Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gardens, Fashion, Interiors & Glamour: A Botanical Extravaganza

Out of all the posts on this blog, one of the most popular continues to be Turning Over A New (Design) Leaf. (Found here). I'm constantly amazed that there are so many botanical devotees out there, but I'm also quietly thrilled to see it. It's wonderful to see that gardens, flowers and leaves are loved by so many. {Leaf image by Michel Tcherevkoff from his bestselling book, Shoe Fleur}

Lately I've become even more enamoured with the leaf motif, thanks to some beautiful new fabrics and wallpapers released by Sanderson and several other design houses. I've also noticed that the garden is creeping further and further into both fashion and the home, as our passion for horticulture grows. (Sorry for the terrible foliage pun.) Seeing Bunny Williams' extraordinary conservatory-style dining room at her Connecticut home last month made me realise that there is no end to what we can do with beautiful botanicals. Even Karl Lagerfeld seems to have been inspired by his love of gardens, judging by his Resort 2012 collection for Chanel that was staged among the topiaried glamour of Versailles last month.  {Leaf shoot photographed by Philip Newton for Red magazine.}

The Library may now have to take a brief break for a few days, while we move house. As I write this, I'm surrounded by 40 tea chests, most of them full of books, and tomorrow our computers will join the cardboard shuffle! In fact, the madness of life at the moment means I haven't been able to get on top of correspondence, and I sincerely apologise. I plan to get up early tomorrow and reply to everyone who's sent me the loveliest and most thoughtful notes these past 2 months. I've loved reading each and every one! {Image of beautiful topiary letterhead via Charlotte Moss' wonderful blog.}

Oh – and this post was actually designed by the 10 enormous pots sitting outside my study window that are awaiting their turn with the removalists tomorrow. We've already moved 40 huge urns / pots / planters and other assorted stoneware, and only have the lemon trees, lime trees and topiaries to go. But as tonight is the anniversary of the day RR and I first met, I'm going to try to put aside pots, posts, laptops, leaves and libraries in order to Seasol our relationship for a little while... (NB Thank goodness our pot collection doesn't look like the Orangerie at Versailles, above! Or – to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws – "we'd need a bigger truck".)

In the meantime, here are some of the most enchanting leaf scenes I've seen over the past few years. I hope they inspire and delight you as much as they have inspired and delighted me.

Garden Grandeur
Karl Lagerfeld staged his Resort 2013 collection for Chanel at Versailles last month. In typical Chanel style, it was as grand as Versailles itself. Lagerfeld, a garden lover, also used parterres as the theme for his Chanel spring 2011 collection staged at Paris' Grand Palais in late 2010.

Sartorial Peas In A Pod (Or A Park)
Kristy Hume and Shalom Harlow photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue UK October 1994. {Via Vogue}

 Hedge Fun
Shalom Harlow photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue UK October 1994. {Via Vogue}

Let It Rain On My (Fashion) Parade
Another gorgeous, leaf-inspired shoot for Vogue. {Date unknown}

Avenue Of Elegance
The incredible genius of photographer Rodney Smith, a man who clearly loves gardens as much as he does photography. {Via Rodney Smith}

Greenhouse Glamour
A John Galliano design for Givenchy, photographed for Vogue December 1996. {Via Vogue}

Orchids And Antique Watering Cans
Photographed by Philip Newton for Red magazine.

A Haute Picnic In A Summer Park
 A Lacroix feast, photographed for Vogue 1998. {Via Vogue}

Frills and Spills
Leaf-inspired ballgowns, photographed for Vogue December 2006. {Via Vogue}

Skirting The Issue
A long, leaf-print skirt, perfect for the tropics. {Via Elle and Slim Paley}

Botanical Beauty
Sarah Jessica Parker in an acorn-topped headpiece designed by British milliner Philip Treacy at the premiere of Sex And The City: The Movie.

Leafy Loveliness
Leaf-print frock by Vera Wang.

Green With Envy 
Another leaf-print frock, this time by Badgley Mischka.

Pretty In A Palm Print
And another, by Kate Spade.

Just Add Water
Palm tree swimsuit, perfect for island hideaways. {Via Slim Paley}

Horticultural Heels And Handbags
Gorgeous for garden parties, although sadly, these aren't real. The illustrations are by Michel Tcherevkoff for his bestselling book, Shoe Fleur. {Via}

Growth Spurt
Leaf design #1 by Manolo Blahnik

Ivy League
Leaf design #2 by Manolo Blahnik

Holly Heels
Leaf design #3 by Manolo Blahnik

Welly Whimsy
Oak leaf and acorn-print wellies by Hunter. 

Pine Delights
Pineapple fabric and wallpaper, by Studio Printworks.

Espalier Elegance
Espalier wallpaper, by Pierre Frey.

Topiary Lines
Linnaeus wallpaper, by Designers Guild.

Wandering In A Woodland Garden
Woodland Fern fabric from A Painter's Garden collection, by Sanderson.

