Chic files: Justine of Common Era

Classiq Chic Files-Justine-Common Era

Blue jeans from a boutique in Portland, OR; Uniqlo denim shirt, Topshop nail polish, vintage watch & vintage rings, a camel-bone bracelet she bought on a hike in Morocco

It is my pleasure to resume the Chic Files series with Justine Ariel of Common Era. Justine’s blog has rapidly become one of my favourites: a black and white photography blog, dedicated to high design and innovative fashion photography that aims to tell a story and hopes to conjure fashion lifestyles through objects and arranged scenes. Her love for fashion “is really about the dream, and not the product” (as she declared in this wonderful interview for Vintage Lifestyle Magazine, such an interesting read), she likes the glamour of black and white photography, past and present, and she loves classic films: yes, we have many things in common. Plus, she’s charming and inspiring and she reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. Welcome, Justine!

How would you describe your style?
I blend classic with utilitarian. I like understated clothes that are comfortable and casual, but look put-together. Color (or, in my case, no color!) helps with that – I wear white shirts and black jeans a lot, and black turtlenecks with black trousers. In the winter I add a fur scarf or a beret and I’m done. I’m very basic. I ask when I get dressed: “What can I feel good in after a 10-hour day of working and writing, 2 hours on the subway, drinks in town maybe, and an appointment or two?” Usually, the answer is black jeans.

Who are your style models?
Emmanuelle Alt, of course – I think she’s everyone’s style model! Otherwise I look to Anouk Aimée, Jeanne Moreau and, accidentally more than deliberately, Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.

Your signature day outfit:
Jeans and a white or denim shirt, untucked, with pointed flats.

Your signature evening outfit:
Jeans and a white or denim shirt… Ha. In the evening, especially in summer, I just change my jewelry, add a belt, or put on heels. Otherwise, in winter, I like to wear a black skirt with a grey or navy sweater.

Is there an item you don’t leave the house without?

My iPhone & headphones – for music inspiration and an emergency camera.

Your most cherished wardrobe item.
Right now, my Sandro smoking jacket. It’s new. And I can’t wait to wear it this fall.

Five pieces a woman should have in her closet:
A black knee-length skirt, a nude slip, something with fur (or faux), a pair of designer sunglasses, and a white shirt. Instant chic!

What is the most underrated piece in a woman’s wardrobe that should deserve more attention?
Watches. They are practical, and they give structure to your wrist and arm more than bracelets or bangles – this is important for both long and short sleeves!
Classiq Chic Files-Justine-Common Era-1

Sandro black smoking, linen Uniqlo tank-top, Uniqlo skinny jeans, Fossil boyfriend watch

My quick Q&A:

Flats or heels?
Seasonal – flats in summer & winter, heels in fall & spring.

Shoes or bags?
Bags. Particularly leather ones that can go in the city and on jungle/desert adventures in the same week.

The 20s, the 30s or…what is your favourite fashion decade? Why?
I love 30s American fashion and 60s European fashion – particularly in film. The 1930s are so glamourous and elegant – the era of Marlene Dietrich, of Cary Grant and Irene Dunne films, and costume designers in the 30s for film really tried to create fabulous characters through the clothes they wore. But the 60s are more carefree, casual, and French and Italian cinema of the 1960s is like nothing else! You can have a low-budget film where the actors wear their own clothes, or a film like “Last Year at Marienbad” where everything is stylized not for character, but for effect. I like these tensions the best in fashion – casual and stylized.

Neutrals, pop of colour or colour blocking?
Neutrals. The more I can dress like black & white film, the happier I am.

Mini, midi, maxi or knee-length?

Audrey or Marilyn?

The LBD or something else?
A Smoking jacket – I’m having an obsession with my Sandro smoking. I can get really excited about a beautifully cut silk jacket.

Paris or Milan?
Chic Files-Justine-Common Era

Zara black pleated trousers, vintage black turtleneck, black patent-leather Corso Como pointed flats

A beauty trick you’d like to share:
I put a little aloe vera on my face as a make-up primer. It’s 100% natural and keeps your face bright because it soothes the little sunburns you get from just being outside.

What’s your fragrance?
La Parisienne, YSL.

Favourite designer:
Saint Laurent Paris (wow, how many times have I mentioned Paris?), because of their permanent collection. Prada because Miuccia Prada is so cool.

Is there a style rule you like to break?
I like to wear black and brown a lot. My favorite combination for this fall is going to be all black clothes with burgundy/brown accessories, like bags and belts.

A piece you would like to add to your wardrobe this fall.
A pair of black suede shoes. Moccasins or heeled loafers, I haven’t decided.

A style quote you live by.
Anaïs Nin: “I am merely an instrument to connect life and the myth.” I have always loved this quotation. For me, in terms of personal style, this means that when you put on that vintage ring, you become forgotten Russian royalty. When you put on a paint shirt, you become a 1960s folksinger on her day-off. When you put on a pair of brown suede boots, you’re ready to go out into the desert for weeks looking for a lost oasis. Dreams keep us alive, clothes can help.

Thank you, Justine, for accepting my invitation. It was wonderful having you over.


Posted by classiq in Chic files, Style | | 10 Comments

Early autumn mornings

Behati Prinsloo Stefanel Fall 2013 3

There is something about the crisp air of an early autumn morning that’s so reinvigorating. I love that you can get away with light layers like a trench or a blazer and a scarf and even if you feel a little chilly you are comforted by the thought of a still pleasantly warm day ahead. My mind often wanders off to the seaside this time of year, when there are few tourists and you can have the beach all to yourself and when the only thing on your mind should be to wear cosy knitwear so that you can enjoy the experience to the full. This Stefanel fall campaign starring Behati Prinsloo and shot on a beautiful beach location inspires a short trip. But what I like even more is the “Feel More” message the campaign is sending.

Behati Prinsloo for Stefanel Fall 2013-2Behati Prinsloo for Stefanel Fall 2013-1

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photos: Matt Jones for Stefanel Fall/Winter 2013 campaign | Model Behati Prinsloo styled by Clare Richardson 

Posted by classiq in Fashion | | 6 Comments

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.

India Hicks

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

India Hicks Double Arrow PendantIndia Hicks - arrow cuff

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.

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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

jeremy irons for donna karan fall 2001 ad campaign 2

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