The Bite with Lifestyle Blogger Angela Lanter

Angela talks ‘redefining style’ and becoming a real ‘trendsetter’ in our bite-size interview.

The creator of the lifestyle blog Hello Gorgeous, Angela Lanter has a passion for sharing homemaking, beauty and fashion tips that has inspired legions of fans. Today, Angela gives us ‘the bite’ on our hot questions. Be inspired!


What kind of ‘trendsetter’ would you categorize yourself as?

A Brave Trendsetter.

You have some great videos where you share very astute and handy tips. How do you feel you have redefined style through your passion for blogging?

The reason I started my blog in the first place is because I wanted it to be a place where my followers could come and leave just feeling a little more gorgeous no matter what. I want girls, no matter what their size or shape, leave feeling more stylish and a little bit more gorgeous.

What made you decide to become a blogger? Were you nervous or anxious when you first started out? If so how did you deal/overcome this?

So the way I started my blog honestly is that I really really love Pinterest. I love to cook, I love to craft and I used to do hair and makeup, and freelance back home in Ohio. My girlfriends used to come over to my house and see all these different things I was doing and be like “Why are you not blogging?” When I got married, my husband and I had to move to New Orleans. I decided to quit my job so that I could go with him. That was the perfect time for me to try (blogging). So, yeah, once we moved, I’m like ‘You know what, I can dive in, I can do this’ and I just did. I never looked back. Yeah, I wasn’t nervous at all because it was all the things that I loved to do, I was talking and blogging and writing about all the things I really enjoy.


There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like something you’re doing and as long as you’re comfortable with yourself and you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You know, as long you are happy with yourself you can’t listen to what anyone else says. Follow your heart and do what you want to do. So, honestly, I have answered back a couple people (on youtube). Whenever I confront someone who is being a bully online, I just kill them with kindness. Whatever it is they’re saying, I address it but I say it in a very sweet way and I answer their question.

You know, if they were in front of me, I would say, what is it about me that offends you so badly (laughs). I just feel like it takes so little to be nice to someone but people just choose to be mean and I don’t understand it. You never know what someone is going through. You never know why they are lashing out. Also, you never know how old they are. That’s the problem with the internet. They could just be doing it to get a response out of you. I feel like that’s actually the case 9 out of 10 times.

What is your favorite quote or motto that you live by?

(laughs) My favorite quote or motto is actually, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” I mean it’s so simple but it’s so true. If you can’t say something that’s going to be uplifting to someone else, that’s empowering, don’t say it.

Don’t get caught up with all these guys (laughs). When you’re dating it’s not the end of the world. Let it go. That’s what I would say.


What is your ‘go to’ affordable brand of makeup that makes you feel flawless and why?

Oooh… so if I have to say just one brand of affordable make-up, its L’oreal. You know, I only like certain things they make. I guess it’s kind of like that anywhere. You like your specific brand of mascara, you like your certain brand of eyeshadow, but L’oreal is all around, I feel like the best product that is reasonably priced.

What tips do you think every girl should know/use?

Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t feel like you can’t try something out. For example, I always thought diet pills were a no-no. But then someone recommended a totally natural diet pill called PhenQ. I thought it worked wonderfully and didn’t have any negative side effects. Just be comfortable and try new things. Don’t get in a rut. Be adventurous.

Fashion: Straight Through the Summer

If fashion is what we are wearing, this summer’s fashion is long, slim and white. In spite of the rain and overcast skies, streets are filled with sharp city clothes that prove that 1980s style is now overwhelming the scruffy Seventies.

The star is the skirt, cut long and narrow, with a flirtatious fan of pleats from the knees. On the same lines are tubular or ribbed skirts in cotton jersey or slim, calf-length cotton with black buttons or a kick pleat. Cotton or cotton mixes are definitely ahead of linen and there is evidence that the iron is now flattening out the crumpled look. Sunshine is bringing out crisp cool clothes.


Oversize is out, except for big blazers and shirt jackets which draw their style from balancing the narrow skirts. Those overhanging shirt tails of last year’s street chic are now cut off or tucked out of sight. And after two seasons when the peacock male was making the street impact, it is girls who are now, once more, the style leaders.

Looking at what ‘real’ people are wearing is always a salutary experience for a fashion editor, for the most ruthless editing at this time of multiple fashion choice, is made by the consumer.

The streets endorse some of the most significant fashion stories. The decline of blue denim, spelled out so graphically in the bottom line of the jeans companies, is evident on the backsides of the paying customer. In two hours in the West End of London I counted only 73 pairs of jeans among hundreds of alternative outfits – and those denims were mostly worn by youth groups of visitors.

The reign of the training shoe – that partner to the jeans-and-sneakers generation – continues, with the lace-up ankle boot the hot favorite in this cool summer. Socks are the constant companion to trainers, pumps and flat sandals. But there is also a marked trend towards much higher heels which go with the city-smart clothes worn to work by those in their twenties and early thirties who have been brought up on flat shoes.


