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Archive for the 'Style Icons' Category

Jul 4

The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A

Aly Dunne for Gianfranco Ferre. Photo by Gian Paolo Barbieri, 1991.

Masters of couture, innovators of ready-to-wear and the pioneers behind the striking female silhouette, the Italians are and always have been a major force for fashion, with the Italian “belezza” (strong, beautiful woman) at its heart. The impressive Glamour of Italian Fashion (1945 – 2014) exhibition at the V&A, running from the 5th April to the 27th July chronicles the rise of Italian fashion, from post WWII couturiers and bespoke tailoring to what curator Sonnet Stanfill describes as the “glamorous explosion” of the catwalk show in the ’50′s, to dramatic Hollywood dressmaking, the rise of ready-to-wear and finally the “cult of the designer” – a room filled with renowned fashion voices, concluding the exhibition like an opera; with a wonderful, dramatic flourish.

Rebuilding Italy & the Striking Silhouette

Hosted at the aptly glamorous V&A and sponsored by Bvlgari, the exhibition opens with designs from the Florence fashion shows of the ’50′s, where dramatic tailoring reveals the very best of Italian couture and reflects the impact dressmaking had on rebuilding Italy’s broken, post-war economy. Each dress is a masterpiece made for stealing the spotlight – be it in a gallery, the catwalk, the red carpet or a ball – with the kind of artistry Michelangelo would have been proud of. The dramatic, flared “circle” skirt of the ’50′s has also become notorious in the celebration of the strong, female silhouette; a shape associated with strength through elegance, sex appeal and sophistication – three traits that make the Italian woman an icon and a designer’s dream muse.

Even more striking, is the movement these dresses make – exhibited beautifully in the “Italian dressmaker” videos where models twirl and swish in bespoke skirts. The drama of a moving skirt also reflects the time: from the beautiful drama of dressmaking studios around Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan to the excitable creativity that emerged out of poverty from WWII. The strong, independent woman – twirling and spinning – had also emerged from WWII, and fashion was her unquenchable domain.

The Italians think women are fantastic and they design for women to look even more fantastic. Obviously I heartily approve of that. They celebrate the female form, they celebrate femininity.” Elizabeth Hurley, speaking at the V&A private viewing and launch dinner

Making a Big Impression on the Big Screen

(L) Ava Gardner. (R) Elizabeth Taylor

The exhibition then takes us into the sparkling realms of Hollywood which, during the ’50′s and ’60′s, fell in love with Rome. The V&A’s collection has graced the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor – with the trembulant necklace, brooch and ring worn by Elizabeth Taylor stealing the show. At 23.44 carats, the Bvlgari designs made from emeralds and diamonds were – like their owner’s film presence – completely captivating.

‘Made in Italy’ & the Cult of the Designer

With around 100 pieces on display by leading Italian fashion houses including Simonetta, Pucci, Sorelle Fontana, Valentino, Gucci, Missoni, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabanna, Fendi, Prada and Versace, the exhibition goes on to celebrate how Italian designers have become global fashion leaders. It all started with the “Made in Italy” marketing campaign in the ’70′s – a campaign that lasted for a decade during the years that ready-to-wear designer fashion took over from couture. The ’70′s ready-to-wear “Made in Italy” production resulted in a wave of entrepreneurs and Italian exports increased by 300% from 1970 to 1985.

This leads us into the final room of the exhibition where the drama of carefully selected designs celebrates what is now described as the “fashion elite.” From the overt sex appeal of Tom Ford’s designs for Gucci to contemporary couture masterpieces created by Valentino, the eclectic display confirms why Anna Piaggi, style icon and editor of Italian Vogue describes fashion designers as “a secret society made up of pioneers, a few inventors and a few poets. They are the new phenomenon and the new elite.” The “poetry” of each piece is so profound, you could go back again and discover something new. As Tom Ford said at the opening private viewing for the collection, “Whether you’re rich or poor, growing up in Italy, you have an appreciation for beauty,” and this appreciation is contagious. Tickets for The Glamour of Italian Fashion are available until the 27th July. Book yours now >

Start designing shoes the Italian way with our design guide >

Find more Italian inspiration with our post-cards from Italy >

Explore our range of luxurious satins made in Italy >

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Jul 3

“Dolce far niente” – Style Secrets from Italy

Category: Style Icons,Trends

It’s the peak of holiday season and the perfect time to live by the Italian phrase “dolce far niente,” which means “the sweetness of doing nothing.”

When in Rome; this week we’ve been inspired by the elegant sensibility of Italian fashion and have collected postcards which reveal Italy’s best kept style secrets – so read on to learn how to effortlessly channel your inner Italian glamour this summer.

1. “Dolce far niente” – The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

As if their exquisite tailoring, bold use of colour and daring designs weren’t enough, Italian designers are also world renowned for their ability to continually strike the right balance between comfortable versatility and timeless femininity.

