The Browning Version

by guest writer

The Browning Version 1951

The Browning Version is one of the rarest moments in cinema when failure is analysed on all levels of life: professional, personal and social. Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), “The Crock”, is faced with a sudden decision that will make him wonder what ever happened to his life. Anthony Asquith’ subtle, yet categorical, character study offers such a view upon life’s wrongs that will get you thinking. What could we have done better that would have changed the way we are seen by our fellow men, and, most importantly, what could one do to be content with oneself thus receiving personal fulfillment?

A courageous venture directed by one of Britain’s most accomplished directors, The Browning Version presents school children as means of saving one’s soul. One of the most delightful scenes in the film is the one where the student Taplow (Brian Smith) is presenting his departing teacher, Crocker-Harris, a rare second hand book he had bought with his own pocket money. Cinematography, screenplay, leading and supporting cast are the elements that blend together this unforgettable movie that seems to have opened the door on the pupils-teachers relationships subject.

photo: still from the film | credit: Javelin Films

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Interview with India Hicks

India Hicks

How do you introduce India Hicks? A question that’s been on my mind for days. A name that needs no introduction at all. Her talents are so remarkable though, that, even if they have been well documented before, I can’t resist but enumerate them all once again. Designer, author, model, entrepreneur, mother, marathon runner, India Hicks is a force to be reckoned with.

Daughter of famed interior designer David Hicks and Lady Pamela Hicks, India was named in honour of her maternal grandfather, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy to India, who served until the country received independence in 1947. Goddaughter of the Prince of Wales, and also his second cousin, India was one of the bridesmaids at his wedding to Lady Diana. Impressive, yes, but India Hicks eschewed high society and chose her own path. She is now a designer in her own right and a successful business woman, and that is even more admirable than having legendary parentage and royal heritage.

London born and raised, India moved to Boston in her late teens to study photography. After taking her degree, she moved to New York and stepped to the other side of the camera, becoming a fashion model, working for the likes of Ralph Lauren and J. Crew. Then she fell in love, “with a man and the small tropical island he lived on”, and moved to the Bahamas, the home for many years now for her and her partner, David Flint Wood.

She has since become a hotel owner, and subsequently interior designer, designed a jewelry line, wrote two books, an interiors book titled Island Life: Inspirational Interiors (co-authored by David Flint Wood), and a lifestyle/beauty book, Island Beauty. She is creator partner to Crabtree & Evelyn, an all-natural body-care and home collection, and has recently launched her India Hicks Island Living line of bedding and décor, on Her online store offers, alongside India’s own creations, a carefully curated selection of both products that she finds on her trips to far flung corners of the world and local finds. But I think above all that, she is mother of four and foster parent to another, a woman in love with her family and the island they live on.

Yes, I felt just a bit intimidated talking to India. But I fell in love with the beautiful, unique jewelry and suddenly wanted to learn more about the woman, the mother, the designer, the royalty, and had this bold idea of asking her to grant me the honour of an interview. To my immeasurable joy, she accepted. And not only that, but she was generous to answer all my questions, and she did that with great kindness and promptitude. Thank you, India.

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You are designer, author, entrepreneur, mother of five. What is the secret to a successfully balanced life?
The secret is there is no secret. Sometimes it’s a little more balanced than other times, sometimes a little more successful, only rarely am I successfully balanced. But I am highly organized, and I don’t watch much TV!

How has your father influenced your work?
He was bold and decisive, he was individual, he never followed a trend, he designed homes, not houses, and he set the decorating world alight with his ideas. His work has certainly influenced me, I obsess over table scapes (a word he is said to have coined), I would never shy away from covering a sofa in shocking pink or fire engine red, I love mixing old and new, but I don’t have the courage he had, I don’t have the fearless relationship to color he enjoyed, I don’t have the guts to be governed entirely by geometric patterns. Everything my father did, he did with conviction.

Given your lineage, was it difficult to find your own voice in design?
For many years I shied away from design and decoration. My father was considered one of the world’s leading talents, my brother was an accomplished architect, my sister-in-law a fashion designer, how could I find my own voice when there were already so many? Moving to The Bahamas allowed me to begin a new life, one entirely of my own, a blank canvas upon which I could paint my own story.

