Monthly Archives: May 2019

  • Mini skirt creator turns 80


    The creator of the mini-skirt, British designer Mary Quant, turns 80 on Tuesday still brimming with enthusiasm for fashion and women’s rights.


    She admits a certain nostalgia for the “high excitement and innovation” of 1960s “Swinging London”, but said it was “wonderful to be a woman and alive right now”.

    “Women are enjoying their lives more than ever before,” she said in an emailed statement, and gave an approving nod to current trends: “It is all legs and bottoms.”

    Quant scandalised British society with her frank views on sex and her thigh-skimming skirts and shift dresses worn with coloured tights.

    Known for her bob haircut almost as much as for her designs, she revolutionised women’s fashion – and with it, how many of her customers saw themselves.

    In her 2012 autobiography, Quant described with admiration the “superwomen” now who “move like athletes and sit like men with their knees well apart. Their children take their mother’s surname… They are in control”.

    Quant herself is widowed with one son, Orlando, and three grandchildren. Her husband and business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene, died in 1990 at 57.

    She currently lives in Surrey, southwest of London, and remains a consultant on her make-up company that she sold in 2000, and which still bears her flower logo.

    Quant met APG, as she called her husband, while they were studying at Goldsmiths art college in London, drawn by his eccentric style – he used to wear his mother’s pyjama tops as shirts.

    Together they opened their first boutique, Bazaar, in 1955 in Chelsea, a district to the west of the capital that would soon become the beating heart of Swinging London.

    Bazaar sold clothes and accessories, the restaurant in the basement became a meeting point for young people and artists and soon the whole district was attracting celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

    Quant designed short dresses and skirts with simple lines and vibrant colours, which she enjoyed showcasing in extravagant and provocative window displays overlooking the King’s Road.

    “City gents in bowler hats beat on our shop window with their umbrellas shouting ‘Immoral!’ and ‘Disgusting!’ at the sight of our mini-skirts over the tights, but customers poured in to buy,” she recalled in her book.

    The King’s Road became a constant catwalk show for girls in mini-skirts, drawing American photographers keen for a view of Swinging London with a party atmosphere rivalled only by Carnaby Street.

    Business was good, and during the 1960s Quant opened a second shop in London, collaborated with the US department store JC Penney and launched a more mass-market line of clothes, The Ginger Group.

    She used geometric designs, polka dots and contrasting colours and played around with new fabrics, including PVC and stretch fabrics, for a modern and playful look.

    “The clothes I made happened to fit in exactly with the teenage trend, with pop records and espresso bars and jazz clubs,” Quant recalled in her first book, Quant by Quant.

    “She was in the right place at the right time and that was part of her success,” confirms Jenny Lister, a fashion curator at the V&A Museum in London which has many Quant items in its permanent collection.

    Quant’s personality and style – including her iconic fringe cut by Vidal Sassoon – made her “probably the most famous fashion designer that has come out of this country”, Lister said.

    “She had an audacious approach and she went out to get headlines and would make very provocative statements about sexuality and her private life as well, which perhaps went along with her clothes, which were seen as quite outrageous at the time,” she added.

    Quant was honoured by the British establishment with an OBE in 1966, and her legacy can still be seen on the high-street today, including fashion stores like Topshop.

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  • Lennon takes players to task


    The Hoops have been almost unstoppable this season with ‘keeper Fraser Forster setting a new club record of 13 clean sheets in a row as Neil Lennon’s side won 14 consecutive games going into the match.


    But the holders’ hopes of completing a second successive league and cup double ended as Aberdeen inflicted their first domestic defeat since September.

    Anthony Stokes fired Celtic into a ninth minute lead as he showed good control and skill to fire past Jamie Langfield.

    However, the Dons arrived in Glasgow as the last side to score against the Hoops back in November and buoyed by their League Cup semi-final win over St Johnstone last weekend.

    Adam Rooney diverted an Andrew Considine header on to the bar before Russell Anderson ended Forster’s run of 19 hours and 23 minutes without conceding a goal as he volleyed Aberdeen level in the 38th minute.

    Celtic then found themselves trailing in a game for the first time since November 2 when Peter Pawlett sent a superb angled shot past Forster in the 49th minute.

    The Dons held on to book a place in the last eight as they joined Morton, who knocked Celtic out of the League Cup at the same venue in September, as the only teams to have defeated the Hoops domestically this season.

    Celtic manager Lennon couldn’t hide his disappointment at his side’s poor performance.

    “We wanted to defend the cup – it’s in our DNA as a club – and to go out so early in both competitions is hugely disappointing,” the Hoops boss said.

    “I can factor in the League Cup as at the time we were in the Champions League and I made some changes for that game, but there are no excuses for today as that was a poor performance.

    “We all have to accept the responsibility and the criticism that will come our way.

    “You have to give Aberdeen credit as they played well on the day. Going a goal down they showed a lot of character to get back into the game.

    “But I’ve got to look at my own team and that’s as poor as we’ve played here for a long, long time.

