Shirt Stories: India Hicks

I have a girl crush. I’ve never been one to have style icons. I’ve never even liked the term. It’s so freely used nowadays that it has lost its true connotation. I have even become reluctant in using it to refer to those who truly defined it, except maybe in the case of Marlene Dietrich. Of course there is a myriad of actresses and writers and artists whom I have been admiring for years, but when it comes to my personal style, in all its complexity, it is my mother and my friends where I seek inspiration the most. And India Hicks.
India Hicks style

You always notice the person wearing a great shirt. 
A classic that, for me, holds just as much appeal
as a great pair of jeans. Shirt Stories is about others
who feel the same, women and men, and who wear it well,
and about the makers set out to perfect this timeless piece.

I had the honour to interview India some years ago and she has remained a great influence on me. Mother of five, designer, author, model, marathon runner, entrepreneur – she started her own brand in 2015, having previously (including at the time of our interview) worked in collaboration with various companies, and her business model is truly a revelation. But it’s more than that that I admire about India so much.
India Hicks
It’s the way she lives her life. She is a free spirit. She has fun with life. She lives by her own rules. She takes risks. She was not afraid to eschew her royal (and design royalty) heritage and follow her own path. She is the kind of person who takes her work seriously, but who doesn’t take herself too seriously. She loves handwriting and has her own line of stationery. She has a way with words and a fantastic sense of humour – her stories always have an uplifting effect on me. She makes fashion on her own terms. And, yes, she’s got the looks, and she doesn’t wear make-up, and she’s got style in spades, too.
Shirt Stories India Hicks
India Hicks style 
Just look at the right photo above pictured with her daughter, Domino (named after a James Bond character no less). She looks better than a Ralph Lauren campaign (that’s the way to wear a plaid shirt!). And I would not be surprised if she did wear Ralph Lauren in that photograph. She used to be a model for the brand and she names the designer her absolute favourite, because his clothes fit her like a glove – shouldn’t this be a guideline for every woman, to wear only what fits you best?
India Hicks

photos: 1,2,4-6:India Hicks / 3-Pottery Barn

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Style in Film: Il Conformista

Like a star from the thirties, Dominique Sanda is leaning against a door with a cigarette in her mouth and her thumbs in her trouser pockets in classical Dietrich style. “Directing actors means, above all, liking people, liking certain things about people. I looked at Sanda and I imagined her look like that and we tried it and it worked because it was already in her. It’s really a matter of discovering and bringing out of the actors what they really are, and nothing else. Characters must be built on that – on what the actors are in themselves”, is how Bernardo Bertolucci describes the character of Anna Quadri in Il Conformista (1970).
Fashion in Film Il Conformista 
Il conformista (The Conformist), Bertolucci’s political thriller, an adaptation of Antonio Moravia’s 1951 novel, is set in 1930s Italy and France. It stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, a repressed, neurotic, self-loathing, sexually confused bureaucrat drawn to Fascism, desperate to fit in in 1938 Rome. He is dispatched to Paris, being assigned to kill his antifascist former college professor. Bertolucci said he chose Trintignant because he was both moving and sinister. And those are the same qualities of the character in Il Conformista, “the first film in which Trintignant is himself”, the director further ventured.
Fashion in Film Il Conformista

Fashion in Film Il Conformista

The ladybug brooch, filled with symbolism, appears in Anna Quadri’s every look

The film is not only one of the most influential pictures of the last half of the 20th century, but a great piece of cinema making, and truly one of the most beautifully filmed movies of all time. Il Conformista is lighted like a 1930s studio film, Bertolucci having been much influenced by movies in this approach, as the director himself admitted. With astounding photography, virtuosic flashback structure, great use of camera placement, impressive design and costumes, it unfolds in a series of unforgettable set-pieces – a wedding night on a train; Clerici’s wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli), and his lover, Anna (who is also the professor’s wife, played by Dominique Sanda), seductively dancing the tango in a working class hall; a limousine ambushed in a wintry forest.
Fashion in Film Il Conformista

