the social skirt

The most important labels on clothes are not the stitched-in ones, but the ones in your head. The Party Dress that has the power to propel you out of sensible I-should-really-get-an-early-night doldrums and on to the dance floor. The Smart Jacket which straightens your spine and stiffens your resolve. The Holiday Sandals that serve as a Post-it note reminder to get a move on and book that pedicure.

The Social Skirt was a new one on me until a few weeks back. It came to yours truly via LK Bennett, who has christened a new category of summer fashion. The Social Skirt is the bottom-half equivalent of the silk shirt, in that it elevates separates into something with a bit more status. Separates tend to be the taken for granted bit of our wardrobes. They just sort of rub along together in the belly of your wardrobe. You know which jeans you want to wear and so you pull out a top to make up the numbers.

The Social Skirt, however, is here to do a job. In the catwalk show part of my job I get to observe lots of women for whom looking the part at social occasions is an important part of their job. I have noticed that these women tend to wear skirts more than they wear dresses. I think this is because looking snazzy in a skirt requires a bit more thought and effort than the ready-meal ease of the pop-it-over-your-head-and-go pretty dress. And so a Social Skirt plus something on top is subtly more sophisticated where a dress can be a bit chairwoman of the fete committee.

A Social Skirt is smarter than a dress in another way, too. A skirt like this, for instance, can work in a range of temperatures. With a T-shirt it’s now, with a camisole it’s July, with a polo neck it’s October. On holiday, it is suitably picturesque for sightseeing with Converse and a denim jacket, and glam enough to be your Last Dinner outfit with espadrilles and a six-day tan. The Social Skirt is a label to know this summer. And there is one out there with your name on it.

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From animal-print to denim

From animal-print to denim: why hotels are upping their bathrobe game

Next time you want your eyes to hurt, try searching the hashtag #Instagrammable on Twitter. It’s a good indication of how a growing need to stand out has led to social-media feeds becoming a mishmash of tasteful angles and colours so bright they make Super Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road level look understated. In order for hotels to be #Instagrammable, it isn’t enough to provide a comfy bed, a travel kettle and some non-UHT milk. Every detail must be both perfect and “aspirational”, right down to the bathrobes.

Many hotels are reportedly trying to capture a younger market by investing in new bathrobe designs. The Kimpton chain of boutique hotels has selfie-friendly animal-print dressing gowns in its rooms. Other, less conventional, designs include the denim bathrobes of New York’s Hotel Americano (though how absorbent is denim?) and a special pair of Diane von Furstenberg robes at Claridge’s, but only if you stay in the exclusive Grand Piano suite.

“The best robes are the ones that reflect part of the hotel’s personality: a sexy and seductive design, a splash of signature colour, an eco-friendly construction, child-sized versions and so on,” explains Tamara Heber-Percy, co-founder of the luxury hotels booking site Mr and Mrs Smith. “It’s the attention to detail that makes for a more memorable stay.”

For the Dorchester, in London, which has bathrobes suitable for children from the age of two, it’s all about quality, softness and thickness. “As well as being extra thick, our robes have subtle design touches that include a grey trim, the logo of the Dorchester and a hood to give them a more luxurious feel,” says Sabah Smith, executive housekeeper at the hotel. While she refuses to be drawn into how often robes “disappear” from hotel rooms, she says, tactfully, that guests who wish to take them home are able to do so by purchasing them from the hotel.

However, there is one area of the industry that won’t be getting on board any time soon. Shakila Ahmed, director of communications for Travelodge, says focus groups consistently tell the chain that budget hotel guests aren’t bothered about extras such as robes. “Our guests want to be close to where they need to be, a good night’s sleep, tea and coffee in the room, a power shower and a TV,” she says – though if they used that signature navy and red to make leopard-print dressing gowns, they might be more #Instagrammable yet.

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What are the coolest trainers to wear right now

What a question! Truly, Carolyn, you might as well have asked me what is the meaning of life, or what it is Kylie Jenner actually does. Either of those puzzlers would be easier to answer than the issue of which trainers you should buy.

