LONDON, United Kingdom – Back in 2013, we had the pleasure to interview an emerging brand for luxury childrenswear, La Coqueta, that had just opened its first store in the heart of Hampstead, London. At that time, we were struck by the high quality of their timeless pieces that come in a range of vibrant colours combined with classical patterns and superb finishing, all made-in-Spain.
Four years on, we have had the opportunity to catch up with La Coqueta’s inspiring founder, Celia Muñoz, whose hard work, determination and dedicated team has delivered impressive growth of the business and brand. “In 2013 I had just opened my shop, everything was new and the focus on online sales wasn’t as big as it is now. For us the most important milestone has been to grow online,” Celia comments proudly.
When we first met Celia, her core values were to stay true to her concept, listen to the needs of her customers, give them options and offer them the highest quality products at a competitive price. These values are exemplified in her latest capsule collection – in collaboration with Dana Alikhani and Tatiana Santo Domingo, founders of Muzungu Sisters – which beautifully combines the cuteness and cheekiness of La Coqueta with an online retail portal that promotes ethical production by showcasing artisan-crafted goods.
“Tatiana, Dana and I have been customers of each other’s brands for years,” Celia explains. “Muzungu Sisters contacted me last year to ask us if we wanted to collaborate with them. Funnily enough, we wanted to do the same thing with them that very same week. Call it fate or just minds alike… We all felt it was the perfect fit and we could create something incredible.”
Celia tells us how smooth and fun the collaboration was as their views were aligned and they knew what they wanted to achieve. In her words: “It was a fun process and I think the result shows the good vibe that we had. I love their business and what Dana and Tatiana represent, the image they project through their business. Muzungu Sisters clothes are beautiful and for us it felt really special to get to do something quite different to what we normally do, working with a type of embroidery that feels more ethnic.”
The 10-piece capsule for boys, girls and babies, highlights both brands’ signature elements featuring the elegance and practicality of La Coqueta’s designs and the beautiful embroidery of Muzungo Sisters with a mutual focus on traditional craftsmanship. While the entire collection is a must-have, Celia tells us that her favourite piece is the Gardenia skirt. “I just love the look of it and I wish we had done it in adult sizes.”
In these past few years, la Coqueta has strengthened its brand by embracing a more holistic approach and developed different streams to the business including collaborations with other fashion brands. Such collaborations represent an organic evolution of the brand: “I have never believed that something revolutionary will happen to a business but success is achieved through natural evolution, great products, hard work and perseverance,” explains the mastermind of the Spanish brand.
We can still recall how proud Celia was to have developed a relationship with Spanish suppliers and small businesses when she first started her business and now is no different: “I love working with the people in my team but also on the production side of things, supporting small workshops that have so much to offer. We have a very intimate relationship that has been nurtured for quite a few years now…” Her proudness for ‘Made-in-Spain’ says it all.
Our conversation ends with some empowering and valuable advice for all those emerging brands with high aspirations: “I have learned that the sky is the limit and that it is important to never close doors to anything. It’s important to explore any opportunity that is presented to you because if you don’t do it, others will and your business will miss out.”
ONTARIO, Canada — Can Art turn into Beauty and Beauty into Art? Andrea Stajan Ferkul is a Canadian, Toronto-based, artist and illustrator who is always inspired by beauty in her artistic work. She is especially interested in the stories behind the beauty of women. As she states: “Exploring the essential beauty of women is not to focus solely on the aesthetic. Beauty is a reflection of one’s inner self – it’s not seen but radiated from within.”
Andrea Stajan Ferkul: The Artist
Andrea Stajan Ferkul learned about illustration and graphic design working for many years in the fashion advertising industry. Soon after, she decided to focus her work on the world of fine art experimenting with loose renderings, textures and mixed media. Today, Andrea is above all known for her captivating (dress) paintings, expression of the fusion between style and elegance, spontaneity and representation, the sensual expression of colours mixed with fine design and details.
About who and what inspires her life and work, Andrea talks about divine femininity: “To wear something beautiful empowers a woman; it radiates confidence and brings out the best in her,” says Andrea.
