Sunday 1 September 2019


Christian Dior was a pioneer in the fragrance world, believing no gown was complete without a spritz of perfume. He insisted that the Dior salons were sprayed with his signature fragrance before his shows started, so his clients could benefit from the complete Christian Dior experience. And like Charles Worth, before him, he recognised the importance of gifting fragrance to his loyal Haute Couture customers.  

His heady scents, limited-edition bottles and packaging, plus inspiring fragrance and beauty campaigns by fashion illustrator Rene Gruau, play a pivotal role in the V&A's blockbuster exhibition, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams and tell the story of the launch of Mis Dior in 1947 and the many more fragrance and beauty developments instigated by the eponymous designer and his successors.

From the inspiring wall of vintage and modern magazine covers depicting Christian Dior Haute Couture, RTW and beauty, to the room dedicated to fragrance and flowers, the V&A's exhibition is an ode to fashion to perfume. 

Cover look: The scarlet Florentine coat by Christian Dior Haute Couture AW53 illustrated by
Rene Bouche for British Vogue January 1954, price 3/6


How fabulous was the V&A's Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition?

I visited the show five times during its extended run and each time I saw something more extraordinary or learnt something else about the venerable fashion house. I also enjoyed taking friends to see the exhibition and watching their reactions to this spectacle of fashion, beauty, fragrance and history.

As the show closes, here are a few of my favourite images that highlight the story behind the House of Dior:

Christian Dior in his atelier with model Sylvie, circa 1948 Courtesy of Christian Dior

Christian Dior in his atelier with his leading house model Lucky, circa 1955 Courtesy of Christian Dior

Sunday 27 January 2019


Fashioned from Nature, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, explores the relationship between fashion and nature from the 1600 to present day. It is one of those shows that really demands several visits to truly appreciate the inspiring, innovative and also disturbing and potentially devastating effects of fashion on the environment; all interlaced with a message of hope and a concerted effort to create a brighter future for the clothing industry and the consumer. 

Speaking at the opening of the show, curator Edwina Ehrman, explained that, 'I've been a curator for over 30 years and I've always wanted to do an exhibition that interacts with nature. Everything we wear, and have always worn, comes from the earth. 

'I had a sense that we are at a tipping point,' continued Ehrman, 'And I felt that the exhibition needed to reflect that and to link the past, present and future.' 

The mix of over 300 pieces, includes early 1700's embroideries, intricate couture from Paul Poiret, Alix (Madame Grèsand Christian Dior, revolutionary designs by Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood, plus pioneering modern-day items by Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein and G-Star RAW

With the focus on how each exhibit has been produced, the exhibition sets out to explore what we can learn from the fashion practises of the past and how innovative new fabrics, such as mycelium leather, derived from mushrooms, and grape leather can be utilised in the future.

'This is the first exhibition to put fashion sustainability in this context,' said Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, at the show opening, 'It brings together both exquisite and unsettling pieces from the V&A collection, including Vita Sackville-West's beautiful embroidered cape, which is my favourite exhibit.'

Drawn from Nature: The monkeys decorating this fashionable waistcoat were copied from 
illustrations in the Comte de Buffon's multi-volume encyclopedia Natural History, 1749-88. 
Man’s embroidered waistcoat with a pattern of 
macaque monkeys, silk and linen, France, 1780–89 
Image: Vee Speers © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Woven silk train for an evening dress, France or Britain, c.1897-1905
Image: Vee Speers © V&A

Tuesday 10 October 2017


British fashion designer Amanda Wakeley is well known for her fluid evening wear, sharp 
tailoring and her love of luxury fabrics. 

For this season, the designer has relaxed her tailored silhouettes and created a sports-luxe collection, featuring many of her trademark details, such as generously tasseled belts, obi wraps and draping.

Amanda Wakeley's AW17 moodboard illustrates the references that have inspired her latest designs and she describes her muse for AW17 as being, 'Born French and of Japanese descent.'

'The Wakeley woman's AW17 style is distinctly Parisian,' continues the designer, 'She translates rich, cultural references of her Japanese heritage into a sophisticated eclecticism, whilst drawing influence from the indigenous Ainu tribe, whose storied culture has captured her.'

The Amanda Wakeley AW17 Collection moodboard

Thursday 21 April 2016


Well-known for his hard-hitting provocative images, the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989), was also an accomplished portrait photographer. According to the photographer, 'I went into photography, because it seemed like a perfect vehicle for commenting on the madness of today's existence.'

A significant collection of Mapplethorpe's images of musicians, artists and well-known faces from the 70's and 80's can be seen at Robert Mapplethorpe, The Magic in the Muse, at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, Co Durham - but hurry, the exhibition closes on Sunday 24th April 2016.

The large-scale graphic black and white images of the photographer's close friend and collaborator Patti Smith, plus shots of Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Iggy Pop and more, are all on loan from ARTIST ROOMS, a collection of contemporary art acquired for the nation by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland in 2008. 

Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1975
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Tuesday 22 December 2015


With only a few more days to go until Christmas, I headed to Bicester Village early yesterday morning in search of some last minute gifts for family and friends. Living locally, I've learnt to time my visits to the designer retail village with military precision to avoid the crowds - always getting there before the official opening time and enjoying a calming peppermint tea at Soho House Farmshop before hitting the stores.

Chiltern Railways' recent opening of Bicester Village station has been a great boost for both the retail village and the area, as it has helped ease the congestion at Bicester North station, the original hub for the retail outlet shoppers arriving both from London and Birmingham. The new station brings visitors straight to the village from Marylebone in 46 minutes and I was invited to experience the service first hand at the recent opening of the station.

As a regular commuter from Bicester North to Marylebone, it was a real treat being pampered with a Champagne lunch onboard the train, instead of sandwiches from the refreshments trolley. It's a speedy service to the village and there's a relaxing lounge at Bicester Village station, that's more like a corner of a Ralph Lauren store, than a station waiting room, with evocative black and white prints on the walls, fresh flowers and coffee table books to flick through while waiting for the train to London.

Speaking at the opening of the new station, Desiree Bollier, Chief Executive of Value Retail Management (the company that owns Bicester Village) confirmed, 'This isn't your average station waiting room, but it's the entry point to Bicester Village. We felt it needed the same attention to detail that has fuelled our progress for the last 20 years and that lies at the heart of everything we do.'

The snow machine in full swing at the recent opening of
Chiltern Railways' Bicester Village station, bringing shoppers straight to the heart of the retail village
from Marylebone Station in London in under an hour

Thursday 9 July 2015


I've seen Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A three times and I'm hoping to get to the show once more before it closes on 2nd August 2015. It's such an exciting show and I've discovered something new each time I've visited.

Savage Beauty has been described as Alexander McQueen's homecoming and we are lucky to have such an amazing exhibition on our doorstep.

Here's an edited version of the speech the V&A's Senior Curator of Fashion, Claire Wilcox, made at the Press opening of the exhibition:

'Alexander McQueen was one of the most influential designers of his generation. His radical and fearless vision changed the way we look at fashion. He provoked with his bumster trousers, he astonished with his dresses made from hand painted glass and razor clam shells, he shocked with his powerful and spectacular catwalk shows that were characterised by a love of storytelling.

Although bold and subversive with his ideas, everything McQueen did was rooted in craftsmanship of the highest level. As you probably know the original version of Savage Beauty took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011. It was brilliantly curated by Andrew Bolton, Curator of the Costume Institute, who is also a consultant curator on this exhibition.   

Portrait of Alexander McQueen, 1997. Photographed by Marc Hom
© Marc Hom/Trunk Archive