Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Back at Freemasons' Hall for Day Two, Saturday's ESP calendar began with a beautifully artistic presentation, by a designer I was first introduced to on the Jewellery Show London catwalk back in June

#FUZZLAYERGLOSSBOX is the Chanel-weaving inspired, SS14 collection by Hellen Van Rees; the Dutch-born designer who brought 1920s and 30s evening elegance to the stately West London venue. Closed curtains, soft lighting, hushed tones and aperitifs added a touch of regalia to an affair that forgave supping before midday, in a fashionable land that time forgot.

As much as catwalks have become my undisputed favourite pastime of 2013 (seriously, I highly doubt they'll ever get old); there is something about watching thematic movement in the fashion, that gives an entirely new layer of depth to the presentation, and perception to the art. Think visiting a museum, where the works orbit around you, and every new light and angle add a new detail to the story. That folks, is essentially what you experience at a collection presentation. Unlike on the catwalk, where you are removed from the clothing, and have the sum total time of a doubleback walk to get everything you can from your single vantage point; in a presentation, you can get as close to, or stay as far from the works as you choose, at mostly your own pace, and take in every last detail that strikes you, from a 360-degree view. In that way, presentations outweigh catwalks, and this collection was a perfect way to emphasise the difference.

'Juxtaposition' was the first description to come to mind as I watched the models rotate around the points on the wooden flooring marked by (what appeared to be) white tape, and messy tissues. Black vs. White, Smooth vs. Frayed, Shine vs. Matte, Futuristic Rubber vs. Vintage Tweed; throughout all were opposite ends of the spectrum, challenging you to take notice. One model in particular took the brief to heart, not just modelling the clothing, but literally performing the cocktail-wear, taking the beauty of Van Rees' simple lines to the next level, until you fancied yourself a modern day Rita Hayworth - if only you too, could pour yourself into one of the slinky silhouettes.

Wispy chignons with 'barely-there' faces, and glossy, cherry lips were the model's uniform look; with black or white woven wedge heels that matched the dresses to cap the looks. The only jewellery were rubber cuffs that matched the hem detail of the dresses. Van Rees described the collection as a continuation of the stories from her last, a piece from which, she was even wearing at the show. If that's the case, then you can be sure that #FUZZLAYERGLOSSBOX is where the plot really starts to take off.

Show over and chilled glass empty, it was almost time for another of the highlights that I had been looking forward to - the BasharatyanV Gallery catwalk. Introduced to the lovely lady's 'Broken Angel' AW13 release at my first Fashion Week outing in February; I was both excited and curious to see how the designs would translate between AW13's presentation setting, versus the bright lights and fast pace of a catwalk show, produced by renowned stylist Beth Buxton.

Entitled 'Frida', Veronica Basharatyan immortalised Mexican feminist and surrealist painter, Frida Kahlo de Rivera. Bold green seemingly-aztec prints, with bright oranges and almost neon yellow strands coursed through chiffon tops, paired with white trousers kicked things off before moving onto similar prints in unusual, but beautiful pastels. Jackets replaced the chiffon tops, and what had appeared to be aztec or similar at the top of the runway, became tiered 'X's by the end of the walkway. Floaty dresses and streamlined skirts with simple layered tops returned the chiffon to the collection and with it, a youthful, girly air that saw the collection straddle two age demographics without giving away its gravitational pull.

'Frida' - BasharatyanV SS14
A far cry from Ugly Betty, Basharatyan's almost poncho-style tops easily carried a lighter, airier echo from its rich and heavy, satin dress equivalents of Broken Angel. As more variations on the printed theme were presented, so were the sharp corners of unorthodox square necklines, versus the gathered cuffs and knotted hems that reinforced the earlier mentioned 'rough with the smooth' opposition. By the beautiful billowing maxi-dress finale of the same pastel print as the earlier pieces, my question of how Veronica's works would translate from presentation to catwalk had been addressed - the answer was brilliantlyModel uniforms in celebration of the artist, were signature helmets of pinned blonde curls, with bushy, sharp brown brows, on otherwise bare faces. Footwear mainly consisted of nude, open-toe stilettos that were subtle enough not to clash with, or distract from, the garments in anyway, whilst still packing a sexy feminine punch.

In a 1-2 combination, the clothing mood suddenly shifted from soft and feminine, to gutsy and bold, in one fell swoop. Blocks of bold Summer shades raised the catwalk temperature, as the inner bad girl that you didn't even know Kahlo had, came out to play. The floaty lines remained sans chiffon, instead replaced by heavier textures to carry the prints. Bodycon dresses with subtle slits connected that initial bright orange with alluring modern day glamour. Bright halters and bandeau dresses with white elastic anchors, showed the line could be spirited yet playful, whilst gorgeous wide leg trousers in the same colour were almost enough to detract deserving attention from what appeared to be an illusory white t-shirt with a small waistcoat print that in reality, turned out to be an ubersmart jumpsuit. Ironically, smart added a layer of sexy, as the clothes striped down to midriff-baring separates. Monochrome was a barely noticeable segue away, before the pièce de résistance - a sombre, but shapely 'LBD', just perfect for an under the radar, day to eveningwear transition.

