Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Little Black Dresses - Sketches

This weeks design focus has been all about sexy hot Italian nights anticipating the Summer to come. Films like Fellini's 8 1/2 and the remake Nine have inspired along with the muse Claudia Cardinale and this years stunning Oscar win The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino .

It's a style that is sophisticated yet passionate and fiery with just that added touch of vivacious glamour. The dresses are a little looser letting the body underneath peep through as if the dress has been quickly thrown on in the interruption of an afternoon rendezvous.

The fabrics are opulent heavy corded laces, printed black florals, an ornate toile de jouy cotton and bold dots on linen.

The dresses will be arriving in the shop this week.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Claudia Cardinale - Beauty on Film

Claudia Cardinale Publicity Shot 

This weeks inspiration is the glorious Claudia Cardinale. Her vivacious looks and sizzling attitude on film makes her one of our favourite actresses of all time.

A rival to the great Marylin and contender to Ms. Gardner, Claudia Cardinale bought pure womanly power to the Fellini and Leone films capturing the audience with her heart pounding beauty. But beauty isn't all Cardinale conveys on screen, she brings a mystery and sense of demure control in her roles never allowing herself to be objectified, just admired.

"I never felt scandal and confession were necessary to be an actress. I've never revealed my self or even my body in films. Mystery is very important." Claudia Cardinale A Tribute to Claudia Cardinale

Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Sergio Leone, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards on set of Once Upon a Time in the West

The best (in our opinion) of her films are the greats, Once Upon a Time in the West with that black cotton dress gradually revealing a magnificent neckline throughout the story. This wondrous garment inspired our latest little black organic dress that has ever changeable necklines revealing as much or as little as you would like.

In a draped wrap dress in The Professionals

The Professionals as a damsel that doesn't need rescuing in a loosely tied wrap dress that eludes wildness.
With Burt Lancaster in Visconti's Sicilian epic The Leopard.

The Leopard as a captivating daughter in law steels the screen from Burt Lancaster in fabulous crinolined dresses and sweeping off the shoulder necklines.

And Fellini's 8 1/2 where she plays the stunning Claudia, a true star and lady.

Still working today as one of the hardest working women in film, hers are some of the greatest in film history.

Its Cardinales Sicilian spirit that is most inspiring, when designing we imagined the dresses being worn in a hot Italian city by a free spirited woman with a beautiful power.

Further watching ...........

Once Upon a Time in the West - Dir. Sergio Leone 1968
The Professionals - Dir. Richard Brooks 1966
8 1/2 - Dir. Frederico Fellini 1963
The Leopard - Dir.Luchino Visconti 1963
Claudia Cardinale's IMDB

A Tribute to Claudia Cardinale

Monday, 10 March 2014

Goddess Dresses - How to Wear One Shoulder

one shouldered prom dress
Our latest asymmetric cocktail dresses

It started with the goddesses and was last seen on the red carpet at the Oscars 2014. The one shouldered asymmetric neckline dates back to Ancient Greece and Ancient India in the form of Chiton's and Sari's.

The Romans then took on the draped design for their togas which would be held at the shoulder with a clasp and cinched at the waist in various styles.  Not until the 20th century did designers return to the classics starting with Poiret and Worth's softened silhouettes and inspiring the queens of drape, Vionnet and Gres in the 1930s.
Halston took on the design in the 70's turning the asymmetric into a chic disco classic.

The asymmetric neckline can be one of the most elegant cuts to wear with the sweeping of the cloth up to one shoulder leading to the face. Jewellery should be kept to a minimum, drop earrings to continue the line, a bare neckline and bangles at the wrist finish. If you want to maintain a goddess like grace keep hem lengths to below the knee unless it's a toga party with lots of drape.

Roman Copies of Ancient Greek bronzes with draped Chitons

Marion Bender A Dancer from the Ziegfeld Theatre 1920s in lace asymmetric.