I Couldn't Give A Fig (Well, Maybe A Few...)
Fig Leaf fabric, by Peter Dunham. {Via House Beautiful}

'A' For (A Great) Apron
The gorgeous, leaf-print gardening aprons worn by staff of this year's Trade Secrets Garden Fair in Connecticut. (And no, the public couldn't buy them. I asked. I wanted one too!)

A Sunday Afternoon
Leaf-print cushions and lettuce plates in the sunroom of Linden Hill Farm in Connecticut, open as part of the Trade Secrets Garden Fair Weekend.

A Garden On Fifth
A botanical display to showcase Carolina Herrera's collections in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman. {Via Slim Paley}

Lettuce Have Some Lunch, Shall We? 
Potager-inspired plates designed by Anne Gordon {Via the fabulous Bumble at Home blog, at}

Chic Kitchenalia
Leaf-inspired dinnerware and platters in the home of Sydney designer Cameron Kimber. {Via the fabulous Bumble at Home blog}

Sweet William
The Morris cafe at the V&A, designed by William Morris and inspired by being in a forest glade – complete with dappled light coming through the stained glass.

More William Morris-designed products: a leaf print and leaf wallpaper, at the V&A in London.

The Leaf As Lead
The lead image for the William Morris Exhibition at the V&A in the mid-nineties. The exhibition explored the relationship of Morris’ work with nature, so the symbol morphed one of his acanthus designs into a real leaf. (I went to this exhibition and adored it. I still have this leaf poster.)

Leaf Detail
And lastly, this was a vintage leaf poster from Belgium, bought from Izzi and Popo, which hung in our downstairs gardening hall. 
Goodbye to our beloved garden. We will miss you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Secrets From The Magazine Industry

I've been catching up with news from the past two months, particularly media news, much of which I've missed while overseas. And I was shocked to see that glamorous heads had rolled at News Mags. Vogue editor in chief Kirstie Clements has gone (10 years reign), and Inside Out editor Richard Waller has been pushed out too. (2 years). Several others I know have also lost their jobs on other mags, or resigned from the industry in terror.

The current period of radical social and media upheaval in Australia feels a little like the French Revolution, don't you think? Only more articulate. And without the powdered wigs. (And the "off with their heads" is coming from the execs, not the peasants.) I'm nervous for friends in the media. It's not a comfortable time.

(Perhaps the coverline above should read: BEFORE + AFTER: 'BEFORE: Editorial staff numbers 20; AFTER: Only the model remains'.)

I was particularly sad about Inside Out's Richard Waller. I knew him briefly years ago when I appointed him as my successor on a lifestyle magazine. He was a great editor. Although IO has become a bit more 'hard-edged industrial' and less 'hand-made / pretty' in its aesthetic, it's still a good read.

On the upside, I was thrilled to see that a publisher has quickly snapped up Vogue editor Kirstie Clements, who is now writing a non-fiction book about her life in magazines. (I'm guessing a memoir.) I really hope she writes an open-handbags-style tell-all about her years. But I suspect she has more class than that.

I've been reluctant to do many posts on the magazine vs online media debate. I don't want to kick the industry while it's down. Especially because it was so good to me, both here and overseas. But I will direct you to Mia Freedman, who has written one of the best posts on it here, entitled Are Fashion Magazines Endangered (warning: she doesn't mince words). She has polarised people, but it's a good post.

So instead of offering my opinion, I'd just like to offer some humorous insights into the industry. Because not everything is what it seems.


Editors Have Feelings Too
Editor #1: "The worst part is dressing for the Paris Fashion Shows. The amount of nervous packing that goes into the trip is incredible."
Editor #2: "And whatever you wear, you always wish you'd worn something else. Especially if you're sitting in front of Anna [Wintour]."
{Source: An interview I did many years ago with the former editor of Tatler and the former editor of Mode}

Editors Don't Make a Lot Of Money
New York Editor: "I've just been to London to visit XXX. She's very down. Her husband just lost his job."
Me: "Oh, how awful. Are they going to be okay?"
NY Editor: "Well she doesn't have any money. She was editor of XXX for 10 years but everyone knows editors don't make any money. Even she admitted it. The husband will have to go back to work. There's nothing else for it."
{Side note: Ita Buttrose also touched upon this. Even worse, when she was fired, Packer reportedly kept all her superannuation.}

Editors Make Up For The Bad Pay By Taking Advantage Of The Glossy Perks*
Editors have been known to instigate motoring columns, so they can ask their PAs ring Bugatti to to send over a brand new Veyron to test drive.  (Insert prestigious car brand here.)
Editors have been also known to instigate travel columns, so they can ask their PAs to ring Chiva Som for a freebie.
Ditto with alcohol, clothes, food and cosmetics. Although these freebies usually come into the office anyway.
{*Not all editors, you understand}

Editors Have No Time. For Anything*
That's why they get their PAs to pick up their dry cleaning / buy their family's birthday presents / doing their weekly shopping / text their boyfriends love notes during the day.
{*Not all editors, you understand}

Editors Believe An Understated Manner Is Best
It wouldn't do, for example, to jump up and down like Tom Cruise on Oprah if Karl Lagerfeld asked you for dinner. A polite, hand-written note is sufficient. And possibly a whisper of the visit to friends. As in: "Seeing KL when I'm in Paris. Should be lovely." Similarly, they don't understand the modern blogger's penchant for exclamation marks. Or effusive lines such as this: "I am SO SUPER EXCITED about today’s interview! I have waited a really looooong time to interview this person!!!" They don't understand that at all.

