Giambattista Valli – affordable fashion for Macy’s

Giambattista Valli Fall 2011 Ready To Wear

Valli Fall 2011 RTW - model Codie Young

Giambattista Valli Fall 2011 Ready To Wear

Valli Fall 2011 RWT - model Caterina Ravaglia

Giambattista Valli is the latest couturier to provide collections for customers who love high fashion but don’t have the budget to do more than window shop it.

The first haute couturier to go downtown was Matthew Williamson with their Diffusion Line available online at My Wardrobe. However with prices of £413 for a dress and near £500 for a coat Matthew Williamson is clearly far to ensconced in his high fashion bubble to have any sense of what most people’s budget can afford at the most prosperous of times, let alone what they can manage in an extended economic downturn with their credit cards being paid down not maxed up.

Next up was Karl Lagerfield with their collection for Macy’s. And perhaps surprisingly Lagerfield has a much better sense of what is affordable than Williamson – their ‘Lagerfield for Impulse’ collection available in store then online from August 31 has prices starting at £30 through to the £100 marker – I am converting from the US $ – Lagerfield in effect competing with Debenhams and Marks and Spencer – and Matalan, almost!

And Valli follow in his high-fashion footsteps also with Macy’s as part of their Impulse designer series. The prices are in the same price range as the Lagerfield ones. Macy’s are to be congratulated on this further venture and clearly have a much better understanding of the everyday budgets than My Wardrobe do.

According to Valli we can expect lace, brocade and tulle in bold prints and vibrant colours.

A lot of their 2011 Fall Ready To Wear collection was black and white via grey but there were occasional outbursts of pink, red and yellow.

I have included photographs of such pieces in this post.

Will it be marked down versions of them that will be filling up Macy’s racks and shelves? Here’s hoping.

Giambattista Valli Fall 2011 Ready To Wear

Valli Fall 2011 RTW - model Anais Pouliot

Celebrity Big Brother Channel 5 Launch Show

Channel 5 Big Brother KitchenCelebrity Big Brother kicked off its latest series last night Thursday and its first on Channel 5 after 11 years on Channel 4. Will Channel 5 do it proud?

Channel 5 is lower brow than Channel 4 – its owner Richard Desmond also owns the Daily Star and pornography channels such as Television X & Red Hot TV – and there have already been series spoiler stories about a 24 hour bar and having to bath in public – this latter is now confirmed!

But equally they air a lot of quality US shows in particular crime ones like CSI, The Mentalist and Castle.

But Big Brother is now their own commission not something they have bought in – and the list of their watch-worthy homegrown shows is a small one – The Gadget Show, Fifth Gear umm, anything else?!

Channel 5 Big Brother Sally Bercow

Sally Bercow - Twitterless

I am not a great fan of celebrity reality television either – it is almost as if the programmers are saying this is not a show you would ordinarily watch unless we include some celebrities for you. The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing for example sets up to sell us ballroom dancing with the inclusion of the likes of Felicity Kendall and Patsy Kensitt – whereas I would watch a show about ballroom dancing if it were us mere mortal members of the public – as soon as it becomes celebrified I have no interest as the quality is inevitably going to be reduced to the random choice of available celebrity participants.

Channel 5 Big Brother Bobby Sabel

Bobby Sabel - Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Celebrity Big Brother is the exception – it is the one celebrity reality show that gets under the skin of the celebrities – at least after the opening show and first few days when they start to let their showbiz masks down and we see more of their personalities revealed.

Those exposing themselves in this way for this series are certainly not A-list and the closest yet to Z-list.

However the lack of celebrity punch on this line up does not mean that the series will be a turn off rather that the series will have to rely even more on their personalities and antics to maintain viewing figures.

The opening show pulled in over 5 million – a promising start but that could just be Big Brother loyalists tuning in for ‘Big Brother Life After Channel 4’ – will they stick around though?

Kerry Katona and Jedward are perhaps the most well known – and Kerry Katona more so for her troubled home-life under the prying paparazzi eye then her brief singing stint in Atomic Kitten. Perhaps ironically, perhaps deliberately one of the other housemates is Pap Photographer Darryn Lyons. What is the Paparazzi to such celebrities but their lifeblood as their parasite?

