Vogueing. March 2018.

Dear Rowley,

I have fallen in love with women’s fashion again and it is largely thanks to Mr Enninful’s UK Vogue. I now subscribe and it is like sunshine after rain. I think we endured more than twenty years of Alexandra Shulman’s Vogue. It felt like ninety. Dreary middle class, middle aged women do not great fashion magazines make. I recall an old editor of Easy Living telling me Diana Vereeland would never be employed today because it is all about the advertiser. Shows how wrong you can be.

Edward Enninful has brought the joy back into fashion. The designers have also helped. I love, love, love Nicholas Ghesquiere’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection for Louis Vuitton. The frock coasts with trainers are a joy. Thank you Mr Enninful for giving Grace Coddington her first UK Vogue shoot since she left in the 1980s to follow Anna Wintour to US Vogue. Grace gave us high Victoriana with trainers in a breathtakingly beautiful shoot.

The Enninful covers are just getting better and better. Gugu Mbatha Raw channelling Billie Holiday for the April edition was just sublime. I loved the fashion in the shoot and the jewellery was something else, baby. Kate Moss played a blinder with her Rude Girl Rock shoot in Brighton although I will say a lot of Adowa Abooboo goes a long, ling way. Her Burberry crown advert is as hideous as Chris Bailey’s rainbow-hued last collection. We all look better with a bit of slap on.

Kate Phelan’s styling of Anya Taylor Joy was divine. I am also loving Saint Laurent’s ostrich feather collection. It is softer and prettier than the Hedy Slimane years. I would like more Vogue for my money with every issue as big as a March or a September. It is a bit thin. Then again, I cannot get on with Katie Grand’s Vogue stablemate Love at Condé Nast.

Whereas Mr Enninful is redressing the black and white model balance with his Vogue, Katie Grand seems to be taking a Mia Farrow approach and casting anything as long as it is multi-cultural. It’s all a bit Benetton in the 1990s. It is also a bit lesbian with hundreds of pages of single shots of female models with nary a cock for spreads. Can we have some drag or some cute boys to dull the boredom? Love is very insider. It is all about girl power in the fashion industry. There was a cockamamie shoot of a Kardashian photographed by her mother and styled by her sister. Oh fuck the fuck off.

Love also seems to have Adowa Aboah on every other page and when she wasn’t popping up it was Cindy Crawford’s so-so daughter Kaia Gerber who is not a patch on her glamorous mother. Mind you, all respect for Panos Yipanis’s styling and Tim Walker’s photography for the MoominGoth shoot. It was weird and wonderful in a way that Alexandra Shulman could not have gone with in her wildest dreams or nightmares. I love Mr Enninful for not going weird apart from a picture pf the ghastly Juergen Teller in his pants with his pot belly at the back of the book.

The great joy of Mr Enninful’s Vogue is that the ex-Chairman Nicholas Coleridge’s god daughter Cara Delevingne seems to have been axed as the model-du-jour. She’s in an ad for beauty cream called Capture Youth. Oh please my nerves. She’s all of twenty-one and not that pretty. Perhaps the West London mafia has had its day and Mr Enninful can make Vogue the internationally cool magazine it always was before the desperate years.

The jwellery in UK Vogue is superlative. I didn’t love edgy diamonds and black leather: all too Sister George for me. Why put sensational diamonds on a girl who looks like she is more at home with a monkey wrench? Diamonds are glamour. They deserve haute couture. I am sure Mr Enninful will give us the hautest couture in upcoming issues. I also wish he would style more in his issues. He’s up there with Grace as a visionary fashion editor.

I would think that Anna Wintour would be quaking in her Manolos to see UK Vogue go from strength to strength. Mr Enninful is making US Vogue look like a J. C. Penny catalogue. Perhaps new blood is necessary now Anna has her initials carved in the wall of the Metropolitan Museum and her title as Deutchland Uber Alles magazines in the US Condé Nast organisation.

I like big change. I am really feeling it at the moment apropos of which I am off to Menorca for the month of April to stay in my friend Jillo’s apartment and work in a bar to calm my mind and body. I come back to London to do the Royal Wedding for ABC Australia and a documentary about Princess Margaret for the history channel. Maybe I will be back on Royal Ascot with ITV. Stranger things. I definitely want to be back on ITV This Morning with Holy and Philip when Jewellery for Gentlemen is published in September.

