5 dresses every woman should own: the sweater dress
The sweater dress, a cosy, body and soul warming cocoon of pure (cashmere) bliss, it is definitely a must-have for every woman. Mine was a spontaneous buy. I was in a post-accident depressive mood worsened by winter blues and in need of some retail therapy when I saw the deep sea blue Patrizia Pepe dress - shaped to flatter the figure, caress the skin with its delicate cashmere strands, and on sale. It was mine within minutes. Needless to say we became best friends. I think I have worn this dress more than any other item in my wardrobe – for nights in and dinners out, work and walks in a country, whenever I needed a bit of colour or warmth, an imaginary hug or extra coverage.
It made me realise that impulse shopping is good and having a sweater dress in a wardrobe is essential.
They, of course, come in many shapes and materials and you need to pick the one that speaks to you just like the LBD. My only tip would be to buy cashmere or wool designs (a dose of added silk is good, too) – if you see any acrylics or polyester on a label, put the dress back. It may cost less, but it will be scratchy, itchy and suffocating for your body. With appropriate care, the real yarns, on the other hand, will last you a lifetime, the CPW (cost per wear) will be next to nothing and wearing the dress will make you feel feminine, sensual, beautiful and loved.
Taking inspiration from the Valentino Spring/Summer 2013 collection that gave us dreamy dresses and a very natural, simple and clean make-up look that makes you look like the real you, only more groomed.
According to Pat McGrath, a cream blush is used to create softly flushed cheeks (think RMS beauty Lip2Cheek as the most brilliant and natural multitasking little hero), followed by brown shadow on the lids and under the lower lash line and finished with a few layers of brown mascara and powder.
Do you know that A Grand Affair, inspired by the end XIX century Russia, Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” and Olivier Theyskens’ collection for Rochas, was supposed to feature several models and sixteen outfits? What we ended up seeing is a second take – a version that had to be done after Anna Wintour found the first story too static and formal.
Natalia Vodianova styled by Grace Coddington and photograped by Steven Klein at his country house on Long Island, brought the much-needed energy and charm to the shoot while “mixing elements of reality with artifice to create a tension of contradiction” as Klein later explained in his interview for In Vogue book.
Photo source: Natalia Vodianova in A Grand Affair | Vogue US September 2005 (photography: Steven Klein, styling: Grace Coddington)
There aren’t many TV series or fashion collections that touch your very soul straight away and once they do, it’s difficult to get enough of the beauty, grandeur and magic they bring to our lives. Imagine how special it felt to find out that Ralph Lauren recently held a private show at the Highclere castle that inspired the Downton Abbey series and was used for the movie. I can only imagine how wonderful it felt to see beautiful models in Ralph Lauren gowns walking down the stairs blending timeless classics with the air saturated with molecules of history and some incredible stories.
Photo source: photos of Ralph Laurent at Downton Abbey collection by Chris Allerton via Ralph Lauren Facebook page
In 2010, six years after Gucci and YSL, Tom Ford revealed his first collection modelled by a glamorous cast of “many of the world’s most inspirational women” to 100 special attendees. This documentary is a peak into designer’s mind and a very interesting behind-the-scenes story – it will be your 40 minutes of fashion bliss, I promise.
Photo source: Tom Ford & Stella Tennant in Vogue US December 2010 (photography: Steven Meisel), article
I am starting this week with a story shot by Mario Sorrenti for the March issue of Vogue Italia. For me this editorial isn’t so much about the model, but the clothes and the light that make me stare and absorb every single detail, almost feel it physically – the rocky little grains of pearls, the frost of lace, the feathery light haze of silk – all blending into the warm glow of velvet skin, creating a sensual dream, a fashion shadow play…
Photo source: Kate Moss in The girl of a singular beauty | Vogue Italia March 2006 (photography: Mario Sorrenti)
On 6 November it was announced that Chanel No. 5, the iconic fragrance that embodies the spirit Chanel, may be banned because, according to scientists, some ingredients may cause an allergic reaction.
