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.

Subscribe to the Fashion Abecedaire newsletter

Twitter @FashionAbecedai

Email: fashionmemex(at)

23 Karl Lagerfeld collaborations

I can never decide what’s the right question to ask about Karl Lagerfeld’s multiple partnerships. Is it, where does he find the creative inspiration? Or, where does he find the time? Or perhaps, just what on earth is he thinking?

The idea for this post was born as I was leafing through the BUT catalogue, a popular French furniture chain he photographed a few pages for. As well-documented as Lagerfeld’s interest in home decoration is, him and BUT aren’t two brands I would ever have thought to match. That’s the strength of Lagerfeld: despite being everywhere, his choices can still surprise us. I have voluntarily selected the most unexpected partnerships below, ignoring associations with clothes brands like Hogan or H&M or high-end retailers like Net-a-Porter or Macy’s

1 - Diet Coke bottle designer. A collaboration justified by how much Diet Coke Lagerfeld drinks, as explained in his diet book. (photo 2)
2 - Securité Routière, the French government road safety agency, ad campaign model. Tagline: “It’s yellow, it’s ugly, it doesn’t go with anything but it can save lives” . (photo 4)
3 - BUT catalogue photographer and curator. (photo 3)
4 - Cassina, an Italian furniture brand, as a photographer.
5 - Theft Auto IV, the video game, as the host of K109 The Studio, a radio station which plays disco music. (photo 8)
6 - Totally Spies, a French cartoon movie where Lagerfeld played the bad guy Fabu. (photo 9)
7 - Biennale des Antiquaires 2012 as a set designer and curator.
8 - Tokidoki (with Choupette) for a likeness toy. "I am very flattered that I became a tokidoki. I always loved them and I am very happy to be one of them". (photo 6)
9 - W. Steiff for a likeness bear. Asked whether he played with a bear as a child, Lagerfeld declared: “Maybe I had one; I don’t remember. I never played with anything like toys. I wanted to be grown-up.” (photo 7)
10 - Snoop Dog and Jean Roch for an electro-pop video.
11 - Melissa, the Brazilian ethical shoe brand, for a capsule Kollection. (photo 10)
12 - Optic 2000, a popular French glasses chain which launched an interactive online game, “I want Karl’s glasses”, to celebrate the partnership.
13 - Italia Independent, an Italian licensing company for a two-year contract to produce glasses and sunglasses.
14 - Fossil for a range of watches sold in Colette and the World of Karl pop-up store. 
15 - Shu Uemura for a line, “Mon Shu Uemura”, which included brush sets, eyelash curl, nail polish and nail stickers decorated with little stylised Karls. (photo 5)
16 - Sephora for a festive season make-up line. Tagline: “Fashion is neither moral, nor amoral, but it cheers me up”.
17 - S.T.Dupont for a collection of pens and lighters called Mon Dupont.
18 - Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2009 Grand Cru Classé label designer to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the vineyard. (photo 1)
19 - Joel Robuchon’s Hotel Métropole in Monte-Carlo interior designer.
20 - AugustaWestland as a chopper designer both for the interior and the exterior of a remodeled luxury AW139 twi-turbines copter.  
21 - Döttling as the designer of custom-built safes.
22 - Metro International Newspapers guest editor on 7 February 2012. 

23 - Welton London for a collection of three scented candles. 

Posted at 7:10pm and tagged with: list, karl lagerfeld, 23,.

  • Siri Tollerod, Vogue Italia pre-2009. Rest of the editorial, Refinery 29. (x2)
  • Irina Lazareanu for Aubin & Wills Spring/Summer 2012. Rest of the ad campaign, Miss Moss.
  • Cara Delevingne by Liz Collins for Love Magazine S/S2013. Rest of the editorial, Visual Optimism.
  • Lanvin advert 2009, found at The Gloss which has a great overview of the rise of cats in fashion.
  • Soo Joo by Gan for Harper’s Bazaar Singapore August 2013. Rest of the editorial, Fashion Copious.
  • Nimue Smit by Txema Yeste for Numéro China April 2012. Part of a Styleite round up of the 13 best fashion editorials featuring cats.
  • Dewi Driegen by Chris Craymer "Visioni" Amica March 2012. Same source as above. 
  • Karl Lagerfeld’s drew his cat Choupette for i-D magazine
  • Linda Evangelista and Choupette by Karl Lagerfeld, Vogue Germany July 2013. 

