I took this still life photo in 2020, a year that for the entire world was marked by the pandemic and was particularly hard on the fashion industry. At that time, various lockdowns were taking place, most of us were working from home, and being a photography enthusiast for as long as I can remember (as I wrote about in my article dedicated to photography), the long moments of inactivity due to that phase really allowed me to get in touch with my creative side. In fact, it was in 2020 that I opened my Flickr account and photography was one of the few things that kept me sane during a time that was incredibly difficult for everyone.
I wanted to capture on camera my Bottega Veneta chain pouch bag together with a vintage issue of Vogue UK that I purchased a few years earlier on eBay because I often enjoy creating new compositions and I found it interesting to compare the old with the new in order to create a sort of contrast; a Vogue UK issue from August 1957 paired with one of the new symbols of the Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta, a pouch clutch developed in 2018 by former creative director Daniel Lee that quickly became the best-selling bag in the brand’s history. Lee was essential in the development of Bottega Veneta’s ready-to-wear production; although he retained the brand’s iconic features, first and foremost the Intrecciato, at the same time he was able to give a fresher image to Bottega Veneta’s signature products, especially the bags. He kept focusing on high craftsmanship techniques and products that can be included in what is now called quiet luxury, a style characterized by the absence of a logo identifying the brand; Daniel Lee managed to accomplish this in a short period of time (he left the helm of the brand at the end of 2021, replaced by Matthieu Blazy, and is now creative director of Burberry), but he still brought to life the expression “New Bottega” because of the different way the brand was perceived and the aura of desirability that Bottega Veneta products acquired.
Since I am a fashion industry professional (both as a fashion consultant and as a buying agent), I always try to get informed about fashion news and other different currents of thought in the industry, including fashion trends. I have never been one to follow trends at any cost, although I appreciate what certain trends can bring to an individual’s wardrobe in terms of personal style and self-discovery, so I was pleasantly surprised when last month I read an article in the Italian magazine Rivista Studio explaining how the succession of micro-trends in recent years (see Cottage-core, Ballet-core and others) has led most people to want to discover and maintain a personal style. We have thus found ourselves chasing the desire to build a long-term identifying wardrobe, aiming first and foremost for practicality and self-expression. The article quotes Tibi’s creative director Amy Smilovic, who has fully embraced what is called the “Three Words Method”; “choosing a series of looks that you like, looking at their touch-points and drawing up a list of identifying adjectives.” Simply put, what we wear should reflect our personal taste and make us feel comfortable in our own skin.
On the day that would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 94th birthday (she was born on May 4, 1929), I have decided to dedicate an article to the woman, actress, style icon and human rights activist who has been one of the most significant influences in my life (I had previously included her in my International Women’s Day article).
I was still a little girl when I first heard of Audrey, who has remained in the collective imagination mainly because of her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (which is to this day still an influence on pop culture, as with the case of Blair Waldorf’s character in the Gossip Girl TV show, who is very much inspired by the actress and in some episodes even dreams of being one of her characters). I think everyone has happened to see some reference to Breakfast at Tiffany’s in some places, whether it was posters, images on the web, paintings reproduced for home decor, or prints on T-shirts. The earliest images of Audrey Hepburn that I can recall date back to when I was about twelve years old; the hair salon in my neighborhood had a large canvas painting of a Holly Golightly stylized portrait, and a very similar print was also on the sweatshirt of a school friend of mine. My first viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was right around that time because it was a much-quoted movie among my peers; I was so enchanted by this movie that it prompted me to watch her other famous works as well shortly before I started high school. This was also thanks to my cinephile grandfather, whose video library also included a box set of Audrey Hepburn’s major films. I have seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s many times over the years; a few times with my mother, once with my grandmother (I remember she loved it so much), another time with a high school classmate who was a die-hard Audrey Hepburn fan, would buy Audrey-themed books (it is thanks to her that I bought the magnificent volume titled “The Audrey Hepburn Treasures” with the beautiful pink spine that you can see in one of the photos in this article) and was fond of Tiffany & Co. jewelry; in the early 2000s and for much of the 2010s silver bracelets and long heart-shaped Tiffany & Co. necklaces used to be very popular among teenage girls (just a few days ago, the Tiffany & Co. flagship store in New York opened its new landmark building). Once with another friend I dressed up as Holly Golightly; we had a photoshoot after school, recreating the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and it was a lot of fun.
