Bilkish Vahed

The Allure of Individuality

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The Charm of Hanna


During the winter of 2010, when I was a German language student in Berlin, I saw the Tom Tykwer movie Dreia social comedy about a heterosexual couple who have lived together for twenty years and who separately, and unknowingly, embark on an affair with the same man. The next day I couldn’t stop enthusing about the movie and recommended it to everyone in class. My teacher, Doris, promised to see it that weekend, so Monday morning I greeted her with a look of expectation?

Her delicate facial features hesitated, wavered between a smile and something more reflective. Then her nose scrunched up and her mouth pouted, “Es war so körperlich,” she burst out. I laughed heartily remembering the many scenes of naked bodies that graced the screen for a full two hours. The movie wasn’t Doris’s cup of tea. I put it down to a form of conservatism and didn’t think more of it.

But the film played on my mind. It wasn’t the arrangement – one woman and two men in three configurations – that intrigued me, that was of secondary interest. The reportage of life in Berlin which I was then experiencing first hand, did engage me, but something else asked to be grasped. What intrigued me was the appealing quirkiness – or what my foreign eyes saw as quirky – of the lead lady Hanna, played by Sophie Rois.

Sophie Rois as Hanna in “Drei” Foto: © TriArt

Hanna is a forty-something Berliner, attractive but not conventionally beautiful, elegant in dress but not glamorous, a cultured urbanite, a “Frau Doktor” who sits on an Ethics committee for stem cell research and is a television reporter. Her conversations are sharp, she says “quatsch” a lot.

“quatsch” = bollocks;  boloney;  fiddle-faddle;   nonsense

In the opening scene of the movie, Hanna and her partner, Simon, are naked in bed, he on top. Simon looks into her eyes and declares, “You are dogmatic.” Without losing a beat, Hanna spurts back, “You are dogmatic. I am totalitarian.” Simon smiles quietly. “Agreed,” he says.  With a push, Hanna turns him over so that she’s on top. The conversation continues.

Hanna is spirited. Mercurial, argumentative, demanding, and funny.  She engages with the world intellectually but is also tuned into her body, her erotic impulses are alive. She lives with contradictions, is contrarian. Unthinkingly leaves her cell phone at home, arrives at 2am after the theatre and dinner with friends, and is totally surprised that Simon was worried about her. Her life is messy, though full.

Hollywood screen sirens, swathed in fur, flawless skin, crimson lips, glossy hair perfectly coiffed, ooze sophistication and glamour. Hanna, now pouting, there batting her eye pointedly, scurrying out of her lover’s bathroom window to escape what she doesn’t want to escape; Hanna is a different kind of character. Sophie Rois’s sparkling portrayal of a woman who is headstrong, sometimes silly, smart, vulnerable, opinionated, individual, enlarges the oeuvre of the silver screen.

A Fearless Aviatrix


“After midnight, the moon set, and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.”          — Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

You & Me



it took me a long time

to see, to finally see

that you never really liked me

not all of me, not me


only a part of me

some part  that enticed you

you wanted a part of me

but there i stood grotesque

oozing all of me


you chipped away

chiseled, hacked and sculpted

tweaked and reshaped

i became your sticky version of me


flickers of awareness

darted in my dreams

skipped and slipped and tripped

disappeared unseen


it took me a long time

a long time to see



When my eyes were averted, you slunk around me

Spinning a tender lattice of awareness

Wilfully piercing my consciousness, forcing me to awaken

When my eyes were averted, you wanted me.


Irresistibly I turned and looked back at you

Smiled, said something, let my eyes laugh into yours

You drew back surprised, disoriented, your radiant face darkened

When I looked back at you, you closed up on me.


Stunned, confused, awash in shame, I collapsed in a heap, grew small

What had I done, I called out to the night, what had I done?


Effulgent comprehension arrived slowly and in its wake,

Indignation, purple anger, rage bubbled and frothed until

Raucous laughter burst forth, my blood ran warm and

I grew large, enormous, and full.



I miss the letters you used to write me,

Chock-full of aliveness and vitality,

Brimming, luscious and uncensored,

Tales of your day to day in raw openness let slip,

Unheeded into the soft container of our affection.


Abruptly a sliver of discomfort has slipped between us,

You write me posts, comments, tweets, texts,

You write to me and to all of them at once,

The silent ones who watch and listen are now a cryptic presence,

Between us, in the midst of us.


The murkiness of otherness has altered your voice, changed you,

But I know the colossal beauty and brilliance of your unfettered self,

I want you back, I want you back again,

Unconstrained by the cameras and the din.

I miss you. I miss hearing from you.

The Appeal of Denim


“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity — all I hope for in my clothes.”
Yves Saint-Laurent

Gisele Bündchen walking for Colcci

Calvin Klein, Fall 2018

Jennifer Lawrence wearing Calvin Klein, ‘Vanity Fair’ March 2018

Black Suit Elegance


In August 1966, Yves Saint Laurent introduced a classic black evening suit – the tuxedo for women – marking a revolutionary moment in fashion history. Despite the changes that feminism of the 60’s had wrought for women, wearing pants in public was still frowned upon, but this was to change, and did.


The original Yves Saint-Laurent Le Smoking Tuxedo for women, photographed (above and below) by Helmut Newton for French Vogue, Rue Aubriot, Paris, 1975

The real appeal and iconic status of le smoking lies in the attitude and stance that a women wearing it seems to exude – confidence and a sense of her own power. Fifty years later, the tuxedo suit for women is still found in the collections of Saint Laurent Paris  as well as other designers – a testament to its embodiment of perennial chic.

“For a woman, le smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds herself continually in fashion, because it is about style, not fashion. Fashions come and go, but style is forever.”

— Yves Saint Laurent

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