Fashion in Film Il Conformista 
The costumes were designed by Gitt Magrini, one of the many collaborations between Bertolucci and the designer. Trintignant’s suits evoke the desperate grasp of someone clinging to a lifestyle that is being snuffed out before his eyes. And Sandrelli, in her very feminine, even girly, clothes, “is very appealing and foolish, a cross between a Hollywood character and an Italian petite bourgeoise. She is also part of this monstrous world of bourgeoise Fascism. So she becomes like that because I want no one to save himself,” opiniated Bertolucci in an interview with Marilyn Goldin in the Sight & Sound Spring issue of 1971. Set in 1930’s France and Italy, the film captures the authentic upper class fashion of the times through a 1970’s lens. The costumes create a make-believe world in which the characters live. It is an unrealistic world that Marcello Clerici has created for himself.
Costumes in The Conformist

Fashion in Film The Conformist

Cladded in animal print, Anna looks like a beautiful wild animal trapped in a cage

Fashion in Film Anna Quadri The Conformist 
But it is Dominique Sanda’s Anna Quadri who stands apart. When Quadri first walks into the film, you feel her presence – mainly due to her clothing. She has that uniqueness, she is readily distinguishable from the rest. She carries herself differently than the other leading lady, Giulia, and from the other women in Il Conformista. Her clothes are a mix of feminine and masculine, echoing, unlike in the case of Marcello, her ambiguous identity, her sexual unconventionality and how she is not afraid to stand out from the crowd. Her wearing men’s trousers disavows sexual difference, making her androgynous. In Dietrich-like clothes, she points to the anxieties of dismemberment encountered by Clerici. It is exactly this interplay between the style of the characters and the surroundings and the tensions that make the clothes all the more striking. I used the word style, not fashion, because such is the complexity of the costumes in this film – style permeates all aspects of one’s life.
Stefania Sandrelli Dominique Sanda The Conformist

One of the most memorable moments in Il Conformista, and one of the most unforgettable images in the history of cinema

Fashion in Film The Conformist

Dominique Sanda The Conformist 
There is much symbolism in the costumes. The fox-heads and animal print on the furs that Giulia and Anna wear as they walk about shopping for dresses at Jacques Heim (a precursor of Parisian ready-to-wear) represents the rivalry between the two, while Anna’s animal-print collar taken separately suggests her being trapped in a cage, like a beautiful wild animal. But there is one particular detail that I believe carries the most significance for her character. The ladybug brooch she wears all the time – it pops in in every scene she (and Marcello) is in, on each one of her outfits: on the blouse she wears with the trousers, on her ballet suit, on her hat, on her glove in the last scene, and even when she is dressed in the beige evening gown, she found a way to have the brooch on her, attaching it to the clutch. It’s her goodluck amulette, like a reminder to release her fears and return to love. But in the end, it can’t protect her anymore.
Fashion in Film Dominique Sanda Il conformista

Fashion in Film The Conformist

Fashion in Film Il Conformista 
Anna’s entire wardrobe is exquisite, from her black skirt suit to the beige knitted skirt costume so modernly paired with low-heel boots, but no outfit personifies the mystery, sex appeal, detachment and confidence eluded by the opening trouser look, setting the base for her unique character.

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and by the never-fading beauty of the tangible

photos: film stills captured by me | Mars Films/Marianne Productions/Maran Film

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The Films of Kathryn Bigelow

Detroit. A film that recreates one of the darkest chapters in the American history. Kathryn Bigelow delivers her usual clean, raw, pertinent, scrutinizing, unsentimental look at the 1967 Detroit street riots and the Algiers Motel Incident that resulted in the deaths of three black men at the hands of white police officers, later tried and acquitted. There are a few other American films among my favourites of 2017, but every one I saw and loved (You Were Never Really Here, Wind River and The Shape of Water – I haven’t yet seen Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri) was directed by non-American directors. And that’s what I love so much about Bigelow’s films: she’s fearless in expressing not only her own artistic vision (I love the cinematic tone and technical proficiency of her films), but in imbuing her films with social and political criticism, too, in showing the real America, which I can not say about many of her American peers. But here are my three top films directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Strange Days 1995 
Strange Days (1995)

I only watched Strange Days earlier this week without having previously read anything about it and I was taken aback because I wasn’t expecting it to be a cult film. It paints a Los Angeles of the year 1999 at the confluence of futuristic landscape and 1940s noir, of science-fiction and crime thriller. We live in the digital age, in the age of virtual reality, but it still felt unsettling to watch the prospect of computer-generated reality as imagined twenty-something years in advance. It just shows how creepy the world would become; it shows how creepy the world has become twenty-something years on. “Jacking in” means attaching a “squid” to your skull – a brain wave transmitter that creates the impression that you are having someone else’s experiences. And don’t we today want to constantly watch other people’s lives, to have their experiences? And some of the technology we can use, like social media, seems so much more gentile and harmless that you don’t even realise the danger and audacity of our new reality.

