2015 in Books

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(Images: Amazon)

Judi Dench Behind The Scenes, Sali Hughes Pretty Honest, Shirley MacLaine What If…, Nora Ephron I Feel Bad About My Neck, Jane Wagner The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Nora Ephron Heartburn, Nora Ephron I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron & India Knight The Most of Nora Ephron, Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking


2015 has been a Nora Ephron heavy year. It induces great pangs of sadness to think she’s been gone for over three years. All of her books follow a similar theme of analysing her life and telling us about what she’s learned with her sharp wit. It will be a heartbreaking day when I finish reading all of her work.

Sali Hughes and her beauty handbook for ‘real women’ has received much acclaim. If you have good knowledge of makeup and skincare already, I would say you don’t desperately need this in your life. Perhaps take a gander at Caroline Hirons blog to expand existing information. However, if you are a beauty rookie then Pretty Honest would be a good place to start.

Put simply, Dame Judi Dench’s illustrated memoir is a great flick-through coffee table book. It contains personal photos of her career and family life. Who doesn’t love a bit of Dench? If anyone saw her in A Winter’s Tale, just know I am mightily jealous of you.

I have also developed a strong affinity for Lily Tomlin this year. The Search, as it is referred to, is a play written by Tomlin’s partner of over 40 years, Jane Wagner. It was shown on Broadway and Tomlin won a TONY Award for her portrayal of…every single character in the play. “I worry if peanut oil comes from peanutsand olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?”

What If… is Shirley MacLaine musing over a range of subjects like religion, marriage and politics, and asking what if…? What if I could have banished Sachi Parker to a different planet and prevented her from writing a tell-all book about me as a mother? That isn’t in the book, but I imagine ol’ Shirl thought about it.

My last book of the year that I’ve just finished is Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. It is an account of the few short months in which she loses her husband and her daughter falls seriously ill. Didion examines pre-existing ideas she has about death, marriage, children and life itself. Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity. She revisits a version of this opening passage throughout the book as she goes on a exploration of her personal, yet ubiquitous, experiences. This, along with Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Blue Nights were gifted to me by Hannah for Christmas. I think 2016 will be a Joan Didion year.

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The First Lady of Stand-Up

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“I could just sense there was something subversive about Jean Carroll, in an acceptable way.” – Lily Tomlin

Jean Carroll isn’t a name that automatically springs to mind when you think of women in comedy. But it should be.

Carroll was one of the first women to do stand-up on national television. During the 1940s and 50s she toured and made appearances on both The Ed Sullivan Show and on her own sitcom, The Jean Carroll Show which aired for only one season. She is acknowledged for having paved the way for platoons of female stand-up comics who came after her, including Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers.

Originally born in Paris as Celine Zeigman, Carroll moved to the Bronx when she was 18 months old. She began her career as a vaudeville dancer and in the 1930s formed part of a duo with her husband, aptly named Carroll and Howe. “My husband, he’s a wonderful man, a regular do-it-yourselfer. I say, ‘Honey, help me.’ He says, ‘Do it yourself!’”

In an era when comedy was a less than suitable path for a woman to follow, Jean held her own. Dressed in a party dress, choker and heels, her ladylike appearance was not an indication of what was to come from her lacquered lips. She lampooned married life, “The thing that attracted me to my husband was his pride…I’ll never forget the first time I saw him, standing up on a hill, his hair blowing in the breeze – and he too proud to run and get it.” She parodied child rearing, “Oh the women were so nice! We used to sit around and tell lies. They all brag about their children. ‘Oh my son is a genius! He talks and he’s only 30.’” And she made fun of suburban living, “In the country everything is done in groups. Two women meet up on the street, ‘Oh Agnes, I’m going to have a baby!’ ‘Oh, so am I!’ ‘Isn’t that wonderful! Who else can we get?’ Joan Rivers wasn’t the original maestro of deprecating family life jokes after all.

