Have a Hauntingly Beautiful Halloween…

The weekend of the 31st October is historically huge in my calendar.  I live to dress up, am a dab hand at pumpkin carving, and wear black lipstick all year round anyway, so the transition is really rather a seamless one.

Halloween 2007; bucking the trend to dress as a Christmas present

Halloween 2008, Disneyland Paris in leopard print

Halloween 2009; the Glorious Undead, complete with corpse bride side-kick

And so for Halloween 2010, I will again be resurrecting my blood-spattered finery, my cobwebs and lace.  To encourage you to do likewise, I have delved into the deepest of cauldrons in order to dredge up some outfit inspiration from the recent SS/11 shows.  It seems that fashion has finally fallen in love with Halloween…

One may be forgiven for assuming that the prevailing mood for all designers orchestrating a spring/summer collection would be breezy and bright; the colour palette light to reflect a young world emerging from the dark chrysalis of winter.  However, a sliver of darkness remains for spring, acting as a sober foil to all the acid hues and colour-pop pastels emerging for next season.  So embrace it early.  Think vamp and gothic heroine; plump for ghoulish draping and spiderweb lace.

Jean-Paul Gaultier SS/11

Halloween isn’t just about bats, you know.  Why not go left-field and channel that chilling bird of ill-omen, the raven?  Hoarse and spooky in Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost stories and Shakespeare’s macabre tale of witchcraft, Macbeth, even Karl Lagerfeld  appears to have obliquely referenced the bird in all its malign, black beddraglement.

Chanel SS/11

Pay attention to spiked hardware sharp enough to impale a vampire on, and don’t underestimate the dark machismo of leather as all-out body armour, teamed with a Wednesday Adams dark mop of hair and grim scowl…

Burberry Prorsum SS/11

Maison Martin Margiela, SS/11

Highlight your head.  Negate your sense of human self with a non-face, as seen in the otherworldly alienness of the models at Junya Watanabe, or opt for the cruellest of metal-work headpieces, à la Ann Demeulemeester.

Junya Watanabe, SS/11

Ann Demeulemeester, SS/11

There was a disturbing eerieness at work at Comme des Garcons, where the random shapelessness of bag-like draping was part Poe-raven, part gothic-scarecrow.

There is something unsettling about girl-twins, perhaps since The Shining, and Kawakubo’s conjoined pair are faintly horrifying, with their wispy black umbilica and the slight fascism of those regimentedly-stepping shoes.  A strange, almost atavistic nightmare is whispered at here, or some dark and twisted version of the tale of Tweedledee and Dum, and that monstrous crow…

Comme Des Garcons, SS/11

John Galliano sent his models out in Paris as strong sirens, with a blanched pallor, sunken cheekbones and vampish lips.  Some resembled haunted film noir heroines, and there is a gothic froideur to his billowing vision in navy and black.

John Galliano, SS/11

At the opposite end of the spectrum was a wraith shrouded in white; all colour drained, robe swirling like a banshee.  The gauzy veil, bizarrely bridal and funereal at once, recalls the flickering flames of Hades, or Dantesque fiery tongues…

Orange is huge for SS/11, with all sorts of shades from tangerine to coral to deepest cinnabar flaming down the runway.  Forget black for a moment and go trailblazingly bright, like Jil Sander or Prada, or imitate the more muted tones of pumpkin, and mingle with overlaid black lace to achieve the fantastic textural play as envisioned at Proenza Schouler.

Jil Sander SS/11

Proenza Schouler, SS/11

Off with her head!  Acephalous bodies at Hussein Chalayan were downright creepy, especially the ghostly apparition in white.  They called to mind spooks and zombies, and even the terror of the gallows…

Meadham Kirchoff played with the concepts of dressing up and delivered a witty critique of the costumes we choose for everyday, opting to steer away from certain trends (minimalism, monochrome) whilst taking others to parodic extremes (romantic, ladylike).  We were treated to gothic lolitas with Halloween hair, whilst a dramatic Victoriana gown of ash-grey semed to precisely encapsulate a ragged uniform of neglect and decay for some wraith-like Miss Havisham…

Meadham Kirchoff, SS11

Each and every model sported a crimson collar about the neck; I couldn’t help but think of the gruesome fashion for red ribbons, encircling female throats in post-Reign-of-Terror France, to mark the deep cut of the guillotine.

