The Ultimate Show. Tom Ford SS11

I’m currently reading André Leon Talley’s phenomenal “The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir“, and I came across his account of Tom Ford‘s first runway collection coming from his own, name-sake label. The author recalled the event in the most ethereal way. And as it happened about ten years ago (and this is the reason why it’s the first proper post of 2021!), I was surprised I didn’t really have any image in my mind from that spectacular line-up, until Talley noted the whole event was kept mostly in a secret, and the only photographer allowed was Terry Richardson. Thankfully, some photos and this delightful video coverage are present on the web. So, spring-summer 2011 was Ford’s first big come-back to runway after his days at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. At the beginning of September, 2010, under the cloak of secrecy, he hosted an intimate cocktail party-slah-fashion-show at his menswear store on Madison Avenue. Luminary friends such as Julianne Moore, Lisa Eisner, Rita Wilson, Marisa Berenson, Daphne Guinness and Lou Doillon all sashayed down the runway, as did Ford model favorites Daria Werbowy, Liya Kebede (who Ford made a supermodel), Amber Valletta and the late Stella Tennant. Somehow, he even got Beyoncé to shimmy down the runway in a body-clinging, sparkle-laden gown. “Beyoncé in real life is actually quite quiet and very sweet,” Ford told Harper’s Bazaar back in the day. “But she can really turn it on.” Ford controlled the entire presentation, as in the days of intimate salon presentations, right down to the music volume, introducing every girl by name and describing her outfit in detail. For added amusement, he catcalled a few of them, teased Eisner for walking too quickly, told model Joan Smalls she might have turned him straight, and then told Beyoncé she definitely did. While many thought the show was a flashback to Parisian couture shows, Ford said the impetus for the show’s format was much more curious and much more camp. “I was on the train from London to Paris, and all of a sudden it just popped into my head: I’m going to do the Don Loper fashion show from ‘I Love Lucy’,” Ford explained. That particular episode, shot in Los Angeles with real Hollywood wives (Dean Martin’s and William Holden’s among them), is a classic: Lucy wants a covetable Don Loper dress she can’t afford. But lo and behold, Loper is doing a fashion show (which he narrates himself) and asks Lucy to model. She sits by the pool too long in hopes of achieving a perfect California bronze but ends up badly sunburned, “and she gets a tweed outfit and she can barely walk. It’s all very cute and everyone claps,” explains Ford. Of course, his 2010 version was more sexy than cute, and instead of claps he got a standing ovation. The casting was intentional. “I chose these models because I knew them. I designed these things thinking of them,” he explains. Following the Oscars, he thrust himself into designing the collection, using a mental list of about 30 women he would love to dress: “women I find inspirational and who are archetypes,” Ford says. “My collection each season should have something that a woman in her 60s, who is still stylish and lived through the Charlie era, could wear, so Lauren Hutton gets that look. There’s something someone of Rachel Feinstein’s size should wear and something for someone who is extravagant and shops at a bunch of vintage stores, like Lisa Eisner, should wear.” The incredible, magnetic Tom Ford.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Stella Tennant. Forever.

Steven Meisel for British Vogue

Stella Tennant, the iconic British model famed for her statuesque beauty and inimitable personal style, has passed away at the age of 50. My heart broke when I discovered the news. Wisdom and beauty, royalty and true artist, game-changing rebel and forever elegant. While Tennant was first known for her signature tousled pixie haircut, androgynous features, and commanding six-foot-tall presence – as well as her longstanding creative relationships with fashion legends from Steven Meisel to Karl Lagerfeld – her passion for sculpture, environmental causes, revival of the heritage Holland & Holland brand and her home country of Scotland were what eventually became closest to her heart. The news of Tennant’s untimely death was confirmed earlier today in a statement released by her family – including her husband, the French photographer David Lasnet, and her four children, Marcel, Cecily, Jasmine, and Iris – who asked for their privacy to be respected.

From left: Valentino spring-summer 2020 couture, Vogue Italia cover by Steven Meisel, Juergen Teller.

Holland & Holland ad by Hawkesworth, Steven Meisel, Missoni ad.

Paolo Roversi.

Tennant was born in 1970 as the youngest of three to the Hon. Tobias Tennant and his wife Lady Emma—daughter of the current Duke of Devonshire and his wife Deborah, the youngest of the famous high-society Mitford sisters. Despite her aristocratic pedigree, Tennant’s upbringing was decidedly more down to earth; she grew up on a 1,500-acre sheep farm in the Scottish Borders. It was a region that remained close to her heart throughout her jet-setting modeling career and one she would eventually call home again upon purchasing a Berwickshire farmhouse in the early-aughts. Tennant displayed a natural creative instinct from a young age, attending the famous British boarding school Marlborough College before going on to complete a degree in sculpture at the Winchester College of Art. Her career as a model began when she caught the eye of fashion writer Plum Sykes, with whom she appeared in the now-iconic Steven Meisel shoot for British Vogue’s December 1993 issue, “Anglo-Saxon Attitude,” which captured a nascent London scene of well-heeled women whose eccentric take on style offered a British counterpart to the U.S. grunge movement. A famous anecdote saw Tennant show up to the shoot with a nose ring, much to the surprise of the Vogue editors – it was her refusal to remove it that endeared her to Meisel, who invited her to model for him the next day in a Paris shoot for Vogue Italia.

