Black Swan Detour

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What sort of a fashion blogger would I be if I didn't post about Black Swan whose film stills may be competing with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette in the most-proliferated-in-the-fashion-blogosphere rankings?  Actually I was about to give it a miss altogether because a) it would have been difficult to review the film from the perspective of a film critic when so many do it so much better and b) it would have been a repetitive task to dissect the film's fashion credentials after the film has been out in the States for a good few months now.  I wanted to make one singular point of how much I loved London-based design studio La Boca's graphics for the adverts of the film except The Guardian did a far more competent piece on it.   

Thankfully the forces in film marketing moved about in a way that put Black Swan-themed ballet classes at Frame studio in Shoreditch with kit provided by Bloch, MAC cosmetics make-overs to give you either a White/Black Swan smoky eye and a screening of Black Swan at The Aubin Cinema in one afternoon/night bonanza yesterday to sway me to write about something that doesn't go along the lines of "Oooh… RODARTE tutu!".  It well and truly gave cause for a rare but genuine pat on the PR back.

So to the first part of the evening's festivities when we all had to regress to a time when we were five years old and had to do compulsory ballet classes even though posture and demeanour clearly indicated that some people were not fit to dance.  Oh, right just me then.  Even if ballet wasn't on your primary school agenda, getting changed into leotards and tights is reminiscent of any group PE experiences.  Except this time round, there were choruses of "Oh my hips look huge in these…".

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Tara from the PR company Robinson Pfeffer, primary instigator of all these shenanigans had the fiddly job of sewing all the elastics to the shoes, a task that I vaguely recall my mother doing whilst cursing "Why is it that you have to learn ballet again?".

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Hah… no such luck of seeing a picture of me attempting to prop my leg up onto the ballet barre.  Instead you get poor postured me faking it in a Bloch black leotard and pink tights before the class commenced…

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The instructor was I think, the only one who got the full Black Swan eye make-up treatment as apparently it takes about an hour to get just spot on.  We were put to our non-balletic paces set to the soundtrack of the film, going over all the basics – the positions of the arms and feet, pli√©s, temps lev√©, jet√© – all serving to point out how unflexible my body is.  At least there wasn't a hard-faced French lady telling me I had spirit but no ability.  What's worse than having no ability?  Possesion of an abundance of pointless spirit…

I believe that Frame will be running more formal Black Swan-inspired barre classes from the 5th February onwards every Saturday for a month which involves barre work, floor barre as well as a simple dance routine loosely based on the Black Swan's dance if you wish to delve into the dance element a bit more. 

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I won't make it at the barre or beyond but I'm free to have a balletic element going on in my outfit so yesterday it was all about pale frothy latte/pink colours as well as touches of grey, a colour combination that incidentally costume designer Amy Westcott uses extremely well in the film where Natalie Portman's character is practising or warming up.  The Rodarte costumes for the final performance scenes were of course fantastical but the tight sheer shrugs, layering of bodies/camisoles, knits and wrapover skirts seemed to me, equally potent too (I do look forward to the Mulleavy's future film work though now they've shored up their proper accreditation on films).  Luckily Hong Kong label Plotz were on hand to steer me towards this decorative take on warm-up gear with their ways of elevating and manipulating fine cotton jersey with this cream dress with knotted detailing and leggings that start as cream tights and end as grey jersey leggings with padded kneecaps…

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Thanks to the lovely Shini of Park and Cube for taking the far superior pics that follow (until we get to film stills of course…) and for letting me play around with her fancy DSLR that I don't understand at all…

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Knee cap protection for potential bruising, a problem which frequently afflicts me…

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On to MAC's part to play in the night.  I was in a 'Why-the-hell-not?' sort of mood and though I normally object to this amount of eye makeup and false eyelashes because it plays all sorts of havoc with my contact lenses, for one night only I played the role of 'Girl who is excited about MAKE-UP!'. 