Of all contemporary designers, it is perhaps the house of Alexander McQueen that most delights in the symbolism of horror and the occult; the motif of the skull, for instance, has become synonymous with his legacy.  Yet this season, the debut of the label’s new creative director, Sarah Burton, marked something of a subtle sea-change.  Lee’s hallmarks endured; his immersion in fantasia and fairytale; but Burton’s focus was firmly upon our natural world, not some other realm beyond.

Alexander McQueen SS/11

This stark dress, managing to be both fluid and erectly static at once, resembled some choking Chinese creeper or poison-ivy.  Dramatic, beautiful, and the perfect inspiration for a Halloween ball.

If Hussein Chalayan has already showcased a ‘living dress’, is there, however, anything more spectacularly alive than this breathtaking creation?  The shifting, questing tendrils are like a cross between fern fronds and tentacles; the entire piece, with its various patterns and hues, reminds me of a sea-creature straight from the murky world of myth.  Alien rather than frightening, McQueen nevertheless encapsulates the true spirit of All Hallow’s Eve; transformation, otherness, and the whisper of communion with the unfamiliars that breathe and move and stalk, for one night only, on the other side of the veil…

A Bit of Fry and Laurie

On countless occasions and at various junctures; those pregnant pauses during polite life’s social interactions when people grasp for something to say, the question of the fantasy dinner party is often resurrected, like some old and dependable friend.

I vacillate shamelessly on the subject.  My answers depend entirely on my mood, my outfit, number of alcoholic units imbibed, and my present audience and how I’d like them to appraise me.  There are, indubitably, a few non-movers; certain characters I feel to be lurking most constantly in the shadows of my subconscious.  Their exploits, secret selves and very essences have fascinated me so fully that their placemats at that fantasy dinner party are etched in inerasable ink.  The Queen, Lewis Carroll, and Tintin fall into this category. 

And then there are my obsessions du jour, the personalities and personas that have absorbed my attention most often that week.  And so, if you asked me now, or perhaps tonight, at some dinner, I’d only need to swirl my drink twice, and barely look pensive, before answering with uncharacteristic expediency: ‘Fry and Laurie.  No other guests allowed.’

Fry and Laurie: double act of dreams.  Separately and together, they’ve long been the focus of a certain furtive idolatry.  Stephen Fry came first.  Simply, cannily, he was in right place at the right time.

At the height of my Oscar Wilde fixation, he nailed the aphorisms of the great man himself, and flirted onscreen rather impishly with Jude Law.  Fry recorded bewitching podcasts of the most magical of Wilde’s children’s stories, lending his perfectly-pitched intonation, and just the right amount of grave poignancy, to The Selfish Giant

When I was dead-eyed and sick-hearted with revision and the accompanying terrors and doubts of university finals, I could slink downstairs on Friday evenings, pale from lack of sunlight and speaking in Shakespearian tongues, and gain a half-hour’s happy respite, transported briefly by QI, and bolstered and refreshed anew by Stephen’s wit, wisdom, and the fact that an early failed education didn’t do him the least bit of harm. 

An Alice in Wonderland fanatic, the only redeeming quality I could find in Tim Burton’s Hollywood hack-job was the cheering fact that Fry had played the Cheshire Cat (with creepy aplomb).  Stephen has endeared himself in variegated and astonishing ways: by donning false breasts in Blackadder; embarking on a road trip of Odyssean valour and stamina through America in a British black cab; finding time even to narrate the audio version of Harry Potter…

Like many millions of the global populace, my affection for Fry has been crucially and dramatically accelerated through his prolific Twittering.  His Tweets, revealing him to be exceptionally big-hearted, down-to-earth and hilariously fond of naughty words, have only strengthened my fast-glowing approbation.