Italian fashion “has a sensibility that is at once opulent and relaxed. It’s very interesting that Bulgari says he makes beautiful jewels for a woman to wear to a picnic or a ball. So, it’s that joy in beauty in in any setting that I think is very Italian.” – Julie Ann Morrison

We love this white shirt-dress paired with a thin brown leather belt, handbag and vibrant red sandals – a look which exudes a cool and understated sexiness which is perfect for the blistering summer heat. Creating the perfect sandal to accompany you on your travels is no easy task, start getting inspired with our sandal gallery.

2. “Fara una bella figure” – The Art of Making a Beautiful Impression

Ever since the moment Italian style first made its way to the silver screen in the 1950s, we’ve been hooked. Italian designs have captured audiences old and new, never failing to make the leading lady look beautiful in every scene. Who can forget Audrey Hepburn’s iconic circle skirt, white blouse and silk necktie pairing in Roman Holiday?

3. Elegant Sensibility

Whether she’s relaxedly sipping a cappuccino at a cafe, briskly jogging to catch a train, or even weaving through the busy streets on the back of a Vespa, you can be sure that the Italian woman will remain effortlessly glamorous throughout it all. From Cappuccino satins made in Italy to no nonsense platforms, we have some delicious designs bringing you one step closer to Italian elegance.

To achieve the elegant sensibility which Italian fashion is known for we love the iconic circle skirt. Popularised in the 1950s by leading women like Audrey Hepburn, the circle skirt has a classic feminine silhouette and is currently making a fashion come-back, which makes it the perfectly timeless piece to pair with a classic black Upper Street peep toe or court shoe.

4. Statement Dressing

Italian fashion may have been born out of the ashes of the Second World War, but its history has been all but bleak. Unsatisfied by the prospect of designing within the conservative – and let’s face it, dour – stylistic mould which had become the fashion of the day during the 1940s, Italian designers instead hungered for something more glamorous. They envisioned clothes designed to be both practical and flattering and for the women who wore them to always strike the perfect balance of femininity, glamour and (not least of all) sex appeal.

To achieve this look, we recommend that you design your perfect Italy-inspired Upper Street shoes using classic blacks, luxurious satin made in Italy, or glamorous snakeskin.

We hope that these style secrets from Italy have left you feeling inspired – we certainly have been. For us here at Upper Street, I suspect our weekend will contain a heavy dose of watching women like Audrey and Elizabeth Taylor riding through Rome’s winding cobble streets in classic movies. From Satin Cappuccino to Caramel Latte to Classic Black, we also have some delicious shoe designs to get you into the “dolce far niente” spirit in this week’s Design Guide. Enjoy!


Read about the ‘Glamour of Italian Fashion’ exhibition at the V&A >

Image in ‘La Dolce Vita’ from Elemental Lifestyle, image in ‘Statement Dressing’ from Style4Style.

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May 24

Pioneers of Pink: Elsa Schiaparelli, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe

Category: Style Icons

It all started in 1931 with a revolutionary new magenta and a scandalous perfume bottle, Pink, shaped like a woman’s bust. Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli had discovered “shocking pink,” – mixing magenta with white in the creation of a bold new hue that would go on to shock, reinvent and inspire. Since it’s reveal in 1931, shocking pink has become a voice and an attitude; Audrey Hepburn has created a lifestyle around it, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Rihanna have created a right old stir with it and Princess Diana and Kate Middleton have reinvented themselves with it. Searching through the Pink Archives, we’ve taken inspiration from our top Pink Pioneers to see how this dynamic shade has evolved in the last 100 years.

As described in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, up until the early 20th Century, pink was nothing more than a “light coloured muslin gown which had a good deal of pink about it,” – a not-all-quite-there hue that moved with “pretty, noiseless, daintiness,” reflecting the way women, or should I say ladies, were perceived. Permeating literature and art, the emblem of the pink rose – a dainty, ethereal object – together with the emblem of the woman dressed in pink – a dainty, ethereal object – is where pink is most recognised. Although traditionally associated with warmth, innocence and sensitivity, the colour pink always had a stronger, provocative side, associated in the Victorian age with blushing and a “dangerous” reveal of emotion, passion and inner fire as described by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Girls blush sometimes because they are alive, half wishing they were dead to save the shame.”

Rose tinted spectacles and pink horizons also make pink an ideal and the hue through which dreams are viewed. It is no wonder then, that the ideal woman was associated with this soft hue, until she “fell off” her “pink cloud with a thud” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning) and became an integral part of the real world. From there she would find a new pink and a new identity – both of which she invented for herself.

