Premium fashion brands have weathered the recession better than expected, with Asian consumers fuelling sales and sending many luxury goods companies’ pre-tax profits back into the black. By Ginanne Brownell

Usually it is the A-list stars that are the focus of paparazzi snappers; at the Burberry catwalk show in London in March, Kate Hudson was certainly looking glam in her sparkly emerald outfit, Claire Danes wowed crowds with her awe-inspiring spiky heels, while Twilight star Kristen Stewart and Mary-Kate Olsen also attracted much attention. But instead of these Hollywood darlings being asked to preen in front of the cameras, all lenses were pointed in the direction of a petite 61-year-old with a severe haircut and a fabulous coat with a fur collar. For in the world of fashion it is American Vogue editor Anna Wintour who reigns supreme and it was no small feat that Burberry’s creative director Christopher Bailey persuaded the fashion doyenne to fly in from New York to attend his autumn/winter catwalk show. Read more


Locations around the world are competing to bring lucrative movie production – and a little Hollywood glamour – to their regions, and financial incentives are increasingly being used to attract film-makers, reports Ginanne Brownell.

Walking up the red carpet is never easy in a ball gown – just ask Vera Farmiga, nominated for several awards for her role in Up in the Air, who almost went flying as she paraded up the walkway of London’s Royal Opera House, where the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (Baftas) were being held, in February. Read more


Russia’s Photo Impresario


(originally published in the New York Times)

MOSCOW — It was almost midnight and Olga Sviblova was still going strong. Though the Moscow Manege — an exhibition center adjacent to Red Square — had been closed for hours, Ms. Sviblova was giving a private tour of a show she had curated for the city’s Photobiennale, which runs until the end of June and takes place in dozens of museums and exhibition spaces across the city. Next to a collection of some of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s best-known photographs, Ms. Sviblova had chosen to exhibit the black and white works of Andrey Bezukladnikov, a little-known Russian perestroika photographer. Read more


After the first wave of humanitarian aid is sent to war-torn and disaster-struck regions, FDI is the vital next step in helping countries such as Rwanda rebuild themselves. Ginanne Brownell reports.

As a man with strong searing eyes proudly strides up to a podium to tell his story, his fellow Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) foot soldiers shift in their seats craning their necks and whispering to each other. Read more


There is a fantastic show on BBC2 about space, “The Wonders of Space”, which reminded me of a story I had been commissioned to write for Newsweek two years ago but it never ended up being published…

Meet Mary Phoolo, Lesotho’s first cosmologist. The 30 year-old mother of one is finishing up her Masters’ degree at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal and will begin a PhD later in the year looking into how future cosmic microwave background datasets may be used to probe the early universe. It’s an amazing feat that Phoolo wants to focus on the study of the universe; there are no courses in astrophysics taught in her country and she never had any introduction to the field until her late 20s. Growing up under the wide-open skies of southern Africa, Phoolo knew there was something that intrigued her about the universe; she just never knew how to explore it. “I remember I used to wonder how the universe was [created], how the structures like planets and stars formed and so many other questions,” Phoolo recalls. “However I was not aware that there were people [actually] studying the universe.” But Cape Town’s African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) changed all that. She entered the postgraduate program planning to focus on epidemiology in order to help her nation control its booming HIV/AIDS problem. But taking a three-week module in astrophysics, she fell in love with cosmology. Her goal now is go home to Lesotho to teach university students the wonders of the universe. “I want to go back there and motivate them, get kids interested in this field that I love,” says Phoolo. Read more