Eddy Anemian Wins H&M’s Global Design Award Prize

Roll up, the results are in! And the winner of H&M’s global Design Award prize is… Eddy Anemian.

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The fashion student at the prestigious La Cambre in Brussels has bagged himself €50,000 and, most importantly, the opportunity of having H&M developing pieces from his collection to be sold in at least 12 countries under the mentorship of Ann-Sofie Johansson, the brand’s creative head of design.

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Competition was tough and the jury included London Fashion Week designer Erdem and Vogue’s Serena Hood, but Anemian’s talent saw him succeed over eight other semi-finalists from top-tier fashion schools.

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The 18-piece collection was unveiled to international press and buyers at the Mercedes Benz Stockholm Fashion Week. Titled They Can Cut All Flowers, They Cannot Keep Spring From Coming, the collection had a strong Haute Couture influence and consisted of 3D shapes covering the body almost completely and ranging from sea blue to forest green hues, with subtle floral patterns. The quality craftsmanship and elegance of colour juxtaposition were the stars of the collection. The floral range is inspired by the French painter Ingres and Tilda Swinton’s character in the film I Am Love.

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Anemian told WWD: “I like the idea of sensuality, and perhaps even glamour. I wouldn’t object to that description. But I don’t want any nudity. Rather, I tend to cover the body, and I just wanted to play with proportions – the idea of lots of patterns, or cutting jackets with really high collars that make you carry your head in an aristocratic way”.

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Ann-Sofie Johansson said: “All of the judges fell in love with Eddy’s collection, both the romance of how it looks when it is worn and the extraordinary skill of his work seen up close. He is a worthy winner, and a bright new star for fashion’s future”.

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Upside Down Fruit Pie

A while ago, while visiting my family in Italy, I asked my mum, who is a cook, to show me how to bake a wholemeal-flour pie. Despite her pointing out that using only wholemeal flour would be tricky, I wasn’t going to take no for an answer: “Isn’t it nice for you to challenge your skills sometimes, especially when you’re a professional?”

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Ingredients.

I only go back home about four times a year, so she hardly ever says no to my requests! We started straight away.

As a side note, in Italy you find lievito vanigliato, which is raising powder with a vanilla hint. If you don’t have that, just use normal raising powder and then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the mixture when you add the egg.

Lievito vanigliato.

Lievito vanigliato.

I have to say the speed my mum was working at – I barely saw how she mixed the crust, that she was already stretching it. But fear not, I took notes.

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The final result is a slightly crumbly but soft pastry (due to the raising powder) with a very sweet and soft filling.

What you’ll need:

For the pastry

  • 250 gr wholemeal flour (we used organic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla raising powder (or normal powder plus separate vanilla extract)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 160 gr granulated sugar
  • 100 gr good quality butter (we used our local) at room temperature, chopped in small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • icing sugar

For the filling

Any fruit you have kicking around your kitchen that might need using, we used

  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 medium-sized pear
  • A handful of strawberries
  • 1 apricot
  • 2 tablespoons (30 gr) of granulated sugar
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My mum’s expert hands were too fast for the camera.

Preparation:

Mix the raising powder, salt and flour together. Create a well with the dry mixture, place the sugar inside it, then place the room temperature butter inside it and finally the egg. Start kneading making sure your hands are cold and work on it until you obtain a smooth dough ball.

The pie filled and ready to be covered.

The pie filled and ready to be covered.

Cut off a third of the pastry and keep it wrapped while you roll out the rest, and use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang. Roll the remaining third to a circle about 28cm in diameter and place it on a side. Now fill the pie with all the chopped fruit trying to distribute it evenly. Sprinkle the sugar all over the fruit. Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the fruit pressing the edges together to seal.

All sealed.

All sealed.

Make a few little slashes on top of the lid for the steam to escape. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden, then remove and let it sit until it’s only tepid.

Done!

Done!

With a knife go over the edges of the pie trying to detach it from the tin very gently. Now place a large plate on top of the tin and turn upside down, letting the pie drop onto the plate (but not on the floor!). Dust all over with icing sugar and scoff serve.

Pork Cotechino with Polenta and Green Lentils

I am often asked what the typical Italian Christmas dinner is, and the truth is: there isn’t one. Every family has their own traditions depending also on where in Italy they live, so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific meal and say with certainty that it’s what most Italians will be cooking up and down the country on 25 December. It is, however, easy to guess what Italians from Turin to Palermo will be eating on their New Year’s Eve dinner: lo and behold, I give you the cotechino.