Channel 5 Big Brother Tara Reid

Tara Reid - No scrubs

Jedward are as renown as much for being twins as their X-Factor fuelled Pop Career

Not though the first Big Brother twins, remember the Staffordshire sisters Samantha and Amanda Marchant? – coined Samanda! – from Series 7 – and they Samanda should have won not Brian Belo – I don’t froget! – like them I will be interested to see if their own personalities get aired beyond the joint personality of their pop act and twindom.

Channel 5 Celebrity Big Brother Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff

Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff - ex-Mrs you-know-who!

The show also includes two spouses – which can be a sign of desperation in the selection process – though in the first spouse Sally Bercow‘s case she is as famous in her own right as her husband and House of Commons speaker John Bercow. She should bring some intellegence to the show – assuming that is there is anyone else in there to provide her mutual stimulation.

The other spouse is Pamela-Bach Hasselhoff – not even a current spouse but an ex – can you guess who her husband was? I think you can! She is one of two Americans on the show the other being actor Tara Reid of American Pie fame (and briefly in Scrubs) who looked quite bemused if not bewildered by proceedings. She also claims to have never watched Big Brother – can there really be people who have never watched Big Brother even if they detest the show?!

Channel 5 Celebrity Big Brother Amy Childs

Amy Childs - Essex, have it!

There is one British actor – and eye candy – Lucien Laviscount – who you may not be familiar with unless you are a fan of British Soaps, having appeared in Waterloo Road and Coronation Street.

Further eye candy in the shape of a male-model is Bobby Sabel – despite my comment about Z-listers the others I have at least seen before whereas this model is neither known to me by his handsome face or memory-friendly moniker.

Finally we have two housemates themselves famous for being on other reality TV shows. Amy Childs was on ITV’s The Only Way Is Essex and Paddy Doherty described as a Traveller Boxer was on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

Channel 5 are certainly a little audacious then in claiming these housemates as celebrities and whether the viewing figures will continue to hold up to five million will depend in any case on what they get up to not on how famous they are.

There are enough differences of age and background and enough egos in there to suggest that the exchanges between them could be lively and interesting.

As said it is still too early to make any grand assertions.

We need to wait for the fanfare and brouhaha to recede and the banality and the friction to ascend. Stifles pantomime villain evil cackle!

Task Management Software Review – Tasks

‘What to do yeah, I really don’t know, I really don’t know what to do’ – Jagger/Richards, The Rolling Stones ‘What To Do’

Crowd Favourite Tasks log-in screenTasks software does what it says on the tin – except that it does more.

In addition to allowing you to manage your Tasks – or To Do’s – you can run it as a Calendar and as a Document Management system, it allowing you to attach any number of files to your tasks.

Tasks is avaiable in a number of variants including one for business Tasks Pro and a light version Tasks Junior – this review will concentrate on the one for personal use, Tasks.

Tasks comes from Crowd Favourite based in Denver, Colorado USA who have a number of other services and products with an emphasis on WordPress themes and plugins.

Crowd Favourite Tasks Screen Grab

Task List view

Tasks is a browser-based software that allows you to manage your tasks wherever you have access to an Internet connected device as long as you have installed the software on your own domain server. This means whether you have a Mac, Linux or are on the dark side with a Windows PC you can access and manage your tasks. The only access caveat is from mobile devices – you can access via your phone’s browser but whether tasks lend themselves to the smaller screen of a Blackberry or iPhone I would be doubtful. On an iPad or other Tablet they will of course be fine. I am not aware if there is any work planned for a smart-phone app.

Tasks can develop organically – they can be discrete tasks or end up the parents of many children tasks.

Tasks - New Task screenshot

Creating a new task

Tasks can be categorized and tagged. You can also add Notes – such as memos – but should a note later need to become a task it can quickly be converted into one.

Tasks integrates with your Email – any message you receive can be forwarded to your Tasks and become converted into a task.

Tasks has its own internal search too – of both the title and its textual content. And though the text area does not support hyper-text there is an option to attach URL’s to those tasks.

