Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yesterday afternoon, I took a break from work and trudged through the rain to go down to the Minskoff Theater and attend Broadway Cares' Annual Easter Bonnet Competition.

I have to admit, while I've always been a sucker for those big MGM Technicolor musicals, I've never been much of a Broadway goer. But after everyone was seated and the lights went down, I have to say that there was something rather magical in that cavernous theater, with all eyes expectantly turned towards the stage.

I'm sure that that feeling would have been magnified tenfold if it had been a real musical production we had come to see. Not that this wasn't. But because this was a competition of sorts, the performances were more variety act. Then again, they were acts from some of the biggest Broadway and off-Broadway productions currently on stage.

Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition raised an impressive record-breaking $3.7 million. No matter how many of these events I attend, I guess every single time, I'm always sort of overwhelmed by the sense of beneficence and compassion that these events arouse.

The highlight of the event was a performance by Doris Eaton Travis, who at 104 years old, is a true Ziegfeld Girl. (She really is, actually. Doris performed in the Follies from 1918-1920.)

When the show ended, after sitting in the dark for nearly 2 1/2 hours, I blinkingly made my way out of the theater onto 44th Street. The clouds had broken at last after several days of bad weather and it was tumbling down sunshine.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Muses of Yves Saint Laurent Pt 2

Katoucha may eventually become the most infamous of Yves Saint Laurent’s women simply by the tragic circumstances of her death. Earlier this year in Paris, her body was found floating in the Seine after she had been missing for nearly a week. It was later determined that she drowned accidentally after falling from her upscale houseboat. She had been out partying that evening, and there has been speculation that perhaps she was intoxicated at the time of her death.

I guess what’s so tragic for me is that the way in which she died was not at all a reflection of the way in which she lived. Besides being a top model of the highest order, she was a pioneer, and not just on the runway.

At the age of nine, Katoucha Niane was forced to undergo female circumcision, a custom that is practiced in certain parts of Africa. The UN has lobbied against this tradition and, in its official terminology, refers to it as female genital mutilation.

Following a successful career in modeling, Katoucha devoted much of her life lobbying against this practice, and even wrote of it in her autobiography Dans Ma Chair (In My Flesh.) When she first disappeared, it was rumoured that perhaps a death threat had been carried out on her because of her lobbying efforts.

She is said to have paved the way for a slew of top models of African descent who came after her: Iman, Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede, Alek Wek, names now that are just as familiar as Katoucha was in the 80s in Paris.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nine West at the New Museum

Last week, I went down to the New Museum on Bowery to check out Nine West's upcoming pre-Fall collection.

I've been shopping at Nine West ever since I can remember. I've always loved that they make great affordable shoes. And in the past couple of years, I've noticed that the shoes have become ever more fashion forward.

When I met Fred Allard, Nine West's creative director, I understood why. He joined the company a couple of years back and comes armed with a luxury design background. He was kind enough to give me a tour of the collection, and after speaking to him, I got a sense of his global vision for the brand.

I find this kind of fascinating, because it's something I see everywhere in fashion. In part, it involves that mix of high and low. Target is doing it. H&M. Payless. Nine West, too (remember their guest designer collaborations with Vivienne Westwood, Thakoon, and Sophia Kokosalaki?) It's also extremely fascinating to me when I see designers with a high end background going mass market. I'm already seeing the good Patrick Robinson is doing at the Gap.

It's these crossovers in every corner of the market which, I think is the result of globalization and technology. Everything is at our fingertips. I'm not just talking about the extreme highs and lows here, but that middle market. There are some talented contemporary designers out there who compete pretty fiercely against all the big guns in the high end luxury market.

I digress. As for the shoes. I fell in love with these hybrid booties. And the whole faux snake collection had this cool 80s vibe that, once they hit the stores, I won't be able to resist.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Muse's Bouche..Betty Speaks

The Muses of Yves Saint Laurent Pt 1

I feel like Betty Catroux is the least known among the coterie of women who influenced Yves Saint Laurent in his designing career.

With her signature white blond hair and androgynous looks, I’ve always been enamored of her confidence and strength.

