Arts & travel

Madame Grès

Paris Retrospective

The eternally elegant, always turbaned Madame Grès, is truly one of the great masters of Couture.  Her designs are carved like sculpture.  In fact, she wanted to  be a sculptor, and she constantly said, throughout her long and productive life (1903-1993) that “working with fabric or stone is the same thing.” She was born Germaine Krebs, and fashioned herself Madame Grès, a woman whose sense of purity, simplicity and  timelessness, is still an inspiration for couturiers and designers today. Madame Grès, Couture at Work, is the first Paris retrospective of this grande dame of style.  More than eighty of her luxurious designs, along with original photos and drawings are on display at the Musée Bourdelle Her creativity and  figure-moulding drapery, plus her choice of superb fabrics are uncompromising.  For fashion and social history enthusiasts, this exhibition is a must. 25 March-24 July 2011.  The Museum is closed on Mondays.

Galliera hors les murs au musée Bourdelle Madame Grès, la couture à l’œuvre, 25 mars – 24 juillet 2011. Photo: Grès, Robe du soir, vers 1947. Fourreau à dos nu triangulaire. Jersey de soie noir. © Stéphane Piera / Galliera / Roger-Viollet.

Daniel Barenboim at La Scala, Milan

Legendary Pianist Performs Schubert

Daniel Barenboim is not only an amazing musician, pianist and conductor, he is an amazing person.  At the age of ten, he gave his first international solo concerts in Vienna and Rome. His conducting debut was in 1967 in London, with the Philharmonia Orchestra.  For eighteen years, he conducted at Bayreuth, the prestigious summer festival devoted to Richard Wagner. Oxford University bestowed an honorary doctorate in 2007, and he is renowned for the creation of the Western-Eastern Orchestra, with the Palestinian literary scholar, Edward Said. Young musicians in this ensemble perform internationally every summer.  Barenboim’s book Everything is Connected reveals his “raison d’être” and belief that music brings people together. Run, don’t walk, to get a ticket for this evening of piano music by the acclaimed maestro.  His fluid style and skillful interpretations are memorable.  Sunday 13 March JG

Mido 2011, Milan

An Oasis of Fabulous Frames

Innovation, creativity, superb  shapes and a cornucopia of colour were all part of the MIDO scene, the Italian eyewear exhibition.  Clodagh and I scurried from designer to designer, delighting in why eyewear is such a sought after accessory.  Cat eye shapes dominate, from flirty models like Salt’s Annabel (, to Tom Ford’s glamorously dramatic sunglass interpretation, see above (

Annabel by Salt. Optics

As spring moves into summer, perfectly round little shapes will be apparent in ophthalmic frames, while bold and striking designs continue to feature in sunglasses.  The aviator is revamped in flattering variations for men and women, particularly at Tod’s Eyewear.  White frames are a big style statement, perfect for sunny, summery beaches and holiday playgrounds. Crystal frames are also prominent, while vivid colours provide the wow factor. The fabulous desert colours of Palm Springs, California inspire Robert Marc.  So watch this space as we bring you continuous updates from this international salon, with news when these exciting collections will be in the shops. JG


My favourite haunts in the fashion capital

With this edition of Eyestylist, we launch our City Guides section – highlights taking place in various European cities each month that include art, music, and auctions, as well as restaurant and hotel recommendations and other news. This month, we journey to Milan.  Often labelled as a bustling industrial metropolis, this doesn’t really do justice to this city and its fascinating history. Throughout the centuries, Milan has experienced great heights, and sunk to ruins, always rising again.

Milan has certainly risen to a major fashion capital, and Italian names are equated with state-of-the art designs in clothing and accessories. Explore the style and shopping delights of Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 11, and Corso Como (noted in Design & Inspiration). For a relaxing break, enjoy a drink or lunch in the charming Corso Como Café, with a menu that offers delicious choices.

Milan Attractions

Three splendid structures are intricately linked with Milan: The Duomo, Teatro alla Scala and Villa Reale. Milan and The Duomo are inseparable – their histories entwined since 1386, the date when construction began. However, it took until the early 19th century to finish this Gothic splendour, when under Napoléon’s dictate, they completed what is now the world’s third largest cathedral. Another exquisite church to visit is Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo de Vinci’s masterpiece Last Supper is on display.

La Scala

Music and Milan are also synonymous. Teatro alla Scala rose from the site of Santa Maria della Scala, a church built in 1381, and how La Scala was named. The opera house opened in 1778, and for over two hundred years, has attracted the grandest names in operatic voices and conductors, including Arturo Toscanini, to the present Principal Conductor, Daniel Barenboim. This month, the operas performed include Puccini’s Tosca, with Welshman Bryn Terfel singing Scarpia on 6 March. Nab a ticket if you can!  Other Tosca dates are 2, 4, 23 and 25 March. Death in Venice, by English composer Benjamin Britten is performed on 27, 29 and 31 March. The Theatre Museum, part of the La Scala building, has a wonderful array of paintings and costumes connected to La Scala’s history, a grand source of information for fashion historians, as well as music lovers.

La Scala, Milan


Villa Reale,

Art aficionados will revel in the Neo-Classical beauty of Villa Reale, built in 1790, and where Napoleon lived in 1802.  Nowadays, this magnificent villa, houses Milan’s Modern Art Gallery. The stunning collection includes superb paintings and sculptures from Canova, Cremona, Ranzoni and others, on display in this beautifully preserved building. The Grassi Art Collection can also be seen here, with paintings by 19th and 20th century artists, including Gauguin, Corot, Van Gogh and Cézanne. The gardens are delightful and well worth a stroll.

Villa Reale - Comune di Milano, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan


Osteria Stendhal, Via Ancona, 1

Clodagh introduced me to this restaurant, and it was an immediate favourite. Now each time that we are in Milan, we have dinner there, joyously throwing caution and calories to the wind, and indulging in tempting Italian specialities. The name is a tribute to Marie-Henri Beyle, better known for his pen name, Stendhal, the writer. Although French born, Stendhal lived in the city and was Milanese at heart. So in a spirited, convivial environment, you can feast on Italian specialities, often with a twist, like pasta with prawns, blue cheese and black truffle. Meat and seafood dishes are lovingly prepared; one of the best is Sicilian swordfish with taggiashe olives. The wine selection offers Italian delights, including the smooth Tuscan wine Col di Sasso.

Osteria Stendhal


The garden is the place to lunch or dine during spring and summer. Be sure to book!

Hotel Diana Majestic, Viale Piave, 42

The Diana Majestic (pictured at top under title) is my Italian home-away-from-home.  I first stayed in the hotel more than twenty years ago, and first impressions are lasting. Sipping a smooth café macchiato in the wisteria-scented garden certainly had much to do with that favourable assessment.  However, so did the pleasant rooms, (some overlooking the garden) the very friendly and helpful staff, and the superb service. In 1998, the Diana Majestic was totally renovated, and the good news is that everything that was already great, just got better – rooms with high-speed internet service, a CD player and other gracious amenities. The h club>diana bar is where style setters gather every evening, and the restaurant has, for me, the best, melt-in-the-mouth risotto in Milan. The beds and pillows are sumptuous, so sweet dreams are assured. JG