Connect with:

Standard Blog Whole Post

Book review by Robin Dutt

I have interviewed Dame Vivienne Westwood on several occasions and each time was a discovery. Perhaps the first was most memorable.

I arranged to have tea with her at Fortnum and Mason – the fourth floor (the best of their restaurants) and she turned up one early summer afternoon in a twinset and a cloth crown. Somehow Toytown.

One might imagine that the ladies who met for their regular tea and a slice were (in their Jaeger, Nieper and Aquascutum separates) a mite bemused. For, La Westwood commanded and still commands a room. Then there was the time she sent male models down the catwalk half dressed. Let me qualify.

Shirt, tie, jacket all present and correct. But they wore nothing – at all – on their lower halves thus affording the viewer a charming chance of, shall we say…comparison? A pointe de vue indeed. Strangely, it didn’t look shocking at all. Perhaps it was heroic, Grecian…

Autumn-Winter 2013: Westwood in Paris

‘Vivienne Westwood -Catwalk’ is the latest (and impressively heavyweight tome) charting the internationally feted designer’s presence on the runway. She has made several firsts and is an inspired climate change/environmentalist speaker. She gave a swirling speech at the Wallace Collection some time ago wearing a headband emblazoned with the word ‘Chaos’ and one might have been reminded of a delightfully dotty grandmother one didn’t have the honour or temerity – or chance to have.

I once attended an event where she had created a salon of gorgeous models in King’s Cross Station parading in evening ‘gowns’ made of fine, woven floral carpets, by Brintons – the scion of which I had taught PR and Marketing to – an age ago at some posh college. That she knows how to stage a show is not in doubt and this book, weighing in at surely half a stone, attests to her legacy.

Her debut was in 1981 but her real beginning was as the godmother of Punk, a few years before, creating sex-pleasure iconic and ironic modes for Kings Road denizens and beyond, her shop with the fast-paced clock spinning backwards, a clue as to her love of and reliance on the past for inspiration. And that has never changed. Glamour and grit – danger and sophistication. It is clear that this artist plays with an especial palette. She is passionate about intellectuals and philosophers.

She referred to her one time paramour, Malcolm McClaren in one of my interviews with her as ‘a Svengali’. Expression for her is all. Rejection of experiential experience is naught.

Perhaps she believes that fashion is simply a matter of recycling ideas. But it is how those ideas are recycled that is of the utmost import. And also, why? Ideas do not die. Yes … plunder the eighteenth century, reconfigure a piratical look, give a name to tumble-down Mid Western Prairie dressing aka the Buffalo Girls, go Pagan, sculpt chunky penis buttons (and even make male and female genitalia pasta shapes – the better to soak up the creamy sauce) and contemplate the glories of ‘Ultra Femininity’, ‘Showroom’ ‘ Civilizade’ and ‘Hypnos’.

She has frequently returned to favourites – tweed, tartan, bias-cut silk, the corset and the frock coat and these (more than) elements appear many times in her panoply of catwalk imagery. And then there is the iconic leather or suede boxy jackets, flappy shearling luxury car salesmen coats and strappy boots which have been ripped off the world over.

One of her early shops was simply called ‘Sex’ and this theme has remained the centrepiece of each and every one of her catwalk presentations. Well…they do say that sex sells. ‘The only reason I’m in fashion is to destroy the word “conformity”‘ says England’s most controversial Dame.

And she also advocates not to buy her clothes but buy well, repair, re patch. She is a firm believer of the fact that one will have ‘a more interesting life if one wears interesting clothes.’

Alexander Fury’s insightful texts which accompany the photographs are well-observed and enthusiastic. And Westwood is keen to convey her love of the magical power and significance of textiles. Even when I was a student, it was a given that the textile itself was the designer – allowing what could be possible and appropriate. Indeed you can force tweed, cotton, velvet, silk to do anything in terms of design. But will it be correct? The very tissu has a voice. And every true designer has an ear.

In her own words she declares, “my love for English tailoring and Savile Row fabrics: chalk stripe, pin stripes, tattersall – barathea in hunting red – black velvet looks seductive with tartan”.

It just might be that she alone on this special isle reminds the world of that uniqueness of English tradition. But done … her way.

Vivienne Westwood – Catwalk (Thames & Hudson)

Book review by Robin Dutt I have interviewed

It could be said that tailor Joshua Millard might be an experimenter of “elemental exaggeration” in clothes, suggests Robin Dutt.

Seemingly oversized and capacious, sporting larger than usual details such as cuff straps and pocket flaps in leather for instance, his desire is to convey a certain fluid rusticity to his line. Shapes and styles are often traditional – the staple Norfolk jacket, for example and the use of tweeds and shearling seem firm favourites.

In some ways, this young designer might be said to share the same or similar ethos to Dame Vivienne Westwood who has often expressed the utilitarian smartness of well-cut and often ‘floating’ clothes in her collections, a sinuous body curve partnering a more strident sleeve line, for example.