… I draw inspiration from the strength and femininity of women and their roles in today’s society.
“Individuals reflect their personality, mood and style by what they wear, which can affect their emotional state. I draw on sources from visual elements that stimulate me; fashion, colour, design, photography, pattern and texture. I am also inspired by other artists,” explains Andrea.
The importance of beauty
Andrea Stajan Ferkul highlights the importance of beauty in her work. The best inspirational quote that resonates with her is one by Kate Angell: “Outer beauty attracts, but inner beauty captivates.”
“When beauty is found in imperfection, it affects you spiritually,” Andrea explains.
“When beauty is found in imperfection, it affects you spiritually.”
To absorb the essence of my work, it’s important to look beyond the beauty and embrace the complexity and uniqueness of a personality – the strength, sensuality and spirit of being a woman. I try to convey the beauty inherent within us all.
Andrea continues: “My finished paintings reside somewhere between reality and interpretation. To create a powerful aesthetic, the dresses in my paintings appear to be perfect; upon a closer look there are many imperfections, some more obvious than others. Beauty in imperfection hits me in the heart.”
Andrea’s paintings represent the powerful aesthetics of painting which connected with the narrative, realistic details very well. As she highlights: “I start with an idea, but it is intuition that drives me in my work, with the finished piece residing somewhere between reality and interpretation. It’s an extension of what I have built up in my experiences. My work should confront the viewer with feelings.”
Fashion behind the art
A great number of Andrea Stajan Ferkul’s paintings are inspired by fashion perfectly combining style and elegance as a sublime extension of the spirit of a woman.
Andrea emphasises that fashion is about having a personal style, one that works for each one of us (aesthetically & emotionally), reflecting our personality. “It’s a way of re-creating yourself everyday, depending on your mood,” Andrea adds. “Fashion is an extension of the spirit of a woman. My dress paintings put emphasis on bringing the emotional and intuitive elements of the theme to the piece. I explore perceptions of style and elegance as a whole and their role in contemporary life.”
For Andre, fashion means a simple life: “Fashion is art. Art is beauty. Beauty is a life’s expression.”
Colour harmony and contrast
Andrea is extremely stimulated by colour and colour harmony even though her palette is often monochromatic. “Colour can often be my starting point, my inspiration – it just gets translated into black, white and neutrals,” says Andrea. “I love everything about tone on tone – the richness, the layering and depth it creates. I love the subtlety of tone on tone, and appreciate the power of neutral colour.”
Andrea tends to mix various shades of neutral: “… It’s the subtleness of tone changes that I’m after.” She equally loves the contrast between neutrals and black as many of her paintings show. What is also so unique in her work is the incorporation of fabric and lace in her pairings to create 3 dimensional effects inviting the viewers to take a closer look. “Is it painted or is it real… often it’s both,” Andrea tells with a smile.
Andrea’s future plans include building relationships with clients, interior designers and galleries. She will continue to focus on painting, experimenting and developing her style in ways that keep her fulfilled: “… Sometimes there’s a nuance of an era gone by but it could equally work as a contemporary,” concludes Andrea while reminding us all that her motto in life and work is to “stay true to yourself and do what makes you happy and do it on your own terms.”
LONDON, United Kingdom — Let’s face it, shopping for lingerie can be a frustrating, lonely and often unproductive experience: from being grabbed by a teenage shop assistant in a department store or grabbing something quickly before your 7-year-old puts frilly panties on his head, to returning that red push up, 3 sizes too small, that your beloved bought for your birthday. Help is at hand though, with a rapidly growing trend for lingerie stylists to devote the time and attention necessary to ensure you’re looking and feeling great both now and in the future.
It’s widely known that many of us wear ill-fitting underwear but did you know that this is the case for over three quarters of women? It can affect us physically through back and neck pain, mentally by lowering our confidence and aesthetically with unsightly muffin tops, sagging breasts and the dreaded visible panty line (VPL)! With all these potential pitfalls, we thought we should seek out an expert and so we found one of the most experienced lingerie stylists in London, Monica Harrington, to guide us in achieving the perfect combination of fit, form and fashion.
