Haidee Findlay-Levin makes a surprise stop in London...
I arrived toward the end of London Fashion Week with no plans of being here for the occasion. Hint Blog readers will know of my longstanding visa woes, and so a summons by U.S. immigration to attend my green card interview in London on the 19th of February—my birthday—was an event not to be missed. It was an invitation harder to get than any Fashion Week show, in fact one that transcends fashion altogether and was almost four years in the making. I was informed to arrive four days in advance, not for some welcoming cocktail party or a dinner to apologize for the long wait, but in time to attend a medical exam, after which an assortment of vaccinations would be all I could expect to find in a goody bag.
I left New York during a blizzard that resulted in a three-hour delay at the airport—not something one wants to add to a red-eye flight. A few more hours on the tarmac meant I would get into London dangerously late for my appointment with the embassy-designated doctors. I literally had three minutes to drop off my bags and change into serious attire. I chose a baggy pantsuit, which I hoped would give me an air of, well, suitability to own a green card. It was almost balmy in London. In the eight years I lived here, I don’t remember too many days like this, so much so it was making me nostalgic. I fantasized about throwing in the towel, refusing the green card and moving straight back here.
Once I was done with the tests and vaccinations, I pulled myself together and rushed eastward to Gareth Pugh's show. It was running almost as fashionably late as my American Airlines flight, but I made it in time, so I wasn’t complaining. In addition to every London club kid and club kid wannabe, I saw my New York next-door neighbor, artist Terence Koh, and his entourage of pretty young boys, a host of international fashion-show regulars and Michele Lamy, wife and muse of Rick Owens, both ardent Gareth supporters.
The show was not entirely surprising, and a very visible continuation of his previous collections. That said, I had to admire the craftsmanship: origami-like patent leather dresses and coats, plus some garments constructed entirely out of industrial zippers, creating a samurai effect. A couple of pieces were made completely from safety pins, and although neither concept is new, Gareth managed to make it his own. Remember Junya Watanabe's beautiful spring collection full of mostly gold zippers? And we all know the safety pin extends further back than Versace and Elizabeth Hurley. I was, however, mesmerized by the emerald green Swarovski-crystal tights on model Anouck Lepère's fantastic legs, only to be told by Seven's Joseph Quartana that they would retail at more than $6000. And that was just for the stockings, not the fantastic legs. At that, I turned my attention to the gravity-defying shoes that the girls wore down the seemingly endless warehouse runway, strutting to the sounds of original glam-rocker Gary Glitter (now locked away in prison—no, not by the fashion police, but for his bad behavior with young boys).
The audience was filled with heavily made-up faces—and it wasn’t the girls I'm referring to. Boys with pan-stick and raccoon eyes might just signal London's move from New Rave to Goth. Please, not so soon! While Gareth’s clothes were entirely black (except for the silver of pins and zippers), the model's faces were white with blue-shaded eyes and lips. The show make-up, by the fantastically talented Alex Box, must have sent those boys running to the powder room for a touch-up.
Only a few weeks ago I was in London to work with Alex and Eugene Souleman (one of London’s finest hair stylists) on a couple shoots for i-D, Showstudio and MUSE. Alex turned out the make-up, shot after shot, each face its own new canvas. One of my favorites was a girl with duck-egg blue hair, a completely blue face and a blue and pink floral Dries Van Noten dress. A modern “Blue Lady” like that of the master of kitsch, painter Vladimir Tretchikoff. I guess its effect was still resonating with Alex by the time of Gareth's collection.
I left the show with Anouck and her boyfriend Jefferson Hack, editor-in-chief of Another, to celebrate her 29th birthday. After a brief detour home for a remarkably quick make-up and costume change (into a fantastic peekaboo vintage velvet dress), we set off for an opulent private club in the West End where Jefferson planned a dinner party for Anouck and some of her friends. Though apparently only organized the day before, it was wonderfully decadent, especially considering it fell between a bunch of Fashion Week parties and the famous “tea party” he was hosting the next day. Jefferson is a wonderful host, who managed to take special care of Anouck while still making the rounds to each of his guests.
As the birthday evening rolled into Valentine's Day, the party moved to Sophisticats, a misleading name for a stripper bar where even pasties and G-strings seemed excessive. Besides the obvious things one observes when presented with a lap dance, I couldn’t help but notice how flexible the girls were and completely comfortable in their own skin. I vowed to return to my regime of yoga and pilates when this endless traveling was over, but I won't be trading in my YSL platforms for those plexi-heel stripper shoes anytime soon.
Labels: Anouck Lepère, Gareth Pugh, Haidee Findlay-Levin, Jefferson Hack, London Fashion Week, Michele Lamy, Rick Owens, Terence Koh