It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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Email: fashionmemex(at)gmail.com

Oliver Hirschbiegel either directed Dianahis biopic about the last two years of the late Princess of Wales’ life and romance with Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan, too late or too early.

Too late, because the interest in Diana’s life has died down since August 1997. Of course, the British media and Vanity Fair still use her for cover material from time to time and new conspiracy theories surface every August 31, but Britain has mostly moved on to Kate, William and yes, back to the Queen. 

Diana feels too early because we don’t yet have enough hindsight. As a consequence, the film feels a bit like a piece of fan-fiction, and not of the well-written kind. There is nothing in Diana its target public wouldn’t have read or imagined in the pages of the hundreds of books and articles dedicated to her life, love or charitable works

I, of course, am the target public, which is why I went to see the film despite all the bad reviews. Seeing Charles Edwards and Douglas Hodge play former Diana staffers and authors of kiss-and-tell books (Patrick Jephson and Paul Burrell respectively) was like seeing actors play out parts of my own bookshelf. Not that I’m proud of it.

Making a movie about Diana was always going to be difficult because the material is there and everyone with something to say has talked, particularly the ones who shouldn’t have. As a consequence, Hirschbiegel doesn’t cover new grounds and his work with the existing one is too poor to be enjoyable, even as cinema marshmallow. 

Stephen Frears’ exploration of Diana’s death from the point of view of the Queen in The Queen worked because it adopted an unexpected angle and played on the Britain’s fascination with their monarch. It also worked because, by 2006, the Queen had returned to her position as Brits’ favourite grandma but over the same period of time, and even more since, multiple cracks had appeared in the quickly written Diana legend. Even though Naomi Watts is technically good, considering the material she was given, she’s no Helen Mirren yet. 

Diana lacks the angle The Queen dared to take. It tries to cram too much in 113 minutes: her fight with Charles and the Windsors, her love for William and Harry, her indecision as to what to do with her power, her simultaneous rejection and manipulation of the press and lastly, her affair with Khan, which, to this day, is the most untold part of her life. 

Had screenwriter and playwright Stephen Jeffreys picked one of these angles to focus his screenplay on, it could have worked. Or even if he’d chosen to tell it from the point of view of Khan, hit on the head by meeting “the most famous woman in the world”. Instead what we get is poor dialogues, inserted at times with known quotes. Reenactments of published pictures, whether in Angola on a minefield, fleeing paparazzi in London or kissing Dodi on the Mediterranean, act as the real thread.

The poster tagline taunts “the legend is never the whole story”, warning in the process that the film won’t be scared of clichés. Diana tries to take us behind the public façade with the help of gross symbolism. The mirror she applies her make up on at Kensington Palace, for instance, is framed with naked light bulbs, as in dressing rooms. We get it: she put on her public face and personality before facing the world. 

The foreboding is on the same level as the symbolism. It starts in the first few minutes, with Diana, Dodi, their bodyguard and their chauffeur stopping in a Ritz corridor, on their way to the Mercedes. The princess seems unsettled, as if something had told her not to go. This looks quite ridiculous in the movie, yet considering her well-documented interest in New Age and alternative philosophies it isn’t the biggest stretch. 

Hirschbiegel did get a lot of details right, if only the most obvious ones: the round handwriting for instance, or an Azagury slipcover hanging in the dressing.

Costume designer Julian Day reproduced some of Diana’s best-known outfits. He explained to Pakistan’s Daily Times that he had “help from other designers, notably one who designed for Lady Diana herself. He was inspired and helped in designing a dozen outfits for the film. I had help from Versace in reproducing one of the dresses.” 

Predictably, the film ends with Khan laying flowers outside Kensington Palace. It then cuts to a black screen where you read the usual blurb about what has happened since Diana’s death, about the decreasing use of anti-personal mines since her trip to Angola and the Ottawa Treaty. Hasnat Khan is still a heart surgeon (and didn’t support the movie). 

This might be Hirschbiegel’s way of saying that he treated his subject the way any movie director would treat a biopic, yet it feels ironic because the princess is still in the news. Diana transcends history, she is a pop culture icon in a way few other characters who have had movies (not documentaries) dedicated to them so far, are. It’s Carrie Bradshaw, mentioning on the day her book reviews come out that the last time she was up that early was for Diana’s wedding. It’s hundreds of people you can speak to who remember exactly where they were when they learnt she’d died. 