In this interview, the only one I’ve ever seen of her, she talks about the early years when she first met YSL and they cavorted in the javascript:void(0)clubs of Paris, living out "one long party." It sounds like such a deliciously hedonistic time. But Betty isn't just any woman. She's a woman who knows that telling less is always much, much more.

Oh, the stories she must have, rolled up in the sleeves of her peak-lapel jackets. That I were a perfectly constructed 2-piece sleeve in superfine English gabardine wool with 6 tiny corozo buttons.

All About the Clothes

La Repubblica has a monthly glossy that I'm lucky to get this side of the pond and this month, the focus was "California Dreaming". I'm always struck by the way Europeans view the US and I thought this theme was particularly spot on, given these times.

But that's not what really stood out for me. It was the whole back concept behind the edition. After a series of nude shots of Lisa Kant, frolicking in fields a-la-Adolf-Koch, the fashion shots showed the models with their faces cropped out.

This isn't a necessarily new idea. Stefano Pilati played with this concept most recently in his Fall 08 collection, where all the models came out with androgynous mop crops. Martin Margiela has employed this technique in a less extreme way, and Junya Watanabe is a master at it.

I love what this makes you focus on the clothes. There are so many corollary discussions I could tie in to this...the body mass debate in modeling, the fetishicizing of women, celebrity culture...but that's just it. It's just about the clothes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I've been putting it off as long as possible, but I've finally come to the point where I can no longer skirt the issue. The big H word. Hillary.

Remember back when she was on the Senate floor, and her critics (of which there are so many) asked how she could dare to wear an ensemble that revealed her cleavage? Even The Washington Post's venerable fashion critic Robin Givhan took the bait and wrote a feature on the cataclysmic event entitled "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory."

Forget that Hill was talking about the burdensome costs of higher education. Forget all the other issues because whatever Hillary accomplishes in her political career, she'll go down in history as only one thing: the most divisive woman in American politics.

Every night when I watch the news, especially if its a primary election night, I'm always stumped by the the thinly veiled animus directed at her, and this coming from journalists who are supposed to be unbiased (or at least, that's how I thought journalists were supposed to be.) Tim Russert & Keith Oberman so clearly dislike the woman, I'm surprised they don't just whip out their Obama pins on air and wear them proudly on their pinstriped suits.

Remember that week when she was criticized for laughing too much? Too many times, too loudly, too easily. And now, in the latest headlines, she's being charged with damaging the Democratic party by continuing on in the race. This ultimately, it seems to me, sets her up as a scapegoat for the Democratic party's possible defeat again McCain, who is probably one of the most center right Republicans the GOP has ever put on its ticket.

But that's because the Grand Ole Party if anything, is a tightly oiled political machine. Even they know that in these precarious times, we I dare borrow the word?...change. So, they've finally backed someone they would have never let past the starting gates, a man who's been booed on the Senate floor by his own party mates, a man who has reached across the divide and fostered inter-party politics. The only Republican capable of defeating the Democrats.

I wish the race was just about the issues. But it never is, is it? Especially when we have 3 candidates who are so similar on paper, with the exception of the war in Iraq (and I concede, that is a big exception).

If you've ever discussed politics with friends, you know that it's no use trying to convince someone over from the dark side. I think voting is often dictated by the personal. Often times, it's not about the issues, it's about who you like personally, which candidate strikes a chord.

But I guess that's what scares me most. The last president this country elected was known best for his laid back ranchero friendliness, and look where we are now.The world is a decidely different place today. I do think we need new leadership. So I hope that person who eventually does lead us will be someone chosen based on their abilities to run this country, not based on whether we'd like to go grab a beer with them.

Gotham Magazine May Flash

Last month, Jack & I went along to an event hosted by the Italian Trade Commission at Bergdorf's. The ITC had sponsored a program at Rhode Island School of Design, introducing students to Italian textiles, and there were a number of designs on display.

Two things drew me to the event. I love talking to students. I find that young people today are so smart and savvy and RISD students, in particular, fit this bill. When I worked in the industry, there were a few occasions when I was in need of an assistant designer and interviewed recent grads. The caliber of work I saw in the portfolios of of RISD was always impressive, sometimes just plain mind blowing.