 

Chanel ad, with Karl Lagerfeld, Bruce Weber for Vogue Italia.

 

Self Service.

Juergen Teller for Purple, Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, Bruce Weber for Vogue.

Mark Borthwick, Tim Walker, Mark Borthwick.

Martin Parr for Sunday Times Style.

From there, Tennant was a regular muse of Meisel’s, shot by him most recently for the December 2018 cover of British Vogue. She also became a favorite of some of the most influential fashion photographers of the 1990s, including Mario Testino, David Sims, and Mark Borthwick, embodying the edgy, waifish insouciance that served as one of the defining features of fashion imagery throughout that decade. On the runways, Tennant made regular appearances for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, alongside the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Versace. She also became a mainstay of Alexander McQueen’s runway spectacles, walking for some of his most iconic shows, including spring 1996’s “The Hunger” and spring 1997’s “La Poupée.” In 1998, after announcing her first pregnancy with her photographer boyfriend David Lasnet, Tennant retired from the industry. (The pair would marry later that year, with Tennant wearing a memorably minimalist Helmut Lang gown for their wedding in Scotland.) Shortly after the birth of her third child in 2002, Tennant made a return to modeling in a campaign for Burberry shot by Mario Testino that was partly credited with revitalizing the fortunes of the brand and returning it to its now global status as a fashion leader. Another career milestone came at the closing ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, at which Tennant appeared with fellow British models Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell (among others) during a tribute to the country’s fashion industry.

Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs and Céline, Steven Meisel for British Vogue.

Martin Parr for Sunday Times Style, Versace ad by Bruce Weber, Bruce Weber.

British Vogue, Juergen Teller for Saint Laurent, Jamie Hawkesworth.

Paolo Roversi.

Tennant always maintained a lifelong interest in sculpture, establishing a studio at her home in Berwickshire, where she worked with her sister Issy on a luxury homewares brand named Tennant & Tennant. Over the past decade, Tennant also grew to be a vocal advocate for environmental causes, appearing in a number of campaigns for the nonprofit Global Cool raising awareness around climate change, and joining forces with Oxfam for Second Hand September. Already, tributes have begun pouring in from luminaries of the fashion world. But while the statement released by her family earlier today marks the end of an extraordinary career as one of fashion’s most beloved and iconic personalities, Tennant’s legacy as a groundbreaking figure in the history of British style, as well as a passionate supporter of causes close to her heart, will live on.

Willy Vanderperre for Document, Self Service, Mark Borthwick.

Tim Walker.

Versace ad.

REST IN PEACE, Queen. You will be missed.

Reality Check. Balenciaga AW19

That’s a fact: Demna Gvasalia delivered the best coats (outerwear, even) of the season. Literally every coat that appeared in Balenciaga’s autumn-winter 2019 made me drool! Those volumes. The designer focused on the streets of Paris and how Parisians really dress (forget the Jeanne Damas and Caroline de Maigret archetype of Parisian chic). He thoroughly investigated outfits people wear in their metro commute, to the parties, on a dog walk, for groceries. And here we are with more than 100 looks, featuring faux-fur, floor-sweeping coats in Cristobal Balenciaga-esque architectural silhouettes to vintage-y leather jackets and quilted belted robes in satin. Tailoring was strong, too, just as the dresses. From the polished, sleek mini-dresses that closed the show to flowing, maxi-gowns (like the one Stella Tennant had on, made from some fancy, metallic fringes), each looked was distinctly Gvasalia – sharp, ironic, delightfully confusing. I really loved this one ‘super-nornal’ outfit that featured a black turtleneck, leather slouchy pants and a pink, polka-dot shopper bag. That’s exactly how editors dress in Paris. Again, this collection was extremely Paris, but not in this fashioned-up manner we often get to see. As the designer said backstage, “It’s real. When I’m on the streets of Paris, that’s what I see.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Classics. Salvatore Ferragamo SS19

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It’s the second season at Salvatore Ferragamo for Paul Andrew (who does womenswear) and Guillaume Meilland (menswear), and it seems that the two are a perfect match for this Italian, heritage house that specialises in leather goods. The designers, who gracefully coordinate their roles in order to create a harmonious image of the brand, prove their integrity with this grown-up, well-considered line-up. From the casting (Stella Tennant opening the show, Carolyn Murphy closing) to the colour palette (neutrals, like sun-kissed beige and khaki, contrasted with bright turquoise or orange), it’s all about classics. There’s shirting; there’s gorgoeus outerwear; there’s evening wear that stuns with craftsmanship. Menswear is equally good – we’ve got absolute essentials like trench coats and elegant pants, all refined and kept in a loose fit. The footwear and bags (the stuff that Ferragamo sells the most) are as well refreshed. Somehow, after all these years, you want to enter the brand’s store and take hold of their goods. Paul and Guillaume, bravo!

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.