I am sad to say that this is going to be my last post for Style & Then Some, for a little while at least. It has been a brilliant year and a half (and several trips to London Fashion Week) being a part of the team, but various different time pressures and commitments this year are demanding my attention, and it feels like time to move on. What better way to end than with a tribute to one of my favourite designers, Valentino?
I fell in love with Valentino’s work last spring, when I first saw his Spring/Summer 2012 collections. The neat elegance of the Ready to Wear collection, the flattering feminine cuts and timeless styles – these things all struck me, but it was the Haute Couture collection that really captivated me. The dresses were intricately embroidered, and moved through the spectrum from sweet, simple and pretty, to shimmering, breathtaking beauties. They were truly fairytale gowns. Every last detail was perfect, right down to the plaited low buns twisted all about with bejewelled floral crowns. Call me old school, but I think this is what fashion is meant to be all about – celebrating the female form and making beautiful, well crafted clothing. Arty fraying edges and sack-like, ugly shapes won’t cut it for me, I’m afraid, no matter how much at odds that puts me with the rest of the fashionista crowd. (That reminds me of the time I was commissioned to write a review of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition at the ICA in London a few years ago. My first draft was sent back, and I was told politely that I had to change it to make it more positive. Apparently you’re not allowed to write a bad review of a modern art exhibition. We all have to stand around the oblong piece of steel and ohh and aahhh about how deep and meaningful it is, how clever the artist is.)
Valentino’s Spring/Summer 2013 Haute Couture collection is more structured and grand than last year’s, but it is just as magnificent. Less dancing barefoot in a meadow, more pacing through your throne room. Something about the embroidery work, the piping and patterns reminds me of the Renaissance period. It is all the more suitable, then, that Frances Ives illustrated last year’s collection in soft watercolours, and Sophie Murray etched her vision of this year’s collection in fine pen.
I was overjoyed to read that Valentino has signed up for Greenpeace’s detox fashion challenge earlier this month. The idea behind the campaign is to get major fashion houses to change their policies on toxic water pollution and deforestation (an issue which is clearly a pressing one, if Susan Kim writing for the Huffington Post back in 2009 is to be believed) to combat the negative impact that the fashion industry has on the environment. According to Greenpeace, ‘Valentino topped the list of 15 fashion houses, while six brands came joint bottom on the ranking for failing to take any credible action on these environmental issues. The ranking, “Fashion Duel” rates Italian and French luxury brands based on a survey of three areas of the brands’ global supply chain: leather, pulp and paper and toxic water pollution.’ While Valentino committed to taking urgent and transparent action to eliminate the release of hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chain and products, and put in place concrete measures to avoid contamination of their supply chain from forest destruction, aiming to be ‘clean’ by 2020, brands like Louis Vuitton refused to sign up.
I feel like my mission as a writer (if it’s not too self important to have a ‘mission’) is to celebrate the work of skilled and talented craftsmen and women, to engage with contentious and important issues and promote the heroes and heroines of this world, the people who really make me proud to be a part of the human race. Writing is – or should be – all about empathy, it is a kind of diplomacy and mediation. In its purest form, it should be something that can raise awareness by presenting the facts, open up discussions that bring us all a little closer to understanding and engaging meaningfully with conflicting view points. I first wanted to be a journalist when I watched the film Blood Diamond, because I got a glimpse of the fact that writing should be about building a better society. Doing my first stint of work experience with a newspaper confirmed my love; I looked around me and thought, ‘This is the most interesting, passionate, funny, quick thinking, curious, bad tempered and good natured bunch of people I’ve ever been in a room with. If this is what journalists are like, I want to be one of them.’
Thank you to my beautiful illustrators for this post, Frances Ives and Sophie Murray. And thank you, Style & Then Some readers, it has been a pleasure. Look after yourselves, and see you around the bend.