Isabella Rosellini, who is the face of the ITC, was the second draw. She could have been reason enough all alone, in fact. In person, she is truly stunning, and so extremely gracious.

While the affair was low-key, her presence alone merited a photog flash in Gotham. So I couldn't be happier to have been included in the shot.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring is Here!

...and with it our 1st batch of gazpacho. Aside from the warm weather and sunshine, it’s always the sound of the blender going in the kitchen that serves as a true harbinger of spring in our household.

My first encounter with this vegetal concoction was onscreen, in Almodovar’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Remember when Pepa violently spiked her batch with sleeping pills and planned on serving it to her lover, who she suspected was leaving her?

Needless to say, ours is not so potent. But I’m sure the recipe is similar to Pepa’s, sans prescription meds. That is to say, this is the Castilian gazpacho, which is widely consumed in Spain, versus the Mexican version, which is chunky, and to me, more like salsa. It's the perfect warm weather soup.

5 tomatoes
2 carrots, peeled
1 medium cucumber
1 green pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 slices of day old bread
water, to taste
3 tablespoons of vinegar, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil ( there any other kind?)
salt, to taste
Makes approximately 1 liter.

I usually do the cooking in our house, but there are some things that I'm not allowed to even attempt. Gazpacho is one of them, and pasta. So here are the instructions, according to my husband:

"It's very easy. I put all the ingredients, chopped, in the blender, with the bread on very top. I add enough vinegar and water so that the bread becomes soft before blending.
After blending all the ingredients, I slowly add the olive oil until the mixture turns an orange color. Salt to taste.
Then, I pass the mixture through a sieve, to separate the liquid. You need to drink it cold, so leave in the refrigerator for an hour."

Christian LaCroix on the High Street

I knew that Christian Lacroix had been collaborating with La Redoute, but had no idea that the French retailer was available online this side of the Atlantic.

A quick look on the website, and I discover that aside from France’s best known couturier, there are items from Sophia Kokosalaki, Et Vous, Comptoir des Cotonniers, and Used, most all of which are drastically marked down. Compared to his couture prices, this Lacroix trench is a steal at $229, and look who’s modeling....Lily Cole!

I wonder if that’s because La Redoute is still under the radar here in the US, or because the chain hasn’t yet overcome its image as a catalogue company with a predominantly missy clientele.

On the French site, even Francoise Hardy has her own line. Granted, she looks great for a woman in her 60’s. But if she had started her line for the quintessential It girl that she herself was some 40 years ago, I can’t help to wonder if she wouldn't be selling via H&M or Topshop, rather than La Redoute?

Celebrity Brand

Perusing one of my glossies last week, I was a bit surprised to see Katherine Heigl sporting Nautica as the brand's new face. With her all American image and good girl reputation, she's a good fit, though, and I hope she augurs a hipper direction for a line that has evolved into a staple for the missy market.

I've since heard that Nautica was initially in talks with another young starlet, better known for perfecting the role of Hollywood bad girl. And though I really do think that Katherine fits the image of the the brand, I can't help to wonder if just the scandal of this other young celeb appearing in Nautica's ads wouldn't have sent young girls flying to their nearest department stores to check out the line.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pope Wears Prada

Actually, he doesn't. But all these reports about him sporting designer goods (eyewear, at least) do point to one thing. Benedict is no wall flower.

Or at least, the media coverage of him this weekend suggests he's something of a rock star, a bonafide celebrity. I mean, he does ride around in a vehicle known as the Popemobile (...move over, Bruce Wayne.)

All this papal frenzy made me wonder if we'd see any of it inspiring collections in September. Or maybe we already have.

Last February, Riccardo Tisci said he was looking to show a romantic sensuality in what is widely regarded as his breakaway collection. The religious references were obvious, but he did it in such a dark, goth way, I think it could raise alarm bells with even the most fashion-forward in the Vatican.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Christina Ricci in BlackBook

With the release of the highly anticipated blockbuster Speed Racer this summer, I think Indie princess Christina Ricci is on the cusp of stardom, in capital letters.
I'm chomping at the bit to see the film, and not just because of Christina. It'll be the first really big release for the Wachowskis since The Matrix trilogy. (V for Vendetta was such a disappointment, wasn't it?) And Emile Hirsch is set to play Speedy ...I know he's gained acclaimed for Into The Wild, but wasn't he fantastic in The Mudge Boy?

