Film: Dior & I Review

Dior & I Raf Simons

As a ridiculous Raf Simons fan-girl, I’ve been waiting to see Dior & I since it’s initial release in 2012. How appropriate then that I should go and see it the same day as I happened to stroll around an exhibition on the power of film at ACMI in Melbourne. That’s the most wonderful thing about a great movie, it can completely transport you; have you fixated until the final credits. From Simons excited and nervous arrival 8 weeks before the Fall 2012 Couture show to the final moments of scrambling to finish these incredible looks, the audience was taken on a journey of nerves, excitement, frustration and an irresistibly French sense of humour and stoicism. “It’s never over until the last girl is on the runway.”

In a world of countless designers, artists, writers and culture makers, it takes something extra special to be an icon. Coming from Jil Sander, not many people saw Raf Simons, with his famed minimal aesthetic, taking over from the flamboyant Galliano at Dior. “But I’m not a minimalist. I simply worked for a minimal brand.” Simons says exasperatedly in the documentary. Looking back at Dior’s celebrated mid-century aesthetic, Simons says it’s the excitement of the future that captivates him. Christian Dior wanted to take women out of their war-years uniforms and into a new femininity with his New Look, and there’s nothing retro about that. It’s pure optimism. Similarly, Simons was determined to take the best of the past and push it towards something completely modern.



The only small thing standing in his way (but really of course helping him) was the eye watering amount of time and man power it takes to make a couture piece. “How soon until we can have this jacket in black?” he asks of an iconic bar jacket at the first fitting. “Possibly Saturday,” is the answer. “But can we spray paint it now?” he asks. His premiere thinks for a second, “but of course, it’s toile.” And out into the garden with a can of spray paint it goes. It’s this kind of thinking, an outsider’s thinking, that is able to take the beautiful and treasured art of couture and breathe fresh new life into it. And there’s something so inspiring about a leader who doesn’t need to yell, who does’t get overtaken by his own insecurities, but who trusts and values his team.

I loved this collection since the first time I saw it, but getting an insight into the thought and work behind it just makes it all the more sublime (Simons’ favourite word). And photographs can’t do justice to the way the fabric moves on film. I just hope these looks end up in a museum one say soon so I can see them in person. If this movie doesn’t make you want to move to Paris and go and work for a couture house, then nothing will. You’ll have to excuse me, I’ll just be over here practicing my French.

Natalie x




Photography: Finding Vivian Maier

maier 2What if you spent your whole life perfecting your craft and creating heart-achingly beautiful pieces but you never showed anyone? Would that make your work ‘art’? That’s probably a question that we don’t ask too often. If someone’s good enough, they’ll make it eventually right? But what if we stop for a second and consider that greatness and success aren’t necessarily the same thing.

The case of Vivian Maier is one of those rare events that completely flips our notions of what an artist is. And if it wasn’t for an amateur antique hunter discovering a box of undeveloped negatives in a random auction one day, we probably would have never heard of her at all. Uncovering Vivian Maier tells the strange story of a nanny who spent her life taking hundreds of thousands of photographs, which she never developed. A woman who travelled the world and pioneered street photography long before it became fashionable, Maier presents a bizarre, inspiring, brave and quite troubled picture of an artist. One stripped of the benefits of wealth, fame and privilege.

Vivian Maier collageI have to admit that I went into the film not really expecting her work to be that good, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since. Armed with a twin-lens Rolleiflex camera and an unobtrusive, low-key demeanor Maier was able to get so close to her subjects, catching them in beautifully unguarded moments, with all the pain, beauty and messiness of their crazy lives. It’s really sad that this complex, trail-blazing woman was never able to claim her place in the photography canon alongside her male contemporaries. Even now, with issues over copyright, lots of galleries are refusing to hang her pictures despite this whole fascinating story coming to light. I guess it makes me wonder how many other great artists or writers we’ve missed out on.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Maier, I highly recommend reading the New Yorker article, Vivian Maier and the Problem of Difficult Women.

May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL

1954, New York, NY

July 27, 1954, New York, NY

The Roses of Heliogabalus is an 1888 painting by the Anglo-Dutch academician Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1888)

Art: A Victorian Obsession at Leighton House

I was thrilled to be invited to Leighton House Museum for a private tour of a new collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings recently. I’m obsessed with the interiors of people’s houses; psychological most certainly to do with feeling disinherited as a member of Generation Rent.

The Arab Room, Leighton House Museum

The Arab Room, Leighton House Museum. Image: Flickr

Frederic Leighton’s house in Holland Park, speaks of an artist who was sociable enough to sustain his career, but not for a love of people; the rooms are opulent but there are no guest bedrooms.