One way or another, Diana touched people. We are interested in her persona because it is relatable. There was something egotistic in people’s love for her. Mirren’s Elizabeth II showed aspects of that way of ‘touching’ people by exploring how the Queen’s world was forced to change after her daughter-in-law’s death.

Diana makes the mistake of being about Diana, not about the flaws and the unhappiness people empathised with and felt was akin to theirs. Diana is about a celluloid, one-dimensional being nobody is actually that interested about.

Here’s another angle that could have worked: one British woman’s life signposted by Diana’s. Marriage, divorce, children, depression, rebounds, hopeless love…She’s done it and so have we. Or maybe she’s had it worse than us, a revenge of fate on somebody with such a nice background. So when we’re asked to envisage Diana in a love story whose end we already know, it becomes difficult to root for her, the bad scenario the audience is asked to accept just doesn’t work.

Diana, for all her charity work, her giving birth to the future king and her attempts at influencing the monarchy, mattered little. What did matter was the unprecedented outpouring of grief that followed her death and its effect on the nation. Trying to understand this is one of the reasons why I moved to England and Diana got me no closer to an answer. 

Posted at 5:40am and tagged with: Classy film, Royal Family, review,.

Exhibition review: Clarence House’s summer opening

There is something almost voyeuristic about visiting the five reception rooms that are opened to the public every August at Clarence House (Photo1), the official London residence of The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry.

In most palaces I’ve visited, the paintings are first and foremost works of art. They might represent an ancestor or a relative of the person who once lived there but by the time the place was open, all had been dead, the family not reigning anymore. These are the paintings you see in history books as evidence of the past.

Clarence House is different. It’s not just the portrait of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon as a young and shy, recently married Duchess of York by Savey Sorine (Photo 2), or its twin of the newly titled Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh. They are pictures of Prince Charles’ grandmother and mother, of women whose lives we’ve seen documented in the papers and on TV. 

Both lived in the house at various stages of their royal destiny. The Queen, shortly after her wedding to Prince Philip. They undertook heavy work to modernise the house following WWII, when it was used as a Red Cross office. The Lancaster room (Photo 5), the first you enter as a visitor, was named after the town of Lancaster. As a wedding gift, its inhabitants presented the Edinburghs with the funds to redo the room. A portrait of Edward VIII, painted during his time studying in Paris, hangs on the right of the fireplace, the most unexpected painting I saw during the whole visit.  

The Edinburghs were not to live in Clarence House for long. The family moved to Buckingham, a few metres down the Mall, after George VI’s death. In moved the Queen Mother. Visiting the house, it’s all about how the Queen and Prince Philip modified it, the Queen Mother redecorated it and Prince Charles changed it again. The Morning Room (Photo 3, 8, 9) for instance, in the Queen Mother’s Strathmore racing colours, was essentially kept as she designed it, despite a recent refresh by Robert Kime. My favourite portrait of the Queen, as a young girl, hangs opposite the entrance (Photo 3). Walter Sickert’s A Lady in a Pink Ballgown is above the fireplace. Considering the books about Sickert on display on the Lancaster Room bookshelves, the visitor can suppose that the royal couple enjoys his work. 

And that’s the thing about this guided tour: it is hard not to see it as an insight, if not in the life of The Prince of Wales and his wife, at least in the working of a royal household. For instance, there is a hole in the Dining Room (Photo 7) carpet so that people attending conferences there can plug in their laptops (or as the tour guide called it, “computer wizardry”). The rooms are the background to many official photos published in the media, such as the October 2011 reception in support of In Kind Direct, the Prince of Wales’ charity that redistribute surplus good to charities. It marked The Duchess of Cambridge’s first solo engagement, in an Amanda Wakeley vintage dress that matched the Morning Room’s colours. 

The visit ends with the grounds, split between a very geometric Rosicrucian garden, where lavender grows between box trees (Photo 10), a lawn planted with trees, a fountain with cascades of wisteria rather than water and a vegetable patch. With this patch, Prince Charles wanted to prove that you could grow vegetables in the heart of London in a pretty way. The demonstration works until you realise the patch itself is probably the size of most London flats. Parts of the garden smell of the garlic used to keep off snails and other garden annoyances. To retain its organic label awarded yearly by the Soil Association, Clarence House can’t use any pesticide. 

