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In praise of the emperor’s new vintage
Ralph Lauren and John Lobb have given their clothing “born-on” dates

Vintage is perhaps the most important fashion direction to emerge so far this century. Before vintage we had second-hand clothes, which were the same thing but much, much less expensive. Apart from the licence to demand high prices, the miraculous thing about vintage is the way it has been embraced by the high street, with well-known retailers bulk-buying the sort of stuff that would have languished on charity shop railings or in piles in jumble sales and using it to open vintage departments.

Now, as we enter the second half of the decade, vintage takes on new meaning for the fashion conscious with Ralph Lauren’s “create your own polo shirt” service. Ralph is a clever man, and he is doing his best to get us to buy more polo shirts – after all, the margins must be huge – so as well as the over-sized pony and polo player that you will have seen being worn at the US Open, it is now possible to customise your polo, choosing the colour of shirt and the colour of pony. Ralph will then embroider initials (his, not yours) at the hem along with the year. Strictly speaking, this is not buying vintage, but to use a vinous analogy, en primeur; instead of buying clothes ready aged, the idea is that you mature them yourself, while the date at the hem allows you keep track of the ageing process.

Another fi rm which has already developed a strong following for its en primeur apparel is upscale cobbler John Lobb (shoe, above). For the last 10 years, October 25th, St Crispin’s day, has seen the arrival of limited-edition shoes from John Lobb; as you doubtless know, St Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers. As with wine, so with shoes there are good and years: ageing well are the 1996, 1999 and 2003 vintages; while the 1998 vintage, an idiosyncratic take on the monk (or buckle shoe) has failed to live up to early promise.

It is a little too early to predict how this year’s vintage will bed down, but rather like offering a hint of ageing, JL is offering an antiqued fi nish, for those who do not want that showroom shine on their feet. Apparently shoe collectors await each year’s release with the sort of anticipation that used to attend Beaujolais Nouveau, but with a pair of JL vintage shoes costing a little less than £700, they should be less likely to disappoint. I hope next year will see a souliers nouveaux race from John Lobb’s Northampton factory to its Jermyn Street store. NICK FOULKES
John Lobb shoes, from £695 (€1,020). www.johnlobb.com

Star quality
It used to be that Hollywood stars who fancied getting a little extra pocket money turned to the Far East advertising market to rustle up a little extra cash. For years Hollywood A listers have picked up useful extra income for minimal embarrassment, advertising products, often really dull ones, hoping that no one will notice. Well now it seems that Hollywood actors who want to trouser a few advertising dollars will have put themselves in front of a wider audience.

In a recent fl urry of starry advertising, Nicole Kidman appeared in an ad for Chanel, John Travolta has turned up promoting Breitling watches, while Brad Pitt has been selected as pin-up for Tag Heuer watches. Tag is owned by French luxury conglomerate LVMH, as it seems is Uma Thurman, who can be seen in your local colour supplement or glossy magazine appearing in advertisements for Tag Heuer watches and also playing a supporting role in an ad for Louis Vuitton (also owned by LVMH), locked in a loving embrace with one of their handbags. Indeed it is possible to foresee a time when movie stars, like athletes, are openly sponsored by luxury-goods conglomerates.

Given Ms Thurman’s appetite for such work as well as her role as muse to Tarantino, it can only be a matter of time before Quentin gives us one of his characteristically violent fi lms with a serial killer protagonist who garrottes her victims using their Hermès ties and then disposes of their remains in Louis Vuitton bodybags. NF

La dolce vita on wheels
Italian culture is best sampled from a Ferrari
Marcello Mastroianni would have approved. Red Travel tours offer the best of Italian culture: luxury resorts, health spas, gastronomy, art and fashion. But their holidays combine the culture and countryside of Italy with the drive of a lifetime – you motor yourself between venues at the wheel of latest Ferrari.

The trips, which last from two to eight days visit Rome and Florence, charming Siena, Assisi, Pienza and Pisa, and atmospheric Cavallino and Maranello. Tours can be arranged for individuals or groups and start at €3,000 per person. YVAN VERMEESCH

Luxury leather good enough for the Museum of Modern Art

Valextra makes probably the most luxurious luggage in the world. Founded in 1937, the Italian company has specialised in handcrafting simple, beautiful suitcases out of exotic leathers like ostrich and crocodile for the rich and famous (Maria Callas and Aristotle Onasis were fans). Their best-known model is the compasso d’oro, a sleek 24-hour bag designed in 1954 which is in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Made from beautifully tanned Italian calf hide and designed with Valextra’s signature visible zipper detail, the small suitcase is perfectly sized to make the transition from boardroom to airport lounge. TED YOUNG-ING
Valextra compasso d’oro, €6,400. www.valextra.com

Floating to oblivion
Good taste is affordable – even if you’re very rich

As the cruise industry continues to try to reinvent itself and as the super-rich look for new, increasingly conspicuous ways in which to outspend their peers, it was inevitable, if rather sad, that yacht design would succumb to the creeping tyranny of design.

