Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Front Row Seat by Kirstin Sinclair

A Front Row Seat is one of the best books that I’ve reviewed for My Creative Diva magazine recently. It’s filled with beautiful photography that really does give you a front row seat to the world of high fashion, and we even have a copy up for grabs for MCD readers. There are only a few days left to enter though, so head over to and turn to p24 of the current issue to be in with a chance!

Photographer Kirstin Sinclair spent seven years documenting countless collections at the fashion weeks in London, New York, Paris and Milan. The resultant book, A Front Row Seat, features images of shows, exhibitions and after parties, plus the British Fashion Awards and London College of Fashion’s MA shows.

Her own commentary and quotes from other industry insiders put the pictures into context and the chapters are neatly divided into sections: the front row, the editors, the catwalk, the designers, the buyers, backstage, street style and model style.

This is an enchanting and absorbing book that captures many facets of the fashion industry. It paints a bigger picture than we usually see, taking a look at not just the shows themselves but those who attend and the designers responsible for putting them together.

The stunning photos are testament not just to Kristin’s technical ability but also the rapport that she clearly builds with all of her subjects. My favourite pictures include Gwen Stefani on the catwalk at the Autumn Winter 2010 L.A.M.B. womenswear presentation, and Freja Beha Erichsen in the Autumn/Winter 2010 Chanel womenswear show with that giant iceburg! Pure glamour.

A Front Row Seat by Kirstin Sinclair, £29.95
Published by ACC Editions
ISBN 978-1-85149-661-7


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Today's Soundtrack: Taking Back Sunday – Cute Without the 'E' (Cut From the Team)

Today’s Soundtrack is Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team) by Taking Back Sunday. The band’s debut album Tell All Your Friends took its name from this song’s lyrics, and as yesterday marked eleven years since its release, it seems only right to show it some birthday love.

In 2010 original band members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper returned to the line up for an eponymous album, their first record together since that 2002 debut. They toured extensively for TAYF’s 10th birthday last year and with the original line up reunited I think we are all feeling the TBS love right now.

Taking Back Sunday really is an amazing live band, and that self-titled album I mentioned? Fan-freakin-tastic.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday Fashion Fix – Mad About Karl

Today’s Friday Fashion Fix is dedicated to the rather fabulous Karl Lagerfeld – or more specifically, the miniature plexiglass version of him that I desperately want to adorn my keys with. Not only is Mr Lagerfeld the creative genius behind Chanel, but he has a reputation for being rather blunt, frequently bordering on the offensive. What's not to love?!

Plexiglass key fob, £119 from Net-A-Porter

And now his KARL collection makes him all the more accessible for those of us who can’t afford the Chanel price tag. Perfectly suited to this season's monochrome trend, it channels his own unique style, with items such as his iconic fingerless gloves and smart, white collar. Throw on a pair of dark glasses and voila, a mini Lagerfeld in the making!

Printed cotton-poplin cameo collar, £59 from Net-A-Porter
 This little beauty even has a subtle print on it which reads: "I only wear the latest thing. It's my job!"

Textured-leather bowling bag, £329 from Net-A-Porter


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Paris Fashion Week AW13 – runway highlights (part 2)

As promised, here are the next five shows from Paris Fashion Week that made my heart melt and my credit card shudder.

Possibly my Paris Fashion Week highlight, Lanvin’s was the kind of show you really wanted to be at – not least because of the popcorn and mini bottles of champagne that were served to the waiting audience! I failed to pick just one look, so here are two that I think capture the collection well; a selection of beautiful dresses, inspired by various eras, toughened up with chain accessories and Oxford-style shoes. Attention to detail was everything and I adore the bee brooch. And that box bag? I. Want. One. Now.

Alber Elbaz’ use of graphic slogan necklaces gave the looks a more youthful spin, and they would look just as at home over a simple T-shirt as these beautiful dresses. It really was a great all-rounder – a fusion of classic design and street style that felt completely modern.


Hermes’ was an utterly Parisian affair. Paris wasn’t just the setting for the show, it was right at the heart of it, flowing through the veins of every single look. It was chic and understated, not overtly sexy, with hemlines that crept ever lower and waist bands that edged gradually higher. A largely neutral colour palette and a whole host of incredibly wearable separates, resulted in a collection of workwear staples – tasteful but never boring – and the holy grail in items like the perfect white shirt or woollen shift.

Admittedly this aesthetic is still too grown up for me – can you really imagine the Hermes woman spilling beer down her immaculate white blouse or doing the walk of shame in a shift dress? Maybe one day I’ll be strolling down the Champs Elysees in all my Hermes-clad glory having finally nailed grown-up chic… but I wouldn’t hold your breath.