Its origins are shared between Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Veneto and Molise, all regions that suffer from very bitter winters. Cotechino (pronounced coteh-keeno) is therefore a hearty, filling dish that is served with polenta or mashed potatoes and always paired with lentils, which, according to the Italian tradition, bring good luck and prosperity for the whole year ahead. Cotechino is a sort of large salami made of pork meat, and its name derives from the word cotenna (rind). The traditional recipe consists of creating a salami of pork meat (in the past they used to stuff it with all the parts of a pig that wouldn’t get any other use) and wrapping it in pork rind, then letting it cook for several hours. Nowadays, however, most people buy the ready-made, precooked version of this dish, which doesn’t include rind and cooks in an airtight pouch for only 20 minutes. I served it with some instant polenta and tomato green lentils.

Pre-cooked cotechino as it is sold at the supermarket.

Pre-cooked cotechino as it is sold at the supermarket. The outer box suffered a little during transport.

I decided to introduce my partner, who is British, to this dish, and despite the initial hesitation due to the admittedly slightly startling description, he much enjoyed the richness of the meat. The very high fat content is not for the faint-hearted, but eaten once a year it’s a great tradition and one that I will love to keep up.

This recipe served three of us very generously.

What you’ll need:
1 precooked, good quality cotechino (I brought mine back from Italy, and bought it from the equivalent of the “finest” range from the supermarket Coop)

For the lentils

  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large golden onion
  • 1 stick of celery, leafy end removed
  • 250gr green lentils, soaked overnight to ensure quick cooking times, and rinsed
  • 2 very ripe, medium-sized tomatoes, chopped into cubes
  • 2 bay leaves, rinsed
  • 2 rosemary sprigs

For the polenta

  • 1 lt vegetable stock
  • 250gr instant polenta
  • 1 generous knob of butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sorry about the steam, it was very hot and I couldn’t wait to eat it!

 Preparation:

Fill ¾ of a large sauce pan or a spaghetti pot with water, bring to the boil and put your cotechino, still in your sealed pouch, deep into the water, making sure it’s all covered.

In a large frying pan place your diced onion and celery and sweat in the hot oil to make a soffritto. Once the contents of the pan are translucent and soft, but not brown, stir in the lentils, bay leaves and rosemary and mix all well. Let everything bind for a minute or two and add the tomatoes and just a splash (about 100ml) of water. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and cover, letting simmer for about ten minutes. Once ready, add a generous pinch of salt and pepper and keep warm.

Bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a large pan. Slowly stir in the polenta, whisking continuously. Keep stirring over the heat for 15 to 20 minutes. You can add a little more water to make it the right consistency. Add in the butter, season and serve straight away, before it hardens by cooling. While you cook the polenta, take your cotechino out of the water after the 20 minutes’ cooking time very carefully, discard of the water and, once the airtight pack is cool enough to handle, cut it open with a pair of scissors and remove it from the meat, which should have a soft but firm consistency and the shape of a large sausage.

Once everything is ready, split a serving plate between the lentils and the soft polenta, and place the sliced cotechino on top.

Make sure you serve this rich meal with a medium-bodied red wine, such as a Merlot or a Bonarda.

All plated up.

Stitched up for an Embroidery Class

When it comes to crafts, I am bad. I may want to be amazing, a master of creativity and manual abilities, but it would appear that will power is not everything.

Little treasures I found in Laura Lees' studio.

Little treasures I found in Laura Lees’ studio.

I was ecstatic when I received a sewing machine for my birthday last year. I put my friend Carina through guiding me while I was making my first top from a pattern – she had to finish the sleeves and put the zip in. I decided to shorten my faux-leather trousers – my boyfriend’s mum eventually had to sew them after I “tacked” them (a sewing attempt gone very wrong). She’s so nice; she said it wasn’t my fault: I “just didn’t have the right foot”. I believed her. Hence, you can imagine my surprise/happiness/panic/fear to fail when she gave me a voucher for an embroidery class. It was just my cup of tea… in my ideal world.

Threads.

Threads.

Off I went, one a very chilly, dark evening, to meet Laura Lees at her studio The Mighty Stitch in Kentish Town, completely unaware of what was expecting me. Needless to say, Ms Lees is a very, very talented lady. As I stepped into the large, cold room with huge factory windows, a great pile of fabric scraps greeted me. Behind it, Laura was in a cheery mood, walking around and swearing like a sailor having a good time. My fellow attendees were only two to begin with, but trickled in and it the end there were five of us.

A pair of denim shorts embroidered by me... ehm! I mean: Laura.

A pair of denim shorts embroidered by me… ehm! I mean: Laura.

The studio was an exciting melting pot of half-finished jobs, threads and embroidered designs hanging off the walls everywhere. We started by choosing some paper patterns to cut our fabrics on – skulls, stars or butterflies. Then we decided what we wanted to work on. Some of us created a brooch, some others an Oyster card holder, others reinvented a scarf. Laura showed us briefly how to use the embroidery machine and that was it – we were on our own, thrown into the deep end. Those are scary, sturdy, mean machines! They can sew through seemingly everything.