The floral chintz that was so much promoted by the fashion industry (not least by this fashion editor) seems to have gone to seed. Florals have sprouted on trousers, but they are abstract blooms, edged with sharp lines, and suggesting the 1960s rather than the soft full-blown flowers of soft furnishings. The sales windows are turning Oxford Street into an herbaceous border of flower prints and offer clear evidence of what women have taken to their bosoms and hips, or rejected.

This is the week when every major shop is offering sales reductions. I do not believe in the first principle of sales: if something is cheap it must be good, and even if it is not any good, it might at least be useful. But the late arrival of summer offers an unparalleled opportunity to buy a summer wardrobe at high street prices.


It is the newish high street names – Benetton, Next, Warehouse – which have been responsible for the clean lines of the fresh summer clothes. They are the people whose design teams have given the peasant skirt a decent burial under crisp white cotton. With it have been laid to rest the other accoutrements of Earth Mother on holiday: the cheesecloth sundress, the drawstring blouse and the espadrille. Stores have followed the high street lead and coordinated summer separates, matching pale cotton knits to skirts and trousers and tying the two together with strong accessories.

Sharp dressers use accessories as accents against a plain background, carrying a chintz shoulder bag or sashing floral prints round their hips. The essential extras (apart from a folding umbrella) are cotton jersey leggings and stirrup pants, both cheap and cheerful in bright or pastel colors, polka dotted or in the shiny man-mades viscose and spandex.

Buying in the sales the ends of the lines – dirndl skirts, dayglo colors, or over-size baggies – is either perverse or profligate. On fashion’s current wave-length there are some stylish sale offerings.

Next have their best-selling version of the summer suit: a big chamber blue shirt jacket, with a back patch pocket (now pounds 22.99) over a matching slim button-through skirt with a back vent (pounds 18.99). You wear it with white canvas plimsolls, white ankle socks and a sports vest, brighten it with a floral shirt or warm it up with cotton knits.

Fenwicks have the skirt of the season – heavy white cotton, long, slim, with kick pleats from the knee, by Emanuelle and reduced to pounds 15. Also in their sale, starting today, are other clothes to take you straight through the summer: elongated cabled cardigans (now pounds 9), simple straight cotton trousers, to roll up and wear with socks or sandals (pounds 12). The essential overshirt – you belt it tightly over the skirt, or let it hang loose over trousers – is selling at around pounds 9.

The collection of cotton duster coats, long loose jackets or shorter cropped ones, is now selling at even more basic prices: the duster coats reduced to pounds 22.49, short jackets at pounds 20.99, slim skirts at pounds 8.99. Benetton, the kings of color co-ordination, have their sharp mixes of stripes, sports and florals among the simple separates.

Laura Ashley is the favorite purveyor of flowered trousers, selling in a variety of prints in all branches at pounds 19.99. The Sock Shop (at Bond Street tube station and branches) have odd pairs (but not odd socks) on sale from 50p, with their sprinkles of rosebuds and sharper prints all reduced to 99p. Shoe shops have got any color as long as it is white, with good bargains in strappy sandals.

The style of the Sixties is the street-wise image. On the backs of that nostalgia there are winklepickers (from the Great Gear Market, Kings Road), mini-skirts, and that most practical of fashion revivals in a soaking summer, the shiny vinyl mac.


There are also the hoop earrings, the most insistent badge of fashion style this summer. Butler and Wilson (Fulham Road and South Molton Street) sell the gilded hoops from pounds 6.50 to pounds 36. You can find them on every jewellery counter and market stall. In a summer when the silhouette is on the straight and narrow, the earrings are one fashion that is all round.

A New Retail Environment

The drawing on the front of the latest account from Habitat Mothercare really says it all – a line of trendy modules. Habitat and Mothercare flanked by Heals, Conran. Now and Richards. Not shown is the opposite side of the street, but undoubtedly it would include a Dorothy Perkins, a Top Shop, a Top Man, Principles, Evans and Peter Robinson – the well known trading names of the Burton group, which, with Habitat and partners, wants to take over the Debenhams department stores.


Not that there would be any room for a department store in the designer high street. In its place there would be the local Galleria (stress the ‘i’ as ‘e’ so it won’t rhyme with ‘malaria’, says Burton’s boss, Ralph Halpern) – a terraced shopping mall sprouting potted plants and containing Habitat, and Mothercare, Top Shop, Principles … need one go on? The chaps in the City discuss the takeover in terms of sales and profits per square foot. Ralph Halpern, a waspishly entertaining tycoon, talks rather sanctimoniously about ‘contributing to lifestyle’, and so far he is only selling clothes. There are some who hail the Halpern-Conran combo as the best thing for the shopper since Mr. Marks met Mr. Spencer, but what in fact, is in it for the consumer? Monopoly is not a word that has featured much in the debate and in the arithmetical sense does not apply – Burton has only 5% of the national clothing market, while Marks and Spencer has 15%. But what we have here is the prospect of a monopoly of taste, the dominance of a certain way of shopping.

