Iris Apfel

Lessons From Iris Apfel

“You’re not pretty. You’ll never be pretty but that’s ok because you’ve got something that none of these other girls have. You’ve got style. And that’s better than pretty.”

Those are the slightly cutting words of one of Iris Apfel’s first bosses and have become somewhat of a mantra to the 93 year old fashion icon. I watched Iris, the documentary about her, at the Melbourne International Film Festival a couple of weeks ago and have been completely inspired ever since. I’ve been mulling over her words of wisdom and these are the lessons that have touched me the most.

Iris Apfel Dazed and Confused

True style is timeless…

With the rise of street style bloggers, it seems those “must-have” cult pieces are more abundant than ever. Iris says you should buy something because it speaks to you personally and because you’ll want to wear it forever, not because it happens to be on trend that season. I have been trying to take this approach to my wardrobe, selecting things of quality that I truly love and will last, rather than indulging in a fast fashion fix that I won’t want to wear next season.

Always be hustling…

Iris Apfel is 93 years old and must be one of the hardest working people in fashion. The documentary shows her flying around the country for interviews and appearances to promote her projects. Even before she became well-known for her style, she set up her own fabric business, where she learned to haggle with suppliers and market herself to magazines and wealthy clients. Iris shows that talent alone isn’t enough, you need to get yourself out there and hustle constantly to be a success. If she can work so hard in her nineties, what excuse do the rest of us have?

Iris Apfel

True inspiration comes from being yourself…

They say that all art is influenced by what came before but I think Iris has a true creativity. She trusts her own instincts and isn’t afraid to be a little out there. Who else would mix haute couture with plastic $5 jewellery from Harlem? As she says herself, “To me it’s not intellectual, it’s all gut”. Sometimes you just have to back yourself, the rest will follow.

Be curious and have a sense of humour…

It’s ironic how for a style icon, Iris doesn’t take fashion very seriously. As she says in the documentary, it’s better to be happy than well dressed. Some of the best moments were when she just plays with fashion, not using it to define her, but having fun and being silly. There’s so much to take from her attitude and not just for dressing. If accessories are a metaphor for life, Iris proves that you can never have too much of a good thing. And who cares what anyone else thinks anyway?

Life is short, buy the shoes

Do you think Iris sweats about wearing her Givenchy shoes out in the rain? Or eating off the fancy china? No, she fills her life with beautiful things and isn’t precious about them. I think the lesson is, if you work hard, you deserve to treat yourself. Leaving your favourite shoes in their box might mean they don’t get scuffed, but nothing can replace the joy of wearing them just because you feel like it.

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.

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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

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Albert Park Pier

Style: The Weekly Beautiful

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There’s nothing like good friends, food and fresh, sea air to bring you out of a slump. I had a bit of a bad start to the weekend after having a mini crisis of confidence in my new writing class (putting myself out there + public speaking= no fun). Luckily things ended on a much better note with wine and sunset gazing at the beautiful pier in Albert Park. It’s nights like these that make me realise how much I love living in Australia. Even when you’re at your lowest, you’ll come across something so heart-stoppingly stunning that you realise how small your problems really are.

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I also got to check out Carsten Höller and Jean Paul Gaultier at The National Gallery of Victoria. Getting stuck into a bottle of bubbles in the tea room meant we were super late for the exhibition and were the last ones in. Being a stickler for schedule, I was anxious for everyone to get a move on but as it turned out, this meant we got the place to ourselves and even spotted model Andreja Pejić having a low-key moment with her family. Sometimes a plan falling apart is the most wonderful stroke of luck!

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Style: When in London…

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Going home to me is always tinged with a slight sadness along with so much joy to see my family and friends. These shots are from a wedding that meant so much to me as the bride and groom actually introduced me to my husband and have been our very cherished friends for a long time. Not to mention it took place in Stoke Newington where we have so many happy memories from living in and around the area, not to mention our own nuptials two years ago.