As you would hope from a Task software you can prioritise them – firstly you can set a date for the task completion and then list all the Tasks chronologically.  Secondly you can assign priority and list your tasks on that basis.

You can make tasks Sticky too – which means if all the sub-tasks are complete but you want the parent task to remain it won’t then close.

And if you have tasks that recur you can set up a template so that you do not have to recreate their sub-task structure each time.

You can also customise the look of your Tasks with a number of available skins.

Finally your data is secure as you set up your own username and password.

A full list of features is included on this Crowd Favourite page including some of the required technical specifications.

I find it a very flexible and organic software that meets all my ‘to-do’ needs.

It allows me to make sense of my otherwise natural chaos! Like the web itself it gives your memory a rest – rather than pondering what I need to do today I can simply refer to my task list.

And the tasks themselves are not just the prosaic and mundane everyday business of my personal and professional life but my dreams too – big dreams need tiny first steps – which are but tasks to be initiated and hopefully completed.

So admin can be sexy – maybe!Crowd Favourite Logo

University of the Arts London – Showtime for Min Jung Chae

Min Jung Chae London College Fashion

Min Jung Chae London College Fashion

Wedding Shoes

Following my Showtime post on Yeashin Kim is a post on another South Korean graduate, Min Jung Chae.

She is a graduate too of the London College of Fashion – her degree though is in Cordwainers Footwear Design in addition to a BA Degree in textile fashion design from her home country. The London College of Fashion itself absorbed in 2000 the Cordwainer’s Technical College, its most famous alumni being Jimmy Choo.

I love shoes – not in a fetishistic way you understand! Especially women’s shoes – Men’s shoes I like too – Brogues, Oxfords, Doc Martens but, the latter not withstanding, the degrees of design difference between them is minimal – suggesting that in shoes at least men are the more conservative of the sexes.

A woman’s shoe is a much wider structural design platform – where not just craft and science is at work but art and magic. And art plus magic equals beauty – oh yes it does!

As part of this blog I did consider one of those No Comment features where daily I would include just a picture of a pair of shoes – from the aforementioned Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Kate Spade and on…no words as what more needs to be said – perhaps I still will – I will likely find they get more hits than my posts with words do!

Min Jung Chae is hoping to follow in their luxuriously heeled footsteps. She cites architectural and engineering structures particularly suspension bridges in terms of movement and harnessed restraint, whilst at the same time producing shoes that remain restrained and feminine.

The page which showcases her work as well as pictures of her shoe productions also include the development works, inspiration sketches and thought processes behind the designs.

I find her shoes both romantic and innovative.

I look forward to seeing more of her cordwainery in the future.Min Jung Chae London College Fashion

  • Jimmy Choo (

Four Rooms – Deal or No Deal? – Deal!

Four Rooms Channel 4Four Rooms the new Channel 4 show in which members of the British public chance their valued – and they hope valuable – goods with four professional dealers. A sexed up Antiques Roadshow (unless you had a soft spot for Michael Aspel and now Fiona Bruce!) – where there is no pretense here that the seller is deeply sentimentally attached to their family heirloom or prize purchase and is only there to find out about the item’s social history and with only a very vague passing interest in its current market value, and then only for insurance purposes!

No, those showing their wares on Four Rooms have come to sell and will be asking the highest price they have the chutzpah to chance. Likewise the valuers in Four Rooms are dealers and if they like what is being hawked they will be making as low an offer as they have the brass for. The catch in Four Rooms is that the dealers can only be seen one at a time – each in a separate room – that’s right four dealers, four rooms – and if no deal is made there can be no returning later, tails between their legs, if they don’t get a better offer from subsequent dealers

Four Rooms Emma Hawkins

Emma Hawkins

The earlier comparison to Antiques Roadshow is also off the mark in that much of the items are not antique – though at what age does something become an antique?! All mod cons are on show too, antiques for an age yet to come – they hope.

In addition to the standard antique fare of furniture, jewellery, ornaments and paintings are toys, stuffed animals, fashion, pop art memorabilia and complete off the wall items like mummified mermaids and Ghanian coffins!

