Shaken Not Stirred

Whishaw and Craig as Q and 007

Skyfall

If there’s one brand, one film franchise, one name even, that sums up the very best of British creativity and industry (and which holds no relation to anyone of a royal title or an olympian) it is Bond. James Bond. Oh the images are filling my mind and I’m making no attempt to close the flood gates; martinis, Aston Martins, sophisticated black suits. Femme fatales, incredible dresses, guns, blood, Judi Dench, gadgets, the unmistakable theme tune. Fast cars, crazy billionaires, sharks and the hairiest escapes known to man.

It is perhaps serendipitous that I first began writing this post weeks (alright, two and a bit weeks) before the amusement of the Queen’s film cameo at the opening ceremony, where Bond deservedly made the entrance of the century to the roars of 80,000 people. Serendipitous as I had the unplanned pleasure of attending The Barbican’s current exhibition “Designing 007: 50 Years Of Bond Style”. It was, quite easily, the very best I have ever attended.

It was one of those afternoons that wasn’t mapped out and jam-packed with events; my family and I were to see the double bill of the plays “South Downs” and “The Browning Version” at the Harold Pinter Theatre and then take it from there. On exiting someone suggested a leisurely stroll from the West End, down Fleet Street and up to EC2 would offer the perfect opportunity to walk off the false sense of tiredness that descends in the heat of the theatre. It was clearly meant to be as my brother, utilising the wonderful invention that is the mobile phone, booked tickets enough for the four of us as we stood outside the stage door and no sooner had the crowds descended to queue for cabs than we were marching off into the distance.

Now, I am a Bond fan in the way that one whiff of a royal engagement gives way to a nation of crown lovers. I’m not a hardcore Bond brainbox but I’ve always enjoyed the slick Britishness (now I’m really not making sense) of the films and delight in the intricacies of the costume design in particular. Having not watched anything Bond related for a considerable amount of time therefore, the section of my brain reserved for the very best things in life was immediately saturated with the world of espionage the moment I stepped through the double doors into the first stage of the exhibition.

The Barbican had clearly made use of someone trained in the art of creating a practical, memorable and ultimately enjoyable memorabilia exhibit fit for public consumption. The level of detail exercised across the entire display was so scrupulous that upon exiting the final of the three stages of the spectacle (which was held across three floors of The Barbican requiring tickets to be retained and stamped on entry into each new level) I glanced down at my ticket only to smile at the numbers “007”; made up of the three consecutive stamps I had received.

My personal favourite of the outfits on show was Eva Green’s glorious evening dress, worn for her role as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. In contrast, I was appalled to discover that the ragged black dress donned by Olga Kurylenko as Bond’s accomplice Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace was in fact couture Prada and worth several thousands of pounds! On that note, was I the only one underwhelmed by Sévérine, Skyfall’s obligatory Bond girl? Without giving too much away, I like to think that her character was written without any real solidity to enforce the strong theme of the character relationship between Bond and M. Judi Dench triumphed, as did Ben Whishaw as Q who shall be returning to grace our screens in series 2 of The Hour TONIGHT on BBC2 at 9pm. I thoroughly recommend both The Hour (series 1 of which I wrote about here) and Skyfall – both are rich in glamour, espionage and good old-fashioned wit.

Ben Whishaw as Q

Q

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London…

London. One of the most iconic cities in the world. Dirty, busy and oh so exciting. I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in the capital recently and although it’s still my home country it feels like another world. People there live their lives at a faster pace than anywhere else I’ve ever been and there is a constant feeling of needing to get to places, to achieve aims, to be on top of everything. Summer is the best season, in my view, to visit London. The sun casts a warmth and energy onto every fibre of the city (as well as making you feel like you’re an extra in an exceptionally cool film) which quite literally buzzes with a constant anticipation of shows, exhibitions, festivals, markets, film premieres, breaking news and world events.