Fortuny, Balenciaga and Halston asymmetric designs from the 20th Century

Madame Gres draped silk jersey gown

Asymmetric designs on the red carpet 2014. Amy Adams in Carolina Herrera draped gown, Lupita Nyong'o in a modern Stella McCartney nude body con dress and Suki Waterhouse in a soft tulle Marchesa gown. 
Further reading

The Met Museum - The Chiton, Peplos and Himation in modern dress Harold Koda

The Met Museum - Classical Art and Modern Dress Harold Koda

The Met Museum - Contemporary Deconstructions of Classic Dress Harold Koda

Saturday, 8 March 2014

International Womens Day - 8 Most Important Women of the Twenties

For International Women's Day we celebrate eight of our our favourite women of the 1920's (around the time we gained the vote and a little more equality) who were fearless and fabulous. Nearly 100 years on we have no excuses not to be incredible!

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel - The independent woman who was and still is the most iconic fashion designer of all time. This lady started with nothing and built the super brand that is Chanel today, working every day until her death in 1971. It was she who created the perfume we all wear, the little black dress, the pearl necklaces and gave us freedom in clothing.

Amelia Earhart - The first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean, The first woman to fly across the Atlantic and editor of Aviation at Cosmopolitan magazine. In her in case of death letter she wrote "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards, I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others" Amelia went missing whilst attempting her first round the world flight.

Josephine Baker - the first African American women on film and the most famous woman of the 1920s. She refused to perform in front of segregated audiences and fought racism in America.
May 20th is Josephine Baker day in honour of her civil rights work. She was a humanitarian, red cross nurse during WW11, a fabulous entertainer and died just a few days after her last performance.

Greta Garbo - the woman who had the strength to walk away. The most famous actress in Hollywood, the highest paid actor at MGM and shunned the Oscars even when nominated. At the perfect time Greta turned on her heel and walked away from it all leaving her status in the world legendary to this day. Hers is a lesson in 'anti' fame and the power of mystery.

Dianna Vreeland - The fabulous Dianna Vreeland. Inspirational, enthusiastic and imaginative fashion editor of Harper Bazaar whom we could say made the golden age of magazines.
In the 1920s she owned a lingerie boutique in London and sold Wallis Simpson the nightgown that bought down the crown. Harper Bazaar
Later she became curator at the Met Museum promoting fashion as an art form in sumptuous exhibitions that aroused all the senses putting fashion design on the highest of pedestals. A wonderful, wonderful woman who transcended age and beauty to inspire and encourage designers and creatives to this day.

Ida B.Wells - Born a slave Ida B.Wells was an African American women's rights campaigner, civil rights activist and investigative journalist. In 1884 Ida refused to give up her seat in a segregated railroad car 71 years before Rosa Parks and went on to sue the company. She wrote and lectured around the world on lynchings after her friends were murdered in Memphis and was the first black woman to write for a mainstream newspaper. She helped all women gain the vote in the UK and USA.

Alice Guy - unsung first female film director with 427 film credits between 1896 and 1920 (imdb). Alice was the first and only woman to this date to own and manage her film studio, The Solax Company. Sadly she was forgotten and following a divorce never made a film again. This lady seriously needs some recognition and her films reviving.

Eleanor Roosevelt - Outspoken First lady and wife of president Franklin D Roosevelt. Eleanor used her position to campaign for human rights and humanitarian work. She oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was appointed chairwoman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women under Kennedy. A vocal supporter of the civil rights movement inviting hundreds of African Americans to the White House against protocol at the time. She spoke out against Anti Japanese prejudice after Pearl Harbour and was named one of the most esteemed women in the world by the New York Times. A highly inspirational woman.

There are so many more people who could have been added to this list but we think this is a good and glamorous start. Please do read more about each one of them as they had incredibly interesting lives.