And now to Laurie.  Though magnificent in Blackadder, Sense and Sensibility, and, er, 101 Dalmatians (this the previous full sum of my familiarity), he wasn’t even on my radar – and I suspect those of thousands of others – until the multi-accoladed House.  It is a gob-smackingly brilliant show, and Laurie as Dr Gregory House is its undoubted star and charismatic lodestone: part-aloof-masterminded Sherlock Holmes, part-brooding-Byronic-hero.  House’s acerbic, ego-puncturing one-liners are comedy-manna, his eccentricities legitimate cause for frame-by-frame analysis, and the enduring bromance with fellow doctor James Wilson the stuff of pop-culture legend.

My sister and I follow it obsessively, to the point of buying each other ‘It’s not lupus’ bookmarks and gobbling up box sets in near-single sittings.  We howl, we weep, we run the risk of bedsores, and most importantly, we engage in Laurie-mania, which mostly entails YouTubing his interviews, band performances, and fan collages, in the early hours of the morning.  There have been fierce debates over the precise shade of blue of his eyes: cerulean or cornflower?

Together, the charisma and charm of Fry and Laurie is ineluctable. This iconic duo rivals the hallowed pairings of Holmes and Watson, Jules and Jim, Barney and Fred, Dee and Dum.  Their placemats are carved in flowing script on the dining table of my dreams, and linger there, riding the cruel merry-go-round that is the hypothetical dinner-party.  At the mercy of a tossing tempest, a war of whims, the ebb and flow of desire.  So until next week, surely?

Lanvin and lovely!

And so the countdown begins!  November, this year, will not only be the month of smoking bonfires; scorching hot designs from Alber Elbaz, fashion maestro, for high street monolith H & M, will be served up on November 23rd.  Tantalising previews are to be released on November 2nd, a mere two days after Halloween (and Lanvin seems to be channelling a spookish theme with its all-black palette, and a wraith-like model who rather resembles an aged Daphne Guinness by way of Karl Lagerfeld).

Whatever the inspiration, the collection is set to be fabulous, eclipsing even the grand and zany heights scaled by Viktor & Rolf for H & M in 2006.  The above preview promises a moody opulence, with racy hemlines, asymmetric necklines, and volume, texture and embellishment (glorious pearls!) in typical Lanvin abundance.

With one month to go, I’m seriously thinking of setting up a special savings account.  Apologies in advance to my nearest and dearest for the inevitable modesty of this year’s Christmas presents…

Autumn Jewels

 

Autumn is a season of texture and colour; myriad jewels are strewn underfoot in the form of crisp fallen leaves; burnished, veined and whorled in colours of deep cinnabar and persimmon, raw umber and a thousand other sinopian hues that crackle and smoulder on grainy pavements.  Collars are turned up and chilled hands thrust in pockets; the air becomes extraordinarily clarified; crystallised in peaty, acrid compounds of burning bonfire smoke.

It is a time of transition; change in the trees and in the skies, and yet of stillness; autumn evenings run into one another with a smooth sameness; every night sky the same velvety moleskine black, with only the mutations of the moon for diversity.

With this in mind, I present a selection of the season’s most covetable treasures.  Autumn accessories and key pieces are mirroring the hallmarks of the season; texture and colour in sumptuous variety everywhere you turn…

Alexander McQueen, £5612 at net-a-porter

Pre-empting the oriental trend seen all over the catwalks of Paris for S/S 11, this luxurious bell-flare coat, in deepest vermillion and gold, is reminiscient of the pomp and pageantry of religious tapestry.  The flowing shape is starkly dream-like, and despite the striped heraldry of the embellished tigers, you will feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes come Bonfire Night…

Chloé Aurore handbag, £1075

The buttery pecan plumpness of this Chloé bag is practically irresistible, and the boxy sturdiness, almost of a classic doctor’s bag, is irresistibly practical.  Perfect for swinging through the falling leaves.

Alaïa animal print ankle boots, £1085 at net-a-porter

Alaïa has triumphed this season with its range of delectable footwear, and these abstract ankle boots are elegant and edgy.  Amazing with well-cut black trousers and a glossy briefcase.