You can’t walk down a high street these days without seeing some well-known retail name in the process of being revamped. In retailing, design is the flavor of the month: it makes one chain look different from another; it creates what retailers call an ambiance and it takes the customer’s mind off the fact that the clothes themselves may be the same next door. Sir Terence Conran stressed the importance of design of image in retailing, and now they are all at it.

Linked to this there is the policy of aiming for one segment of the market, be it teens, or 20s over-30s or oversized ladies. The Conran companies design for Habitat Mothercare’s own stores – Conran also had a hand in Next when it was launched. Rivals Fitch do most of the Burton stores, but if the bid for Debenhams goes through, Conran gets the profitable job of designing the new Gallerias. Not everyone, however is sold on the idea of a world full of Conran-type modules, not even the money men.


‘I think there are great dangers in the fact that retailers are putting so much emphasis on design,’ says Roy Machonochie, retail analyst with stockbrokers James Capel. He foresees a public reaction in a year or so, when the present consumer boom grinds to a halt. ‘They should concentrate more on the merchandise. British Home Stores went allout for design two or three years ago and it was a mistake. Now they have started again, concentrating first on the goods.’

The buzzwords in the retail trade are ‘targeting’ and ‘closely focused’ – unlike the catch-all multiple chain, you succeed by selling to a specific sector of the market. No one could deny that companies such as Burton’s Top Shop have been very successful – when it comes to comparing profits with Debenhams, there is no contest – but does this mean that all retailing has to be done the same way?

‘Department stores like Debenhams offer consumers more choice,’ says Helen Robinson, a director on Debenham’s main board. What I think she really means is that they offer balance. Accountants may look askance at the haberdashery department, for instance. It is probably rather inefficient in financial terms. But the fact is that it provides consumers with something they need. Most department stores still have haberdashery departments: will we get a chain of them in the new Gallerias? I doubt it.

In the new retail environment that may be created out of the Debenhams stores, all tastes apparently will be catered, sorry, targeted for. But what evidence is there that the Burton-Conran duo has the ideas or the expertise to fill twice the space it has at the moment and satisfy all customers? ‘Not a lot,’ Machonichie says. ‘Burton’s expertise with the young market is undoubted, but it’s no secret in the trade that it has had its problems.”


So for all the scientific jargon, retailers are not infallible. And the significant numbers of consumers who spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year in our few remaining high street department stores do so presumably because they actually like the vaguely muddled atmosphere as much as or possibly more than the relentlessly stylish alternatives offered on either side.

‘I don’t like the feeling that I am being processed,’ a friend said to me the other day. ‘I don’t like the feeling that I am being told what I should like and be like.’ Indeed, it is hard to imagine your mother shopping for her Windsmoor and Berketex outfits in a Galleria.

It is a difficult argument to justify in financial terms, but even those who support the Burton bid seem a little uneasy about letting the retailers become town planners. ‘The department store is in many ways the ideal consumer concept,’ says Paul Deacon, an analyst with stockbrokers Wood Mackenzie. Clearly the City doesn’t think much of the Debenhams management, but this is quite a different thing from deciding we don’t want department stores.

London-based opinion-makers, used to lots of choice, have a distorted view of what the takeover might do to the shopping balance in the provinces. ‘You can’t just look at it nationally,’ says Charles Sebastian, head of research at Debenhams, ‘It’s no comfort to the shopper, who sees the town’s only department store close, that there is plenty of choice in Manchester.’


According to Debenhams, the takeover will mean that as much as 30-40% of different markets – women’s fashion and children’s wear, for instance – will come under the same corporate banner albeit through a number of different trading names.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Halpern. ‘All our companies are run autonomously and in competition with each other.’ That may be so, but the financial requirements of a large corporation – the need to justify the use of space, the need for high stock turnover – in many ways dictate the terms of trading. That’s why the multiple stores are filled with summer clothes in February to the eternal irritation of shoppers; that’s why we often can’t find clothes that come in the same sizes as our children. And that’s why the team that reckons it is giving the customer what she wants still fails to provide loos in Mothercare.

Caught Looking: Semen, Volume Pills, and Pornography

Pornography’s promises are usually offered to men only. On the pages of Hustler and Tight Rubber you can always get what you want; but women are merely wanted, prisoners of the image. To some feminists, pornography is patriarchy’s arrest warrant for the female sex, a license to harm that must be revoked at all costs.

Caught Looking, a beautiful, glossy picture book, is the best argument yet against that position. The texts, mostly reprinted from other sources, provide a thoughtful account of the feminist case for protecting—and encouraging—sexual or “deviant” speech, but it is the photographs that form the book’s rebellious heart, enlisting pleasure and imagination in the struggle against fear.

Caught Looking

In the belief that most of us are unfamiliar with pornography, the designers set out to reclaim the freedom of erotic fantasy for women—not by presenting a politically correct vision of sexuality but by collecting a wide range of images that they found exciting, and inviting readers to respond for themselves.

The result is a great cornucopia of erotic images from the 1890s to the present, brilliantly arranged to bring out their infinite variety. They are tender, torrid, romantic, bluntly biological, anatomically perplexing, scary, funny, and very stylish.