Also are items that would otherwise have far less value were it not for the fact they were once owned by someone of fame or infamy. One episode I saw included a suit worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice followed by two jackets (couture at that by Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana) worn by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in the 1990’s born British fashion comedy series Absolutely Fabulous – a show incidentally long overdue a repeat run. Neither of these sartorial items sold.

Four Rooms Jeffrey Salmon

Jeffrey Salmon

The Channel 4 website for Four Rooms details all the items featured and the prices fetched for the successful deals.

Before the bartering begins the seller preambles with an explanation of the item/s on offer and why they are now selling. Sometimes they try to pull on the heart-strings advising they have lost their income or had an accident – alas this is wasted breath as the dealers have lizard hearts. Some contestants are more upfront such as one selling a collection of Vivienne Westwood couture hats to finance a new bathroom of gold plated taps and rococo stylings!

And the four reptiles – sorry dealers! – are Gordon Watson an ex-Sotheby’s auctioneer, with a stated interest in 20th Century Design and perhaps the most conventional of the quartet. Next up is Andrew Lamberty a Chelsea dealer with an interest in furniture and also 20th Century Design. Then there is Emma Hawkins a glamorous young dealer with an interest in taxidermy. On her website she styles herself as Taxidermist/Interior Designer – in that order! Finally there is Jeffrey Salmon a forthright art and design dealer with an occasional penchant for whipping out a pair of dice and offering you a ridiculous choice – one price high and fantastic for the the seller the other price low and fantastic for the buyer.

Four Rooms Andrew Lamberty

Andrew Lamberty

The haggling proceedings are all watched over by the show host Anita Rani.

Four Rooms has enough legs I feel to be commissioned for many more series. The dealers are telegenic, as are the items on offer. Both vie to be the star of the show.

The star though is the buying and selling itself – the venal haggling masquerading as polite negotiation.

Often we witness the line between need and greed crumbling. Whatever a seller initially states as a price they would be happy with, if that price is offered they will usually decline it now thinking to themselves they could get more. Usually they don’t which I guess is a poetic justice – certainly enjoyable TV for the schadenfreude in us the viewer!

And if on the other hand they are first offered a price lower than what they were wanting and decline it and subsequent offers are even lower they will often end up settling for a price much lower than the original higher offer. All in a day’s trading!

Antiques is now a genre on TV, so numerous are such programs, that it is to Channel 4’s credit that they have in Four Rooms commissioned a show that revitalises it. Antiques Roadshow may inspire you to look for one of your antiques to deal, Four Rooms may though inspire you to become an antiques dealer.

Top Gear – boys will be boys

Top Gear Logo

TTop Gear Presentersop Gear recently ended its seventeenth season – though it never really goes away from our screens with Dave airing it on a seeming infinite loop. It usually manages two series per year which is a testament to its viewing figures and the esteem and love its audience hold for it.

Top Gear has been around – it first began its BBC run back in 1978 when not just motoring journalists hosted it but other British media luminaries of the time such as newsreader Angela Rippon, Radio One Disc Jockey Noel Edmonds and long before she crossed from Tennis player to Tennis Broadcaster, Sue Barker.

The current all bloke line-up of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond came following its brief demise in 2000 and return in 2002 with only Clarkson himself a survivor from the previous incarnation. For though Top Gear was back it was changed.

Top Gear DaveIt was now no old banger – rather a BMW Mini makeover had taken place.

It very quickly hitting upon a winning formula and since has not veered too far from it, very much going on the approach ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. To its large audience this means Top Gear is dependable but also that they may take it for granted – any episode can be missed as watched, since any program is very much the same – and again there is always Dave.