So onward and upward. I am contemplating a move back to Clapham North this summer. The demographic is blacks, gays and old South Londoners. What’s not to like? I am fed the fuck up with Bloomsbury being like Chengdu with all the Chinese in their face masks buying up all the property and having no spacial awareness. This is not racist. It is a sad comment on rich tourism and education in the UK being pillaged by the yellow peril with deep pockets. Time for me to go I think.

Until next time…

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Up the Workers. March 2018.

Dear Rowley,

I took at 6.30am walk in the West End this morning to clear my head and let me tell you there were zero English faces to be seen. The good people who were cleaning your streets, stocking your shops, scrubbing your loos and rushing at ungodly hours to work were all immigrants. I have been accused of racism towards the Chinese recently and, your honour, there wasn’t a slant eye on the streets either from what I could see. Sue me.

This is a major shout out to the people who really run London. These people work for a minimum wage, they take no pleasure from this city and they work to live. They aren’t having a ball in this glorious capital of ours. They are cleaning up after our mess, feeding us, clothing us and serving our drinks.

I won’t even start on the homeless who have given up on any kindness from this heartless city and freeze on the streets rather than rape the state and take charity. I admire those people sleeping in bags so much more than the bankers, civil servants, politicians, celebrities and bankers who pillage this city for money and give NOTHING back to the ones who metaphorically wipe their bums because they have been dealt a bad hand in life.

Perhaps I have told you that I was at my happiest in London when working in a bar called The Yard in the early 90s. I had no real cash. I worked to live. But, boy, was it fun and there was solidarity amongst the Yard girls and boys. We were having a ball, discovering all that was genuine and amusing about London and exploring our burgeoning sexuality as big old gayers.

What I would not give to go back to those days so I have made a few decisions. I am going back to those days. I shared with you last month that after the burglaries I was going to spend a few months on Menorca. I was tempted to change my mind by London. I was asked to commentate on the upcoming Royal Wedding, I signed a new book contract and I was asked to do another six part series for the history channel.

I might still do all these things because I have earned them. But it is looking increasingly likely that I will hop a plane to Menorca for the month of April. The weather might not be great but I would rather be there than here. I want the sand of Son Bou beach between my toes as it was thirty years ago. I want happy people around me not drones and Chinks. I want to leave behind all publishing commitments for four weeks and let them stew in their own juices while I heal.

Bar work at this precise moment in time sounds like Heaven. I want to make people happy serving them chuckle juice and earn a minimum wage just to live on a Baleraic Island. I want to leave what is laughingly called my birth family behind as they have me and want to give my real London family a break from my troubles.

Apropos birth family, I cannot call my parents even though I have read them to filth in recent weeks. Some of it was deserved and some of it was gratuitously nasty. On balance, Mum and Dad have never given up on me and have only done what they thought was right to keep me alive and on the path to happiness. For that alone I owe them love and respect.

The same cannot be said for my extended birth family. The first sign of manic behaviour – and how would they know apart from reading my Letters because they never call let alone visit – and they are like greased weasel shit as far away as possible. I have not spoken to my brother, my aunt, my uncle or my cousins for months. They clearly know I have been going through ten types of shit and they keep their distance. We all have our problems I know and I care no fucks about theirs so maybe I am a selfish cunt and am only getting payback.

Strike that. If my Aunt was in trouble, I would be on a train to Sheffield faster than Speedy Gonzales. As it is, I will only go back for funerals when I am the one who writes and reads the eulogies because the rest of the family has all the sensitivity and emotional maturity of linoleum.

I keep playing the gay card to explain my disconnect with my family and I think I am on the money on that one. How can donkeys communicate with a unicorn without feeling seething jealousy that I am living my life for good and ill the way I want to live it. The nightlife aint no good life but it is my life and, honey,  it is ten tonnes of fun.

I am broke again thank you Thames & Hudson. My publisher promised himself blind that I would be paid an advance of £1500 yesterday and it did not transpire so I had to borrow £60 from my bestie Lee to buy booze and fags because I was so wound up. If Thames & Hudson had tried to reverse my recovery from a manic episode, they could not have done a better job than dance £1500 in front of me only to snatch it away. Threats have been made because I commented on social media. The irony.

The problem here is that I have nothing more to lose after my grandmother’s ring was stolen. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. I will not take this lying down any more unless it is on a beach in Menorca and then I will take a point of view. Two rules in London: be nice to people who serve you and don’t fuck with James Sherwood. Simples.