I've heard Christina is extremely diminutive in person, which is hard to imagine because she looks tiny enough as it is in pictures. After reading this month's BlackBook interview, here are some other things I didn't know about her:

1. She shops at Forever 21! Or her stylist shops there for her...She showed up to the interview wearing a plaid jacket from the mass retailer, best known for ripping off designs straight off the runway. But can you imagine Christina queueing in Forever 21's interminable dressing room line, behind a gaggle of 13 year olds?

2. She dated Adam Goldberg until very recently, but was keen to keep that part of her life private....did a great job of it, cause who knew?

3. She appeared in a Count Chocula commercial as a kid.

4. There's a fashion designer in her bursting to get out...she rips off the sleeves of her cashmere sweaters to make doggie duds for her pooch.

5. She is the national spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN).

6. She says "fuck" in interviews!

7. Christina thinks Vincent Gallo (who directed and starred with her in Buffalo 66) is an "asshole."

8. She's a self-professed clean freak.

9. Sober, 10 years and counting.

10. Gotta love her...the girl eats pasta when most starlets banish the thought of any carbohydrates touching their lips.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Heart Gabi

There seems to be some consensus out there in cyberspace that designers are somehow consciously deciding not to use models of color.

When I was casting earlier this year for my show, of the nearly 100 girls that came, there were less than 10 girls of color. Of those ten, roughly half were Asian, and the other half black. And believe me, I tried to cast just about all of them, but what with the normal maneuvering that goes on with castings, I lost out on nearly every one.

I did, however, manage to get Gabi, who almost made up for the other girls. She's the type of girl that makes anything look good. Not only that, she's a true fashionista. She loves clothes.

Normally, models don't have a preference, they'll will put on whatever you ask them to. Not Gabi. I loved that she voiced her opinion on the looks she wanted to wear. She's the kind of girl I could hang out with, and our fitting felt like we were in a shop, trying on clothes and talking about what we liked, or didn't.

I'm sure that's exactly the kind of thing she does with her own gal pals. At the fitting, she mentioned she was meeting her best friend, Han, outside. Han?, I asked. Yes, as it turned out, it was that Han who-has-become-such-a-presence-on-the-runway-

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Top Model Down Under

I recently met up with Bryan Marryshow, a stylist for Australia's Next Top Model, which was shooting here on location in New York. Bryan was pulling some of my Fall collection for the penultimate challenge, which is set on the streets of Soho.

Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until the series airs Down Under to get some stills of the shoot. But he sent along this test shot of one of my pieces, a structured military cape.

Love the styling! Clean, strong, and minimal.

Johnny's Girl

Back when I lived in Paris, Vanessa Paradis was every boy's dream. Ten years and 2 kids later, she's as enigmatic as ever. Longtime muse to Karl Lagerfeld, and mother to Johnny Depp's children, she's the kind of person whose DNA must be made of star dust.

OK, so I've never thought much of her singing, even when she was dating Lenny Kravitz. But I love that she isn't necessarily the most classic beauty, with her slightly wide set eyes and gapped front teeth. And what do I know, anyway? The French still go fou for this chic fille every time she breaks out in song.

If you can get through the first couple of minutes, Johnny, the only male actor I'm folle about, seems to make a cameo.

....Stars, part 2

When we arrived to Capitale last week for the Point Foundation event, the requisite crowd of photogs awaited. They stood, hovering around the red carpet with their flashing bulbs, shouting, “Could you look here?...To your right!...Look forward please!” It’s all the kind of stuff you see on tv, and months now after my fleeting role on the boob tube, it’s still very surreal.

Not five minutes later, I witnessed the beginnings of mayhem in the ranks. It was as if some invisible tectonic plates were shifting before my eyes, auguring an event of seismic proportions. Sarah Jessica had arrived.

If bulbs were working before, the lights flashing now could have easily fueled the floor of Pacha on a Saturday night. And so much shouting. I was about to turn to Jack to bet whether we’d see any physical outbreak in the photog line, when three more cars rolled up. I had to pinch myself. Who would have thought that I would see Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda all together in the flesh?

