Edita reports | Alexa Chung’s It paperback launch and chat

Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 3Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 2Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 1Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launchEdita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 4Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 5

“Do not leave until they kick you out. The later it gets, the better it gets.”
Alexa Chung – It*
To know a person doesn’t actually mean to know trivial or biographical facts about them, it is to observe how they make you feel when they enter the room. That’s what I have been keen to see during the It paperback book launch with Alexa Chung.

When Alexa and Alexandra Shulman of British Vogue entered the lecture theatre, suddenly the grande, historical interior transformed into a cosy living room. I got so comfortable, I almost found myself resting my feet on the head of the gentleman in front of me (it’s not that you have a comfy-looking head, sir, it’s just that I started feeling extremely relaxed. Forgive me?). I was moments away from asking my boyfriend to pass me the beer, only to snap out of it and realise that it was the V&A lecture hall I was at and it wasn’t a onesie I was wearing, but vintage Dior. My boyfriend wasn’t there either, I was sitting next to a lovely girl who probably ended up thinking I was some sort of weirdo. Oh well.

That’s how Alexa Chung made me feel.

Cool and collected, in a stunning dusty pink Emilia Wickstead (I wanted to match my book) and “knuhhag bropfffeeeee something” shoes, Alexa spoke about her life in the spotlight and what happens when the lights dim.

It – is it it or is it not?

I love a good coffee table book. It is one of those. The format is not traditional and is purposely inconsistent. Think of it as Alexa’s blog, only printed. Imagine every topic as a separate blog post covering topics that are dear to Alexa’s heart, from grandpa Kwan’s extremely cool style to tweeting about coffee spills and everything in between.

There is a number of ways you can read the book. You can read it cover to cover, you can flick through the pages, you can skim through the copy, hell, you can make a number up, open that page and read it – you will get your time’s worth. The beautiful part is that this format allows you to dip in and out whenever you like – there are no strings attached. It is you literary friend with benefits which is there for you when you need it.

Alexa’s writing style is synonymous to her personality. If she thinks it, she will say it, and then publish it too. Expect pearls like: “I am obsessed with moisturising. I am also obsessed with cigarettes – so I I like to think that the two balance each other out” or “I have started putting nail varnishes in the fridge to keep them nice but now there’s nowhere to put the butter”. About the latter, I do that too by the way, it works.

In a nutshell, It is a collection of personal memories and anecdotes that make the author and the reader connect. While reading is a passive activity generally speaking, It leaves an impression of a dialogue between the author and the reader, just like blogs do. You will be left feeling as if you just went for a nice cold pint with Ms Chung. Maybe asked her for a lighter too once you stepped into the pub garden.

Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 6

Alexa on hair

Boys say they don’t mind how you get your hair done. But then they leave you for someone with really great standard girl hair and the next thing you know you’re alone with a masculine crop crying into your granola.
I like the fact It has a lot of hairspiration. I like the fact that there is a lot of emphasis on the fact that it is ok to be confused about what hair style suits you. I still have no idea what hair cut could be my signature one. I think I never will. And that’s ok. I am not alone.

While most of us shiver at the thought that our hair isn’t perfect for a really important occasion. Meanwhile Alexa confessed that she prays to go out of the salon with her signature messy sexy do. She told us that often her hair will have an overly good day and that in Chungland this simply won’t do, for Alexa is famous for her perfect imperfection. It was refreshing to find out that she’s like all of us: thanking the hair stylist politely, and then going home and redoing it. Sound familiar?

Alexa on social media

“Social networking in an ironic name for something that has little to do with connecting us with others and everything to do with self-promotion.”
Alexa’s is a very straightforward, down-to-earth approach to Twitter, Instagram among other social platforms. She revealed that a few hate-messages made her hide her Instagram account from the public’s eye. Thoughtless dialogue, hate for the sake of hate, compliments for the sake of compliments can make the social sphere the loneliest place online. I guess one can feel lonely both within real and virtual crowds.

Alexa on fashion

“Looking effortless takes a lot of effort.”
Alexa’s fashion icons are as cool as her fashion sense. First up, we’ve got Wednesday Addams, we also have the Spice Girls, followed closely by Winona Ryder during her Heathers day, and lest we forget Grandpa Kwan and – as Alexa reminisced – two particularly stylish school teachers. One of my favourite references is Eddie Sedgwick, as I too, have a particularly warm spot for her. I remember myself thinking one time… Why is it that all of my icons are either dead or fictional? While Alexa’s are not like mine, she does reference the living, you can definitely see her sentiments shine through her style. The collection of her memories, her love of clothes, her influencers as seen through her eyes is what makes Ms Chung a modern icon and muse to many.