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Hubert the Great. March 2018.

Dear Rowley,

Saddened to hear that one of the greats of golden era Paris couture, Count Hubert de Givenchy, has died aged ninety-one. A second son of the Marquis de Givenchy, Hubert studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and cut his teeth working for another of my heroes, Jacques Fath, in 1945. He designed for Piguet, Lelong and Elsa Schiaparelli before opening his eponymous house in 1952.

Givenchy is one of the four cornerstones of post-war French haute couture along with Pierre Balmain, Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior. None of his peers came even close to Givenchy’s record as creative director of his own house from 1952 to his retirement in 1995. If Balenciaga was the Picasso of Haute Couture, Givenchy was its Degas: a class act who made beautiful work that enhanced women’s bodies.

And what bodies! Audrey Hepburn called him ‘a creator of personality’. The best-dressed women of the 1950s and 1960s could not survive a season without orders for Givenchy’s clever reductive chic little black dresses, couture separates and suits that combined tailleur and flou. Mona Bismarck, Marlene Dietrich, Daisy Fellows, Maria Callas, Gloria Guinness, Diana Vreeland, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and the Duchess of Windsor all adored Givenchy the man and the work.

Givenchy met his muse Audrey Hepburn in 1963 when she was making Sabrina and costume design legend Edith Head co-opted Givenchy to make her gowns. His subsequent work on Funny Face in 1957 was arguably his finest 1950s moment for Audrey dressing her in the highest of haute couture modelled on landmark locations in Paris.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) is arguably the most famous fashion film of the 20th century and Givenchy somehow knew how to dress Audrey as complicated call girl in all but name Holly Golightly. The not-so-little black dress at the top of the movie worn with shades and a diamond headpiece outside Tiffany is the high fashion equivalent of Marilyn’s Travilla white dress billowing above a Manhattan subway grate.

Givenchy was not as avant garde as Balenciaga and nor was he as innovative as Christian Dior who seemed to invent a new line with each collection. But Hubert bridged that specific moment between overblown 1950s haute couture and the hip futurism of Cardin, Courreges and Paco Rabanne in the 1960s and 1970s. Givenchy would never be hip but he somehow smuggled elegance into the Youthquake decade and beyond.

Count Hubert de Givenchy was nothing but complimentary as super nova designers such as Yves Saint Laurent became the star of the 1970s and 1980s. Givenchy oozed class and while not courting the fashion press,  he was always charm itself and thus was never deserted by the ladies whose lives he understood sufficiently to dress.

What I appreciated most about Givenchy’s work was his economy. He could erase detail and yet make day and evening dresses fit for a Serene Highness such as Grace Kelly or a screen goddess such as Audrey. He was never va-va-voom like Fath and Balmain which might explain why Givenchy remained diplomatically silent after his retirement when Galliano, McQueen and Macdonald stepped into his not inconsiderable shoes.

Givenchy had sold out to LVMH in 1988 as the era of Power Dressing was rapidly passing. When he retired, the minimalism characteristic of the Japanese and Belgian designers plus Jil Sander and Helmut Lang had already replaced haute couture as the uniform of rich ladies worldwide. With elegance and discretion, Givenchy retreated beyond the moat of his Loire valley chateau with his lover and collected bronzes for the next twenty years or so. He never commented on contemporary fashion and God forbid about his successors at the House of Givenchy.

Givenchy leaving his own house reminded me of the elves in The Lord of the Rings knowing their era in Middle-Earth was drawing to a close and sailing away to Avalon. Fashion was a genteel occupation – or vocation – in Hubert de Givenchy’s day. He would be the last person to comment on Ricardo Tisci or, now, Claire Weight Keller running the shop. It is the difference between ruling pre-and-post Revolutionary France.

I personally believe my era was that of Givenchy, Balenciaga, Balmain and Dior. I think they were the apex of 20th century fashion and that it has all gone downhill since then. There are exceptions such as Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto and Dries van Noten. But by and large I think the world was a chicer place when the ladies who led fashion were dressed by the gods of Paris haute couture.

Givenchy did indirectly begin a trend that has caused consternation in the fashion industry. When he created his first perfume, L’Interditk, inspired by Audrey she agreed to be the face of the campaign gratis because she adored the scent and the man. Having just witnessed the latest celebrity scent advertisements such as Cate Blanchett for Armani and Kiera Knightly for Chanel Mademoiselle, it is eminently clear that the ladies are paid big bucks and there is zero integrity let alone affection behind the endorsement.