Of course, they all looked stunning. Sarah Jessica was tastefully dressed in Yves Saint Laurent. I noticed her necklaces....fabulous. Vera Wang? Subversive? Ericson Beamon, I later discovered.

After dinner, when Jack and I fought through the dense mob of people up front, I wasn’t actually sure if SJP would remember me. But she was as gracious as ever. When I went to shake her hand, she leaned over and gave me a quick hug. (Well, she is a huge star and I didn’t want to be presumptuous...instead, I ended up feeling like a dork!)

She mentioned that Steve & Barry’s had sold something like 100,000 units of the dress I designed for the show. Not bad, I thought. But at $20 a pop, and a strategic release date that kicked off Black Friday, I have to give some props to the S&B team for some smart planning. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Well, I was more pleased, as it turns out, when I spotted Kim Cattrall. I nearly accosted the poor woman as she was trying to make a quick getaway from the throngs of admirers. I know I could have caused an ugly collision when I stepped into her way, but I was overcome and wanted to introduce myself.

I’m a big SJP fan, but an even bigger admirer of Kim Cattrall. She has that amazing, near perfect, alabaster skin that only stars seem to be blessed with. I think I must have blubbered on for a good couple of minutes about how she has always been my favorite on the series. I regret that, out of fear of appearing like a bigger dork than I truly am, I chickened out and didn’t ask for a picture.

From now on, I’m embracing my dorkiness, and the camera is coming out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Marc Jacobs Countdown

I'm counting down for the Marc Jacobs feature on, expected later today. After Fashion Week in February, I could have kicked myself for not having taped the documentary "Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton" on the Sundance Channel. (Well, I was a little busy, myself.) And now, I'll just have to wait for the DVD, which I've heard isn't going to be released until this fall.

I guess the GQ article goes to some length about Marc's new physique, and the mixed reaction he's gotten from the fashion world about his rockin' bod. Not that he doesn't look absolutely gorgeous, but I guess my reaction has been a bit mixed too.

I loved nerdy Marc, he of the horn-rimmed glasses & frumpy cardigans. I guess he was more human then and approachable, whereas now, I see him as this sort of slick, muscled machine.

I wonder if this new way of living, what with all the protein bars and daily workouts, has affected his designing, too?

A Night Out with Some Really Big Stars

Last week, Jack & I had the privilege of attending the benefit Point Foundation Honors the Arts. Point grants scholarships to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, and is the largest foundation of its kind. We were presenting an award to a man named Jonathan Harrison, who aspires to be an interior designer and is studying at Pratt Institute, here in New York.

To say that Jonathan’s story is amazing would be an understatement. In front of a packed house, Jonathan spoke of how, in his early teens, he had been brutally raped by two men after he had confided to them that he was gay. While a student at Duke University, he came out to his family, who subsequently cut him off and refused to support his education.

Rather than be defeated, Jonathan launched himself into advocating for LGBT rights. When he was 21, he was named one of The Advocate’s Best and Brightest Activists.

Did you know that nearly 1/3 of LGBT students drop out of high school to escape harassment, discrimination and/ or violence? I guess living in New York and having close gay friends, it’s just so incomprehensible to me that in this day and age, people still face discrimination based on their sexual orientation, and that such discrimination is still so rampant.

The big media draw for this event, of course, were the Sex and The City girls, who came out in full force to support the night’s honoree, Cynthia Nixon. But to me at least, the night’s big stars were really the Point Foundation Scholars. They deserve their own blog entry, I think, so I’ll leave off my blogging about S&TC & SJP for later.

--Victorya Hong

Monday, April 14, 2008

Can you Tecktonik?

Friday's WSJ had a great story about a new dance craze that's sweeping across Europe. There's some unfortunate behind the scene fracas going on involving a French club promoter named Alexandre Barouzdin, who is seeking to profit on the use of the name Tecktonik. He trademarked the term and has plans to turn it into a global brand. (Imagine if someone had tried to do the same with hip hop or disco.)

Apparently, the dance may come to New York soon. A concert is slated this fall and may feature some Tecktonik dancers.