In last month’s US Vogue, British designer Paul Andrew, now shoe designer at Salvatore Ferragamo, admits that his primary fear about taking on one of the biggest jobs in his business was simply that: “Everyone wears a sneaker today.” And it really is quite something to look back to the 1950s, at the varieties of sandals and heels women used to wear, and compare them with the blessed comfort and ubiquity of sports shoes today. But all the creativity and self-expression that once went into fancy day shoes have not been squashed. They have simply been transferred to the trainer, and because the palette is more limited than varieties of women’s shoes of yore provided, the smallest trainer detail is now freighted with significance. The differences between a woman who wears Converse (hippyish creative) and one who opts for Superga (wannabe It girl) is far more dramatic than those between one who once wore Ferragamo (old-school posho) and one who pledged her troth to Chanel (fashion posho).

So when you ask what kind of trainers you should buy, Carolyn, it really depends on what kind of person you are. See my trainers, see my soul. But if you’re asking what the cool trainers of the moment are, then that is easy: Reebok’s new Club C. I’ll be honest, the appeal of these boring old-school tennis shoes somewhat passes me by, and I usually love everything from the 80s. But I live by a simple maxim and it is this: never question trendy gay people, and this is undoubtedly the shoe of the trendy gay people at the moment. As Samantha so wisely says in Sex and the City, “First the gays, then the girls,” and in the past fortnight at least three-quarters of the Guardian’s fashion desk have ordered a pair for themselves. So if that isn’t definitive proof then I’ll eat my own trainers.

Are you high, Ann? Getting an early start today on the pipe? Me giving advice to Serena Williams would be like a cockroach mountainsplaining to a mountain. News that Williams is 20 weeks pregnant has prompted the usual excitement that stories about celebrity pregnancies provoke. When the world collectively realised this meant that Williams won the Australian Open – without dropping a single set – when she was eight weeks pregnant, there were a few well-intended “Gosh, women are amazing” pieces. But I am here to change the record to my favourite disc, one I’ve played at least three times here before: it is called: “Serena Williams is a goddess from above and all you haters should spend the rest of eternity kicking yourselves in the butt.”

Let’s deal with the pregnancy issue first. Yes, when pregnant, doing anything more strenuous than opening another packet of Oreos while watching re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an achievement, but it is quintuply so during the first trimester. This isn’t being acknowledged enough in coverage of this story: when I was in the first trimester, I threw up every other day, and I genuinely believed that this was because my brain had melted and needed evacuation from my body. There was not a moment during that first trimester when I was not severely nauseated/exhausted/brain dead/congested, and usually all four together. I cancelled a coffee date with a friend during that period because it was genuinely beyond me. Williams, by contrast, wins the Australian Open. We feminists don’t like to talk about how much our biology affects us, because, for too long, men have used it as a weapon against us. But denying reality is absurd and, really, instead of letting it be used as a negative it should be something we’re proud of: look how awesome we are that we have to deal with all this and we still GET SHIT DONE. And in the case of Serena, some of us get more shit done than literally anyone else, ever.

But let’s now talk about Williams. I have written many times before that no athlete has contended with as much bullshit as Williams, from (male) sportswriters saying she doesn’t deserve the same pay as male tennis players to (male) sportswriters doubting her motivation, to (male) tennis players, such as Pat Cash, decreeing her in 2007 to be a “lost cause”. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Williams, shockingly, makes about a fifth annually of what Roger Federer gets in sponsorship deals, a disparity that reeks of both racism and sexism.

Well, damn them all, Serena, because you really are the greatest tennis player of all time. We knew this before, and we know it for sure now. You win grand slams, while making a human inside of you, and all those carpers wish they were you. This is Serena’s world, and we’re all lucky to live in it.

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Hailee Steinfeld on How She Stays Fit

Hailee Steinfeld on How She Stays Fit and If She Listens to Her Own Songs

It is no secret that Hailee Steinfeld has a packed schedule lately. The 20-year-old just finished filming Pitch Perfect 3 in Atlanta, is churning out hits such as “Starving” (featuring Zed) and her newest collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly “At My Best” is burning up the charts, not to mention she is prepping for the Met Ball, the fashion world’s annual extravaganza. “I’m going, but I don’t think I can say with who, it’s a secret!” laughs Steinfeld. The Oscar-nominated actress is adding one more item to her résumé: It was announced on Thursday that she is the new face of Mission women’s athletic wear, the brand that has counted on top athletes Serena Williams and Mia Hamm in the past.