What this formula entails following the musical introduction – which is a slither of The Allman Brothers Band’s Jessica – is in no particular order:-

a) one or more of Clarkson, May or Hammond testing out new, usually high-priced high-end, cars around a race-track (Dunsfold Park Aerodrome in Surrey, England) followed by resident racing driver The Stig racing the same car around same track toward a lap time recorded on a leader board

Top Gear The Stig

The Stig

b) some brief chat from the three middle-aged middle-class motorhead presenters about car related news seated around a TV screen

c) some adventure or challenge – usually allowing at least one of them behind the wheel of again a high-priced high-end car – often in a foreign country and with often a very tentative relevant motoring justification – as it really is messing about in cars

d) the star in a reasonably priced car (which currently is the Kia Cee’d) and the only regular appearance indeed of a car most of us viewers could afford to buy – and which section involves Clarkson interviewing the star – which after some brief chat about their current work activities then looks at their car history followed by them racing the said Kia around the track (after some tuition from their resident racing car driving The Stig) of which a leader board is kept of all their lap-times

Top Geare) another feature comparing the specifications of two or three super-cars which again is yet another opportunity for at least one of the presenters to get behind the wheel of them all and have a fun-time

The Stars in the Reasonably-priced Cars have been getting quite ‘A List’ of late too – the last series saw both Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz appear together – and both recording the then fastest series times respectively.

Some features though have been retired such as The Cool Wall when photos of cars were stuck up on a board based on their cool factor from sub-zero to seriously uncool!

Fifth Gear Presenters

The Channel Five Competition

Top Gear clearly is for Clarkson, May and Hammond a case of getting paid for something you love. Whether it really serves as a car consumer show is debatable. Its poorer more worthy cousin Fifth Gear on Channel 5 better meets that bill. Top Gear is more aspirational or even like a peep show for we the viewers – we are very likely not going to afford to own cars like this but we can enjoy them vicariously through Clarkson, May and Hammond. Others have called it Car Porn!

Part of the reason for that epitaph outside the presenters evident deep love for all thing cars (well petrol cars anyway – Diesel and Electric are routinely dogmatically derided – Clarkson referring to the former as ‘Diseasal’! and only slightly warming to Electric cars when presented with a Tesla) – is the way the cars are filmed particularly when they get to visit foreign countries or indeed get to drive around the British countryside with outstanding panoramic and aerial landscape shots forming the backdrop for whatever car is currently being throttled – sorry tested!

James May Toy Stories

James May Toy Stories

Clarkson, May and Hammond are not merely Autocue-reading, talking-petrol-heads but authors of their own enthusiastic scripts. Each has hosted TV programs of their own of a similarly passionate and jocular style.

Clarkson has tended to opt for other car-related programs such as Speed and The Car Years whereas James May has used his new found fame to author and present programs about his other passions such as Man Lab for everyday chemistry and Toy Stories where he used the likes of Lego, Scalextric and Meccano to build toys on a grander scale then ever intended by their manufacturers! Richard Hammond’s programs tend to focus on blowing things up – which also explains a lot of the content on Top Gear! – most notably Blast Lab.

The blokish banter between them works in the way you could imagine them sharing a pint together – whether there is any closer friendship between them outside the show is doubtful. That also of course does not matter.

As said a car’s practicality and affordability is a trifling and passing concern on Top Gear – its looks, speed and power much more relevant. Absurd too some of the weight given to specs like 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds – under what circumstances are most of us going to find ourselves needing to go from nought to sixty in three point seven seconds or indeed nought to sixty period! Fifty to seventy on a motorway perhaps but that is far too mundane for this program!

Top Gear LogoSimilarly quoting top speeds of cars of 200 mph+ – where speeds of 180 or 220 are much of a muchness – like so what! – and most cars even the aforementioned reasonably-priced cars can comfortably clock over 100mph and which also is redundant since most of us don’t live in easy distance of the German Autobahn rather in countries with speed limits much less than 100mph.

Finally testing out a cars prowess such as handling manoeuvrability and power by racing it around a track when most of us have no such access or need for our cars to handle such conditions rather that they should comfortably handle and manoeuvre much slower, often congested, roads of town and country.

Top Gear is an unapologetic celebration of the motor-car – it may not trouble itself with the modest and the mundane – but its pleasure in the special and the spectacular gets to the very heart and soul of the car – as modern marvels of science in themselves, and the joy and liberty in their ownership.

Top Gear is certainly one giant self indulgence – for its makers and for its presenters. But most importantly for its viewers. And for this it will continue to get away with it. Car for car’s sake.