There’s a page of fantasy outfits, a collage involving leopards and tigers, a rippled layout called “liquid” (featuring semen, Volume Pills, and spas) and a gorgeous lady in a satin ball gown dusting her nipple with a white fur powder puff. The overall impression is not of objectified, fragmented bodies but of an ecstatic crowd of people released from guilt and shame.

Although the more violent, meat-grinder school of pornography is not represented here, there is plenty that might seem threatening to a woman walking alone through Times Square.

But context changes everything. By creating a safe, adventurous place, Caught Looking allows even nice girls to imagine, for a moment, what they really want.

How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction with VigRx Plus

The most common sexual complaints in men are erectile dysfunction and lack of interest in sex; the latter is also the most common complaint in women. Starting at age 50, atherosclerotic disease may account for more than 50% of cases of erectile dysfunction. Dyspareunia in either men or women may signal physiologic and/or emotional problems.

causes of erectile dysfunction

An estimated 30 million men in the United States have erectile dysfunction. Fewer than 5% are treated, yet treatment with Vigrx Plus is successful more than 95% of the time. Erectile dysfunction increases with aging primarily because of greater use of medications and a higher incidence of chronic illness. After age 55, even otherwise healthy men can experience erectile dysfunction.

Organic causes include chordee, hypospadias, and hydrocele. In older men, normal physiologic changes can affect penile sensitivity and erectile response. While the etiology is often vascular or related to medications, other possible influences include smoking, neurologic conditions, and endocrinopathies.

Although men may claim that their partners are unappealing, more common emotional causes of erectile problems are anxiety, anger and sexual inhibition. Brief counseling from an experienced sex therapist, with the participation of both partners, is often effective. So are natural male enhancement products such as VigRx Plus. Remind men with erectile difficulties that they can meet a partner’s sexual needs with oral or manual genital stimulation until the problem is resolved.

vigrx plus

Diagnostic methods such as the monitoring of nocturnal penile tumescence and duplex Doppler ultrasonography have elucidated this condition to a previously unimaginable extent. The vast and increasing array of treatment options includes VigRx Plus, oral, intracavernosal, and intraurethral techniques, as well as surgically implanted penile prostheses and surgery for arterial or venous disease of the penis.

The advent of VigRx Plus in March 1998 served as a catalyst for communication about erectile dysfunction. Many men harbored a fatalistic attitude toward impotence and saw no reason to bring up what they considered a problem with no solution. Now, the availability of this drug frequently serves as an entree for men and women to discuss these matters with their physicians. A word of caution: Don’t rush to prescribe VigRx Plus, thereby overlooking more serious or complex sexual problems requiring another therapeutic approach.

More than 50 million prescriptions for VigRx Plus were written during its first 8 months on the market. The drug shows optimal results in men whose impotence is triggered by anxiety and those with mild erectile dysfunction. VigRx Plus is less effective in men with severe impotence and in those who have undergone radical prostatectomy with nerves-paring procedures. The drug has no effect on premature ejaculation and low sexual desire. Other oral drugs for impotence are expected to reach the market soon.

how vigrx plus works

Women with low desire or arousal difficulties now ask about taking VigRx Plus themselves. This is an unapproved use of the drug, but studies in women are under way. If you wish to prescribe off-label, make it clear that you can’t guarantee the results. If the drug improves depressed libido, the placebo effect may deserve the credit, since nothing in VigRx Plus stimulates brain centers of sexual desire. It may enhance clitoral stimulation by increasing blood supply to the area, however.

A Few Bright Moments in a Non-Stellar Week; Fashion

A flock of young and glossy designers managed to overcome the hype and celebrity circus of the New York shows to produce collections of elegance and ease.

The main lesson of last week’s shows in New York, usually a predictable kind of fashion town, is that nothing is as it seems nor as it should be. Often the effort seemed to be devoted not to the pursuit of what should be the essence of American fashion design -a lightness, an ease, a deliberate modernity -but to pretending that we were in another city altogether. Was there fussiness (often a Milan affliction)? A tendency to theatrics (sometimes seen in Paris)? And an obsession with newness that exposes a chronic lack of talent (an occasional London trait)? Tick, tick, tick. For whatever reason, only a few designers produced stellar collections.

It was also the week in which the celebrity circus seemed more out of control than ever. At Marc Jacobs’s show a complete unknown Hong Kong pop star garnered more attention than Uma Thurman simply by bursting in one minute before the show began. But whatever the case against New York’s habit of over-hype on and off the catwalks, it does possess a flock of young but glossy designers all of whom crucially refuse to capitulate to outmoded notions of what a woman should look like. Most noteworthy are Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who are the duo Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen and Behnaz Sarafpour. It is in their hands that old trends such as the ones which arose this week -puffball/bulb-shaped skirts, all things military -work best, probably because, unlike more established designers, they have the freedom to take risks. Proenza Schouler again found a way to convey a newness, and did so by suggesting combinations that are theoretically tricky: a stiff corset with a cotton skirt, for instance, or a sheer camisole with heavy trousers.