Millard, after entering the Carnaby X London College of Fashion: Kingly Street Tailors competition (originated by Shaftesbury), was awarded a two-year rent-free space at the tailoring studios at 26 Carnaby Street and has recently opened his new permanent store in Carnaby’s Newburgh Quarter.

Joshua Millard: ‘clean lines, palette and comfort’

Since the 1960s (and a shade before) Carnaby Street has – with a few wilderness years to consider – has always been home to tailoring, experimental fashion and even ironic modes of dress for men and women.

In the 60s and 70s and a skip away from Savile Row, the Carnaby creators were continuing the tradition of the uniqueness and global desirability of British – not to say English – clothing that was feted by film and pop stars and young fun-seekers in equal measure.
Without being purposefully and obviously eccentric (as Millard’s cut is faithful to British tailoring) his silhouette is immediately noticeable and different and the fusing of the spirit of town and country only too evident, from the clothing itself to the consciously styled photography featuring unusual models.

Millard says: “I want the shop environment to echo the sensibilities of the British countryside through rich texture and materials, yet balanced with clean lines, palette and comfort.”

With the country in mind, this ethos extends, for example to the rails, crafted by Millard himself from fallen ash trees. A portion of each sale is donated to PlantLife to aid endangered wildflower growth in UK arable locales.

Indeed, comfort in clothing should be thought of as a tailoring hallmark anyway, rather than the erroneous view held by many of formality and tightness. Drape and shape conspire to provide form following, form fitting garments which do not constrict and convey their wearer’s personality.

Shaftesbury, which owns and manages a 16-acre property portfolio in the West End of London, will continue to support young British tailoring talent, offering two new London College of Fashion Graduating Tailors the opportunity to work from 26 Kingly Street in September 2021.

Joshua Millard is at 1 Marlborough Court, Soho, W1F 7EE

It could be said that tailor Joshua

Stephen Webster is the internationally renowned jewellery brand whose inspiration has always been music and in particular, rock ‘n’ roll, says Robin Dutt.

Those who love his work include, Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler and Elton John. All Dads! So, it may come as no surprise to hear that he is offering a range of his signature, feisty pieces for men – with dad’s in mind.

It is a given that most men do not wear jewellery – apart from a wedding band or family signet ring, although today, many consider a timepiece as a piece of jewellery. Which it is not – no matter how many jewels it sports.

But for the contemporary chap about town, subtle bracelets and wrist adornments are more than permissible – think our very own Chancellor, Rishi Sunak with his bands – but worn, of course not for adornment reasons. But even so, it gives a very relaxed look to his always sharp-smart suiting.

Stephen Webster’s collection of men’s jewellery includes, immaculate leather plaits fixed into place with precious metal and gem motifs – primeval and contemporary at the same time. All the designer’s ranges have edgy names so if Dad is that kind of guy, the Superstud Cross Long Chain set in 18ct recycled yellow gold featuring the New Cross pendant in black diamonds may suit.

But other themed collections such as London Made Me or Beasts of London include fine rings with symbolic creatures. And then there is so much in the way of species from the sea – Webster’s first inspiration. A visit to his atelier will confirm this.

But Stephen Webster is not just about all that glisters. He has created cocktail armoury for the imbiber and this range features The Russian Roulette Smoking Gun High Ball glasses in smoky-coloured glass and etched with a smoking gun or if father is a whizz in the kitchen…consider, perhaps, the wittily named Cock & Bull Carving Set – more sculptural than one can imagine but definitely for use, made from hand-forged Damascus steel for the knife and a bronze head handle for the stainless steel fork. And there is even a book to buy – ‘Goldstruck’, for a good read – on the bus journey home…

The team is delighted to welcome all potential recipients of all their fine ranges at the 130, Mount Street, London W1 Salon – or a virtual consultation can be booked. (020 3 298 0240). Or, of course, you can always drop in yourself and bypass progeny. A gift to oneself is often the best kind.

The trouble is with everything from the Stephen Webster collection, whether to wear or to sip from, it will mean temptation itself.

But with progeny in mind, it’s not too late to start dropping hints.

And whilst thinking of Pa, Pop, Dad and Daddy, the Savile Row Company is offering a monogramming service on men’s shirts, silk ties, dressing gowns and pyjamas with up to four initials and a choice of eight fonts at a price of £7.95 for the service. One supposes that the four letters might also be a word – so choose one that suits your Pater! And there’s a 15% discount when you place your first order on items, when signing up to the news letter. Way to go…Daddy-O!!!

Stephen Webster is the internationally renowned jewellery

If there is one thing that the ‘universe of style’ demands is a certain consistency, writes Robin Dutt. The Italian house, Etro has represented a very unique consistency within change for over four decades as its elegant and luxe men’s collections is everything to go by.

Most admirers and wearing-enthusiasts of the label’s hallmarks know how it is unafraid to use bold colour or clashing hues and  optic pattern. The designers keep things simple – pure tailored elegance which reassures because of the line but more than allows for the individual stamp of the man sporting it.

