Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weird Fashion Happenings In London Town...

Yesterday I went walking around Sloane Square because I wanted to go fondle a certain hand bag at the Lulu Guinness store.
I will not name the bag, but it got mixed reviews when it first came out.
It is not every woman's cup of PG tips like a Fendi baguette or a Chloe "Paddington".
But it is my personal cup of tea all the way and not surprisingly, Dita Von Teese's too. The woman likes the exact same stuff I do.
Maybe it's a cue I need to die my hair my natural colour (blue black) and wear bright red lipstick (MAC's Russian Red, to be exact. My go-to-reds are Chanel's Rouge Star and Benefit's "Such a Red).
The bag IS WAY marked down and the girls at the shop are LOVELY.
But I will not name the bag or else another savvy fashionista is going to snag it up.
I went to the store next door since I was around there and I had the most fortuitous and strange encounter.
The shop next door to the Lulu Guinness Boutique is... Selina Blow's.
Yes, as in Isabella Blow.
She is her sister-in-law.
The legendary "Mad Hatter" prodigy of the ungrateful fashion world was married to her older brother Detmar. Without her there would not be an Alexander McQueen. Without her there would be no Phillip Treacy.
And I got to meet her and her heart-meltingly adorable daughter, Violet.
Selina was really enthused and helpful.
And she really seemed like she wanted ( actually needed) to sell some of her actually beautiful clothes really bad...
She, unlike most designers in London, MAKES plus size clothes and her tailoring and quality ARE impeccable. Yes, granted it is NOT CHEAP, but this is bespoke tailoring people....
The finest tweeds. Lovely linings. Her finishings are flawless. I went over her stitches and seams with a fine toothed comb... Why is this woman not selling like pancakes or is being carried at big stores?
Beats me...She has the right friends...
Here is a coat I particularly liked :
It's called the "Barbarella"...
Violet and I made good friends...
She slipped me an adorable note in my purse...
Here is a little bit about the Blow family from a recent interview...
By the way isn't it coincidental that just before I left the house I wrote a blog on Bipolar Disorder?
Yep, like attracts like.... I said it before.. like magnets.

From The Sunday Times
February 3, 2008
Relative Values: Selina Blow and her brother Amaury
The fashion designer Selina Blow, 41, creates clothes for such clients as Anjelica Huston, Joan Collins and Debbie Harry. She lives in London with her husband, Dr Charles Levinson, and their children, Augustus, 9, and Violet, 5, and has two stepchildren, Bessy, 19, and Johnny, 15. Her brother, Amaury, 42, runs the family estate in Gloucestershire. Their elder brother, Detmar, 44, a gallerist, was married to the late fashion icon Isabella Blow, who committed suicide last May. Their father, the writer and historian Jonathan Blow, took his life in 1977. Their mother, Helga, runs the hotel Helga's Folly in Sri Lanka

Beverley D'Silva

SELINA: Amaury and I spent a lot of our childhood playing together in these big arable fields above our parents' home in Stroud. It was like Swallows and Amazons, a make-believe world with us repelling armies, battling dinosaurs and killing Vikings. We lived in a large Arts and Crafts house, Hilles, which was designed by my grandfather, Detmar. My father grew up there. He loved history and writing, and he wrote for The Times. Then he inherited the family estate, and he stopped his writing and journalism. He was 42 when he married my mother, who was 17. She came from Sri Lanka; her grandparents, George and Agnes de Silva, had been critical in gaining independence for the country. My parents ran the estate, and never had much life outside it. I think my dad really wanted to write, and that haunted him.

I was quite headstrong; Amaury was very kind, gentle, sensitive, aware. There were people around me who loved me, but we grew up in chaos. I didn't have good social skills and I got bullied, and Amaury always protected me. He was this huge totem pole of security for me.

But when I was 10, my father died, and our lives changed for ever. He died very sadly and traumatically. It was unbelievably awful. He had suffered from depression since he was young. We didn't really notice it or understand it. He was so gregarious and charming, with a flamboyance and warmth. He was quite like Amaury: a big, manic presence who made life exciting and fun. But when he was depressed, he'd drink. He wasn't a wild drunk. He would go into the library and drink, in the hope he would wake up feeling better. He had electric-shock therapy and drugs for depression, which helped, but he slipped back. My mother was beside herself. Theirs was a big love marriage. She tried to give him the will to live, but she had no support, and his family were in denial about his illness.

The day it happened, Amaury was at home. My mother had taken him out of school; my father was tutoring him at home. He got on very well with Amaury, and my mother thought: anything to help his depression. Maybe that was wrong. Amaury tried to help, but it was too late. When I got back from school my dad was still in the house. There were police all over the kitchen. My mother, who has always been very glamorous, was there in these big sunglasses and a beautiful red dress. It was kind of insane.

After my dad died, everything died. The house went silent. My mother was traumatised — she still is. Detmar looked after her; he took on a father-figure role. My mother would stay up all night playing my father's Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich records. Her life stopped. My father's ashes were kept in the house for 25 years. She could never let go of him. She still can't. It's like Miss Havisham: her future is her past.

Amaury and I clung to each other like two children in the woods. He kept a bit of childhood going for me. He'd create a dinosaur museum. We cooked together. We parented each other. I don't think anybody asked how we were. I was at boarding school and Amaury, who was at Millfield, would send me sweets and Tintin books. It was a silent allegiance. We felt we had to be like soldiers.

My mother was only 32 when my father died, and she still had the estate to run. She remarried when I was 13, a businessman who was critical of me, and who I found controlling and unpleasant. He was aggressive to me. My mother tried to protect me, but Amaury protected me more, and later, when I had to leave home, he found me a place to stay in Oxford and gave me £700. He was always utterly generous.

