Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman. And then a doctor, a marine biologist who could swim with dolphins, a senator, then a concert pianist, even a circus acrobat. When I got a little older, around the ripe old age of five, I realized I loved clothes. I didn't know it then, but what I really loved was a little thing called fashion, and I was hooked. I loved the way my mother would choose her heels to match her bag, the way she wore her pearls to go to church, and the very special way I felt when she made me a dress.

There was one dress in particular. It was a crisp cotton the color of earth, printed with little red flowers and green leaves. At recess, the first day that I ever wore that dress to school, I twirled and twirled around in it on the playground. That was entertainment enough for me that day, as I looked up at the dizzying sky, thinking that nothing could be better than the way that dress made me feel.

When I got even just a little older still, around the age of twelve, writing became my second love. Fashion couldn't answer all the questions I had in my head, the multitudinous ones about growing up Asian in a little town where everyone else was either black or white. Or maybe, now that I look back, those questions were just about plain growing up, Asian or otherwise.

Older still, in college, I wrote. Sad short stories. Personal essays. Even diary entries or angstful poetry. Our newly bequeathed White House poet, Elizabeth Alexander? She was my poetry professor during a semester when I wrote volumes and volumes of verse, mostly of damaged love, or love lost, or love unrequited. What did I know back then of those things when I was too young to know one from the other?

After college, and before a planned life of pursuing a doctorate and entering into academia, I decided to go to traipse across the Atlantic to the City of Light, Paris. With my pathetic high school French and not much more than two hundred dollars in my pocket, I went to write. But the writing that ensued in the nearly 7 years I lived in Europe, wasn't the kind of writing I had imagined. I wrote about European politics and policy, macro-economics, micro-economics, antitrust, agricultural commodities, and even the occasional restaurant or cinema review.

I tell this story often, and it's true. I woke up one morning and literally knew. I had to return to the states and study fashion. Since then, I've been immersed in that world, the pop culture tv reality version of it, as well as the gritty real life version of it. All the while, a little voice occasionally speaks up to inquire softly, what about the writing?

This blog satisfied that craving I have for words in a round-about-way which, for me, is a funny thing, since I've never thought myself a round-about kind of gal. Aside from my 7-year side step to Europe, that is. And so, now's the time to put this blog aside, and tackle the problem head-on. I've always thought that I'd get back to writing once I actually had something to say. Now the problem is, that I wouldn't know nearly where to begin. But at least I know that the time to begin is now.

I have to fess up, but I usually skip the London shows altogether. And that's saying a lot, since seeing them, for me, and if I were to be honest, scads of buyers and stylists who go straight to Milan from New York, usually means nothing more than clicking away on style.com.

So I don't know why I did, but I took a look through Julien MacDonald's show. Maybe it was because Stella Tennant walked his first look, or maybe it was because the cut of that first look was pretty darn gorge. And then, I actually had to think back and second guess myself. Was this that Julien MacDonald, Mr. Sex and Satin? And yeah, turns out it was.

So the Balmain references were obvious, a little too obvious, but they have been for many a designer this season, and I'm sure they will be for many more to come. But, gee, who wouldn't kill for a strong shoulder and the women brave enough to wear them? It had me thinking, I could get used to this JM girl. Strong and seductive, but not in your face in that outright sex kitten kind of way that I always associated JM's designs to be, at least in the past.

After reading my WWD, it all comes to light. With a new backer, new factories in Italy, and very soon, a new studio, JM's upped the ante. Who cares if most of his business has been built in Russia, motherland of all that is bling and brass? If he can get them to dress like this, there will be some pretty rockin' babushkas in Moscow this fall.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When Christopher Kane's debut collection a couple of seasons back garnered so much critical and commercial praise, and then he was swept up by Versace to consult for the megabrand, I could see why. His frocks were slinky and sexy, and the girl wearing them was a version of a Versace customer, the thinking fashion forward one.

But this new girl Kane is designing for now? She's far sexier and--this isn't a contradiction--far smarter than she ever has been before. For example, she knows it's fall, and may need a cardi or two to throw over her diaphanous numbers. But when she's out for the night, well, those dresses can speak for themselves. The first thing they'd probably say is that they don't need to be micro minis to be sexy. And that sexy can be sartorial, evidenced in the beautiful construction of those dresses.

The most important message of all? That Christopher Kane has lived up to his next big thing title, and with this collection, is already now a pretty darn big thing in my book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If you were to ask me which shows I look forward to seeing in New York, the name Rodarte would be rolling easily off my lips. And for the past couple of seasons, my jaw has literally dropped open in stunned awe as I scroll through the pictures, and that's only a very slight exaggeration.

Not that I was always a fan. It took me a couple of season to warm up to them, though I understood why these girls were lauded so. Who wears their dresses, aside from a very fashion forward few who can brave them on the red carpet? But then again, who really cares? As long as as these girls keep on doing what they're doing, making beautiful clothing which could supply art museums across the globe and ages, no one has to wear them really.