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I'm not quite sure the role suits me especially as I look like your typical evil stepmother character in a generic Korean soap opera.  Maybe I'll go for it in future years when I may or may not manifest as that character…

Oh and here's Steve and I are sitting in a comfy couch at the Aubin Cinema, in the basement of Aubin and Wills on Redchurch Street.  I hadn't ventured into the cinema before because all things Jack Wills/Aubin and Wills-related makes me angry about the antiques indoor market in Angel's Camden Passage that suddenly got turned into a Jack Wills store one day.  I went in looking for silver trinkets and found an English Abercrombie & Fitch surrounding me.  I have to say though that the screening room is a delight – all velvet chairs and couches, cushions, blankets and foot rests with just the smattering of Aubin and Wills branding… then again the screen is a collab with Soho House group so I'd expect self-indulgent cushtiness all round…

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On to the film itself.  How to review it without using an excess of superlatives.  However much I resisted getting swept away by it, in the end, I was indeed swept away by it.  This was in a way, a Darren Aronofsky film that felt far more elevated than say The Wrestler (supposedly a companion film to Black Swan in their exploration of athletes/artists who strive for perfection) but that could just be my bias towards the subject at hand.  In fact, I suppose there's no way of escaping my personal bias towards female characters who internalise their struggles, piling pressure on themselves as well as bending to pressure from others and trying to perfect an artform in a meticulous and studied way.  On a far less extreme level, characters like Nina exist in all artforms and vocations and I ended up recalling instances seen at my old girl's school that echoed touches of the corps de ballet in a dance company that is financially unstable as well as ridden with competitive spirit. 

Beyond the personal plight of Nina which I found engaging was Aronofsky's methods of communicating all of that internalised paranoia.  I completely agreed with Peter Bradshaw's comments of the film being the best portrayal of female breakdown since Roman Polanski's Repulsion.  In a way, Black Swan might even better Repulsion in that respect as certain hammy elements seen in Polanski's film are negated due to Aronofsky's choice of camera angles and movement.  I thought the use of Tchaikovsky's score was particularly effective when specific composed-for-the-film soundtrack would not have worked in certain scenes.  I'm also glad that the soundtrack composer Clint Mansell did step up and say that the score's strength is in Tchaikovsky (it was disqualified from Oscar nomination for the reason that pre-existing music was used). 

It goes without saying that the cast did good.  Very good.  Nominations and accolades will tell you that Natalie Portman is deservedly the star of the film but I also think that the rest of the cast supports Nina's spiralling downfall and flirtations with her inner Black Swan VERY well indeed – company director, bitchy ballerina, not-so-bitchy but sexy n' free ballerina, aging prima ballerina and frightful stage mother – all of those stereotypes could have been spectacularly stereotypical but manages to break free to make the film all the more absorbing. 

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Miista Comin’ At Ya

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I don't think I've written about an independent high-street-to-mid-range priced shoe label start-up that's based in London…ever.  By start-up I mean one that is debuting their shoe collection.  By high-street to mid-range, I specifically mean prices that are between ¬£75-¬£135 (Topshop prices I suppose).  By independent, I mean one singular designer with a tiny team that isn't supported by a bigger brand or conglomerate.  Enter Laura Villasenin whose work I saw a few months ago as an in-progress snapshot and now finally her together with a financial backer, she has launched Miista.  Villasenin studied at Cordwainers in London and graduated with a first class Honors degree and after working for a few labels she has banded together with a few friends to make her dream of a label come true. 

The independent shoe designer who wishes to bring high quality leather shoes at affordable prices are few and far between.  If anything, high-end is usually the destination place for the average shoe designer that graduates from an institution like Cordwainers be it working for themselves or working for others.  Therefore I'm pleased to say that despite the relatively quiet launch, Miista will be stocked at a TON of places all over the world and will be dropping their first collection 'Female Warriors' into stores in February. 

"In a world that has become cluttered with similarities, carbon copies and conventional styles, Miista brings an uncommon beauty to the street."

Uncommon beauty might be a lofty reach but I'll settle for just buying into shoes at a reasonable price that has the design to justify it.  The simple question of "Do I feel it's worth it?" has an affirmative answer here. 

Miista's savvy in be able to see what's lacking at present in shoes is also extended to her nous with bloggers as she has worked with Saga Sig (whose photographs manage to pop up on Tumblr pages abound…) on the following lookbook images (as well as illustrator Harpa Einars) and she has also enlisted Queen Michelle of Kingdom of Style to design the website. 

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(Clothes by Emma Griffiths, Booke Roberts and some vintage pieces.)

At present, it's a compact collection of styles where features such as leather weaving, metallic meshes and detailing and cowboy-inspired embellishments are worked into the shoes along with a comfy looking chunky heel.  Villasenin may be going slow and steady with quantity of styles but since people are lapping it up on the shop front, I'm sure this will change over the next few months… for now, I'm happy to go with the Western-tipped peep-toe boot where apron fringe or metal embellishment can be removed for your simple shoe change-up pleasure. 

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