    “We missed too many decent chances when we didn’t work the goalkeeper and there was a flatness about our play today. I don’t where that has come from.

    “We can analyse it to death but we gave the players all the preparation needed for today and cup ties are like that. We didn’t play anywhere near the level that we can.”

    Aberdeen, who face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in next month’s League Cup final, now have the chance to win both domestic cups.

    And Lennon believes it is a realistic prospect.

    “Absolutely,” the Celtic manager said. “They could win both trophies now and I think coming here and winning will give them a huge shot in the arm.”

    The Dons will be joined in Sunday’s draw for the quarter-finals by Rangers, who thrashed fellow League One side Dunfermline 4-0 on Friday night, St Johnstone, Albion Rovers and Dumbarton while Stranraer and Inverness will need a replay following a 2-2 draw.

    Hibernian’s 112-year Scottish Cup hoodoo continues as Championship side Raith Rovers defeated Terry Butcher’s side 3-2 at Easter Road.

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  • Watson a massive loss: SAfrica spinner


    South Africa’s Robin Peterson called Shane Watson’s calf injury an immense blow to Australia’s hopes of starting the three-Test series on a high note.


    Shaun Marsh arrived in Johannesburg early on Sunday, when the squad enjoyed a rest day and selectors pondered the best way to replace Watson in the XI.

    Peterson, speaking after the Proteas’ training session on Sunday at Centurion, gave an honest appraisal of Watson’s value to the Australian team.

    “Shane is a quality cricketer, a guy who can take the game away from you with bat or ball,” Peterson said.

    “He’s had reasonable success in South Africa with the ball and with the bat, so he’ll be a massive loss for them.

    “But whoever they replace him with (should be capable).”

    Australia will train on Monday and Tuesday before the first Test starts at Centurion on Wednesday.

    Alex Doolan is expected to bat at first drop in a reshuffled order, with Marsh, Phillip Hughes and Moises Henriques battling for the other berth.

    Peterson was adamant Watson’s replacement would be a clear-cut decision for coach Darren Lehmann and chief selector John Inverarity.

    “They’ll probably go for the allrounder (Henriques). It’s the only option,” Peterson said.

    “You don’t want to leave yourself short in South Africa, only having three seam bowling options. If one breaks down you’re stuck with two.”

    Peterson played down the destabilising effect of having two new faces in an XI that went unchanged throughout a 5-0 Ashes sweep of England.

    “It’s happened to South Africa plenty before, and we’ve come out on top. So I wouldn’t see it any different for Australia,” he said.

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  • Vietnam’s luxury chocolate industry


    Deep in the Mekong Delta, two Frenchmen have their heads buried in a sack of cacao beans.


    The pair – co-founders of Vietnam’s first artisan chocolate maker – resurface, murmuring appreciatively.

    The sweet-toothed entrepreneurs – who quit their day jobs to set up award-winning chocolate company Marou – buy three out of four of 64-year-old farmer Vo Thanh Phuoc’s sacks of dried, fermented cacao, paying a premium on the market price for the better-than-average beans.

    “When we started, the farmers thought we were crazy,” Marou’s co-founder Vincent Mourou said as he nibbled on a cacao nib. Every sack of beans is individually checked as the smell, colour, texture and taste give a good indication of the chocolate to come.

    “Now, they try the beans too.”

    Cacao was likely first introduced in Vietnam by French colonialists in the late 19th century, but never took off as a cash crop.

    As demand for high-quality chocolate rises globally – particularly in emerging markets – while supply from traditional producers like Ivory Coast falls due to ageing tree stock and other problems, the industry is eyeing communist Vietnam as a new supplier.

    Cacao prices hit two-and-a-half-year highs in late January amid concerns over inventory, and some industry figures are warning of a possible deficit of one million tonnes by 2020.

    The chocolate industry is “desperate to diversify” its supply of beans, which would lessen the risk of supply crunches owing to disease or political unrest, said Chris Jackson, lead economist with the World Bank in Hanoi.

    Current production in the communist country is just 5,000 tonnes per year, compared to the roughly 1.4 million tonnes exported by Ivory Coast, according to the International Cocoa Organisation.

    But this needs to grow to give the cacao industry a chance in Vietnam, said Gricha Safarian, managing director of Puratos Grand-Place, a Belgium joint venture which produces the majority of chocolate used locally in Vietnam – by hotels, bakeries and ice cream companies – and exports high-quality chocolate and cacao beans.

    “Vietnam has a place to take as a medium size producer of quality beans,” said Safarian, who has worked in Vietnam’s nascent cacao industry for two decades.

    “Year by year the market is going to be more rewarding for quality beans because of this coming shortage” as demand for quality chocolate rises, especially in Asia, he said.

    Vietnam’s chocolate has “a different flavour profile – the Vietnamese beans are rather different from the African bean,” which makes it stand out in the market, he said.

    “The cacao sector in Vietnam is really at a crossroads – it could go for quality or quantity,” said Vien Kim Cuong, program manager for Swiss NGO Helvetas, which works with cacao farmers on certification.