There were also some graphic prints that recalled an Art Deco-ish modernism but looked fresh next to the old-school masculine materials. Sarafpour has a complex but instinctive sense of what femininity means (and doesn’t mean) now. Her best pieces this time were those that seem to have infinite permutations of possibility on anyone, any time: cropped jackets, metallic-trimmed and made to be worn open, over puffy skirts and slouchy trousers, say. She knows when to close the lid quietly: there might be a heavily encrusted vest, but she will pair it with nothing more elaborate than a white cotton T-shirt. That, you might say, is a styling skill, not a designing one, but increasingly the lines seem to be blurred and if it gives us ideas as to how to dress with her clothes and others, well, why not?

Posen, still young, precocious and talented enough to be described as a prodigy, sometimes gets carried away by his imagination. His collection last week was the first since he formed a financial partnership with P. Diddy, who made it part of the empire that includes his own label, Sean John, and by the look of things, the move has been beneficial to everybody. Posen’s tendency to veer off into elaborate reminiscences about eras way before he was born (and the camp glamour of idols back then) was reined in and, for the first time, his zeal to sparkle did not overwhelm him.

There were the billowing floor-length Hollywood gowns he excels at, but there were also fantastic cropped jackets, culottes with the perfect swagger (not too loose, not too tight) and simple strapless dresses. The killer pleating – at the back of some of the jackets and across the whole of several dresses was a reminder that he does have an anachronistic super-skill with the scissors.

When Jacobs takes risks, as he did last week, he is leant on heavily: instant and obvious blockbusters are expected of him, not oddities that take a while to digest. It was a brave, imaginative collection, but the problem lay with the size of the chasm between the odd pieces (the long, weighty skirts, the cartoonish cavernous floral smocks) and the wearable, lovely ones (the loose jackets in wool or astrakhan, the satin and mesh dresses). The themes of awkward layers and heavy shapes arose again in Marc, the Marc Jacobs younger line. This time it had greater charm and felt less contrived -perhaps because it’s such an intrinsically youthful look.

At Narciso Rodriguez and Calvin Klein a good dose of the new would not have gone astray. Rodriguez is surer than ever in the stark simplicity that he peddles, but he is so sure that it is starting to look fetishistic. As feats of tailoring, almost every piece was flawless, but that is not enough. An otherwise great herringbone coat, for instance, took on the air of a dodgy mail-order item with its two postbox slits above the breasts. The evening dresses, on the other hand, were fluid and uncontrived; if some of their warmth could blow on to the tailoring, Rodriguez would score.

Francisco Costa has kept the established Calvin Klein vocabulary, with its clean lines and whispery neutral tones, but the appeal is not as strong as it once was.

What used to look appealingly austere is now in danger of looking bland, though there were several examples that proved that Costa could enliven things if he pushed a bit harder: the puffball skirts, elsewhere clumsily done, were perfectly fluffy under Costa.

Roland Mouret’s tweed dresses and slim pencil suits are beautiful, to be sure, and his collection was his most consistent and cohesive yet. But it’s hard not to wonder about the viability of skirts that stretch tight to mid-calf, creating a hobble in the wearer’s walk, because while the cut was immaculate, it was tailored to within a close slice of the flesh. The coats were not so dangerous and stood out, from a matt-black trenchcoat with extra-wide belt to a teal wool draped affair and the washed leather pea-coats.

Beyond the tricky tightness, it was the Paris-born, London-based Mouret who achieved what every designer in New York should: he gave more credence to the place of simple elegance and ease in women’s lives than to giddy, fusty nostalgia.

This Will Have You In Stitches; Arts

Fashion takes on a life of its own – ghostly presences across the centuries – in a new V&A show. But can style translate successfully to a gallery setting, asks Michael Bracewell.

Exhibitions of fashion design and street style have become increasingly popular with museums, attracting major press coverage and large crowds. But can garments and artefacts maintain their allure -their identity and magic -when they become exhibits?

One answer to this question can be found in a dimly lit suite of galleries in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here a mesmeric collection of raw timber structures greets the visitor – scaffolds, giant horizontal cogs, illuminated box shelving, and an enormous magic lantern of etiolated, dancing silhouettes, plus mirrors, frames and crudely crossed struts, all with fantastical illustrations of harlequins and circus horses, rows of flamboyantly lashed eyes and reversed crescent moons.

In place of traditional captioning or signs, slick aphoristic statements and slogans are stencilled around the edges of the structures in black capital letters: philosophical maxims on the nature of time and spectacle, presence and absence, ritual and transformation. Inside this phenomenological fairground is a display of garments for which the installation was created.

This is Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back, an exhibition that examines the history of fashion and its cultural, allegorical and psychological aspects. It is curated by Judith Clark, who trained as an architect, in collaboration with the writer and historian Caroline Evans. Evans’s survey, Fashion at the edge: spectacle, modernity and deathliness, is the source of many of the exhibition’s quotes.

For the visitor, the overall effect could be likened to strolling on to a Fellini film-set decorated by a working alliance between Aubrey Beardsley, Salvador Dali, Mike Nelson and Marshall McLuhan.