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Hometime. March 2018.

Dear Rowley,

In the wake of the burglaries in Bloomsbury Towers I have spent many a day and night reclaiming the apartment as home. The repaint is underway, the CCTV is installed and the locks are changed. We still have the delegation from China downstairs but two out of three ‘aint bad. After seriously doubting London for the first time in thirty-five years, I am also making friends with my city again. I am honestly perturbed that there are about ten Chinese people in Bloomsbury to every local on any given street but this might calm down as I do and I will care less.

You can’t say anything these days without some snowflake hysterically screaming ‘hate crime’. Quite frankly, I think the locals are entirely justified in raising concerns when the demographic of the neighbourhood is changed radically in a matter of a few short years. Chinese students are flooding our educational system and either buying or renting all the property in prestige university quarters like Bloomsbury. They are pricing the locals out as we see independent bookshops and local delis closed-down to be replaced by Bubble Tea boutiques and Chinese restaurants as has happened in Bloomsbury.

I would imagine the Communist Party would have something to say if an airfreight of gays settled in Chengdu and decided to host a gay pride march regardless of local opposition. Christ, if it happened in the Gulf States hands would be chopped off never mind tutting locals on the streets. London is one of the most welcoming cities in the world. Chinatown, the Italian quarter and the Gulf State that is Knightsbridge have long been assimilated as culturally significant for communities other than Londoners. Now the whole of London is Chinatown.

What comforts me in Bloomsbury is continuity despite upheaval. When I am long cold in the grave, the statue of Charles James Fox that has stood for over two centuries will still stand guard over Bloomsbury Square. The old rake stares impassively up towards Russell Square where he is eyeball to distant eyeball with his friend the Duke of Bedford’s statue regardless of the flotsam and jetsam that washes around him decade by decade.

I suspect that Bloomsbury will retain its character when the Chinese tsunami has eddied to a trickle again. I hope I will be alive to see it reclaimed by the writers, the academics, the Bohemians and the esoteric people who have been drawn to this magical neighbourhood for centuries. One of my favourite prints of Bloomsbury Square is the era pre-1799 when my house was built and the North side of the square was dominated by Bedford House.

Bedford House was razed to the ground when Bloomsbury fell out of fashion in the twilight of the 18th century. The print shows that the footprint of Bloomsbury Towers was landscaped grounds in front of an imposing mansion. My view from the back of the house would have been directly on the facade of Bedford House. In the dead of night, the light plays tricks and I imagine candles flickering while a grand 18th century ball is underway hosted by successive Duchesses of Bedford.

I am in a mood indigo at the moment nesting in Bloomsbury again and licking wounds after the house was violated by the scum who stole my family jeweller … and the rest. The law is entirely on the side of cracked-out crooks and I have no hope of recovering the property generations of my family worked very hard to have made. If karma is king then these vermin will be writhing in a gutter somewhere with a needle in their arm and no pulse. We bear a grudge in this family.

Writing the Henry Poole & Co monograph with Thames & Hudson, I have been delving into countless revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries that toppled monarchies and I feel we have a perfect storm for another one in England right now. This revolution will not be anti-monarchy. It is directed towards what I would call the new establishment: civil servants, bankers, public sector quangos, pension-rich jobsworths and politicians who have feathered their nests egregiously at the cost of the common man.

I feel particularly riled and revolutionary at present having been a tax-payer all my life (and don’t I know it) who has never previously burdened the state bar the NHS. I believe in self-sufficient citizenship and a major lack of intervention from government in our private lives. It makes me spit that bleeding heart liberals send knife crime thugs on group hug courses and that violent burglars get suspended sentences. I hate to read of six figure salaries for ineptitude and the abuse of power at the very highest level.

But the backlash I think will be directed towards the celebrity class and their hereditary offspring who are the new royal families. Social media might have made them but it can destroy them just as easily. We’re all fed-up of hearing entitled lucky bitches on multi-million-per-picture salaries bleating about fairness for women. Go tell that to someone on benefits. We’re bored of Kardashian, Beckham, Ramsay etc kids now infesting the yellow press. I wish they would all disappear which they do if you don’t take any notice. Starve them of the oxygen of publicity on social media and watch them melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. Try it. Go on. I endorse you.


