The Reading List: Punk Press…


Rebel Rock in the Underground Press, 1968-1980, compiled by Vincent Berniére and Marcel Primois.

Punk Press, much like punk style, doesn’t demand reading, but it does demand intense, concentrated looking. Really look at it. Get into all the cracks and crevices. Weed out the dirt and the anger. Look at how easy it can be to get something out of almost nothing.

Comprising full page facsimiles of the most noted international punk magazines and ‘zines, Punk Press is a must for anyone even remotely interested in the genuine aesthetic and NOT what everyone was wearing at the little ol’ Met Ball (mostly boring – though props go to Giovanna Battaglia and her safety pin crown).

It’s the best in punk style, music and art, with the famous (Linder Sterling’s provocative Buzzcocks collages) to the slightly obscure (Loulou Picasso’s Soviet nods for French magazine series Libération) featuring.

A friend and I spent a few hours looking through the pages and dreaming about how we could make our own ‘zine. You can take that as a good sign – I rarely get inspired to actually ‘do’ something unless pizza or red wine is the end result. Such is the impact of Punk Press, or indeed, the punk presses at large.






Punk Press is published by Abrams and is out now.

The Reading List: Diana Vreeland, Empress of Style


Diana Vreeland: Empress of Fashion is the first full-length biography of the legendary Vogue editor and self-mythologiser where words and facts take precedence over pictures and unverified if exciting anecdotes.  How did Diana Vreeland go from a well to-do housewife to one of the most powerful people in fashion?  And how did her remarkable mind and creative disregard for beauty over truth develop?  This book, by biographer Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, attempts to answer those questions.

Vreeland, ‘the High Druidess of fashion, the Supreme Pontiff, Perpetual Curate and Archpresbyter of elegance, the Vicaress of style’ did not start out in life commanding the religious reverence that the previous quote implies, but instead had a difficult childhood, forever in the shadow of a beautiful younger sister and treated badly by a capricious, adventurous mother who (as these things often go no matter how much pink hair dye we put on) Diana resembled more in personality and outlook the older she became.

This book counters the obvious beautiful lies that Diana told as she invented herself.  Diana was born in Paris, but did not grow up there as she had claimed.  However, a more outlandish tale, that of Buffalo Bill teaching Diana and her sister to ride horses, may actually be true.  Mackenzie Stuart assesses Diana’s claims on its individual merits, not treating each one with scepticism but with a calm researcher’s eye.

This book is heavy on the fascinating details of Diana’s career, especially on how she came to win her jobs as editor of American Vogue and at the Costume Institute.  Grace Mirabella, Diana’s successor at Vogue, appears as a conflicted figure in the text but there is still a little meat missing from the controversial and quite sad story of how Diana came to fall from Grace at Vogue.

Diana’s personal life, especially that with her two sons, is not examined in great depth, though her relationship with husband Reed (who appears in the book as a bit of a well-dressed enigma) is given more space on paper.  The two sons do not appear as voices in the book – it’s a shame because, as the documentary The Eye Has to Travel shows, both have a great deal of interesting and often painful things to say about their mother.

The book is well-written, accessible, entertaining and nicely-paced.  With a life as unsure and clouded with half-truths as Diana Vreeland’s, the temptation to insert your own take on her life must be immense.  However, this biography does justice to the great lady’s legacy.

Diana Vreeland: Empress of Fashion is published by Thames and Hudson and is out in hardback now.

Dublin’s Perfect Vintage…

… and luckily this vintage isn’t affected by the new wine tax.


Irene and Ruth of The Vintage Sessions

This Saturday is shaping up to be quite the vintage-themed cornucopia of festivities in our fair capital. At 11am the fabled Shutterbug Kilo Sale will commence at The Chocolate Factory. No appearance by Willy Wonka, I’m afraid – just rails and rails of clothes handpicked by the uber stylish (and just lovely) Blanaid and her team. Click here for details. Oh, and a word of advice – get there EARLY!