My mother separated from her second husband and went to live in Sri Lanka. Detmar went to work at the bar and married Isabella. I went to New York, to work in fashion. Amaury stayed in Gloucestershire, running the estate. He held it together and made it possible for the rest of us to get on with our lives.

But it diverted him from his great passions: archeology and architecture. He wasn't happy. We'd always seen him as a romantic; his melancholy got worse and more chronic. In his thirties he got really ill. It was like my father all over again: looking tortured, eyes shiny. The illness was twisting him. It terrified me.

Fortunately my husband, who is a doctor, helped us find a good psychiatrist. Then Amaury found a wonderful treatment centre in Arizona, and he was doing very well there. But then in May our sister-in-law [Isabella Blow] died; Amaury came back to support Detmar. It's been very painful. Amaury had been going to get married, but then he decided not to: he was worried, I think, about his illness.

Amaury was very emotional when my children were born, and they're very fond of him. I'd go to hell and back for him.

I had a lot of criticism as a child, but Amaury was never judgmental. He listened, and accepted me for what I am.

AMAURY: Selina and I formed an alliance early on. She was in my gang when I was six: we stood for virtue. When the leader of a rival gang went on a recruiting drive, everybody in my gang deserted me except Selina. And when I was chased by 30 or 40 children, Selina was the only one who helped defend me.

My father was ill with depression for much of our childhood, and my mother was preoccupied with him. Selina and I were left much to our own devices. We grew up in a very magical house, full of tapestries and ancient furniture, a place of dark forests and maidens to rescue. Hilles is like a stage; it makes you perform. Selina and I created a farm in our minds where we were both men, Jack and John. We had a newspaper and we'd write stories about her toy pandas.

But we were also expected to be adults: we had to do much of the housework and the gardening. My mother would say: "Don't mix with other children — adults are more interesting." She once took Selina's toy pandas from her, and my father gave them back. He had more of a sense of childhood. When things were good he could be the best father: he'd jump on all fours, growl and chase you. It was exciting. It was Narnia. But it wasn't always so, and I still have a fear that anything good will be snatched away. And if Selina has a box of chocolates, she has to eat the lot.

My father was a powerful, charismatic man, and a very capable writer, yet he never thought he was good enough. My mother tried to keep his illness from us, but we were aware of it. Christmas could be cancelled, birthdays deferred, because he'd go into a depression. He was drinking, and receiving electric shocks. My poor mother was at her wits' end. She took it out on us, occasionally in the form of mindless violence.

My father was 58 when he killed himself. That day I came downstairs and I walked in, and my father had just taken the poison, and suddenly that big event comes in, bang. Childhood ended that very day. My mother said, "We have to look after each other," and hugged me. It was the only time she had hugged me. I was 11. She said to lose a husband was far worse than losing a father, and I felt guilty that I was suffering for myself. A few weeks later, Selina and I were playing and she said: "How can you play? Your father is dead." So you can't mourn your father, because my loss is greater; but you can't show you're not mourning by playing. My poor brother, Detmar, had a difficult role. My mother used him to take charge of us and, I think, as a surrogate husband for a time.

I was told my father sacrificed himself for the house, and I accepted it. But it's been very difficult for my mother to accept his death, even today. In her mind, he lives through Hilles. By serving the house, you serve him. She would be happiest if we were all there, working for the estate. She doesn't live there herself — hypocrisy runs through the family.

My mother married again and became largely absent. I was 14 and we were left in charge. It was fun, but we all grew up quickly. As children we were adults; now we've become children. The world is more exciting as a child. Detmar complains Selina and I speak to each other in nursery voices. We have a code.

My father was brought up in 1930s England, when they thought ignoring mental illness would make it go away. It doesn't. Depression steals the sense of self. I didn't begin to understand my dad's illness until I was in my late teens, when I myself was feeling this… loss of self. My mind shattered when I was 17. I couldn't speak for two weeks. Through my twenties and thirties I suffered depression. About five years ago it became murderous. I tried various treatments, I went to a centre in America; I've made some improvement. I have my doubts, but I reassure myself life is enormously beautiful.

In my early twenties I took on the estate. I enjoyed it but perhaps I became too obsessive. I have tried to get away. One day I went out for a pint of milk and I stayed away for eight months. Cheap flight to Milan, I jumped it. I built theatrical sets in Florence. My mother tracked me down and I came back. I didn't really mind.

I thought if I suffered for the estate I'd gain virtue. It's taken a lot to realise that is an abusive way to work. Putting my needs first has been difficult but necessary.

Detmar married Isabella: each was the eldest child and came from a broken home. My sister married Charles, who had two siblings who committed suicide. Like seeks out like. But Selina is making a huge effort to ensure our early life is not recreated with her children. I sometimes think it would be nice to have a family. But, though I love people, I don't necessarily trust them. In some ways, I still feel abandoned by my father.

When I was young I gave up on myself. But I'm realising I am capable of a huge amount. We are separating out our interests in the estate. I feel a lot of sadness about it, but I recognise this is essential if we are to become healthy. I adore my mother, but the fact is every one of the family is sick to some extent. Some of us are working on a cure.

Interviews: Beverley D'Silva.

Main portrait: Ivor Prickett
By the way I saw another ladybug. On my window. In October. In London.


Michelle said...

Hi Milla dear!

Not sure if you're interested, but I thought you might be. I have finally got my website up and have done a few blog posts of my own. :)

Hope you're having fun in London and that the weather there is better than here. BRR.


Milla said...

Hello girl...
I'll come check out your site and blogs..
It's kind of been a crazy tie and that is why I have not blogged as much as usual..
But I am going to fix that :-)