Reading List:

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the life by Justine Picardie 
Amelia Earhart The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell
Josephine Baker - Josephine: The Dazzling Life of by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson
Garbo - The Divine Garbo by Frederick Sands and  Sven Broman
Diana Vreeland by Eleanor Dwight Mary S. Lovell
Ida B Wells - Crusade for Justice by Ida B Wells
Alice Guy Blache - Whitney Museum of American Art 
Eleanor Roosevelt - You learn by Living 11 Keys for a more Fulfilling life

Friday, 7 March 2014

Silk Sari Dresses

Diaghilev Inspired Ballet Dress

Two new arrivals today in the form of these beautifully printed sari dresses.

The Sari's were sourced by a wonderful family friend on a trip to Bangalore and are hand printed with decorative paisley and floral wooden blocks. The silk is very crisp and light as a feather. I adore the way the ink really saturates in the red.

Keeping to the basics of the sari the skirts are hand pleated and very full with a classic one shoulder drape design. I imagined these being worn to Summer parties with just a pair of flip flops (nice ones!) and hair in messy ballet buns. There is a definite feeling of the Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in the romantic Eastern prints and full ballet skirts.

Titled Serge and Pavlov they are available as one of a kind dresses in the shop now.

Eastern ballet russe style dress

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Black Lace Classical Cocktail dress

We tend to take the little black dress for granted. It's reliable, gorgeous and always pretty much perfect but doesn't always push you as a designer. It may be why we haven't had so many reaching the shop recently or maybe we keep adding them to our wardrobes before they get there.

The 'Vasla' (a reference to the Diaghilev group) little black dress was designed with the corded lace in mind. Layered over a soft bronze nude satin it evoked the 1950s dresses we coveted and combined with a thick black tulle hem has flourished as a prom dress. The asymmetric neckline was hand draped over the fitted sweetheart bodice and finished with long satin ties to position the shoulder.

We suggest styling with black lace courts, a jet bracelet or cuff and jet dropped earrings allowing the sweep of the asymmetric neckline bring the eye to the face. Hair up in a soft ballet style bun.

We're glad to say this little black dress made it to the shop, in all it's classical cocktail beauty.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A Chartreuse Green Silk Dress

Introducing a new cocktail gown in the electrifying colour of Chartreuse. Named after a naturally acid green French liquer, this dress is just as demure. 
Featuring a sculpted bow on the shoulder embellished with a contrasting scarlet beadwork and tethered to one shoulder in a classical 1950s sweep. I wanted this dress to have a strong lone so after cinching the waist with scarlet velvet the skirt was to reflect a certain weight and sharpness. This was achieved with a luxurious red satin lining and deep draped pleats. 

The colour really is delicious and crisp as an apple laced with Chartreuse. The dress is available in the shop as a one of a kind piece from today. 

Glitter Clutch Bags Made in Britain

Meet Crawford, Davis and Dietrich the latest addition to the accessories line in the form of glittering clutch bags. We believe that if you're going to carry a bag, make it a special one.

Our new clutches are hand crafted here in Somerset at the atelier. The coarse, densely packed glitter crusted fabric is made here in Britain and cut in the workshop along with the leather hide interlining. Meanwhile the colourful silk is quilted on the sewing machine and the internal pockets are added.
The whole bag is then hand stitched together using waxed cottons and threads for extra strength. Finally the edges are blanket stitched to finish, the bow is placed and fixed and the fine metal chain attached ready to swing.

Each of our bags are one of a kind pieces that are made throughout the year.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Oscars 2014 - The Best of the Rest

As Lupita Nyong'o was really a stand out beauty at the Oscars this year and worthy of an article all of her own, here are the rest of the dresses and style that we think looked gorgeous. Just not as gorgeous as Lupita.

Kate Hudson wore not one but two incredible gowns last night. This first glistening stain caped bias cut gown by Atelier Versace and the embellished black and nude sheer gown by Zuhair Murad. A simple and elegant use of jewelry that doesn't detract from the gowns. Kate we'd love to see you do a Mcconaughey and bag an Oscar!

Talking of the man, here is the winning Matthew McConaughey. No one deserved this Oscar more after the work put in to changing his career around and delighting us all with his talent. If he hadn't won for Dallas Buyers, he should have for Wolf of Wall Street, and then Mud, The Paper Boy,  Killer Joe. Thank you, Thank you Matthew for being so much more than a torso.

