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Fashion Politics: the First Ladies who led the way

Posted by Athenais on November 7, 2008

Style reflects politics. White House fashion has led the way for more and more daring yet respected, styles. Let us look at three influential First Ladies who have preceded Michelle Obama on the First Lady of Fashion list.

The personal style of a president’s wife has become a major part in establishing his likability and power, the Telegraph has reported after the elections.

Keren Eldad, New York fashion manager of the Los Angeles Times, commented on Mrs Obama’s style saying: she “gets it. She IS a modern woman, she has fun with fashion, she embraces life with fury and grace”.

Who led the way:


  • Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy Onassis (1921-1994) was the first celebrated political fashion icon. She became, at 31, one of the youngest First Ladies in history.

Respected for her grace and glamour, she effortlessly created a signature look that has inspired the White House ever since.

Jackie Kennedy’s style has been constantly referred to, during the last American elections, with many suggestions that Mrs. Obama has been paying a fashion homage to some of Mrs Kennedy’s iconic styles.

  • Nancy Reagan

The wife of optimistic President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) reflected through grace and style, the Reagan politics of the 1980s.

Although favoring a very traditional and sober style, Mrs. Reagan went on to become an American Couture style icon.

The first lady’s famed pieces include dresses by Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent.

Her refined style was celebrated last year in an exhibition at the Reagan Library in California, recounting the Reagan legacy through Nancy’s elegance.

  • Carla Bruni

The First Lady of France has been widely talked about after she married President Nicolas Sarkozy, in February 2008.

The 40 year old, ex-model and singer is known for her sophisticated taste and fashion style.

She has been voted one of the best dressed women of the year by Vanity Fair, and was heralded a new princess Diana by Gordon Brown, during a state visit to London in April of this year.

The Italian-born Mrs. Sarkozy epitomizes a young, yet refined style that breaks with the cautious fashions previously favored by First Ladies.

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for main article on Michelle Obama’s First Lady fashion



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Double Leading: the First Lady of American politics and fashion

Posted by Athenais on November 6, 2008

Since the days of Jackie Kennedy there has not been such a strong fashion focus on an American First Lady. We investigate the wardrobe pieces of the wife of the first black American president.

The first lady-elect’s choice of clothing on the night of the elections yesterday, has sparked debate and divided opinions.

The Narciso Rodriguez black and red shift-dress, was a toned down version of the one that appeared on the Spring/Summer 2009 catwalks.

Michelle Obama did not adopt the sleeveless, plunging scoop-neck version, and teamed it with a black cardigan to to subdue the look.

The speckled red panels on the dress, however, were enough to catch the attention of the elect’s supporters.

The New York Times reported that many Americans viewed the look as a lapse of taste.

In spite of this, the stylish First Lady still had some heavyweight fashion fans. The fashion director of Barneys New York, Julie Gilhart, spoke in high terms of Mrs Obama’s choice: “That dress was unpretentious, it said, ‘Be who you are – don’t let someone else tell you how to be’” she told the paper.

Michelle Obama’s style has been scrutinised throughout the presidential campaign and she seems well on her way to become a fashion icon.

New York designer, Elie Tahari, praised for his quality ready-to-wear collections, told WWD: “’She will ignite the fashion industry. She is young, pretty, smart and well put together. These are a lot of great qualities.”

Presidential Trends

America’s First Lady is style-aware, and widely supported on the fashion front by influential names such as Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker.

She is making this year’s Vanity Fair best dressed list, and the leading Democrats couple are quickly becoming a favourite of the fashion world.

Jean Claude de Castelbajac centred his Spring/Summer 2009 collection around the controversial yellow Obama mini-dress. The dress received an encouraging ovation, as well as insult letters, the designer told the Daily Telegraph.

He added: “I’m pleased to see that fashion has become such a powerful medium.”

In the same spirit, Zac Posen encouraged people to vote blue in a video blog, last week. He told WWD: “I think blue obviously is the colour of choice, and red is a good accent colour,”

The 44 year-old, Michelle Obama is a Princeton and Harvard educated corporate lawyer. She has proved she enjoys spending her six-figure salary on fashion designer pieces, from Azzadine Alaia to Moschino.

With a taste for adventurous labels and sometimes theatrical accessorizing, her style is a departure from the conventionally austere fashion traditionally favoured at the White House.

And her fashion supporters seem to think it is for the better. In his video on FASHIONTHEVOTE.ORG, Zac Posen stated that voting and politics is “about people expressing their individuality.”

Michelle Obama is expected to apply his “look good doing it” fashion advice to the White House.

Now everyone waits to see if Michelle Obama will be the second ever First Lady to feature on the cover of Vogue, after Hillary Clinton in December 1998.

