Friday, October 31, 2008

If you haven't had a chance yet to go see this exhibit in Central Park, then go before it's whisked off to London November 9th.

Friends of ours from Europe waited in the cold for an hour and a half in line, and then were shocked to learn that their 12 year old daughter was discouraged from entering, due to graphic nudity in some of the installations. They were warned that they needed to take full reponsability of their child, until one of the docents realized that they were European.

"You're from Europe! You'll be just fine, go on through!" she exclaimed.

As our friends were walking away from the admission desk with tickets in hand, they could hear the elderly docent explain to her colleagues, "The girl will be just fine...They're Europeans you know!"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Second-hand is usually a great option for girls on a budget, and especially now with the grim economic outlook. But I've never really found that to be the case here in the city, where thrift isn't always rewarded when the dress is considered more vintage archival than just second hand.

So don't expect bargains at Chrystie's special auction this week in London, which will sell off some of the most iconic pieces of fashion in the last fifty years. Curated by owners of pioneer vintage shop Resurrection, some 250 pieces will go under the hammer, and will fetch some pretty steep bids, I'm sure.

Among those items up for sale will be a space-age wedding dress by Paco Rabanne, said to have been commissioned by a Middle Eastern bride, but never worn, the Gianni Versace bondage dress made infamous by Elizabeth Hurley, and even pieces of Marc Jacobs grunge collection.

Now, I wonder, come next auction will we see a dress from Kate Moss' Top Shop collection, or maybe an H&M by Comme des Garcons coat? Perhaps not at Chrystie's, but you can be sure we'll see some pretty fierce bids on ebay for them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last night we went out to dinner to one of my favorite joints in the city. We had friends in town, and we decided, rather at last minute, to make an evening of it with some good food, wine, and of course conversation. While I'm a girl that couldn't be happier with a old movie & a slice of pizza, this place isn't quite like that. The service is impeccable, the decor sublime, and the wait staff leave you alone at the table for as long as you like, rather than push you out to usher in the next set of diners. Of course, you pay for it all, and rather steeply.

And so I shouldn't have been so surprised that I was able to reserve a table for five with such short notice. But I was. It's not that the place wasn't packed to the nines come dinner hour. But in these tough economic times, I guess steep restaurant bills are probably the first thing to get cut out of peoples' budgets.

Shopping at Top Shop, however, still seems to be priority for girls minding their p's and q's, especially considering the frenzy that took place in London yesterday with the launch of Kate's holiday collection. Okay, so the Kate effect is a big factor in the formula for success here, or for any brand that has her plastered all over their campaign ads.

But while most of the stuff is as cute and trendy as Top Shop normally is, I can't say that's true for all of it. The leopard "claw" dress she wore to Vivienne Westwood sold out in minutes, both in the stores and online, which leads me to ask, really?

While retailers are cutting orders by as much as 15%, if not more, I can't help but to question why girls would spend a solid £100 on a knit dress with a cat paw. Or maybe it's jealousy speaking here. If it were that easy, come next spring, you'd see my line chock full of badly printed dresses.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Remember when Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for "La Vie en Rose" in that gorgeous white Gaultier dress? I remember thinking back then, as I was charmed out of my stilettos by the humor and girlishness of her acceptance speech, how that dress would be talked about for seasons to come.

And now that the French actress has been tapped for a Dior campaign, Cotillard will be stepping out of that dress, and into her own as a style maker. What a coup, especially when you look at the illustrious heels she'll be following: Monica Bellucci, Diane Kruger and Carla Bruni, who right now, is probably the most famous trend setter, not to mention first lady, in all of France.

The best part about the gig? Not just being decked out in head to toe Christian Dior, but spending a day with none other than John Galliano, of course!

Monday, October 27, 2008

When I first heard about Poster Boy, something about his work struck a chord, though I'm not sure if it hit all the keys. There's something admirable about the obvious social consciousness of his work and the fact that he does it under a mask of anonymity. But just like English grafitti artist Banksy before him, whose work is now fetching some steep British pounds, I guess I find it a bit ironic that it is precisely Poster Boy's desire for anonymity that is garnering him so much attention.

If you've ever ridden in the subway here in New York, perhaps you've seen his work, if you're lucky that is, to have caught sight of it before the MTA cops have. New York Magazine recently did a quick, but thorough profile of the ad mauler, who by all accounts lived the typical life of an underprivileged inner city kid: single parent home, tough breaks & a criminal record that had him headed down all the wrong roads. Except that Poster Boy, who is all of 25 years old, had enough smarts and creativity to clean himself up and enroll in community college, then art school, from which he perfunctorily dropped out.