A yacht is an ostentatious purchase; one might as well load it with every conceivable discotheque, cinema, swimming pool, helipad and so on. For the intelligent nouveaux riches, the biggest fear is to be thought vulgar or tasteless – though it is diffi cult to imagine an activity more vulgar than bobbing about the world’s oceans on your own ocean liner. It must be great fun, but please do not pretend that it is anything other than a bravura display of conspicuous consumption.

The problem with taste these days is that it is a well-defi ned concept. Almost everybody thinks they have taste because they have stayed in a few minimalist hotels and fl icked through a few copies of Wallpaper* magazine. Fearful of making a faux pas, new-wave yacht buyers are turning to the people who have shaped the environments in which they are comfortable. The result is that recently Norman Foster and the ubiquitous Philippe Starck have got into boat design. Lord Foster is lending his considerable talents to help dress up a fractional boat ownership programme (above), where a shade under ¤1,300,000 will buy in to the programme with around 10% per annum upkeep after that. Meanwhile Philippe Starck has designed a 118- metre behemoth called Sigma to be launched in a couple of years.

The thing is that if I were rich, I would consider Philippe Starck so overexposed as to make The Gap seem a discreet and little-known boutique brand… and do you really want to own a yacht by The Gap? NF

Winter sports survival guide
Taking care on the slopes
Winter sports take their toll on you. Wind and snow on your face as you race down the slopes dries out your skin, sunglare from the snow gives you a bad goggletan and the (mercifully) occasional wipeout gives your body a bit of a battering. So whether you’re snowboarding at St Moritz or skiing in Vale, make sure you’ve packed the essentials

1 Unclog your pores with Decleor’s Jeu de Billes from their men’s Le Soin line
(£16,¤24), a good-quality exfoliating face gel that will ensure your face gets the right start.

2 Follow with Ren’s Phytostimuline Moisturiser for dry skin (£24, ¤32).

3 Dr Hauschka’s Sunscreen Stick (£6, ¤9) comes in a conveniently small package and protects you from snowglare (and the dreaded goggletan). Smells nice, too.

4 Don’t forget your lips! Protect them with Burt’s Bees Lifeguard’s Choice Weath- erproofi ng Lip Balm (£3, ¤5), an all natural beewax-based balm with sunscreen.

5 After a had day on the slopes, convince your partner to give you a rubdown with
Lirene Dermoprogramme’s massage cream (£8, ¤11) with arnica to heal up any bruising so no one need know about those wipeouts.

6 Nothing’s better to soothe aching muscles than a hot bath. Dissolve a capful of Molton Brown’s new Thermal Salts Muscle Soak (£15, ¤22) in the tub and let it get to work on those throbbing legs.

7 At night, get ready to go out on the town with King of Shaves Magnaglide shaving cream (£5, ¤7.50) with aloe vera, grapeseed and tea tree oil. It’s perhaps misguid- edly winter sports-themed, but this product does give a really close, clean shave.

Now, with your body’s needs all met, all you need to worry about is how you look on those double diamonds. Watch out for that tree! TYI
Hampshire glass (£32, €48) by Calvin Klein. Tampico nailbrush (£7, €11) by SRF Hantverk.

Five-star car spa
Give the motor a luxury treat
Zymöl is like Häagen-Dazs. It oozes sophisticated European brand, but it’s American – a very good thing when it comes to car care, because when the Americans say concours d’elegance they really mean it. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding across the Atlantic when it comes to classic cars. The European “very good original condition” translates into “tatty” from a Californian perspective, while the US take on concours strikes the average Swiss citizen as too clean by far. But Zymöl – which has German roots in a Bischofsheim carriage wax discovered over a century ago – has re-entered Europe via Connecticut and is fast becoming an absolute phenomenon among automotive cognoscenti.