Mastheads Matter
Many editors spend more time agonising over the cover than the contents. Colours are particularly important. Readership figures for every month are analysed, and are often blamed on masthead colours. Yellow is a risk. Pink is always good. Using a fifth colour (metallic gold or silver) is expensive, and really only used for special issues.

Some Journalism Is Fiction. True.*
If there are not enough Letters to the Editor, an editorial assistant will be called upon a whip up a few fake ones. If the editorial assistant has been fired due to budget cuts, it will fall to the intern.
Similarly, if a journalist doesn't have enough sources for a story, she will ask the same assistant / intern for a quote. (As an anonymous source.) And then give her a couple of free Chanel lippies from the Beauty Drawer as a bribe to stay quiet.
{*Not all journalism, you understand}

Editorial Offices Are Dangerous Places
It is not unheard of for editors* (magazines and newspapers) to ask interns to spy on staff, so they can assess how long people are at lunch / what time they start work / what time they finish / how many personal phone calls they make / how many coffee breaks they make / what cosmetics they sneak home at the end of the day. If you see an intern watching you and then scribbling furiously, be afraid. Very afraid.
{Not all editors, of course}
Most Editors Are Workaholics
One famous Sydney editor expects her staff to work late. Every. Single Night. If they want to leave on time, they have to slide their handbags across the floor, then crouch down and crawl underneath the editor's window, so she doesn't see.

The Stories You Hear Are Usually True
The former editor of US Harper's Bazaar: "Did you hear the story about Anna Wintour and XXX?"
Me: "No? Really?"
Former editor: "My spies tell me it's true."
Me: "Your spies?"
Former editor: "Of course. We all have spies on the other side!"

Once Upon A Time, Editors Didn't Have To Worry About Budgets 
There is a famous story, perhaps long forgotten now, about a certain Australian magazine that folded because its Launch Issue was way over budget. For the cover, the editor flew 22 people to Bali*, including all the editorial staff, the models, several stylists, several photographers and assistants, several make-up artists, and (so the story goes) her sister, her mother and her boyfriend too. Everyone was treated to hotel rooms / airfares / meals / associated expenses. The budget for the shoot was supposed to be $30,000. The CEO received an Expense Spread from Accounting two months later for $160,000. When he hit the roof, the editor said" "But that's how XXX magazine does it!" The CEO pulled the plug on the magazine a month later.
(*Could have been Africa. Or Fiji. The story changes every year. But the magazine still folded.)

All of this madness, of course, makes for some truly dazzling magic at times. In fact, the creativity of magazines was what set them apart from anything online. Just look at these spreads.

Vogue's 'My Brilliant Veneer' shoot with Elle. March 1995. This still stands as one of the most glamorous shoots of the 1990s, in my opinion.

Vogue's Pleasure Island shoot. August 2007.

Vogue's Barbara Palvin shoot, which channeled classic 1940s glamour in Paris. September. 2011 

Let's hope magazines stay around for a little while longer...

Oh, and here's an eye-opening (and often funny) story by Kirstie Clements on phobias that fashion people suffer. If I hadn't read it on Vogue's site, I wouldn't have believed it!

I was chatting with some friends at a party recently and we were talking about phobias and what, if anything, sets us off. I started the conversation by saying I can't drink out of a mug that has words written on it. Or drive behind cars that have poles, pieces of wood, surfboards or anything pointy attached to the roof that is aimed towards my windscreen. I get nauseous and have to pull over. Given that our office is in an industrial area, it takes me ages to drive to work these days.

My friend admitted that when she stays in hotels, she puts towels down on the sheets and pillows and sleeps on those because she believes they are dried at hotter temperatures and therefore more germ-free. She stays in top hotels, may I add. The group was a tad surprised at these lengths, but we all agreed that hotel bedspreads are a big no-go and need to be removed with a coat hanger, not with your hands. 

"Oh, and I'm scared of perforated fabrics,'' I added, which I thought was reasonable but made a few people start to edge away.  I also feel a vague unease around clothes or jewellery with skull motifs, devore velvet, fake fur or the colour burgundy.

I decided to ask the Vogue fashion team if they had any fashion neuroses, which I secretly knew they did. It was hilarious. Our fashion editor Meg kicked off. “Jeans''. Audible gasp from the office. Who hates jeans? "And high tech-trainers,'' she said emphatically. 

"Yeeuccch.'' Voices started to chime in from every desk. "White sunglasses. Mules. Lace tights. Jeggings. Anything that Katy Perry wears.''

I have personal phobias about fashion shoots too. The poor Vogue team has to put up with my hatred of models on rocks or cliffs, models on rocks wearing evening gowns, models on rocks in high heels. Models who look moribund lying in long grass. Models who look moribund lying in long grass shot with a yellow lens filter. The list goes for days. It also includes maxi dresses, fishtails and strapless bridal gowns.

Not only are we clearly phobic, we are really fickle.

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