An expert at your fingertips
Monica has over 30 year’s experience as a lingerie stylist having worked in London, New York, and throughout Europe. She has fitted thousands of women of all shapes and sizes from all over the world and worked for an impressive list of some of the biggest brands and retailers in the business including Triumph, Harrods, Selfridge’s, Fenwick’s, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Debenhams and Brown Thomas, not to mention many independent lingerie houses.
Using this experience and knowledge and after completing a qualification in training from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) she designed and implemented the “Made To Measure” training programme for Triumph which was rolled out across various geographies for Triumph and in many of the key retail stores in the UK.
In September 2016 Monica took the brave step that many of us dream of and stepped back from her successful corporate career to start her own business. She now offers a bespoke service of fitting expertise for a range of brands and private clients.
Monica’s private clients are fashionable and discerning women who value the confidence that comes from having perfectly fitting lingerie. Other private clients are those breast cancer survivors who have been through mastectomies and are embracing their “new norm” by discovering what is possible in the lingerie department.
The work that Monica does for brands is about making products look great for advertising or for a digital campaign such as the See It Believe It tool that she worked on for Triumph, which shows how different styles of bra can change your shape, including how your clothes can look with various bras underneath.
We’ve established that Monica is well-qualified to advise us, so let’s drink from that fountain of knowledge …
What have we been doing wrong?
To improve our lingerie styling we first have to understand what we’ve been doing wrong all these years. We asked Monica what are the most common mistakes she sees women making when choosing lingerie, she told us:
“The most common mistake women make when choosing a bra is to select a piece that is too big on the underband. 80% of the support a bra provides comes from the underband and if it is too big it will ride up at the back, cause the straps to dig into the shoulders and cause the breast to drop down losing the support and shape – there are no muscles in the breasts so this support is essential.”
Another common problem Monica sees is when women don’t consider the outwear that their lingerie will underpin. The classic example of this is the visible panty line – many women choose pants which are too small in size, especially when buying Shapewear. There is a Shapewear myth that if you buy a smaller size it will hold you in more, this is not the case, as Monica pointed out:… you should always be true to your size.
Why is it so hard?
Surely once we know our size, that’s us sorted for life? Why does it seem so difficult to repeatedly get the right fit? Monica told us that size and shape are always a challenge as the different fabrics used can behave very differently. Some fabrics are more stretchy or rigid than others so the fit will be slightly different. The solution is to not get caught up with any specific “size” and instead focus on the shape and fit that are so much more important.
Another big challenge is the aging process of the breast, as it has no muscles, over time we start to lose the elasticity at the top of the cup. Women continue to look for the shape they had when they were in their late teens as it’s the fullness the client is often looking for. The way to achieve this is by wearing the correct size and finding a shape that works and helps you achieve the desired look.
If women are wearing the incorrect size, it’s often difficult to convince them to try a size which in their minds they think is either going to be too big in the cup or perhaps maybe too small in the underband. Monica never discusses size until she has fitted a client into the bra and her client can see the difference to perhaps an incorrect shape or size that she had been wearing.
How can a lingerie stylist help us?
Many women lose confidence in their body shape at different stages throughout their life and having an empathetic adviser is one of the main reasons that women are turning to lingerie stylists.
Monica offers a personal and bespoke service that starts with a 15-minute telephone consultation, followed by a meeting in a shop or in the client’s home. In addition to size and shape, she discovers what lingerie they currently have that is working for them, discusses their favourite outerwear pieces and what is needed to underpin their fashion wardrobe. Monica will then choose a variety of pieces to fit, trying some of their outerwear pieces on with the lingerie to ensure the client is happy.
What about post-surgery lingerie styling?
Monica Harrington provides customised lingerie styling and fit advice to women recovering from breast surgery.
Finding the right bra is already a challenging task but can be even more challenging to do post-surgery. It’s not just about fit but it’s also critical to restore confidence with the right expert. In Monica’s words: “Empathy and experience play a huge part,” her approach is respectful and gentle whilst achieving the best results.