No trip to London is complete without an excursion to the Victoria and Albert Museum, affectionately known as the V&A, which is both known and greatly respected for the quality of its exhibitions and displays. I was torn between two exhibitions in particular: the life and work of Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto and  The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900. When it came down to it I just couldn’t resist the opportunity of marvelling at intricately designed clothing collections and so to the Yamamoto exhibition we went! Now the last exhibition I had the pleasure of viewing at the V&A was Grace Kelly: Style Icon in July of last year, and I enjoyed it so much that I felt inspired to write what came to be my third ever blog post about it which you can read here.

Before my fateful visit I’d had a vague idea that fashion was something I’d be interested in pursuing in some respects, but sitting there, watching old film footage of the Princess at her many events and parties, and surrounded by glass cases crammed full of original couture dresses from the likes of Chanel and Dior which had obviously been designed and created to perfection – I knew that I wanted to be involved with the fashion industry. I felt completely comfortable and utterly content – like I had arrived at where I wanted to be. It was with these memories in mind that I entered the Yamamoto exhibition and I can honestly say that if it was Grace Kelly who sparked my fashion ambitions then it was Yohji Yamamoto who reinforced them.

To read the full description of the exhibition then I urge you to visit the V&A site where it is explained in full detail. All I will say about the exhibition is that it proved to me that off the peg, mass-produced fast fashion will never be able to compare to real design and craftsmanship, and also that Yohji Yamamoto really changed the fashion perspective of certain styles being suited to one gender only. This was minimalism in the flesh (or rather, fabric), and the one quote that stood out to me the most of the hundreds in the exhibition was this: ” ‘White is the absence of colour, black is the presence of all colours.’ What a unique concept – what a unique designer. I leave you with these thoughts and photos of the exhibition from the V&A gallery. To see some incredible photos taken live from the catwalk show then take a look at Jill’s wonderful post.

Star-spangled – the redemption of Christopher Kane

I first spied Christopher Kane’s Resort 2011 collection is my copy of December Vogue, and what a beautiful issue it was! For starters, Emma Watson and her (then) newly cropped hair graced the front cover, looking suitably elfin and festive in a sparkly dress (if you want to read a post dedicated entirely to Ms Watson’s hair click here), and arriving as it did on November 2nd it offered that first excitement that the festive season, and most importantly Christmas Party Dresses were nearly upon us! It was Mr Christopher Kane and his mesmerising, cosmic prints, however, that had me hooked. To view the entire collection – and I implore you to – go to style.com, but first here’s a few of my absolute favourites…

Now, as to the title of this post. A while ago I posted about my disappointment on viewing Mr Kane’s AW10 collection – the leather, pvc, lace and flowers were all a bit too much for me. However, the last line of that post was “Roll on Spring/Summer 2011 is all I can say”, and although I’m not completely taken with his SS11 collection, it’s safe to say that he’s charmed me back to his clothes with a little inspiration from the universe.

Gary Harvey – This is NOT Fast Fashion

Amazing, aren’t they, Gary Harvey’s designs? All materials used were discarded, found and recycled into these beautifully unique dresses. The ball gown silhouette acts as a contrast to the rather mundane materials used; newspaper, denim jeans and trench coats. The amount of care and attention to detail in his designs goes to show how you can make something remarkable out of something very unremarkable. I really want to attempt to emulate his design of the Newspaper Dress when I have a bit of time – I think that it would be a very rewarding and therapeutic project for me. All images and text below are copyright to Gary Harvey

Denim Dress: 42 pairs of Levi 501’s in various shades of indigo, cut up and reconstructed to create a tiered ball gown with a corset waist, won with a cropped denim jacket. “Jeans are one of the most hard-wearing garments, originally designed as a work uniform and made in a fabric designed to last years. Since the transition from ‘work-wear’ to fashion, jeans are often discarded for the latest silhouette before the end of their useful life”.

Newspaper Dress: 30 copies of the ‘Financial Times’ folded and attached to a salmon pink corset to create a ‘tulle’ skirt. “Newspapers are one of the few products that get recycled. Currently too much information is printed on paper that does not get read or recycled”.

Mac Dress: 18 Trench Coats in various shades of beige attached to a ‘Burberry’ check corset, worn with a cropped ‘Burberry’ Mac. “The classic trench coat designed to last for many years”.