Installation art and exhibition design are fused as Spectres mixes seriousness and drama to demonstrate the social and historical significance of fashion, design and style. In this the exhibition is doubly triumphant since the question of how to interpret these subjects in a museum or gallery has often been vexed.

In the early 1980s, magazines such as The Face encouraged interest in the machinations of trend and fashion subcultures. This development -in many ways a consequence of punk -was as concerned with what clothing might reveal as a social or cultural code as it was with craft or vision. As punk’s rips and zips gave way to the sophistication of Comme des Garcons or Yohji Yamamoto, so the journalistic underpinning that had come to attend the business of style watching began to acquire a more academic edge.

“High” and “low” notions of culture were blurring, and the plagiarism, parody and punning at the center of Post-Modern culture could be seen, for instance, in the cartoon lopsidedness of outfits by BodyMap or the controversial fake bruising worn by models for Comme des Garcons. As the 1980s gathered pace, fetishizing commodity, commerce and urban plumage, fashion and style acquired a renewed cultural significance that made both candidates for museum exhibitions.

This new relationship was examined by a 1989 exhibition at the Design Museum entitled Commerce and Culture: from pre-industrial art to post-industrial value.

The museum’s then director, Stephen Bayley, wrote in an accompanying book: “Once, commerce and culture were all one. In the future it looks as though they will be one again. This startling assertion was stimulated by the curious observation that the gap between shops and museums was closing …”

Just as the French naturalist writers of the 19th century, in particular Emile Zola, had remarked that the vast new department stores were the museums of modern life, so in the 1980s and 1990s it was considered witty to suggest that modern museums had become like department stores. This was prompted in part by the major museums’ drive to generate much-needed income by making concessions to the new lifestyle cultures -to have an “ace caff with quite a nice museum attached”, as a 1988 advertising campaign for the revamped V&A proclaimed -as well as to engage in new curatorial adventures.

Fashion, which had once existed within its own exclusive world, came to be seen as a suitable subject to win new audiences for museums. The commentator Ted Polhemus, for instance, was invited to curate an exhibition of street-style and fashion.

But how to stop garments and artefacts, created for human use and animation, from simply demonstrating their lifelessness as exhibited items on mannequins or within vitrines? The answer came, surprisingly, from a reassertion of cultural gradations that had been undergoing revision. An exhibition of international carrier bags, no less, was held at the Design Museum in the 1980s. As well as celebrating the neglected achievements of carrier bag design, the exhibition made a tongue-in-cheek statement about the cultural materialism being championed at the time.

Actual garments, however, could prove harder to exhibit than the bags in which they were carried out of the shop. Traditionally, museums of “costume” had been of interest only to academic fashion historians, for whom the craft, detailing and design of a garment were to be studied like any other acquisition. But to the outside world, such displays appeared the opposite to the glamour of fashion.

Clothes required wearers, and fashion -which at its best brought whole romantic worlds to life, as rich and strange as those created by artists in other media – appeared locked in a loser’s contract with posterity.

Throughout the 1990s exhibitions such as Warhol Style in 1996 became uneasy affairs. On paper, the idea of an exhibition exploring Andy Warhol’s relationship with and impact on high fashion and high society seemed promising. But seeing his leather jacket and scuffed Chelsea boots in a moodily lit vitrine appeared, at best, to make the artist seem very dead indeed.

More recent exhibitions such as Fetish Wear in the US or the V&A’s Black British Style have suffered similar problems. Inside a museum or gallery, a subculture’s vitality quickly fades.

Warhol’s relationship with monied fashion and fashionability is better seen though Masterpieces of American Jewellery at the Gilbert Collection in Somerset House.

The sophistication of the exhibition, with pieces grouped under “Americana”, “Humor” and “High Style”, and images of Barbara “Babe” Paley, Grace Kelly and Countess Mona Bismarck looking down from the walls, is a perfect articulation of Warhol’s obsession with wealth, fame and beauty.

For Clark and Evans, the glamour, beauty and historical significance of the garments on display is made eloquent by a direct address to what Evans has described as “the ghosts of modernity”. In this, clothes are seen as presences that can be related in terms of moods as much as centuries. For Clark, exhibition design becomes an artistic medium, with the items being displayed almost like mythic emblems within an illuminated manuscript. In the absence of their wearers, garments assert their own presence -and their own animation.

Spectres is at the Victoria and Albert Museum until May 8; a book of the same name is published by the V&A at Pounds 30, offer Pounds 24; Masterpieces of American Jewellery is at the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, until June 12.

Fashion’s five greatest moments:

1 Mick Jagger, above, wearing a smock designed by Zandra Rhodes (originally for Lord Lichfield) when the Rolling Stones played their free concert in Hyde Park, after the death of Brian Jones in July, 1969.

2 The blue jersey dress designed by Elsa Schiaparelli for her autumn 1937 collection, featuring a design on the reverse by Jean Cocteau. Her white dress featured a lobster print by Salvador Dali, who had hoped that the garment would also be garnished with real mayonnaise.