The mood, the noir-inspired hero (the morally ambiguous hero alienated from society, charismatic yet flawed, harking back in the past, played by a fantastic Ralph Fiennes), the relentless and suspenseful pacing, the cinematography, Bigelow’s skill to make you live the characters’ experiences – this is one great piece of cinema making.
Point Break 1991 
Point Break (1991)

This is a film that takes my mind to rebellious summers and endless beach days as a way of life. It’s a perfect blend of fearlessness, atmospheric scenery and thriller action (mainly thanks to the two leading men, Keanu Reeves, as rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah, and Patrick Swayze, as the leader of a gang of surfers who moonlight as bank robbers) that pulls you in and lingers with you long after the ending credits. But there is also a philosophical side to the characters and that’s one of the most interesting parts of the movie, allowing you to be part of it and make your own version of it. It is also the film that introduced me to Kathryn Bigelow’s work, and what a fine job she does here, too!
Detroit 2017 
Detroit (2017)

In addition to what I wrote at the beginning of this article, I want to mention the documentary-like intimacy quality of this film. It’s unpredictable, it feels real, it’s like a shot of what the participants to the Algiers Motel Incident felt. But I think the most important thing to take away from Bigelow’s latest picture is not the emotional experience (and I assure you it is a strong experience which leaves you shocked and outraged and which provokes reflection and reactions), but the fact that these are historical facts. This did happen, and, what’s even worse, this is still very much part of the cruel reality in America. Forget about Get Out (I do not understand the hype about that film). This is the movie every American should see. “This is America” reads on the poster of Detroit. Unfortunately for the entire world, so it is. Why this film is so great is because it informs and urges to dialogue and maybe even to change.

photos: Strange Days movie still (Lightstorm Entertainment) / Point Break movie still (Largo Entertainment/JVC Entertainment Networks) / Detroit film poster (Annapurna Pictures/First Light Production)

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Sundance Style

I was determined to completely ignore the last night Golden Globes ceremony (I didn’t watch it for the first time in more than ten years and here is why), but I have to mention one thing: I am glad that Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri won four important awards (best film, screenplay, Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell), that Lady Bird was acknowledged too (for best comedy or musical and Saoirse Ronan) and that Guillermo del Toro won best director for The Shape of Water (because this film is about the magic of cinema – we need to not give up dreaming).

And now on to what I really wanted to talk about today. Winter style… at a film festival. Now that sounds very real and authentic for a film lover who lives in the European Northern Hemisphere where winters can really get rough and last for months. Don’t get me wrong, just like any other girl, I like a little glitz and glamour now and then, and the reason why New Year’s Eve is not one of my favourite nights of the year is because my dream New Year’s Eve hasn’t been invented yet – going to the movies to a classy small cinema (black tie mandatory) and then stopping for drinks at an old school jazz club next door.
Sundance portraits 
But the truth is I’m a tomboy, so attending a film festival in the mountains in casual, comfortable, yet no less stylish attire (I’ve never considered winter to be an excuse to let sartorial standards slip) is something I can relate to much easier. So, as the Sundance Film Festival is a little over a week away (January 18th), let’s take a little inspiration for some classic winter style from who else than some rakish leading men and some stylish leading ladies and the snowy streets of Utah.

Robert Redford Sundance festival  
There is no surprise for anyone I guess that Robert Redford, the founder of the Film Festival himself, is part of the conversation. I have written about his seminal movies, his outstanding contribution to cinema and Sundance, his costumes in films like Three Days of the Condor, The Great Gatsby and his on-screen preppy look. But what is also worth talking about is his own contribution to style – like his denim-on-denim, impeccably rugged, Western-inspired American look. Because he has been wearing it better than anyone else for decades. Blue jeans with a jean shirt, aviators and boots – Robert Redford has made this really cool, functional, visceral, bare minimum, perfectly-weathered style his own, but these hallmarks seem to ring true especially when he’s at home in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.