Cheerfully breaking rules, such as ‘Blue and green should never be seen’ or ‘Never brown in town’  Etro exercises its right to be flagrantly bold and yet remarkably wearable – even when dicing with the most vivid colours and graphic patterns. The tailoring contains but does not restrain the leaping prints and weaves.

The house has famously returned, always to the paisley motif in all it does from outerwear to lining, shirting to leatherwear, accessories to swimwear. Actually, one might as well say…everything. The motif, has transcended fashion – even though it is on trend, continually.

It says much about this ancient shape and symbol’s international magnetism. Fluidly represented throughout history and from its earliest days, paisley has captivated the imagination of designers across the board, whether those creating garments or others suggesting interior schemes.

Historically and traditionally, paisley may be thought of as more ‘rhythmic’ and ‘logical’ Expect this at the house of Etro but also winning new ways with dealing with an old favourite. The important point is that several paisley shapes together represent a dance and a continuum. The familiar teardrop shape is called ‘botch’, of Persian origin but with strong Indian links too. And whoever opined that ‘East is East and West is West’ was wrong – when it comes to paisley. The design has been embraced by both – not to mention the North and South, too.

Paisley’s name originates from the Scottish town of Paisley where the curvaceous designs were also produced. The simple shape of the paisley ‘leaf’ with its often attendant designs makes for a winning playground of colour and light possibilities and even, say a black paisley motif on a black ground looks effortlessly chic and assured – an example like this, perfect for an evening opera scarf, say.

But Etro continually investigates new patterns, influences and of course colour combinations. This season (along with the ever present paisleys) consider the glossy, lush, prowling tiger and water lily prints – a nod to painter Rousseau, perhaps, or carpet patterns on jacquard weave – present also in the company’s Home collection where you can collapse into capacious, printed cushions and be camouflaged wearing the same printed suit!

But whilst tradition may be important, Etro is also continuing with its commitment to eco-friendly fabrics for its creations and interestingly, showcases this year,unique pieces which feature patchwork denim trousers and jackets which include vintage cloths. Shirts are made from eucalyptus yarn and polo shirts made from plastic bottles in a bid to help the planet. The result? Still luxurious.

The logo of Casa Etro is as distinctive as it is subtle and even those who naturally eschew an easily recognisable label – because who wants to be an unpaid advertiser? – actually seek it out and love to wear it openly. It is an image of a leaping Pegasus silhouette, encapsulating the freedom and energy of the company. Pegasus, a creature of mythology symbolizes spiritual freedom – and the possibility of the impossible.

The winged horse may be the stuff of imagination but Etro has made its company fame – and fortune, real enough.

If there is one thing that the

With possibly one of the most iconic band names in rock history, The Who typified the spirit of a generation, writes Robin Dutt.

With their instantly recognisable motifs – the Union Jack, “bull’s eye” patriotic target (and Mod emblem) and of course, that cheeky and suggestive arrow emerging from the ‘O’ in ‘Who’, the group epitomised a very English, very electric rock ‘n’ roll wizardry – Pinball or otherwise.

The Royal Mint has launched a new collectible coin range to honour the British rockers and lead singer, Roger Daltrey visited the Mint’s HQ to strike one of the first examples.

“It is an honour to have a coin produced to celebrate The Who’s musical legacy,” he said. “The coins’ design captures the true essence of the band and what we represent.”

And lead guitarist, Pete Townshend is said to be delighted with the range of coins, calling it “fantastic”. Of course, what the band represented was that unique English rebellion in rock with swirling performances, edgy stage costumes and that emphasis on being loud – shatteringly so – from the destruction of musical equipment to the near ear-bleeding level of overall volume and strategic, rebellious cacophony laced through structured harmony.

Such destructive theatricals were nothing new. Many groups seemed to use an anarchic and rebellious approach – John’s Children smashing up stages, Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar, Marc Bolan, classically camp (and gloriously so) whipping his and the Sex Pistols typifying visual anarchy. But one might say that The Who’s was a most original contribution.

John Entwistle, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were the shock-rock originals only to be joined later by that glorious one-off in his own right: drummer, Keith Moon and the band has a musical credential spanning well over half a century with 100 million albums sold worldwide and more than a billion global streams.

The coins feature images from the band’s live performances – a Union flag, Mod logo and legendary speaker-smashing Rickenbacker guitar (no wonder many refer to this instrument as an ‘axe’) and together, the icons form a pinball table, inspired by the 1969 single, ‘Pinball Wizard’ and the iconic album, ‘Tommy’ – one of the most audaciously original compilations of songs with a brilliant, unforgettable film too which mixed fantasy, surrealism and hard rock, starring amongst others Tina Turner and Elton John.

A number of newly-struck coins will feature a special “shockwave” effect radiating from the speaker.

I’ve often wondered whether there might have been more efficacy and suggestion had the band considered using a question mark after the name The Who as a cheeky suggestion. Given the group’s legacy, however, it would have been totally unnecessary.

The cost?

The Who 2021 UK Half Ounce Silver Proof Coin RRP £65 (Mintage – 10,010)

The Who 2021 UK Gold Proof Coin RRP £68,380 (Mintage – 12)

With possibly one of the most iconic