Her then insurgent material, which she wrote all herself, still resonates decades on. Carroll as a household name slowly subsided after the 1950s, rarely stepping back into the spotlight. She died in 2010 in New York at the grand old age of 98, proving that laughter really is the best medicine, “I developed a sort of a bronchial condition from the dampness so we were sitting around and this woman said ‘Gee you have a terrible cold, what are you doing?’ I said ‘I’m coughing.’ She said ‘Why don’t you take something for it?’ I said ‘Well, make me an offer.’”

And Then There Weren’t Two

(Images: wsj.com & varsity.co.uk)

(Images: wsj.com & varsity.co.uk)

On the same day, Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet and Asos’ Nick Robertson stepped down from their roles in their respective companies. Could this be just a coincidence or were their moves calculated?

Natalie Massenet is #Girlboss personified. As a former journalist at WWD and assistant to Isabella Blow, founder of Net-a-Porter and chairman of the BFC, she has done it all. Named as ‘fashion’s favourite self-made success story’ by The Observer, Massenet kickstarted Net-a-Porter with the help of her then husband in 2000 from her flat in London using her bath as a mini warehouse for the trademark black boxes. The idea behind the site was to be able to ‘click’ on an image of an outfit within a magazine format and buy it. Many said it wouldn’t survive and couldn’t imagine shopping for or selling goods void of a physical retail outlet. Adding The Outnet and more recently Porter magazine to the franchise, Net-a-Porter is now reportedly worth £350m. To coin a phrase, yaaaaas.

Nick Robertson, who started up the British online retailer Asos, has decided that after 15 years it is time to hang up his role as CEO. This Nick will be replaced by another Nick – Nick Beighton – who has been with Asos since 2009 as chief financial officer and, as of last October, chief operating officer. Robertson will still be involved in the company but as a non-executive director.

If suspicions are confirmed and the two of them have plans to join forces, the outcome will no doubt be epic and revolutionary to the highest degree. Watch this digital space.

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The Importance of Nora Ephron

(Image: nymag.com)

(Image: nymag.com)

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

Nora Ephron died in 2012 from pneumonia, as result of complications with acute myeloid leukaemia, at the age of 71. Arguably one of the best writers of her time, she left behind a deluge of work; books, essays, screenplays and films that have touched so many and continue to make us laugh.

Ephron was dealt some tough hands but self pity was never on the writer’s agenda. Even when her husband cheated on her at the same time she was expecting, she turned the situation on its head and conceived a best seller, Heartburn – which was later made into a film with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson – as well as a son. What a woman.

She taught a generation and their daughters how to be stronger, ballsier women, imparted wisdom on a variety of topics made up of ageing, fashion, parenting and food, including how to make a key lime pie fit for throwing at your deceitful spouse. Boy, did the lady love food.

Nora, we miss you.

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Donna Karan Departs From Her Label

(Image: makers.com)

(Image: makers.com)

After 31 years, designer Donna Karan has announced she is stepping down from her current role as chief designer of the LVMH operated brand, Donna Karan. There will be no replacement meaning Donna Karan International will suspend its collections and catwalk shows. Farewell to the queen of the capsule wardrobe.

Before starting her own label in 1985, she was the assistant to the American sportswear designer Anne Klein. Karan quickly showed gumption when two days after giving birth to her daughter in 1974, the entire Klein studio was moved to her bedside so that she could carry on designing. Klein sadly died a few days after and Karan succeeded her.

Karan’s vision revolved around form, function and designing for the modern woman. She never wanted to dress women up like pageant girls, instead she wanted to cater to working women who’s desire was comfort and style in clothes that would take them from the office to dinner. Her Seven Easy Pieces was a profound attempt to challenge high fashion. The starting point was her famous black bodysuit which could be worn under skirts or trousers. It was a piece that you could wash and wear or stuff in your carry-on luggage and pull out uncreased at the other end. A timesaver for many women.

Unlike many designers, size zero was not in Karan’s sights. Admitting that she had issues with her hips and thighs, she knew how hard it was for women to find clothes that flattered them, covered the bits they didn’t like and accentuated the bits they did. Her “cold shoulder” dress, worn by Hillary Clinton, was designed around her theory that shoulders are one body part that women feel confident about as they age. If in doubt, get your shoulders out.