Although no reaction to the perfume has been reported in the 90 years of its existence, the scientists insist that it is vital to list eugenol that found in rose oil within the ingredients and entirely ban the tree moss – one of the natural substances that gives the perfume its distinctive smell, which means the death of the perfume.
Other fragrances that may also face the ban include Guerlain's Shalimar, Dior’s Miss Dior and Angel by Thierry Mugler.
It is incredibly sad to see this happening not only because so many women around the world may lose their signature fragrance forever, but also because the history and heritage can be lost with a stroke of a pen.
The European Commission are expected to propose new regulations within the fragrance industry in January 2014, so if you love your Chanel no. 5, stock up now (full range is available here (Europe) and here (US)). When unopened the perfume will keep for several years, especially refrigerated or at least stored in a cool place away from sunlight.
The day Inna Zobova was born her parents were told that their baby girl had a hole in her heart and was given 13 years to live. Full stop.
Three decades later, on a rainy October morning I was meeting Inna to talk about her life, modelling and projects she’s been working on recently. Dressed in a black sweater and trousers, beautiful elegant watch on her long wrist, blond hair, soft eyes, gorgeous smile… She is every inch of a top model who walked for Armani, Thierry Mugler, Valentino, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Balenciaga, Hanae Mori, Marc Jacobs, Nina Ricci, Hermes, Sonia Rykiel, Kenzo, Givenchy, Dries Van Noten, Vivienne Westwood and Christian Lacroix, appeared in dozens of campaigns from Dior, Armani, Hermes, Cavalli and Malizia to Wonderbra, L’Oreal, Nivea, Sephora and Gallery Lafayette and was photographed by the most influential fashion photographers for Vogue, Elle, Allure, Marie Claire, Glamour, Amica, L’Officiel and Glamour. A superstar.
We go to the very beginning, to the childhood of a kid who, until she was operated aged 6, had “a heart that was too big to fit” her chest. Whenever I read about it on the web, the story is presented as very dark and tragic, so I ask Inna what it was like back then… “I was a very active child,” she recalls. “So I had to be restricted, not run too fast, avoid exercise – there was always somebody to hold my hand…”
As she continues it becomes very clear that Inna, no matter how delicate she looks, is fearless and strong and there was no way heart pain or anything else would stop her from living her life the way she wanted. “I never felt like an outcast – if we had a fight at school I’d always hit back just like any normal kid would” she laughs. Then her voice softens as she talks about her mum: “She was the one who lived with a constant reminder of my health problem, it was the hardest time of her life.”
Every year was precious and for a very long time nobody would make any solid plans about the future. Inna dreamed of ballet having fallen in love with performances in Bolshoi Theatre, Tchaikovsky and “The Nutcracker”, but the reality meant that she could never be a ballerina.
“When you live with a hole in your heart, you just have to deal with it.”
And so they did… With a laughter and a smile and a few sweet jokes. For a while Inna thought of becoming a vet and work with animals that she adored, but once the school was done with, she entered MGGU (Moscow State University for the Humanities) to study psychology and anthropology. She did some modelling as a side project to earn some money, won “Miss Russia 1994” and came 12th in the “Miss Universe” competition.
These were the first steps into the world of fashion that soon became a part of her life. In the mid 1990s Inna moved to Paris to work as a model and was surprised by the offers that followed. Viva Paris was the only one that didn’t promise to make her a super star overnight, but assured the young Russian that they would do everything in their power to make her a good model. “Becoming a part of Viva felt right. I was very serious about everything they told me and I owe them a lot. From learning about model management and working in the industry to becoming good friends – we’ve been together for 15 years now, it’s a long journey.”
When I ask her for advice on becoming a successful model, she explains: “Modelling is a business, just like any other business, so must be taken seriously. It is essential to find the right agency, the one that believes in you. Lets be honest, 70% of making it to the top depends on the agency and its strategies of creating a top model. Any good model agent knows the rules and how to apply them in order to get the results. That is why there are models who work for decades, reach the top and maintain their position for years and there are others who get into the industry to make quick cash and leave. Before you do anything else – find the right agency.”
