A tête-à-tête on fashion trends

Heba Elkayal
8 Min Read

When you win a national fashion design competition at age 16, and you’re judged by Dame Vivienne Westwood to have the most creative designs among thousands of entries, you’re on the right track to the world of fashion.

Lady Kinvara Balfour grew up in London as one of four fashion conscious girls with an ever fashionable mother. “Sometimes growing up around fashion can be problematic, Balfour says with a laugh, “You constantly want to keep up with the times, perhaps growing up on a farm in Wales would have calmed me down.

But it’s a good thing she didn’t. Today, at only 32, Balfour has walked in and out of numerous ateliers, worked with celebrated designers such as Tomasz Starzewski and Karl Lagerfeld, and sat down for tea at the homes of clients such as Brooke Astor and Margaret Thatcher.

It was at Vivienne Westwood’s design house that Balfour was introduced to the process of design and creation. She also became a fit model and said, “I learned from her that a piece of fabric on a mannequin can be something altogether different. That’s when I realized there was intelligence to fashion. I truly believe that art and fashion are blurred more than ever.

A jack of all trades and master of many, she ventured into journalism after graduating from university and started working for Tatler before moving on to become the style editor at the Sunday Telegraph.

Her work in fashion now entails writing about trends on the daily email phenomenon DailyCandy.com, of which she is the London editor; as well as consulting and lecturing on consumer trends to big name corporations.

She also somehow finds the time to write plays; one of which, “Dazed and Abused, was staged in London and in New York at Diane Von Furstenberg’s studio theater to much acclaim.

Daily News Egypt caught up with Balfour at Cairo’s Beymen where she recently gave a lecture entitled “Trend Me Up. Balfour’s laugh was infectious as she discussed current and future trends, how the industry is coping with recession, and how to make things work for you.

Daily News Egypt: What does it take to make a good fashion journalist?

Kinvara Balfour: A passion for discovery is really important. What’s fashionable is what’s current, I call it the zeitgeist, to be in tune with the zeitgeist and understand that fashion is ever evolving.to have a sensitivity to these fluctuations, and also an ability to translate what you see into everyday.

It’s not about what’s under your nose, it’s about finding it before it’s under your nose or else it’s too late.

How are trends established?

It’s often about tribes, those 13-year-old tribes in English public schools are relevant, that dictate so many trends. It’s a chicken or egg question: does the catwalk decide what they’re wearing or do they dictate what goes on the catwalk? Is it because Alexander McQueen went round the streets of Tokyo that we’re now into oriental silks?

It’s not only important to follow what’s going on the catwalks, or on the street, but to go around and see what’s happening.film, interiors, architecture have a massive impact on fashion. All this Future Perfect trends, and people such as [architect] Zaha Hadid do have an impact on what we’re wearing.

Suddenly, it’s cool to go to Oman, and it’s going to go into the fashion mix. The Middle East and now Russia have opened up. When Russia opened up about five years ago, and Russians came to London, suddenly there was an impact on trends because of their style. A huge Russian theme was on the catwalk. Cossack hats were suddenly all over.

What are the trends for Spring/Summer 2009?

The whole idea of the Global Gathering, even in one worn item. Everyone can get on a low economy flight, go to Morocco or go to Egypt, whereas 20 years ago, not everyone was able to go across the world. Fashion is now so complex: there’s a mix of fabrics, textures, eras and countries.

If you look at Marc Jacobs this season, it’s an explosion. It’s gotten to a point where it’s too complex. I wonder where it’s going to go – perhaps maybe in a simpler direction. For the modern working woman, I think it’s too much to think about. It’s a mix of vintage, 1920s, 80s, and sci- fi.

But that’s also a statement of what’s going on in the world. It’s a reflection of politics and science. Ten years ago women were going out on the catwalk in fencing masks and soldiers uniforms as a statement about woman in combat with man, and all the expectations upon her.

Now the woman is really confident. Anything goes. Curves are back, there are no rules. Woman are not going to work in power suits anymore, it’s now so feminine.

Super luxurious fabrics: the silks and satins are for the busy working woman who can afford these things for herself, who has money to spend. But the recession might affect that.

Next season is very severe and austere, but I don’t think colors will change. Accessories will remain strong, if you can’t afford the expensive suit, you should buy the one statement necklace. But I also think collections will be neater and sharper. Things will perhaps go to a slightly more classical look.

Do you think people are reassessing priorities and their passion for fashion?

The passion for fashion will never die because you will always get people excited for art. But I think the ability to exercise that passion is stunted right now. I think in a recession people want to escape.

If you look and dream and come away with one lipstick, it’s something for yourself. During the war people would make their wedding dresses from parachute silks, using available resources.

What trends do you think we’re going to look back on and regret like we did the 80s?

It’s funny because in retrospect it’s disastrous but suddenly now it makes sense to me. I think it’s all a matter of being relevant than not relevant. What Nicolas Ghesquière did with the [padded epaulet short] flowery dresses three years ago are being repeated now.

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