But apparently, a lot of the talk surrounding their show has focused on the fact that some LVMH suits showed up to have a look-see. Okay, so they've proven that they deserve resources out the wazoo, hefty titles, and a padded salaries. And even though it'd be glorious to actually see their creations on celebutantes and cash strapped fashionistas around the world, it would be a big trade off if they had to do give up what they're doing now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nothing beats a good sense of humor. And that's likely one of the top reasons on everybody's list for loving Marc Jacobs so. Despite his tabloid antics, or perhaps because of them, he's always having a bit of a laugh, and what better approach in such trying times?

There seem to be two schools of thought among designers on how to approach the current economy. Go for classic, quality cuts that women can't live without, or go crazy. Happily, Marc has taken the second approach. After scaling down on what's normally a pow wow of a biannual fashion show, he focused the party on the girls. (Is that Snejana with that crazy red flame of hair?)

And oh, what a clever trick. Because if even for a fleeting 15 minutes or so, those lucky spectators inside the Armory probably forgot about everything else going on outside in the blustery cold.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fashion Week is fully upon us, and I can't help but to wonder how this one in particular is a little bit different. With all the shuffling and changes, big names and tried and true veterans of this crazy elitist sport dropping off the face of the map, or at least the fashion calendar, there is a huge advantage for some of the newcomers.

Not that Ohne Titel is new, since they've been showcasing their conceptual designs at Bumble & Bumble for the past couple of seasons. But what a time to turn up their creative juices and show a tight, but nonetheless stellar collection.

Living and designing in New York is a tricky thing. Though we New Yorkers think ourselves to be some of the most fashion forward citizens of the world, we are Americans, after all. We are, at the end of the day, the best at commercialism, mass market, and ready to wear. Avant garde, fashion forward, conceptual just doesn't get a fair shake here, while it's embraced across the Atlantic in the Tuileries. So, the trick has always been to straddle that divide between fashion forward and wearability.

The designing duo behind the label without a name, which is the literal translation of the German Ohne Titel, Alexa Adams and Flora Gill, seem to have conquered this dilemma, and beautifully at that. The best part about this creative tag team? For me, that they're two girls holding their own in an industry that is teeming with superstar boys.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I've never been a Peter Som girl, largely because I don't live in the proper zip code to wear his ladylike creations. But I can understand that girl, and probably would hang out with her for coffee, though probably not on a girls night out.

And so, with all the chaos at Bill Blass, and then his funding being pulled from him, I felt pained that a designer with talent, any designer really, would have to deal with so much at once. But good things come out of adversity, and Som is living that half full mantra.

Though his appointment only Fall 2009 collection is probably the smallest he's ever done since his student days, it's probably one of his best. It's focused, relevant, and shows why he got to where he did. And hopefully, it will have enough wow factor for buyers to want to buy his clothes, and girls to want to wear them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Grazia.com has the scoop on the new Chanel ads with Jerry Hall. I've loved this larger than life model ever since I saw a video of her walking the final look of a Thierry Mugler show back in the 80s, the one inspired by bees. Her waist was cinched in, almost contorted, in inhuman proportions. Well, it was inspired by bees, so you can just imagine how other worldly she looked.

And I'm lovin' even still this comeback of all the old gals, or ahem, the gals that are closer to me in age than the fresh ones coming out today. Okay, so granted that a lot of the aura about her probably has to do with the fact that she was Mrs. Jagger for a while. But like me, you can surely see why.

Honestly, she must be the most glamorous Texan to have graced a magazine cover, much less an ad campaign of one of the most luxurious brands out there today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sometimes, during times of doom & gloom--especially, as we now know, after a Geithner non-press conference--you need a little Karl to lift your spirits. Or, in my case, to pick you up off the floor after you've fallen, reeling from bouts of uncontrollable laughter. British Vogue has put together a nice little compilation of Karls' one-liner wonders. And so, to lighten everyone's hearts, I give you the best of the very best:

1978 - On his early start:
"When I was four I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday."

1984 - On his feelings following a fashion show:
"I’m a kind of fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm."

1989 - On Ines de la Fressange, his ex-muse:
"I wish her all the luck in the world, just so long as I don’t have to see her anymore or hear her spoken about."

2006 - On staying healthy:
"Vanity is the healthiest thing in life."

2007 - On being labeled a squanderer:
"If you throw money out of the window throw it out with joy. Don’t say 'one shouldn’t do that' - that is bourgeois."

2007 - On furnishing a home:
"The most important piece in the house is the garbage can."