French rap/pop diva Yelle, she of the gut busting hit "Parle a la Main" (translation: Speak to the's even funnier than when Schwarzenegger uttered those words in Terminator) has already cut a video featuring Tecktonik to the tune of her song "A Cause des Garcons" (Because of Boys).

I wonder if we'll see Madonna Tecktoniking soon?

--Victorya Hong

Saturday, April 12, 2008

On all this speculation....

So I'm not breaking the news here that Nina is parting ways with Elle. And I've had serious reservation about blogging on this news, simply because I don't have all the details. But then, neither do all the other blogs who have fueled speculation that the fashion director was fired.

Even WWD focused on Nina's 'notable absence' from an event on Tuesday hosted by Elle for Simon Doonan. And other outlets have speculated what with all the drama (crying, closed door meetings) that reportedly took place in the Elle offices, that of course, she must have been been given the pink slip.

Well, from what little I know, the Ugly Betty episode featuring Christian and Nina was filmed in LA earlier this week. It had been postponed from its original filming date due to some scheduling conflict. So, that could be why she couldn't make it to a party on Tuesday, even if it was for the rather fabulous creative director of Barney's.

So, what do we know? Well, that she's not working at Elle anymore. And until she, or Elle, confirms whether it was mutual or one-sided, I don't think we'll ever know.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Model of the Moment....Simona

Oh! I promised myself before starting this project that I wouldn't be one of those erratic bloggers who blogged whenever or wherever they fancied. Already before my first week is even up, here I am filing somewhat late today.

I promise, though, I have very good reason. I'm somewhat up to my ears in patterns and muslins, busily at work on my Holiday/ Resort collection. Of course, production for Fall is looming not too far off, so all of this multi-tasking has forced me to put my blogging off until the evening.

Everyone knows that Jackie is my favorite model. I love her so much I look at her almost as a kid sister....ahem, my tall, blonde, gorgeous kid sister.... I'm sure I don't need to spell out the similarities for you now, do I?

I couldn't have been happier when Jackie agreed to open and close my show in February. In fact, all the girls who walked for me were pretty stellar. (A big shout out to my fantastic casting director Colby. After seeing her at work during Fashion Week, I gained a newfound appreciate for all the logistical strategizing casting directors do.)

Amid even this standout group, there were still a couple of girls who stood out even further. Simona was one of them. She has this ethereal beauty, anchored by a keen sense of groundedness. And after just a few moments of talking with Simona, I was bowled over by her maturity and sense of calm composure. (I loved chatting with all the girls, even the girls who didn't speak English well. What were they wearing? What other castings they had they been to? Were they doing many shows? Were they going to Paris? Milan?)

Since then, I've seen Simona in show, after show, after show. From Marc by Marc, as well as Marc Jacobs collection, Gianfranco Ferre, Moschino Cheap and Chic, Yohji, Gaultier, and name just a few.

Not bad, for a girl who isn't even old enough to vote.

--Victorya Hong

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charlotte or Lou?

Now that Charlotte Gainsbourg is rumored to be the next face of Balenciaga, there seems to be no realm the Birkin sisters have yet to conquer equally. Remember kid sister Lou Doillon as the body of Eres, or in those Morgan ads in France?

Okay, so Lou is no chanteuse...yet. Though she doesn't share her sister's crooning legacy (Serge Gainsbourg is Charlotte's father), perhaps she'll be coming out with an album of her own in the future. I've always seen her as the cool rocker chick to her thoughtfully intellectual older sister Charlotte anyway.

----Victorya Hong

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Naomi does it again

"The good and the bad. Nobody has it all together. So let's not pretend."--Naomi Campbell

You don't have to convince me that Naomi seems to have some serious anger management issues. From personal experience though, I've learned you can't believe everything you read in the press. But because of the frequency of her outbursts, and if I recall, some physical evidence of abuse...didn't her maid sport a scab on her head after that infamous phone incident?... I wouldn't want to be within throwing distance of the super model.

Still, I've heard from people in the industry who have worked closely with the super diva that Naomi is actually quite sweet and generous. And I have to give the girl some credit for always looking fabulous. She won serious brownie points with me when she donned that fabulous Dolce & Gabbana gown on the last day of her community service after spending five days mopping the floors of a New York sanitation depot. That gown was then auctioned off to benefit Nelson Mandela's charity for kids.

