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50/50 London must see: the mysterious innovator who shaped fashion

The V&A Museum will open the first UK exhibition exploring the work and influence of the Spanish couture master Cristóbal Balenciaga this Saturday. ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ celebrates the centenary of the first fashion house opened by the designer (not hard to count – it was back in 1917), focusing as the curator Cassie Davies-Strodder said, ‘on 50’s and 60’s  – his most creative period.’

The collection contains around 100 pieces by Balenciaga and the designers who in their creations were and still are preserving his heritage – Molly Goddard, Oscar de la Renta, Emanuel Ungaro, Paco Rabanne. Who was Cristóbal  Balenciaga and how did he influence the fashion and its forms as we know them today?


Silk taffeta dress, Paris, 1954

The young Cristóbal started developing a keen eye for fashion at the age of 11 while helping his seamstress mother who worked for the Spanish high society. He then joined a tailoring firm as an apprentice at the age of 12. How? One of the most influential noblewoman from his hometown of Getaria, Marquesa of Casa Torres, was so impressed by his talent that she sent him to Madrid where the boy was formally trained.

At the dawn of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the designer was forced to close his boutiques in Spain and move to Paris, where he opened his couture house on Avenue George V in 1937. Balenciaga shared the fashion stage with his contemporaries – Cristian Dior, Coco Chanel, yet evolving a unique approach to silhouettes and cuts – broadening the shoulders, sculpting box shapes and removing the emphasis on the waist, complimenting women’s bodies of different size and shape. The designer who was referred as ‘the Master’ by his staff, created immortal pieces as the balloon jacket, the cocoon coat, the Peacock tail dress, the semi-fitted suit, the tunic, the baby doll dress just to name a few.


Balenciaga’s work still inspires contemporary designers

Not only his designs stood out from the fashion crowd. So did Balenciaga’s models who were holding a specific ‘title’ … ‘the monsters’. They were given strict instructions by the master Balenciaga himself, including no smiling and making eye contacts with the customers.

While his designs were called innovative and loud, Balenciaga avoided any attention and publicity. He was watching his shows behind a curtain and never came out to take a bow. The only journalist who was ever granted Cristóbal’s interview was Prudence Glyn from The Times back in 1971. She wrote: ‘In post-war fashion, Dior became a household word through the influence of the New Look, but for the purists there was only one proper direction in which to bow, Cristóbal Balenciaga’.


Balenciaga in his office (C. Beaton archives)

While some of his elite clients included the Duchess of Windsor, Mona Bismarck (who locked herself away in her villa in Italy for three days while mourning the closure of his fashion house), Ava Gardner, Marella Agnelli, Balenciaga took the Air France in-flight coordinators under his wings. He designed their uniforms in 1968 before retiring from the fashion industry in the same year. The designer’s swan song was a wedding dress for the future Duchess of Cadiz, Maria del Carmen Martinez-Bordiu in 1972. He passed away 16 days after the wedding.

Although Balenciaga is long gone, his heritage – the variety of silhouettes, cuts, and the idea of celebrating women’s bodies while throwing a white glove to tiny wasp waists is very much alive, and still altering the industry. For generations to come.

‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ is at the V&A from 27 May 2017 – 18 February 2018. 

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Is Jude Law our latest obsession?

How do you pick a play which you’d like to see? Do you read reviews, ask your intellectual friends for a piece of advice or … trust your gut? The last option applies to me, and the one thing I can say – I’ve never been disappointed (well, yet).

The last theatrical adventure I was a part of is called Obsession (from 19 April to 20 May at the Barbican) directed by Ivo van Howe. A play, where one of the lead roles (to be precise – a seductive vagabond Gino) is played by none other than Jude Law (The Young Pope, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Talented Mr Ripley, etc.), accompanied by a talented cast from the Netherlands. Law’s love interest Hana is played by Halina Reijn, while the role of a very jealous Hana’s husband is played by Gijs Scholten van Aschat.