The much celebrated Givenchy collection was actually not my favourite as a whole, but Riccardo Tisci won me over with this look. It is a mishmash of what Tisci does best, and drew inspiration from his extensive eight year archive at the house.

Tisci says, "I always go to the Givenchy archives. I was in the room with all my stuff, and I found things I did when I was younger. I was like a gypsy—gypsies are always recycling old clothes. It was really one of the most fun collections I've done in my career."

A Bambi sweatshirt, sheer polka dot skirt, and sexy leather boots? This look covered a whole lot of fashion ground in one fell swoop.

Louis Vuitton

Again, I wasn’t enamoured with the Louis Vuitton collection as a whole, it featured a few too many silk PJs for my liking, but I loved this look so much I had to include it. If this isn’t the epitome of old-fashioned glamour then I don’t know what is! Silk, fur, acres of bare leg and berry stained lips – it screams luxury.

Like Prada’s, this collection had a seriously femme fatale feel, with a bobbed Cara Delevingne playing the role to perfection. I can just see her now with a cocktail in one hand and a vial of opium in the other… beautiful, glamourous and deadly.

Viktor & Rolf
There was plenty of monochrome on display in this collection, with many of the looks all wrapped up in a typically Viktor & Rolf bow. Given the duo’s eccentric back catalogue, I found everything in their AW13 collection surprisingly accessible – these pieces are made to be worn rather than to make a statement. It wasn’t as edgy as you expect from Viktor & Rolf, but even the classics had a very definite twist. They might be producing more marketable pieces, but they certainly aren’t dull.

This won’t go down in history as Viktor & Rolf’s most memorable collection, but there was plenty to enjoy, and it is nice occasionally to see some looks that don’t require any dilution to be consumed by your average fashion-loving lady.

Images from

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Today's Soundtrack: Stiltskin – Inside

Today’s soundtrack is Inside by Stiltskin, a song that has randomly crept up on me a couple of times lately after not hearing it for many, many years. Remember that classic Levi’s ad ‘Creek’? I thought so. Well former lead guitarist, Peter Lawlor, wrote this song specifically for it and played all the instruments on the recording.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane to the 1990s and re-visit a little thing called post-grunge, a slightly cheesey video, and the Levi’s ad that made it famous…


Monday, 11 March 2013

Paris Fashion Week AW13 – runway highlights (part 1)

So the madness of the four big fashion weeks is over for yet another season, and I think the best was saved until last! Paris produced many of my favourite collections, so this will be my first of two posts, as it is impossible to pick just five collections to share.


Oh dear lord I’m head over heels in love with Valentino this season. The collection had an austere formality to it that was refined and glamourous… and I wanted every single look. The long-sleeved mini dresses were beautiful, with strict white collars and cuffs, in laser cut leather.

The collection was largely monochrome except for the odd flash of electric blue or deep berry red, and the stunning Chinese ceramic-style blue and whites in the dress shown here. The attention to detail was exceptional and I truly loved everything, right down to the accessories; red nails, neat side plaits and Alice bands, T-Bar shoes, pearls. Love it, love it, love it.


You can always rely on Chanel to put on a spectacular show, with grand set designs. (Remember that iceberg in 2010?!) Well this season’s show, held as usual at the Grand Palais, featured a gigantic, revolving globe as its centrepiece, marked with the exact locations of Chanel’s 300 stores. The collection was equally impressive featuring gorgeous coats, snugly fur hats and thigh high leather to stop it all becoming too cutesy.

A largely wintery palette of black, grey and blue was livened occasionally by dusky pink. “I wanted a very monochrome silhouette – dark but not sad – a touch of shine, a touch of pink,’ says Karl Lagerfeld.

And sad it was definitely not! Coco's traditional tweeds were brought up to date by Karl’s darker aesthetic – think cute A-line mini skirts paired with leather and chain accessories. My favourite bag was the stunning black, mini globe, with the classic interlocked Cs logo and chain handle.

Saint Laurent

Heidi Slimane’s second womenswear collection for Saint Laurent took its inspiration from 90s grunge and was more than just a nod to the past, as it didn’t necessarily cover a lot of new ground. Many of us already do a pretty good line in 90s grunge for a fraction of the price, so I think this is a typical case of taking inspiration from the streets and selling it back to the masses with a hefty price tag (but isn’t it always?).

There’s no denying I loved this collection though, and it had me wondering whether I’m too old for a return to the fishnets and boots combo. And you know what? Despite the look being modelled by a girl half my age I’ve decided I’m not. Fishnets here I come.