Kenneth Jay Lane cocktail ring

This gobstopper garnet coloured stone, clustered with satellite gems and surrounded by gunmetal grey is broody, moody and appropriately lavish.  Add a sultry swagger and vampish scarlet nails.

Jaeger silk blouse, £125

Jaeger’s silk blouse, with its delicate drapery, billowing sleeves and antique-off-white hue, is essential for a lazy, back-to-school feel.  Team with a streamlined skirt and patterned tights for a touch of girlish kitsch.

Kurt Geiger Fashionistas 'Broadway Market' wooden platform, £290

These statuesque wooden platforms with a clunky cone heel don’t exactly, to my mind, conjure up the grim, cobbled streets of Hackney.  They have rather a clever feel of Scandinavian design precision, or the cosmopolitan vibe of New York. Still, united with autumn’s corresponding caramel colours, they will work a treat.

Jaeger suede buckle bag, £250

There is something satisfyingly smart about the punchy mustard hue of this suede bag, and the smug symmetry of the double buckle is rather neat, too.

'Alexander the Great' McQueen scarf

This silk-blend scarf in patriotic colours, emblazoned poignantly with ‘Alexander the Great’, is the perfect way to celebrate the legacy of Lee McQueen.  A printed panegyric to pull on whenever you’re feeling bold.

Christian Louboutin leopard print clutch, £750

Louboutin have infused something sly and weapon-like into the concept of this globe clutch; despite the polished pattern and decorative flourish of the swaying tassels, it reminds me of a medieval flail or Olympic shotput.  Combine with a pair of Louboutin’s signature studded stilettos, with their warpaint slick of a blood-red sole, and you are dressed very much for battle.

Erdem 'Vittoria' silk dress, £1215

At first glance, this exquisite Erdem gown looks shrouded in the exoticism of far-off-lands.  But on closer inspection, it seems rather  a hymn to the romance of the more familiar flora and fauna; snatches of a curling leaf, insect’s wing or forest pool can be glimpsed through the prism of diamond patchwork panels.  An enchanted kaleiodoscopic creation of cerulean, Tyrian purple and flashes of bright peridot.  Majestic.

Alaïa calf hair platforms £1070 at net-a-porter

Eye-catching and bristling with textural cleverness, these quirky dot detail lace ups are a towering success.

Alexander Wang 'Sydney' velvet backpack, £700 at net-a-porter

I adore velvet. I’ve bought three vintage dresses in the past month, and they are all in this sumptuous fabric, perfect for late October Halloween goth and into the party season beyond.  Wang’s seductive, slouchy backpack is just the ticket to adorn a sleek and refined autumn silhouette.

Marni pyrite flower brooch, £165 at net-a-porter

Marni’s art deco inspired brooch, with its distictive tiger-moth spiralling in a warm burnt orange, will unite fabulously with a vintage hat and classic Kelly handbag.

Mary Katrantzou graphic print dress, £783

Mary Katrantzou is an absolute whizz when it comes to complex and hypnotic graphic patterns that will be wearable always.  This season’s show-stoppers are no different, and with elaborate detailing on front and back, and stunning trompe d’oeil jewels, you will feel like a walking work of art.

Chanel tote bag, £1398

The luxe finish on this light butterscotch bag by Chanel is a welcome respite from the classic black quilting.  The whispered translucence of the stitched interlocking C’s and the nonchalant toggle detail are pure Parisian class.

Alexander McQueen shearling boots, £950

The now-ubiquitous shearling trend is given a surprise boost by these coffee-coloured boots with a spiky, sculpted heel and amulet-shaped buckle detail.  But with a tidal wave of affordable high street parodies saturating the market, do these really look like a thousand pounds worth of autumn chic?

Lanvin crystal owl brooch, £950

This nocturnal nicknack in glinting pewter is a novel way to liven up both daytime uniform and instill instant evening glamour.  Charmingly crafted, the milky opalescence of its prismatic stone is just the right shade of winter moonlight.