Apparently, he has some lofty, socially ambitious goals for his work, which has me raising an eyebrow. He wants to inspire others to do the same and start a decentralized art movement, where anyone can pick up an Exacto knife and assume the role of Poster Boy. It's not that his art isn't already doing what so many artists fail to achieve, to promote dialogue and awareness of serious social issues. I mean, here I am blogging about him, and I admit wholeheartedly to being a big fan of his art.

But I guess by the time Poster Boy does become a movement, I wonder if we'll see his work hanging in a gallery. But then it won't be for free and for a few stolen moments. It'll be at a steep price, with a lot of zeroes behind it, you can be sure.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Last night amid the first cold spell of autumn, I hightailed it over to the far west side of the garment district for the preview of H&M's collaboration with Comme des Garcons. That area used to be too seedy to walk through alone, particularly because of certain overpasses which were used as a spots where working girls could still conduct business with their johns. Now, it's as gentrified as any neighborhood in New York and pretty soon, we'll all be calling it Wogard (west of the garment district) to christian it's new coolness.

But enough of my lamentings of a changing New York, I was there to see Rei Kawakubo's genius up close and personal. Not even the presence of some starlets from Gossip Girls could distract me from my mission, though I have to admit I turned my head when Maggie Gyllenhaal walked in the room.

I know I've blogged about this before, but what a coup for H&M. Apparently, true to artistic form, Rei K insisted on complete creative control over the project. So resultingly, some of the pieces are on the high end of the retail ticket for H&M, but still a fraction of the CdG's normal prices. Recession or no, you can bet I'll be one of those crazed shoppers who will be lining up outside a store come November 13, so I can snatch up as many pieces as I possibly can.

What I kept wondering was, how will they ever top this? And will we have to wait a full year for them to unveil their next designer collaboration? On the one hand, Rei K has such a limited audience, but then on the other, she's the ultimate designer's designer, which should open wide the flood gates for even the biggest names. I think next time, though, to balance things out, H&M will have to go commercial. Alexander McQueen? Prada? YSL? Or dare I imagine...Marc Jacobs?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If you weren't one of the lucky few who were able to snatch up one of Herr Lagerfeld's limited edition teddy bear at $1500 a pop, replete with sunglasses and mini dominator gloves, then his new cologne, Kapsule, might be more within your reach.

Though the scent seems to be more widely available overseas, it'll be another retail exclusive for Neiman Marcus stateside. But even the launch here is not without Karl's signature humor, with an accompanying press release that explains, "He decides on the weather, then gently blows the trend”.

Here are some more gems I've translated from an interview the Karlmeister granted to French daily L'Express earlier this month, talking about the launch of his first scent in decades:

You're launching a collection of three unisex perfumes, but the first scent with your name was a men's fragance.
KL: That was 30 years ago, in 1978, when I came out with Classic. During the 2 or 3 years that followed, the masculine version sold the most. But by the end of it, because I wore the same perfume myself, I was tired of smelling my own scent on everybody. In any case, you need to constantly change perfume, otherwise, your odor becomes lazy.

What scent are you wearing nowadays?
KL: I alternate between Iris Nobile, d'Acqua di Parma, and my own mixture, which I make from Shalimar and one of the perfumes of Comme des Garçons.

Do you perfume your hair?
KL: Are you joking? I powder it every day with an entire bottle of dry shampoo by Klorane. I am already a walking meringue, so I don't submit my hair to more torture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I have to admit, I'm actually a fan of the Olsen, though if you asked me to identify each twin by name, I'd have a pretty rough go of it. Despite going a bit over the top at times with their boho chic--I mean, really, does anyone actually dress like that going into a Starbucks here in NY?--they are style mavens in their own 20-something right.

Besides having what must be a normal, stable family who nurtured the girls into becoming the gazillionaires they now are, their two fashion labels, The Row and Elizabeth & James, are actually pretty tasteful...though I'd be willing to bet my prized pair of Jimmy Choos I that the girls don't really sit behind a drafting table and design.

And as if they weren't already set for life, the girls are taking a manicured stab at interviewing fashion movers and shakers around the globe and have compiled it into a coffee table book that has New York Magazine raving. The best part about this? They've scored a tete-a-tete with none other than the Karlmeister. Here are selected portions of that conversation, which I've conveniently lifted straight from New York Magazine. Thanks NY Mag!