After the grounds, in the neighbouring St James’s Palace, comes the traditional gift shop where the Windsor’s business acumen is on full display. My tour was less than a month after Prince George’s birth but the store was already selling a book on royal babies, included the Cambridge one, a limited edition teddy and some blue-themed china. 

Clarence House is now closed until next summer but if you happen to be in London in August 2014, it’s definitely worth a tour. The visit costs under £10 and takes about one hour. 

Posted at 4:36pm and tagged with: Royal Family, exhibition review, london,.

The Boston bombings, the Iranian election protests, Osama bin Laden’s death, I learnt of on Twitter. Baby Cambridge’s birth and gender I learnt of on Gmail, when the luxury multibrand womenswear retailer Avenue 32 sent an email “It’s a BOY! A royal email” at 20:48, less than 20 minutes after Kensington Palace had announced the birth

Avenue 32 offered customers “free delivery (pun intended) on all orders until the end of the week” with the code CONGRATS32.

The website is joining a flurry of brands capitalising on the royal birth, which according to the City might boost the economy, just like the 2011 wedding and 2012 Jubilee celebrations did (Chris Giles in the Financial Times disagrees). 

Companies using Baby Cambridge to promote an unrelated product was expected. What I didn’t see coming was that I would learn the sex of the future monarch in a commercial email, which for me is a brand new way to receive news. Could that be something for brands to look into?

Posted at 3:33pm and tagged with: Royal Family, email marketing,.

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The duchess of Cambridge’s difficult first trimester has provided a welcome change to the usual celebrity pregnancy discourse and has highlighted hyperemesis gravidarum, a little-known debilitating illness.

We have gotten used to magazines focusing on pregnancy glow, to actresses explaining how being pregnant was the best time of their lives and to models dispensing tips on bouncing back to their pre-pregnancy body, putting unnecessary pressure on expectant mothers who don’t have household staff, don’t have personal trainers and can wonder why their pregnancy is different from what is presented as the norm. 

Rushed to the hospital on Monday for hyperemesis gravidarum, an illness most people had never heard of until then, the duchess of Cambridge reminded everyone pregnancy isn’t always picture perfect and can be dangerous. Medicine has taken the livelihood risk out of expecting in most of the Western hemisphere but it hasn’t always been the case, and still isn’t in too many countries.

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According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, 350 000 women died from pregnancy-related conditions in 2008. In 2010, the UK had a maternal mortality ratio, defined by CIA - The World Factbook as “the annual number of female deaths per 100,000 live births from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management”, of 12, nearly 100 times less than Chad or Somalia.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is one pregnancy-related illness which can result in death. Contemporary stats on the topic are hard to find but in the 1930s, hyperemesis gravidarum is thought to have caused 159 deaths per million births, a number which dropped to 3 deaths per million births in the 1950s (1) in the United Kingdom.

Nowadays, the cost of hyperemesis gravidarum has become economic rather than demographic. The illness can decrease job efficiency and force women to take sick days which, considering many country and company policies towards pregnancy isn’t ideal. It also impacts relationships and heightens the risk of prenatal depression, according to the HER Foundation, an American “grassroots network of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) survivors”.

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In other words, it sucks. Those difficulties are likely not improved by the many people thinking women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum should just get a grip, a feeling echoed in too many op-eds, tweets and other benevolent online comments on the duchess this week.

The royals are at their strongest highlighting causes society doesn’t care about yet: prince Charles and organic food, princess Diana and HIV/AIDS patients in the 1980s… This is just what the duchess of Cambridge unwillingly did this week, giving in the process a voice to an unglamourous cause and force-educating the public on the topic. Nearly every media outlet has published heartfelt and at times horrific accounts of hyperemesis gravidarum by women and their partners alongside explanation of the illness. I wouldn’t be surprised if the duchess was asked to become patron of a UK association highlighting the risks inherent to pregnancy. 