Chloe polka-dot blouse, £595

Viktor & Rolf recently transformed a Paris catwalk into an homage to the shirt, parading a startling array of avant-garde interpretations of this most fundamental of wardrobe staples.  This, however, is classic Chloe, in speckled mushroom, with an already-attached ribbon-tie detail that would make five-second-dressing an absolute cinch.

Alexander Wang felt boots, £555

Wang posits these grey marl lace-ups with a sassy stack heel as a more feminine, formal alternative to this season’s androgynous desert boot.  Make the laces long and looping and pair with slight flares for a subtle nod to autumn’s love affair with the seventies.

Versace studded leather shoulder bag, £1380

The pearly sheen to the studded hardware on this neat shoulder bag softens an otherwise tough accessory.  Nimble and expertly proportioned, Versace’s 3D arm-candy will bridge the gap nicely between day and night.

Nina Peter patchwork gloves, £160

A deep shade of emperor purple give these gloves a regal air of utter sophistication.  Spherical studs and spidery etching strike a balance between old-school- lady-like and ultra contemporary.  Essential for all modern-day Audrey Hepburns!

Vionnet ruched silk dress, £2255

The deliquescent draping of this Vionnet dress, smokily resplendent in ivory, lead and grey, is intelligent and sensual.  The high-neck glances towards chaste Victoriana, whilst the drawn-in waist is an appreciative celebration of the female form.

Mulberry Alexa in quilted denim, £795

I was beginning to despair at the sheer volume of praise heaped upon this bag.  I still don’t get its iconic status – it’s just a rather ordinary satchel – but of all the Alexa’s incarnations, I think this one, with its flickering embers of ameythst, blackcurrant and magenta is both relevant and eye-catching for autumn.

Yves Saint Laurent 'Palais Mohawk' £640

If it’s texture you’re after, look no further than these super-fabulous (every superlative here is justified) mohawk suede stilettos.  Tight, short cocktail dress, minimal accessories, and best foot forward…

Yves Saint Laurent 'Fake Chic' bracelet, £1195

Autumn jewels indeed!  This triumph of interlocking, candy-coloured gemstones looks as if it belonged in the chicest sweet-shop on earth.  Mouth-watering colours that are perfect brighteners for these darkling nights…

Versus chiffon and velvet mini dress, £1605

This fiery seasonal show-stopper, burnishing like a bonfire’s flames, is conjured from fabrics so tactile that they should carry a warning.  Simply sumptuous.

Sportmax leather and raccoon-fur gloves, £238

Sportmax’s super-elegant aid to banishing the chill.  Very 1940’s fabulous.

Chloé over-the-knee boots, £865

Superbly slouchy and complete with nonchalant lace-up bow-detail, one would be equally at ease, in these Chloé boots, striding over chalky countryside turf and stomping along frost-glittered metropolitan sidewalks.  Genius.

Proenza Schouler paper-effect leather bag £440

Inspired by brown-paper lunch bags, no other arm-candy will quite tick the autumnal, back to school box as precisely as this Schouler satchel.  I adore the slight puckering and the perforated edge.  Just pop in a pair of gloves, a well-thumbed copy of your favourite novel and a shiny green apple, and you’re good to go!

Olivia Morris for Grenson, £275

 Grenson is a classic English shoe-makers with an illustrious heritage, and these brogues are the ideal seasonal shoe, in the glorious patent finish of glossy damson.  Pink liquorice laces add a certain jazziness to the affair.

Lanvin blouse top

There is something evangelical about this blouse.  The sheer simplicity is misleading, however; Lanvin don’t know the meaning of spartan, so expect a glorious, heavenly feel and fit courtesy of the saintly Elbaz.  The twisting sleeves give the garment a secret, shifting life of its own…

Ashish black silk maxi, £870

And for a match made in monochromatic heaven, pair the above with this shimmering silk skirt – and look ridiculously elegant whilst you’re at it.