The cast by Jan Versweyveld

A play that was inspired by Luchino Visconti movie is an intense and deep tale of an obsessive, destructive love. Modern and provocative, spiced up by artsy sex scenes (no, it’s not heading to 50 Shades Of Grey direction), though sometimes not easy to follow because of quite a few things happening on stage simultaneously. However, the storyline manages to capture your attention as Steijn, Law and Scholten van Aschat build suspense to its highest level, questioning the meaning of love, loyalty and selfishness.


Jude Law and Halina Steijn by Jan Versweyveld

I must admit that I was curious to see Law on stage. A raw and vulnerable version of one of the leading Hollywood men not surrounded by visual effects, eye-watering sets and tiresome editing process. On a stage where you can’t take a break of five or leave space for any mistakes and re-shoot the scene. And Law did justice to his seductive, but deeply troubled character, probably giving an answer to a question why Hollywood keeps coming back to theatre productions where the live audience-infused experience brings every artist back to his roots.

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La La Land: an ode for dreamers

A love story of a wannabe actress and jazz musician set in the City of Angels. Sounds like you’ve heard and seen that before? Don’t rush to say yes.

Even though La La Land has brought the classic Hollywood musical back from the dusty shelves of the genre, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), starring Emma Stone (Mia Dolan) and Ryan Gosling (Sebastian Wilder), the movie is not only stuck in the box office, our heads or Spotify playlists. But in our dreams as well.

With 7 Golden Globes in the basket, 11 BAFTA nominations and Oscars to fill the list of potential awards on the 24th of January, the musical was an old dream of the man behind the lens – Damien Chazelle. “He was so passionate about making one again, not just the nostalgic, those were the days kind of film, but you know, he felt there’s a way to make them feel relevant,” said Ryan Gosling.


La La Land cast

The idea of an old school musical, which was recalled as disastrous by Chazelle himself, was developed in over six years. And the cast gave 100 percent to fulfil the director’s dream while mastering the arts of dance and music. “Those are Ryan’s hands all the time. He’s playing the jazz piano and he learnt it from scratch for the film. I just think it’s amazing,” acknowledged Emma Stone, who was pretty convinced by her teachers that Gosling is the better tap dancer from the duo. “But when I saw him, I told myself – I got this,” laughed the actress.

The unconditional trust in the cast and risk taking (you’ll see what I mean after the first 20 seconds of the movie, which were set in the middle of an LA motorway) paid off. The result – colourful masterpiece which is a treat to your eyes and ears as you can’t take your glimpse from blissful dance routines, classy but contemporary costumes, the electrifying chemistry built by Stone and Gosling, as well as the music which’ll be playing on your playlist for days to come. Go on, admit it.


R. Gosling and E. Stone

The compelling storytelling, which starts playing on the emotional chords of viewers like a piano itself, built a finale that some may find unfairly beautiful, and shed a tear or two. Ultimately, the movie is an ode for dreamers, carrying the message translated in Stone’s “Audition” song: here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem, here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make. 

This won’t be my last trip to the dreamy La La Land. Plan yours.

La La Land Trailer





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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: a Promise for a Magical November

Thursday evening. Leicester Square is filled with chatter from tourists, rushing Londoners, Gangnam style performers and… wizards. “Is it a Harry Potter fandom convention?” says a twenty-something guy disturbed by the long cues surrounding the Empire Theatre. And he’s almost right as there are some familiar magical characters as Bellatrix Lestrange, Luna Lovegood, a few Newt Scamanders as well as no-majs (translation from J. K. Rowling language – humans) wandering in Central London.

Warner Bros Pictures celebrated the upcoming release of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie, inviting an audience of 700, including dressed to impress fans, competition winners and media. The Q&A which was streamed globally, was attended by the members of the cast – Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, director David Yates, producer David Heyman and THE author (and screenwriter debutante who’ll later joke that “learning how to write a script while writing a Hollywood movie is not a good experience”) J. K. Rowling.


D.Fogler, A.Sudol, K.Waterston, E.Redmayne, E.Bowman, D.Yates, D.Heyman, J.K.Rowling

Set in 1926, the movie, which will be the first from the franchise of five (the news was delivered by J. K. Rowling herself to the cast who didn’t hide their surprised faces), follows a magizoologist Newt Scamander collecting and building relationships with various magic beasts which he carries in his suitcase. But as Newt travels to the other side of the pond, New York, some of the creatures manage to escape and the unexpected events threaten to expose the wizarding world to no-majs and cause a war.

