I love a good autobiography, and recently my obsession with all things past has lead me to start compulsively buying the life stories of several Sixties twiglets. Case in point, not unlike the looters of JD sports, I’ve been carrying out my own midnight raids on Amazon.

I decide I simply cannot live without Jean Shrimpton: An Autobiography, or Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres and with a quick flourish of the plastic it’s mine.

Pattie Boyd: my ultimate sixties legend

It is safe to say that I find other people’s lives fascinating. I’m one of those people who easily gets lost in a crowd of people, watching and wondering about their lives. Whether they mind London in the heat? Where they are off to? Do they like marmite? Important life stuff.

Biographies, not surprisingly, open doors into another person’s life and I love learning about their idiosyncrasies. After reading an extract of Pete Postlethwaite’s memoirs, A Spectacle of Dust, in a newspaper – I was truly moved.

The actor was penning his autobiography whilst battling cancer and on a sunny evening in my parent’s garden it captivated me. As he eloquently described the wind ruffling through his dressing gown during the many morning’s he sat outside watching the world, you cannot help but empathise and paint yourself in that moment as well.

You get the point. Currently it is the women growing up in the Sixties that have caught my attention. Pattie Boyd with her winsome looks, beautiful photography, intriguing love life and relative anonymity in today’s celebrity landscape, is my current crush.

Celia Hammond and Pattie Boyd, image from dovima_is_devine_II

Jerry Hall, supermodel extraordinaire and former wife of Mick Jagger is still very much in the public eye but the recalcitrant Boyd, also a model, is little seen or heard.

I visited the Vintage at Goodwood festival last year, where Pattie Boyd was curating a catwalk show that chronicled the story of her life. The clothes, music and pictures all had special relevance to her. At the finale the still slight blonde graced the stage for a farewell speech, but stood behind the models and couldn’t have been on the stage for more than a minute or two.

‘Wonderful Today: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me’ is an enthralling story which details an exotic life. Boyd grew up in Kenya in relative calm, but was then uprooted to the UK and a boarding school. She fell swiftly into modeling after her studies and then from one high-profile relationship with a Beatle to another with Eric Clapton. The woman lived for other people and therefore never had the space to learn to stand on her own.

“I know now that I don’t fall over if there is no-one there to lean on. If the perfect man came along I would snap him up tomorrow but I can live alone, and in many ways I’m happier with my life today than I have ever been.”

Although it is fascinating to hear her divulge secrets and detail the mannerisms of the famous men she married, mainly she chronicles her own journey.

“I regret allowing myself to be seduced by Eric and wish I had been stronger. I believed that marriage is forever, and when things were going wrong between George and me I should have gritted my teeth and resolved that we could come out smiling in the end.”

One of my favourite quotations has to be Pattie’s view on modeling. We never think of the model profession in the following way, Boyd astutely says, “Do you have any idea what having your face on the front cover of Vogue does for the ego? It seriously undermines it. I knew – as all models know – that I didn’t really look like the image on the magazine cover because, like all good models, I knew how to manipulate my body to its best advantage. It’s an illusion – the public never see the real person.”

I’m glad I took the time to get a glimpse at the real person, I’d recommend you try it too.

Must read autobiographies: Wonderful Today: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me by Pattie Boyd (Headline Publishing Group, 2007).

Jean Shrimpton: An Autobiography by Jean Shrimpton (Ebury Press, 1990).

I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres (Helter Skelter Publishing, 2005).

Groupie by Jenny Fabian and Johnny Byrne (Omnibus Press, 2005).

Second image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53035820@N02/5165087047/


Puppet feet: my latest suede smoking slipper's (Topshop) and nubuck jazz shoes (Office)

I have a confession to make. After rifling through my wardrobe the other day (I was attempting to pack as I’m about to move house), I realised I am ridiculously faithful to a few shoe styles. All other shapes and styles never cross the threshold and certainly don’t get close to the wardrobe.