Right at the top of a product tree not short of branches, there is Zymöl vintage wax. It comes in a crystal ink well, costs ¤2,177 and is re-fi llable at no cost for life. Based on a custom formula developed for a prize-winning 1947 Bentley Mark VI Cabriolet, it contains 61% Brazilian No.1 white carnauba wax by volume, Montan evergreen oil, sunfl ower oil, cantaloupe oil, coconut oil, honeydew extract and propolis (from bees). So it smells fabulous as well.

The rest of the Zymöl product range is not far behind in sensory delights and beautifully glazed results, but a good deal cheaper. We tried the carbon wax starter kit, which comes with such comprehensive instructions that car cleaning is transformed into a process as delicate and breathtaking as heart surgery. Juggling pre-wax and wax applicators, the coup de grace comes when you buff off with the “ultra light-weight, 'rubber’ (nylon+nytril) quad axial woven material” Zymöl microwipe, “forcing all of your Zymöl wax or glaze to bond during application.” The results are undeniably superb, and result in that fabulous moment when the rain comes down, and instead of turning the paintwork to slime, beads and slides away like aqueous quicksilver.

Using hard, chalky water to clean the car leaves behind horrid smudges, especially on darker paint work and diamondschwarz metallic especially. Zymöl has fi xed that too with a hose fi lter called Acquagleam. It’s simple, it works, and it will ensure the cleanest base from which to begin the waxing process. RICHARD LOFTHOUSE
Vintage wax, €2,177
Carbon Starter Kit, €150
Acquagleam, €65. www.zymol.com

Blue chair for a blue day
An icon of Scandinavian design is reborn
Artek are releasing a limited edition of Alvar Aalto’s historic Paimio Armchair 41, originally designed in the 1930s, lacquered in a cool petrol-blue colour. Released as a part of the Finnish furniture manufacturer’s 70th birthday celebrations, the wooden chair’s blue hue comes from the original colour Aalto used in the Paimio sanatorium. Artek has recently come under the creative directorship of Tom Dixon, who is taking the company in a more contemporary direction and who will be guiding it through seasonal collections.
If this is a sign of their future, then bring it on! TYI
Artek Paimio chair, €2,470. www.artek.fi

On top of the material world
What do you get the man who has everything? In the past the fashionista’s answer to this old chestnut has been “something by Philippe Starck” – a yacht or a lavatory brush depending on your budget. But now, the competition for the title “most esoteric item that you could think of” looks like being particularly stiff. Particularly imaginative is the cloth dreamed up by Dormeuil in association with a tailor called Richard Anderson. Called Gunashina, it is a blend of three expensive fabrics in one length of cloth: kid Kashmiri pashmina, cashmere and guanaco (a South American cloth heading in the direction of vicuna). It is not a bad idea, enabling the wearer to pull off a sort of sartorial hat trick, which in automotive terms translates into something like getting behind the wheel of Ferralambontley. NF
Gunashina, €1,500 per metre. Richard Anderson, +44 (0)207 734 0001

Modish reads for the design enthusiast

Charlotte Perriand
Assouline, £13 (¤19)
If you’re a fan of early French modernism, you probably already love Charlotte Perriand. She was a pioneer designer who worked with both Le Corbusier (it was she who designed that famous chaise longue) and Jean Prouvé, before suddenly moving to Japan where she began to explore a more organic design. The last decade has seen her fi nally getting the recognition she deserves. This new Charlotte Perriand minibook is a great little picture book, containing really well-researched archival photography of most of her covetable furniture and famous interiors, and a few great snapshots of her life.

Home Is Where the Heart Is
By Ilse Crawford. Quadrille, £25 (¤37)
Maybe Ilse Crawford is our modern-day Perriand. Crawford brought a new modern aesthetic to Europe when she edited the UK edition of Elle Decor, then famously walked away from the magazine because she found the corporate atmosphere too stifl ing. She now works on a wide range of international design projects, and also fi tted out my favourite place to rest my head in Manhattan, the Soho House outpost. She’s also just published a new design manifesto. Home Is Where the Heart Is is a beautiful book that shares her view on the role that the home plays in our lives with short essays and really gorgeous interiors photography. And to prove that she walks the talk, the book also has lots of photos of her own home (an enviable loft in South London).