“Newt is an incredibly passionate guy. He’s there and he cares about them (the beasts),” said Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne admitting that there’s already some pressure building up. “A lot of pressure. I’m a Potter fan myself and seeing movies with my younger brother was like diving into a warm, cosy place,” opened the actor.


Original costumes

Actress Katherine Waterston, who’ll play Porpentina Goldstein, an American witch and a future love interest of Scamander gushed that she was astonished by the actor’s involvement in building the magic behind the production. “They were so genuinely interested in what each of us had to say. I got an email with five options for a wand. I picked the one I wanted, but it was too light, so they went back, fixed it. I thought, my God, I’ll have a banana split!”

Director David Yates, who gained international prominence after directing the four last Harry Potter movies joked that he can’t reveal too much about his new venture. The movie maker couldn’t hide his joy of working with J. K. Rowling again, dubbing her to be a real queen. “Generally, she’d be very supportive. She’s such a worker, it’s unbelievable. And her imagination is never ending.”


The cast in London

While the worldwide gross of the Harry Potter franchise reached 7.7 billion dollars, it’s too early to predict what’s in store for the new wizards in town. However, being able to see the first ten minutes of the movie (no spoilers), there’s only one thing to say – November will be magical.

Find out what’s in the suitcase in cinemas from November 18.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – IMAX Featurette

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The Girl on the Train: Emily Blunt stuns in the chilling thriller

Wednesday afternoon. AOL Headquarters, London. A busy street in Camden is buzzing not only with the ambulance sirens bursting in the humid capital’s air. There is also a humming crowd of devoted The Girl on the Train fans, patiently waiting for the cast members Emily Blunt, Luke Evans and Haley Bennett, director Tate Taylor and writer Paula Hawkins to arrive.



The movie, which is based on the bestselling thriller written by Paula Hawkins and directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) is already considered to be the one to watch during the award’s season.

The story focuses around Rachel Watson, the character played by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Adjustment Bureau, Sicario and the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns) who’s a divorcee suffering from alcoholic addiction that entangles her into a missing person’s investigation. Rachel becomes the main witness, but add to that, she must tackle the demons from her own past and present.


Edith Bowman, Emily Blunt and Luke Evans

“Rachel is a raging alcoholic, which makes her an easy and manipulative person,” said Emily defining her character. While delving into a uniquely vulnerable role, the Hollywood actress was watching documentaries in order to understand the emotional depth of her character and her harmful habits – “how drunk people talk, walk and even move their eyes.” “Thanks god no one has a tape of me being drunk,” giggled the British actress. “I do,” cheerfully said Emily’s co-star Luke Evans, who plays Scott Hipwell, “a dark and mysterious role” as defined by the actor himself.

As the cast members seem to have a great chemistry, what is the thing Emily will not be missing from The Girl on the Train experience? “I wanted to burn that overcoat when they (the cast) wanted to give it to me as a present,” laughed the Brit.


Emily Blunt, Luke Evans and Haley Bennett

Blunt, who’s well known for her polished, romantic and adventurous roles goes rogue revealing her different side and giving a breathtaking performance on the big screen.

Mark your calendars. The Girl on The Train will be released on the 5th of October.

The Girl on the Train trailer

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Victoria: will the ambitious drama bring victory to ITV?

Thursday afternoon. Security guards are manoeuvring the tourist crowds while publicists are tapping in their high-heels around the Orangery restaurant, surrounded by Kensington Palace gardens. It’s not a coincidence that this royal scenery was chosen for the premiere of the ambitious ITV and Mammoth Screen drama – Victoria.

The Sunday night treat will portray the it love story of the nineteenth century between the young Queen Victoria (played by Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (played by Tom Hughes) who’ll be forced to balance their personal and professional duties in the scandalous court where the Queen is supported by a fatherly figure, the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (played by Rufus Sewell). But their close friendship may threaten the stability of the government and ill repute the good name of the young yet impulsive Queen.