What is your design motto? What makes good design?
My father always said: ‘Decorating is the art of accentuating the best and covering up the worst’.

Who do you design for?
I design for me, whether it be a fragrance or candle, a bedding collection or a piece of jewelry, I design for me. I want to be sure the sheets I design I will also sleep on, the jewelry I create I love….

India Hicks Domino Necklace

India Hicks Jewelry-Hicks on Hicks Hexagon NecklaceIndia Hicks Loveletters

Each of your jewelry collections has its own story attached to it. Could you tell me more about the inspiration behind them?

Love Letters:
My father’s Logo was a simple, but powerful device of four H’s joined in a cross format. Before long, there was an entire alphabet that played with multiples and geometry, like the H’s. The simple, smart chic of this alphabet has inspired generations of designers, evident today in the Logos of many top brands. My father could be tricky at times, as many great creative forces are, however I recognize I would not be who I am today, nor have the strength of character I do if he had not been my father. I named my alphabet collection Love Letter, as in a way this is my love letter to him.

Hicks On Hicks:
My father designed my mother’s hair. He redesigned the nose of a client. He designed the bowling alley of the White House and the private apartments of The Prince of Wales. He was always stylish. He was never dull. Living under the imposing eye of my father had a strong part in developing my own design sense. Inspired by my father’s famous hexagon pattern as the primary design element, this Hicks on Hicks collection is modern and architectural. Bold medallions, cuffs and statement rings I hope will stir the hearts of design purists and fashion followers.

Island Life:
I live a less than ordinary life on an out island in The Bahamas. An adventurous, but real life, where there is room to breathe and time to think. In turning my island sensibility into fine jewelry, I embraced the colors and textures of the island’s nature. Bleached coral and sea biscuits, my affinity for the sea and its creatures, the pink sand beaches and turquoise waters are powerful elements that inspire and infiltrate my Island Life collections.

Palm fronds:
Palm fronds host my sleeping, they decorate my dining table, they shade my children playing in the garden. They are in abundance and a constant reminder of my island life.

Fish Tails:
After many years of diving in tropical waters I remained transfixed by the sights and patterns found at the bottom of the sea bed. Sea creatures of all shapes and sizes have become familiar friends.

Bows and arrows:
To this day I see local fishermen on Eleuthera, and the island I live on, diving with spear heads and my own children growing up on this island play endlessly and yes, alarmingly, with bows and arrows.

Moon phases:
The moon and her phases also play a part in my island life, a full moon brings a high tide, a half moon reminds me that time is passing too quickly and the crescent moon, my favourite, allows the stars to shine more brightly.

India Hicks Moon Sliver Earrings

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India Hicks Fish Tassel Necklace

All your jewelry collections are beautiful, but I do have a favourite. I can truly say that I fell in love with the Palms, Fish, Moons, Arrows line and I feel that by wearing one of the pieces I would carry a little of the freedom and lifestyle of the island (generally speaking) with me, no matter where I am. Was this universal appeal something you had in mind when you created this collection? Or did you want to design something very personal? 
As I said earlier, I do design for myself, with the many chapters of my life coming into play, everything is very personal, but I do test the product as we move forward. Will my older sister steal this? Will my teenage niece steal that? If they both do, then I know we have a successful collection! I also listen to what our sales team tell me, and take into account the practicalities of materials, for example the price of gold skyrocketed, so we decided to create a collection in gold vermeil, instead of 18 karat, which meant the jewelry collection could still be affordable.

What was the height of your career so far? 
I’ve a long way to go before I’ve reached the height, but one of the craziest periods was hosting a reality design TV show whilst breastfeeding. That took a little bit of juggling.

You’ve distilled your Harbour Island style into jewelry, accessories, clothing, beauty products and homeware. What’s next? 
Oh so much, but right now I am training for a 100 mile bike race, raising money for breast cancer awareness in The Bahamas. Something I take seriously. Our foster child’s mother died of breast cancer.

