“Kaiser” Karl Lagerfeld, head of the fashion house ‘Chanel’ for 36 years, died last Tuesday.
His high, white collared shirts, black frock coats, swishing silver ponytail, dark sunglasses and cut-off leather gloves had all the dramatic swagger of a modern day Mozart at a steampunk festival.
The self-declared, “fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm,” was responsible for rutting the ten billion dollar life back into what was a near dead-in-the-water brand in the 80’s.
I couldn’t help but smile when he said, “sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants.”
Like the late A.A. Gill, I agree that many middle aged men dress far too young for their age, with hooded tops, puffa jackets and sneakers turning them into ‘kidults.’
A forty year old man in a beanie hat doesn’t look like an R’n’B crooner, rapper, or, New York hustler.
He looks like he works on a bin round.
There’s a time and a place for sportswear and this was my dilemma during a recent skiing holiday to Courmayeur in Italy.
On tumbling from my transfer bus in scuffed Brasher walking boots, fleece, North Face Ski jacket and Oakley mugger hat, I bumped into an elderly lady dressed in a floor length mink coat, crocodile handbag and fur hat.
It was a bit like a bizarre scene from Crossroads where Benny accosts a member of European royalty.
As I unpacked in my room, it was clear my off-piste ensemble was in need of an upgrade.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a profusion of ‘high end’ sportswear being worn out and about town, including shiny red bubble jackets and enormous padded anoraks with logos the size of dinner plates.
Whilst I’m sure the people beneath these marvels of fluff and feathers are warm as toast, I find them devoid of any elegance whatsoever, the wearer cast in the role of nouveau riche drug-dealer, or, Kenny from South Park.
When it comes to more casual winter outerwear, my default setting is still a tailored garment (overcoats, pea-coats, covert-coats), but made more informal by losing the shoulder pads and using bolder fabrics and contemporary design detailing, like patch pockets.
This, when combined with chunky cashmere knitwear, and perhaps a pair of fur-lined Derby boots from Cheaney, goes some way to bridging the gap towards something a little more sporty, yet still maintaining a semblance of sophistication.
Wandering the icy cobbled streets of this charming town for the first time, opened my eyes to a whole new world of luxury mountain garb, with brands like Balenciaga, Lanvin and Bottega Veneta, offering everything a big hitter from Milan would need for a weekend on the piste.
On the slopes, I spotted fur-trimmed metallic jackets, neon retro all-in-one ski suits, googles with LSD inspired lenses, and sleek monochrome outfits that were clearly a level up from Mountain Warehouse.
But it was ‘off piste’ that the Italians truly shined.
Lunching on ravioli and a glass of red wine at a mountain restaurant called La Grolla, I spotted two Italians on the sun terrace, mid 50’s, smoking cigarettes and sipping espressos.
Whilst I sat, in a lurid blue thermal vest, unshaven, with a bad case of ski-helmet hair, these guys were straight out of a Dolce & Gabbana advert.
One of then was the double of the ever stylish Gianni Agnelli, pictured below.
He was wearing the most magnificent black rippled cashmere bomber jacket with animal fur collar, camel knitted polo neck, gold framed sunglasses with deep red lenses, and an oversized scarf.
His companion, a fitted gunmetal grey quilted jacket, a cream crew-neck jumper, obligatory man bag across the chest, and tortoiseshell shades.
I think it’s fair to say, that the Italian attitude to a skiing holiday is different from us Brits.
At their core, they are creatures of comfort and style.
Getting up early for the first lift to clock up their piste-miles, followed by a hurried lunch, ending the day smashing back shots of Jagermeister in a sweaty fleece is not their thing.
They are possibly more family focused (rather than doing boozy ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ trips), lunch is taken seriously, it’s more ‘spa’ than ‘bar’ in terms of apres ski, followed by an evening passeggiata on the way to dinner.
As a relatively late starter to this wonderful sport, I find being in the mountains, awe inspiring.
Big blue skies, the smell of pine and wood-smoke in the air, slicing through crisp snow to a lunch that’s been truly earn’t – that’s my idea of a perfect day.
Whilst my performance on the slopes is improving, my evening attire for drinks at Bar Roma needs urgent attention.
I must learn from our Italian cousins, channel my inner Kaiser, ditch the ‘Dad’s Army’ boots and bring on that Prada Sport slimline silhouette.
On the down side, and a direct assault on my Yorkshire sensibilities, I’ll have to increase my baggage allowance with Jet2 – if there was an Olympic event for getting the most stuff into an item of hand-luggage, I’d win gold – but needs must.
So, as the final weeks of the season unfold, here’s to safe, stylish skiing, with not a sweatpant in sight.