The London Diary: Wednesday walking, Victoria & Albert Museum and Hair by Sam McKnight at Somerset House

It wasn’t the plan to take so long with this diary entry. Perhaps it was my unconscious méthode of making sure it wasn’t lost in life’s rearview.

Alas, it’s a new year, but the memories are still firmly stapled to my insides. Wednesday in London was as magical as the days before it. I dutifully set out in the early morn to get a top line, historical fill of the place, vowing to return with my whole family and do it the way my Father might have done on his own trip to London before me. I had a lot of explaining to do when I got home, goodness! He was convinced that I had done it all wrong. Tut, tut. However, ’twas a fashionably brisk walk, and a magical one. At one stage I felt overcome with emotion that it was all ending. The anticipation, elation at being free, my love for the beat of London, and a return to life in little old Melbourne. Cue: Elbow’s One Day Like This.

A casual drop in to Harrods

I’d been to Harrods once before. Something strange happens to my shopping self when I’m there… like I don’t want to do it any more. Like a turtle retracting its head into its shell. The atmosphere is so intense. I don’t think it’s the stench of wealth in the air, or the heritage, but it feels old and severe. The staff barely acknowledge you, if they’re not watching your hands, and the fashions were, quite frankly, not talking to me. Sack the visual merchandisers at once! Given that I wasn’t on the market for a Birkin Bag, I made a dash for the food hall (as I did in 2006). What a beautiful place to be right before Christmas. I marvelled especially at this ornamental candied fruit that was so-adorable-yet-I-would-never-put-it-anywhere-near-my-mouth. So much sugar detail. It came as sweet relief when I embraced my friend Steph in the Christmas Shop. She married a Brit, her Albert, so she lives there now. After our happy reunion we got to cracking jokes and laughing out loud, like only two “hilarious” “young” Australian women might. Even as we ogled the Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed tribute and life size statues (and birds – OMG), the tone of the day became exponentially lighter. I hadn’t realised that I was alone in London until I could laugh with someone who really knows me.

You Say You Want a Revolution at V&A

We were very lucky to get media passes to this exhibition. I had previously featured it on TGW, and I would pay to go back a million times, however Laura from PR was insistent. Once inside, the security guards didn’t share my passion for friendly iPhone photography, so I snapped away for as long as I could, without being asked to kindly leave.

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 explores the era-defining significance and change that happened from the late 1960s to now – global civil rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, consumerism, computing, communality to neoliberalist politics. It explores the upheaval and sudden liberation that came with the way that youth culture catalysed an optimistic idealism, drawing people together and driving them to question established power structures across every aspect of society. The musical soundtrack and sartorial feast for the eyes brought a lot of oohs and ahhhs from me, but I did not anticipate the emotional reaction I would have to a piece of paper containing hand written lyrics for In My Life by The Beatles. Add the soundtrack, that technology that fades up music as you walk towards an exhibit? – it was a trigger moment, for sure. Though I felt so fortunate to be in London, it sure had been a shocker of a year back at home. Exhale.

The exhibition is open until Sunday 26 February, 2017.

Hair by Sam McKnight at Somerset House

The Somerset House compound is large, so you need to know the name of the gallery or planet you’re walking to. We trapsed through haunted corridors and inside/outside areas before landing at one of the most insightful fashion exhibitions I’ve attended. Sam McKnight has had an incredible forty year career. He has influenced the images of Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Princess Diana.

Hair by Sam McKnight is an excellent mix of mannequins, moving videos, magazine covers, personal photographs of Sam & his supermodel friends pre Instagram, and even his favourite styling tools. Hair styling or the image creation process itself is such a little-known part of the fashion industry for most people, and the exhibition shows an intimate glimpse into McKnight’s world with his long-term collaborators; photographers Nick Knight and Patrick Demarchelier, models including Kate Moss, Stella Tennant and Christy Turlington, stylist Lucinda Chambers, and designer Karl Lagerfeld.

Though I’ve never met Sam McKnight, I really got the sense that he would have been incredibly moved to see his achievements on show for all to see, and perhaps, more importantly, to see for himself the flamboyant, creative success of the life he has led. The exhibition is on until 12 March, 2017.

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