Sundance street style

Sundance street style
Sundance street style
I will let the images do the rest of the talking. Simplicity is the answer, even in winter. Take your style up by paring it down. Stay warm and look cool.
Sundance festival portraits

Sundance portraits

Sundance portraits  

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photos: Rex Shutterstock / Harper’s Bazaar / WhoWhatWear / Austin Hargrave for The Hollywood Reporter / AP Images/Invision (actors featured in order of appearance: 1-Dree Hemingway / 2-Robert Redford / 3-Rooney Mara / 4-6: Elizabeth Olsen / 7-Michelle Monaghan / 8-Aaron Paul / 9-Keira Knigthley / 10-Kristen Wiig / 11-Ethan Hawke)

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Winter Light

Happy New Year! May it be better than the previous one! I don’t like to talk new year resolutions, nor big plans for the year ahead. Isn’t everyone doing that on Instagram? Right. I believe, in turn, that the beginning of the year is the right time for reminding yourself of living your life the way you want it, and of the little things that can go a long way. And because here, on Classiq, I like to bring something new to the plate, especially that I do like to have a say when it comes to films, books, and to a well styled and well cultured life, here is what to watch, read, listen to and do for an encouraging start of the year.
Winter Light 

I have written about my favourite films of 2017 here on the blog and on The Big Picture Magazine. Of course, I am talking about the ones I have seen, because there are a few I am yet to see. However, the ones I did get to watch are a great international bunch and I am sure they will remain among the most important releases of last year. But here are a few more I am looking forward to:

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread, 2017

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. A black comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. These are three incredibly capable actors, the director is Irish, and he is also a writer of remarkable ability, and I believe the film says some truths so many American films are incapable of doing, and that’s why I have a very good feeling about it.

Phantom Thread. It is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and it is about a tailor and his muse, the former played by Daniel Day Lewis in his final acting role before retirement. For that alone, it is a must-watch.

Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig. I loved Greta’s performance in 20th Century Women (one of the underrated films of 2016) and I can not wait to see her directorial debut with this coming-of-age story (one of my favourite themes in movies), with Saoirse Ronan in the leading role.

Detroit, by Kathryn Bigelow. A film that recreates one of the darkest chapters in American history. I trust Bigelow to deliver her usual clean, raw, pertinent, unflinching, unsentimental look at the 1967 Detroit riots, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Jane Fonda in Five Acts

Jane Fonda in Five Acts, a documentary premiering at Sundance this January

For the first time in decades, this year I am not going to watch the Golden Globes and the Oscars (yes, you’re read that right, decades, because I believe I have not missed any of the Academy Awards ceremonies for two decades, ever since I was sixteen – the Oscars night used to be my favourite night of the year). But I am truly tired of documenting the Oscars when it is clear that they are not about rewarding good movies, but about rewarding the industry of publicity and hype, so I will not be doing it anymore. The Oscars are part of the Hollywoodian promotional games the likes of Lynne Ramsey and Joaquin Phoenix don’t give a damn about, and this, I believe, is something that allows them to remain creative and have a heavy word to say in the world of cinema today – have you seen their amazing film? You Were Never Really Here is among my top movies of 2017. So, instead of watching the Oscars, I will keep an eye on a much more important event, the Sundance Film Festival: here is the selection of films this year.

Robert Redford, president and founder of Sundance Institute, said: “The work of independent storytellers can challenge and possibly change culture, illuminating our world’s imperfections and possibilities. This year’s Festival is full of artfully-told stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect, in deeply personal ways, to the universal human experience.”
Hitchcock's Heroines

Dial M for Murder, 1954


As with films, with books, too, I like to dig a little deeper and keep an eye on the smaller publishing houses, and seek out a writer I’ve never heard of before, or, why not, because I like to cover a certain range of interests here on the blog, select a book just for its title, or its cover.

Hitchcock’s Heroines, by Caroline Young. I am a declared Hitchcock enthusiast and I have repeatedly written about Hitchcock’s leading ladies, from Tippi Hedren in The Birds, Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, Ingrid Bergman in Notorious and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, to their influence of fashion, so I am truly looking forward to Caroline’s point of view on the subject. You can read my interview with the writer, discussing one of her previous publications, here.