Cary Grant said: “You can tell how secure a woman is by the amount of make-up she wears.” I’ve seen many photos of you wearing very little or no make-up at all. You come across as a natural beauty. Does this somehow reflect your island lifestyle or has it always been your beauty philosophy? 
My mother wears no make up at all. My sister wears no make up either. And neither do I. It never really occurred to me that I might need too.

Any beauty tips? 
Lots of water, lots of green juice, lots of chocolate. But above all, I exercise. Find that hour for yourself. It’s so important. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a jog on the beach, a bike ride in the countryside, try to stay motivated.

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What does style mean to you? What defines your personal style?
Being yourself and no one else.

Your favourite item of clothing. 
Jeans, boring, I know. David would so much prefer it if I woke up each morning and dressed as Grace Kelly.

What did you enjoy the most about your modelling career? 
Meeting extraordinary people from all walks of life, and working together as a team.

If you could name just one favourite designer, who would that be? 
Ralph Lauren. His clothes fit me like a glove. I don’t need to try anything on.

Your island life sounds idyllic. Are there any lows to it? Would you ever go back to living in the city? 
Many low’s, no vet, no dentist, only a visiting doctor who services three other islands, over night Fed Ex takes 6 days, the electricity fails on an almost daily basis making running a business very tricky, 3 months of hurricane season, no theater, no newspapers, no marmite. But at the end of my garden is a three mile pink sand beach, and that I am not giving up easily.

The best piece of advice you’ve been given.
There is more in you than you think. My old school motto.

Words that best describe you.
Really? We have to answer that?? David would have a field day with this question….stubborn, bossy, maddening would probably be his words. I would like to think I am loyal and dependable. And energetic, highly energetic.

Your favourite moment of the day.
Taking my dogs to pee in the garden last thing at night, when the children are asleep and the house is finally quiet, looking up at the velvet tropical night sky and counting my blessings.

India Hicks-3

photos: courtesy of India Hicks and her wonderful team | 3-India Hicks Domino necklace, 5-Love Letter pendants (all from the Love Letters collection / 4-Hexagon necklace from the Hicks on Hicks collection / 6-9: pieces from the Palms, Fish, Moons, Arrows collection

Posted by classiq in Interviews | | 12 Comments

Jeremy Irons in Donna Karan campaign

jeremy irons for donna karan fall 2001 ad campaign

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I’m in an autumnal mood today and these adverts fit in just perfectly. Jeremy Iron’s understated British elegance meets Donna Karan’s cool aesthetic. Warm colour palette, calm atmosphere, but a wanderer spirit. “It was rather like acting,” the actor mused when asked about a previous Donna Karan campaign he had starred in. “Only, if a film is a concerto, then this was like playing jazz. You still build inner stories.”

photos: Mikael Jansson for Donna Karan’s Fall/Winter 2001 campaign, starring Jeremy Irons

Posted by classiq in Fashion, Fashion Photography | | 5 Comments

Style in film: La Dolce Vita

Style in La Dolce Vita

Federico Fellini’s 1960 groundbreaking film, a landmark pointing to important changes in Italian and European society, is a spectacular morality play which has lost none of its relevance in today’s celebrity obsessed world. La Dolce Vita introduced the world not only to the Italian fashion, style and elegance, but also to the profession of unscrupulous, unlicensed celebrity photographer. Marcello Mastroianni plays journalist Marcello Rubini, a tabloid columnist who aspires to be a more serious writer, but knows he will never be, because, like society, he is fascinated by the decadent hedonistic pursuits which are seemingly everywhere.

Piero Gherardi, self-taught in art and architecture, created the overall look of La Dolce Vita. He was costume and set designer, as well as art director. This is a stylish film as a whole, as Gherardi placed equal emphasis on the costumes for both female and male leads. Every scene in La Dolce Vita strikes you as a beautifully styled photograph and the film still guides sartorial aspirations around the globe.