    The country is well-known for cheap agricultural exports like coffee – it provides 50 per cent of the world’s low-end Robusta beans – and catfish so cheap it is repeatedly hit by US anti-dumping measures.

    Marou and Puratos Grand-Place want the government to take a different, more upmarket route with the cacao sector – they are trying to add value locally and build a reputation for Vietnamese luxury chocolate.

    “We transform an agricultural product, the cacao bean plus sugar, into a high-quality chocolate that we position as a premium product on the export market,” said Safarian – whose Made in Vietnam chocolate is found in top restaurants from Paris to Tokyo.

    For Marou co-founder Samuel Maruta, setting up an artisan chocolate company in Vietnam – not known for cacao, chocolate or even high-quality export goods – was a risk.

    But the pair have successfully positioned their Vietnamese single-origin chocolate as part of a growing bean-to-bar revolution, a rebellion against homogeneity in an industry dominated by major players like Kraft and Italy’s Ferrero.

    Mass-produced chocolate can be “incredibly soulless,” said Maruta, a world apart from the rich, fruity, spicy notes found in a bar of the company’s 78 per cent dark chocolate.

    From their Ho Chi Minh City-based factory, they’re now exporting close to two tonnes of chocolate a month, to some 15 countries.

    The pair want Vietnam “to push quality cacao, so that Vietnamese cacao is known for quality and not quantity,” Maruta said.

    Officials at state department VinaCacao said they aimed to increase cacao production some five-fold by 2020, but declined to provide further details.

    Major buyers including industry leader MARS are eager for Vietnam to grow more higher-quality “certified” beans – MARS has pledged to use only certified beans by 2020.

    “Vietnam will play a role in providing certified quality beans to Mars,” which is working locally to train farmers and research new cacao strains, MARS Vietnam cocoa development manager Dinh Hai Lam told AFP.

    The only other country to go into cacao production in recent years is Indonesia, which focuses only on producing a high volume of low-end, unfermented beans.

    Cacao can be a good earner for farmers – but only if they can get a premium for their beans, and the premium is based on the quality, Safarian said.

    Ironically, the people who are the most difficult to convince about the quality of Vietnamese chocolate are … Vietnamese.

    “The Vietnamese consumer does not trust the product of his own country yet,” Safarian said, referring to consumers’ preference for imported goods which are perceived as higher quality.

    “This will change,” he said. “You cannot approach the chocolate market in Vietnam as you approach it in France or Belgium,” he said, adding that while there is not likely to be much of a market for praline, the emerging middle class is already developing a taste for chocolate.

    “Being in this business for 30 years, I have still never met anyone who doesn’t like chocolate at first bite.”

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  • Tevez brace not enough as Juventus held


    Juventus, who failed to win for only the fourth time in 23 Serie A games this season, stayed nine points clear of AS Roma, who were held to a goalless draw by neighbours Lazio.


    Gervinho had a goal disallowed for Roma while Stefano Mauri came on at halftime for Lazio, his first match since completing a six-month ban for failing to report match-fixing in 2011.

    Otherwise, there was little excitement in a disappointing derby with a surprising number of empty seats blighting the Stadio Olimpico.

    Troubled Inter Milan produced their first win of the year when they beat lowly Sassuolo 1-0 with a Walter Samuel header at the San Siro, putting them level in fifth place with Verona.

    Brazilian midfielder Hernandes made his Inter debut and midfielder Fredy Guarin his first appearance since his transfer to Juventus fell through in January.


    Juventus, well on course to win a third successive scudetto, have 60 points, nine clear of Roma who are in their first season under French coach Rudi Garcia. Napoli, 3-1 winners over AC Milan on Saturday, are third with 47.

    Tevez, whose performances have failed to impress Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella and who appears set to miss the World Cup, put Juventus in front in the fourth minute when he side-footed home from a rebound after Kwadwo Asamoah’s shot was parried.

    Juventus looked set to stroll home when Tevez calmly turned in Paul Pogba’s incisive pass from a similar position inside the penalty area in the 21st minute, his 13th league goal of the season and one behind Serie A top scorer Giuseppe Rossi.

    But promoted Verona had other ideas as Toni headed one back early in the second half, then saw a close range effort brilliantly stopped by Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

    In between, Juventus brought on Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, on loan from Southampton, for his debut and he made an immediate impact, hitting the post and having a goal disallowed.

    Verona, who had two penalty appeals turned down, finally got a deserved equaliser when Gomez got in front of the Juventus defence to head in after a quickly-taken free kick.

    Genoa and Sampdoria both scored early in 1-0 wins as they moved further away from the relegation zone.

    Tenth-placed Genoa (30 points) moved above AC Milan when Luca Antonelli’s early goal sank next-to-bottom Livorno.

    Daniele Gastaldello’s 11th minute header was enough for former Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Sampdoria to overcome Cagliari, taking them up to twelfth.

    (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond/Rex Gowar)

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