One of the services she offers is at the Cancer Centre at Guys hospital where she fits women who come through a referral; this can be six weeks after surgery, it can be for a breast prosthesis, a replacement prosthesis or for fitting advice after a reconstruction.
With so many women walking around wearing the wrong size of underwear there is certainly a market for lingerie stylists, do you need one?
LONDON, United Kingdom — It is often cited that a man’s suit is equivalent to body armour, making them feel secure and confident in the fast-paced world of business. Many women see it every morning as their husbands carefully tie the perfect half Windsor and slip their shoulders effortlessly into their tailored suit: he stands a little taller, his chest puffs out and he’s ready to face the day. As equality in the workplace gathers traction how can women gain the same psychological boost?
Several fashion visionaries and couturiers have tried to meet this challenge with a desire to flatter the female form while borrowing essential ideas from the well-dressed gentleman. For example, internationally acclaimed designers such as Yves Saint Laurent dedicated some of their creations to women workers who were part of a world traditionally dominated by men but were slowly gaining a voice as society began to change.
Emerging designers are also making some serious progress in dressing the working woman. Styland, for example, is a Romanian brand that specialises in ladies ready-to-wear garments including tailored suiting, shoes and accessories. Inspired by male colleagues and following in the footsteps of great couturiers and tailors, Teodora Burz, who has worked for more than 20 years in menswear, created Styland six months ago to represent strong, successful and secure women working in a man’s world.
Teodora’s clients are feminine and smart but crave a powerful look that expresses their own personality. Styland women are those who maintain their femininity but want to incorporate versatile and timeless pieces, commonly found in menswear, into their wardrobes creating a personal style that tells a story.
Reinterpreting Menswear For Confident Ladies
When it comes to elegant and professional menswear, well-dressed gentlemen will favour quality over brand. Men are sold products based firstly upon physical quality and secondly on brand or design, women are pitched the other way around. This doesn’t mean that women value quality less than men, they just associate quality more closely with a brand rather than the specific cloth or construction technique used. “Men have a very good understanding of the quality of suiting,” says Teodora, “they can be more informed than women when it comes to fabrics, construction methods and cost.”
Styland is trying to change this stereotype by focusing first on quality fabrics that are then cut for a great style and handcrafted to deliver a powerful look and feel for a woman. Styland’s female clients expect the highest levels of quality and want to maximise the return on their investment. In order to achieve this, every piece of the collection is produced in-house and can be worn in many different ways and at different times in the day of an active woman. The handwork, craftsmanship and the premium fabrics imported from Italy and England are at the core of each product (Satin Silks, Extra Fine Wools, Natural Fibre Fabrics).
The Perfect Jacket
One of the main investment pieces of any professional wardrobe and one of the flagship products of Styland is the formal jacket. Teodora explains: “I believe that just a single, well crafted jacket can change your complete look and entire state of mind. We all need a power jacket that has been reinterpreted and styled in our own personal way.”
Styland’s market research shows that the perfect formal attire has the same confidence-boosting effect on women as it does on men. Women wearing a tailored jacket were found to feel more secure and strong and less vulnerable. “Sometimes women need to feel strong even if they are fragile or vulnerable,” explains Teodora.
I strongly believe that wearing the right suit jacket gives you more power at any age, as each period of life has its own insecurities.
We agree! The moment you step into a room wearing a jacket with the right cut and shape in a great fabric you feel like a million dollars, you forget your insecurities and are able to focus on the task at hand. If your jacket feels in any way uncomfortable or doesn’t quite fit or moves in an awkward fashion, you become distracted and insecure as you fidget with it.
Styland jackets are crafted by hand in the heart of Bucharest, they combine menswear inspired tailoring with feminine subtleties using 100% wool crepe giving them an elegant and classic character. The jackets are made with a woman’s shape and movement in mind and strike the perfect balance between professional and sensual.
Although they do have a range of products, we can certainly admire the expertise and leadership that Styland is showing by focusing on jackets as they have nailed the importance of doing one thing well. Perhaps focusing on a niche when procuring professional clothing is the future of selling woman’s formal attire and something else that can be learnt from menswear?
