shortage of beautiful things to bring some glamour back to those long-haul flights. Aspinal has eight stores across London and two in Abu Dhabi, at Yas Mall and The Galleria. There is also a concession within Robinsons Department Store in Dubai’s Festival City. www.aspinaloflondon.com
For 120 years, the Ritz Paris has been the very embodiment of French style, elegance, decadence and luxury. An iconic hotel like no other, it has provided the finest accommodation for countless high-society luminaries – Gabrielle Chanel lived there for 35 years and died there, while Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald were regulars – and soon it will be selling off some of the fixtures and fittings that have been part of the very fabric of this legendary venue. Following its reopening in 2016 (it was closed for a four-year renovation), 10,000 items, including close to 3,500 pieces of furniture, were not returned to their previous positions and will be auctioned during a five-day sale conducted by leading French auction house Artcurial. The lots will go under the hammer between April 17 and 21 and, for the week preceding the sale, will form part of a special exhibition put together by a Parisian interior designer within Artcurial’s headquarters on the Champs-Élysées. www.artcurial.com
Ex Nihilo, the Parisian perfume house that takes its name from a Latin phrase that translates as “out of nothing”, has only been in business for four years, but has committed itself to offering products that are truly original. Some of the company’s fragrances (the bottles alone could be considered as objet d’art) that are currently available at Bloomingdale’s in The Dubai Mall include Cologne 352, the number of Ex Nihilo’s address in Paris. This is the brand’s signature scent and has top notes of Italian lemon and juniper berries, rounded by a musky base of white cedar and guaiac woods. Oud Vendôme is spicy, fresh and quintessentially French, fusing together saffron, ginger, cinnamon and agarwood, while Vetiver Moloko is described as a “racy woody fragrance wrapped in a creamy and enveloping veil” that’s suitable for men and women, and contains bergamot, cypress, vetiver and Madagascar vanilla. Completing the limited range available here is Rose Hubris which, as the name suggests, is a tribute to the most famous of flowers, its creators referring to it as “an exhilarating and utterly contemporary result”. www.ex-nihilo-paris.com