World of wonder at the Wallace

Good day to you my art enthused aficionados,

This past week after a colleagues recommendation, I went to check out the Manolo Blahnik exhibition at the Wallace Collection. Considering I have lived in London my whole life, I had never heard of this museum and all I can say is, wow what a treasure.

(Image courtesy of google images)

As I’m sure you can tell from my earlier posts, I LOVE accessories. The simple art of putting on a statement pair of earrings or a tailored blazer can transform an outfit, however I find shoes can be the most versatile. Block heel black ankle boots can be worn with a pencil dress for work, tucked under slim fit trousers with an oversized jumper for weekend brunches with your friends or with bare legs and a fitted skirt for weekend dinner dates. Talk about worth per wear 😊

Manolo Blahnik, born in the Canary Islands is an household name in this department, made even more infamous as the shoe go to for Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. She really brought these works of art to the forefront of fashion and I have admired the designer for many years. If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing of him, there is a great documentary on Netflix called the Boy who made shoes for Lizards – really worth a watch.

When I heard he was showing a limited collection from his archives at the Wallace I knew I had to check it out. The building nestled in the heart of West London is so inviting and as soon as I walked in and was faced with the sweeping split staircase leading to the upper floor, dressed in intricate red tapestry carpet, I knew I would love this place.

I walked through the rooms drinking in the immense variety of statues, jewellery and coats of armour – it really leaves you reeling. To think that this was once their family home, lived in with formal reception rooms and grand ballrooms, it was so quintessentially British. After perusing the ground floor and learning all about artefacts from around the world, we stopped to grab a coffee in the atrium. With the winter sun streaming through the glass ceiling, the excitement about seeing Blahnik’s works of art inspired by this collection mounted.

As we ascended the grand staircase, we were immediately met with the Trellis shoes encased in glass, as if good enough to eat. Moving through the various rooms I loved how the shoes were displayed beneath portraits of women from the 16th/17th century in voluminous dresses with just a peek of intricate shoes peeping out from the hem – Manolo’s shoes could easily have been from the same period.

In the study there was a writing desk which would not have looked out of place in the palace of Versailles and it was so interesting to see how fashion has evolved so much as the centuries have progressed. It’s incredible to think that pale skin and English Rose delicate features were revered, which seems such a far cry from the sun kissed, bronzed aesthetic that we aspire to in our European summers now.

One of the rooms which had long sky lights gracing the ceiling and huge portraits lining the walls literally took your breath away at the scale of it. I also felt a strange sense of deja vu as soon as I entered it and soon realised it’s because it housed Dante’s inferno, which was the key plot point of Dan Brown’s novel Inferno.

The painstaking process of the embellishment, fresh water pearls, beading or use of luxurious leathers or suedes made the shoes seem to hold their own amongst the splendour of this collection, they complemented each other perfectly and I feel so privileged to have seen Manolo’s masterpieces before the collection moves on to another city this week. I feel positively invigorated to pick up my pencil and sketch book myself.

Until next time,take care

Keya x

Fast fashion – the True Cost.

Good afternoon to you my fashionista friends,

A short while ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called “The True Cost” (an absolute must watch if you are as fashion conscious as I am) and it had such a profound effect on me. I knew immediately it was something I needed to research in more detail and share with my readers. Therefore, this month we delve into the world of Fast Fashion.

(All images courtesy of google images)

I was in tears by the end of the documentary as it goes into great detail about the working conditions in textile factories in some of the most poverty stricken, third world countries in the world. Mothers can be seen bent crookedly over their sewing machines whilst their newborn babies are swaddled in a blanket at their feet, whilst others earn so little money each month they have to send their children to live with relatives in distant villages because they cannot afford to provide basic human needs for their families.

It really puts a spot light on the influence of how Fashion has evolved so dramatically even in my lifetime. The demand for ready to wear collections; seen one day on the catwalk and then available in stores the very next is now the norm – but at what cost?

I was absolutely appalled to see how in some remote regions in India, because of the harsh chemicals used to dye leathers and suedes, the local rivers which provide drinking water to its inhabitants are now heavily polluted. These areas do not have access to bottled drinking water like we in the western world take for granted, so they risk severe illness and even death by consuming it.

Or when textile workers complained to their senior management about unsafe working conditions in a factory in Dhaka which was ignored, Rana Plaza came crashing down to a pile of rubble in May 2013, killing over a thousand people albeit barely making international news channels. These companies are under such pressure to produce garments as cheap as possible, with the notion of if they refuse, the fashion houses will just find another factory to fabricate their collection even cheaper.

It really puts me into such a conundrum. I, like everyone I know will shop in high street chain stores where you know you will be getting basic items at minimal prices because frankly we all love a bargain. That feeling of buying a dress which was originally £50 but only amounted to £19.99 when you go to the checkout counter is an instant endorphin boost. I wholeheartedly admit that with the world of social media and digital technology, the ideology of being able to wear a new outfit every time you socialise with your friends is highly coveted but not sustainable at all. What with rising costs of living, bills and supporting families – many of us do not have anything extra from our salaries to purchase frivolous clothing.

I also believe however, that spending a bit more on classic, well made items ensure they really do stand the test of time. A wonderful example of this is a well worn Burberry trench coat is now one of my prized possessions after it was handed down to me by my mum. It comes out in the Spring every year and must be at least 20 years old but utterly timeless in my opinion.

I guess my passion for Fashion has predominantly come from seeing masters like Manolo Blahnik lovingly going to his factory in Italy every few months where he insists on making the sample shoe of each style himself, teaching his staff the skills and quality he brings to his brand. And Dries Van Noten ensuring all of his textile factory staff are taught how to sew couture gowns and intricate sequin work by hand as he wants his legacy of dress making to continue long after his reign in the industry has surpassed. When you learn that a standard Michael Kors bag can be made in 20 minutes whereas a Hermes Birkin can take easily 24 hours as it’s all hand made – you can fully understand how the costs can vary so dramatically.

Personally I have learned that I as one person will never be able to change the world myself by refusing to wear animal products or only choosing to buy clothing from high end designers perhaps once a year instead of for that special occasion you would like to look your best for, but by consciously thinking about where the item was made and if you really need it instead of merely wanting it – day by day you can make a difference to your own life and your loved ones around you. I believe one small act of kindness or compassion achieved by us all, will collectively make a lasting impression in the world for our future generations.

Until next time,

Keya x