In 2002 Inna Zobova became the next Wonderbra girl following the steps of gorgeous Adriana Sklenarikova and Eva Herzigova. “I didn’t want to go to the casting, but the agency made me. I came, saw all these 600 girls, turned around and left. I said to myself “I am not going to sit here wasting my time”. Two hours later I received a call from the agency. “They want you to be there, they want to see you tonight”.
The process of choosing the right girl took days. “When I came to Wonderbra, it was the time of Kate Moss, the grunge was out, the pin-up Wonderbra image was dated and very different from everything portrayed by Vogue and the fashion industry in general. As somebody who did a lot of runway shows and editorials I knew that straight away. They chose a slogan for me, “No body is perfect” and we shot the campaign. When I saw the photos I told them that I didn’t like the result. “If you want young women to buy your product, you need to make it more natural, sensual and strong, not pin-up style,” I told them.
I knew this project meant a lot of hard work and the times were changing, but at the end, we had 4 wonderful years together.”
Although Inna had to leave University after two years, she never stopped leaning and after moving to France continued her studies Sorbonne and currently attending art history course in the École du Louvre. “Eventually I will graduate. It’s not even about having a degree. I think, most importantly is to never stop learning, all your life, no matter whether you are following your initial path or change it adapting to your life, so your brain doesn’t go stale.”
Being an intelligent model certainly has its advantages including a brilliant career in the fashion industry, movie acting and several projects including “Russia’s Next Top Model” where Inna was invited on a role of a fashion expert mentoring the young models (apart from good advice she also brought a touch of class to the show) and her own “baby” she is working on as we speak. “It’s a kind of… salad… ” she says about her life, “I don’t follow a certain path.”
She’s been living in Paris for almost as long as she did in Russia. “Moscow is my mum and Paris is my dad”, she says. “I love Paris and its magic and charm. The beauty of Paris with its monochromatic streets draws you in. It’s very cultural, a little bit snobbish, very intellectual and doesn’t accept or open up to everyone. But for those who stay, Paris gives an air of freedom like nowhere else.”
I jump on one of my favourite subjects as soon as Paris is mentioned… The Parisiennes… Since Inna is often referred to as the “Russian Parisian” in the media, I simply have to ask if she could share any style secrets.
“French style is always about being a little bit imperfect that, in reality, takes a lot of thinking and planning.” she begins. “And, of course, colours. Living in Paris made me realise that fuchsia and blonde hair don’t go together, but the colour would look beautiful on a brunette. Everything about this country is very subtle and everything, its beauty and culture, takes time to understand.”
It was in Paris where Inna met her partner, film director Bruno Aveillan. In 2007 the couple welcomed their new born, Maceo. Becoming a mother was an emotional experience: “After I got Maceo I realised how strong I could be, I turned into this oak tree,” she smiles, eyes filled with love. “It felt as if I had a mighty power inside that gave meaning to everything I’ve done so far.”
And so after a whirlwind of projects and a successful career spanning over almost two decades, Inna is still unstoppable and full of fresh ideas.
She is currently working on a new TV project as a producer. “My team (the same one that made “The Artist”) is very supportive and believe in me and, although being a producer is something very new to me, I hope to make it work, to prove to everyone including myself that I can make a brilliant show from scratch.”
She also works with the Heart Fund, a charity that provides resources to disadvantaged children born with heart disease. The mission felt incredibly personal to her… “I thought of flying over to Haiti in December when the 14 children have their surgeries, but am not sure I am ready to enter the operating theatre yet. Thinking of it brings back memories I thought I no longer had. It touched me too deeply.” – she confesses.
And just like the little girl from the past, she still doesn’t make any plans for the future. “I know too well that plans never work. I hope I will have enough energy to complete the projects I am working on and that’s as far as I can go…”
Photo source: courtesy of Inna Zobova, Vogue Russia 1998, Burberry campaign, Vogue Germany