Okay, so apparently she has a thing with spitting, according to reports from this latest incident at Heathrow. But seriously, I think we all know how it feels to go near ballistic when our luggage is lost, or when we have to wait for what seems like hours in a throng of a gazillion other people, all close to going off the deep end.

As for the racial slurs? Expletives aside, I guess calling someone a white honkey just doesn't seem as offensive as a slew of other names. Whenever George Jefferson used that epithet, it was always followed by canned laughter.

I think she might just be a girl prone to drama extreme. Which actually may be why she can pull off being so fabulous at times. Not that this should be an excuse for her behavior, especially when it causes harm to others. But what would fashion be without a teensy bit of drama?

Remember this video, shot by Steven Klein some time back for W Magazine? At least the girl can laugh at herself for her foibles, all while busting some serious move to Tina Turner.

Victorya Hong

Wherefore art thou, Ramiele?

Tuesday nights just aren't the same without my favorite pinay pixie. Okay, okay, so she didn't seem to grow with the competition, and her performances actually seemed to get worse with each passing week. 

But how can you not love a girl who says that the best thing about the whole experience of being on national television was the shoes and make-up?

Ramiele and I have both been nominated for the Favorite Reality Star category of the Asian Excellence Awards, which is taking place April 23rd at UCLA. You can cast your vote online at 

I wish I could say this is all just a stunt for some self promotion....but my vote is going to Ramiele!  

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Marketing master of the high and low

This past weekend, I piled into a car (an unusual event here in the pedestrian capital of North America) and headed west across the river to New Jersey. Again an extremely unusual event. Not that I have anything against NJ. It's just, living in a place like New York, you really can find almost everything here. Just about everything except that mixmaster of a retailer Target, that is.

My cart filled with 12-roll toilet tissue (which is bulk by NY standards), detergents, cleaners, and sundry cosmetic goods, I just happened to walk by the Loeffler Randall line, which was marked down to make way for the new Gryson bags.

I was amazed at how nice it all looked. Of course, I just had to buy something.... I mean who can resist a mark-down at Target? I ended up dishing out a whopping $13.98 for the adorable brown rose clutch above.

Since then, I've taken a quick look online, which has the entire collection, marked down even further. I'm a bit bummed that I didn't see the shoes, or the chic little weave clutch in cream, pictured above, while I was there.

But with everything now reduced to under $19.99, I could afford to buy the entire line, and still come out a happy, stylish, and none-too broke shopper with just the click of a button.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Freckles be gone!

Last week, my friend Jack (you may recognize him as one of the other designers from the show) asked if I might be interested in dropping by the offices of Creative Media Marketing. Jack had worked on a green awareness event sponsored by a CMM client, Pure & Natural soap, and Hannah DeGiovanni, the project manager was hosting an informal gathering as a way to promote some of their product lines.

I couldn't resist. I've always been fascinated with beauty products, the science and technology behind them, but also the more natural approaches. I've experimented with essential oils for years, mixing them into my lotions and creams, and burning them for their curative effects.

I spent a lot of time speaking with Jessica Bacarach, who works closely with the NV Perricone line, and Lori Tomonari, who herself has the most amazing honey-toned complexion. (I spent so much time talking with them that I barely had a chance to catch up with Christian!) In any case, Jess handed me Dr. Perricone's latest book, Ageless Face, Ageless Mind, which I've since read over the weekend, and told me to try some of his products.

I have to say that the book was a bit difficult to get through. As a lay reader, I could see how it had been written to translate all the science, but it was just so much information. I guess in this day of instant gratification, I wanted it all bullet pointed at the end of each chapter and wondered why that wasn't done for the supplements section.

Anyway, to tackle my sun spots, which I know are a result of the months I've spent frolicking on the beaches of Spain, I've switched out of my Murad Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel and am testing out Perricone's Concentrated Restorative Cream. Will I ever be able to say, "Freckles be gone!"...? I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Comme des Garçons and H&M

I'm still not sure what to think of it, Rei Kawakubo's decision to design a capsule collection for H&M. When I read the news Thursday morning, I felt a mixture of incredulity, giddyness, then bewilderment. The undisputed high priestess of intellectual fashion pairing with one of the most commercial mass manufacturers of all time. Okay, so she's joining the ranks of a none too shabby crew which includes the likes of Stella and Karl. But maybe I was so puzzled because Rei, light of the avant garde, was following on the heels of Roberto Cavalli, a designer who is probably best known for mastering the art of sensual dressing.