Since arriving on the public scene nearly ten years ago, Catherine has been nothing but dutiful. Her pregnancy isn’t just producing a new heir for the monarchy, it is highlighting a condition thousands of women suffer from the world round, which is exactly what she is meant to do as wife of the future king.

All photos from Defence Images, the Ministry of Defence brilliant Flickr account

(1) numbers from Misc.medscape.com, retrieved 06 December 2012.

Posted at 5:26pm and tagged with: Royal Family, health, pregnancy, magazine writing,.

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Friday 31 August marked the ninth anniversary of my move to London. I was 17 and realising my dream by spending my last year of high school in a foreign land, living amongst people whose language and customs represented a struggle. Some people say it was brave, I think it was foolhardy. I had no idea what to expect, let alone that nine years on, I’d still be living in London.

I moved to England on 31 August, which in my personal mythology is quite significant. Even though I had started learning English a couple years before, I only realised in earnest England existed when princess Diana died. A British couple was staying at our house, and I couldn’t understand why the event made them laugh whereas the telly broadcast interview after interview of their crying compatriots, analysis of why the country was losing its legendary phlegm and questions over the survival of the monarchy. Great-Britain was a monarchy! As a 12 year-old French pupil, my idea of the monarchy was Loire Castles and François I, Henri IV’s chicken for all and Louis XIV building Versailles. Not a constitutionally-defined institution, and certainly not one which would have survived in the 20th century.

So to understand, I started reading books on the Royal Family, then and now, in a voracious, non-discerning manner. Trust me, that’s a lot of crap writing. Around the same time, I discovered Harry Potter. The common point between books on the Windsors and JK Rowling’s is that they were published in English before being translated, giving me no choice but to learn the language quickly. It was a matter of understanding, which for me has always been synonymous with survival.

Fast forward to 2002. I was still obsessed with England, had taken a few short trips to the country and Jersey and more importantly was bored in my local high-school. Which is when I read an interview with Jodie Foster (likely in ELLE) about how she’d gone to a French Lycée in New York. Some random Internet search taught me there was one in London, that it was one of the best French schools across the world (France included) and that it ran a program of scholarships for teenagers living in France but wanting to study in a different country. Oh and the deadline to apply was a week from that day.

I got in, and that’s how I moved to London.

Posted at 1:25pm and tagged with: first person, london, Royal Family, Harry Potter,.

With Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, the Victoria & Albert museum put together a one dimensional exhibition which, though charming and enticing, lacks depth. Five sections chronicle the collaboration between British photographer Beaton and three generations of Royals and introduce the visitor to his character and career. 

In real life, these beautiful, well-known photographs have a real pull and depth of detail but the chronological angle is rather flat. Curator Susanna Brown could have added analysis by showing how Beaton evolved the tradition of royal portraiture or how he’s influenced the current generation of royal photographers. Or she could have explored how his talent for, in Queen Mum’s own words, “producing” the royals as “really quite nice and real people”, choosing to go from romantic, formal poses displaying the traditional attributes of power to casual family portraits has changed the way we perceive the Windsors. Did Beaton open the communication can of worms or was he merely following and feeding the growing public appetite for seeing the Royals as one of us?

In a testament to Beaton’s talent for allowing a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes of royal life, it’s impossible not to want to know more about his creative process and the strategy behind his pictures. Besides a letter from the Queen Mum, there’s barely a royal correspondence in sight, leaving much of the relationship between the photographer and his subjects to imagination. The exhibition is told from the single, biased viewpoint of the gushing, sometimes anxious quotes from Beaton’s diaries on how well each and every shoot went. For a museum which has accustomed regulars to interactive exhibitions pulling from a range of media, the mere three short documentaries on display are disappointing.  Seeing in real life some of dresses, jewels and backdrops pictured would also have added relief to the portraits.

After its stint at the V&A, the exhibition will be touring the country and the Commonwealth to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, in keeping with the original aim of the photographs, described by Brown as “PR, not family portraits”. This is an exhibition to the monarch’s glory, with no nuance. Fitting in a Jubilee year but it nonetheless leaves the visitor wanting more. Beaton depicts a vanilla, pre-Diana-Camilla royal family, a carefully orchestrated comm exercise difficult to swallow after years of tabloid headlines.