Does this make me an unadventurous dolt? Am I missing out on other exciting shoe experiences?

When I’m dressing, I normally build my outfit from a key garment that is weather and occasion appropriate. I never start with the shoes. They come later and act as a nice accompaniment to my outfit; the balsamic dressed salad to my broad bean risotto, if you will.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy shoes, I think I’m just obsessed and blindsighted by a few select styles. I rarely want to venture into other pastures. I love a loafer and smoking slipper; a knee-high boot and ankle boot; a moccasin and last but not least, a mid-heel Sixties slip-on.

I must add that I’ve currently got my eye on the Jimmy Choo Wheel. This shoe is the holy grail of smoking slipper’s.

Anyone else notice the same thing in their wardrobe? Or are you all the shoe equivalent of a social butterfly? Flitting effortlessly between a variety of styles…

Dorothy wants to go home: Vintage Sixties buckle slip-on shoes

The past decade has given us nothing if not a plethora of diverse beauty. Break-through models of such variety continue to challenge and readdress our perceptions of what is attractive and the model landscape is currently the healthiest it has been. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. What do you think?

Here’s my argument…

Models with character

In what other decade would a semi-shaved head with long tendrils of dip-dyed hair on the other side be classed as beautiful? Alice Dellal, granddaughter of Jack Dellal, the Brazilian property tycoon, revamped the undercut 80‘s punk style by adding flowing fairytale locks. Models like Dellal and Agyness Deyn charmed fashion insiders by being themselves and introducing a healthy dose of individualism. Alice’s offensive on all things pretty has marked her out as the poster-girl for all things alternative and cool.

In this model tribe: Pixie Geldof, Agyness Deyn, Georgia May Jagger.

Transgender models 

Gender in fashion has never been as flexible as it has been in the noughties. For his couture show this year Jean Paul Gaultier transformed a model into a bridal vision of loveliness. The catch? This sultry blonde with feline eyes was actually a man. Andrej Pejic looked beautiful and proved that stereotypes are made to be broken. Brazilian transgender model Lea T has blurred the lines of gender even further. She kissed Kate Moss on the cover of Love magazine, modeled for her former boss Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, and has been photographed naked for French Vogue. “She’s always been very feminine: superfragile, very aristocratic.” Tisci told WWD.

In this model tribe: Valentijn de Hingh, Andre Pejic.

Curvy models

As a barometer for all things fashion, Vogue Italia, is unrivaled (except perhaps by its overseas sisters). So when editor Franca Sozzani decided to create a plus-sized Vogue issue, you know the industry is changing. The waif no longer dominates the catwalk and gradually the industry is becoming more accepting. Curvy girls like Crystal Renn, Daisy Lowe and Tara Lynn are here to stay. Lynn features on the front cover of Italian Vogue’s plus-sized edition with two other voluptuous models and has also starred in H&M’s Big is Beautiful campaign. When it comes to whirlwind years it is impossible to compete with Crystal Renn in 2010; the model tucked Glamour, V magazine and French Vogue under her belt and became the darling of the fashion set and most notably of Karl Lagerfeld.

In this model tribe: Daisy Lowe, Hayley Morley, Gwyneth Harrison.

Asian models

The latter half of the decade saw Asian models gliding into mainstream fashion in a big way. After waiting so long for representation these supermodels are quickly ticking off campaigns, shows and designers from their to-do list. Liu Wen became the first Asian model to appear in a Victoria’s secret show and as an Estée Lauder’s spokesmodel. She lent her razor cheekbones and striking looks to no less than 18 houses during the autumn/winter’11 shows. Meanwhile Du Juan had Vogue covered becoming the first Asian model to feature on the front cover of the French edition, she has done campaigns for Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent. Angelica Cheung, editor of Vogue China, spoke to The Guardian about the rise of Asian models in the market, “even in the last two or three years it was pretty much about Du Juan: she was the only one going big. Now they have all appeared.”