Marcello Mastroianni's style La Dolce Vita

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The clothes are again key elements in the construction of cinematic identities. The film may be stylish overall, but it really belongs to Marcello Mastroianni. His character is underpinned by a unique, individual style. His sexually alluring masculinity is established in the very first scene and the character of Marcello Rubini was instrumental in creating what we recognize as the “Latin Lover”. In tailored slim suits with single-breasted jackets and slim ties or fitted tuxedo and bow-tie, crisp shirts with peeking French cuffs, large cuff-links and Persol dark sunglasses (worn indoors and at night – Mastroianni practically invented that – they became more than an elegant and cool accessory, they were an anti-conversation piece, having the ability to shut people out), he stands apart from the paparazzi dressed in wide-cut tweed suits or sweaters and slacks. In his formal clothing, he stands in the shadow, detached and observant.

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Mastroianni looks dapper, yet nonchalant and casual from the very beginning to the very end of the film. Dressed to perfection, without looking overly styled, Marcello Rubini, or, better said, Marcello Mastroianni is the quintessential example of the sartorial Italian, the personification of proverbial Italian masculine style. “The day when everyone is very, very elegant,” Mastroianni told GQ in 1964, “I will start to go around dressed like a tramp.”

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Anouk Aimee's style La Dolce Vita

Anouk Aimée, as wealthy playgirl Maddalena, is Mastroianni’s equal in terms of both elegance and moral depravity. Her costumes are my favourite women’s clothes in the film. We only see her in two little black dresses and a V-neck sweater over a white top, but these are more than enough to make a style statement. The first dress is knee-length, the other one is a sequined evening gown with a low-cut back, long sleeves and side-slit skirt – iconic. Her sophisticated wardrobe epitomises 1950s glamour and early 1960s chic. Her fabulous cat-eye shades, which she wears even at night (“Everything is wrong tonight”… “I’d like to hide, but never manage it … Rome is such a bore … I need an entirely new life.”), inspired Tom Ford create his retro-looking cat’s eye sunglasses which he called “Anouk”. Anouk Aimée drifts through La Dolce Vita with the hauteur of a feline.

Style-La Dolce Vita

Anouk Aimée's Costumes in La Dolce Vita

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It is said (Vanity Fair, September 2012) that it was Cristóbal Balenciaga’s sack dress of ’57 that inspired Fellini’s vision in La Dolce Vita. According to Brunello Rondi, Fellini’s co-screenwriter, “these sack dresses struck Fellini because they rendered a woman very gorgeous who could, instead, be a skeleton of squalor and solitude inside.” There are no sack dresses in the movie, but Fellini smartly presents beauty while exposing the darker, superficial flipside of the ‘sweet life’.

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Anita Ekberg's style-La Dolve Vita

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Anita Ekberg’s gravity-defying strapless dress (with a sweetheart neckline and a layered overskirt with a contrast underlay and worn with a white mink stole), blonde locks, fuller figure and American accent juxtaposed with the old Rome in La Dolce Vita. The famous dress from the Fontana di Trevi scene was designed by the Fontana sisters, whose feminine silhouettes attracted international customers, particularly from the film world.

All the costumes in the film were noteworthy, showcasing women from the demi-monde to the respectable to the most glamorous. It also seemed to me that Federico Fellini’s movie reaffirmed the status of the little black dress (there are countless pieces in the film) – the ultimate fashion statement. The black and white dress was also center-stage (I especially like the striped dress below).

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In the closing scenes, Rubini wears a white suit instead of a dark one, black shirt and black scarf. He is transformed, he is no more on the safe side, and the clothes symbolize his increased vulnerability.

Marcello Mastroianni La Dolce Vita

photos: stills from the film captured by me from the DVD edition available in this Federico Fellini collection

Posted by classiq in Style in film | | 8 Comments

Style: Sara Strand

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The Fashion Weeks have begun and, with that, the sidewalk circus that comes along. I can say that I strongly resent this part of the biggest fashion event of the year, because what I see on the profile sites over fashion week is the antithesis of style according to my rules. It’s not a display of authentic personal style that exceeds imagination and reflects individuality that we see, but people dressing purposely over the top for the cameras. The parade is outside the shows now. When it comes to style inspiration, understated chic is what pushes all the right buttons for me. I’d like to see more Sara Strand‘s and less showoffs making the street style photographers’ blogs. What’s wrong in promoting good taste and putting real style on the front page?

Have a good week!

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photos: Sara Strand

Posted by classiq in Style | | 10 Comments