Fabric like vapours...............................Haider Ackermann, SS 15, Couvent des Cordeliers, 15 rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, Paris

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A 'last minute ticket' to an A-grade fashion show doesn't ensure you a seat near the front row. It does however, get you right in the thick of thingsOn tip-toes at the back of the Haider Ackermann Spring Summer 2015 collection, I witnessed a hush fall on this often frantic fashion crowd. You could have heard a pin drop!  No one even took notice of  Kanye West, as it was the unfolding spectacle in the Couvent des Cordeliers on Rue de l'Ecole de Médecine that commanded full attention.

Eerie vapours like thick incense rose in this medieval place as if the rites of some ancient spell were being performed. Fighting to hold my position I too waited in anticipation. From the silence a drone of music began and slowly the models appeared.

Right at the back its hard to see the full look on the runway, and for me the model's shoes were completely out of view.  Still any glimpses I could grab of the models passing by was dramatic, such as the otherworldly pudding-bowl powdered wigs, the girls strolled out in. Ackermann presented ghostly soft tones, at first with bare shoulders. Then suits, trench coats and comfortable sweaters that gave way to a luxurious pallet of lingerie pinks, greys, whites and purples.

The fabrics were translucent and seemed to be moving over the models’ bodies like the smoky vapours rising above. This lux-femininity came in contrast with Ackermann's iconic wrapped-leather belts. This buckling constricted the figure and the fabric, producing corseted shell-like jackets and a top heavy silhouette.

These forms where organic and electric all at once, in metallic satins the colours of red wine, pewter and bronze. The image of a grey-blue coat hanging off one shoulder over mille-feuille ruffles impressed me despite my far off position. This effervescent fabric was paired with shinny patent leather pants, perhaps a nod to Sadomasochism and the designer left the audience both amazed and unsettled.

The Ackermann moment ended with the models marching down the runway in line, with the colours of the entire collection visible all at once. Backless garments were also exposed in this finale, of which fine fabric made the most sensitive lines across the body.  Standing up the back might not have the allure of the front row, but when a collection is as good as this, it impresses across the distance. With the show over the crowed rushed out sweeping me along with them. I knew it had been a good show and so did Bill Cunningham as he was there intently snapping away, documenting this fascinating crowd as only he can.


In her stride.......................Ann Demeulemeester, SS 15, Couvent des Cordeliers, 15 rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, Paris

Looking for Lucian...........................................................Sally, Clarke's Restaurant, 122 & 124 Kensington Church Street, London

Thursday, July 10, 2014

London is in the detail, especially when it comes to drawing. Whether seeking to illustrate the pace-set with their glamorous memberships to Shoreditch House or those lounging in meadows of wild flowers in London Fields, I can't help but see all these intricacies. And when it comes to observing such finer points the iconic painter Lucian Freud comes immediately to mind for Freud saw detail like no other, from a vantage point of being unashamedly honest.

As I have been drawing away in my London studio I've become increasingly interested in researching Freud's point of view and keen to hunt down some of his old haunts. The restaurant Clarke's on Kensington's Church Street came up on my radar as from the book Breakfast with Freud; A Portrait of the Artist, by Geordie Greig. Reading this text I learnt that in Freud's later life it was here that he enjoyed friend-filled brunches on Saturdays.

Clarke's is in the plumy Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a district seemingly a world away from the rough strokes of a rogue artist. But Freud moved through many circles; including gangsters in the old East London and courtiers on horseback in Hyde Park. Though diverse circles, in my mind these contained a good deal of glamour for Freud -- warts and all.

I wanted to sit in Clarke's and maybe see something of what he saw in this world. Perhaps he noted the floral view of the Churchill Arms across the road, an old pub that looks as if it's from a Hobbit inhabited Shire. Or perhaps the English establishment sitting in Clarke's, barking orders at the waiters for more bread, olives or wine.

Perhaps the attraction for Freud was that he found the staff and the atmosphere of Clarke's attentive and welcoming.  Or maybe he found the place to be an extension of his studio (of which there were a few), somewhere rich with the warmth of hard work and for his sitters, the generous gamey-meals baking away in the studio's oven. Complicated as the man may have been, he was however a tremendous host and the idea of him cooking for his models is a romantic antidote that I love.

This perhaps influenced my decision to order the Foie Gras with a sugary marmalade -- displayed in fine detail on a smart white dish, it seemed a fitting choice. This rather contrasted to my previous enjoyment of this controversial dip taken right from the jar in a tiny Paris apartment one night after Fashion Week. This French apartment wasn't glamorous, but the view of Paris glowing orange and expansive below certainly complemented the exquisite taste.

The waiter told me about the renovations that Clarke's had undergone recently and I figured the place must have changed a lot since Freud's visits. One room is now filled with his beautiful etchings including one of a sleeping hound that is incredibly fine and delicate. I imagined Freud treating his guest here and paying his tab with art swaps of the grandest kind.

I don't think anyone can get in the mind's-eye of another, but as I dinned at Clarke's I noticed a huge vase of flowers near the bar. Bright Foxgloves and variegated leaves commanded my attention; this display of natural detail reminded of Freud's paintings far more than the people dinning around me. Something hyper-real -- nature was what Freud turned to and painted in astounding detail when English (High) Society became for him, too loud and too much.