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for backup article on fashion-famous First Ladies

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Welcome to my Photographer’s Life: the Annie Leibovitz exhibition

Posted by Athenais on October 30, 2008

The National Portrait Gallery, London, is now showing Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life. Let us meet the famous celebrity photographer through her own lens.

The exhibition keeps to the promise of its title. There is little fashion photography to be seen but by the end of it, you feel you have casually spent the afternoon going through all of Leibovitz’s photo albums, over a cup of tea.

Her photographs amaze by their personal quality: ““She is very good at conveying the most intimate quality of a person,” “she’s very invasive,” a visitor comments.

One of the highlights of the visit is a portrait of Scarlett Johansson wearing only a crystal-encrusted breast-piece in the form of flowers and peach satin knickers. She is looking straight ahead, though not at the camera, and the precision of the shot gives the whole picture an incredible force.

The first part of the exhibition is a hallway with blown-up black and white pictures of athletes. The shapes of the bodies are standing out strikingly from the shadows. People are already gasping “incredible” to each other, all the way into the main gallery.

Further down a small room, there is a first shot of a pregnant Demi Moore, taken in 1988. The photo is a close-up of her swollen belly, on which the entangled hands of her lover and herself repose lightly. In the next room, her famous nude of Demi Moore, holding her once more pregnant belly, for 1991 Vanity Fair cover, is taking centre stage.

The exhibition includes the famous celebrity portraits of Leibovitz’s career: Brad Pitt lying nonchalantly on a bed, Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan’s neck tangled around his own and many pictures of politicians and Royalty.

A striking staged photograph is a black and white portrait of Cindy Crawford (New York, 1993), wearing nothing but a snake entangled around her body, posing as Eve, surrounded by a canopy of leaves.

There is something primal and voyeuristic about Leibovitz’s work, as she famously commented about her models: “I am not afraid to fall in love with these people.”

Wall covered by photographs at the exhibition

She is not afraid to expose herself either. There are many miniature gelatin silver prints of family moments, all in black and white ranging from images of her lover Susan Sontag and herself on holiday in Paris, to pictures of her father on his death bed.

Leibovitz has the skill to leap from perfect Hollywood-type ‘mise-en-scene’ to the utterly candid. Although it is easy to tell she likes to direct her photographs and her subjects, before capturing a moment, she is much more than only a celebrity snapper.

This life exhibition was also a way for the photograph to disclose intimate and painful memories of moments passed with her lover Susan Sontag, who died of leukemia in 2004.

The showcased portraits only range from late 1980s to 2005. It can be a bit of a disappointment as the exhibition is missing a lot of fantastic and theatrical shoots taken for Vogue, and the series of Disney Dream photographs.

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for background article on Annie Leibovitz.

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Who is Annie Leibovitz? A little more on the famous photographer

Posted by Athenais on October 30, 2008

At 59 years old, Annie Leibovitz is now a heavyweight of celebrity and fashion photography. She has photographed many celebrities from Whoopi Goldberg, John Lennon, Demi Moore to Hillary Clinton.

She is now showing her photographic life at the National Portrait Gallery in London.


•    Anna-Lou Leibovitz was born in 1949 in Waterbury, Connecticut.
•    In 1970 she approached the founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine, Jann Wenner. Three years later, at only 23 years old, she became the magazine’s chief photographer.
•    In 1980 she photographed John Lennon, pausing nude, curled around lover, Yoko Ono fully clothed. A few hours later Lennon was shot dead. The picture was named the best magazine cover, by the American Society of Magazine Editors, in 2005.
•    In 1983, after releasing her first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, she joined Vanity Fair magazine.
•    In 1989, while taking pictures for her book Aids and its Metaphors, she met writer Susan Sontag. They had a romantic relationship that lasted until Sontag’s dead from leukaemia, in 2004.
•    Her first daughter, Sarah, was born in 2001, when Leibovitz was 51.
•    Twin daughters, Susan and Samuelle (named in honor of Susan Sontag and Leibovitz’s father, who died only weeks apart) were born to a surrogate in 2005.

Annie Leibovitz now has a strong working affiliation with Vanity Fair and Vogue. Some of her major fashion shoots include Alice in Wonderland for Vogue US and the Year of a Million Dreams campaign for Disney.

Leibovitz’s photography:

“I don’t have two lives,” Leibovitz told the press, “This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.”

Her style is very personal, she tends to get very close to her subjects via the camera, giving an impact to her portraits.

Susan Sontag played a very important role in Leibovitz’s photographic career. When they met Sontag told the already famous Annie Leibovitz that she was: “a good photographer, who could be better”.

