Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Ricci Pickings

Ricci Pickings

You could say I had a moment back at my parents’ house, where I stayed over the Christmas break. As steady a ritual as it always has been in the bleak cold weather, becoming a temporary TV worshipper once again seemed the best way of passing the uneventful hours. That was when I happened upon a repeat of the 2004 Grumpy Old Women Christmas Special, in which a bunch of disenchanted baby boomers moaned about how tough organising Christmas can be in a mansion, on an upper-middle-class salary with a Land Rover as your only means of transport. I found myself doing something I always do when I see a picture, film of TV programme from the sixties to the early 00s; I fantasised about the illustrious journalistic career I could have had, had I only graduated then. Time, of course has its fleeting progressions, phases and implications for those who go through them and it’s pure chance as to whether your life’s journey crosses paths with the ever-changing tides of fortune, whenever and whatever they may be, as I’ve found through my own bitter – and not so bitter – experience. 1970, for instance, might have been a better time to get into journalism but the closest things people had to MP3s and downloading were cassette tapes and crackly analogue radios, and apparently it wasn’t a good time to have impacted wisdom teeth, either. I had one taken out recently with no pain or side effects, only to go in with a sense of dread instilled by my mum’s terrifying account of when she had had one removed 40 years ago, that would perturb the editors of Fox News  (or perhaps excite, even mildly arouse – we can but guess!)

Blossom flowers – even the tree in our garden’s doing it this season!

As for fashion, it’d be a tragic waste of electricity and our dear Mother Earth’s precious resources to expend energy stating the obvious about how it’s ever-changing. Instead, I’ll focus on its long-standing love of the Far East. With all the mystique and mystery it has held, if, like me, you grew up in the 90s you’ll remember Japan as the setting of choice for computer games, a prized holiday destination for the super-rich kids, a slightly Orwellian technology capital and a chirpy, colourful haunt for cheesy pop music considered to be beneath British standards. It was the home of Hello Kitty, anime and a haze of bright colours and characters so kitsch even the kitchen sink would be grinning inanely in true genki style!

As for fashion, let’s start with the first flirtations of couture’s love affair with the Orient:
Clingy, high-maintenance and purely about good looks - perfect partner material or what? Well, back in 1923, fashion seemed to think so, reacting against the loose-fitting chemise trend with the straight-up-and-down robe collant, and a linear silhouette that would be paired with ethnic and historic references like the kimono sleeves in Patou’s full cape and straight pleated dress (below).
Back again to the turn of the millennium and it’s goodbye Hello Kitty and moshi moshi Harajuku street style (for PROPER examples see - or just Google - Fruits Magazine)

Since then, as the internet and its demand-side economics came into play, the West has caught up in a slightly more real-time respect with the various sartorial subcultures of Japan’s street style. Lank tresses of improbably luminescent blonde hair? An even more improbably dark tan? Garish pale eye makeup applied with a trowel and effortlessly finished with two freeze-dried tarantulas for eyelashes? It could only be ganguro (hyperlink to – who the f**k is Katie Price?

A goth? Ahem, I’m short, dark and bishoujo, (link to darling!

Emo? How adorably 2005! It’s visual-kei, actually – do the oversized theatrics of my outfit not give it away more readily than an Abercrombie & Fitch show organiser  might gift a gilded designer restraining order from the front row to a reality TV star!?

Spring 2012 fashion has seen the Eastern influences go full-circle with Oriental influences from all ages, including futuristic florals at Matthew Williamson…

Chinoiserie at Julien Macdonald…

And is that a frogged floor-length kimono I spy from Fashion Fringe winner Corrie Nielson? Mana (hyperlink to would be proud!

Hence the inspiration to copy the unmistakably Japanese blossom details on Nina Ricci’s wedge sandals, currently standing tall at the number 6 spot on’s  illusive top ten must-have shoes of the season list.

Medium / Easy

No point in me trying to scare you out of this one because rocket science it isn’t, however it does get fiddly in places, namely those requiring the application of sequins.


Mine took me about 5 hours per shoe, but that was mostly down to waiting for the contact adhesive to dry so it’s not 10 hours’ solid work, and would probably work out at a lot less of you multi-task appropriately.

Total cost

I used old shoes of mine for this one and have a comprehensive collection customising accoutrements for every occasion, so the raw materials set me back…


You will need…

Wedge heel sandals
Packs of 1000 5mm sequins in the following colours: 2 x glossy black
 1 x satin heather
 1 x metallic emerald
 1 x glossy vanilla
 1 x matte pewter
All at 85p per pack from Josyrose, adding up to £5.10
Contact adhesive -  £3.08 for a tube from B&Q
Long, thin tweezers
Gemstone glue - £3.49 from Hobbycraft
Fabric scissors
Palette knife
Black felt-tip pen
Graded setsquare or anything with 1cm parallel lines
Metallic gel pen
Fabrics: (prices are likely to vary)
A tiny sliver of green and black floral fabric (mine was £1/m from a market)
A tiny sliver of black PVC ( mine was about £2.50 for half a metre from London’s super-cheap Goldhawk Road, near Shepherd’s Bush market)
0.5m pink mock-croc pleather – I bought mine in black handbag form from a charity shop for £3, and painted it with a mixture of red enamel paint (£1.60 from Hobbycraft) and white Dylon fabric paint (£2 from John Lewis) 

And this is how it’s done…

That masterpiece again…

By Charley Helfet

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