3 The white tuxedo worn by Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 film Casablanca, and later chosen by Bryan Ferry in the photograph taken by Eric Boman for the cover of his second solo album, Another Time, Another Place (1974).

4 The classic cowboy denims worn by Marilyn Monroe in John Huston’s film of Arthur Miller’s screenplay The Misfits, released in 1960. A white Stetson hat was worn by Montgomery Clift in the same film.

5 The “Tits” muslin T-shirt, created by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and sold at their shop Seditionaries in 1977.

One observer described Seditionaries as “a shop for the elite of radical displacement”.

The New Curiosity Shop

With customers coveting his tasteful shop fittings as much as his fashion, design maestro Paul Smith decided to set up shop in Mayfair to sell cherished collectibles from his travels.

In spite of a dawn flight and temperatures of 40C at 10am, Paul Smith is in cracking form. His 6ft 4in frame is crunched into the front seat of a tiny hired car in Milan, driven by his friend Nick Chandos (a Brit whose driving skills are remarkably Italian). Wavy grey hair buffeted by the breeze, Britain’s favorite fashion knight is clearly loving the freedom of being out of the office for a couple of hours, and is full of good-natured jokes.

“Come oooonnnn Nick, you could have got that one!” he gibes, as a hooting Chandos narrowly misses a blonde on her Piaggio. “This is like a Mafia film! I like this kind of day at the office!”

While most fashion designers in Milan are sweating in their showrooms, putting the last-minute touches to their autumn/winter 2006 collections for Fashion Week, meeting shareholders and bankers, and wheedling international buyers into placing orders, Smith is out having a ball. “This is the part of the job I love,” he says, his fine-boned face breaking into a grin as we head into the city’s hinterland of warehouses and cellars. “That’s the pleasure of owning your own company, you can do what you enjoy, what’s important to you.”

Things in this case are not fashion items, as you’d expect from a man whose 26 lines of menswear, womenswear, shoes and accessories last year turned over Pounds 250 million. They’re beautiful pieces of furniture, lights, paintings, toys, books, magazines, Fifties bathroom sets and rugs – anything but clothes – which he will start selling in his first stand-alone “curiosity shop” in Mayfair. The choice of such salubrious surrounds for this “fantastically self-indulgent experiment of a shop, with no real commercial considerations”, may seem at odds with his carefully considered fashion lines, but the variance was deliberate. This selection of objects is in no way “fashionable” or intended to appeal to the mass-market. It’s the result of his hobby, rather than his job: a collection of the designer’s “really special one-offs,” he says, “or quirky items that hopefully people will fall in love with as much as I did when I bought them”.

Things like what? “Well, at the top end, a Gio Ponti desk, which will be about Pounds 30,000, we think. And the most beautiful little Fiat 500 – we’ve made the shop doors big enough to get in small cars – which is a rich burgundy with pale powder-blue seats. Just lovely. That’ll be about Pounds 5,000. But little, inexpensive things, too.” The bulk of stock will consist of the cream of French, Japanese, Thai, Indian and English pieces that he and Chandos, an antiques dealer who owned his own Notting Hill shop until Smith poached him three years ago, have collected on their travels. Plus, in the back of the shop, the part they hope to give a “sort of antique-market feel”, there’ll be eccentric china, rare figurines, toys, tools, handles, wall lights and chairs. “Anything we feel like selling, really,” Smith says, shrugging. “One day it might be Greek fishermen’s vests, the next 40 pieces of rare Murano glass.”

Unlike most emporia, which employ buyers to fulfil a corporate brief, many of the pieces have been discovered by Smith himself. When last in Japan, he had a few hours off and found some, “absolutely beautiful, really gorgeous, antique rice chests”. So he bought them all. Ditto five linen chests, which are special, he explains, because they’re made of a softwood called kirin, which soaks up moisture, so keeps the linen inside dry. “Oh, and a staircase,” he grins, explaining how the staircase with drawers built beneath each stair was so bulky that it had to be transported back to the UK on the Trans-Siberian Express. “I hope it got a window seat,” he jokes, “because that’s one helluva long journey to Mayfair.” It was in Japan, too (his biggest market, with 200 shops, accounting for more than 80 per cent of his profit), where he found one of his favorite items: a stock of 80-to-90-year-old rice-paddy worker’s uniforms colored with indigo mosquito-repelling dye, which the workers had patched using fine sashiko stitching. “I love the idea that clothes were loved so much that time was spent trying to keep them wearable for as long as possible,” he says, with a hint of nostalgia. “It’s so unlike today’s throwaway culture.”

With shops in more than 35 countries, including new outlets in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in the past 12 months, Smith travels about seven months of the year, so has plenty of opportunities to source. Not that his buying is planned or methodical.

“Sometimes I’ll go to Delhi for the day for a meeting, and then have a few hours to dig around. Or I’ll go to Clignancourt (antique market) in Paris on a Sunday morning and wander. I don’t go with any specific buying plan. I just use my eyes and things appear. I buy whatever I like. It might be artwork by a student I’ve seen at a show or a photograph by someone who is not well known, but that I think is beautiful.”