Then I read the press release:
"I have always been interested in the balance between creation and business. It is a dilemma, although for me creation has always been the first priority. It is a fascinating challenge to work with H&M since it is a chance to take the dilemma to its extreme, and try to solve it."

Rei Kawakubo, who started her label in 1973, still struggles with the business of fashion? What does that mean for those of us who are just starting out? Will I still be struggling in 30 years time?

I have always been in awe of Rei because she, like Ann Demeulemeester & Isabel Toledo, have such distinct visions of fashion. More importantly, they have all had the courage to follow these visions, whether or not that meant commercial success. I admit that sometimes, I don't always "get" her message. But even when Rei admits to exploring the limits of bad taste, as she did in her last collection (see above photo), it somehow comes out extraordinary.

My second thought now is, will I need to camp overnight outside H&M's flagship store to be able to scoop up as many of her designs as possible?

My blog manifesto

I know it makes no sense and as I write, seeing the words in black and white is a stark visual reminder of just how paradoxical this blog might be. This blog is being born out of a year-long writer’s bloc, read, code for the most epic stint of procrastination I hope to ever admit to in my adult life.

Let me explain. I sat down the other day to finish my novel, a work that had its beginnings in my early twenties when I ran around Paris frequenting cafes and clubs under the pretense that I was “gathering material.” Or at least, that was the advice given me by my boss at my day job, an older English intellectual with an Oxbridge education and such an intimidating command of the English language that, at first meeting, I nearly broke out into a cold sweat. It was only until he laughed, a disarmingly boyish guffaw, that I found myself endeared to him forever and from that moment on, looked to him as mentor and friend.

“Live a little,” is what he said. “You need to garner a little of life’s experiences, amass a bounty of material from which to draw on later.” (I swear he spoke like this, his grammar was impeccable. I’m sure the idea of ending a sentence with a preposition would make him shudder.)

Two countries, a career change, and some ten years later, I did eventually sit down to write that book, or at least two-thirds of it. And then I got side-tracked: work, fashion, appearing on a reality tv show, and so many other things sort of took priority for a while. The book sat shelved for nearly a year, and during this time, it felt like an incomplete sentence. Like I had started writing out a thought, come to a comma, and rather than complete the idea, just left it there with that dangling arc of a punctuation.

It still dangles, which brings me to this blog. I sat down to finally write, to seek the closure of that elusive period when I found that I could not. I sat there, with the blank screen blinking back at me. And so what did I do? I couldn’t just sit there, do nothing. I did what I do nearly every morning, I read all my favorite blogs.

The last thing I want to do, especially as I write my first blog entry, is to go into a diatribe about blogs. I am completely divided about them: their inaccuracies, the way they are used as tools to vent personal frustrations or further biased agendas, their lack of journalistic integrity, not to mention the rampant animus that seems to pervade the blog underworld. And believe me, as a reality tv personality, however fleeting that role was, I think I can say this after having been the subject of many a blog.

But still, like some sort of highly addictive prescription med, I find myself reading no less than half a dozen blogs, mostly fashion related, every single morning. Not for their news content, because it would take too much scrutinizing to weed out the nuggets of fact from the propaganda. I read these blogs to get a reading of the climate of today’s pop culture, which is so important to the work I do as a fashion designer.

Blogs can be so incredibly powerful. And I am one of those who bought it, hook, line and sinker when Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So bearing this in mind, I will try to keep my blog as (we)blogs were perhaps originally intended to be, online chronicles, purely my comments and views on things as they happen, things that I think are worth speaking about. I will try my darnedest not to pass these off as anything but a blog, no hidden agendas here. The subject matter of this blog? Fashion, without saying, television (of which I watch way too much), people, art, the world around us, and issues I think are important, informative, or just plain entertaining.

No, on to the blogging!

Victorya Hong