Beautiful wife Camila Alves looked a picture of elegance in her palest pink Gabriela Cadena gown. The draping is to die for along with the perfectly matched clutch. No diamonds needed.

Talking of cool couples, Helen Lasichanh and husband Pharrell Williams in suits, just adorable and I think just edge it on the Pitts. I love the shorts and I love Helen's style. This is somewhat reassuring after the 'blurred lines' nonsense that the woman of Pharrells affections is fully dressed with a lot of intelligence and confidence in her style.

Naomi Harris looking sleek in her Naeem Khan deep red opulently embroidered gown. Once again no necklaces a just an elegant bracelet and drop earrings. I love the subtlety of this dress, its incredible detail does all the talking.

The always gorgeous Zooey Deschanel in a printed silk chiffon Oscar De La Renta gown. Delicately feminine ruffles and polka dots contrasting with those thick glossy locks is the perfect contrast and its not taking it too seriously. Just one thing, take the bag off the shoulder and hold it in the hand. It's a personal gripe but bags on shoulders look like office girls on a night out.

Another beautiful Oscar De La Renta gown in stringed silver flapper beads worn by Jennifer Garner. Just a splash of red lipstick would have finished this look perfectly and I hope there was lots of twirling.

Finally a member of Hollywood Royalty, Julia Roberts. I just adore this dress by Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy Couture in crisp black lace. The lapels, the sheer modesty (which may not have been needed) and that peplum! What a divine silhouette.

There were so many more I could have added, Cate Blanchette also deserves a study all of her own and we do love Jennifer Lawrence too. The Oscars always provides so much inspiration. It's a dream parade of the talented and beautiful and combined with the films they have worked so hard on, its a pool of fantasies to dip into for the year to come. Thank you to all of those wonderful designers, actors and film makers for this.

Images from

Oscars 2014 best dressed - Lupita Nyong'o

The Oscars, oh the Oscars, my very favourite event. Mixing fashion and film couldn't get more gorgeous than the famous red carpet awards in their 86th year. I'm hoping by the 100th year one of my gowns will be there.

There were a few shockers, this was mainly due to waistline positioning or big fake boobs getting in the way and there was a huge amount of navy playing it very, very, very safe.

However, this year featured the single most beautiful dress and wearer of all Oscar time (in my personal opinion this trumps Audrey Hepburn). The breathtaking Lupita Nyong'o in the luminescent pale blue pleated gown by Prada literally 'blue' the red carpet away.
Congratulations to Lupita for her equally striking performance in 12 years a Slave, an Oscar well deserved.

The dress in a silk georgette with subtle sparkles is quickly being named Nairobi blue a Lupita said it reminded her of the Kenyan city.
Stunning with modest use of the all important diamonds simply worn as an alice band, bracelet and earrings. No fussing the neckline or taking away from Lupita's beauty.

Lupita has been consistently the best dressed throughout the awards season. The red Ralph Lauren cape dress, the kelly green strapless Dior gown and the brilliant Miu Miu custom dress for the Vanity Fair after party. Here's the best of Lupita's red carpet style.

Miu Miu bespoke beaded gown for the Vanity Fair Oscars after party.

Kelly green silk gown by Dior Couture for the BAFTAS 

White Lanvin silk dress for the Gotham Independent Film Awards.

Red Ralph Lauren caped gown for the Golden Globes

Our Oscar for the best stylist would definitely go to: Micaela Erlanger

Further reading and watching :
Lupita Nyong'o's Oscars Glam Squad by Stephanie Chan Hollywood Reporter
12 years a slave - Toronto film festival first look review by Paul MacInnes The Guardian 
Vanity Fair Oscar Party 2014 Vanity Fair
The Oscars
12 Years A Slave imdb
Vogue Oscar Gallery Vogue
How Alek Wek Made Lupita Love Herself by Lauren Milligan Vogue