Life and Style wRap: Gucci show, French cafe with cats
Plus the contentious origin of pearls; in Australia, wine replaces beer as favorite drink

MANILA, Philippines – Here are some Life and Style stories for the week of September 15-21, 2013.

Gucci kicks off Milan Fashion Week, opium-den style

A WALK THROUGH STYLE HISTORY. Dutch model Bette Franke parades for Gucci. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Gucci kicked off Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday, September 18, with models looking like denizens of a luxurious opium den, with billowing see-through tops and Art Nouveau-style floral patterns.

Shimmering golds, azalea purples, lizard greens, and salmon pinks were the dominant colors on the catwalk, all worn over fishnet black underwear with straps and belts left drooping.

Flowing nightgowns and veils featured strongly in a collection that appeared to reach further back from this year’s Art Deco-inspired fashions to the turn of the century and Orientalism.

Among those who attended the show were French luxury tycoon Francois-Henri Pinault, husband of actress Salma Hayek and chief executive of the multinational Kering, which owns Gucci; US actress Blake Lively; US Vogue editor Anna Wintour in her trademark sunglasses; and Russian luxury tycoon Mikhail Kusnirovich, a Milan regular.

London exhibition reveals unglamorous history of pearls

FROM SAND OR TAPEWORM? Tiara at the V&A show. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

Pearls have long been one of nature’s wealth, cherished by kings, queens, and movie stars. But a new exhibition in London suggests their origins are far less glamorous.

The show at London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum debunks the myths that pearls develop from sand inside a shelled mollusc, revealing instead that they are formed around the larvae of a tapeworm excreted by another animal.

“If you cut a pearl in two you will never find a grain of sand,” co-curator Hubert Bari told AFP.

We will never know if this knowledge would have dimmed Marilyn Monroe’s love for the necklace of cultured pearls given to her by Joe DiMaggio in 1954, which she continued to wear during their divorce proceedings.

But her necklace and more than 200 other pieces of jewellery and works of art on show at the V&A reveal the ancient and near universal love of the beads, which continues today.

Other gems on display are the the pearl-drop earring worn by England’s Charles I at his execution in 1649, and some of the royal jewels sold after the French Revolution.

“We are telling the history of pearls through history,” Beatriz Chadour-Sampson, a jewellery historian and co-curator of the show, told AFP.

‘Cat Cafe’ is purrfect spot for Parisian animal lovers

ARMCHAIR CAT. The Cafe des chats in Paris. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

France’s first “cat cafe” has opened in Paris with an in-house troupe of 9 rescue cats ready and waiting to be made a fuss of by cat-loving customers.

Already popular in Tokyo where there are dozens, cat cafes allow customers who cannot have a pet at home to enjoy a cup of something hot with a purring cat perched on their knees.

Margaux Gandelon, the woman behind the new Cafe des Chats in Paris’s trendy Marais district, said the cats were carefully selected for their social skills and stresses that hygiene and their welfare are her top priorities.

“My cats are free all day and all night,” she said.

Cindy Engel from Strasbourg visited the cafe ahead of its opening for a preview.

The 31-year-old welcomed the concept saying it encouraged her to interact with other people rather than electronic devices.

“The cats allow us to not always be connected to our mobiles. What’s more, they create social connections,” she said.

“Instead of typing on our computers while drinking coffee we talk about cats to our neighbors,” she added.

Swazi king to marry 14th wife

MONARCH UNDER FIRE. King Mswati III at the UN. Photo: Stan Honda/AFP

Swaziland’s King Mswati III has chosen an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant as his 14th wife, a palace spokesman said Tuesday, September 17, days before a much-criticized parliamentary vote.

“I can confirm that the king has introduced to the nation a new liphovela [royal fiancee],” said Ludzidzini palace governor Timothy Mtetwa.

Mswati, a 45-year-old who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, introduced Sindiswa Dlamini at a Reed Dance celebration over the weekend, Mtetwa told AFP.

She wore red feathers on her head – a sign of royalty.

The young woman graduated from Mbabane’s St. Francis High School last year and is a finalist in the Miss Cultural Heritage beauty pageant. The winner will be announced on September 28.

The king has come under fire for his household’s lavish lifestyle while the tiny mountain kingdom’s 1.2 million people struggle to make a living.

Mswati reportedly has a personal fortune of around $200 million and the UN estimates that 70 percent of his 1.2 million subjects live below the poverty line.

He has steadfastly resisted reforms.

Australian beer drinking at 66-year low

DRINKING TRENDS. Alcohol consumption in Australia has switched to wine

Australians are known for a fondness for beer, but statistics released Wednesday, September 18, put its consumption at a 66-year low and show it could soon be overtaken by wine.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also found that Australians are drinking a little less alcohol overall.

“Beer is now at its lowest point in 66 years,” said the bureau’s Louise Gates.

While Australians are drinking less beer per person – continuing a downward trend which began in the 1970s – wine consumption has gone up.

The bureau, which estimates consumption based on the availability of alcoholic drinks, said in terms of pure alcohol, beer was down 2.3 percent in 2011-2012.

Wine, however, rose 1.9 percent over the same 12 months. Spirits experienced the largest fall, down 4 percent.

Alcohol abuse is considered a serious problem in Australia, where about one in 5 people drink at a level that puts them at risk of harm or injury over their lifetime, according to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/

Photo of beer from Shutterstock.

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