The inspiration wall.

The inspiration wall.

Laura was always present, helping with technical hiccups, giving advice when asked, but generally, the future of our creations was in our hands. Which is probably where my problem lied.

Laying out our work at the beginning.

Laying out our work at the beginning.

By the end of it I felt: happy I didn’t have to do this again; sad I wasn’t pleased with my creation; fascinated to find out how these gorgeous pieces of embroidery (Laura’s) are created and a little jealous that I just wasn’t able to make something as amazing. But am I glad I went? Definitely. It was great fun to make such a mess, I felt like a child baking their first cake with mum.

The final results of our hard work.

The final results of our hard work.

A Monday Night in the Beau Monde

Monday 2 December marked the night of the Buying Luxury, Acquiring Style – Georgian Menswear event at the British Library, where Patrick Grant and Hannah Greig discussed what it meant to be a fashionable middle-class gentleman in the luxurious era of the late 18th century.

The cover of The Beau Monde, by Dr Hannah Greig. Photo credit: British Library

The cover of The Beau Monde, by Dr Hannah Greig. Photo credit: British Library

After an introduction by Moira Goff, curator of the Georgians Revealed exhibition, the event started with historian and historical adviser Dr Hannah Greig explaining what the term ‘fashion’, at the time called the Beau Monde, implied in the Georgian era: as opposed to what we mean by it todaythe production and marketing of new styles of clothing and cosmetics – the term was understood at the time as something more elusive, an element defined mostly by the people that owned the objects, not by the objects themselves. Therefore, the middle class was obsessed with famous people that had that certain je ne sais quoi, that ‘it’ factor which made them stand out.

Typical outfits of the time worn by spectators at a print shop. Photo credit: British Library.

Typical outfits of the time worn by spectators at a print shop. Photo credit: British Library.

London became the beating heart of this world, mostly due to politicians being finally required to spend most of their time in the capital. They incorporated the aristocracy and everyone that mattered or wanted to matter, creating a more varied society and amplifying urban life. Just like today, the celebrities of the time were constantly scrutinised by the press and the caricaturists, so a need to display flamboyant and tasteful attire, often inspired by people further up the social ladder or in the European courts, became apparent.

Satire and caricature drawings were very common in the magazines and papers of the time. Photo credit: British Library.

Satire and caricature drawings were very common in the magazines and papers of the time. Photo credit: British Library.

Charles James Fox, the charismatic leader of the Whigs, was one of the most fashionable men of his time. Despite his corpulent frame, he started his career wearing a remarkable blue wig and a highly embroidered suit, a style that was eventually emulated by the party’s other members. In his later years he cast off the wigs as an act of protest against Pitt’s hair powder tax, and adopted a more sober approach by always wearing what became his signature buff and blue outfits, inspired by the anti monarchist George Washington.

Charles James Fox wearing buff and blue. Photo credit: historicalportraits.com

Charles James Fox wearing buff and blue. Photo credit: historicalportraits.com

Following on from Dr Greig, Patrick Grant – owner of Norton & Sons and E. Tautz and creator of Hammond & Co. for Debenhams – gave us his insight on the subject. He explained to the attendees how a designer might go about creating fashion, be it copying from other designers (!) or borrowing inspiration from the arts and from history, for which the British Library itself is a wonderful resource with diverse and inspiring collections. He brought up as an example how, for the E. Tautz upcoming collection, inspiration was drawn from Samuel Adamson’s Gabriel, a play based in the Restoration period. William Hogarth also played his part in inspiring the collection, along with embroidery created as art therapy and heraldry, yielding very rich silk jacquard on bold patterns, “unfinished” embroidery and blood-red-coloured paints, which dominate the collection.

A look from the E.Tautz Autumn Winter 2013 London Menswear collection. Photo credit: Catwalking.com.

A look from the E.Tautz Autumn Winter 2013
London Menswear collection. Photo credit: Catwalking.com.

The concluding discussion between the two speakers showed that they shared views on most points, despite their very different backgrounds. They agreed that in the past, clothes would largely be determined by individuals requesting specific features from their tailors, which meant the trends were mostly dictated by middle-class and aristocracy requests. Today, however, the speakers noted that the designs are mostly a product of the designers’ creativity and panache.

They both agreed that fashion and style used to be much more individualistic, whereas today there are no real differences no matter where a garment is created or its cultural background, which means that what people wear in Toronto is pretty much indistinguishable from what they wear in Taiwan or Turin. The main parallelism between the attitude to style two hundred years ago and nowadays is the concept of wanting and buying what the celebrities of the time own(ed), in order to climb the social ladder. Georgian tailors would occasionally even have open-shop days, where they would show the public unfinished dresses they were working on for their famous clients.