Burberry Prorsum shearling peaked cap, £295

At the risk of all of us looking like shearling sheep, this cap offers a novel way of chipping on the now super-stellar aviator trend, from the brand that sparked all the madness in the first place…

Anglomania and Melissa, £90

Another sterling shoe collaboration, and just as quintessentially English at that.  These cheerful booties will make splashing through November puddles absolute child’s play…

Johann Earl colour block top, £35 at Urban Outfitters

How engagingly elementary is this tri-block tee?  Off-duty made super, super-easy…

Olympia Le Tan box clutch, £895

I doubt I shall come across anything as joy-inducing as this irresistible pair of clutches from now until Christmas Day.  Cute and kitsch, and crafted with flair and wit, I just want to tuck one under each arm, and run like the wind!

Lanvin honeymoon set, £415

There are weekends away, and then there are weekends away.  Lanvin is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, and this honeymoon suitcase, brim-full of goodies, is just as good value as the H & M line, and that little bit more exclusive…

Dicha necklace, £675

A tear-drop explosion of clustering, clamouring amythest and opal-coloured beads.  Remove the scarf.  It’s what unadorned necks were made for…

Roksanda Iilinic 'Sunbird' silk-gazar dress, £1380

 No moody and muted autumnal tones here.  Not this time.  This exotic specimen has flown straight in from the shores of summer, but we’ll forgive it it’s dazzling hue, seeing as it is smashingly spectacular.  For peacocks rather than wallflowers, I think…

Dicha, £515

This stunning bauble evokes splendour and decadence , and vintage glamour, in a way that sums up ‘autumn jewels’ most fully, with ruby and pearl.

Erdem 'Angelica' dress

I couldn’t resist just one more Erdem dress, not least because this one is named after my sister.  Or so we pretend.  It’s as good an excuse as any to be included here.  That, and the stunning swallow print, that stirs in my mind the whirring fall-to-earth of swirling sycamore leaves…

So, merry folk of autumn; light your bonfires, straw your Guys, eat your fruit crumbles and read your Keats.  But don’t forget to dress for the occasion…

Girl With The Golden Flame

 There is a birthday today and it belongs to Katherine Mansfield: colourful character, wisecracking ingénue, and celebrated modernist writer of short stories that are imaginative, intelligent and expressive in style and form.

 Mansfield led a tragically short life blighted by depression and illness, but her existence was also full of spontaneity and freedom. ‘Would you not like to try all sorts of lives – one is so very small – ?’ she wondered, with the same curiosity and lust for excavation into the human character as her contemporary Virginia Woolf, who longed to ‘dig out caves behind my characters’ and peer within. 

 

Mansfield believed writing to be a form of impersonation; transcending the limits of the personal in order to engage in the vivid exploration of fellow consciousnesses.  A skilled chameleon, she did lead many lives, parallel and contrasting, and moved in varied circles, from the literary salons of Bloomsbury, where she mingled with the Woolfs, T. S. Eliot and Betrand Russell, to immersing herself in other kinds, and definitions, of civilization and culture altogether.  She cultivated friendships – and one torrid love-affair – amongst the Maoris of her native New Zealand, and threw herself into everything with zest and wit – travelling, writing, relationships with both men and women – all of which she regarded as love affairs of the heart.

Members of the Bloomsbury set enacting a garden party of their own

An intense character who inspired extremes of opinion amongst even her closest friends and contemporaries, she was eventually abhorred by D. H. Lawrence as a ‘loathsome reptile’.  Woolf found her simultaneously magnetic and repugnant, remarking that she ‘stank like a civet cat that has taken to street-walking’.  Angela Carter, a great admirer of Mansfield, wonders why ‘someone so gifted, so charming, should have been so universally detested’.

 Mansfield keenly felt the difficulty of shining out in a close circle of literary prodigies, and felt creatively stifled during her relationship with John Middleton Murray, the respected and much-published writer of journals and periodicals.  She wrestled with the age-old challenges faced by women writers that Virginia Woolf addresses in her polemic essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’. 

Mansfield, like Woolf, believed that women needed space and freedom from domestic and prosaic restraints in order to find and communicate their voice.  She complained bitterly of ‘walking about with a mind full of ghosts and saucepans and primus stoves’ rather than succeeding to nurture and channel an inner poetry that lurked deeper, sometimes too deep.