Steinfeld (rocking the label’s high-waisted leggings and sports bra) and her choreographer Amy Allen celebrated the milestone by teaching a private dance class in Hollywood on Thursday where journalists and influencers got a taste of how the hitmaker preps for performances — and yes, it involved a lot of twerking.

Pret-a-Reporter: Why did you want to partner with Mission?

Steinfeld: Well, apart from Mission being an all-around amazing brand, I spend a lot of my time exercising and dancing, especially when I am touring. And when I have performances coming up, I spend most of my time in dance rehearsals, so I am always looking for something that I not only look good in but feel good in. I have had more situations where I wake up and I am frantically getting dressed and I’m like, “OK, I look cool, I am going to go dance,” and then all of the sudden I’m burning up and uncomfortable. There really is something so amazing about the cooling mechanism in these clothes. When you’re burning up and you’re heart is pounding, that’s really a bonus.

Besides dancing, how else do you like to stay in shape?

I love anything outdoors, whether that is running on the beach or walking, riding a bike, taking a hike, anything that doesn’t necessarily feel like you are working out. If you go to the park and are playing basketball or kicking a ball around and hours into it you’re crazy tired and didn’t realize how much work you put into, I love that sort of activity!

Is dancing new for you since you started singing?

I like to think I have always been dancing, I grew up dancing, but it’s definitely become more about discipline and conditioning. I’ve taken it a lot more seriously since I started singing, and that has been in the last two or three years.

How would you describe your everyday beauty routine?

When I am not doing anything, I like to keep it very fresh and simple. Sometimes it is the best feeling in the world to not have any makeup on, and I have learned to love that. I love that as much as I love putting makeup on and having my makeup done. But for everyday I keep it very simple.

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Latest Counterfeit Case

Gucci Handed $9 Million Dollar Victory in Latest Counterfeit Case

Gucci’s American arm has been handed a $9 million victory in its largest counterfeiting case. On Tuesday, Gucci America Inc. was awarded $9 million in damages by the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida, in connection with nearly 100 sites, most of which were registered in China and which bore Gucci campaign advertisements, logos, product images and descriptions from official websites, and many of which also used Gucci’s trademark-protected name in their domain names.

According to the court’s decision, as first reported by WWD, a total of 89 domain names, whose operators did not show up in court (as is customary in cases like this), have been ordered cease all operations within 30 days. Gucci has been granted ownership of those domains, and the operators of the sites have been ordered to pay $100,000 per site (or $110,000 if the Gucci trademark was used in the url), for a total of $9 million dollars.

As for the $9 million damages amount, Gucci will not see even a fraction of that for a couple reasons. One: None of the defendants showed up in court (hence, the default judgment), and so, there is no one to necessarily hold accountable. Quite often, websites hawking counterfeit goods are registered under fake names and fictitious contact information, and as a result, when lawsuits are filed, default judgments are awarded because very few, if any, of the defendants have incentive to actually show up in court.

Second: While the U.S. has put Operation in Our Sites into effect, that is not actually much help anymore. Operation in Our Sites is a government initiative that allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to work with PayPal to seize funds in the accounts associated with the individuals and the websites selling counterfeit goods. However, the individuals who run these websites, many of which are owned and run by the same individuals/companies, seem to have caught on and remove any large sums of money from their accounts. As a result, only small amounts of money, say $200, are often seized from these accounts. As a result, that $9 million dollars that Gucci was awarded is likely not even going to amount to $1 million.

As such, the big reward in cases like this are the domain names (it is worth noting that a World Intellectual Property Organization Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy proceeding would have the same effect). As a result of such court battles, legitimate trademark holders, such as Gucci, which files these types of lawsuit quite regularly (it was awarded $144 million in connection with a similar suit in 2013) are able to obtain ownership of the domain names, many of which include the word “Gucci,” and also prevent these sites from operating on that specific domain.

At the same time, however, the operators of these individual sites often maintain huge networks of counterfeit-selling sites already up and running and if not, will have new sites to replace the court-seized ones in a very short time. So, while these lawsuits are a win for fashion brands, at least in theory, do not be fooled by the big judgment awards.

