Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Leave with Savoir Faire

Today sees me heading off to Montreal for a long weekend, so Savoir Faire devotees; I will be incommunicado for a couple of days.

If I just happened to have been an allied officer during World War II on the North African campaign I would have been on leave with savoir faire in Cairo. Luckily also being an officer meant that I would have been enjoying my leave at either the Mena House or Shepheards Hotel. These were THE places to stay before the war and so it seems during the war also.

They might have been operating on somewhat reduced circumstances, however I could still enjoy a drink on the terrace at Shepheard’s and watch the world go by, and maybe even eavesdrop in on a conversation that was just filled with espionage.

If I was lucky to be billeted at the Mena House, enjoying my afternoon tea by the pool would have been a matter of course. If so inclined I could then climb the Great Pyramid right next door.

So we salute you and have a fabulous weekend.

*Suggested reading, Shepheards Hotel by Nina Nelson.

Savoir Faire in the Air

I think that the general consensus is that most of us are sick of the airline industry, the long lines, the cramped conditions, the lousy food (unless we are up the front) and all the extra charges. Even with the introduction of new aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing’s anticipated 787 Dreamliner, I think that we are all a little jaded. I am an airline and plane buff (I know, who would have known) and rather disappointed. The A380 is an ugly plane, that doesn’t conjure up any of the streamlined ideals that we associate with flight.

It was not always like this. The Vickers VC-10 was an incredibly sleek, stylish airliner both inside and out! It was something an airliner should have looked like! The Vickers VC10 is a British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also be capable of hot and high operations from African airports. The performance of the VC10 was such that BOAC, the initial operator, laid claim to the VC10 providing the fastest crossing of the Atlantic - London to New York, by a jet airliner. This record is still held, to date, by the VC10, for a sub-sonic airliner; only beaten by the supersonic Concorde. What set the VC10 apart was the location of the engines. These were located aft in pods attached to the fuselage below a high T style tail. (Sorry to be technical- but the savoir faire is coming)

With the launch of the VC 10 BOAC held out no stops. Lavish promotional brochures with fabulous artwork highlighted the sleekness and the overall stylishness of this new entry into the jet age. BOAC used word such as aristocrat and superlative with abandon when promoting their new aircraft.

Capitalization was made of the fact that the Rolls Royce engines were at the back of the fuselage creating a silent cabin. Slogans such as “The VC 10 a great step backwards” boosted sales of seats.

Interiors were bright and airy with promotional material showing passengers (much more well dressed than today’s travelling public) enjoying this magnificent aircraft.

If you were travelling first class, BOAC’s famed Monarch service got you to your destination with lots of savoir faire!

Sadly the glamour of the VC 10 started to fade with the advent of the 747 and larger aircraft. Today only a few remain in the service of the RAAF.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sandblasted Savoir Faire

As mentioned in a previous blog here in Toronto we had our annual outdoor art show, with a fabulous lot of artists and their works.

Walking through I was captivated with the glass art of Nick Chase. What caught my eye were the wonderful shapes, colours and Lalique like quality of his work. The finish on these pieces was perfect and certainly reminded me of Lalique. These are all hand blown and then sandblasted to within an inch of their lives.

Wonderful spheres and other shapes with cut out pieces in the most stunning of colours with the contrast of another colour inside glowed like jewels. These were museum quality pieces and I hope that one day Mr. Chase’s work ends up in one.

To say that I want one is an understatement!

Savoir Patou

If there ever was a couturier whose name should be better known than what it is today, it is Jean Patou. Of course most of us have heard of “Joy” his mega perfume created in the 1930’s that was billed as the most costly perfume in the world, and his name does live on in the perfume world, however we need to give him more credit. The man was the epitome of savoir faire between the wars, and was famous for the paired down luxurious simplicity of his clothes. His genius was his ability to interpret the times in which he lived and translate the ideals of that era into fashion.

Among one his finest and most important achievements in the world of fashion was the creation of sportswear. In the early 20’s, his inspired work in the sportswear field gave fashion another dimension. He dressed tennis star Suzanne Lenglen in styles that she wore both on and off the tennis court. Ms. Lenglen became famous not only for her tennis, but for the Patou creations she wore.

Patou’s design philosophy was influenced by sportswear, continuing the theme of casual elegance into day and evening ensembles. He believed in beautiful but functional clothes which reflected the personality of the wearer. Patou never felt fashion should dictate; the cut of the clothes was simple, often accented with architectural seam lines, embroidery detail, and attention to fabric, trims, and finishings.

Patou was also the first to devise a logo monogram which was to his sportswear designs—the first visible designer label.

The legendary rivalry between Patou and Chanel was well known and intense and perhaps fuelled both of their successful careers. Their visions for the modern woman were quite similar, and although it is Chanel that fashion history has credited with many of the silhouette and conceptual changes of 1920s fashions, it was Patou who, in 1929, dropped the hemline and raised the waistline—Chanel quickly followed suit. (Seems poor Coco was rivals with everybody who threatened her)

The House of Patou prospered during the Depression but Patou himself was unable to interpret the 1930s as he had so successfully captured the 1920s. He died in 1936, a relatively young man. While Patou had demonstrated a brilliant business sense, ultimately undermined by his destructive gambling tendencies.
His sister's husband George Barbas took over the house. Jean Patou's great-nephews Guy and Jean de Mouy now run the company. The family has continued to manage the house, with a range of designers who have gone on to fame themselves such as Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld. Now, however they only produce fragrance.

* Suggested reading – Patou by Meredith Ethrington-Smith (If you can get it)

Brazilian Savoir Faire!