In this model tribe: Fei Fei Sun, Tao Okamoto and Shu Pei.

Actresses turned models

Models have always faced serious competition but this decade saw designers turning to different muses for their ad campaigns and sometimes even for the shows. Julianne Moore looked quite at home posing nude with various animals in front of the camera for Bulgari and Chanel have featured Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Audrey Tatou and most recently Blake Lively in their adverts. Meanwhile Harry Potter star Emma Watson found fame in between filming with campaigns for Burberry and People Tree. Supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whitely is now returning the favour and trying out her hand at acting, she stars alongside Shia LaBeouf in Transformers 3.

In this model tribe: Dakota Fanning (Marc Jacobs), Angelina Jolie (Louis Vuitton’s Core Values campaign) and Helena Bonham-Carter (Marc Jacobs).

Models from the past

The noughties saw clocks rewind as a clutch of truly beautiful models from decades past took the the catwalk to reclaim their supermodel status. Poignantly Kristen McMenamy, 47, who was Karl Lagerfeld’s muse in the 1990’s walked alongside 18-year olds in his couture show this year as his bride. Other Lagerfeld icons who were also included in the show were Karen Elson and Stella Tennant. Lagerfeld wasn’t finished with McMenamy yet, she also featured in his Chanel cruise collection for 2012 in a chic black and white bathing suit and swirling cape. Giles Deacon used women in their 60’s amongst the younger girls at London Fashion Week signaling the arrival of the age of experience.

In this model tribe: Elle Macpherson, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell.

I’m interested to see what people think, do you agree? Where do you think there is room for improvement within the industry?

Get in touch!

Cheryl Cole has been patiently waiting to hear about a very special job. Speculation was rife as to whether the former Girls Aloud popstar would be invited to sit as a panelist on Simon Cowell’s American X Factor. It has finally been confirmed that the British beauty will join the judging panel across the pond and quite frankly it will be exciting to how her style will evolve for the challenge.

How will Cheryl choose what to wear?

During her time on the judging panel of the X Factor Cole won more public respect and acclaim than the contestants themselves.

Her sartorial decisions on the show had the tabloids, the glossy’s and the blogosphere swooning. Whether it was a cut-out skater style LBD by Versus, a fashion-forward scarlet wet-look dress by J. Mendel, or a Gianfranco Ferré sparkling gold maxi dress.

Cole developed her look over the X Factor series, the hair got bouncier and more mane-like, the clothes more daring. She used to rely on a stock wardrobe of Herve Leger, the king of bodycon. His dresses looked great on her, accentuating her petite proportions but as the shows continued each Saturday night Cole would expand her designer repertoire.

Her look was luxe and glamourous wearing Versace, Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli but she often introduced a notably playful feel with creations by Jonathan Saunders and an Ina Soltani brightly coloured ruffled mini-dress.

A hop, skip and a jump to stylish shores

The geordie lass is known for style-savviness in the UK but what can she expect on the American fashion circuit? She has until autumn when the show airs in the US to pack a suitacase.

The fashion landscape on American reality TV can be summarised by one word, or sung à la Fergie, G-L-A-M.

Remind yourself of the Kardashian women, all perfect tans and mini, mini dresses that emphasise every curve. They accessorize with the hottest new handbags and moon-shaped goliath-sized sunglasses.

JLo steals the show

Last month Jennifer Lopez was voted People magazines most beautiful woman in the world and she is currently the queen-bee panel judge in America after appearing on American Idol with Steven Tyler and music mogul Randy Jackson.

Her comeback is undeniably linked with fashion, she’s still as fearless with her outfit choices as she was back in the days of ‘Play’ and that navel baring, jungle print Versace dress.

JLo’s look is sexy to the max, whether she is adapting Versace’s catwalk collection for everyday wear or strutting the red carpet. A stand-out look from La Lopez was the Emilio Pucci dazzling silver mini dress that she wore to the Grammy awards in February, thigh skimming it showcased the 41-year olds toned body.