Introduction to A True History of Cinema and Television, by Jean-Luc Godard. An extensive and revealing account of Godard’s own work, his methods, and his critical opinions, based on Godard’s improvised series of fourteen one-hour talks at Concordia University in Montreal in 1978. I’ve never been much of a fan of the French director’s films, but after watching Le redoutable, by Michel Hazanavicius, a sharp yet humorous portrait documenting Godard’s life during his marriage to Anne Wiazemsky, this book is indeed something I’m very interested in.

There’s No Place Like Home: The Migrant Child in World Cinema, by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald. The cover, one of the stunning images in Le ballon rouge, was what drew my attention to this book, which is aiming to show how the child is a guide to themes of place, self and being in world cinema from post-war years until today. I’m intrigued.

Laurent Cantet, by Martin O’Shaughnessy. Cantet is one of the most important contemporary French directors and I love his films. It’s enough to put this book, which gives an account on all of Cantet’s works, on my list.

Shadows on the Wall, by Peter Lindbergh. “Most of the fashion-related media today prefer to take away the identity and experiences of their protagonists – your poetry and all the small imperfections, the signs of your own life supposed to be there to tell your story – and replace it with senseless perfection,” Lindbergh says in the publication, an impressive collection of un-retouched portraits of the women, especially actresses, whom Lindbergh has admired and worked with for years.

Charles James: Portrait of An Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art, by Michele Gerber Klein. Inspired by the discovery of long-overlooked interviews conducted just before his death, this is the first biography of the visionary fashion designer Charles James, one is of the greats of American fashion – you may be aware of my affinity for the classic American style.
What to listen to  

Albums: In addition to this selection, here are a few more albums I’ve been currently listening to on repeat: Bob Dylan: 
Blonde on Blonde / Muddy Waters: Hard Again/I’m Ready/King Bee / JJ Cale & Eric Clapton: The Road To Escondido / Nirvana: Unplugged in New York (still the best unplugged album) / BB King: The Life of Riley / 
Essential Chess Blues / Kings of Leon: Youth and Young Manhood / Bernard Herrmann: Vertigo and Taxi Driver soundtracks

Podcasts: I am trying to be a very present mother in my son’s life, but also to keep up work, which, in recent months, except for the festivals I attended, has often left me little time for watching movies at the rate I once did, let alone tv series (I must have not watched a single show in about two years, which is why I find so unuseful all the tv shows recommendations I come across)(and if I do have 20 minutes to spare, it’s still Seinfeld I go back to), which is why I find podcasts so great. These are some of my favourites:

OffCamera. Host Sam Jones, a photographer and director, sits down for fascinating and refreshing chats with a myriad of artists, actors, musicians, directors, photographers, and writers that pique his interest. In Jones’ own words, this podcast is about creativity, curiosity and art. Right up my alley. And, as I was mentioning Sam Rockwell and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri above, I loved listening to this interview with the actor.

NoFilmSchool. This podcast features interviews with leading filmmakers and industry insiders and reports from well-known film festivals like Sundance. This is not just movie talk, but rather an educational gem, with takeaways from the experiences of filmmakers that every film lover, and every listener, can put into practice.

Fresh Air. We don’t watch tv in the house, but I still want to be in the know about the contemporary issues, arts and everything in between, and Terry Gross’ conversations with guests from all different industries and backgrounds is my go-to program.

Pardon My French. I don’t read any fashion blogs or magazines anymore and I am glad that, for a while, Garance Doré has changed directions with her website, too, ditching the fashion shows and the fashionable, and instead focusing on real women, real style and the makers of fashion on their own terms. I find her podcast very inspiring.
Carturesti & friends

Carturesti & Friends, Bucharest, my favourite independent bookshop in town

Go. Do.

We may not all get to go to Sundance, or TIFF, or Cannes, but there are so many small film festival organised in so many towns and cities around the world which run great films and also the films released and premiered at the big festivals that same year, that you are bound to catch quite a few good international movies which otherwise might not even enter the cinemas.

And, finally, visit your local bookstores and buy at least part of your books from independent bookshops. And as long as we are on the subject, why not go all the way and make it your mission to shop locally more often? Choose local artists, designers, makers. Choose to mend your own things and not throw them away. Choose to buy things that give back, especially to children. Choose your own voice and be yourself.

photos: 1,4-by me / 2-Phantom Thread (Annapurna Pictures) / 3-Jane Fonda in Five Acts documentary (HBO Documentary Films, Pentimento Productions) / 5-Carturesti & Friends

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