Explore Pastel Pinks in the Fifty Shades of Pink Collection >

The Etiquette of Pink: with Audrey Hepburn

That iconic pink dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the pink palette that permeates Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe in films like Funny Face (1957) and Sabrina (1954) is more than just a costume. It was the era for simple, striking silhouettes and a time of strength through elegance, perfectly epitomised by Stanley Donen’s Think Pink performance in Funny Face, where shocking pink represents the “blood, brains and bizazz” of the “Great American Woman.” The fifties was the height of femininity for women, and books like How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn way of Life by Melissa Hellstern prove that Audrey’s philosophies about glamour, femininity and strength are still taking their effect – perfectly epitomised by her well known quote about the colour:

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn

Shop or customise Audrey pink >

The Power of Pink: With Marilyn Monroe & Madonna

One of the most iconic pink moments has to be Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend from Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953), reinvented by a no less sexy Madonna in her Material Girl video (1984). Here pink plays playful seductress, with the infamous dress designed by William Travilla becoming one of the most iconic designs of the 20th Century. Marilyn Monroe and Madonna are equals in relation to the sexual and social emancipation of women: Marilyn in the not-quite-free 50′s and Madonna in the 80′s. Each the sexual figurehead of their age, the striking pink silhouette that Marilyn Monroe and Madonna exhibit in their performances remind us of that breast-shaped perfume bottle that Elsa Schiaparelli first launched in 1931 – a pink that still has a lot to say.

Shop or customise Marilyn pink from the Fifty Shades of Pink Collection >

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Apr 11

Filling the Duchess of Cambridge’s Shoes: We Follow in Kate Middleton’s Footsteps around New Zealand & Australia

Category: Style Icons

The first steps taken were in RED. Encountering the world’s press for the first time as they embarked on their Royal tour around New Zealand and Australia, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had us all hooked from the moment they stepped off the plane on Monday. We couldn’t help but be inspired by Kate’s elegant wardrobe and, as avid shoe designers on the hunt for new ideas, we’re designing a luxurious pair of Royal shoes with every step the Duchess of Cambridge makes on the tour. Design a pair of staple Kate suede court shoes – featured here in burgundy, cobalt blue and black, or take inspiration from her stylish wardrobe and design a Royal pair unique to you.

Day One: Military Lady

A striking classic to open the tour with, we loved how the lower part of Kate Middleton’s Catherine Walker coat billowed out skirt-like beneath a fitted, military jacket on day one, creating the perfect synergy between masculine and feminine, smart and elegant. Coupled with the classic Kate round toe court shoe in burgundy suede, the look was Royal, elegant and dynamic. We’ve created a classic brown suede platform court shoe, as well as a red pair with a dash of gold designed in a classic pointed court with an elegant D’Orsay cut.

Day Four: Baby Blue

A cornflower blue Alexander McQueen coat made Kate’s next iconic ensemble an instant hit with the fashion press, with peplum pockets adding a feminine flourish to an otherwise structured look. We love Kate’s classic suede court shoes, worn before at the 2011 tour of North America and lovingly re-created here in cobalt blue. Timeless sapphire earrings – believed to have been worn by Princess Diana – finished the look. Shop the Classic Kate Blue Suede Court Shoe.

Day Four: Silver Finishes

That sparkling shoulder dress has been the talk of the tour so far, with beautiful customized embroidery (silver ferns calling out the national emblem of New Zealand) catching our attention at the State Dinner. Feeling inspired by the silver finishes on Kate’s classic black ensemble, we’ve created a pair of evening platform shoes made from luxurious black suede, finished off with a silver Swarovski jewel. Customize your suede pumps with the emblem, jewel or finish of your choice, or keep it simple in not so little black heels, perfect for any occasion.

Day Seven: Colour Queen (in aquamarine)

A striking aquamarine dress by Emilia Wickstead made Kate a 1920′s screen siren as she and the Duke of Cambridge arrived to a traditional Maori welcome at Dunedin airport. The New Zealand born designer (now London based) is a favourite of Kate’s and, exuding timeless elegance in this teal masterpiece with a beautiful pleated skirt and long sleeves, we can definitely see why. Taking after the Queen, Kate is becoming quite the diplomatic dresser – with bespoke ferns embroidered on a classic Jane Taylor hat. Classic Kate brown suede platform pumps finished the look. We’ve taken inspiration from the Colour Queen’s love of aquamarine and designed a platform court in metallic teal leather with a shimmering turquoise platform and heel.

Day Eleven: Beaming!

Making a show-stopping entrance into the Australia leg of the tour, Kate shone in the bright lights of the world’s press in one of Australia’s national colours, with a custom-made yellow Ryedale dress highlighted by blocks of white. Following in Kate’s light, bright footsteps, we’ve created a simple and elegant court with a flattering and lady-like D’Orsay cut. A luscious white snakeskin body with bright yellow highlights and gold-dipped heels is a subtle nod to summer’s neon trend, also in keeping with Kate’s smart, understated style aesthetic. Kate also wore yellow during the Canada tour (how could we forget that Marilyn moment?), a lovely Jenny Packman primrose shift dress that was quite literally as light as air! Customize Upper Street’s Royal Yellow Shoe >

What will Kate be wearing next? Keep following this Blog and Facebook for more style updates and shoe design inspirations from the tour…

Start designing your shoes >

Image sources: Telegraph Instyle Popsugar ITV Daily Mail

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