I remember that we would constantly re-watch some of her films, commenting on them together, and a bit of Audrey Hepburn-mania had broken out; by then all my classmates knew me as a cinephile, and I was often given biographies and movie-related books as gifts. A couple of friends bought me Mark Shaw’s mini volume “Charmed by Audrey: Life On The Set of Sabrina,” which contains a series of portraits taken by Shaw for LIFE magazine on the set of the film Sabrina (1954), which I still keep in my old apartment in Lugano.
I have accumulated quite a few books about Audrey Hepburn’s life over the years, including photographic ones (I still have a few on my wish list), and my admiration and respect for her, also thanks to the various characters she played, truly stand the test of time.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AUDREY’S LIFE AND CAREER: What is it about Audrey Hepburn that fascinates me so much? Probably her timeless charisma, her inner beauty that also shone through on the outside, and her innate class, in addition to her immense artistic talent and her humanitarian efforts with UNICEF, for which she became an Official Ambassador.
Audrey was someone who managed to overcome the difficulties and obstacles she encountered along the way from an early age; born in Belgium and raised between England and the Netherlands, before beginning her film career she lived under the Nazi regime, due to which she suffered starvation and other hardships during the war. Following the Liberation of Holland from the regime, she studied dance and also took lessons in London, where she began acting in several theatre musicals, which were followed by small appearances in a number of films. Following her incredible success playing the lead role in the Broadway musical Gigi, she was cast in Roman Holiday (1953), for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress. Audrey’s career is marked by a series of films that are to this day considered cult in their own right, despite the fact that over the years she chose to devote more and more time to her family and would lead a private life in Switzerland, where she loved raising her two children, taking care of animals and her vegetable garden. After her last film appearance in 1988, Audrey was appointed Official Ambassador of UNICEF, for which she carried out important missions to help children in Third World countries. Her travels also included destinations that at the time were torn by civil wars, but Audrey never got away from her humanitarian commitments, which earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Jean Horshalt Humanitarian Award. She passed away in 1993 following a long illness, and to this day her sons Sean and Luca carry on her humanitarian efforts and devote themselves to charitable causes in her memory (son Sean Hepburn Ferrer has also published a volume titled “Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit”, which I highly recommend, and son Luca Dotti has also published the volume “Audrey At Home”, which tells personal stories about Audrey’s cooking and which I would be very interested in reading).
MY FAVORITE AUDREY HEPBURN MOVIES: I have seen most of Audrey Hepburn’s movies except for a couple that I have yet to catch up on, namely Wait Until Dark (1967) and War and Peace (1956), the latter because I want to read Tolstoy’s novel first and see its various film and TV adaptations later.
The Audrey movies I loved the most are among the actress’s best known. Roman Holiday (1953), in which she plays Anna, a European princess who decides to wander around Rome rather than submit to the obligations her role entails, aided by a journalist (Gregory Peck) who stays with her for the duration of her vacation. Sabrina (1954), based on a hit Broadway musical, tells the story of a Long Island chauffeur’s daughter who, after spending two years in France, makes both of her father’s wealthy employer’s sons fall in love with her (this film also marks the beginning of Audrey’s collaboration with French designer Hubert de Givenchy). Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), mentioned earlier as the film for which Audrey Hepburn is best known, is based on the eponymous novel by Truman Capote; in the film Audrey plays the role of Holly Golightly, a beautiful and sophisticated girl who lives by offering her company to wealthy men, and her life after she encounters her neighbor Paul (George Peppard). The movie is a love letter to New York City and is one of the reasons why New York-based jewelry store Tiffany & Co. is so popular today. This brought Audrey to the top of her popularity making her an iconic character, especially for her looks in the film. I really loved Funny Face (1957), based on a Broadway musical, in which Audrey stars alongside Fred Astaire, who in the film plays a New York fashion photographer named Dick Avery (closely reminiscent of real-life photographer Richard Avedon) who is smitten with shy bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (played by Audrey) after photographing her by chance and is convinced he can turn her into a successful model. It is a film that got mixed reviews but is wonderful for both its fashion and Gershwin’s nostalgic music.
Charade (1963) is a Hitchcockian-style thriller film set in contemporary Europe; it is about a woman who, after her husband’s murder, is pursued by three men who want the money her husband stole from them. Audrey’s character is helped by the charming Peter (Cary Grant) but soon discovers that he is not who he says he is. Although it is a very different film from the ones audiences are used to seeing Audrey in, I enjoyed this thriller mixed with the romantic comedy genre and the two leads are incredibly charming. The film also has some genuinely humorous moments, and again its fashion is marked by sophistication and refinement, thanks to another successful collaboration with Givenchy and the popularity of ready-to-wear in the 1960s. Last but not least, My Fair Lady (1964), inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. It was a particularly difficult film for Audrey, who was cast in place of Julie Andrews for the lead role (after the latter had played the same role on Broadway) and was later dubbed into the sound parts. Nevertheless, I think Audrey is very good in playing the part of Eliza Doolittle, who is transformed from a simple flower girl by snobbish phonetics professor Henry Higgins into a high society lady. The Edwardian-era costumes of the 1910s were reproduced by Cecil Beaton, and although they did not influence the fashion of the time, they are incredibly feminine and help bring out Audrey’s natural beauty.