Form about 11 or so to 7pm, The Vintage Sessions are taking place in a beautiful Georgian house (The South William Space) on South William Street.  This is a full-on vintage experience.  Fifteen euros gets you in, gets you a vintage hair and make-up makeover, a mini photoshoot on a paper moon, cocktails and a market with some of the best vintage sellers in the country (I’m especially looking forward to perusing Om Diva and the winter selection by the lovely Olivia at Elsa and Gogo).  Did I mention that there will be vintage talks and presentations too?

*NERDGASM*  Here is the running order of talks and presentations for the day.

12.00 Panel Discussion – The Evolution of the Creative Quarter and the Rise of Vintage in the Area

13.00 Presentation – The Lost Fashion History of South William St by fashion historian Ruth Griffin

2.30 Presentation – 1940s Irish Fashion, by photo historian Orla Fitzpatrick

4.00 Presentation – Forgotten Irish Style Icons by fashion historian Ruth Griffin

5.15 Panel Discussion – Vintage in Ireland Today and why so many are choosing to turn their passion in to a career

Irene (in the photo above) will be MC-ing

Panelists include Ruth Ni Loinsigh (Om Diva and Creative Quarter board), Kathy Sherry (Dirty Fabulous), Garry O’Neill (author of the rather amazing Where Were You Dublin street style book) and yours truly.  I’ll be taking part in the final panel talk so if you’re coming, please do say hi!

There may also be Ukelele playing…

To get your tickets for the event, email

Entrance to the Shutterbug Kilo Sale is free, gloriously FREE.

Edith Wharton in Vogue

These pictures are a few months old (and therefore ancient in fashion/internet terms) but I still want to share this Annie Leibovitz spread for American Vogue.  Styled by Grace Coddington, Natalia Vodianova is novelist Edith Wharton on her Massachusetts estate, The Mount.  Flanking her is novelist Jeffrey Eugenides as Henry James, Boardwalk Empire actor Jack Huston as her mercurial lover William Morton Fullerton and an interesting cast of supporting characters including Elijah Wood as her chauffeur (!) and James Corden as Teddy Roosevelt (!?!).

The editorial is rather static and dreamy and Old World-ish, and there are cameos from American men of letters like Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz (no women, unfortunately).  It’s also accompanied by a rather lovely piece by Colm Toibin, which you can read here.  I suppose the only bone to pick is that Wharton was supposed to be about 45 at this time, while Vodianova is… not.  Kristen McMenamy might have made a better Wharton or, as one of the original commenters suggested, perhaps a female novelist would have been best.

Teenager on the Telephone

Remember being on the landline at home, having a chat, and being constantly interrupted by your mother going “Are you on a mobile? PSST! Are you on a mobile?”

That still happens to me.

The jeans/white socks/easy-off loafers may just be the perfect combination for a lazy afternoon reliving teenage angstiness.

Photos by Nina Leen for LIFE Magazine, 1944 – click the link if you’re a vintage lover and have a few minutes to spare

Licentiate Column 04/10/12: When Punk Becomes Fashion

Debbie Harry – from Punk: An Aesthetic

It’s so odd how youth culture can so easily become commodified, pressed from a cry into the dark of capitalism into the oil which lubricates its machinations. If I sound like a wild conspiracy theorist, it’s probably because I am.

But seriously, it is odd how the things that are invented on the street, without the help of trend forecasters and clothing oligarchs, can go from being under the radar to tired, overprocessed and underappreciated within a matter of decades.

We are nostalgia hawkers. Because the world is forever getting smaller, and because of our ability to communicate and receive information immediately, we are privy to more and more of the horrible things that happen on every continent. We look backwards. We look at the past, even the terrible periods, through a lens smeared thickly with Vaseline.

Carson McCullers once wrote, “We are homesick for the places we have never known”. When it comes to youth and subculture, we are homesick for a million different places at once. Who hasn’t wanted to dress like a teddy boy, a rocker, a mod, a skinhead, a goth, a New Romantic? Who, for that matter, hasn’t wanted to be a punk?

Punk was always a legitimate subculture (if you think that all subcultures are legit, then cast your mind back to Nu Rave. Will people still be wearing fluorescent leggings in twenty years? I thought not) but next year will see it cemented in its definitive place of the fashion pantheon: Punk will have its own exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum in New York.