 The dynamic impetus of Katherine Mansfield’s injunction, ‘Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.’  strikes a particular and stirring chord.  Stark rather than eloquent, it is as compelling, in its own way, as Walter Pater’s immemorial commandment to burn always with a hard and gemlike flame.

 Mansfield’s own flame was finally extinguished by her long and painful battle with tuberculosis.  But a shimmering prose, and the stubborn ghost of a strong character remain unsnuffed; bright and iridescent, quick to ignite, and flickering firmly with the light of many hues.

 

Not So Unique At Uniqlo

 

After the merry-go-round of the past month’s fashion shows, with all their colour and noise, brilliance and bravado, it is customary to retreat with some relief to the relative normalcy of the high street, and to crave simplicity in quiet tailoring and seasonal staples.  Uniqlo is one such haven: a calm, ordered arena of basics and fail-safes, well-made and affordable.

The latest Jil Sander for Uniqlo collection, Uniqlo+J, which launches today, is the sort of high street/designer collaboration that sets the pulses of fashion editors, style journalists and general clothes-horses everywhere racing emphatically upwards.  Megastores such as Topshop, H & M and Gap are famed for their partnerships with elite fashion houses, and these limited edition collections are the subject of feverish countdowns, wild internet rumour, and tend to sell out in just a few short hours.

 The most recent installment of Uniqlo+J is bound up in the same sort of fanfare, but does it deliver?  Collectively, the clothes comprise a mood-board of the moment; a lesson in minimalism, they are understated in shape, in muted tones, referencing the season’s love affair with colour-blocking, utility wear and, um, beige.

Sander presents us with utilitarian workwear, in honest, no-nonsense colours and fabrics.  However, far from suggesting itself as a modern and clever uniform for daytime, as seen recently at Chloe and Celine, Uniqlo’s latest offering is surely too drab, sparse and insipid to constitute anyone’s wardrobe of choice?

These are pared-down basics; stern, unremittingly stripped-back, and eye-wateringly dull.  Super-sensible tweed and wool skirts are paired with an uninspiring parade of plainness; cable knits, coats and cardigans.  Woollen accessories are functional rather than directional, and generally come in a blurry ‘whatever’ shade of dire monochrome.  The colour palette of nudes, navy and grey is muddy, lacking the clarity and warmth of autumnal ochre, caramel and toffee, seen elsewhere all over the high street.

 There are so many boatnecks and funnel necks one would almost think there were some sort of steamship theme going on.  Alas, there is nothing ‘full steam ahead’ about this collection.  It resembles instead a shapeless mass slowly drifting into a drab horizon, blending indifferently with a slate-grey sea.  That, or a sinking ship…

This navy blazer, fluid and expressive in shape, is one of the few saving graces in an otherwise graceless tide of overwhelming mediocrity.

Sartorially, Uniqlo+J is a far cry from another collection that launched this week, Burberry’s ‘Winter Storm’ for A/W 10.  Lean, mean and much more magnetic, it hinges upon pieces of complex texture and craftsmanship, from plush quilted biker jackets to a thoroughly modern update of the classic and quintessential trench, in a shimmering oil-slick of patent black.

It is with a giddier impatience than ever that I look forward to November, for the grand unveiling of the stratospherically exciting Lanvin collection for H & M.  Here’s hoping for drama and theatrics, velvet and luxe satins, exquisite, deep-throated jewel tones and gorgeous embellishment courtesy of the great Alber Elbaz.  Just keep it as far removed as possible from the current Uniqlo collection, and I’ll be over the moon…

Oh Brother!

Many happy returns to my big brother Marley (quirkily named so after the iconic and nattily hirsute reggae legend Bob).

As a child, I hero-worshipped him as a grandiose, Titan deity of ancient strength and infinite wisdom. Inclined to Puckish mischief, he would often appear grass-stained and mud-splotched (the proud ichor of boyhood).

At the rickety old age of twenty four today, his most bold and heroic feats are of course behind him. But he’s still worthy of a faint tribute from a former slave.