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: which, photography, cat, karl lagerfeld, model life,.

A universal tale of finding yourself with Jungian traits and multiple variants worldwide, the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been re-imagined by Hollywood twice over the past six months: Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. With its "Miroir, Miroir" email sent early July, Chanel is keeping with the trend and banking on how the story echoes in ourselves to increase opening rates.

The entire email copy references fairy tales. The subject line refers to a (likely incorrect, depending on the translation) Snow White quote so engraved in popular culture finishing it is not necessary for the recipient to know this email is about beauty. The call to action invites the customer to go through the mirror, a possible reference to Alice in Wonderland, another tale with a looking-glass at its heart. The email ultimately links to a short film teasing the upcoming Rouge Allure lipstick line, “lips red as blood” being one of Snow White’s three key beauty attributes.

The film, where “crystals become makeup and reveal kaleidoscopic beauty”, is more science fiction than fairy tale, India-influenced rather than set in the German forest. According to, inspired by the “something Indian” in the new lipstick, Chanel creative director of makeup Peter Philips looked at Karl Lagerfeld’s Paris-Bombay and “a specific mirror-embellished coat” to direct the short. India is a popular inspiration for beauty brands at the moment: Clarins, Boucheron and NARS have all released wide-reaching lines rooted in the subcontinent. Yet the Chanel email copy follows the decidedly Western angle of Snow White.

Pictures: Top picture, Miroir miroir, Chanel email July 2012; Photos 2 and 3: Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in Mirror Mirror, Relativity Media 2012; Photos 4 to 7: Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen and the mirror in Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures 2012

Posted at 8:35pm and tagged with: Brand communication, Classy film, beauty, chanel, email marketing, karl lagerfeld,.

November book reviews in February, how out of date you might think. This post has been sitting, half-written, in my drafts for the past three months. It wasn’t meant to see the light of day anymore, but the Save our Libraries/National Libraries day decided otherwise. I spent a large part of my childhood in libraries, I even trained as a mini-librarian when I was 12. Even though Amazon has largely replaced book borrowing these days (not my most sound financial decision), I hate the idea of people not having the possibility to go to one. So, in honour of Save our Libraries, here is my November book review. Now go to your closest Library and borrow one of them.

We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lionel Shriver

By far the most disturbing and moving film I saw last year, We Need to Talk about Kevin was first and foremost a thought-provoking book. A few years after her son, Kevin, committed mass-murder by arrow in his high-school, Eva Khatchadourian tries to make sense of it all in letters to her husband. Was it her fault, did she hate him so much from birth that she turned him into a monster? Or was she the only one aware of his true nature from day one, her warnings ignored by society? I left the movie convinced of the latter but the book, forcing you into Eva’s psyche, into her doubts, guilt and feelings while keeping you aware that this is a partisan account of the events wasn’t as black and white. Beyond the nature/nurture debate, Shriver also raises questions about our fascination for killing rampages and our vision and perception of motherhood. Just like the film, the book deserves to be revisited from time to time, if only to see how your own life experience changes the way you perceive Eva.

Read if you’re looking for an all-absorbing novel

Skip if you’re looking for a light read

Au Secours Pardon, Frédéric Beigbeder

Where we meet Octave again. One jail-stay after his 99 Francs antics, he’s moved to Russia to find the perfect girl, a not-too-disguised take on the perfect brand Beidbeder investigated in the previous volume. Au Secours Pardon is too similar to Octave’s prior adventures, suggesting he has neither changed, nor found redemption despite falling in love (with a beautiful, underage Russian girl he tried to pass for Chechen). Beigbeder’s take on Russia and the modeling mafia is clinical, yet, despite his clear and consise writing, his story is more difficult to believe than ever. Like 99 Francs, the novel runs out of steam half way through, the back and forth between Octave’s conversation with a Russian pope and his memories of meeting Lena Doytchevski fatal to any plot attempt. The novel culminates in an open and unexpected ending, leaving the reader with an unhealthy feeling.

Read if you’re desperate to know what happens to Octave after he’s gone to jail, if you want to read a plot as hollow as its characters or if you’re the type of reader who has hope in authors, until the end: from time to time, Beigbeder does come up with genius sentences or emotional side stories, for instance during an evocation of philosopher Gabriel Marcel.

Skip if you’ve already read too much Beigbeder for your own good. 