“The furniture in Brazil was lacking the national identity achieved in architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa and their colleagues”. So said Sergio Rodrigues, Brazilian furniture designer extraordinaire. In 1956 Sergio Rodrigues founded ‘Oca Industries’ in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. A brand that for two decades was the hallmark of modern furniture in Brazil and put Brazil on the design map.

Forget the designs coming out of Scandinavia in the 50’s and 60’s which take second place to Rodrigues’ solid, almost masculine designs. These are pieces that have a presence; you cannot help but notice them for their bold organic simplicity. His work is rich in wood and leather with gutsy details that hit you in the eye. The uses of exotic woods such as jacaranda have stood the test of time, and the patinas are wonderful. They would have been perfect residing in Niemeyer’s temples of modern architecture.

The bench featured here comes from his Arcos line of furniture created for the Palácio dos Arcos in Brasilia. Sometimes referred to as the "museum bench", the model is used in the Museu da Manchete in Rio de Janeiro. This is an incredibly simple yet complex piece of furniture with its rich colour and texture.
One of Sergio Rodrigues best-known products is the “Poltrona Mole”, from 1957, which won first prize at the IV Concorso Internazionale del Móbile, Italy, in 1961. ISA, a company in Bergamo, Italy this looks to be a strong, Robust and extremely comfortable. The independent leather straps and buttons can be adjusted so that the “basket” adjusts to the user’s anatomical features.

The shelving unit below of rosewood and metal makes an architectural statement which contrasts with the fluidity of his other designs, and looks perfect to display books.

These are all definitely going onto the Savoir faire wish list!

Monday, July 27, 2009

London Savoir Faire

I first came across Oscar Milo in London a couple of years ago. We were in search of Paul Smith outlet shop in Avery Row. We found Paul Smith and were infinitely disappointed, however right across the street, was a complete gem. Oscar Milo!

This was a store with a difference. Along with great clothing for both men and women, they had a small selection of furniture and household items. The clothes were wonderful. While sticking to the classics of English tailoring and design, each piece had a quirky detail that set it apart from everything else. Button holes were outlined with stitching in vibrant colours that contrasted with the fabric. The cut of each item had a bit of an edge to it, and the fabrics were wonderful.

Something that did catch my eye was the knitwear. I know that one shudders when you here of bulky knits, as they can appear very cumbersome. However with the actual lines of the piece they were not. I bought a wonderful cream bulky knit cardigan, that when put on fits the torso like a glove. It is the texture of the knit that stands out.

They have a few pieces of furniture that are wonderful. The driftwood cabinet below would be equally at home in town or in the country!

So if you find yourself in Avery Row or in Brushfield Street London, Drop in for some Savoir faire!

OSCAR MILO 19 Avery Row, London in '94. or 47 Brushfield Street, London

Friday, July 24, 2009

Evening Savoir Faire

Ok, so you all know that I am a creature of habit and what I eat my breakfast off, so here is another habit I have, and that is my evening cup of tea. It is a nice little pleasure and here is one of my favourites to drink it out of. Of course tea selection does vary from a robust orange pekoe to maybe a tisane, depending on my mood.

Lomonosov china - often considered Russia's finest china (if there was any contest). The china factory was founded in 1744 by decree of Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, and named for Russia's famous 18th century academic scientist and writer, Mikhail Lomonosov. Using alabaster porcelain technology, the china is whiter than usual, delicate and translucent, so translucent that you can almost see through it, not to mention the lovely tonality of the ring, when you tap the side of the cup with your finger. .

I start the morning with a bang in Acapulco courtesy of Villeroy and Boch and end the day in Russia, courtesy of Lomonosov!

Some Friday Savoir Faire.

If we were heading off to Atlanta for the weekend in 1958, and we wanted to do it with some savoir faire, The Cabana Motel in Atlanta would be just the place. Opened in 1958 by Jay Sarno who went onto bigger things by opening Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in 1966.

Unfortunately torn down in 2002 after having seen better days, we can only dream of descending that staircase into that fabulous lobby!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Savoir Faire 2001

Since it is the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon, it is apt that a mention of it is made on Savoir Faire. Before man had actually landed on the moon Stanley Kubrick had built a whole community on the moon, in “2001 A Space Odyssey”. Instead of the International Space Station we had a Hilton Hotel, serviced regularly by Pan Am rocket, and video phones were a part of everyday life. The most surprising part of all this is, that Kubrick had hired the Queen’s dressmaker Hardy Amies to dress us all in this groundbreaking science fiction movie.

An odd choice and many wondered whether Hardy was up to it, but design he did and the costumes are wonderful! Sir Hardy shook up his traditional image when he created the futuristic costumes which today are instantly recognisable. When costuming the movie there were several challenges involved. One scene had direct political undertones as this was the height of the cold war. When the American’s meet the Russians in the lobby of the Hilton Space Station, Amies made the Russians wardrobe appear as drab and shapeless as possible (which must have killed him) to comment on the social aspects of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 60’s.

Amies’ costumes blend in perfectly with the set decoration of the movie to create an overall concept of what we could expect of the future. Who can forget Kier Dullea in that wonderful spacesuit that has so much more panache and style than the current versions by NASA?

Pan Am’s hostesses in those wonderful almost cat like suits that were not only designed for practicality and comfort but looked good as well.

So to celebrate our landing on the moon and Sir Hardy’s birthday last week, we salute you Mr. Amies, for stepping out of your comfort zone with some savoir faire.

* Suggested reading Sir Hardy’s autobiography “Still Here”.
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