A short charging break later, and my intention was to experience a different side of Fashion Week, by visiting the hallowed bricks of Somerset House for the British Fashion Council's Rock Vault and Estethica Showrooms, where Imogen Belfield, Ada Zanditon, and phannatiq were all exhibiting, represented by Felicities PR. Unfortunately, on landing through the rabbit hole, I learned of not only the ugly, unseen side of BFC politics, but also had my first bad encounter at a venue that I've come to cherish as my own fairytale Wonderland since my first visit, back in February. Joining the absurdly long and slow queue at the Event's Press Desk, it took a longwinded episode of "Umm's, Ahh's" and "just let me check's", to establish that my clear and concise paperwork was apparently "not in order" - although the Front of House staff member I spoke with "couldn't really be sure". And so began my pillar to post adventures in the still pouring rain; that saw me admitted, then refused, and redirected to various departments across three different wings, over a ninety-minute period, before finally being despatched to the Press Centre - a huge, specially erected corner structure, managed by the rudest man I have met all year (and that's saying something). This wonderfully sunny specimen of the human race not only rejected all forms of my documentation, but also gleefully informed me, that even if he were willing to admit me which - make no mistake, he wasn't - I would need to purchase additional documentation, for the bargain basement price of £75Furthermore, I really should be grateful for the (non) offer, as this was inclusive of a discount, based on that aforementioned, unsuitable paperwork!

The best part of two hours now wasted, I channelled my frustrations into fuel, and went in search of the Ashley Isham catwalk show, in an unchartered part of Freemasons' Hall. For the first time, not a single member of staff I asked, had the faintest clue where in the building the show was being held; instead, I was literally shoved into the Alessia Prekop show, by a stern, matronly woman I was simply too well-mannered (and slightly scared of) to refuse...

As chance would have it, Mistress Matron did me a favour by frightening me to my core. As the first monochromatic structure advanced down the runway, I was transfixed by the unusual puffed sleeves, and contrasting details of the supersmart A-line dress, easily spotted from the near mile distance that was the runway wings, to the Photographer's pit. The model's 'uniform' hi-shine, slicked back, tightly wound chignon, and pointed black and silver stilettos might have been considered severe, were it not for the neon eyebrows (mostly hot pink for blondes, and electric blue for brunettes, although there would be the odd switch up throughout, just to keep us viewers on our toes). Added to double-winged, liquid black liner, mauve lips, dark nails and silver rings; the overall effect made for a modernity that felt almost alien-like beneath the enticing surface. Think Natasha Henstridge in Species (minus the neon brows of course) and you're on the right road.

Although monochrome was the anchor, the shades that Prekop used to contrast with the black, combined with the crescent moon shoulders, commanded your full and immediate attention, although the collection began to lose me a little when I saw too many similarities to both Hellen Van Rees and Lulu Liu's AW13 offerings. Challenging myself to find a distinction, it didn't take long once the topic of shape was thrown into the equation. Alessia Prekop's individuality is in her architecture. If you strip away the familiarity of the colour palettes, and focus purely on the structural design, that is where you'll find the reason why this lady's talents stand on their own

Alessia Prekop SS14
Niche attraction determined, there was still the massive draw of her chosen textures and materials to consider. There was a touch of 'Vogue Vixen' to be found throughout, and it emanated mostly from leather. It didn't matter how business-like the smart daywear appeared, there were quirks to be found in the cuts and detailing of all, as they were where the stories behind the designs were to be found. From the dome-like shapes of torso structures, contrasted with the teensiest of details - cinched waists, material contrasts, and ribbing - right up to the variance in constructural lines; each design celebrated the female form with seductive simplicity. Every piece was alluring, without losing the merest hint of class
Alessia Prekop SS14
Fully expecting to have missed the Ashley Isham catwalk presentation scheduled for the exact same time, I decided there was really no harm in the futile exercise of triple-checking in person, and so off I headed to corners unknown in the historical building. Several wrong turns later, I somehow managed to find myself backstage, in a sea of models, hurriedly being pushed into the correct line up, bedecked in none other than Mr Ashley Isham! The kind stage management team took pity on my lost, harried soul, and sent me to The Pit from where I stood, rather than sending me back into the marble maze in search of the correct entrance, which would most certainly have sealed my fate to miss the show once and for all. To that lovely bunch, I am eternally grateful!

Ashley Isham SS14
The first thing you noticed once the house lights came up, were the House of Flora 1920s cloche hats which, seemed a bit nutty if I'm truly honest (of course, that all changed once I got outside in the cold, but that's a whole other story). Helmet-like and reaching down to, if not past the bow of several glossy red liplines, with eye holes cut out and covered by discreet netting; the millinery was impossible to take your own naked eyes away from; at least they would have been, were it not for the stunning footwear doing damage to my imagination in every sumptuous velour colour presented. The black and white daisy patterned skirts and shorts were flirty and feminine, but Isham didn't stop there. From loose separates to shift dresses; the ruching in the soft-looking materials were chic and elegantJeweled embroidery, ruffles and chiffon took elegance to decadence, as we moved from day to evening, to occasionwear.