The Future: One Stitch At A Time
Styland are a young brand but have already achieved famed and recognition in the Romanian market by impeccably framing the female silhouette through styling services in their sophisticated showroom as well as via their user-friendly online store. Their “See Now Buy Now” approach is captivating the attention of fashionistas and women in search of eclectic colours, sharp cuts and versatile pieces that can become their wardrobe’s core pieces.
As for what a not too distant future holds for Styland, Teodora’s goal is to showcase her latest collection in showrooms around London, Paris, Milan, New York and Hong Kong as well as to develop Styland’s online presence in some of the greatest digital stores around the world. Currently, they are arduously working to enter the American market to attract more buyers and clients who value well-made clothing and for whom comfort and craftsmanship is paramount.
LONDON, United Kingdom — When Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 Autumn/Winter couture collection referenced Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, reporter Bernadine Morris predicted that Laurent’s taste for dance would “change the course of fashion.”
Fur–clad models pirouetted down the runway to Stravinsky’s composition for The Rite of Spring, donning suede capes and long striped and floral skirts evoking Russian peasant–wear. Laurent simultaneously paid homage to Diaghilev’s eclecticism and to his 20th century choreographer’s artistic collaborators, upon many of whose shoulders Laurent stood, including Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.
Laurent was successful because he brought a fresh perspective and an unprecedented wear–ability to ballet with his well–received couture collection. Fashion has been integral to ballet since its inception in 17th-century French and Italian courts. This long-term artistic synchronicity is evident from the abundance of exhibitions, publications and collaborations in the recent past.
The New York City Ballet debuted its autumn 2016 season showcasing the company’s annual fashion collaborations, featuring designers Dries Van Noten, Narciso Rodriguez and Rosie Assoulin. The spring 2017 fashion presentations were rife with balletic references, from the gossamer maxidresses modelled by professional ballerinas at Sachin and Babi to Phoebe Philo’s leather ballet pumps at Céline.
Ballet and fashion exist in continuous dialogue, largely because they share a common reference point: the body, which fashion historian Valerie Steele pointed out during the ‘Dance and Fashion’ exhibition in 2014.
The following charts significant exchanges between ballet and fashion, from collaborations to inspirations, reflecting particularly a cultural veneration of the ballerina body.
La Sylphide premiered at the Paris Opera House in 1832, created by Filippo Taglioni for his daughter and one of ballet’s first stars, Marie Taglioni.
Taglioni’s costume, a white skirt raised to her calves with bare shoulders and arms, is at the centre of this tragic narrative about desire, innocence and loss. In line with the success of the production, this ethereal costume became the de rigeur silhouette in ballet aesthetics.
La Sylphide’s influence endures today in dramatic wedding gowns. In couture, houses Valentino and Giambattista Valli are synonymous with sentimental femininity, favouring fluttery silk gowns in soft pastel shades that highlight the waist.
In the early 20th century, couturier Madeline Vionnet evoked the post–French Revolution penchant for Neoclassicist aesthetics, a fluid kind of romanticism. Vionnet used sheer fabrics to create her signature diaphanous gowns. Inspired by her muse, American dancer Isadora Duncan, Vionnet’s bias–cut dresses draped with unforced elegance.
The classic ballet look emerged in the broader public later in the 20th century. During WWII, American designer Claire McCardell championed ballet shoes as viable streetwear when materials were scarce, substantiating the versatility of the light pink ballet flat. Today, ballet–wear companies like Repetto sell luxury slippers and pumps to ballerinas and pedestrians alike, instilling the classical ballerina’s stylistic primacy within culture at large.
Twentieth century ballet saw vast departures from the previous classic era in ballet. The tutu silhouette was rendered antiquated in this era of avant–gardism; ballet became modern.
Often referred to as the father of modern dance, Sergei Diaghilev’s and his aforementioned “Ballet Russes” produced one of the most creative periods of dance in history. Late fashion editor Diana Vreeland once commented that “the influence of Diaghilev, that magician of the theatre, changed the culture of our century, and the page was forever turned on La Belle époque.”
