Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sasek Faire!

I remember as a child a wonderful series of children’s books by Miroslav Sasek showcasing different countries around the world. I have two of them (This is London and This is Edinburgh) and they are very battered as I used to read them continuously. Each book takes the reader on an amusing tour throughout the city, and highlights both the landmarks and uniqueness of each location, with wonderful humorous cartoon like illustrations. The books stick to the same format throughout the series. There is usually an illustration of (presumably) Sasek himself going to wherever the book is set on the bottom left inside cover and a similar illustration on the bottom right inside cover which shows him leaving with some kind of local adornment.

The illustrations although a little dated now are as fresh today as what they were when they were first conceived and appeal to young and old alike as there is something for everyone. The books emphasise tourist hotspots, local transport and national dress (particularly the different cultures that inhabit each place). They are in a very 50s, Eastern European style, but are not dated at all. Most of the things that Sasek has picked out are still noteworthy today and his style has endured. They are true classics introducing the cachet and savoir faire of travel to children, that has endured.

So it is only fitting that since I will be leaving soon for Italy that I feature some of the illustrations from the Rome and Venice books.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Savoir Faire has been Recognised!

I have been very fortunate in the last couple of days to have been recognised by my fellow bloggers with two awards.

The first is the Premio Meme Award from Tristan at Enchanted Revellery. This requires that I write 7 things about myself that you don’t already know. (Trust me I will get onto this)

The second is the ‘Circle of Friends” award from YSL Guy at Let Them Eat Cupcakes who lists me as a favourite male blogger! High praise indeed!

Check out these two blogs as they are wonderful, they are also full of savoir faire!

Drop Dead Savoir Faire!

My apologies style mavericks as my posts for the next couple of days are going to be very short (but sweet) and then will cease for 2 weeks while I am on vacation.

However, that does not mean that my posts won’t contain the usual savoir faire that you have all become devotees of! The below picture is of a friend of mine here in Toronto who is an actress, and let me tell you nobody plays a corpse better than Laura! Even dead in an alley she has glamour! The photo is almost Newtonesque in its approach with colours and the hair, not to mention the setting.

So I am sorry to be a bit morbid here, but when our number is up, I hope we look as good as she does!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Savoir Faire in Capri

Unfortunately on my forthcoming trip to Italy I will not be enjoying la dolce vita, as these two bright young things seem to be!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Savoir Faire with The Marchesa

I have just picked up from the Library a copy of Infinite Variety, the definitive biography of the Marchesa Luisa Casati! Previously I had done a posting on this remarkable woman which merely scratched the surface of the great savoir faire that she possessed. Long dead and buried she is still a constant source of inspiration for couturiers and artists alike.

I like biographies with pictures and this one doesn’t disappoint. However what does surprise me is the fact for such a woman who was one of the most painted and photographed of her time, little pictorial evidence exists (same can be said for Misia Sert). As most of you know I love to illustrate my posts, and was continually frustrated in my search of images of these two remarkable women to use.

However do not despair! I have found a photograph of the Marchesa taken around 1940, after she had lost all her considerable wealth and was living in London almost penniless. For someone on reduced circumstances she displays a remarkable presence and savoir faire.

I also can’t resist using the below image of Marisa Berenson (Schiaparelli’s granddaughter) dressed as Casati in the late 60’s. Kudos to Ms. Berenson for capturing the spirit perfectly.

Cant wait to read the biography and am saving it for Italy, so I can get in the true spirit of things!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Savoir Faire with Misia

Misia Sert, born in the shadows of the Tsars at Tsarkoe Selo in 1872, patron of the arts and composers, friend of the avante gard, definitely had the savoir faire and the courage to carry herself through the many husbands she had and her glittering salons in Paris. Anybody who wanted to be somebody crossed her threshold, as the list of Misia Sert's friends would read like a who's who of the cultural elite of Paris from the end of the Second Empire to World War II.

A gifted pianist she married before she was 16 her first husband Tadeusz Natansan, a Polish émigré politician and journalist, later to become the editor of La Revue blanche magazine. When Natanson was on the brink of bankruptcy, the newspaper magnate Alfred Edwards saved him, on condition that he surrender his wife to him. Duly Misia upheld her part of the bargain and lived with Edwards. Misia's third marriage was to the Spanish painter Jose Maria Sert (1876-1945). She loved Sert, and gave him up when he fell in love with another woman, but kept his name.

She hosted a literary-artistic salon in Paris and acquired considerable influence in Parisian musical and artistic circles, Claude Debussy, as well as painters such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vuillard, and Pierre Bonnard were among her guests. She was a confidante of Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau, an early patron of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and a close friend of the designer Coco Chanel. The painters painted her and the composers aired their masterpieces at her piano, which she herself could play very well. Her taste was original, penetrating and in most cases definitive. Without directly creating anything, she was some kind of artist herself— rather like Diaghilev, of whom she was the soul-mate and valued adviser. However you had to be of note and gifted even before Misia wanted to know you.

One of the most famous portraits of Misia, is that of Renoir, now hanging in the National Gallery London. Renoir longed to paint Misia with the famous breasts naked, but she would never bare them to him, probably because Edwards was lurking heavily in the adjacent room, ready to exact jealous vengeance even though the artist by that time was an all but total cripple. At one point during her marriage to Edwards, Misia rewarded Renoir for a portrait by giving him a blank cheque. He filled it in with the going rate.