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As the wedding party walked from the church to The Londesborough, I couldn’t resist asking Alex to play the photographer as I stood in front of one of the gorgeous terraced houses. I loved this look, despite debating whether it was appropriate to wear a full white skirt to someone else’s wedding. I think the contrast of the black top and multi-hued bolero, plus the fact it was quite an informal affair, meant it worked. And I could pull the jacket off later in the night for more of a party look.

‘But you are home,’ cries the Witch of the North. ‘All you have to do is wake up!’ The journey is hard, for the secret place where we have always been is overgrown with thorns and thickets of ideas, of fears and defences.

Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard

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Skirt – Zara, Top – Seed, Bolero – vintage, Bag – Vintage, Shoes – Windsor Smith

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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.

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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.

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Mary Katrantzou

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Mary Katrantzou

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Style: Fashion stories and the modern spectacle

It’s pretty clear to the pop culture fans that fashion exhibitions are enjoying a boom in popularity right now. From Charles James: Beyond Fashion to Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty and the upcoming Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the NGV in Melbourne, the idea of fashion as art has increasingly moved into the mainstream.

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A few weeks ago I attended a talk by the journalist Mitchell Oakley Smith for the launch of Fashion detective at the NGV. There was one point that struck me particularly; as fashion shows become more of a performance and as brands turn their advertising and visual merchandising into an exhibition, what does that mean for the modern museum? If exhibitions are entertainment and each collection becomes an exhibition, the line between them must surely blur.

The rise of digital culture and the changing face of fashion media mean that brands have more power than ever before to control their own stories. There are now countless ways to communicate with your customer; whether it’s through the myriad of fashion bloggers, traditional advertising or through new digital platforms. Conversely this makes it harder for brands to cut through the noise, with designers making ever grander statements. This may explain the trend for fashion shows as performance. From Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel Supermarket to Marc Jacobs’ nostalgic farewell at Louis Vuitton, so much depends on the spectacle.

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It’s not just traditional forms of showcasing each collection that are evolving. Fashion brands are increasingly traversing the boundaries between commerce and art. Take Prada’s ‘A Therapy’ film directed by Roman Polanski , which was released last year. It showed there’s no longer such a need to rely on the costume department of a big budget movie to showcase your new collection. You can create your own mediums.

So where does this leave the museum? I personally think there’s an important role to play in impartially telling fashion stories. In the same ways magazines have had to adapt to a new digital landscape, there’s still room for careful and authoritative curation of content. That’s why I’m looking forward to the new Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition and the ways the museum will find to tell that story. Also, I need to find a way to get to London next year to catch Savage Beauty at The V&A. Is it too early to start a petition to bring it to Australia?

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Style: Trend Alert – Sheer Volume

As a fashion lover in Australia, it can be very frustrating watching the main four new season runways, knowing we have to wait a whole year, not only the collections to land over here, but for the weather to wear them. Luckily it seems designers are taking note of changes in retail habits and the popularity of global online stores like net-a-porter to create more trans-seasonal pieces in each collection.

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Christopher Kane, Christian Dior & Celine

The savvy shopper in Australia can now interpret the new trends as they become available, giving them a seasonal twist to adapt to the weather. One of my favourites from the Spring 14 runways is also one of the easiest to interpret now: Sheer Volume.

From peek-a-boo sheer panels to billowing skirts and bell sleeves, the look sits somewhere between youthful joie-de vivre and a more mature, womanly beauty. The romantic gauzy fabrics are grounded with heavier layers of shaggy knits, decadent furs and embroidered detailing.

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Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry Prorsum & Saint Laurent

Whether you opt for delicate lace or floaty, printed fabrics, the key to making this look work over the cooler months here is through the contrast of textures. So throw a chunky knit over that floral dress or thick wool stockings under a floaty skirt. I’d also stick to richer shades of plum, black and aubergine for a moody, Saint Laurent inspired goth-glam; saving the pastels, whites and creams for next summer.

Natalie x