The Beautiful Fall, Alicia Drake

If there was such thing as a fashion classic, this biography of the Paris fashion microcosm in the 1970s and 1980s would be it. Written in 2006 by fashion journalist Alicia Drake, The Beautiful Fall has since become one of the most oft quoted books when it comes to either Yves Saint Laurent or Karl Lagerfeld, its protagonists. Setting aside the accepted Saint Laurent myth of a man martyr to his art, devoured by his twin demons of depression and addiction, Drake did her own research, interviewing Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld friends, foes and contemporaries. The result is Saint Laurent described as the ultimate manipulator playing Pierre Bergé and his entourage like puppets. Drake even questions the veracity of his drug abuse. Her take on Lagerfeld made me see his hyperactivity under a new angle. I knew him aesthete and cultured, I discovered him the perfect heir to Coco Chanel, telling tales about his life, in charge of his own myth through overinformation. Lagerfeld comes out the winner of his unnamed duel with Saint Laurent. He only accessed star status later in life but, despite the lack of a Bergé character in his life, he’s been much more in charge of his own career.

Read if you’re suffering from 1970s nostalgia, Paris homesickness or simply want to know more about the most important fashion houses and designers of the second half of the 20th century

Skip if - No matter how many books you’ve read on Yves Saint Laurent, Lagerfeld or fashion, don’t skip this one.

Blogging your Way to the Front Row, Yuli Ziv

I sometimes dream of leaving my day job and trying a career as a fashion blogger. Judging by Ziv's advice in Blogging your Way to the Front Row, Fashion Abecedaire, in terms of content, readership numbers and business goal is months away from allowing me to realise that. Even though Ziv’s book will likely be of little help is you’re a seasoned blogger, or have been following the field for a while, it’s a handy summary of common sense advise and personal experience. If nothing else, it was a wake up call for me, reminding me that waiting for readers to come to me is all well, but going out to look for them could be even better. Which is why, two days before Christmas, I was trying to update my HTML code with a Facebook Like button. Which is also why I’ve started using Flickr pictures, one of Ziv’s advises if, like me, photo isn’t one of your skills or why I’ve decided to find someone to build a proper online home for this blog.

Read if: You’re trying to monetise your blog but can’t figure how to or if you need a one-stop book containing all advise on moving your blog to the next level rather than going through hundreds of bookmarks

Skip if: You have a pure conception of blogging. No money, only content.

Images: We need to talk about Kevin promotional photo; Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Flickr user Cabarousse; Debut: Yves Saint Laurent 1962, Flickr user Victorismaelsoto; New York Fashion Week, Flickr user Dan Nguyen @ New York City

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: blogosphere, book review, karl lagerfeld, yves saint laurent, blogosphere,.

With its characteristic blend of artefacts, multimedia and short, analytical captions, the Victoria & Albert Museum has staged an introduction to the world of Postmodernism. Covering architecture as well as music, interior design, ballet, and fashion, the show gets lost in a flurry of information but always falls back on its feet thanks to easy parallels between the curation and the movement itself. Just like Postmodernism, it lacks clear cohesion and some of its displays can be interpreted as either ironic or downright pointless and ugly (teapot that won’t pour tea anyone?).

Defined by exhibition co-curator Glenn Adamson as “defying definition but the perfect subject for an exhibition”, postmodernism

was visually thrilling, a multifaceted style that ranged from the colourful to the ruinous, the ludicrous to the luxurious. What it always maintained was a drastic departure from modernism’s utopian visions, which had been based on clarity and simplicity. […] Postmodernism, was more like a broken mirror, a reflecting surface made of many fragments. Its key principles were complexity and contradiction.

The exhibition succeeds in covering all aspects of the movement: artefacts from the 70s and 80s, including Memphis furniture and a Terry Jones-drawn cover of i-D, cover the “multifaceted” aspect; a film with Grace Jones, poster woman for the exhibition, and a reproduction of Hans Hollein’s gigantic Strada Novissima, The Presence of the Past, take care of the “visually thrilling”.

Organised chronologically around the underlying question of  Postmodernism’s failure, the exhibition displays in a single room Andy Warhol’s 1981 Dollar Sign, Jeff Koons’ 1986 stainless steel bust of Louis XIV and a yellow sequined Chanel jacket by Karl Lagerfeld.

