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August 29 2014

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12 posts tagged "Michael Roberts"

Ninivah Khomo: The Cat (And Banana) Lady Takes London

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“It’s a jungle in here.” That’s the tag for Ninivah Khomo’s new shop on Walton Street in London’s Knightsbridge. The logo is a whiskered panther; a riot of animal prints turns the place into a shrine to the feline; and Michael Roberts’ interior re-creates a sun-bleached beach hut on the rim of the rain forest in Bahia, hand-stenciled palm fronds, slatted screens, and all.

It’s been six years since Khomo last had a shop, but, in one of fashion’s curious little synchronicities, the designer is re-entering the retail fray at the same moment that graphic tropical prints, succulent color, and a forties-filtered-through-seventies silhouette (bowed necklines, ruched sleeves, and tea dresses) are major Spring trends. Add a healthy helping of leopard to those three ingredients and you’ve got Ninivah’s exotic dish in a Brazil nutshell.

Most of Khomo’s spectacular prints come from Roberts’ 1998 book The Jungle ABC. The two met when she was at Central Saint Martins in the late seventies and he was fashion editor for The Sunday Times. “Great prints, great eye, great editing,” Khomo says of her friend’s graphic skills, all of them on parade in a silk georgette tea dress in an orchidaceous pink and black pattern, or a vibrant banana print that should give Miuccia a run for her money come spring. Yesterday, Roberts was meticulously cutting out little palm fronds from a swath of green felt and arranging them on the back of a black cocoon coat, a foretaste of next fall’s offerings. Currently available, a gilded leopard gown would do full justice to a haute Hollywood goddess, Joan Crawford, say, in Jungle Red nail polish. “I was never going to be a minimalist or the kind of designer who was searching for something alternative,” the designer purrs.

If the flamingos, parrots, and palm trees are right now, Khomo’s big cats have been seducing customers for decades. “It was never ethnic,” she muses. “I just always loved Biba and 1930′s glamour and Art Deco.” Input from Khomo’s glamorously leggy daughter Delilah guarantees that everything stays on the right side of retro. Leopard shorts? No wonder equally long-limbed lovelies like Charlotte Dellal are Ninivah fans.

Photo: Courtesy of Ninivah Khomo

Joseph Ettedgui, R.I.P.

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The obituaries have already distilled the career to its essence. Joseph Ettedgui, who died yesterday at the age of 74, transformed the international fashion landscape. But what makes his story truly unique was that the grandiosity of such an achievement was underpinned by a nature so humble and unassuming it was easy to forget that the little guy in the corner with the thick French accent, the owlish glasses, the fluff of hair, and the stubble was actually the most powerful man in the room. Although the big cigar might have been a giveaway.

One epochal day in 1972, the little guy was stacking striped sweaters in the window of his hairdressing salon on King’s Road when Michael Roberts noticed him. Then fashion editor of The Sunday Times, Roberts liked the sweaters, used them in a shoot that appeared (obviously) on a Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the entire stock had sold out. And thus was Joseph Ettedgui launched on a Britain that had no idea its appetite for adventurously minimal European style was about to be stimulated. As much as what he sold (those striped sweaters were by Kenzo—he would also introduce everyone from Azzedine Alaïa to Helmut Lang to Martin Margiela to local aficionados), it was the way Joseph sold it, in high-tech, chrome-and-glass stores that had the streamlined ambience of an Art Deco cruise ship. The look may be a retail cliché now, but Joseph pioneered it, as he did the starchitect collaboration (Norman Foster designed his first Sloane Street outlet in 1979) and the in-store café. “He made you feel enthusiastic about fashion,” says Roberts, who remembers Joseph driving around late at night in his Rolls-Royce checking out the window displays in rival stores. “This huge car would come down the street, looking like a runaway Rolls with no one at the wheel. Then you’d see the top of his head and the puff of cigar smoke.”

Roberts went on to create memorable ad campaigns for Joseph. What he misses most is the complete freedom he was given, as though Joseph were the most visionary patron. “It was a Medici kind of thing to be given that kind of treatment,” he says. “It never happens anymore.” Like the best patrons, Joseph was an ardent champion of the new and the young. And he had a fruitful kinship with designers that others found tricky to work with, Alaïa in particular. Katharine Hamnett looks back on “a fantastic working relationship,” which began when Joseph rescued her from penury after a French company she was working for left her high and dry with a bagful of samples. He bought the lot on a sale-and-return basis. “And that was the beginning of one of the happiest times in my career,” Hamnett says. “He enabled things, he trusted his instincts, he loved what he did—and he was very good at it.”