Donna Karan’s decision to step down is a loss for many women. She is a reflection of their wardrobes. DKNY isn’t going anywhere, but it’s not much of a consolation as she distanced herself from the brand a while ago.

All that’s left is the feeling of comfortable pants that, even after a long day and a three course meal, still allow you to breathe.

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Diane Keaton

(Image:nydailynews.com)

(Image:nydailynews.com)

Who wears turtlenecks better than Diane Keaton? Or oversized belts? Or ties? Or pantsuits? She’s been a style icon for forever and a day, namely since Woody Allen’s 1977 masterpiece Annie Hall – Meryl Streep’s hair flip though – and paved the way for androgynous dressing along with Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn. The film is said to be based on Diane’s life and her relationship with Allen. Many of her character’s outfits came from her personal wardrobe.

Now well into her sixties, she is defying the ageist stereotype about women over 50 in Hollywood as she continues to play intelligent, funny and poignant characters. Keep doing you, Keaton.

Side note: The First Wives Club might be the most underrated film ever. Girl power at its finest.

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Call Me Caitlyn

(Image: vanityfair.com)

(Image: vanityfair.com)

The whole world and his wife has seen the Vanity Fair cover of Caitlyn Jenner, so it needs no introduction. But, of course, with a cover as controversial as this it was bound to divide opinion.

Celebrities turned to social media in record time to give their two sense about the image shot by Annie Leibovitz. Daughter Kendall Jenner tweeted, ‘be free now pretty bird.’ Tissue, please. Comedienne, author, actress (is there anything she’s not?) Lena Dunham also expressed her opinion on Twitter tweeting, ‘I just want Caitlyn Jenner to take me out and teach me how to drive a stick shift in heels.’ You and about a million other women.

Perhaps the best commentary came from Orange is the New Black star and activist Laverne Cox via her tumblr. She ended her post, I hope, as I know Caitlyn does, that the love she is receiving can translate into changing hearts and minds about who all trans people are as well as shifting public policies to fully support the lives and well being of all of us. The struggle continues…

Not everyone had a positive response to the cover. PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill wrote, ‘Let me get this right. Asserting one’s femininity means posing in a low cut swimsuit. OK. Got it.’ while former Drake and Josh star Drake Bell tweeted, ‘Sorry…still calling you Bruce.’ Rude.

Those who deem it fit to chastise her transformation are the reason it has taken 65 years for Jenner to muster up the courage to be who she really is. We should celebrate our ever evolving society and support those who choose to be their true self, whether that be through sexual orientation, profession or otherwise.

On a lighter note, one of the most popular look-a-like comparisons, along with Janice Dickinson and Brooke Shields, is Jessica Lange who upon learning of her new doppelgänger graciously commented, “Oh Really? That’s so wonderful. Well, now I’m going to have to look for that picture.” As cool as ever, J Lange.

Taking the fact that she is a part of the Kardashian craze out of the equation, Jenner’s transformation is one of great significance and will help others find the courage to be who they want to be. Appearance isn’t a reflection of who you are on the inside; plastic surgery and makeup does not make her the definition of a woman, but if that makes her feel more like one then Caitlyn, you go girl.

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Do The Jane Fonda

(Image: fashionbombdaily.com)

(Image: fashionbombdaily.com)

Actress, activist, fitness fanatic and fashion icon would all be viable descriptions of 77-year-old Jane Fonda, who has been thrust back into the spotlight following the release of Netflix’s new series Grace and Frankie. And now she’s on the cover of W Magazine…sans photoshop.

The first season of Grace and Frankie starring Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, aired on Netflix May 8th – if you binge-watched all 13 episodes in 48 hours or less, you are not alone. The series follows long-time rivals Grace and Frankie, who are brought together after their husbands, who have been having an affair for 20 years, announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married.