2009 - His thoughts on the recession:
"Bling is over. Red carpetry covered with rhinestones is out. I call it the new modesty."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I was comparing notes with a friend on the best concerts we had ever seen. A triple header tour back in the 80s by New Order, Public Image Limited, and Bjork's old group The Sugarcubes will probably always rank right up there for me. But MIA rapping along right there with the big boys--and on her due date-- at the Grammys a couple of days ago, well, that singular performance has got to top all lists.

Plus, she had the fashion acumen and bravado to do it while wearing a revealing Henry Holland cutout dress. One that was worn previously by skinny Minnie Agyness Deyn. So triple kudos to MIA for wearing it while preggers. What a pretty stellar welcome to the world for that baby. I haven't read so far whether she's given birth, but I don't blame the kid for wanting to stay close to a chick as cool as her.

Monday, February 9, 2009

When I saw the cover of Purple's next issue, I had to do a double take. DVF doesn't just look good for a woman in her 60s, she just looks good.

I know a lot of young women look up to her, and for just cause. While she has always married fabulously rich, rather than sit back in her stilettos, she's found it to be precisely the reason to launch a career. Most women would probably consider doing the opposite.

Take for example the two women decked out in head to toe fur at my local grocery store last Friday. I happened to be taking the day off to run errands, somewhat comatose from finishing my Fall preview the night before. They were in their late 20s, leisurely checking out the produce in the middle of the day, there with each other to keep company because they obviously didn't have a need for a 9 to 5 like most of us working girls.

Not that I begrudge them their leisurely existence, but I'd like to think that even if I had that option, like Diane, I'd be doing exactly the same thing that I'm doing now, working at something I happen to love. And all that running around, albeit in a frenetic craze? Well, it obviously has its perks. Just check out DVF's fabulous legs.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Last night, I presented a preview of my Fall 09 collection, so I thought it might be nice to give a blog out to some of the folks who made everything come together.

I was hosted by got2b, which is launching a new hair care line called Guardian Angel. The whole concept of the line is kind of amazing. The product was designed specifically to protect your hair from heat styling, and to protect it up to a temperature of 425 degrees! You'd think that your hair would have a melting point far lower than that, but not with this stuff.

What's kind of amazing is that there are companies out there still launching new lines in this economy. I spoke at length about this to Kathy Alaama, VP of marketing for got2b, when we were on Fox News' live streaming segment The Strategy Room yesterday to promote our event. The topics were wide varied, as we were there along with a financial advisor, a security management expert, and a bartender from Hooters...yes, that Hooters.

So while the economy has been a downer of late, there is an upside. It's been forcing a lot of people to be more creative about their approach to business. And for someone who's already in a creative field, well that puts on the pressure, or the heat in this case. Hence my partnership with got2b last night, which afforded me an opportunity to show my line, when I would not have otherwise had the funding to do so.

Not to go on about the lesson to be learned here, it was great party as well. I could probably devote an entire blog about the superb team at Creative Marketing Media, the publicity pros who made the event happen. They made sure to have boys in little hot pants dancing on the bars & fitted out with angel wings.

Photos of the actual collection will be up soon. But here are some pics to give you an idea of the mood and the gorgeous people there last night, including my favorite model, as well as Grace & Kathy from got2b.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So I know I should be blogging about my Fall preview presentation later today at Arena during the got2b Guardian Angel line launch, but I'm tickled to learn that editrix Anna Wintour will be styling Adele for Sunday's Grammy Awards ceremony.

I'm even more excited to learn that the collaboration came about following a shoot Adele did for an upcoming Vogue issue. Finally, a buxom non-blonde in Vogue. If only they would hold off on their magical Photoshop fingers enough to show the world that big girls can look good too.

And now that Adele will be styled by none other than Anna, well, she certainly will look good come Sunday.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It'll be strange not to be able to say Bryant Park when talking of the shows during Fashion Week, but apparently that's how it'll be. Now Lincoln Center seems to have secured those two crazy weeks out of the year, beginning next year, and by the time my lips get used to rolling that name off my tongue, it may just change again.

But at least in the interim, the shows will just be a short walk away in my 'hood. And quite frankly, any reason to get out of the craziness of the garment district, even if it is just a couple dozen blocks away, is welcome.

Now, whether or not the fashion crowd will descend on the diminishing decent cafes left in the neighborhood is another thing. But I simply can't imagine Anna, or Andre, or Grace, ever having a quick bite in the Cafe Upstairs at Fairways.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Henri Bendel's has been doing it for ages, and now Bloomingdale's is getting in on the action. This Friday, the mass retailer is hosting it's first open-see for aspiring designers with collections to hawk.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, it's a casting call of sorts for the crafty. Having just a pretty face and a winsome smile won't get you by here, though. You'll have to actually bring your some clothes and your toughest sales pitch.

Because believe you me, Bloomingdale buyers have seen it all. And in these economic times, they'll have to see something pretty stellar to want to put it out on their sales floor.