Amy Winehouse.

Back to Black (song)

Image via Wikipedia

I was devastated to hear about the tragic and untimely death of Amy Winehouse today at the far too young age of 27. I saw Amy perform live in 2007 and she was truly amazing – an iconic talent with a style and voice that was truly unique. Back to Black is my favourite album, one I listen to when happy(Tears dry on their own is so uplifting) or sad (is there a more poignant song than Love is a loosing game?). I followed Amy’s story in the hope that it might have a happy ending, but it was not to be.

It would be easy to remember the dishevelled Amy in her bloodied pumps and bra, running through North London streets as the defining image of a troubled life, but when I decided I wanted to write something about a women whose talent was supreme, I  knew I wanted to celebrate Amy who was a much admired and copied style icon. The women who was an inspiration to Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel, who wore Preen dresses and Cleopatra make-up, whose 1960s bouffant and beehive hairstyle evoked images of Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes.

Amy, at  her wonderful  peak, at the height of Back to Black and before the re-emergence of Blake, had a unique style that was truly amazing. In neon Preen at the 2007 Brit awards, wearing a cute puffball mini for the Ivor Novello awards – Amy favoured flirty mini dresses, acres of lace on show, and sexy bras peeking out. She made her sailor tattoos part of her outfit, and added tattoo style accessories to her hair, like the loveheart Blake clip she famously adorned her beehive with. She wore designers who appealed to her love of the quirky, wearing a cute Betsey Johnson anchor print dress when she married the ubiquitous Fielder Civil, but could also be sophisticated when the occasion called for it,  such as when she sang backing vocals for Dionne Broomfield on Strictly Come Dancing.

Amy made the beehive her trademark, it got bigger and more outrageous over time, and she somehow didn’t look like Amy when she adopted more natural looking curls. Her make up favoured a heavy 60s sexbomb style, think Sophia Loren at her height. That make up and hair was a telling marker as Amy descended into her drugs hell. She was photographed widely with the hair matted and her make up smudged down her face as she slide further downhill.

But Amy and fashion had a love affair that didn’t go away, and she launched a range of sexy mod inspired sportswear and clothing with Fred Perry just last year. Amy had worn a Fred Perry dress on the back cover of the album Back to Black, and she looked great in the publicity shots for the range, which were taken by Bryan Adams. At this time she was also photographed looking healthy and stylish in little wrap dresses with her new boyfriend Reg Travis. It seemed that life had turned a corner for Amy, but it was not to be.

RIP Amy. We will remember your style, your passion, your couldn’t give a damn attitude and above all, the music. Wish we could’ve had you a little bit longer, but Back to Black will be your epitaph. And what an epitaph to have.

 

Style Influence

Vivienne Westwood and Betsey Johnson – still style mavericks after all these years!

We have just seen the end of London Fashion Week, following hot on the heels of New York fashion week, and it is safe to say that two of the brightest, most interesting Autumn collections come from two style mavericks who first came to our attention in the 1970s. Both Vivienne Westwood and Betsey Johnson are at an age when they could relax and put their feet up, instead, at 69 and 68 years old respectively, they are continuing to push fashion boundaries. Here are some of the highlights of their recent collections.

Alice in Wonderland meets the Royals!

As can be expected of the woman who was at the forefront of the Punk/Fashion movement, Vivienne Westwood doesn’t mince her words. In recent weeks she has insulted Emma Watson, the newly crowned ‘Elle Style Icon’ by saying she didn’t know who the actress was. This week she turned her attentions to Kate Middleton, saying of the royal bride-to-be “..I would have loved to have dressed Kate Middleton but I will have to wait until she kind of catches up a bit somewhere with style…”. Harsh words, but Vivienne is well placed to have that opinion. Almost 70, she is as relevant as ever to British fashion. At the Brit awards, she was the designer of choice for girl of the moment Jessie J, for Ellie Goulding, Katherine Jenkins and Paloma Faith, whilst she designed the actual award. Helena Bonham Carter, a long-time fan, has worn Westwood designs for all awards ceremonies, whilst young starlets like Diana Agron are also part of the Westwood Fan club.

