An 80s’ icon…

Never mind what everyone wore to the Oscars. This is clearly THE jacket to be seen in this week. There I was innocently knocking up a soup last night when my daughter sent me a text with a picture of a jacket from some trendy website with a picture of me on the back. It’s tough to discover one is an 80s’ icon while chopping carrots.IMG_2945
The other thing that is tough is telling my children not to do stupid things to their hair, wear ridiculous clothes or anything else really when the evidence of my own teenage misdemeanours is on the back of a piece of white denim.
I have looked at the website where they sell the jacket but can’t find it. I can only assume it’s already sold out. I saw some other jackets, all for around £250 quid. Am half thinking of demanding royalties.
And before you ask if I was trying to look like Boy George, the answer is no, he was clearly trying to look like me. Have you seen him on the back of a jacket recently? I think not….

The great style conspiracy…

Is it purely coincidence that when 50 Shades of Grey topped the bestseller lists all over the world, leather was suddenly back in fashion? Even M&S has now come up with a pervy underwear range. I sometimes wonder if there is a conspiracy by some all-powerful fashion force to create the perfect storm every season to seduce us into shopping for new items of clothing we really don’t need.
I have never really bothered about what’s in and what’s out, but recently a fashion photographer friend of mine pointed out that, at my age, one needs to make a bit more of an effort. With friends like that eh…?
So I was quite worried when I looked at the trends for Autumn/Winter. Leather and capes seemed to be the stand-out ones. To be honest I can’t remember when I last wore either of them. A cape on the school run would seem a tad overdressed, and leather in 40 degree heat over here in Abu Dhabi is just plain perverse (which of course fits in with the 50 Shades trend). images
I wonder how Anna Wintour does it? I mean every time anyone sees her their first question must be ‘what is she wearing and why?’ How do you cope with that kind of pressure? I guess she has a lot of help (free clothes maybe?), and I have heard she has a hairdresser who creates her perfect bob every morning. I can’t bear people fiddling with my hair, so that’s not an option. And I have yet to be offered any freebies at all, so I am going to have to rely on myself.
I have decided to ignore the cape and leather trend. I figure as I have read 50 Shades of Grey (utter tosh, wait for the film is my advice) and also have a cape (vintage Dior no less, handed down by my aunt who wore it to La Scala) in my children’s dressing-up box I have that side covered.
With children at public school in England there is no spare cash for designer kit, unless of course it comes from my favourite shop, the Red Cross shop in Chelsea’s Old Church Street. Some kindly lady who is the exact same size as me donates her designer kit there on a regular basis, so every time I am in town I pop in and pick up some bargains.
So my top tip for this season is go charity shop shopping (but of course tell everyone it’s vintage) and remember what Coco Chanel said: “Fashion fades only style remains the same.”
A reminder that we should not be dictated to by the fashion forces, whoever they are.

A day in the life of a fashionista

Ever wondered what fashionistas do? Yes, me too. I spent a day as one earlier this week and have to say, it’s all rather exhausting.

First of all you have to spend hours deciding what to wear. Then you get to the event and think ‘shit, I’m over/under-dressed’. Then you have to try to work out what everyone else is wearing; High Street or designer?

I wore my one designer dress, Maria Grachvogel if you must know, I went to interview her a couple of years ago and ended up spending my monthly salary on clothes.

“Ha!” I thought. “At least they won’t be able to accuse me of being dressed head to toe in Zara, like I usually am.”

The panel event I was attending was organised by a designer clothing store called Symphony around one of the most celebrated fashionistas, or “fashion maniac” as Helmut Newton called her, of our era. She is an Italian called Anna Dello Russo, known affectionately as ADR.That’s her in the middle with the short gold dress. Picture by David Goff.

She is a wonderfully eccentric, positive, outspoken and amusing Italian lady, who apparently has an apartment next to her apartment in Milan where she keeps her clothes.

“Do you ever walk in there,” I asked her, “and say to yourself ‘I’ve got nothing to wear?'”

She looked horrified. “A woman who says that should see a psychiatrist, she is depressed.”

Then I asked her if she ever wore the same thing twice. “Never,” she said. I wanted to ask if she even changes her pyjamas on a daily basis, but would probably have been told that pyjamas are soooo last week.

We discussed a range of topics in front an audience, from what makes a successful designer to whether you should mix and match High Street with high end. Anna claims she does wear High Street, but that the one thing she will never do is wear cheap shoes. It was at that point that I realised that I had committed a fashion faux pas. My shoes are as cheap as they come, something I plan to radically overhaul. If I’m going to be a fashionista, I need the proper kit. Let’s hope Anna didn’t notice them.