Where we see cupcakes, Karl sees plastic.
AO: What do you do now to stay in shape?
KL: Nothing … I have a doctor who I made a book with that sold five million copies all over the world. Every country bought one, I think, in Russia and Italy and everywhere. But I don't get it — I don't know what Japan is going to do with a European diet book … Since I started my diet, which was like eight years ago, I haven't touched what I'm not supposed to: sugar, cheese, nothing! I don't even look at it. It looks to me like plastic.

He hates tall, chatty models.
KL: [N]owadays you start to model because you're young. Now the girls are sixteen, seventeen, fifteen, and Russian. They are like from another planet
AO: They can look very bizarre!
KL: I hate all these tall women. They are all giants!
MKO: If only I were a little taller — that would make me happy!
KL: You are one meter fifty-one. You are taller than that?
AO: We're five feet and one inch.
KL: Oh, I thought my office told me that you were four-foot eight or something. Not that it matters. What you need is a face. If you have a face you don't need height or a voice. Models know this; that's why the good ones don't need to talk much.

And he hates working with male models.
KL: I like to work with models for a long time. Sometimes the girls change, but some girls I work with for years and years. With male models it is different. I hate working with male models.
AO: Ah, well boys come and go!
KL: And I hate doing castings and things like this. "oh no you're not right" — that's horrible to say to someone. I never do castings. Other people do them, and then I see the result of the casting. It's humiliating for the models.

Nor does he like to hear a man's opinion.
KL: I don't have people I don't like around me ever.
MKO: You don't have to.
KL: …I don't work with many men. I don't want to ask the men about the fashion. Their opinion doesn't interest me.

He gives the girls family-planning advice!
KL: I like more classic [shapes] now. Best thing to do for skinny people to wear tight dresses. Although jeans are becoming too tight.
AO: Ah! Yes, it's becoming a problem. It's the worst.
KL: You can kill yourself in these jeans.
MKO: Ha, I'd rather stay inside with my friends than limp out in tight trousers.
KL: Maybe you'll stay inside with a baby. Do you want to get married? Children? Two perfect mums, yes?
[Mary-Kate and Ashley look at each other]
KL: Ah! Don't worry, you have time. You're young. Don't you want to get married?
MKO: I don't feel the need to get married. But Ashley wants children. I'll be a great aunt or godmother.
AO: To my child.
KL: [To Ashley] Are you planning?
AO: No. I don't even have a boyfriend. You have to plan that first, right? Figure that out first?
KL: If you get a boyfriend it doesn't mean that! Today you can have a baby first. If you want. I never liked the idea of a family at all. If it's a woman — it's more fun for a woman.

Karl sheds light on why he's the face of that road-safety ad in France.
MKO: It can be dangerous when you're driving [in L.A.] particularly, because they follow you in cars and scooters. That's bad. That's not easy.
KL: I had two accidents where I fell asleep — after that I thought it was better that I don't drive. I'll get a driver. I'm a bad driver because I want to look there, there, and up there. I get bored easily — so twice I fall asleep and twice the car is destroyed … I had nothing [wrong] with me — but both cars were destroyed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Remember when Kate Moss was caught in that video tape snorting drugs some years back? And then we saw her in just about every single important print ad campaign for every European house imaginable? Except for Burberry, that is. Well, seems like Burberry has dropped new face Rosie Huntington-Whiteley after just one season when shots surfaced in the Daily Mail this summer of the rising mannequin deftly handling a drug pipe.

Okay, not that I'm ragging on Kate. I mean, she is one of the most successful supermodels of all time and a living fashion icon. The girl knows how to put on an outfit in the morning, hangover or no. And I don't mean to question her moral fiber, I mean, what's that saying about casting the first stone, right? So I can completely understand that her friends would gather round her and support her in a time of need. Like Alexander McQueen, who wore a tee-shirt emblazoned with "We love you Kate" following one of his major runway shows.

But I have to admit that I was a little puzzled when the Kate brand seemed to explode tenfold after all that nonsense. I mean, heck, if we calculated how much money she made off that little scandal, I'm sure it would have tallied into the millions of pounds, so times two in greenbacks.