Behind the ambitious eight-part drama is the novelist and screenwriter Daisy Goodwin, who became fascinated with the royal figure at the university. “I was like nineteen, sitting in the university library and I was looking through the diaries of the Queen Victoria, because I had to write an essay about the media and the monarchy. I was thinking ok, Victoria, old bag, a bonnet... And I suddenly saw this text that said I’ve just seen my darling Albert in white cashmere britches with nothing on underneath,” said Daisy accentuating that the drama will reveal the unobserved side of the Queen’s life. “This is Victoria that people don’t know. They don’t know about her relationship with Melbourne, they don’t know about how she falls in love with Albert and they certainly don’t know about the scandals that beset the beginning of the monarchy and how difficult it was for her to become the Queen.”


Tom Hughes, Jenna Coleman, Rufus Sewell, Daisy Goodwin and Damien Timmer at the premiere of Victoria

The Queen herself, Jenna Coleman, said that this role has been quite a revelation for her. Surprisingly, some people assured the actress that she can’t tackle this role. “People were telling me that I can’t play Victoria. She was stern and old and wore black for the rest of her life. And actually, I don’t think people are quite aware of how vivid she is and what kind of lust of the life she has. Considering the way she was brought up and the role which she was born to step into, but yet none of that really seemed to squash any of that spirit in her. I find that fascinating.” The Doctor Who star admitted that even though the first thing she said after leaving the BBC series was “no more tv series for a while”, it was impossible to turn down this offer as “it’s absolutely a gift being able to explore Victoria” and reveal the mundane and the human side of the royal family life.

Rufus Sewell, who joined the press conference from the other side of the pond via a video chat said that he didn’t know anything about “Lord M”. “I was quite suspicious. He seems to be such an interesting guy and I thought if he’d really existed and that relationship been like that, we’d already know about it. But I did my research and it’s all true,” said the actor. As for the challenges which the BAFTA nominee was forced to tackle, there was one. And it had a name … Rupert. “As Jenna would tell you, one of the biggest challenges was the horses. It seemed there was no clear way of which end of the horse the complaints were coming from. It was the sound of an animal complaining about how boring his rider was,” laughed Rufus. “I think he was mimicking you,” teased Jenna.

Victoria is already surrounded by high expectations and titled the new Downton Abbey (no pressure at all). The scale of the production and the storytelling tools are no less than impressive. What’s more, there’s also an undeniable on and off-screen chemistry amongst the members of the cast. And for the drama itself, it has everything what a truly good drama can have from the very first minute – twists and turns, romance, scandals, and the sense of realism mixed with a high-class acting.

A victory for ITV? Yes.

Victoria starts on the 28th of August.

Victoria Promo

Through The Keyhole

Long live Queen Bey

For two evenings in a row Wembley stadium has welcomed a music royalty – Beyoncé has brought The Formation World Tour to the capital.

Bringing to the stage hits from the widely acknowledged Lemonade and songs who shaped her career (Survivor, Crazy in Love, Baby Boy, Love On Top, Halo) Queen Bey set on fire the stadium filled with around 70,000 fans, once again inspiring them by her own story.

“My first concert I ever saw was Michael Jackson, and I started dreaming that one day I’d be in stadiums all the way in London,” she told the audience. “I just wanna say thank you. Most of you guys met me with Destiny’s Child 19 years ago and I wanna say thank you for supporting me for so long and allowing me to grow and evolve.”


Perfectly executed choreography (spoiler alert – fire and water included), vocal who gave goosebumps to thousands and daring, but empowering outfits for Beyoncé and her fierce dance army (designed by Balmain, DSquared2, Roberto Cavalli, Atsuko Kudo) – it was a show not to be missed even for those who can hum only a few of her songs (well, or a few more like I can).

But Formation was not only about the power of the vocal filling the space, flashing lights or … bare legs. It was about women’s empowerment – reminding them to feel confident in their own skin and shape, surviving the ups and downs (“I’m also a survivor,” said Beyonce) and … working hard for their dreams.

“I came here to slay, b…h,” – sang the Queen of Wembley. Indeed, she slayed.

Conclusion: the Queen won’t be loosing her crown anytime soon.

Here’s the video of Love on Top acapella.