Zadig & Voltaire

I chose this Zadig & Voltaire look because the 90s inspired trouser suit is very definitely back, but this suit is a really nice take on a classic. The fabric and colour choice are unusual and make it much more contemporary and less officey. (Cast aside all thoughts of nasty polyester and terrible tailoring now…)

This was Zadig & Voltaire’s first runway show and had an androgynous feel, thanks to artistic director Cecelia Bönström’s choice of muse, David Bowie. Perfect timing as Bowie releases his first album in ten years and the V&A prepare to host a hotly anticipated retrospective. Leather shorts, knee-high boots, men’s ties, fur coats, tailored jackets – this was vintage rock n roll at its androgynous best.

Emanuel Ungaro

It was nice to see an AW13 collection making such a good use of bright colours at the Emanuel Ungaro show – sunshine yellows and turquoise. The colours weren’t the only bold elements, with polka dots, leopard print, fur, tweed, leather and some slightly garish gold embellishments all jostling for attention – thank goodness the hair and make up was kept simple!

When you look past the ‘shoutier’ elements you can see some nicely tailored trousers and jackets and interesting dress shapes. Plus a few exaggerated shoulders that are a nod to the house’s eighties heyday. Many names have designed for Emanuel Ungaro over the years and therefore the brand has lost a little of its identity, but Fausto Paglisi has put his own stamp on it this season. While some of the results were a bit too garish, other times, such as with the understated pinstripes, he seemed to get it just right. There’s no denying it is fun collection though, and a nice change in pace from the season’s often monochrome runways.

Images from

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Norman Parkinson exhibition at the National Theatre

On Thursday night I went to the private view of Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style at the National Theatre. The exhibition marks the centenary of Norman Parkinson’s birth, and I was really pleased to be invited as, like Tim Walker, Parkinson featured prominently in my university dissertation all those years ago.

Corbis/© Norman Parkinson Ltd/Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive

It is a fabulous tribute to a man who is widely considered to be ‘the father of modern fashion photography’, and features work from his lengthy career, right up to his death in 1990. Parkinson was a hugely influential figure, working regularly for titles like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and discovering or helping shape the careers of models such as Nina von Schlebrugge, Celia Hammond and Jerry Hall. He successfully combined the glamour of the fashion world with a real sense of character and humour.

I particularly like his work from the 60s and 70s, when his colourful, vibrant shots took fashion models out of the studio and into the great wide world. Previously fashion photography was very static but Parkinson injected movement into his images by putting models in active poses in exotic locations, or including blurred backgrounds such as a moving London bus – a suggestion of the era’s fast-paced lifestyle.

I also love his beautiful black and whites from the 1940s; elegant and timeless images from an era where glamour was refined and exotic locations were just a dream for the average woman flicking through the pages of Vogue. In addition to fashion editorial, Parkinson shot a host of famous faces over the years, from the royal family and musicians, to stars of the stage and screen.

It would be impossible to pick a favourite image from such a diverse and well-curated exhibition, but I love the use of colour in his shot of Audrey Hepburn wearing a pale pink dress and standing in front of an array of pink blooms. There is also a rather beautiful b&w shot of his wife Wenda under a plane on a Nairobi landing strip, Jerry Hall and Iman looking flawless and the epitome of 80s glamour in Paris couture, and an incredibly endearing portrait of Queen Elizabeth with her mother and Princess Margaret, which strips away the typical formality to reveal an intimate sense of family.

A few of the iconic images that I expected to see weren’t there, but in fact there is something nice about an exhibition that doesn’t just stick to the obvious. Anyway, with a back catalogue as rich and extensive as Parkinson’s, the editing process must have been a real challenge!

What Lifework does so well, is illustrate the way that Parkinson’s work evolved over the decades. He appears just as comfortable shooting in b&w or colour, and moves seamlessly from the traditional to the contemporary. It is a wonderful tribute to an incredibly talented photographer, whose work will no doubt continue to inspire and influence future generations.

The exhibition is free so there is no excuse not to visit! Plus the National Theatre is a great venue to make an evening of it with a good selection of cafes, restaurants and bars.

Corbis/© Norman Parkinson Ltd/Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive

Corbis/© Norman Parkinson Ltd/Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive

Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style at the Lyttelton Exhibition Space, National Theatre until Sunday 12 May.


Monday, 4 March 2013

Today's Soundtrack: The Used – Take It Away

Today’s Soundtrack is my new way of sharing some of the songs that I love – old, new and anything in between. Because sometimes all you need is a bloody good song to make your day!

First up is Take it Away by The Used for that very reason – it came on my iPod shuffle earlier and made me smile. It’s the first track on their second album In Love and Death from 2004, and will always remind me of my first year of university; particularly a little nightclub in Southampton called The Nexus. Sadly The Nexus is no more, but it will always have a place in my heart as it set the scene for many happy, hazy nights with great friends, great DJs and my ever-faithful companion Mr Jack Daniels….


© Rock & Runway

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