‘Punk: From Chaos to Couture’ will be opened at the annual Met Ball on the 6th of May next year. It’s one of those events where we’re not entirely too sure what happens inside, so photos of the guests are invariably plastered all over the papers, Oscars-style the next day. The outfits are usually themed to the exhibition, so we can already tell that this is going to be one hell of a red carpet.

It’s interesting to see where punk ended up, especially when its fiercely DIY, anti-establishment origins are considered. In a new book, Punk: An Aesthetic, punk chroniclers Jon Savage and Johan Kugelberg chart the beginning, progression and legacy of the scene in an anthropologically comprehensive package.

The book is manna for punk lovers. Brought to the public by formidable art book publishers Rizzoli, it is everything that a one would come to expect from the publishing house and, of course, Savage (who is well known for his seminal book on punk, ‘England’s Dreaming’). It is one of my favourite books this year.

Between the fliers and albums covers are pictures of punk’s luminaries, all incredibly stylish; here Malcolm McLaren as a teddy boy, there Debbie Harry in a pair of pleather knickers with a studded belt. We see pages of Vivienne Westwood’s still shocking Seditionaries t-shirts and acres of Linder Sterling’s postmodern feminist collages – her talent most recently found her collaborating on prints with feted Brit fashion designer Jonathan Saunders.

We don’t need to bypass the irony that punk publishing started out on badly Xeroxed sheets of paper as an antithesis to the expensive, glossy volumes that they now reside in. It’s the natural way of all trends – for better or worse (in this case, I think better) they become absorbed into fashion.

About Face: Supermodels, Then and Now

Really want to watch this.  Alas, it will be premiering on HBO which means it’s only a matter of months before More 4 picks it up for broadcasting (if at all).

Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

From the pervasive obsession with youth to issues of substance abuse, self-esteem, race and plastic surgery, beauty is a commodity in society today.

Directed by acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, ABOUT FACE: SUPERMODELS THEN AND NOW explores the lives and careers of legendary models, highlighting the complex relationship between physical appearance and the business of beauty…

An official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, ABOUT FACE: SUPERMODELS THEN AND NOW was filmed by Greenfield-Sanders in his trademark intimate portrait style, and features interviews with some of the most celebrated visages of the 20th century. Through conversations with supermodels, including Carol Alt, Marisa Berenson, Karen Bjornson, Christie Brinkley, Pat Cleveland, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jerry Hall, Bethann Hardison, Beverly Johnson, China Machado, Paulina Porizkova, Isabella Rossellini, Lisa Taylor and Cheryl Tiegs, the documentary reveals the roles they played in defining — and redefining — beauty over time.

ABOUT FACE’s look at beauty as a commodity and the pressures of overnight stardom is interwoven with a celebration of the reinvention that can come with aging. Several models talk about the sense of freedom, satisfaction and longevity they derive from learning to age gracefully, whether by focusing on family or new interests and business opportunities.

– via press release

But I want to watch it NOOOOOW!  Excuse me while I have a Violet Beauregarde moment.

Here’s the trailer.  I absolutely love what Carmen Dell’Orefice has to say about plastic surgery.

The Reading List: Beaton in Vogue


This is the first review to go live on this blog in over a month, and what better way to blow away the fashion fatigue cobwebs than flick through the reissued Vogue portfolio of iconic photographer, illustrator and raconteur Cecil Beaton?


In a career spanning five decades, Beaton came to be more than just a society photographer. Known for his relentless social climbing skills and ambition and, to a lesser extent, his devastating personal critiques, this book paints a picture of the professional traveller and journalist, with precious few glimpses into his personal life. In his tenure with Vogue, Beaton amassed an astonishing body of work, a sampling of which is lovingly showcased in a lavish and tactile paperback (don’t you love when books use more than one type of paper? Books – 1, Kindle – nada).


The book is split into several sections, dealing with society, royalty, travel, war, celebrity and fashion. Essays are grouped together on matt cream paper, while Beaton’s whimsical doodles of heavy-lidded doyennes and waltzing couples cavort in the margins. As a writer, Beaton is acutely observational. Unexpectedly, this is most obvious in his war reportage, which captures the small things that personalise an otherwise homogenous mass of people fighting for a common cause.