The success and influence of the troupe links to ballet russe’s fashion collaborators. In the 1900s, couturier Paul Poiret designed costumes for the troupe, inspired by Léon Bakst, artist and designer, who was the troupe’s main costume creator in the early 1900’s.
With a penchant for exoticism, the “Ballet Russes” eroticised ballet in productions like Le Train Bleu, featured costuming by Coco Chanel. Italian Futurist Giorgio de Chirico’s surrealist costuming and set design for Diaghilev’s Le Bal (1929) inspired Chanel’s greatest rival, Elsa Schiaparelli, in several collaborative projects with the troupe.
Vaslav Nijinsky and the orient served as inspiration to designer Rick Owens, who was particularly infatuated with the erotic overtones of The Rite of Spring for his Spring 2015 menswear collection.
The “Ballet Russes” weaved visual opulence, symbolism, allegory and eroticism into its productions, but in the mid-20th century, choreography became more about abstract athleticism than narrative. New York City Ballet choreographer George Balanchine spurred this shift, popularising the notoriously slim figure while choreographing some of the most vigorous ballets to date. In Balanchine’s “Black and White” ballets, dancers’ uniforms were revolutionary in their simplicity – the ballerina’s figure was the central focus, yielding to a minimalistic aesthetic emphasising the waist with black belts, with hair swept back into buns that exposed the neck, shoulders and clavicle.
The look effectively prioritised the body in motion rather than relying on elaborate sets and costuming. Leotards were also functional, allowing the greatest range of movement. In the 1970’s and 80’s, designers associated with minimalism, like Calvin Klein and especially Donna Karan, popularised leotards as viable for everyday wear, evoking the spirit of Balanchenian modernism.
Visually removed from the epoch of full–bodied tulle, this silhouette connects to an enduring cultural preference for constant reduction in design. Elizabeth Wilson has noted, the trim figure “fits with the modernist artistic love of form suggestive of movement and speed.”
Balanchine’s visuals continue to inspire choreographers and fashion designers. In 2012, Karl Lagerfeld’s designed the set and costumes for the Paris Opéra Bastille’s “Brahms-Schönberg Quartet,” giving Balanchine’s choreography a contemporary, yet Romantic rendering.
“It is one of the dreams of a designer to design costumes for a ballet,” Riccardo Tisci declared in 2013 when he designed costumes for Bolero at the Paris Opera Ballet.
Today, it seems as if producing costumes for a ballet production is a rite of passage for fashion designers. Name a designer, and chances are they have had a hand in a recent production. Designers Kate and Laura Mulvey of Rodarte, who have always had an inclination toward the ethereal side of ballet, designed costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and Rodarte, which worked with the New York City Ballet on Two Hearts (2012).
Lagerfeld’s 2009 collection with Russian models wearing Cossack boots to Comme des Garçon’s 2005 patent ballet flats, and Christian Lacroix collaborated on La Source at Paris’s Palais Garnier in 2011. Designers continuously draw from the endless inspiration that is the trajectory of ballet, often conjuring (and sometimes subverting) the early romantic iterations of the ballet costume.
If the critical success of Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010) was any indication, it is the dualisms associated with the ballerina’s body as an object that embodies success and pain, discipline and disorder, and neurosis and strength that have come to cultural prominence most recently.
With respect to the body as central to both entities, ballet and fashion share values of aestheticism and art, grace and strength. As long as the two exist, ballet and fashion will always intertwine to reflect a broader set of cultural values pertaining to the body, to the way we dress now, and to art and aesthetics.
 Quoted in: Davis, Mary E.. Ballets Russes Style : Diaghilev’s Dancers and Paris Fashion. London, GB: Reaktion Books, 2010. Page 2.
Chazin-Bennahum, J 2002, ‘A Longing for Perfection: Neoclassic Fashion and Ballet’, Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture, 6, 4, pp. 369-386.
Davis, Mary E. Ballets Russes Style : Diaghilev’s Dancers and Paris Fashion. London, GB: Reaktion Books, 2010.
Wilson, Elizabeth. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. United Kingdom. I.B. Taurus, 2003. 146.
Wulff, Helena. “Costume for Dance.” Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: West Europe. Ed. Lise Skov. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 498–502.