A few good books, Favorite things, Inspiration, Quote

Excerpt from Empress of Fashion: A life of Diana Vreeland

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As editor in chief Diana felt – and was initially allowed to feel – that she had the freedom to take everything she had ever learned about becoming the Girl, everything of beauty, every fantasy that had ever caught her inner eye, and place it all at the reader’s disposal. As the new editor in chief she ranged backward and forward across half a century of experience. The creative relationship between film actress Audrey Hepburn and the couturier Hubert de Givenchy blazed with the same inspiration that flew between the women of style and their couturiers in the 1930s.

“What fires his imagination races hers; the message he cuts into cloth she beams to the world with the special wit and stylishness of a great star in a role that suits her to perfection.”

“Isn’t that life, darling?”

“You pool all the things of your childhood, and then you become a woman…and you’ve got it all together on your own. But all the while, you’re developing every moment. You develop every moment of your life. Don’t you think that’s how it is?”

To be herself, a woman had to allow herself to dream – dreaming of becoming the heroine of her own life. This was the theme to which Diana would return over and over again throughout her time at Vogue; and soon she took the reins, she extended the idea of becoming a heroine to women who were not born beautiful and did not conform to contemporary ideas of prettiness.

By 1964, Diana was actively challenging conventional American ideas of female beauty, asking Vogue’s readers to look instead at women with vital, distinctive, alluring faces. On August 1st, 1964 Diana turned over most of the magazines to two new prototypes, the “Chicerino” and the “Funny Girl”. The “Chicerino” was “full of zest of doing things”. She had “the vividly personal quality” of a girl who liked herself, who expected the best of herself and the best of everything, a girl with a “star quality”. As Diana put it:

“The image she presents is of her own, intensely personal manufacture – a projected vision of herself, nourished by intuition, by ego, and by single-minded clarity of her thinking. Her presentation is perfect: she comes in a blaze of certainty, engages all interest, sustains it, provokes. Unhesitatingly she chooses what’s good for her – the gesture, the look that conveys her mood, her quality, her special dash. No other fashion counts..the Chicerino is every country’s phenomenon: she is the girl who owns the world, makes it swing..the girl who holds onto her personality with both hands and projects it with style.”

“There’s only one thing in life – and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.”

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A few good books, Favorite things, Inspiration, Quote

Grace: A Memoir

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The Vogue creative director, Grace Coddington is a true one of a kind: from her signature flame-colored hair to her championing of non-cookie-cutter beauty, she put distinctive fingerprint on everything she does. 

The memoir takes her readers through her impressive fashion career and personal lives, from her childhood memories to her first day on the job both a model and fashion to editor to her big loves (men and cats), early days as a model to her current tenure at Vogue – including her close relationship with Anna Wintour.  

Fore more than four decades, Coddington – a onetime model turned master stylist – has collaborated with the best photographers, hair and make up artist in the business to create amazing picture on the page. This maybe the first time I am reading about her – and yet, I recognize her work I’ve read from the magazines. She is shy and loves to work behind-the-scenes. 

Coddington has also great talent for illustration which is showcased in the book. She is well-known for sketching looks as they come down the runway from her front-row perch during fashion week – and in her memoir, the remarkable, hand-drawn pictures reveal yet another dimension to an already famously fascinating woman. But her drawings take on a personal and often humorous tone.  

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Grace Coddington back in her modeling days sporting the famous Five Point Cut invented by Vidal Sasson. 

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Grace Coddington

“Is fashion art? I think it’s sometimes very creative but I’m not sure I would call it art, that’s pushing it a bit. In fashion photography, rule number one is to make the picture beautiful and lyrical or provocative and intellectual – but you still have to see the dress. Of course, I like to push the boundaries; I think that’s the most interesting element much of the time. when you walk the line. But you can’t forget to show the clothes and, in the end, not alter them beyond recognition; to pretend a dress is something it is not unfair to the reader, too.” 

Beautiful, funny and so inspiring, this one is for the required reading list. And I have acquired so much inspiration from her. 

xo,

Nelissa

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Artisan, Inspiration, Quote

The story is always there, you just have to look for it

I knew very little about Salvatore Ferragamo (the shoemaker) apart from it being a brand as it is today.

Ferragamo’s story itself reads like a fairytale. He was born in 1898 into a poor family in Naples, Italy, number 11 of 14 children. When he was just nine, he made his first pair of white shoes for his sister’s communion, and knew that we wanted to make shoes for a living.

At the age of 13, he was in charge of a shop with six workers. But, four of his brothers were already in America, and Salvatore headed for Boston where one of his brothers worked in a shoe factory.

But the factory’s production line did not suit his belief that every individual pair of shoes should be studied and researched, and he convinced his brothers to move to California. First, Santa Barbara, then Hollywood where they established a shop for repairs and made-to-measure shoes which soon became famous.

And so he began to design footwear for the cinema.

His life in Hollywood during the years fell into three sections: his hand-made shoes, his flirtation with machine-made shoes and his experiences with the people for whom he worked for.

By 1939, Ferragamo had moved back from California to Florence where despite the troubled times, he managed to own the Piazza Spini-Feroni building, the spectacularly frescoed medieval house which is still the home to Ferragamo today.

This is the first time I was captivated by the story behind the product. In a visit to a perfume shop in Siena, the owner shared similar history in which he described the origin of the bespoke perfume and the company. Pointing to the print on the box, he said, “The story is always there, you just have to look for it.” And he was right. From perfumes to Florence and now to shoes, there is always a person and his or her ideas behind the products that we buy.

Thinking about 13 year old Ferragamo pounding out shoes in Hollywood, I started to wonder about the lives of the other founder of companies whose names we treat as brands rather than as titles corresponding to people. Coco Chanel and Cristobal Balenciaga were children once too. What were they like?

Did they sketch in the margins of their textbooks?

The least important part of his biography is the life-story of an Italian shoemaker. Therefore his biography is mostly about feet.

“We can all write the stories of our lives, and it I go into the details of my career it is only that I may be best able to tell you about the mission to which I was called, the work I could not prevent doing myself.”

“If your feet are good it will teach you how to preserve them. If your feet are bad it will tell you why they are bad and help to save you from further agonies. Your feet look like the shoes you wear, and if the shoes are wrongly designed your feet will be twisted, crushed and pinched. Yet it is no necessary – not even for the sake of vanity – so to torture yourself.

That has been his life’s work – striving to learn to make shoes that always fit and the refusal to put his name to any that do not fit.

“I shall go on forever. I have only just begun to work. I am still perfecting myself for the work I have to do in the future, the work to which I have been called. I have a plenty of time. I know I am going to do it. If it is not done with this body it will be done in another. We are all flowing with the eternal tide, and of the eternal tide only is there no end.”

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