When Cheryl wears a mini dress on the X factor it’s short but in America hemlines go even higher up tanned thighs and the sparkles become even more outrageously glitzy. They always look music video ready, like they could start shooting at any moment.

Think back to Christina Aguilera and Rihanna’s racy performances in December of 2010 on the British X Factor. The Guardian reports that almost 3,000 viewers complained to the media regulator Ofcom. The singers performed raunchy routines with Rihanna in a bikini and Aguilera in not much more.

All checked-in ready to go?

Stylist to the stars Cheryl Konteh remarks that American style is all about the ‘wow factor’.

To match JLo’s wardrobe of jumpsuits, floaty printed kaftans and various cut-out dresses Cheryl needs to amp up her quirky British edge. We all know she can do sexy but to win over American audiences she’s going to have to be exciting.

Cole already has to attend elocution lessons with a leading Hollywood voice coach, The Independent reports, hopefully her wardrobe will speak for itself.

For a European alternative for fancy frocks Cole should turn her attention to Carven, though it was set up by a French couturier the label is great at mixing Parisian elegance and luxurious fabrics with a British quirkiness. A handful of their S/S’11 dresses would be perfect for Cole’s introduction state-side.

Check out their cream mini bustier dress with a delicate deconstructed animal print. The length would flatter Cheryl’s pint-sized frame and the knotted bow at the front present a quirky take on a neck-tie.

If Cheryl really wants to stand out then having a rummage through Alexander McQueen’s S/S’11 collection would be a good place to start. The label is experiencing an all time high after creative director Sarah Burton designed the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress to stunning effect.

Her S/S’11 collection was received by the fashion press exceedingly well, Burton managed to effortlessly update the structured exaggerated McQueen silhouette by combining it with a lightness of subject matter. Whimsical gowns trailing leaves made models into woodland nymphs while fit and flare dresses of colourful brocades had splits at each shoulder and featured big leather waist belts with chunky buckles. Cheryl would leave all others in her fashion dust.

It is not yet 24 hours since a jubilant William lead his beautiful bride Catherine from Westminster Abbey, no stone has been left unturned  in the subsequent analysis of their big day. The hot topic of course is the wedding dress and its fifties inspired elegance, but how much does it mimic dresses of the past?

A lace sleeve was a popular and elegant choice for wedding dresses in the fifties (Image is the copyright of Katie Randall)

Much has been said of Catherine’s wedding dress, stepping out of her role as ‘commoner Kate’ as she has been dubbed by the tabloids, she consciously choose to avoid ostentatious flourish’s.

The dress was received very well by those that make up the fashion monarchy and the public alike. Surely this will please Her Royal Highness Catherine as the royal wedding website notes that she worked very closely with Alexander McQueen’s creative director Sarah Burton on the lacy creation.

Karl Largerfeld the designer extraordinaire at the helm of Chanel spoke of the elegance of McQueen’s garments, Burton is now the creative director at the label after Alexander McQueen took his own life last year.

Lagerfeld is quoted by the Daily Mail saying, “It’s very pretty, and relatively classic, but that goes with the decor, with a little touch of the 1950s that recalls Marilyn Monroe or Queen Elizabeth’s dress.”

A glance back to the past

In 1947 Princess Elizabeth married Prince Phillip of Greece, in shape rather than style perhaps Kate Middleton was giving a nod to her grandmother-in-law’s wedding dress. Cinched in at the waist and then tumbling to the floor with volume, both brides dresses elongated and slimmed their figures, they also both featured long sleeves.

Carole Middleton, mother of the bride also made an interesting outfit choice, choosing Catherine Walker to design her tailored dove-grey dress suit. Walker was renowned as one of Princess Diana’s go-to designers, so the move whether conscious or not was very thoughtful.

Laced with tradition

Catherine’s dress has been compared with another resplendent princesses wedding gown. In 1956 Grace Kelly married Ranier III, Prince of Monaco in dress that would prove timeless for generations.