The photography is an eclectic mix; Coco Chanel rubs shoulders with Loelia Ponsonby, the first wife of her lover, the Duke of Westminister. Gertrude Stein, Mae West, Queen Elizabeth and Marissa Berenson all occupy the pages with ease.

There is little of Beaton’s work post-1960 on show, and the photographs lack the elegance, stillness and perfection of his earlier work. Perhaps Beaton’s heart was no longer in fashion photography. Perhaps technology had overtaken his preferred method of taking photos. The harsh lighting, cold exposure and permawaved 70’s models do his style no favours. However, the last portfolio of his world travels, some from the later period of his life, all display the vitality and vision of his earlier fashion work.


If you don’t know much about Cecil Beaton’s work, then this is the best place to start. A must for vintage photography lovers and magazine fiends alike – just don’t expect a scandalous biography.


‘Beaton In Vogue’ is edited by Josephine Ross and published by Thames and Hudson.

The Reading List: Nostalgia in Vogue

Where do I start?

Nostalgia in Vogue, a compendium of essays written for American Vogue and edited by Eve McSweeney is, by a hair, my favourite fashion book this year. If every there was a book tailored to my personal taste (long essays, personal introspection, nostalgia, vintage and magazines), then this is it. When it arrived in the post, I spent four hours reading it and poring over the pictures. Then, when I had finished, I turned back to the first page and started again.

Published by Rizzoli and featuring work from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion, Patti Smith, Angelica Huston, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, this is a sumptuous publication not just because of it’s physical quality and weightiness, but also because of the strength and depth of the essays within. It is brain candy.

Delving through the Vogue archive from 1931 (Artist T.J Wilcox explores the allure of the effervescent It Girl Adele Astaire) to 2007 (Phyllis Posnick remembers Irving Penn’s body of work, accompanied by some incredible images), the essays are as varied as you might expect, running the full range of emotions, rage and despair, happiness and fond recollections, lost love and artistic inspiration.

As each essay writer chooses the pictures that accompany their nostalgic trip, the breadth and variety is almost imperceptibly wide and most likely, not something that most European readers would expect of American Vogue (we’re still under the influence of The September Issue). But it is there. The scope is massive. Anyone who reads this book will most likely find themselves personally identifying with an essay, or two, or three. Personal attachment isn’t something we’ve come to associate with fashion, nor is looking backwards through rose-tinted glasses. It’s just not done. Yet, it is done here, in the world’s foremost fashion bible no less.

It makes perfect sense that this book was released now, in this current economic climate. Nostalgia does great business in times of crisis and this book is an excellent example of such. Nostalgia is vital. It reminds us that bad things will eventually pass and rain falls on the great and the good as well as the rest of us. Except Richard Avedon won’t be around to document it.

We’ll Take Manhattan

BBC4 is great.  They screen documentary series’ on Regency Style, the history of horror films and women Spitfire pilots.  It’s excellent brain fodder for not-so-closet nerdlingers like myself.

The channel has also made some amazing biopics (Enid starring Helena Bonham Carter as a thoroughly dislikable Enid Blyton and Margot with Anne-Marie Duff as prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn are just two that spring to mind).

I can’t wait for We’ll Take Manhattan, the story of photographer David Bailey, model Jean Shrimpton, a small teddy bear (maybe) and a setting of London and New York in the early sixties.

The press release reads:

Set predominantly in 1962, but also exploring the story of how Bailey and Shrimpton first met, this one-off drama reveals how a young, visionary photographer refused to conform. He insisted on using the unconventional model Jean Shrimpton on an important photo shoot for British Vogue and, over the course of a freezing week in Manhattan, threw out the rule book and made startling, original photographs.

We’ll Take Manhattan is the story of that wild week, of Bailey and Jean’s love affair, and of how two young people accidentally changed the world forever.

Bailey shot Karen Gillan (Shrimpton) and Aneurin Barnard (Bailey) for Vogue this summer, in a feat of almost acrobatic self-reflexiveness. They do look very good together.

No release date has been finalised yet, but to keep me going, I’ll just look at photos from their iconic photoshoot, titled Young Ideas Go West, published in British Vogue in 1962. If you want a bit more background info, here is a great place to start.

Images by David Bailey (obviously), scans via EIGHT.