AUDREY AND FASHION: Audrey Hepburn used to say, “Don’t neglect your clothes, because they are the first impression you make of yourself.” Today she is remembered not only for the roles she played but also for her style and the impact both she and her characters had on the fashion world. Her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer recalls in “Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit”: “My mother was convinced that every woman should find a look that suited her and then adapt it by following fashion, rather than being a slave to fashion itself, forced to change looks from season to season. […] It was then a matter of creating a personal look that works and continuing to follow it over time.” Her fruitful collaboration with Givenchy led her to favor top-quality clothes and to follow the philosophy of “less is more.” She was also very careful about choosing the right accessories and would pay close attention to the quality of shoes in particular (Sean recalls that she was close friends with shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo). Givenchy is the one who influenced Audrey’s look the most, as Sean said, “Audrey saw the dresses Hubert made for her as a beautiful vase that could enhance a simple meadow flower, while Hubert saw them as a vase that can maintain a certain simplicity so as not to detract from the natural beauty of the flower it holds. As a result of their collaboration, we often refer to my mother as the most elegant woman in the world. But style and elegance were rooted in their spiritual values. They were born within. They were not a way to be noticed, on the contrary a form of modesty.”
I was born in the ’90s so I had the opportunity to witness the mass phenomenon that was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novel; I was 14 years old when the book series became incredibly popular in Italy and I still remember when the first book in the series, with its iconic cover featuring two white hands holding a red apple, became a common presence on school desks thanks to word of mouth among my classmates. It was the year 2008 (it had been three years since Twilight was published in the States); at that time Facebook was in its infancy, while Instagram and TikTok were yet to be founded. The concept of “viral” as we know it today did not yet exist (think of what is happening these days with Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie, whose teaser trailer has accumulated more than 13 million views on YouTube in just 48 hours), but in 2008 the popularity of the book series was mainly due to the imminent release of the Twilight film adaptation starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. I remember spotting the Twilight novels everywhere, passed from hand to hand and read by dozens of my peers, including those who were not particularly fond of reading. Having been an avid reader since I was a child (my parents recall that I learned to read when I was less than four years old), I was urged to buy Twilight and immersed myself in reading the novel that was probably my official introduction to the world of vampires. I say official because I have actually been a fan of horror tales since primary school; I used to love R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series (to which I would like to devote a separate blog article), published during the 1990s and early 2000s and including more than 60 titles. Although there was no vampire present as a recurring character, the 21st Goosebumps book, titled Vampire Breath, was among my favorites in the series.
The book numbered just over 100 pages and was both chilling and humorous. Although vampires were already present in the history of film and literature, Twilight signified the birth of a genre of its own, which became one of the main subcategories of the fantasy novel.
TWILIGHT AND THE BIRTH OF PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Reading Twilight was like discovering something completely new and distinguished: the books helped establish the paranormal romance genre, and Twilight was one of the first novels in which the human protagonist falls in love with a supernatural being. The plot revolves around Bella Swan, a teenager who has recently moved to live with her father in the rainy town of Forks( in the Washington state), where she falls madly in love with a schoolmate, the vampire Edward Cullen. The series consists of four novels, and although it is full of supernatural elements and fights between fantastic creatures, the story focuses mainly on the love story between the two main characters, which is also full of twists and turns. Twilight created a real cult following in those years, especially with the release of all four films based on the books; the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle helped create Team Edward and Team Jacob “groups” (I remember changing my opinion on this matter several times back in the day) and fifteen years later the series remains a staple of late 2000s/early 2010s pop culture. The love story between Bella and Edward was a perfect representation of thwarted love and the meeting of different worlds; moreover, Bella’s character is portrayed as shy and clumsy, so it was easy for most teenagers of the time (including yours truly) to identify with her. Twilight has recently been rediscovered by today’s teenagers, who review the book series, make parodies of scenes from the movies and mimic Bella’s style on TikTok; personally, however, I would be very interested in visiting some of the places where the series was filmed, especially Cannon Beach in Oregon and Montepulciano in Central Italy (Volterra in the books).
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