Bourgeoisie wearing examples of the style at the time of the Beau Monde. Photo credit: British Library.

Bourgeoisie wearing examples of the style at the time of the Beau Monde. Photo credit: British Library.

Buying Luxury, Acquiring Style was highly instructive and interesting, a peek into a lesser glimpsed world, a time in fashion so highly influential that its effects still resonate today.

Fashion Rules: Frocks Fit for a Queen

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this article which was published on LUX Worldwide. To view it, click here.

From the elegance of a 1950s gown to the bold drama of a 1980s dress, Fashion Rules exhibits all the best from the wardrobes of three royal British fashion icons

As London embraces the chill of the season, Fashion Rules, at Kensington Palace, is a great way to get you out of the house and yet stay cosy having fun.

A grey silk organdie evening dress with pink and white floral embroidery worn for a banquet at the Nova Scotia Hotel, Halifax.

A grey silk organdie evening dress with pink and white floral embroidery worn for a banquet at the Nova Scotia Hotel, Halifax.

The exhibition showcases some of the best regal fashion in Britain from the 1950s to the 1980s, and it focuses on the three most celebrated royal style icons: HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana Princess of Wales.

Fashion Rules demonstrates how these three women managed to don the trends of the time and make them their own despite the stifling framework of a royal wardrobe. “It’s long been the case that royal women have been scrutinised for what they wore,” says curator Cassie Davies-Strodder, and that’s not so hard to believe.

A case of dresses once worn by HM The Queen.

A case of dresses once worn by HM The Queen.

Indeed, the needs of those regal outfits were many: HM The Queen, for example, had to mostly wear white or ivory pieces which would stand out in black and white photography and on television screens just after the war. Then there were the diplomacy issues: she wore an ivory gown with emerald straps on a trip to Pakistan in order to mirror the country’s flag. Similarly, in 1991 on a state visit to Brazil, Diana wore a plain one-shouldered Catherine Walker dress. This neatly bypassed the football colours of both Argentina and Brazil, the latter having been beaten in an early round of the 1990 World Cup finals by Argentina.

Evening dress, worn by Princess Margaret, cream silk satin, designer unknown, 1951.

These three elegant women certainly did their fair share of work influencing the fashion of their times. Particularly when Queen Elizabeth II became queen in 1952 and fabric and clothing were no longer rationed. The Queen and her sister helped bring into vogue the famous ‘New Look’ of Christian Dior, its signature features being generous amounts of cloth from the waist down and feminine cuts, leaving behind austere dresses and military uniforms.

HM The Queen’s 1950s outfits were mostly signed by designers such as Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies. Exquisite splendour and grace were represented through delicate beading and lace, long gowns and evening gloves.

A visitor creates a fashion illustration using an interactive app with dresses worn by HM The Queen in the background.

A visitor creates a fashion illustration using an interactive app with dresses worn by HM The Queen in the background.

Then came the more liberal ‘60s and ‘70s, which see a Princess Margaret dressed in translucent fabrics, short skirts, halter necks and an unexpected fancy-dress kaftan, designed by Carl Toms – a definite favourite along with another British designer of the time: Marc Bohan. Her bold-coloured and slim-fitting dresses seem to be the most carefree, fun-yet-elegant pieces of the exhibition.

Finally come the ‘80s and Diana’s collection. Her outfits, mostly designed by Catherine Walker, Zandra Rhodes and Murray Arbeid, were rich in over-the-top glamour, garish colours, sparkles and shoulder pads. Not exactly the most understated ensemble of the exhibition, but very important nonetheless, due to the big influence Lady Diana had on the British fashion world at the time.

An Historic Royal Palaces member of staff examines a fancy-dress kaftan, designed by Carl Toms.

An Historic Royal Palaces member of staff examines a fancy-dress kaftan, designed by Carl Toms.

Curiously, despite the historic heritage nature of this show, the exhibition seems to be the Palace’s most techy one to date: free wi-fi is available; across the five rooms there are three short films that can be accessed via QR codes which show techniques used on some of the dresses such as embroidery and beading; in each room there is a stand with an iPad on it and a bespoke version of the Paper app was created by FiftyThree Inc., which allows you to sketch and colour the dresses until your heart’s content.

Conservators put the finishing touches to a Dance dress by Jacques Azagury 1985 as worn by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Conservators put the finishing touches to a Dance dress by Jacques Azagury 1985 as worn by Diana, Princess of Wales.

The dresses hang on invisible mannequins and are set in glass cases subtly positioned to avoid reflecting light, and on the walls can be found film projections, pictures and Vogue photographs to set the background of the three decades.

Fashion Rules is a beautiful and poignant exhibition, especially as we see Kate Middleton setting herself high amidst those royal style heroines.

Go and see it, even if the sun is shining.