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Shanghai Fashion Week

Menswear and unisex styles on the rise at Shanghai Fashion Week

Only a few years ago, Shanghai Fashion Week was a noticeably feminine affair, not only because the bulk of the designers showing were designing womenswear collections, but also because of a pervasive femininity popular in Chinese fashion at the time.

Today, there are still more womenswear collections on the catwalks, but the menswear designers are growing in number, as are the number of “co-ed” collections featuring both men’s and womenswear.

Menswear designers at Shanghai Fashion Week aren’t just becoming more numerous, they are also making huge strides in creativity and quality.

Men and women in the modern world don’t need to protect the meaning of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ so strictly

Zhou Xiaowen

“In some ways, the menswear designers are doing better than women’s,” said Cui Dan, fashion director of GQ China, the sponsor of a full day of menswear programming at Labelhood, Shanghai Fashion Week’s sister event, which features the best in China’s emerging independent design scene.

The trend for co-ed shows is being seen at fashion weeks all over the world, with high-profile brands such as Burberry and Gucci choosing to show their men’s and women’s collections together.

A pioneer among the current crop of brands going co-ed was Croatian-born, Milan-based Damir Doma, who was in Shanghai to present his autumn/winter 2017 collection as part of the Shanghai International Fashion Showcase event for international designers.

Doma doesn’t just show men’s and women’s collections at the same time, he openly and freely allows the two collections to mingle, resulting in a more androgynous, unisex aesthetic – something which also feels more pervasive in fashion as a whole in a modern world where gender lines in general have become more fluid.

“When we design, I am trying to push my womenswear and menswear designers to talk to each other and look at each other’s boards. Then I will use one of the men’s pieces in the women’s collection and also the other way. Before, I wanted to be very clear about what is my man and what is my woman, even though I think my strength is the mixing of them both. Now I don’t have a problem doing it,” he said.

Among the standout local menswear brands showing in Shanghai, newcomer Danshan caught the eye of China fashion watchers. The brand’s version of menswear epitomises the modern unisex aesthetic in fluid shapes and soft, silky fabrications – for example in tunics worn to mid-calf with or without wide-leg trousers underneath.

In part, this design direction is explained by the background of Danshan co-founder Danxia Lu, a young woman who was raised as a boy for the first decade of her life by a father keen to give his peers the impression that his only child was a son – a marker of success in China’s traditionally patriarchal society.

Another standout menswear collection came from Zhou Xiaowen’s Hiuman brand, which showed a texturally interesting and soft-sportswear-influenced collection. “Maybe in the details menswear is becoming more like womenswear. Men and women in the modern world don’t need to protect the meaning of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ so strictly,” Zhou said after the presentation.

However, even with the rise of a strong menswear design culture in China, the market for creative and avant-garde men’s fashion is still a niche one.

“It’s tough for menswear because there still aren’t as many buyers. Some buyers are actually buying menswear for women. The quality of the designers is there, but there isn’t a big market of adventurous male dressers,” said Zemira Xu, founder of Tube Showroom.

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Every question you had about wedding shoes

Every question you had about wedding shoes, answered

From how much to spend, to whether flip flops are a faux pas, we’ve asked the experts and compiled a comprehensive guide to shopping for your wedding shoes…

How much should I spend on my wedding shoes?

Let’s start with the budget, shall we? Bridebook’s UK Wedding Report for 2017 suggests that the average bride will spend £1,329 on her entire wedding look. It’s of course entirely up to you to assess how much you can afford, and also how much importance you place on the shoes, versus the dress and other key items like veils and jewellery. Widely, 10-15% of the cost of the dress is the recommended spend on shoes. According to etiquette experts Debrett’s, though, the bride’s family should pay. Might as well go to town then…

How high should they be?

“You will be on your feet all day and should not have to worry about comfort and balance,” say Debrett’s. “You may not want to appear taller than the groom. Small, kitten-style heels can be a good option.” Also your friend – block heels for balance, anything with support (like platforms) and coverage at the front, as well as, obviously, flats.

So you can you wear flats to your wedding?

Of course! There are hundreds of suitably gorgeous bridal flats out there, both at high street and designer price points. Our favourites are by Tabitha Simmons, the Vogue fashion editor – turned shoe designer who makes beautiful soft ballet pumps and slippers in velvet or glitter, with ribbon ties.