It is at that time that Leibovitz started to break away from advertisement and celebrity photography to focus on more social subjects.

Leibovitz is known for a staged photographic style that exaggerates the myths surrounding celebrity.

Annie Leibovitz’s photographic books:

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for main article about Leibovitz exhibition.

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The New Hair of Fashion: the Agyness Deyn influence

Posted by Athenais on October 23, 2008

The new face of fashion is a spiky peroxide crop. has reported last week that the Agyness Deyn hairstyle is well on its way to become the look of the decade.

The 24-year-old model has taken the world of fashion in a whirlwind of bleach and attitude with that signature haircut nicknamed ‘The Aggy’. With her shaggy look, she is already referred to as the next supermodel.

Agyness Deyn has been on the cover of pretty much everything; she is the favourite of Burberry and Jean Paul Gaultier, she was named model of the year by the British Fashion Awards in 2007 and she is a nominee for this year’s awards.

All of the above she achieved with – and thanks to – short blond hair, in defiance of traditional ideals of femininity.

Contrarily to rumours, Aggy was not discovered with the haircut. New-York-stylist, Sam McKnight, created her look two years ago for a Mario Testino Shoot. Shortly after, her career boomed: is it talent or the hair?

A bit of both. ‘The Aggy’ is a signature look, very sharp and full of character, McKnight told the Daily Mail: “it’s a classic rebel haircut and if you’ve got the nerve to actually do it, you can probably pull it off”.

Agyness Deyn certainly does have the nerve according to her stylist. Whatever the show or the shoot she is never static.

Even in the most retro-glamour setting and clothes (Angel of the North, photographed by Tim Walker for British Vogue, August 2008), she still gives away a buzzing energy that makes fashion photography a communication medium between the model, the clothes and the viewer.

Unlike other static faces of fashion like Kate Moss or Lily Cole, she does not only have a pretty face. ‘The Aggy’ is an electrifying crop that is likely to represent a decade of fashion entrepreneurship.

Anyone tempted to reach for the scissors?

Victoria Beckham, Sarah Harding and Pixie Geldof have already given it a try; and designers like Betty Jackson have showcased a lot of textured androgynous hair this season.

For the first time in many years it seems like fashion is ready for more demonstration.

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for main article about Britain’s leading fashion industry.

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Britain On Top: British style is getting ahead of the game

Posted by Athenais on October 21, 2008

Everyone should crop their hair, bleach it blond, fly to Tokyo and work with a celebrity. This seems to be the recipe for the British fashion industry’s success in this past year.

British fashion is not one to be beaten by the crunch or anything else. Things are moving fast and successfully on the English soil: Peaches Geldof is launching her own capsule collection for PPQ at the end of the month, Paul Smith is showcasing an exhibition by British artist Richard Woods in his Tokyo shop and Top Shop sales are booming.

It is no wonder there is so much excitement building up around the much awaited 2008 British Fashion Awards ceremony, taking place on the 25th of November.

The shortlist of nominees, published last Tuesday, has already caused quite a stir. Jimmy Choo, Agent Provocateur, Agyness Deyn, Jourdan Dunn, Louise Goldin, Tim Walker, Giles Deacon and Matthew Williamson are a few of the notorious names to have made it onto the golden list.

“The Awards celebrate the extraordinary talent within the British fashion industry,” Hilary Riva, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council declared after the publication of the nominee shortlist.

And there is a lot to celebrate: the British fashion insiders are renowned fro making a significant impact on fashion, both in the UK and internationally.

Paul Smith is not the only one to be doing some marketing abroad. Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s creative director was mingling with celebrities last night in Beverly Hills to celebrate the reopening of his US store.

The luxury label celebrated its success overseas but also its nomination by the BFC in menswear design. The cocktail party was a mock-up of all things British: from the clothes to the canapés.

Tartan was probably preferable to shepherd’s pies and fish and chip canapés, but the stars did not seemed to enjoy the display of English taste.

It’s on that popularisation of British style that Arcadia boss, Sir Philip Green, decided to play on. The delay in opening the much-awaited NY Topshop store (it was supposed to open on the 16th of October 2008) does not cast any shadow on the British Shop’s success in the last month.

Topshop reported record sales for this year, “with a strong growth in the younger fashion brands,” Sir Philip Green was reported to have said on Most of this is credited to the Kate Moss collection now in stores.

The celebrity-fashion phenomenon of wanting to dress like a Supermodel, has proved to be a treasure trove. Mirroring the Biba effect in the 60s, it once more illustrates the influence of the young generations on the fashion industry.

Now we all have to wait and see if Agyness Deyn is going to launch a line of clothes.