A delicate white lace bodice and full length sheer sleeve joins a sweetheart neckline corset, the skirt is high-waisted and subtly supported underneath so that it is voluminous without creating a meringue. The sheerest of veils is perched atop a diamond tiara.

The description is accurate for both Catherine and Grace’s wedding attire. For the two princesses about to embark on their royal lives classic elegance was key.

The history of the dress

The fashion house, McQueen creates sharp silhouettes but under Sarah Burton’s rule the direction has been softer and at times whimsical. The intricacy involved in Catherine dress was very apparent, individual flowers were hand-cut from lace and hand-engineered onto ivory silk tulle.

Lace itself was a popular choice for wedding dresses in the fifties, the modesty of a lace sleeve was much admired. It was Queen Victoria, however, who really emphasised it’s beauty as a fabric in her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert.

The queen decided that her dress should be British-made to promote the country’s arts and crafts and lace industry. The lace for the deep flounce to decorate her skirt was woven in Honiton and Beer. Prince William’s bride followed in this tradition using English lace along with French Chantilly lace throughout the bodice and skirt of her bridal gown.

"Good things come to those who wait, but for me, that ain't the half of it." Arthur Lee, from Forever Changes: Arthur lee and the Book of Love by John Einarson

Awash with colour, most likely enhanced by his psychedelic red and blue two-tone glasses, Arthur Lee’s life was a turbulent sea of intense highs, lows and most importantly Love.

The singer-songwriter released several albums with his LA-based psychedelic rock band Love. They were akin to modern-day pop bands only in their frequent line-up alterations, in every other way imaginable Arthur Lee created a formula for others to follow.

It was always his way or the highway.

The magic ingredient

In 2008 Chris Hall released a documentary, Love story, chronicling the bands heyday and examining what it was that made them so special.

Frequently the interviews with Arthur Lee would reveal moments of brilliance, the word smith was outspoken about everything from politics and war to music and friends. Hall hints that Lee was in fact the magic ingredient.

Love formed in 1965 and worked with some of the decades most iconic figures. Neil Young arranged ‘The Daily Planet” on Forever Changes but had to bow out of further work on the album due to a prior commitment to Buffalo Springfield.

In the studio with Hendrix

Arthur Lee himself remembers the time he brought a young Jimi Hendrix into the studio to record guitar parts for My Diary. Lee claims he wrote the song for Rosa Lee Brooks.

It would appear that Hendrix was not the only one who made an impression at the studio, Lee said, “His brother told me that Jimi Hendrix took at look at my album and he said, I think I’ll try it this way.”

He continues, “He stole my dress-look that I’d made, I don’t appreciate that s*** but I can’t play the guitar like him at all, this guy could put it on.”

Rolling Stone recognition

Love have a cult status but they only really received critical acclaim for 1967‘s Forever Changes, and even that came late.

In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine named the album 40th in its top 500 albums of all time.

Even though the original band were together for just two years, in many ways Lee clung to the Love legacy, realising its power.

Throughout his life he tried to reform and recreate Love with new members, right up until his untimely death aged 61.

The first black hippie

The self-confessed “first black hippie”, Arthur Taylor Lee was born on 7th March 1945 to Agnes Taylor, a school teacher and Chester Taylor, a jazz cornet player.

When he was five his mother relocated to Los Angeles and in ’53 she remarried Clinton Lee who adopted her young son, legally changing his name.

According to various sources the frontman was an exceptional basketball player at Dorsey High School, he also played the organ. His childhood friend Johnny Echols played the guitar, together they formed various bands.

My generation

Echols is an original member of Love, in Halls’s documentary he spoke about the kids of his generation like Arthur and himself, “The country [America] was changing, the civil rights movement was happening and the colleges were in uproar over…what we all considered was the hypocrisy of the times..People were arresting people for having a couple of joints when the white collar criminals get still millions of dollars”

He explains that music was all they had, “it was an escape medium for the college kids and the kids in that age bracket. We expected American dream to be real and not some kind of facade, we expected when it says land of the free it meant land of the free”.