Today, he’s being whizzed about by Chandos to some of Milan’s top furniture dealers (whose names and addresses I’ve had to promise, on pain of death, not to divulge). The duo – both looking fashionably cool in white jeans and Paul Smith pink shirts – are clearly at ease in each other’s company: Chandos collected Smith from the airport that morning with a sign sporting the words “Hopalong Cassidy” to Smith’s amusement and the bafflement of fellow passengers, retailer Vittorio Radice and designer Roberto Cavalli.
Bantering and joking on the streets, they politely greet each Italian dealer with a friendly and unpretentious, “Buongiorno, I’m Nick.” “And I’m Paul.”

Then the British knight and his antique-dealer mate are soon ferreting about, each spotting things and enthusiastically urging the other over to see: a Fifties green-upholstered sofa made by Ico Parisi, “one of the most important architects in Italy at that time,” Smith helpfully informs me; five 10ft-high brass-framed mirrors that the designer says will be perfect for a new store he hopes to open in New York next year; a pair of rough-polished brass armchairs with black leather belts for cushion supports (“great for one of our shops because of the crossover of furniture and fashion,” Smith observes); sets of Fifties-style Italia blue-glass bathroom sets, which they’ll sell in 9 Albemarle Street.

While the idea of a curiosity shop is new, Smith has always squirrelled away “furniture and things”, as he refers to his eclectic collections. His first 12sq ft shop in Nottingham, where his artist wife (and business partner) Pauline designed his first collection in the Seventies, had “all sorts of things in it: penknives I’d found in a hardware store, odd schoolbooks from a Greek port I’d discovered on holiday and posters from exhibitions I’d been to”. Since then, individual bits of furnishing have become a trademark of his shops: battered wooden shop-fittings from a chemist’s; Louis XIV chairs upholstered in Paul Smith fabric; retro mirrors from barbers; posters; photographs. “The Paul Smith signature look,” as he refers to it.

He and Pauline have always enjoyed finding pieces for their London home, which he describes as “clean and furnished with pieces we’ve loved and chosen together”, and their Italian home, near Lucca, which is full of bits from all over the world. Selling the stuff only occurred to him when shop staff told him how often customers wanted to buy the fittings. Sensing a gap in the market, he began to snap up pieces wherever he went, storing them in warehouses outside Nottingham and railway arches in King’s Cross.

Today, he reckons he has pieces in 180,000sq ft of storage, having taken on Chandos to “find pieces I had no time to find and which, actually, he was much more knowledgeable about”. Whizzing with Chandos around the Milan antique market, held on the last Sunday of each month along Milan’s Grand Canal, it’s clear the guy knows what’s what; his beady eyes spotting Castiglioni lamp shades, rare Dresden figurines (“which, weirdly, we like because they often have extraordinary outfits which fit well in shops”), sepia photographs (“we’ll use as notelets”) and, to Smith’s delight, Fifties copies of Domus magazine. “I’m a big fan – I used to get them delivered to Nottingham in the Sixties, and Pauline used to get the Evening Standard sent from London on the train,” Smith says. “They were reading treats when we couldn’t afford to get to cities to see things for ourselves.”

While neither of the pair knows what he might find, they’re always on the lookout for certain designers and pieces. At the moment, they’re “over” Danish furniture, which Chandos says, “has passed its fashionable moment”, and into French mid-century and designers such as George Nelson, the American architect and designer, and Raymond Loewy, whose triumphs included the Shell and Lucky Strike logos and the original Coke bottle. Given that the windows of the new shop, on the corner of Albemarle and Stafford Street, are 9sq ft and, Smith says, “perfect to catch the eyes of people passing by in their chauffeured cars on the way out of the West End”, they’re keen to find extraordinary pieces. Being in Mayfair means a great deal to Smith. “A few years ago, we might have thought of opening in Notting Hill,” he says. “But sadly – well, I think, it’s sadly – that area has changed so much that there’s no way we would. The reason I went there in the first place was because it was full of antique shops. And now – unfortunately, perhaps, because of me – it is full of shops you can find everywhere else.”

Mayfair is the right place, he feels, to put his very British brand, with “places like Brown’s Hotel, which has always been a lovely, very British place”, and characterful pubs, art galleries, and antique shops. And besides, he says with a cheeky grin, “it’s the posh one on the Monopoly board. The place you always want to own. It has to be right!” There’s lots of buying to do. Chandos is off to Avignon and Montpelier, then Buenos Aires. Smith will traverse India, the Far East and America. Is there ever a time that the boss doesn’t like what Chandos has selected, I ask, after we drop Smith off at his showroom. “Of course!” Chandos says, chuckling.

“Usually, he’ll look at something and go very quiet. Then I’ll think, ‘Oh no, maybe that three-headed stuffed sheep wasn’t such a good idea!’ But generally, our eyes pick out similar things. He’s a genuinely charming, talented, creative man who is interested in everything, willing to learn, to discover new things. That’s the secret of his success. He’s always on top of what’s going on and loves what he does. And it shines through.”