Maybe if I can get people to call me HFP I have a future…?

The December Issue

Last night we all watched the documentary film The September Issue which is about American Vogue and its legendary editor Anna Wintour.

The film centers on the biggest issue of the year, the September issue, and follows the fashion shoots, Anna’s meetings with designers as well as her relationship with her long-suffering creative director Grace.

I loved it. It was a great insight into that world, and it inspired me to go for bigger and better things on my magazine, as well as possibly a haircut. But I can’t really see why it would be interesting to anyone who is not mad about journalism or fashion or both.

The most encouraging consequence of us watching it though is that the girls have decided to create their very own December Issue, to come out for my birthday. I have not been allowed to see any of it yet but they tell me it has 42 pages so far and will have articles and fashion and advertisements, just like Vogue.

And it has an Anna and a Grace just like Vogue too, Bea being Anna and Olivia taking on the role of Grace. Their other staff member is Leo, who does drawings and stories. I feel the beginnings of a publishing empire coming on….

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2010

The new suit

I just had to show you all this…….we went shopping yesterday and Leo fell in love with his first ever suit. It is from Marks & Spencer and I think he looks quite divine, but then I normally do think that. Leo and Marks & Spencer, an irresistible combination……..
new suit

A great week

It has been a great week.

I went to see the cellist Mathew Barley perform Bach’s cello suites at the British School here. It was truly amazing, as he said, there isn’t a note out of place. We could practically touch him we were so close.

I have slept through the night three times.

We have booked our summer holiday to the Savoie.

I interviewed an old Etonian, former model, Leonardo di Caprio’s body double and England cricketer who is now a famous artist. It’s not a bad job.


My latest book, the Viva Mayr Diet, is going to be serialised in the Daily Mail.

I bought my first piece of new designer kit (the only other has been from my favourite London second-hand designer store), by a brilliant designer I interviewed called Maria Grachvogel. An investment for the future. I have decided that the older you become the more exquisite your clothes need to be. It was a bit of a ‘couture’ experience, in a private room at the Westin Hotel in Dubai, just me, the designer and her commercial director. Now Angelina Jolie and I have even more in common…

I interviewed an anti-ageing expert who is 58 but looks about 40. And now that I have all her tips I plan on doing the same. (You will get them too, I just need to write the article).

I went for a drink with some friends on the 64th floor of a Dubai building and we watched fountains dance in a light-show on the ground beneath us as we sipped wine and chatted.

I had my nails painted a deep plum colour – very Cruella de Ville.

Above-mentioned artist (who also worked on George Clooney’s latest film) says he will take my book Ciao Bella to Cannes with him because he thinks it will make a great film and that Penelope Cruz should play me.

And now it’s the weekend….what’s not to like?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

Weekend activities

What do you thing your average Abu Dhabian does of a weekend? A spot of swimming in the warm sea? A trip to the desert? Some camel racing perhaps? No, we go to Carrefour.

Olivier MartinezFor reasons too tedious to explain, I have been to two Carrefours today and you would have thought they had announced that you got a year’s free groceries judging by the queues. Or that every litre of milk came with a kiss from Carla Bruni for the blokes and one from Olivier Martinez for the girls.

Sadly none of the above was true. We just all happened to be there at the same time. Luckily the children and I had begun the day with a little more culture. We went to perhaps the only other building here that is bigger than Carrefour; the Grand Mosque. 

The Grand Mosque

I was asked to put on an abya and a scarf before I went in and found it a rather interesting experience. It wasn’t hot or uncomfortable as I imagined it would be. I felt rather elegant sweeping through the vast rooms with my children in tow. Olivia and Bea, never one to miss an opportunity to dress up, donned scarves as well. If I could only get the photo from my phone to the computer I could show you. Leo acted as photographer and did a great job.

The Grand Mosque opened earlier this year and is the final resting place of Sheikh Zayed, the Father of the Nation, to whom it is dedicated. A friend told me today that there are several people employed to read The Koran out loud to his remains at four-hour stretches each. The building covers an area of 22,000 square metres (who does the hoovering is what I want to know) and the building is entirely clad in marble.

It is big enough for 30,000 worshippers, assuming they can tear themselves away from Carrefour that is.

 Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Forever England…..

I am in Austria at the Viva Mayr clinic and online again after several days. I am here for my new book deal; I am writing a diet book based on the Viva Mayr philosophy, which is all about chewing a lot and not eating too late. Well, there is more to it than that of course, but as I only just arrived you can’t expect too many details. And anyway, I don’t want to put you off buying the book.