The Westwood Red Label front row was packed with stylish fans including Jaime Winstone, Nicola Roberts and Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud, Dr Who’s Matt Smith and Paloma Faith.

 

Paloma Faith at the red label show

 

The show took place at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, and was a fusion of the Royal Family meets Alice in Wonderland, with Charlie Chaplin style hats, crowns fashioned from the model’s hair, red and blue plaid, flat caps and headscarves reminiscent of Her Majesty at Balmoral.

 

hair fashioned into crowns and royal blue - of course!

Plaids and headscarves.

 

The collection featured lots of layering. There were long argyle socks worn over tights, jumpsuits worn over tops, shirts over t-shirts and coats over everything. The look was very mismatched, but there were flashes of English heritage tradition in the argyle prints, tweeds and wooly socks. Animal prints were also an integral part of the collection.

Some of the pieces were extremely wearable and will translate perfectly to an Autumn wardrobe. The pinstripe trousers worn with the camel jacket looked cosy and stylish, whilst the grey double-breasted coat was a beautiful piece of clothing. I also loved the high collared Chartreuse green/gold coat.

All elements of English Heritage in one outfit - what's not to love?

 

Think Nicola Roberts will be seen in this...

 

 

...although this would look amazing with her red hair.

 

The most successful looks of the collection were the sexy Westwood dresses. These are perfect for Vivienne’s real women like Paloma Faith and Helena Bonham Carter. The dresses had an off the shoulder style that showed acres of cleavage for a look that was sexy dishevellment, a sort of just tumbled out of bed look. The blue dress would be perfect for Jessie J if shortened slightly, whilst the beautiful red dress modelled by Daisy Lowe was a perfect showcase for her curves. I particularly loved the mens style pinstriped blazers draped over the shoulders of the party style dresses – a nod to girls who face the cold to flash the frock.

 

Sexy dishevellment - perfect for Helena

 

 

shortened slightly..this would be oh so Jessie J

 

Overall, the collection was another triumph for Vivienne Westwood, full of texture, colour and humour. I loved it and look forward to seeing it translated by the fashionistas.

 

The Cartwheeling Ms Johnson

Betsey Johnson is an American style eccentric, beloved by fellow fashion mavericks. Remember the anchor print dress that Amy Winehouse wore to marry Blake? That was Betsey Johnson. What about Agyness Deyn in a gorgeous blue strapless prom dress? Betsey again. Kelly Osbourne wore a Betsey pink dress straight off the runway during the S/S after show party last year. This years show had Jessica Hart and Patricia Field on the front row, and also had the employees of Betsey Johnson modelling the ‘Pink Patch’ collection.

 

Jessica Hart at Betsey Johnson

 

 

Betsey Employees take to the Catwalk with trademark Betsey hair.

 

The collection itself was typical Betsey. There were beautiful devore style dresses worn over zebra print bodystockings,  elaborate frock coats with Mozart style ruffles worn over the same zebra bodystockings. Animal print was everywhere – red leopard, traditional cat-prints mixed in a way that should never be attempted by mere mortals, but works in Betsey’s designs.

There is a touch of Eva Peron about the use of red poppy corsages to add details to the shoulders. I love these Spanish touches, which add class to counterbalance the red animal print bodies. I also really loved the fur tippets and muffs used to add vintage elegance to totally modern looks.

The perfect name for this collection would be ‘falling into granny’s wardrobe’, because that is the overall effect of many of the outfits. Pretty teadresses and tippets worn with outrageous tights and DM boots, elegant evening dresses with heavy footwear. It is experimental, like when teenagers attack the wardrobe of their mom, or charity shops in search of their style. The beautiful brocade style cape worn over the red evening dress has the look of a treasured vintage find, whilst the flamenco style maxi dress is a real flashback to 1970s style.

Betsey’s collection shows that there is very much a place for the experimental style gurus in the modern fashion world. She ended the show with her trademark cart-wheel, showing the sense of fun that is always so apparent in her extrordinary designs.