Despite the 1990 cut-off point, it’s impossible not to draw parallels with current day design, be it the overbearing presence of brands and logos, art as the ultimate form of consumption or the current obsession with referencing past decades (in our case, the 1960s rather than Greek antiquity or the 18th century). Money still doesn’t mind if you say it’s evil. The midst of a financial crisis might have been the perfect time for such an exhibition underlying the ambivalence of Postmodern artists towards money, both wanting and rejecting it.

Because of this collusion between the postmodern years and ours, it’s difficult to see the exhibition objectively. Introducing any design current to the museum is no easy feast  and the V&A was brave enough to stage the first extensive show on the topic. It will deserve many more, once we, as a society, have sorted out our feelings towards the reactionary postmodernist message.

Postmodernism Style and Subversion 1970-1990 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until 15 January 2012. Tickets from £8

Images: Grace Jones maternity dress, 1979. Photo: Jean-Paul Goude; Hans Hollein’s facade for the Venice Biennale in 1980. Biennale of Architecture, Venice from The Daily Telegraph; Protect me from what I Want, Holzer

Posted at 10:02am and tagged with: exhibition review, karl lagerfeld, Postmodernism, art, Victoria and Albert museum,.

Marie-Dominique Lelièvre’s biography of Yves Saint Laurent is full of unexpected, sometimes scandalous, often unverifiable allegations. The one which surprised me most doesn’t concern Saint Laurent but rather Gabrielle Chanel. In 12 words, hidden on page 197 of the paperback, Lelièvre explains that Mademoiselle owed her “tremendous energy” to coke:

La coke est le secret de la stupéfiante énergie de Coco Chanel qui, à soixante-seize ans, gigotait comme un ouistiti sous amphétamines

Coke was the secret behind Coco Chanel’s tremendous energy. Aged 76, she was still wriggling like a marmoset on speed

Lelièvre, Marie-Dominique Saint Laurent Mauvais Garçon (Editions Flammarion, 2010), p. 197; Translation my own

In the end-of-book notes, Lelièvre quotes a 1959 video during which the designer does indeed fidget a lot. And that’s it. To justify this very serious allegation on Chanel, Lelièvre doesn’t use any contemporary account. This line is merely dropped in to show that Saint Laurent wasn’t the first designer addicted to cocaine.

Is it true? Saint Laurent is widely documented as having suffered from drug addiction during periods of his life. I can’t remember, however, reading anything about Chanel’s coke habit in Paul Morand, Edmonde Charles-Roux or Justine Picardie. Voluntary oversight by biographers enamored with their subject or incredible talent from the house of Chanel to hide one of their founder’s ugly traits? If you try Googling Chanel and Coke, most hits are about Lagerfeld designing for Coca Cola.

Posted at 7:50pm and tagged with: chanel, yves saint laurent, ysl, karl lagerfeld, book,.

In addition to praised collections for Chanel and Fendi (and I’m talking main collections, plus pre-collections, plus a few capsules thrown-in for good measure, not a lazy two-collections-a-year), Karl Lagerfeld, Kaiser to all of us, has been moonlighting as a Coca Cola and Hogan designer, as a luxury sales representative for Golf Polo and Magnum, as a royal wedding commentator for French TV and as a voiceover for kids movie Totally Spies… All that while finding the time to warn French people against the dangers of not carrying your fluorescent gilet in your car. That’s before I even start listing his side activities as a photographer and director of short fashion movies of dubious artistic and narrative interest.

Lagerfeld isn’t getting any younger and if either of my grandfathers uttered what he says on a daily basis, we’d just consider that he’s gone gaga. I understand that the marketing demands on a 21st century designer are heavy. Why Chanel allows its public face to get mixed with brands like Magnum however puzzles me. Surely, this sends a mixed message to the label’s clientèle? Has Lagerfeld been around for so long that he knows where all the skeletons lay in the Wetheimer’s and fashion’s wardrobes? Or is this all part of a larger and questionable media strategy of exploiting to its core a creative designer who has built a character with more name and face recognition than Mademoiselle herself?

I would also question how much of those extra-curricular activities and full-time jobs Lagerfeld actually carries out. No matter how many people you have at your disposal to organise you, no matter how little you sleep, designing a dress, taking pictures or being shot, finding inspiration takes time.

Most of Lagerfeld’s project are tainted with slight megalomania - this has turned him into the easiest designer to caricature, something French-speaking media have had a lot of fun with over the past few years.

PS: I’d also like to see less Baptiste

Posted at 12:03am and tagged with: Karl Lagerfeld, Brand communication, chanel,.