I decided to open the Q&A session and ask Alexa what her pet peeve was. She laughed and said she didn’t know she had one until the day before – when she saw those sporty socks/shoes with toes things. She thought these were horrid. Are they a thing? she asked me back. I hope not, I replied without a microphone and yet I am sure the whole of V&A heard me.

According to Andy Warhol, fame lasts fifteen minutes. He is right. Alexa’s fifteen minutes are up as her fame morphed into legend.

Tag, she’s it.
Edita at Alexa Chung It paperback launch 7

*All of Alexa’s quotes cited in this piece are either from the book or from the event.

Fashion Book Club: Eva Perón. The Woman with the Whip

Eva Peron Style Board

Eva Perón is definitely an icon of something. Perhaps an icon of a woman who came from nothing and left life having everything. Reading up on her online, I have never seen such black and such white – Argentinians either love her or absolutely despise her. This is exactly what has led me to read her biography, so beautifully, and may I add severely critically, sculpted by Mary Main.

What a political bio review is doing on a fashion blog? Let me elaborate by quoting a very wise person who was kind enough to share a certain truth with me: “I believe“, he said, “that men can write only for men while women can write for both genders.” While the feminist within me was raising her eye brow saying “duh“, the realist thought baloney, everyone can write for everyone. On this occasion the feminist side of me, along with this very wise man, were right. THIS book could have only been written by a woman; as political and allegedly sadistic maneuvers of Eva Perón were described with a typical masculine emotionless distancing from the situation, which gave way to the revealing of even the most brutal details, for instance the fate of a student called Bravo, while the feminine attention to luxurious clothing and details simply coloured the black and white pictures of Evita. That is the reason this biography is reviewed for pret-a-reporter.

I referred to Evita as an icon of something. I could have said she was a style icon, seeing as she wore the most expensive and fashionable clothes in the world in her time. But giving her such a title would probably leave a bad taste in a lot of readers’ mouths very similar to US Vogue’s Asma al-Assad: Rose of the Dessert fiasco. You will have to forgive me for the fact that I will speak about her style but that does not mean the pretty surface will be seen in this review as an eraser to all the ugly that was within Evita, the hero and the villain.

Eva came from a poor family. She had little education, and in fact she had little interest in education. Instead of smarts she chose wits, one of them being manipulating others in order to get what she wanted solely by making use of her arguably greatest asset, her gender. As unorthodox as this may sound, I have respect for that. It takes a tremendous amount of drive, ambition and energy to get where she got in such a limited time frame as, lest we forget, she died at 33.

As many who come from rags to riches, she made sure her attire alone was worth a standing ovation, not to mention her emotional and painfully repetitive speeches. When she was addressing her “beloved shirtless ones” (a term she used which referred to her followers, the working class and people with low income) her lyrical speeches were almost hypnotic because of the never-ending repetition. The evidence of this shameless hypnosis, in this writer’s opinion, is a printed image of her resembling Virgin Mary. One probably can not get closer to God than that in this world.

The author of the biography explained the reason behind her lavish wardrobe and lifestyle really well. Here are some pieces of the puzzle: She had no female friends, she would not be photographed with females, she would give out toys to children which they could look at but could not play, she built strange and luxurious Ciudades de Infantes  (City of Children) where kids would allegedly appear for show rather than really make use of the Señora’s humble generosity. Speaking of being humble, she referred to herself as “the most humble of the shirtless ones” or “a simple Argentinian woman” while donning the latest couture that she didn’t even pay for (or paid just half of the expenses), saying that the designer should have been happy that SHE decided to don his or hers creations. That led an array of fashion houses into bankruptcy, and others who demanded she paid up saw their shops shut down. The paradox was that she was just afraid to show weakness and worked on the notion that she was above competition. Mary Main compared her to a “little girl who had to have the best toys and dresses and would not share these with the rest of the playground.” An observation which I would sign my name under.

The book concentrated a lot on the gems that she wore – not a piece of costume jewellery in sight. Everything had to be encrusted in rubies and diamonds for the “most humble of the shirtless ones“, Evita. Unlike Kate Middleton or Queen Elizabeth, she’d never repeat an outfit – in fact on her visit to Spain (under Franco’s rule at the time), she would change outfits more that thrice a day, for galas, meetings and outings.

As a simple Argentinian woman, Evita stole hearts of many – she had a fanatical following and gave women the right to vote. But what’s not always mentioned is that she gave women the right to vote for her. This is why the “most humble of the shirtless ones” in the eyes of the world has become either a saint and deity, far beyond a mere style icon, or the reincarnation of Lilith – a demon who manipulated men, stole and shamelessly flaunted latest fashions, the money for which arguably came from the poor people that Evita loved so much. Maybe that’s why she loved them so?