Photo: Rex USA

In the Company of Snowmen

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Thanksgiving may be tomorrow, but Michael Roberts was thinking more ho, ho, ho than gobble gobble. Donning a fuzzy Santa hat and faux white beard, the Vanity Fair style and fashion director (and perhaps the chicest Mr. Claus we’ve seen) signed copies of his new children’s book Snowman in Africa at Gucci’s Fifth Avenue flagship last night. The multitasker debuted the first in the series, Snowman in Paradise, in 2004. The second installment came about after Gucci tapped him to create a sequel for charity. “Africa is one of my favorite places, and it just seems appropriate because it’s for UNICEF,” Roberts said of the sequel’s storyline. Gucci will be donating 100 percent of sales from the $25 hardcover and proceeds from three original Roberts collages up for silent auction to UNICEF’s Africa programs. As for the Santa outfit? “Well, I’m British, so I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But I do love the holidays and I get to fly to London for the long weekend,” he explained. The toddlers clutching the colorful storybooks in line didn’t seem to mind skipping straight to Santa. Nor did the grownups, who included Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy. “Michael just has a way about making the images come alive,” said Vogue‘s Grace Coddington. “And I think the book is for adults, too. If you read it, it’s rather funny.” Those who prefer fashion to storybooks need not go home empty-handed, though: Gucci is offering limited editions of its wrist wallets, coin purses, and Joy handbags featuring the whimsical illustrations in appliqué and print.

Photo: CHANCE YEH/PatrickMcMullan.com

Blasblog From Paris: Giambattista’s Kaviar Kaspia Crowd

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Giambattista Valli has had a very busy couple of days: Monday saw his Fall ’09 collection take to the runway in the Tuileries, and yesterday his puffy, dreamy looks for Moncler were on view—along with live horses—in the basement of the Paris Opéra. Come Tuesday night, Valli was ready to celebrate. The party kicked off with dinner at Kaviar Kaspia (that night’s dinner spot for Karl Lagerfeld along with Amanda Harlech and her brood, coincedently), where Michael Roberts, Olivier Martinez, Coco and Bianca Brandolini, and Dasha Zhukova tucked into the fashion-fave eatery’s signature dish. “It’s so good here,” Valli said. “I could come here every single night, but then, I think I would look like that potato there.” The food—salmon on crepes, caviar in potatoes, and a vodka-to-person ratio that hurts to think about (especially this morning)—wasn’t the only draw. Valli’s skill at attracting a chic fête set is equal to his skill at blending his social groups. Andrea Dellal, for example, who hadn’t seen Ellen von Unwerth since the two were modeling together in the seventies, settled down for a chat with her long-lost friend. “I’m having flashbacks,” she told the photographer. “I sometimes forget that I’m a grandmother!”

Photo: Marcio Madeira

Blasblog From Rio: Vanity Fair‘s Michael Roberts Takes His Book Tour To South America

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As any seasoned traveler will tell you, bad sartorial decisions are not limited to New York City. Perhaps that’s why Vanity Fair fashion and style director Michael Roberts has been on such an impressive international book tour with his Fashion Victims: The Catty Catalogue of Stylish Casualties, From A to Z. (I myself have already been to parties for this highly amusing collage-and-verse satire in New York, London, and Paris.) Roberts’ most recent stop is Rio de Janeiro. The inveterate multitasker arrived early on Tuesday morning to not only sign copies of the fashionably slim volume at the Livraria da Travessa, but also catch the Rio swim shows, release his Rio-based book Saved, and work on another coffee-table book for Rizzoli, this one based on the decade he’s spent soaking up this wondrous South American beachy metropolis. “I first came here ten years ago,” said Roberts, clad in a seersucker suit (’cause it’s just spring down here). “Isabella Blow was the one to bring me, and I just fell in love with the place.” Despite a bit of jet lag from a trek to Australia he just wrapped up a few days ago, Roberts said he was happy to be back in sunny South America. “As soon as I get off the plane I’m happy I’m here,” said the Barack Obama absentee voter. “Besides, I was supposed to be watching the election at Calvin [Klein]‘s tonight. I would much rather be here.” Not that the Fashion Victims tour ends here. “Will I see you in Germany on the 20th?” Roberts asked. Not me, but Germans should mark their books.

Photo: Derek Blasberg