The series is the first of its kind. It is universally known that once women reach a certain age in Hollywood, the roles cease and the mass media doesn’t want to know. Lily, 75 and Jane, 77 play intelligent, witty and sexy older women – not words you would usually string together to form a sentence about women who are ‘passed it’, for want of a better phrase. The show is an exploration of love, friendship and the realisation that us women get better as we get older. Apart from The Golden Girls, this is arguably the only series that showcases that. It even deals with issues that, according to June Diane Raphael’s character Briana, ‘83% of postmenopausal women’, deal with such as vaginal dryness. But Frankie has a solution; personal lube made from yams. You’re welcome.

Amongst all the celebration, Jane and Lily have spoken publicly about the unfair pay they received for their participation in the series. The pair were executive producers as well as main characters, yet Martin and Sam received the same amount. Tomlin remarked, “The show is not Sol and Robert, it’s Grace and Frankie.” If there are two women you don’t mess with when it comes to inequality in the workplace it’s Lily and Jane, who are both advocates for women’s rights. Come on Netflix, give the ladies the dollar they deserve.

Jane’s W Magazine cover, shot by Steven Meisel was released today. She is the oldest woman that they’ve featured on their front cover. W’s editor, Edward Enninful Instagramed the shot with #nophotoshop. Granted she’s had a few tweaks here and there but we’ve got to hand it to the woman. She’s 77 and still looks incredible without any retouching. Plus, she was a beauty before all of the trips to the plastic surgeon’s office, so they didn’t have much to improve on.

In an interview with the magazine Jane said, “I think it’s a hoot that, at my age, people are calling me a fashion icon.” Many will agree that age is redundant when it comes to having amazing style. She also stated the reason why she wanted to up her game, “I had a vision: I wanted to give a cultural face to older women.” Cue the clapping of women everywhere.

Please let there be more seasons of Grace and Frankie. The world needs to see more of Lily Tomlin in a Ramones t-shirt with chiffon sleeves, drinking peyote and coming out with ‘abso-fucking-lutely’ great one-liners.

Update: Grace and Frankie season 2 is official!

@Janefonda  janefonda.com

@LilyTomlin  lilytomlin.com

@GraceandFrankie 

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Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Previously shown at the Met in New York 4 years ago, Savage Beauty is the first and largest retrospective of Lee McQueen’s work ever to have hit Europe. The exhibition showcases some of the late designer’s most famous creations, including pieces from Plato’s Atlantis, Highland Rape, his 1992 Graduate Collection and the spray painted white tube dress from Spring/Summer 1999.

The strong emphasis McQueen placed on death, communicated throughout the exhibition, is chilling, especially now that he is no longer with us. One quote plastered on a concrete wall in the first room read, “When I’m dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.” Many would vouch for that.

The Cabinet of Curiosities – a great deal bigger than the one in New York – is the star of the show. Floor to ceiling shelves house a plethora of accessories, garments and videos of runway shows. In the centre of the room is a remake of model Shalom Harlow in the white tube dress, being sprayed with paint by robots.

(Image: Own)

(Image: Own)

On what you think is your way out, you are captured by a hologram of Kate Moss, accompanied by instrumental music. Moss floats around for a while and fizzles into several bright white lights, eventually fading to nothing. At this point, you are emotionally drained and potentially in search for a tissue.

Plato’s Atlantis is one of the last sections in the showcase. This was Lee’s final collection prior to his death. It is arguably one of his most innovative, not least because it was the first runway show to be broadcast on the internet. If Plato’s Atlantis taught us anything, it was that Lee was passionate about life and the world we live in. Of course, it’s hard to believe given that he committed suicide, but, like his beloved Isabella Blow and other creative minds alike, his demons got the better of him. In an interview with The Guardian, his successor Sarah Burton said, “It wasn’t really about fashion, with Lee. It was so much more than that. It was about everything that was to do with being alive. It was all the difficult parts, and all the beautiful parts as well.”

The vast amount on show is frankly quite overwhelming. This is an exhibition that needs visiting more than once. Round two, anyone?

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