So Rosie being caught with a drug pipe. The girl is all of what, nineteen? What kid doesn't do a bit of experimenting? Then again, this is her first big campaign and she did kind of blow it, didn't she? But why does Burberry seem to be the only label in the vast sea of fashion houses that possesses a semblance of a moral conscience? It's a complex question, I guess, and a complex world.

I mean, when socialites can launch successful careers on the slip of a sex tape, it's a world that is just beyond my depth of comprehension.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fashion in Korea

So, I'm back, happily, I must admit. Though I have to say that our trip to Korea exceeded our expectations, it's always nice to come home to New York.

Now, how could I ever condense the experience into a single blog? That'd be tough. What I can say is that Seoul is a city where you could never go hungry. There are so many restaurants and food stalls, where the food is just as much a delicacy as any top end restaurant, that I could write volumes on the cuisine alone.

And how western the country is. If you took a girl from Seoul and placed her in any major city in the world, she would fit right in. I saw lots of short shorts and minis-- the stylistas there seem to love wearing them with tights. Cargo jackets, blazers, eighties style tees and sweaters.

During the conference I attended, there was a bit of fashion as well. Andre Kim, who is undeniably Korea's most famous designer, gave a fashion show during the finale dinner. And what a show it was. While I'm not a huge fan of his particular design aesthetic, he certainly does know how to put on a show. It was seamless, and must have lasted some 40 minutes, twice the duration of the longest of shows.

And the man seems to be a bit of a Korean Karl Lagerfeld. Always dressed in head to toe white, he knows how important it is to maintain a certain image for his brand, and and his role as the country's most revered living Korean designer.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Apparently Mercury is in retrograde right now. I´m no astrology expert, but I´m told that that often means you go back to a place you´ve known before. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes bad.

Well, it couldn´t be any more true for me now, as I am traveling to Korea this week. I´ve been lucky enough to be invited to speak at the World Knowledge Forum, hosted by the country´s largest economic daily, Maeil Shimbum.

When I saw the list of former and current speakers, I couldn´t quite understand why I would ever be asked to attend, much less speak. Heads of state, CEO´s, established artists, even the venerable former secretary of state Colin Powell, who´s right up there in my book. What´s that saying? Don´t look a gift horse in the mouth?

While I'm there, I'll actually be meeting with some buyers, and hopefully my frocks will be available in Asia in the not so distant future. Not to mention all the shopping and eating I plan on doing. If I weren't traveling for work, this whole trip would be one culinary and commercial binge, restaurant and boutique after restaurant and boutique.

So why am I writing about this? Well, even my insomniac multi-tasking self couldn't get around to writing up on all my blogs to make up for while I am away. I've been just a tad bit busier than usual lately, so if I don't post from abroad, it's just to let you know that I'll be back stateside in 10 days.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm not sure what to think of it, news that Marco Zanini is in talks to take over the reins at a newly revived house of Rochas. That's right, just as the economy seems to be tanking at every corner of the globe, Proctor and Gamble is still set on reviving a luxury brand it so astutely shuttered some years ago. At that time, if you remember, Olivier Theyskens had magically turned it into a much buzzed about label, with every starlet on the red carpet wanting to don a Rochas frock, right before P&G pulled the plug.

Or, does the brevity of Zanini's unemployment signal the potential of his enormous design talent, one recognized only by those in the know? Zanini did helm Versace for many years before his unfortunately brief stint at Halston. And as we all know, fashion is a crazy, crazy business which often flies in the face of logic and sanity. So, being fired from a post almost never reflects a designer's talents.

With Theyskens designing Rochas, critics often explained that the Belgian's focus on ultra-luxe high priced demi-couture put the brand out of reach, narrowing the financial net. But in Theyskens if that had been his fault, honestly? Isn't that why companies have CEOs and employees with business degrees, to mind the business side of things so that designers can design?

At least Zanini's track record shows that he can pull off the business side of things. Versace must be one of the most commercial brands out there. And admittedly, while I myself tend to shy away from big and bling, just about everyone else from St. Petersburg to Florence is happy to wear the infamous head of Medusa on the back of their bum.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Looking at the stills from Hannah MacGibbon's first show for Chloe, I couldn't help but to think of that off-beat William Klein film from the 60s, Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?

Have you ever seen it? The film follows Polly, an American It model and her life in Paris by way of a tv film crew. You learn of her dreams of Prince Charming and the relentless battery of lascivious assaults she must fend off on a daily basis as the coolest girl in France. Everyone wants a piece of her. It makes me wonder: Did Klein know that he was foretelling reality tv as we know it today? Or, was it a just frank portrayal of how elusive yet familiar that cool It girl is to all of us?