She was one of the models for Toulouse-Lautrec's poster for La Revue Blanche in 1896, in which she is shown as a skater.

Ravel dedicated "Le Cygne" (The Swan) in Histoires naturelles, and La Valse (The Waltz) to her.
Two of her main influences in life who stuck with her to the bitter end were Chanel and Cocteau. In her old age they stuck with her, no matter how old and feeble she had become, not just through the ravages of old age but for the habit of injecting morphine straight through her clothes.

The catalyst for launching others on to stardom, Misia is less remembered than what she should be, and went through life with great savoir faire!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tropic Savoir Faire!

It is a shame that the pith helmet went out of style, as these dapper young men look quite at home in their wonderfully crisp suits and pith helmets exploring the pleasures of Angkor Wat!

Seated Savoir Faire

Would you believe that one of the 21st century’s most popular chairs has its design roots firmly planted in the 4th century BC in Ancient Greece? The Klismos chair is instantly recognisable for its four gently curving splayed legs; it’s elegantly curved back rails with a narrow concave backrest between them. It has been depicted on Ancient Greek pottery and has been resurrected in the French Directoire, English Regency, and American Empire styles, only to resurface again in the design repertoire of the 21st century.

The klismos has endured for centuries and has seen many interpretations. One of my favourites is English regency, especially teemed with a classic regency striped fabric seat. (As a child growing up many a Sunday roast was spent sitting on my parent’s regency dining chairs).

The classicizing phase of Modernism allied with Art Deco found the simple lines of the klismos once again in favor and they have endured ever since with examples coming from sources as diverse as IKEA and Ralph Lauren! They add a touch of elegant classicism to any interior as in the example below with them teamed with the ever so stylish table from Eero Saarinen.

Those Ancient Greeks certainly knew how to sit with savoir faire!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Savoir Faire under Duress!

You have to hand it to this young society devotee! Even with her plastered arm, she is soldiering on and working that sleeveless white blouse for all it is worth. Whether this is a savoir faire faux pas or not I will let you be the judge!

Weekend Away with Savoir Faire!

It’s the weekend, and this young man is thinking of going away! By the looks of it he has chosen Spain for a little sojourn. My only question is, with all his savoir faire is he going to bring that plaid blanket with him??

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stadio Faire!

On my forthcoming visit to Italy in less than two weeks time, I am going to make an extra special effort to visit the The Stadio dei Marmi that stands beside the larger and better-known Olympic stadium. A little off the beaten tourist track, but something I do want to visit, for the sheer monumentalism and aesthetic look of the place.

Designed by Enrico Del Debbio and built in 1932 as part of Mussolini’s grand plan this is fascist architecture with a softer edge. I know one shouldn’t extol the virtues of a repressive regime, but the stadio is beautiful, from the white marble to the intricate mosaics in the plaza surrounding it.

The crowning achievement of its design are the 59 (originally 60) marble statues of athletes in the classical style outlining its perimeter. These are hyper-muscular athletes in poses of exaggerated physical vigour that portray the aesthetic of the time and Mussolini’s grandiosity. We have all seen various pictures of these statues not realising where they have come from. These represent the power which Italy was to become drawing inspiration from a classical past.

So I cannot wait to see these statues in all their masculine glory!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Savoir Faire Quote of the Day

“I'll go through life either first class or third, but never in second”

So said Cecil Beaton who I think never travelled third!

Sari Faire!

What can be said about an article of clothing that has been worn by women for centuries and basically lends an aura of glamour and savoir faire to all who wear it? It crosses the boundaries of class distinction by all who wear it whether rich or poor? It can be found in the poorest of villages or the most opulent palaces of the world, and worn by young or old alike. The sari of course! Here is a garment that can make any woman beautiful, with its sinuous elegant lines and gorgeous fabrics. The history of Indian clothing trace the sari back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished during 2800-1800 BCE around the western part of the Indian Subcontinent. The earliest known depiction of the sari in the Indian subcontinent is the statue of an Indus valley priest wearing a drape.

So incredibly simple in its form (just a length of cloth on average of 6 metres long) when wrapped and worn the woman who wears it displays an elegance that is hard to beat. It can be made from the richest of silks or the most humble of cottons, in the most brilliant or subdued colours. It transcends all boundaries and is worn by some of the most glamorous and famous women in the world and also as a dress uniform by women in the armed forces of India. I love the fact even the poorest of the poor has the ability to look beautiful and elegant while wearing one.

Sonia Ghandi even though Italian looks essentially glamorous and Indian wearing a sari, and now it is her standard dress.

The Maharani of Jaipur (Who recently passed away) with Jackie O.

Saris have been the source of inspiration for many a designer, from Schiaparelli who elevated them to Haute Couture in the 30’s to interior designers who used the wonderful array of fabrics in decorating schemes.

This is a timeless garment that has been reinterpreted in many different forms, while retaining its originality and basic form. Designers have used the draping techniques to inspire them and created modern day versions with wit and tongue in cheek savoir faire such as the ‘google’ inspired sari below.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Supermodel Savoir Faire

One of the original supermodels of the 60's Veruschka, photographed by Richard Avedon.

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