The music

Never one to pander to tradition, Arthur Lee was a complex character. His often dark and vexing lyrics floated on lively excitable melodies.

On stage at Bido Lito’s in the centre of Hollywood he would wear tight, tight trousers, fringing and those glasses, often wearing only one shoe. It was on that very stage that Elektra boss Jac Holzman first saw Arthur Lee’s racially diverse five piece band.

He notes, “I was impressed by the singing, that really got to me. But as I listened to the music I realised it had a raw energy and it was verging on the psychedelic. There was a kind of a sense of relief I felt because I finally found my group.”

Love stayed with Elektra for three albums, the self-titled Love (1966), Da Capo (1967) and Forever Changes (1967).

Out with Elektra in with Blue Thumb

After a start that looked so bright the band dissolved due to drug and money issues, Lee was determined not to give up signing a new contract with Blue Thumb Label and Love was revived with a new line-up.

Technically, and this highlights Lee’s sometimes careless behaviour, he was still signed to Elektra. Throughout Lee’s musical career original Love members rejoined the band only to swiftly leave again, it was an ever-changing beast, but one that Lee could never fully say goodbye to.

The prison years

In the autumn of 1996, Arthur Lee was sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm.

Whilst inside two of the founding members of Love died, Bryan MacLean and Kenny Forssi. With their passing all hope of a reunion was quashed.

Released early in 2001 Arthur Lee was determined to give Love another chance, he began to tour again and Johnny Echols even made a reappearance performing again.

The contradictory multi-instrumentalist was performing until 2005, finally achieving success in terms of mainstream popularity. He was struck down by a form of leukemia in 2006 and did not live to see Forever Changes inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

In between gauzy wall hangings and on a stripped-wood floor students from the only MA Fashion Curation course in the world set the scene for an illusory fashion experience.

Visitors wandered around gossamer wall hangings at Looking Twice: Fashion and Illusion

Niamh Tuft, 23, is one of the curators of the Looking Twice exhibition by the London College of Fashion, she worked in a group of 12 to put together this wonderland of design.

She says, “One of the units at LCF is to go off for two months and create an exhibition. Your first ideas are more ambitious but you have to hone them down, essentially you have no money and no space.”

The moment you walk in to this warehouse space down an alley off Camden High Street you are guided to look at images and shapes that defy straightforward interpretation.

Matt Lloyd, 23, is an illustrator, he enjoyed the way the exhibition had been put together, “I really liked it, and the way you were invited to do certain things without really being told. For example the 3-D glasses hanging in front of a design, you knew what you had to do with them.”

Distortion, fiction, paradox

Various design students from Central St. Martins, LCF, Edinburgh College of Art and Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam had lent their garments for the project.

The exhibition runs for three days but it has taken the curators months of hard work

Tuft says that you really have to work together to pull an exhibition off and not just with your colleagues, “you need to negotiate with various people, for example the film shown was made by Saloon Films, a company just starting up and the space was given to us because they wanted PR and a bit of footfall, to let people know it was here.”

The zoetrope film is the first thing you see, it was a popular illusion in the Victorian period. Created by Will Cummock, it represents the hypnotic effects of the mind controlling the body.

The fashion

The pieces were all beautiful and uniquely illusory. One stand-out garment by Hiroko Nakajima features a paint splattered easel with a mustard paisley print dress attached behind.

A painting of blurred floral like creations and silk origami flowers sits on top of the easel, a small space for a head in the painting allows a model wear the painting and dress.

Nakajima brings the inanimate to life and cites her old bedroom as her inspiration, “I felt as though my belongings came to life and welcomed me back. I wanted to express the close relationship between an object and its owner.”

Looking Twice: Fashion and Illusion is a free exhibition. It runs from 3rd-6th April, at Collective, 15 Camden High Street, Camden, London.