It’s a solitary house, built to and for his own requirements (unlike Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, whose rooms flow into one another like it was built for a party and whose table was always set for friends).

Outside of the collection, the focal point of the house is the Arab Room, which is filled with Islamic tiles from Damascus. Curious, then, that he was no Orientalist. He created it simply, he said, ‘for the sake of something beautiful to look at once in a while’.

In an austere gallery environment, I can find portrait art a bit dull, but Leighton House is warm and enchanting in itself. Each room holds just enough paintings to let you take them in together with the room.

The Enchanted Sea by Henry Arthur Payne (c.1890)

The Enchanted Sea by Henry Arthur Payne (c.1890)

In the drawing room, I was drawn to The Enchanted Sea by Henry Arthur Payne. The baked, earthy colours make sense when you find out Payne worked with stained glass; the umbers and oranges seem cut through with sunlight.

One picture of Leighton’s muse Dorothy Dene really seduced me. In Crenaia (the Nymph of the Dargle), the muse is enveloped in the folds of her drapery, which flow into the waterfall behind.

Crenaia (the Nymph of the Dargle) by Leighton (1880)

Crenaia (the Nymph of the Dargle) by Leighton (1880)

The centre of the collection is the Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda.

It tells the story of the Roman emperor Heliogabalus smothering his guests to death with rose petals, which apparently made little sense to critics at the time, since the people in the painting don’t seem to mind or have noticed.

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda (1888)

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda (1888)

A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón Collection at Leighton House Museum
14 November 2014 – 29 March 2015


Culture: Exploring With Bradley Garrett

I debated whether or not to write this introduction or just post my piece as is. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you may have seen a few angry tweets about Smith Journal stealing my freelance pitch idea for their new issue. I guess the wonderful thing about the internet is that it democratises people’s experiences and I wanted to let people know my side of the story. Whether I’m right or wrong – that’s up to you guys.

I wrote to Smith pitching an idea on Bradley Garrett and urban exploration of The London Underground.They originally said they liked the piece and I got to work interviewing Bradley and spending several days researching and writing. Once I sent this through, I was told they had changed their minds. Even though I offered to rewrite it or just publish a Q&A with Bradley, they told me the subject matter didn’t fit with the next issue. So I was surprised to find that they have contacted Bradley directly and will be publishing a first person piece in their next issue. I find it hard to believe their claims that this was done independently of my idea since I had been in contact with both them and Bradley’s publicist months ago and no one mentioned this.

Well anyway, I’ve not read their piece but wanted to post mine here so you can all judge for yourselves how similar it is This is a first person account, as told to me by Bradley and edited by myself…


I’ve always been an explorer. When I was growing up in California during the 90s, I spent most of my time skateboarding, which was mostly about exploring the city to find new spots to skate. When I got a car, I started driving into the Mojave Desert to look for old mining camps and ruins, where I could build a big bonfire, dig around and read. It seems to me that if you’re a curious person, who enjoys the feeling of discovery, you’re going to do that in whatever environment you find yourself near. So when I moved to London and met urban explorers here going out every night to find hidden places in the city, it made perfect sense to get involved.

I am so in awe of the London Underground, which is so immense and has so many in-between spots you can slip into. The train tunnels are threaded though and around bunkers, sewers and drains, the Mail Rail, cable runs and secret government tunnels. A lot of that had to be built blindly as well because the government wouldn’t tell engineers where the “secret” tunnels were underground. The complexity of it all just blows me away. And most of the tourists walking at street level, photographing Parliament, haven’t got a clue that it’s all tangled up under their feet.




The whole city is thick with layers of memory and often they’re very difficult to decode. Fredric Jameson once described ‘ontologies of the present that demand archaeologies of the future’. I love that idea, that we’re not just finding old stuff but we’re actually rewriting the (his)stories of these places with us in them as a fresh layer. Nothing is ever dead or lost. There are all sorts of associations that are connected to places that you can’t erase. They’re like old etchings just awaiting the curious explorer to show up and dust it all off; to start understanding it all again.

Then of course, the more time we spent exploring the city, the more certain things became visible. Like how people build relationships to places, how space is surveilled, controlled and regulated, how the city is built to influence not just our behaviour but to actually condition the way we think about what is ethical, right and even possible. As the geographer David Harvey has written, the freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is one of the most precious and neglected of our human rights. But that of course, in the current political climate around the world, is a mentality that some people find threatening. It’s a sad state the world is in, where playing seems threatening.

All photos by Bradley Garrett



Style: New York City Ballet x Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen & more

If the world is a stage and the street is a catwalk then it makes sense that the ballet is a runway. Tonight the New York City Ballet will debut a brand new collaboration with designers Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrere and Thom Browne at their opening gala.


Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen

The idea was the brainchild of Sarah Jessica Parker, who is bringing a high-fashion edge to her role as NYCB board vice chair. Each designer was paired with a choreographer to create a look for a dance piece, adapting their signature style with second-skin fabrics and free-flowing lines that allow the dancers to move.

I love these looks from Mary Katrantzou and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen for their sense of drama, texture and playfulness. You can really see the negotiation between attention to detail and the all-out glamour that stage costumes inherently require. Hopefully this spells the renewal of the long love affair between ballet and fashion.


Mary Katrantzou


Mary Katrantzou


Mary Katrantzou


Australian Ballet Swan Lake Icebergs

Culture: Swan Lake at Bondi Icebergs

It’s one of my favourite locations and one of my favourite ballets, so I couldn’t resist posting these pictures of Australian Ballet dancers at Bondi Icebergs. The company took advantage of the weekly emptying of the iconic beach-side pool to celebrate the new season of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake launching in February 2015.


Since the ballet’s premiere in 2002, the current version of Swan Lake has undoubtedly become the company’s masterpiece and has a recurring spot on the schedule to match. Having seen it for the first time in Melbourne last year, I fell instantly under Murphy’s spell. Over ten years on from its inception, I think it benefits from increased distance from its tabloid-worthy subject matter (it was originally inspired by the death of Princess Di) to explore more universal themes of love, deception and betrayal.




Whereas the traditional story sees the black swan Oldie tricking the unwitting prince into betraying Odette, in Murphy’s version, our prince is simply in love with two different women. Rather than casting the female leads as innocent and devious; black and white; they are both suffering from being in love with someone who hurts them – something that I think makes the story more complex and in a way, darker. I find the way the vampy Baroness becomes more vulnerable, while Odette takes on a harder edge towards the end of the ballet, particularly haunting, especially the expression of this through their evolving dancing styles and on-stage presence.

The other thing I love about this version is the clever, bold and quite modern connection between the choreography, score, costume and settings. There’s a scene where Odette is confined to an asylum. Devastated by grief, she becomes passive as people move around her and she stares lifelessly out into the woods outside. It’s here, in the distance, that her imagination is free. As we enter her mind, the walls of the asylum are wrenched away to reveal her swans dancing on an elevated mirror/lake. The movement of the sets with the dancing and musical crescendo come together in a really powerful way to represent how painful and maddening love can be – I defy anyone not to be moved by that at least.


Culture: The 24 Drinking Game

Before we had Breaking Bad; before we had Mad Men, we had The Sopranos. And while Tony and his dysfunctional gang of nodding hench men were busy changing the face of television as we know it, Jack Bauer was bringing us the perfect light-hearted, explosion-filled antithesis. While the revolutionary new gangster genre brought us things like meaningful layers, complex characters and hard-to-spot references, 24 brought us guns, explosions and more plot twists and changing baddies than could possibly fit into several years, let alone a mere 24 hours.


Yes, yes I’m sure my A-Level Media Studies teacher would have wanted to point out the contextual themes of a show that first aired in 2001 and is about good guys fighting terrorists. It’s always fun to note how the nationalities of the terrorists change from Russian to Middle Eastern over the seasons. Plus I’m sure there’s some kind parallel to be drawn to the Greek Tragedies in terms of a lone hero going up against both the bad guys and toxic power structures (Why are the politicians and agency heads always so misguided?! Why does no one trust a man that has saved America so many times?!) But the real fun in watching 24 is in not taking things to seriously, which is where the 24 Drinking Game comes in.

So grab some friends, fill up your booze cupboard and join me in drinking to the themes and tropes that make this show so great.

Take a sip every time:

  • Jack says, “Dammit’
  • Jack says, ‘Right now you don’t have any other choice!’
  • Jack says, ‘Like it or not, you’re going to have to trust me.’
  • Jack says, ‘Cover me I’m going in’
  • Jack yells at his boss, ‘You don’t have time!’
  • Someone gets tortured
  • Jack gets tortured
  • Someone gets shot
  • A terrorist gets offered an immunity deal
  • The Justice Department investigates Jack
  • Jack gets arrested
  • Kim or another woman needs saving
  • Chloe rolls her eyes
  • Someone says, ‘CTU has a mole’
  • Anyone else says, ‘Dammit’


Finish your drink every time:

  • Jack whisper shouts, ‘You’ve read my file. You’ve seen what I can do’
  • Jack yells at the president/anyone, ‘Millions of innocent lives are at stake!’
  • There’s an explosion
  • Someone underestimates Jack or makes a fate provoking comment like, ‘They’ll never find us.’ (Oh you silly, silly terrorists)

I’ve just realised that based on past seasons, you’ll probably be drinking a lot. I take no responsibility for what happens!

If you have any 24 Drinking Game suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Natalie x