Positives: A very well written biography which takes you right into the heart of 40s-50s Argentina and lets you not only  sit besides one of the world’s most influential women but also enter her mind amid the repetitive speeches and emotional declarations of selflessness.

Negatives: This is a strongly-worded anti-Peronista book which does not portray Eva in positive lights at all. Not that it’s total anti-Perón propaganda, but chances are that it will make you think less of her. It might be a good idea to read something in favour of Evita and only then draw conclusions about her.

Recommend? Yes. It’s a ride, a deep and exceptionally well written ride. For a book with almost zero dialogue, it reads lightning-quickly and doesn’t spare any detail – be it rumoured political murder cover-ups or descriptions of gala gowns and silk chemises.

Eva Peron style

Last time pret-a-reporter read Fashion Babylon.

Fashion Book Club: Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones

Fashion Babylon

Sometime ago, a co-worker of mine came up to me and said: “You can’t like fashion and not have read this”. Afterwards, she slapped the book on my desk.

So, we decided to do a book exchange. She handed me Fashion Babylon, I gave her Tabloid Girl by Sharon Marshall, and before I start my review, I’d like to say that both books were in the same league as they were full of clichés, but perhaps in retrospect, Tabloid Girl was funnier.

The ugly truth about fashion…

… which you most probably know already. The dirt here, while interesting, will not really be new to you if you are a keen fashion follower. Designers putting high street shirts on their catwalks last minute, models on laxatives and a 100 cigarette per day diet… Well, maybe I did not know that the aforementioned diet also included a pack of Haribo a month. It’s fair to say that while I was aware of a great deal of these “true stories”, they were weaved into the book wonderfully. I enjoyed every bit of the gossip and the humour.

The main character…

… is a designer of an emerging small label. The book starts right after the brand’s show during London Fashion Week, which was open to the style press’ scrutiny and slaughter. I found her feelings similar to those of Isaac Mizrahi’s in a documentary about his job as a designer, Uzipped (1995). Whilst the main character is fictional (or so the author says) I can’t stop wondering who it is based on. I really want to know. Really.

Coke…

… snort here, snort there. Not to snort before 4PM here, to snort at 11AM there. In a nutshell, there’s a lot of snorting going on in the fashion world.

Goddamn designers don’t make clothes in my size…

… and this book explains why. While I will not expose the particular logic behind this, I can tell you that the reason why you will probably not find a default size 18 Chanel dress is much more banal than you think. Just so you know, it’s not because curvaceous figures aren’t welcome in the fashion world. On the contrary, the buyer is always right and as long as he or she has money to have sucked out of her, she will get even a size 60 made especially for her or him.

Those models look like humanoids…

… for a reason. Fashion Babylon will also educate you as to why you don’t remember any models’ faces these days, unlike the age of the supermodel, when Naomi, Linda, Eva and Kate ruled the fashion scene. If you really want to nail the model look and be at your thinnest, you will know how the catwalk queens do it. The author will not spare you the details of how Eastern European girls achieve the level of skinny which is celebrated in style magazines. Only you might not celebrate it.

The designer price tag…

… is not affordable for the mere mortal. Truth to be told, some designers themselves wouldn’t be able to buy the clothes they make. However, in this book you will find exactly why a cashmere sweater by super-awesome-brand-which-I-want-to-wear-right-now costs as much as it does. You’ll be able to judge for yourself if you still want it. To be fair, you probably will, because Sienna Miller wore it.

Celebrity’s designer gear…

… is free to them. Well, not always but often. In fact, some brands pay celebs to parade their pieces – I won’t tell how much and who, but you are probably have a couple of ideas. Yes, it is stupid that fashionistas who would sell their souls to the devil to carry an IT bag can’t afford it, and celebs who quite franky don’t give a rat’s ass about fashion are fed these stylish gems, which they are likely to pass on to their mums, sisters, friends or just dump in the trash.

Edwards-Jones leaves you with an idea about how serious or how plain dumb the industry can get, ending Fashion Babylon with someone simply asking the main character : What are your ideas for next season’s collection?

This made me love the author’s wit as the question symbolised a never ending cycle of the style world, and of course the fact that they all live in their own little bubble.

Positives: The style of writing – it’s to the point, funny and raw. Like any nice and dirty exposé should be. Another positive is he moment when a model is found handcuffed to a heater with two vibrators in her moments before a runway show. Yes, two. In her. Thought I’d repeat that.

Negatives: You won’t learn anything drastically new about the fashion world, most of the information is what you heard from your fashion obsessed friend or from your mum who kept it mean and truthful when you had your “I want to be a model” stage.

Recommend? Drugs, sex and beautiful people. I don’t think I need to say more.

Last time pret-a-reporter read To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle.