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CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATION PART TWO – WITH LONDON BASED AUTHOR NAVAZ BATLIWALLA

We are so excited to share this conversation with Navaz Batliwalla, author of ‘The New Garconne – How To Be A Modern Gentlewoman. A book in which Batliwalla interviews 14 women from around the world with a shared approach to dressing and curating their wardrobes.

CC. One day in the very early days of Caves Collect I (Jo) stumbled across your book The New Garconne whilst browsing in a bookstore. As I leafed through the pages I was amazed at how in sync your thoughts were with the conversations Sarah and I were having at the time.

We had been trying to define what we wanted Caves Collect to be and we kept coming back to this idea of a curated minimalist wardrobe of reliable and timeless classics. We loved the idea of developing an offering of simple, high quality, well tailored clothing that make women feel good and won’t go out of style. You use the term ‘New Garconne’ or ‘Gentlewoman Style’, what would you say are 5 traits of a modern gentlewoman?

NB. A modern gentlewoman is cultured, curious, imperfect, unselfconscious and sometimes contradictory! And in fashion terms, considered, craft-conscious, quality-obsessed, a bit frugal, and inspired by unexpected details.

CC. We once heard that when a french woman wants to buy a new handbag, she’ll ask herself if she’ll still like it in 10 years time. What are 3 questions that a modern gentlewoman might ask herself when purchasing a new handbag or piece of clothing?

NB. Will it work as hard as I do? Do I have something that does this job already? (And if I do, does this do it better)? Do I want to wear it immediately? I think the last one is the real test, especially if you’re trying out something new. If you don’t wear it ASAP, you probably won’t get round to it.

CC. We are pretty obsessed with creating the perfect versions of classic items such as the perfect button down shirt or the perfect tailored trouser. In your book you look at this idea of, “Exactly what is it that makes something an enduring classic?”. What are your thoughts on this. Can you tell us 3 points that define an enduring classic, whether it be a piece of clothing, a pair of shoes or a bag?

NB. For me, ultimately it has to be used. Like, there is no point buying a classic pair of 100cm heels if you can’t balance in them. Or you’re the kind of person who walks everywhere at speed. So depending on the individual, an enduring classic is something you will get a lot of wear from, that will transcend seasons and even decades, that’s adaptable to different trends. Then silhouette. For an expensive blazer or coat, err on the most simple silhouette because even features like a shoulder line, exaggerated sleeve shape, or a fitted waist can date. That’s not to say you can’t experiment. Even classics evolve! But for those big-ticket items I’d keep the silhouette simple and experiment with surface details or fabrics. Or do so with more affordable pieces until you’re sure that cut is right for you.

Finally, the design of a piece, by which I don’t mean surface decoration but the nuts and bolts construction. In The New Garconne I talk about the masculine-feminine dualities of clothes derived from military menswear and utilitarian uniforms. Trench coats, blazers, top coats; they’re designed for specific purposes and the fit-for-purposeness is what makes them enduring. Obviously you dress those pieces up according to your style but for me, functionality is the key.

” The second decade of this millenium has witnessed a turning point for women. Male and female roles are converging at work and in the home, the digital revolution has irrevocable accelerated our daily lives. These factors, teamed with globalisation and, arguably, a greater appreciation of spiritual matters, have led to a tipping point. Enough multi-tasking! We’d like a slower pace, a moment to think, a less consumerist lifestyle and a more mindful existence.”


– Batliwalla, ‘The New Garconne – How To Be A Modern Gentlewoman’

CC. In your book you talk about how the 14 women you interviewed balance a harmonious blend between masculine and feminine in their wardrobes. Can you tell us about how this balance plays a role in the new gentlewoman style? 

NB. It feels a bit weird assigning gender to clothing now we’re in a more gender-fluid society, but it’s really about the traditional ‘masculine’ pieces. Gentlewoman style is saying just because you’re wearing what we consider classic menswear, you don’t have to dress like a guy. Softness and tactility come into play a lot and an overall informality. So your starched white shirt can be work untucked with delicate jewellery. You can wear brogues with a ballgown, or oversized workwear pants with heels. Avedon used to say, ‘what’s the surprise’ when he was working with a stylist, so I always like the idea of the surprising contrast element.

“The way we live now is edging towards a more sustainable pace in which we aim to buy less, but better.” 


– Batliwalla, ‘The New Garconne – How To Be A Modern Gentlewoman’

CC. Enduring wardrobe pieces which are ethically and sustainably manufactured are certainly more expensive than high street equivalents, which makes the task of investing in a wardrobe of timeless classics a rather costly endeavor. This is something that we’ve often thought about and we feel this is where vintage and the second hand market comes in. Having a portion of vintage in a wardrobe balances out the cost of new investment pieces and we love that it also gives a new lease of life to things that already exist. In your book you talk about how the modern gentlewoman embraces a harmonious mix of old and new, can you tell us a bit about that?

NB. Yes, in my opinion there’s nothing nicer to wear than a well-loved piece that has enjoyed a previous life. Especially utilitarian pieces like denim and baggy chinos, where someone else has kindly worn them in for you. French workmen’s jackets are another one, and cowboy boots are another. I love the contrast of something expensive and new with something old and inexpensive, yet indestructible! And you feel like you’ve won the lottery when you find those pieces – whether it’s in a flea market or a hand-me-down family heirloom. On which note, I always love those pieces that have a real story; I have my dad’s rings that I wear on a chain and in the book, the artist Polly Morgan talks about wearing her late dad’s inexpensive watch. It’s like a hidden luxury, those personal pieces that mean something to you and it shows when you wear it.

CC. From our personal experience and talking to our friends and customers, we’ve realised that knowing what suits you is a big part of developing this ‘dream wardrobe’ of classics, but it’s not always easy to know what suits you or to even know what your style is. Do you have any tips for women who might struggle with figuring out their personal style and what suits their particular body shape?

NB. Yes, Pinterest is your friend here! Create boards for different items – coats, work wear, sportswear, whatever, and pin images of people with your body shape. It’s a really good way of training your eye as you start to recognise patterns and can then adapt the information to suit you. It’s also a great way to find style influencers to follow. If you go on their Instagram page using your web browser that you can then pin directly from Instagram. I’m always pinning Ana Gimeno Brugada and Linda V. Wright.

” How do we define a gentlewoman today? The word itself is an interesting one, so quaint in one way, yet so thoroughly contemporary in another.”


– Batliwalla, ‘The New Garconne – How To Be A Modern Gentlewoman’

CC. In your book you say, “In the end it’s all about the commitment to being comfortable in our skin, and subsequently, the clothes we’re in.” We love this sentiment and we feel the same way, can you tell us a little more about your thoughts on this? 

NB. I guess it’s that idea of not trying too hard. So figuring out what your ‘thing’ is, understanding your style and your lifestyle and working with that rather than being seduced by every new trend that comes along. If you look at the ‘style icons’ I feature in the book’s intro – people like Jane Birkin, Katharine Hepburn, Bianca Jagger – and the advocates that I interview, their style is very consistent over their lifetimes. Of course it keeps evolving but but there’s a signature that they are comfortable with. And that confidence in your own skin is so appealing as you can then just get dressed and get on with the important stuff.

CC. Can you tell us what 10 items you consider to be the most important foundation pieces in the dream wardrobe of a modern gentlewoman?

NB. Ok you said ‘dream wardrobe’, so…  Jane Birkin’s raincoat, Fran Lebowitz’s boxy overcoat, Bruce Springsteen’s boyfriend jeans, Katherine Hepburn’s brogues, a signature watch or bangle inherited from your grandmother, James Dean’s cosy sweater; Patti Smith’s silk shirt, Lauren Hutton’s blazer, your little brother’s T-shirt, a thrifted hand-tooled leather tote bag that gets better with age

CC. What are you 5 favourite things in your own wardrobe and the story behind them?

NB. Levi’s Made & Crafted 501 jeans – These are high-waisted, very dark denim and a perfect fit for me. I have 3 or 4 pairs I wear on rotation. The story is that I’m always looking for a no-brainer jean that can become my uniform and I found it in these

Ralph Lauren shirt – This oversized men’s blue Oxford button down was bought secondhand from Topman for about £20. It may even be fake!

Oxblood Church’s Derbys – My staple winter shoe, these are an unusual cherry red that makes them a bit more special than black. I actually have a few versions of this ‘Shannon’ style. They save me making decisions in the morning.

My dad’s rings – When my dad died nearly 20 years ago, we were going through his things and found a cigarette box containing four fabulously blingy gold rings inside. He had left them to me and my mum told me that he’d designed them himself. I always get lots of compliments whenever I wear them.

Vintage Hermes shooting bag – A surprise birthday present one year from my boyfriend. He has a great eye and bought it from a vintage dealer who later became a friend. It seems to be a custom design that someone had made. I can’t imagine why they would sell it but obviously I’m glad they did!

CC. Lastly, can you tell us where we can find your book?

NB. The easiest place to buy my book is from the publisher’s website HERE https://www.laurenceking.com/product/the-new-garconne/, although it’s available in all the usual places. I think it actually came out in Australia first and was very popular with Australians, so a big thank you to you all!

Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, 1968

CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATION PART ONE – WITH NEW YORK BASED JEWELLER CAROLINE VENTURA

Caroline Ventura and her elegantly understated jewellery embody a thoughtful minimalism that doesn’t go out of style. A proponent of using reclaimed materials and conflict-free diamonds, Ventura has become a go to jeweller for the conscious woman. On a recent, pre-coronavirus-quarantine visit to Melbourne, we had the pleasure of sitting down for a conversation with Ventura. Photographer Peter Ryle came along to photograph her sporting her handcrafted jewellery and some of her favourite Caves Collect investment pieces.

We are so excited to share with you CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATION PART ONE with one of our many muses. We chat with this woman of substance and effortless savoir-faire about style inspirations, investing in quality pieces and making things last.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER RYLE

CC. Your wardrobe is very cohesive and you have a very clear style. Is this something you’ve consciously done in building your wardrobe?

CV. My style has remained pretty consistent since I began dressing myself – I grew up in a family of boys so naturally I gravitated toward wanting to dress like my brother and cousins. I think because of that, dressing with a more masculine slant is what I’m comfortable in, but as I have gotten older I’ve become more comfortable adding in slightly more feminine details and materials. 

CC. Your style has a wonderful balance between the masculine and feminine. When you were at the Caves Studio, you mentioned loving how old men dress. Can you tell us more about that? Do you have any other style inspirations?

CV. Menswear is so classic and really hasn’t evolved much in the last few decades for a reason. I love that era in the 40s and 50s when getting dressed properly was something that everyone did. No pajamas on airplanes or sweatpants to the grocery store (although I’m totally guilty of doing both of those). When I look for style references, almost everything I am drawn to is a smart tailored trouser and materials like linen or silk. I love the way Amelia Earhardt dressed. She wasn’t afraid of being seen as an equal to the men around her and her confidence is what made her style incredible. I’m also quite influenced by the 70s and 80s punk scene that was happening in London. Joe Strummer is my ultimate icon and I look to him often for inspiration – thin suspenders, worn out combat boots, paper thin shirts. He really didn’t give a shit about how he looked, but ended up becoming one of the faces of a really important movement. 

CC. It seems you are very considered in your investment pieces. What are some questions you ask yourself when investing in a piece of clothing, a pair of shoes or a bag?

CV. I always ask myself if this was something I would have loved 10 years ago. As I have gotten older and become more comfortable with spending money on clothing, I’ve learned that I can’t just spend frivolously on something that is trendy at the moment. I find it easy to imagine myself in a scenario where I’m wearing this new thing I want to buy and I get excited. Does anyone else do that? Except, that scenario rarely ever happens, so now I have this piece that I spent my money on and am not wearing it. I try and stick to similar cuts but maybe try something in a new color or fabric. 

CC. Do you do regular culls of your wardrobe to edit out things you are no longer wearing? Do you donate or sell the things you’re culling?

CV. I do! At the end of every summer my husband is usually out of town for a week or so and I use that time to do a big deep clean of our apartment. I don’t usually touch his closet (although sometimes I do, sorry Michael), but I go through every piece of clothing I have. If I haven’t worn something in over two years, chances are it will get put in the to-go pile. Unless it’s something special or vintage, I tend to hold on to vintage and antique items for a lot longer. I used to get really attached to the memories that clothing can hold so I would end up keeping stuff around because it reminded me of this certain birthday, or this wedding, or that one party. Everything I’m tossing gets donated to a charity shop here in NYC called HousingWorks, a non-profit that helps fund housing, healthcare, treatment, etc. for homeless and low income people living with HIV/AIDS. 

CC. We love how simple and refined the jewellery you design is. It has no frills, bells or whistles. It’s very paired back and reductionist. For me (Jo), I’m quite chaotic in my brain, so I love minimalism in my environment, clothing etc. Can you tell us a little about what draws you to a minimalist design ethos?

CV. Same! My brain is a mess so I tend to keep all of my outward offerings really simple. I think living in such a busy city is a huge influence on the simplicity of what I create. I used to be really self conscious and thought that maybe because I was creating these very pared down items it meant I wasn’t talented or wasn’t a good designer. It took me a while to truly appreciate the idea that quiet simplicity holds a lot of power in an otherwise overwhelming world. I find I am often drawn to things that have elements of something you didn’t notice at first glance –  a little stone hidden here, a little dent there where I hit my hammer. 

CC. What are your 5 current favourite pieces of clothing that you rely on and wear to death?

CV. Vintage denim. I used to steal my dad’s jeans when I was in high school, not because it was trendy (I actually probably looked not cool in them), but because they were so worn in and comfortable. The perfect pair of vintage jeans are really a cornerstone of my closet.
High waisted trousers. I really really love a smart trouser. My favourite cut right now is one that is nipped in at the waist but has a nice straight leg. Bonus if it has a crease. There’s a line in a Sam Cooke song where he references dancing with “the chick in slacks”, and I just love that line. The chick in slacks is always the one you have to watch out for ; )
An old vintage T-shirt. I have one from the early 2000s that I got at a flea market that is my one piece I would take with me during a fire. It’s a 999 tour shirt from 1978 and it’s full of holes and becoming really delicate so I can’t wear it as much as I used to, but it’s the one piece of clothing I own that I love the most.
Men’s brogues. I wear these with everything. Trousers, dresses, paired with socks and shorts. They’re my favourite style of shoe to wear. 
A men’s blazer. Easiest way to class up a regular look. Lately I’ve been into a shorter boxy silhouette, but a traditional blazer will never go out of style.

CC. What is your oldest piece of clothing?

CV. A vintage Christian Dior v-neck sweater that I bought at a thrift store in Los Angeles when I was in 9th grade. I was going through a bit of a grunge phase and it’s still something I wear from time to time. It’s perfectly oversized without drowning me and it brings back so many good memories.

CC. Do you repair/alter your clothing?

CV. All the time. Any piece of clothing that’s made well can be tailored to fit you, even if it isn’t your perfect size. And once you have something that fits you the way you want, it’s super easy to tailor similar silhouettes to match. And shoe dying! A lot of times I find vintage shoes that I love, but the color might be off, so I dye them in a tone that I like better. I change out buttons on things as well, which is a really quick way to personalize something and make it your own. 

CC. Do you have any tips for laundering or repairing clothing, shoes or jewellery, to keep them in good condition and make them last longer?

CV. My shoes get wrecked living in NYC, where the weather can be a bit shit sometimes. So getting my shoes resoled once a year, or patched up in places where the leather has cracked open etc. is really important to help make them last longer. I always add extra soles to the bottom of my leather shoes to help keep them in better shape. And just because something has a hole in it doesn’t mean it’s no longer wearable. I think having mended patches on garments makes them have that much more character. 

CC. TELL US WHAT YOU’D WEAR FOR THESE OCCASIONS:

CC. Lunch with friends at a cafe : CV. High waist linen trousers , a vintage ribbed T-shirt or tank top, woven leather sandals

CC. A day in the studio: CV. Jeans and a ratty T-shirt with converse, or an old boiler suit if I’m working on a painting and making a mess

CC. Your birthday drinks at a bar: CV. Ooh maybe some kind of suit. Black trousers with a blazer and a little camisole underneath, black leather brogues.

CC. Presenting at a conference : CV. I’m going to throw a curveball in and wear a dress. If I’m on some type of panel, I don’t want to be sitting in pants – sometimes sitting in pants isn’t the most flattering (I learned this the hard way once), so some type of flow-y dress is nice. Maybe I would make it a little more masculine and throw a cropped sweater on top. And if I’m not sitting, a breezy skirt is nice on stage as you walk back and forth. But would definitely balance out the feminine up top with some men’s shoes on the bottom.

CC. Going to the farmers market followed by a day reading at home: CV. Some biking shorts layered with an oversized button down on top. I like this look with a shirt that’s really long so the shorts are just barely peeking out the bottom. 

And that’s the end! Thanks for reading CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATION PART ONE. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. You can check our Caroline Ventura’s work here.

Stay tuned for more CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATIONS.

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION

At Caves Collect, we strive to design clothing and accessories which wear well, so our pieces will likely be around for a long time. Our hope is that the aesthetic of our designs will be relevant for years to come. We love looking to the past to see what stands up to the test of time. Here are some of our favourites.

Le Corbusier

Gio Ponti

Home of architect Poul Henningsen, in Copenhagen

Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier

Appartement 50  in Le Corbusier’s “Cité Radieuse”  Marseille

Anita Calero Loft

Gio Ponti

Katinsky House

Katinsky House

Robert Motherwell

Alan Ginsberg Apartment

Mother and Child, Barbara Hepworth, 1934. The mother and child theme is frequent occurrence concept of Hepworth, after she gave birth to her first son. In the same year where she made the Mother and Child sculpture she gave birth to triplets. The piece is one of her sculptures that symbolise her emotional state of being.

Mother and Child, Barbara Hepworth, 1934.

The mother and child theme is frequent occurrence concept of Hepworth after she gave birth to her first son. In the same year where she made the Mother and Child sculpture, she gave birth to triplets. The piece is one of her sculptures that symbolise her emotional state of being.

Robert Motherwell

Untitled 1964

Acrylic on canvas

The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, United Kingdom, 1976. The building was Hepworth's home and studio for 26 years until she died in 1975. The museum is now owned and run by the Tate since 1980. The museum accommodates Hepworth's works.

The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, United Kingdom, 1976.

The building was Hepworth’s home and studio for 26 years until she died in 1975. The museum is now owned and run by the Tate since 1980. The museum accommodates Hepworth’s works.

Untitled, Franz Kline, United States. Kline (1910–1962) was an American Abstract Expressionist painter famously know for his black and white painting. His paintings were interpreted as oil painting painted in confident and free calligraphic style. His paintings have been a source of inspiration for notable sculptors like Donald Judd.

Untitled, Franz Kline, United States.

Kline (1910–1962) was an American Abstract Expressionist painter famously know for his black and white painting. His paintings were interpreted as oil painting painted in confident and free calligraphic style. His paintings have been a source of inspiration for notable sculptors like Donald Judd.

Pierced Hemisphere II, Barbara Hepworth, Tate, United Kingdom, 1937-8. "Body experience... is the centre of creation." – Hepworth

Pierced Hemisphere II, Barbara Hepworth, Tate, United Kingdom, 1937-8.

“Body experience… is the centre of creation.” – Hepworth

Head, Female Bust, Pablo Picasso, Kunsthaus Zürich 1940.

Head, Female Bust, Pablo Picasso, Kunsthaus Zürich 1940.

Photograph of a window by Salve Lopez.

Photograph of a window by Salve Lopez.

Casa O'Gorman, Juan O'Gorman, Mexico, 1929. O'Gorman was a talented avant-garde architect who designed his own house at the tender age of 24. His house was commissioned by Diego Rivera to design his studio-house with Frida Kahlo.

Casa O’Gorman, Juan O’Gorman, Mexico, 1929.

O’Gorman was a talented avant-garde architect who designed his own house at the tender age of 24. His house was commissioned by Diego Rivera to design his studio-house with Frida Kahlo.

Coral Wedge, oil painting, Helen Frankenthaler, 1972. Frankenthaler was mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism artist in the 50's. She is well-known for inventing the "soak-stain" technique using turpentine-thinned paint onto canvas to create washed appearance.

Coral Wedge, oil painting, Helen Frankenthaler, 1972.

Frankenthaler was mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism artist in the 50’s. She is well-known for inventing the “soak-stain” technique using turpentine-thinned paint onto canvas to create washed appearance.

Sink at Caffe Burlot Paris, Dimore Studio, photograph by Andrea Ferrari.

Sink at Caffe Burlot Paris, Dimore Studio, photograph by Andrea Ferrari.

Built-in integrated bench at Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm, Sweden by Gunnar Asplund.

Built-in integrated bench at Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm, Sweden by Gunnar Asplund.

Office 39 by Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Buggenhout, Belgium, 2013.

Office 39 by Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Buggenhout, Belgium, 2013.

Maison de Verre, Paris, France, 1928–32. Designed by a Dutch architect, Bernard Bijvoet in collaboration with interior designer, Pierre Chareau and metalworker, Louis Dalbet.

Maison de Verre, Paris, France, 1928–32.

Designed by a Dutch architect, Bernard Bijvoet in collaboration with interior designer, Pierre Chareau and metalworker, Louis Dalbet.

Luis Barragán's house, Mexico. Barragán's house was declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Luis Barragán’s house, Mexico.

Barragán’s house was declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Portrait of Helen Frankenthaler working. "There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about." – Helen Frankenthaler.

Portrait of Helen Frankenthaler working.

“There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.” – Helen Frankenthaler.

Wood, Leather and Brass Folding Chair for Sörensen by Hans Olsen, 1960.

Wood, Leather and Brass Folding Chair for Sörensen by Hans Olsen, 1960.

The stairs at Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier.

The stairs at Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier.

Hotel in Marseille in Paris by Le Corbusier.

Hotel in Marseille in Paris by Le Corbusier.

No. 10, Mark Rothko, 1950, Oil on Canvas.

No. 10, Mark Rothko, 1950, Oil on Canvas.

Exhibited in MoMa in 1952 – brought waves of museum “trustee” to protest for its radicalism.

“The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.”

Central Model Home in Hellerup, Denmark, Frits Schelgel, 1931.

Central Model Home in Hellerup, Denmark, Frits Schelgel, 1931.

Eames House (previously known as Case Study House No. 8), Charles and Ray Eames, 1945.

Eames House (previously known as Case Study House No. 8), Charles and Ray Eames, 1945.

Robert Motherwell, 1973.

Robert Motherwell, 1973.

Frameless Glass Shower

Frameless glass shower.

AD Russia.

Inside the Shokin–tei. Katsura Imperial Villa from the 17th–century.

Inside the Shokin–tei. Katsura Imperial Villa from the 17th–century.

Prince Hachijō Toshihito was the founder of the villa.

Metric Sizing Chart
Size
5
6
8
10
12
14
Bust
77.5cm
80cm
85cm
90cm
95cm
100cm
Waist
57.5cm
60cm
65cm
70cm
75cm
80cm
Bum
84.5cm
87cm
92cm
97cm
102cm
107cm
Imperial Sizing Chart
Size
5
6
8
10
12
14
Bust
30.5"
31.4"
33.4"
35.4"
37.4"
39.3"
Waist
22.6"
23.6"
25.9"
27.5"
29.5"
31.4"
Bum
33.2"
34.2"
36.2"
38.1"
40.1"
42.1"
How to measure yourself
  • It is best to measure yourself in your underwear
  • Pull the tape measure so it is firm, but not tight
  • Bust: Measure around the fullest part of your bust
  • Waist: Measure around the smallest part of your waist
  • Bum: Measure around the fullest part of your bum and low hip

Please email us at info@cavescollectstudio.com for all fit & sizing questions.