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Protect the Work. March 2018.

Dear Rowley,

I am still on tenterhooks waiting for the Profiles in History auction catalogue for what is in all but name the Estate of Liza Minnelli. There’s an exhibition preview in April that I’d sell a kidney to see but cannot under present circumstances. I think I know why Liza is off-loading her personal archive of gowns by her late gay best friend plus memorabilia of her career and that of her mother Judy Garland and her father Vincente Minnelli.

There are watershed periods in every career. In Liza’s as in mine, sometimes they are enforced by breakdowns in health followed by comebacks. I’m on a sabbatical after ‘the troubles’ recently and want to take stock. This is what Liza is doing having sold-up in New York and moved to LA. It is touch or go where her career will go aged seventy and after health issues have beaten seven bells out of her voice.

But one thing is clear. I’ve seen Liza perform countless times. When she came back at the Coliseum in the Kay Thompson show Liza’s at the Palace,. I had given up hope of ever seeing Liza sing and dance at full gallop. But that she did and gave the performance of her life. By selling-off the past, Liza is tacitly reminding the public of what a phenomenal career she has had and where she’s been …the inference being just wait and see what she’s going to do next.

Lest we forget,  Liza had the blessing and the curse of winning a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret in her early twenties. The film career could only go one way after that though New York New York directed by Martin Scorsese and co-starring Robert de Niro wasn’t too shabby and Stepping Out was a delight. She won a Tony the same year for the Bob Fosse-directed Liza With A Zee concert and did it again for Liza’s at the Palace almost fifty years later.

I had lunch with the Godfather of Savile Row, Angus Cundey, today and the wise owl Richard Craig the MD of Margaret Howell. I told Richard I was thinking about launching a new website entitled James Sherwood Fashion Archive with all of my journalistic work. Richard nailed it saying, ‘good for the ego and good for fashion students’. He was spot on. I need an ego massage at the moment and a reminder that all the other men’s style writers were still in nappies when I had a weekly column on the Independent on Sunday. I can only say I hope they packed their Canada Goose fleeces for their trip to the moral high ground.

It is rather Norma Desmond to spend an evening with one’s cuttings but they do mean zip unless catalogued and put out there to the public. It is an ego trip but also a tacit reminder of all the solid graft I’ve done flaws and all. I’ve tended to come back stronger despite troubles apart from in recent years when I could not get on for going. Jewellery for Gentlemen has given me a new lease of life but until I come back as a style writer for newspapers, magazines and online I can’t really leverage the archive of work.

My mentor at Central Saint Martins Bobby Hillson gave me some very good advice a few years ago. Do what you like to yourself personally but always, always protect the work. People can say what they like about personal conduct but the work stands as evidence that even flat on one’s ass one is still better half dead than some are firing on all cylinders. The work I hope has always been on a high level whatever personal circumstances.

Another mentor of mine Louisa Saunders from the Independent on Sunday also imparted very good advice when I was going through one. She said that after a decade as a professional writer paying the bills through the pen you can’t really write a bad feature. You can be slightly off par but you won’t let yourself write bad prose. Style builds like the layers of a pearl over the years and it is the one aspect of writing that sets you apart from the competition.

I am very aware of style. It is as important to me that the words fit – they flow – and read beautifully regardless of the sense of the sentence. This is something I have picked up along the way after thirty-five years earning a living with my flying digits. This is not arrogance. It is the same as a master goldsmith accepting that after decades on the bench he knows how many beans make five.

At the moment I know I am serious about my career because I have lost interest in the Sturm und Drang of relationships and sex. Couldn’t be less interested at the moment. I am much more focused on refurbishing Bloomsbury Towers and digitising my archive. Painting a small space is a bugger because there is nowhere to move the junk. I treat Bloomsbury Towers like the Fourth Bridge and just launch into painting bit-by-bit until I get to the other side by which time one needs to start again.

Seeing as you asked, I have painted my writing room Willow Creek green. This is more apple green than Elpheba in Wicked green and is very flattering against ageing skin … a trick I picked up from Faye Dunaway. While painting I have gone back to the box sets of Smash and The Good Wife from Season 1 respectively. I love good telly. It is a super way to keep the brain ticking while relaxing.

On that note Rowley, I’ll leave you with ‘protect the work’ and, yes, protect yourself while you are at it. Until next time.


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