Thursday, 18 February 2010
When I was 17 I took half my first pay cheque into a boutique in Cardiff and spent £375 on a Moschino Cheap & Chic suit. The jacket had sewing thimbles for buttons. It was the most unusual, beautiful and expensive thing I had ever owned. It spoke to me, it spoke to others:
"Are those...thimbles?" people would ask.
16 years later and that jacket hangs in my wardrobe in New York. It's lasted longer than any man in my life and I can still just about fit into it. That in itself is testament to the miracle of Moschino.
With this sentimental connection proceeding, you can imagine my anticipation at an invite to Elisa Palomino's debut collection-this is the woman who started Cheap & Chic.
After that Palomino went to work at John Galliano, Dior, Roberto Cavalli and Diane Von Furstenbeg. Not to mention that she started in the fashion world by attending Central St Martins with Hussein Chalayn, Antonio Berardi and the late, great Alexander McQueen.
This all adds up to the fashion equivalent of a thorough bred racehorse. With all that pedigree, you know you're in for something special.
Excited, I persuade The Teenager to come along as my 'intern'. That I have to persuade her at all says a lot about the apathy of youth. She is even less keen when I tell her she will actually have to do something, like take notes or pictures. But after a hissy fit about what to wear, she tags along, in her BCBG heeled boots and we cab it uptown.
The General Society of Mechanics on W44th Street strikes me as as odd location on paper. In reality It's like walking back into the 1920's- an elegant old library, stuffed to the gills with hardbound dusty books and oak chests. Oriental lanterns have been strung all over the ceiling and the room is lit with a warm, amber hued glow.
The show begins. Three singers who stride balletically to their mics and begin to sing something operatic and enchanting.
The first model emerges from a backroom and teeters precariously down a small set of stairs looking like a geisha turned Oriental party princesses. The girls come out one by one with the same huge messy birdnest hair topped with giant flowers or bows. They balance on sky high heels and the music turns flapper to match the drop hem dresses.
Modern mixes with vintage as satin puffas are teamed with Japanese floral print bias cut dresses. There's an abundance of chunky knits with giant gardenias. Fur stoles come with floral embroidery and there's tons of ruffles and ruching. A gold sequin dress shimmies by and I notice it is embellised with yet more flowers.
The palate is rich orange, bright fuschia pink, creams and shades of gold.
There's lots of black too, but rather than severe in contrast to the colour, it's silky, seductive and surrounded by yet more flowers.
As in love as I am, I still want to be objective. I don't go looking for flaws but it strikes me that a few pieces in the collection are just a tad Per Una at M&S- the black knit with flowers and the orange silk skirt and matching cardie (below) in particular looks pretty middle aged Surrey housewife.
My Mum would like it, but that's no disparaging comment- my Mum is a pretty stylish sixtysomething and actually owns a few Moschino pieces herself.
The real litmus test is in the mouths of babes:
"What did you think?" I ask The Teenager
"It was amazing. I loved the clothes, they were soooo beautiful. "
I can see three generations of women wearing something by Elisa Palomino, unlikely her intention, but certainly the result. That has to translate as something that will become infinitely sellable.
More importantly is The Teen's reaction.
She never uses superlatives.