We all know who that It girl is. But ironically enough, she's the most difficult girl to design for. And since Phoebe Philo successfully defined the Chloe girl as precisely that, no wonder every designer since has had such a rough time of capturing her again.

While I thought MacGibbon's palette was nearly spot on, with its quirky off-beat colors, there were some major stumbles. Really now, what girl is going to wear a coat with scallops framing the shoulders so that she looks like a crocodile? Fits were unflattering and will undoubtedly be tough sells on real-world girls, but the vibe of Chloe was back. Paolo Melim Andersson, MacGibbon's predecessor had it all wrong when he tried to finesse the Chloe girl into someone who was just a bit too polished.

Seeing the collection, I felt like I heard a collective sigh of fashionistas from around the world who have been waiting for the Chloe girl to return from hiatus. She's back, but now we just have to see if MacGibbon will put her in the right clothes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Alber Elbaz sure knows a thing or two about how to cut clothing. Even though his Spring 2009 collection didn't knock me out of my socks, there were still a couple of pieces that just made me salivate, where I almost felt like I had to push my tongue back into my mouth they were that gorgeous.

Not that they were over-the-top show pieces, because I don't think that that's the type of designer he is. But they were all about luxury and craft. I think that's really what defines Elbaz from other designers for me. He really knows how to craft fabric on the form, down to the last pinch of silk and stitch of thread. Nothing is out of place.

And wait, is that a print I see on Sessilee Lopez? Leopard print no less? And a sequined version of it too? If lady-at-lunch isn't your thing, which Lanvin tends to be, then Elbaz seems to be extending an invitation to the hot mama vixen set too. Smart move in such a tight economy, which makes me think I can only end my blog in one way today: Raaaaaawwwwr!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sonia Rykiel is a designer after my own heart. While some of her designs may border on the deep side of quirky for my own own personal tastes, I've often seen her girl as a precursor to Marc's, but in that way that only the French seem to know how.

So who knew that the woman has been in the biz for 40 years now? That's a lifetime to most, and in fashion, many lifetimes over. If you've seen some of the spectacular styling in her recent print campaigns, with the girls looking like 70s goddesses, hair curled out in a Sonia-esque do, then you'd agree that the brand has been getting a subtle yet superb face lift recently.

With the help of creative director Gabrielle Greiss, she seems to be reviving the brand, giving yet another life to the Rykiel girl. In her Spring show, what I found fascinating were the last 30 looks, homages to Sonia designed by her elite peers, from Elbaz to Yohji. Could there be a higher form of compliment? And what a tribute: they were all quirky, fun, and memorable, just how I imagine Rykiel to be.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Spa Week

Have you ever heard of Spa Week? Well, if your town has Restaurant Week like we do here in New York when you can take advantage of some of the best canteens in town for a fraction of the price, then you might have an idea.

Why do I write about Spa Week? Well, the folks who organize the event have been generous enough to ask me to show my Spring 09 collection there tonight. The evening is going to be packed with on-site spa treatments and Rain Vodka's Organic cocktails. Oh yes, and the whole thing is also sponsored by the bible of beauty tips, Allure Magazine.

So how could a girl like me possibly resist the opportunity? As soon as my own show is over, I'll be getting a much needed manicure and sipping a nice cocktail at the same time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Often in interviews I am asked to name designers I admire. Sure, there is that triumverate of designers (Marc Jacob, Alber Elbaz & Nicolas Ghesquiere) to whom I always look to get a read on what's to come. But there are a couple of others who I respect and admire for other reasons. They happen to be women, and they also happen to be two designers who have remained independent and always followed their vision of how to dress women. For that reason, success wasn't quick and easy for them, but I think that that is probably why I admire them all the more. Those two women are Isabel Toledo and Ann Demeulemeester.

Ann Demeulemeester holds a particularly soft spot in my design heart, most likely because of all the visits I used to pay to her store in Antwerp, well before I knew that I was to step into the world of fashion myself. Her women, and clothes, have always been strong, usually brooding, intellectual types with a hard bent for rock and roll.

So to see her Spring 2009 collection, with its use of bold colors and ethnic tones was a surprise for me, a very fantastic and breathtaking surprise. When I saw the stills, do you know what I thought? If, in these grim economic times Ann Demeulemeester's collection can show hope, then I think we all can.