Which brands do the best wedding shoes?

Many, many brands have launched special wedding shoe collections this year – Manolo Blahnik, Stuart Weitzman and Charlotte Olympia to name but a few. Jimmy Choo and Sophia Webster are the most popular designer names, according to Lyst, while on the high street, Monsoon and Topshop rule.

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Pippa Middleton’s wedding

What will The Duchess of Cambridge wear for sister Pippa Middleton’s wedding?

In little over a month, Pippa Middleton will walk down the aisle at St Mark’s church in Englefield to marry James Matthews. Ever since the couple’s engagement was announced last summer, speculation has been rife about who will design the wedding dress, with British labels including Jenny Packham, Ralph and Russo and Suzanne Neville all in the running. But among the guests at the nuptials will be another attendee whose choice of outfit for the day will be closely watched: The Duchess of Cambridge.

The bride’s big sister has become a pro at dressing for a tricky roster of occassions, from royal church services to foreign tours and charity galas. But pitching her look perfectly for her sister’s wedding is set to be one of her most fascinating sartorial challenges yet.

Pippa famously almost stole the show at the 2011 wedding of Kate and Prince William with her figure-hugging Alexander McQueen maid of honour dress but it’s unlikely that Kate will now want to reciprocate that move. She will reportedly only give a reading at the service, rather than perform a role in the wedding party, although it has been confirmed that Prince George and Princess Charlotte will be page boy and flower girl.

The Duchess will attract attention no matter what look she chooses, but here are some of the style strategies she might adopt…

A recycled look

This is a modus operandi which Kate has employed at numerous other weddings in the past, opting to wear a look she has been seen in before so as not to overshadow the bride. At the wedding of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall, she wore a pale yellow coat by Day Birger et Mikkelsen which she had first debuted in 2006 for the wedding of Laura Parker-Bowles.

Similarly in May 2013, she attended the nuptials of William Van Cutsem and Rose Ruck Keene wearing a black and white spotted dress from Topshop which she had also worn for a visit to the Harry Potter experience just weeks earlier.

So which looks might the Duchess bring out of her wardrobe for Pippa’s wedding? She has a plethora of previous outfits to choose from but that selection is seriously narrowed down when the requirements of wedding guest dressing and the late Spring timing are taken into consideration: she will likely avoid wearing white but pastel hues and a hat are almost dead certs.

This delicately patterned, pale grey Erdem dress which Kate has worn for a previous wedding as well as Trooping the Colour in 2012 is a sophisticated option.

The bubblegum pink, pleated Emilia Wickstead dress which Kate has also been seen in twice previously is also a pretty but pared-back possibility.On a visit to the Netherlands in October, Kate wore this lilac skirt suit by Catherine Walker and co. for the first time, drawing comparisons with Jackie Kennedy’s neat-chic style. It’s quite a formal look but for a chillier day, it could make for a polished choice which says ‘don’t look at me, look at my sister’.

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Grey hair linked to heart disease – scientists

As if going grey was not worrying enough, now comes the unwelcome news it is linked to heart disease.

Scientists have discovered hair whitening can indicate an increased risk of damage to arteries supplying the heart with blood.

They believe some of the biological mechanisms driving coronary artery disease are also responsible for greying hair.

These include impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, inflammation, hormonal changes and the halting of cell growth.

The findings could pave the way to identifying patients most at risk of heart disease just by looking at their hair colour.

Dr Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt, said: “Atherosclerosis (artery disease) and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age.

“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”

The team studied 545 adult men who underwent CT scans for suspected coronary artery disease, which affects the blood vessels bringing oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Patients were divided into sub-groups according to the state of their arteries and hair colour.

Greying levels were graded using a score that ranged from one (pure black) to five (pure white).

The researchers found a hair-whitening score of three or more was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of coronary artery disease.

Hair whitening turned out to be an independent predictor of narrowing and hardening of the coronary arteries along with high blood pressure and abnormal blood fat levels.

“Further research is needed, in co-ordination with dermatologists, to learn more about the causative genetic and possible avoidable environmental factors that determine hair whitening,” Dr Samuel said.

The research was presented at EuroPrevent 2017, the annual meeting of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology, in Malaga, Spain.

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