By Anastasia Porret,

Click here for background article on Agyness Deyn’s influence on fashion.

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L.A Fashion Week: from Rock’ n’ Roll to Road Kill

Posted by therealquickie on October 14, 2008

The city of Angels has taken on fashion with a Rock’ n’ Roll twist yesterday by showcasing very promising and colourful designs. Talent is bubbling in the West Coast.

The City of Angels opened its catwalks yesterday with what is rumoured to be its last fashion week. The listing of designers showing at the event might be less impressive than that of New York, but the shows kicked off to stacks of eclectic ideas.

LA Fashion week has a reputation for displaying wearable collections with an individual touch. The clothes might not rival with the eerie eccentricities of the past weeks but a few quirks already got some attention from the fashion watchers.

Gen Art’s hot fashion event, Fresh Faces in Fashion had an exciting roundup of up and coming Los Angeles designers.

Quail presented an attention-grabbing collection inspired by Courtney Love, but all redesigned in shades of pink, peach and bright green.

Frills, Rock’ n’ Roll with a feminine twist and neon colours now seem inevitable next season. Tomboy chic was found at Maxine Dillon, juxtaposed with graphic prints and florals.

Feminine sophistication and chic have not been forgotten though and the timeless classical styles are still an all year round safety net. Kevin Hall opened his show with what appears to be a ‘clin d’oeuil’ to Paris as his first model catwalked in a black and white, two-piece sleeveless suit and a stiff beret.

There were still a couple of oddities to be spotted: porcupine feet and chicken feet necklaces did not fail to cause a little bit of fashion nausea in the ranks. The jewellery line is called Roadkill.

The Recycled Dead collect animal pieces from around the world to transform animal refuse into high fashion pieces.

For animal lovers who find the dead animal bits a little too much, there is Wayne Joffe’s sharkskin suiting that added kitsch and retro to the catwalk.

Alexandre Mc Queen was spot on when he chose a Darwinian theme for his Paris show: designers and the animal kingdom are more linked than we might think…

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for main article on Paris Fashion Week.

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Paris Fashion Week: from Darwin to Minnie Mouse

Posted by Athenais on October 14, 2008

Dance shows, shower curtains, carpets, Lego hats and a stuffed menagerie. No, this isn’t an advertisement for an amazing play centre for under-twelve’s. This is the crème of high fashion.

Paris Fashion shows are over but they started October in a bright and quirky way. It is now time for the Mercedes-Benz fashion week in Los Angeles, but before moving back across the ocean a roundup of the most colourful Paris excesses could be a brief relief from the bleakness of the credit crunch.

The Gaultier show opened with a trio of dancers and the collection that followed was full of swimsuits, flimsy wrap dresses and capes.

Colour, colour and more colour.

Bright silks, bold outfits and oversize detailing were spotted at the Christian Lacroix show. While Sonia Rykiel favoured candy-coloured looks with tailored skirts and suits, rhinestone-incrusted berets and a lot of yellow, red and purple.

At Vivienne Westwood tailoring is not the forte but certainly not for the worst: swishy pastel dresses and pale curtain wrap-ups rule. The message is to promote a very personal DIY look. It’s about piecing up together old clothes and timeless pieces, Vivienne Westwood explained backstage: “take the plastic shower curtain and you might look great”. That says it all.

But the real show was brought on by Delhi-born designer, Manish Arora’s circus collection. He unleashed on the ring, face-painted models wearing boisterous colours and a range of mini outfits that looked as hard as painted wood.

Pinocchio anyone?

There was no lion tamer but a music box dress didn’t fail to attract attention. Arora wowed with his skills for the embellishment crafts with some striking examples of beading, appliqué and embroidery.

And for those who are scared of clowns, the childhood spirit continued two days later with French nobleman, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s collection. A lot of erratic Disney-like pieces ranging from Mickey Mouse shoes to Lego hats. Perfect if you want to blend into a cartoon!

At the Mc Queen show, a Darwinian spirit was ‘de rigueur’ as models paraded alongside stuffed wild animals. No creepy vibe however this season: no nightmare-inducing music or scary backdrops. The models paraded in stiff nude mini-dresses with yellow lace overlays, silk puffy dresses with degrades of animal print and alligator-skin corset belts.

Amazing subtle references to the animal kingdom while the speakers sang: “There are lots of funny animals but have you ever seen a panther who is pink?” We still cannot say that we have, but a life size bunny (speculations are it was the designer himself) bouncing out on the finale certainly did make up for it!

It’s going to be tough to walk back into the grown up world…

by Anastasia Porret,

Click here for background article on LA fashion week

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