London was good practice for Abu Dhabi. It was unbearably hot and full of people from the Middle East. We stayed near Marble Arch at our Society of Authors affiliated club, The New Cavendish Club. Let’s get this straight, there’s nothing ‘new’ about it. And that’s what makes it so charming and so very English.

“This is a proper Englishman’s breakfast,” said Olivia tucking into bacon, baked beans, tea and toast. “Grandpa would like this. He’s a proper Englishman. He fought in the war and he won it.”

I doubt the club has changed much since the war (hence the lack of internet connection). The ‘public areas’ require a certain dress code, copies of The Daily Telegraph are strewn over lavishly upholstered sofas and fish and chips is on the bar menu. It is a little corner of London that remains forever England.

Step outside though and you may as well be in down town Abu Dhabi. I would say at least 50% of the people walking down the street are Middle Eastern, quite amazing. Why are they all there? What is it they like about it so much? If you walk through Hyde Park to Kensington Park Gardens and up to the Diana memorial playground the average increases to around 70%. Here at least I can see what has attracted them; the sand around the pirate ship makes them feel at home.

Anyway I am pleased to report they seem extremely nice and I am looking forward to moving there next week even more. Bea met a charming and beautiful young boy at the playground who clearly fell in love with her on sight. Olivia spent her time asking young girls if they liked wearing head scarves. They don’t really think about it is the impression she got.

I saw some very elegant ladies in traditional dress with just a touch of frivolity; a pair of pink shoes, or a Prada handbag, or some gold lace lining the austere black garb. It seems under all that cloth they are a bit like us.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

La belle Ines

When I was growing up there was only one supermodel who counted; Ines de la Fressange. She was Karl Lagerfeld’s muse, the face and body of Chanel, as good as it gets.

On my desk as I write I am looking longingly at an invitation to a reception next week to celebrate her being awarded France’s highest award: the Legion d’Honneur. I say longingly because I don’t think I’ll be able to go. Rupert and I are taking a break on the Atlantic Coast to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary and I don’t think his idea of fun is carting up to Paris with a sore knee.

There are apparently several people who don’t think Ines deserves this award. They say she is a clothes-horse. Nothing but a model. I don’t agree. I first met her when I was writing my book about French women. To me she has always epitomsied what makes French women so, well, French. She is thin, elegant, haughty and smokes. What amazed me when I met her though was how lovely she is. Not just beautiful, but genuinely nice.

“I treat everyone like my best friend,” she told me, and she has. She had no reason to be nice to me, heaven knows my book was hardly going to make or break her, but since that first meeting three years ago whenever I have asked her for a favour or a contact she has helped, whenever I have sent her one of my books she has written to thank me. She even thanked me for writing when her husband died suddenly a couple of years ago, leaving her and her two daughters shocked and alone.

If treating some random English hack who comes to interview you as your best friend isn’t reason enough to give someone a Legion d’Honneur, I don’t know what is. And Ines certainly deserves it just as much, if not more, than other recipients like Richard Jenrette (who he? some American investment banker apparently), Vladimir Putin and Celine Dion.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

No such thing as a casual lunch….

""When I went up to Paris for my style talk last week (which incidentally went very well except for the fact that I forgot the cardinal rule of hanging out with French women – never overdress – and consequently looked like a Christmas tree compared with the rest of them) I had lunch with my shopping guru and new friend Ghada.
The first time I met Ghada (in St Tropez, where else?) she recognised the designer of my hat at 20 paces. This is the kind of thing that bonds women for life.
Anyway, I suggested we have lunch and she sent me the following, truly incredible, list of choices which shows that there is no such thing as a casual lunch, at least not in Paris.
Can you guess where we ended up?

Café Charlot in the Nouveau Marais
o        Mood: low key café in an going up neighbourhood
o        Bistro food: Salads, grilled fish & meat
o        Shopping : Johnny Farah, Les Bouclards, Surface to air, Tsumori Chisato, Shine…
o        Who : people in the neighbourhood

Café de Flore in Saint-Germain des près
o        Mood: a bit Intellectual, a bit snob, a bit low key and place to be seen
o        French café food : salads, eggs
o        Shopping: Calypso, Sonia, Louboutin, Mona, Irié wash, Atika, Le bon Marché…
o        Who: Sonia Rykiel, Le Monde people, Prada team

Hotel Costes in Saint-Honoré
o        Mood: if the weather is nice, the terrace is the place to see and be seen
o        Costes food: Club Sandwich, grilled fish, pasta, vegetables
o        Shopping around: Goyard, Renaud Pellegrino, Miu-Miu, Jérôme Gruet…
o        Who : Actors, Comedians, Singers, Models

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008