Pierre Cardin: Fifty Years of Fashion and Design
Thames & Hudson, £30 (¤45)
I still associate Pierre Cardin with a vast series of ill-advised licensee products from the 1980s. It’s easy to forget just how important and infl uential he is. Pierre Cardin is the man who dressed the Beatles in collarless suits, who brought the idea of prêt-à-porter to the world, and who created the playful, modern sense of dress in the 1960s. Flipping through Pierre Cardin: Fifty Years of Fashion and Design, it’s almost shocking to see how exciting and radical his oeuvre still looks today. Focusing mainly on his experimental (and ultimately unwearable) sculptural shapes from the 60s and 70s, this book is fun and inspiring.

Sample: 100 Fashion Designers
Phaidon, £45 (¤66)
Still on the fashion tip, as soon as I opened the package containing the review copy of Sample, I knew I was holding something pretty special. The book jacket and pages have been hand cut and pleated to resemble an haute couture tuxedo shirt, and it comes wrapped in a Phaidon-branded elastic belt. Inside is a fashion exhibition in a book, featuring the most innovative and infl uential designers working in fashion today. Encyclopedic in scope, with photos of the designers’ collections and extras like campaigns, fabric swatches and never-before-seen working sketches, this book defi nitely belongs in every stylish library. Maybe you can judge a book by its cover after all. TYI

Monastic living
Heavenly tableware for households both godly and secular

Good news for those who have been hunting for the perfect table setting for their chic, spartan loft; rejoice, it’s fi nally arrived. The UK’s high priest of minimalism, architect John Pawson, has designed a restrained tableware collection for Belgian company When Objects Work. The collection consists of a mug, one-size of plate and two bowls in porcelain, cutlery set in either stainless steel or sterling silver and two crystal glasses. But the objects’ simplicity of form belies their refi ned luxury; these are powerful, elegant objects with which to enjoy the ritual of eating. Pawson initially designed this collection to be used by the monks in the Cistercian monastry he designed in Bohemia. Says Pawson: “Each implement or vessel is designed for the best possible experience in use – for visual delight, to feel good in the hand and to be ideally fi t for purpose.” The collection is also surprisingly affordable. When Objects Work sought out manufacturers who could not only produce to incredibly high standards, but could also stick to tight budgets. A table! TYI
John Pawson tableware, €8–€108. www.whenobjectswork.com

Iceland’s lava spirit
Vodka from the land of fire and ice

Vodka is more plentiful than mineral water these days, and almost as cheap. There are simply hundreds of products hitting the market every year, and as the bubble expands so its outer edge gets thinner, the air more rarefi ed and the diaspora away from the core more desperate. There is, for example. Reyka. Like all fancy – ahem, premium – spirits, it is “hand-crafted in small batches”, which let’s face it, means little when you’re dealing with grain-based white spirits. Indeed, it is literally diffi cult to graft the “hand-made” tag on to distilling. It’s not as if you can see where Giuseppe stitched the last centilitre before hand fi tting the alcoholic cuffs.

But none of that will matter when you’ve slammed a triple measure of this stuff, because it boasts a fat, richly structured, slightly liquorice gloriousness that proffers plenty more by way of taste than the average product from east of St Petersburg. It would be the perfect foil for a slither of raw Atlantic cod. Having not seen the Icelandic still, we can’t speak in detail about the harnessing of geothermal energy, the lava rock fi ltration process or the Grábrók spring water, but the end product is worth it and the label is a lovely example of the current vogue for medicinal bottles labelled in the manner of 1950. Very nice. RL Reyka Vodka, 70cl €23.60 www.reykavodka.com

Imation that
A flash drive both svelte and tough

“MICRO on the outside! GIGA in the inside!” shouts the press release. The rise and rise of fl ash memory, USB sticks and other forms of tiny, highly portable memory is nothing less than astonishing. With hundreds of products for sale, the game has already moved on to the tricky terrain of design genius and product differentiation. This stick is waterproof, that one can survive being driven over by a car, and a third dropped into a canyon will survive until the next ice age. And so on. But it’s unusual to get the hard-man act in a svelte form and offering excellent performance too.

Imation have surpassed themselves by achieving all three with their micro hard drive. Now available with 4GB, no one but the most memory-hungry graphics mogul could be left short. The design, meanwhile, loops a handy USB connector back into the drive, allowing the owner to attach it to belt loops and briefcases. Finally, alongside 128-bit encryption to prevent unauthorised access, it’s engineered to withstand shocks up to 1000 Gs. We can’t think what sort of shock that would be, but with a two-year guarantee to boot, this is an intelligent, well-thought-out piece of kit as well as one of the biggest, fastest fl ash drives on the market. RL
Imation Micro Hard Drive €155. www.imation.com

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