Pictures from the V&A website: Queen Elizabeth II with her Maids of Honour by Cecil Beaton (Gelatin silver print, 2 June 1953, Museum no. PH.1530-1987); Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Andrew by Cecil Beaton (Gelatin silver print, Buckingham Palace, March 1960, Museum no. PH.1806-1987)

Queen Elizabeth II and Cecil Beaton at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until 22 April 2012

Posted at 9:52am and tagged with: exhibition review, victoria and albert museum, Royal Family,.

1 - McQ and Stella McCartney coming back to London Fashion Week

Since Burberry made the move back and under Harold Tilman stewardship, London Fashion Week (LFW) has been gathering momentum. All major fashion editors now attend LFW, rather than hoping from New York to Milan, even though recent scheduling problems might have something to say to that. Showing in London will be a comeback to their roots for both the Alexander McQueen diffusion brand McQ and Olympic team tailor Stella McCartney. Both brands have a strong British identity and Britishness has become a marketing USP. With even Kanye West rumoured to join the capital, cool Britannia is regaining its pedigree. Will Alexander McQueen be next to join?


2 - A new designer at Dior and John Galliano’s future

The 2011 fashion year started with a bang with Galliano’s dismissal and ensuing conspiracy theories. Rumours after rumours have given everyone from Marc Jacobs to Raf Simons at Dior, to the extent not being named as a potential designer was a bad sign of your credential in the business. Is the job cursed? Is the house enjoying seeing its name pop up on social platforms too much to make a decision? Can Dior release another collection without proper artistic direction? Could Franca Sozzani get her wish of seeing Galliano reinstated? Is Sidney Toledano making a conscious decision to mark the end of the designer superstar?

As for Galliano, the moment backers decide he is once again a sound investment, I have little doubt he’ll find a new designer position. The industry is already being nice to him, his Internet ranking is on the rise and memory fades at the prospect of money.


3 - The Arab spring going into its second year

I spent some of the best days of my life in Cairo three summers ago. The city was nothing I’d experienced before. I’d been warned about the smell and the noise and that I would hate it but I ended up loving it because of its smell and noise and because it had an identity of its own, so different from all the European cities I was used to. Back at the LSE, I took a course on Nasser and Arab Nationalism which turned out to be the best of my third year. Watching a country fight for its future is very different if you’ve been there and if you know its history than if TV is your only link with it.

On a fashion-related note - the textile industry represents a significant part of the Egyptian GDP, not just as Egyptian cotton but also as clothing factories. The ongoing unrest, the lack of democratic resolution despite the elections and the role of the military and Muslim Brotherhood could mean rising prices on the long term, especially in the UK, the main European Union market for Egyptian apparel and home textiles.


4 - Presidential elections in France and the USA

April and November will be key electoral months in France and the United-States with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama running for reelection. Will France go against the European trend and elect François Hollande, the left candidate everyone dismissed as a joke two years ago? Will Obama’s West Wing-reminiscent administration loose the White House to the Tea Party? Even though the Carla/Michelle effect doesn’t translate in sales as well as the Kate effect, I hope any first lady taking over would have as much fashion taste. As for the fashion repercussions of new elections, they are more likely to be found on price tags following tax choices than in terms of policies. Despite fashion’s importance in the economy, the current economic situation puts us years away from making the craft a priority.


5 - The Artist released in UK cinemas

If you grew up in France in the 1990s, you might take the buzz surrounding The Artist and Jean Dujardin’s mute performance with a pinch of disbelief. Jean Dujardin will forever be Loulou, of 1 gars 1 fille, a long-lived, short-format sitcom about the triviality of a couple’s daily life. Seeing a full page dedicated to Dujardin in US Vogue is somewhat surprising, the possibility of his Oscar nomination difficult to fathom. Not that his acting doesn’t deserve it but because no one would have predicted him this kind of career. Jean Dujardin is the French George Clooney, from ER to The Ides of March.


6 - Another royal year

An exhibition dedicated to the Queen’s portraits at the Victoria & Albert Museum! New Diana, Princess of Wales dresses on display at Kensington Palace! The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations! Many new Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge outfits! The Royals on display for a month of Olympic joy! Another four day bank holiday weekend!

Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, A Diamond Jubilee Celebration; at the Victoria & Albert Museum 8 February - 22 April


7 - Aaron Sorkin back on TV with The Newsroom

I loved him in The West Wing, loved him in The Social Network, loved him in A Few Good Men. A year after his Oscar win, Aaron Sorkin is back on TV with The Newsroom, scheduled for broadcast on HBO. Although the topic might be closer to Studio 60 than The West Wing for comfort, I expect dialogues between Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer delivered “while walking rapidly through a work place”* and Dev Patel as the “lone, down-to-Earth black man who brings calming wisdom to neurotic white people”*. Alison Pill could make a great “cute conservative blond woman who exists in a mostly liberal world but everyone ends up loving anyway”* while Daniels will likely keep the role of the “emotionally stunted male lead who is bad with relationships”* for himself.

*All quotes from “4 Things Aaron Sorkin Puts In Every Show”. And yes, I do know Dev Patel isn’t black.

8 - Sherlock and Mad Men back on TV

Contract negotiations meant we were deprived of Mad Men in 2011, while Sherlock's broadcast was pushed back to 1 January 2012. Will AMC and the BBC see a drop or a surge in ratings as a result? Can Don and Betty marriages last? Will Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat go the pop culture way and turn Irene Adler into Sherlock’s only love? Should we expect Holmesian influences and 1960s revival in the autumn/winter menswear and womenswear shows this winter?

9 - Marc Jacobs - Louis Vuitton and Van Cleef & Arpels at Les Arts Décoratifs

Marc Jacobs will open the fashion season at Les Arts Déco in March, followed in September by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. Described as “an analysis rather than a retrospective”, the Jacobs/Vuitton exhibition will show how both men influenced fashion and accessories at the end of the 19th and in the early 21st century. Drawing a parallel between the two designers is a new curation angle which should add to the fashion house’s myth and to the ongoing heritage trend. The Van Cleef exhibition should be more traditional with over 400 of the jeweller’s best work on display.

Marcs Jacobs - Louis Vuitton, 9 March - 16 September; Van Cleef & Arpels, 20 September - 10 February 2013, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris


10 - Carine Roitfeld

Having christened her 2011 liberty by styling the Chanel campaign, posing on the cover of i-D magazine, featuring with her children in the Barneys window displays and releasing instant best-seller Irreverent, Roitfeld should know an exciting second year post Vogue Paris editorship. We know little of her projects for the year, except she will become a grandmother and launch a magazine, and it’s just as well since part of her 2011 appeal was her capacity to rebound and surprise us.

11 - Google’s iPad killer

Fashion brands and magazines have just started embracing Apple’s iPad tablet with platform-specific sites, dedicated apps and targeted subscriptions. Will they be able to carry their strategy and technology over to the Google iPad killer, announced by the company’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt? Google + was slow to release brand-specific pages but fashion brands were amongst the first to publish pages. Will the company follow a similar process, brand-wise, for the new tablet? Will the public be quick at buying the new gadget or shy away from yet another Google item in their life?

12 - Another year of Ryan Gosling

With Crazy, Stupid Love, Drive and The Ides of March, Ryan Gosling managed to be in three of the best films of 2011, in three very different categories. Will 2012 be the year of his first Oscar win? If his two Golden Globes nominations for best actor, drama and best actor, comedy are anything to go by, a nomination should at least be locked. This should be enough to keep everyone waiting for 2013 and his three new film Lawless, The Gangster Squad and The Place Beyond the Pines. Yes, I’m a fan and yes, I struggled to find a 12th reason to look forward to 2012. Not sure I’ll do Thirteen reasons to look forward to 2013 next year.

Pictures: London Fashion Week Begins At Somerset House, Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe; Dior petites mains, Jamesbort.com; The pyramids in Giza, © Fashion Abecedaire; French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Senator Barack Obama, Jae C. Hong/Associated Press on the New York Times website; The Artist, publicity shot; The Newsroom, HBO Watch trailer screenshot; Princess Elizabeth, Cecil Beaton, Gelatin silver print, Buckingham Palace, March 1945, Museum no. E.1361-2010; Sherlock Series 2, BBC publicity shot; Spring/Summer 2008 womenswear show bags from the Toile Monogram Jokes line created by Richard Prince, © Louis Vuitton / Chris Moore; The 9 Lives of Carine Roitfeld, New York Times website; Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone on the set of Gangster Squad

Posted at 5:56pm and tagged with: Classy film, TV series, The West Wing, Vogue Paris, carine roitfeld, politics, technology, Sherlock, Mad Men, dior, john galliano, Alexander McQueen, London Fashion Week, Royal Family, cambridge, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 2012 Olympics, Egypt, france,.

The Middleton sisters have gathered their fair share of unwarranted press releases. Buy our hair products to get Kate’s mane! Go to my gym to get Pippa’s derrière! Buy our knock-off of Kate’s dress!

Last week, Austrian hosiery and womenswear brand Wolford sent an email encouraging its customers to "Get the Look of the Duchess of Cambridge", explaining that all you need to get “the Royal look” is a “fitted dress just above the knee, high heels and indispensable nude hosery [sic]”, which you can of course buy off Wolford. Not only was it bad taste, it had two spelling mistakes too many.

The Royal Family isn’t keen on brands actively pushing their connection for sales, unless they have a royal warrant. Wolford’s email, advertising hosiery the Duchess might or might not be wearing (she could be buying Falke for all we know) is unworthy of the quality of the brand’s tights.

Exploiting the “Kate effect" did work though: I can complain all I want, but this is the first Wolford email I’ve opened since signing up to the newletter. Opening rates likely shot up thanks to the Duchess-themed subject but I’d like to see how it translated in terms of conversion rate.

Posted at 8:44am and tagged with: Brand communication, Royal Family, hosiery, cambridge, email marketing,.

My initial reaction, when I saw a bottle of Chambord liqueur for the first time, was to compare it to Vivienne Westwood's logo. Of course the Chambord bottle wasn't inspired by Westwood's design but rather by the Global Cruciger, this sovereign's orb often visible in portrays of monarchs past and present, "representing Christ’s dominion over the world".

For Chambord, the shape is all about reminding customers of the liqueur’s royal heritage, of how, according to legend and marketing, Louis XIV fell in love with a raspberry liqueur produced in the château de Chambord in the XVIIth century. Westwood’s take on the orb, on the other hand, would be more irreverent, highlighting how fashion can take the ultimate symbol of power, establishment and religion, to the streets.

PS: Unfortunately, Chambord has recently revised its design, turning it into a sleeker and simpler version of the orb.

Charles II of Hungary

Frederik V

Catherine II

Elizabeth II

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: Royal Family, Champagne!, Vivienne Westwood,.

As a Palace, Buckingham is probably up there with Chambord and Chenonceau, with that little difference of being the residence of a working Queen. If nothing else, the British monarchy has one advantage: it keeps the place in perfect condition. Although not yet 200 years old in its current form, Buckingham Palace displays collections of Sèvre china and paintings to compete with many a Loire castle I’ve visited (and I’ve visited them all). The Van Dyck were as elegant as I hoped, and I didn’t feel as underwhelmed by Winterhalter’s The Royal Family in 1846 as I had when seeing David’s Le Sacre de Napoléon in Le Louvre.

The two temporary exhibitions on Royal Fabergé and the wedding dress were however quite disappointing. The dress could have done with context in addition to Sarah Burton explaining its inspiration, design and craftsmanship. It would have been nice to see it alongside Catherine’s evening dress, the bridesmaids attire, Pippa and children included. Instead, we’re left with the dress under a grey mosquito net, the shoes, bouquet reproduction and earrings in a case so small its hard to see what’s inside, and the cake. I don’t know whether the exhibition had been planned ahead of the wedding or whether it was a quick, cash-in decision but it felt like a lot more time could have been spent on its curation and on gathering related items. Unless the Cambridges’ popularity wanes all of a sudden (which at this point seems unlikely), waiting one more year wouldn’t have hurt.

As for the dress itself, it’s even more beautiful and tiny in real life than it was on TV. Sarah Burton explains how it is appliquéd with floral motives from six different laces representing the United Kingdom and how the train was reinforced with a canvas-like fabric to make sure it always kept its shape. Seeing the work it required up close partially makes up for the limited number of pieces on display.

Summer opening of the State Romms, Buckingham Palace, until 3 October. Tickets from £17.50 for adults

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: Royal Family, Cambridge, exhibition review,.