Ashley Isham SS14

Ashley Isham SS14
Trains in tinted, transparent plastic were an edgy surprise. The more traditional floating chiffon, and other rich and light textures moved through the air like ripples on water. The materials were cut so perfectly, that the draping hung from each frame to its maximum effect, so that the garments appeared to mimic an extension of the model's own form, from almost every angle. It wasn't until we were presented with two creations so elaborate and highly detailed that they could easily have passed for vintage bridal gowns from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel; that you realised that this was the most complete collection seen across the whole of the two days thus far. Isham took us on the most stylish of journeys - from the office, to relaxing luncheons in the sun, to galas, to the altar - in just over ten minutes, leaving you revelling in the heady delights of each combined stage.

The New Sweater-Weather Hair Backstage

(Clockwise from top left): Prabal Gurung; Altuzarra; Derek Lam; Rag & Bone

Lived-in, laid-back, and appealingly nubby—the most compelling hair on the New York runways this weekend called to mind the fuzzy texture of a favorite cashmere knit.

It all started at Rag & Bone, where backstage hairstylist Guido Palau was pulling model Aymeline Valade’s hair into a low, flyaway bun. “It’s very easy, really. In New York, women go out looking this way,” he said before blasting the hair with Redken Powder Refresh dry shampoo and Quick Tease hairspray to create the same relaxed effect as the label’s luxe, oversize turtlenecks. (Note: Collars this big are bound to generate a certain amount of above-the-neck static anyway—so why not work with them for a change?)

A few hours later, as snow began coming down in earnest outside, models walked the runway with undone ponytails that featured a halo of tangled baby hairs running down the part. By the next morning, at Prabal Gurung, hairstylist Paul Hanlon had taken the trend to the next level: He emptied nearly an entire bottle of Schwarzkopf’s OSiS + Dust It mattifying powder into each model’s hair before twisting it back into an aerodynamic bun. “I wanted a lot of movement, as though the models had been outside and running around,” explained Hanlon of the look, which conjured the windswept quality of an afternoon spent zipping around town on the back of your boyfriend’s motorcycle (or, in the case of the designer’s military-inspired runway muse, squeezing in extra-credit boot camp sessions).

With its casual, spun-wool quality, the new texture seems primed and ready for real life—whether you plan on wearing it with Gurung’s structured olive fatigues, Derek Lam’s monochromatic minimalist shifts, or Altuzarra’s body-conscious power suits.

The latter designer’s runway show featured rumpled, rocker-chic bedhead (courtesy of Hanlon again) that seemed to mandate tossing out your hairbrush altogether. Which provides just one more reason to get on board with the nubby new texture: Five more minutes of sleep come fall.

Tiara Watch: The Nobel Prizes, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is one of the most glittering occasions of the year - usually. This year was a bit sparse, though, because two of the royal ladies had to miss the event: Princess Madeleine declined due to her advanced pregnancy, and Crown Princess Victoria instead flew to South Africa to attend the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. (Don't you just hate when people remind you that there are things more important than sparkle and frill?!) The King, Queen, Prince Daniel, and Prince Carl Philip made up a small group on the stage.

We did still get our required tiara alert, though. Actually, make that a Party Antler Alert.
Queen Silvia opted for a Nobel favorite, the Nine Prong Tiara (this was predictable, since she gave us the sapphires last year). Ye Olde Pronger may not be my favorite, but even I have to admit it brings the sparkle - as does Silvia's dress, a repeat from Princess Madeleine's pre-wedding dinner. It still has a bit of the figure skater feel to it thanks to that top, but I like to imagine she was just trying to give us as much flash as she could since she was carrying things without her daughters.

Video: The entrance to the banquet, and some sparkle in action. The award ceremony in full can be viewed by clicking here.
Well, she wasn't entirely alone, of course: Princess Christina was there! (The King's sister is a regular attendee, along with her husband, but they sit in the audience and not on the stage for the ceremony.) She wore the Six Button Tiara - again, not one of my favorites, but also again, completely predictable. She seems to stick to either the Cut Steel Tiara or the larger button thing. And she happens to be one that can make the buttons look okay, so that works out.

Victoria is scheduled to be back in Nobel action for the second tiara event of the Nobel festivities, the King's dinner on Wednesday.

And though they don't have any tiaras associated with their part of the Nobel Prizes, we'll add here the Norwegian contribution. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in Oslo, and again a reduced royal group was on hand. We would usually see the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, but Mette-Marit is still in recovery and Haakon was also in South Africa for the Mandela memorial, so the King and Queen went solo.
Click here to view the entire ceremony.
Sonja did hold down the fort in her smart red and black, though. Basic, but you'll note she threw in some hat sparkle, just for us (let's pretend).

More to come...

Photos: SVT/Getty Images/Nobel Prize