Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dali, Man Ray: Unforgettable

a Salvador Dali image

Man Ray, Ingres' Violin

I flirted with having a tattoo, maybe a flower that would peek past the bottom of black leggings. Eventually the urge went away.   

Dali's Elephant. Man Ray's Violin. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Charles James, Halston, Vreeland: Then

This was NOT what I expected. After watching the trailer for the Halston movie, I wanted to find photos of what I remember: Charles James half-hidden by a newspaper, trails of cigarette smoke, Elsa Perretti, Pat Cleveland.

"Hmmmm. As for stealing, if you're not copied you're nobody," Vreeland.

Would that be to borrow an Haute Couture original to have a Seventh Avenue manufacturer copy it, a line for line copy? Sidney Gittler at Ohrbach's paid to attend  Haute Couture shows, required to purchase several Haute Couture bodies to take back to New York to ... be copied.

Did Halston ask for Charles James help, the ultimate master of construction? Yes. There was a  tight sleeve, knits that hugged the body at the moment that was all Sonia Rykiel. Halston was breezier, his his understanding of women perfection.

The earlier days of the business of fashion. History, beautifully documented history.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fashion, It's A Business, Really

Why a seditious Banksy? Seductive, pretty, familiar and dangerous.  And very expensive.

Lights, cameras, iPhones, iPads and where once the front row was editors at Vogue flanked by media to the left and right, photographers kneeling (yeah right) in front, an occasional buyer sprawled, tangled by the cables. Row Two was the money row: Presidents of large stores and their buyers spilling into Row Three with its star boutiques and friends of the house. Standing by the back wall was every bit as cool as the very front row; it meant the house security and fire marshals accepted you, knew that you needed to be first to exit (but never before the show's end, no matter what) to race somewhere very important: lunch or the next show.

Children were barely tolerated, special cases only; none were wearing lipstick or tiaras or had their own press agent. Directors were very, very welcome however. Smoking, certainly.

American and Brit designers were dispatched from St Martin's to fashion houses to work alongside designers. Well-born daughters were sent to intern under Lagerfeld and the children of fashion houses sent to Brown's in London.  Someday with a few years rare and delicious experience on their CV's, the designers would leave, some to form their own house or work with an Italian factory who would fund their first few collections or even to work for more money at other houses.

Photographers at the shows turned over their film - real film - to their agencies and sold some under the table in the back of the building at midnight under a dull streetlight to manufacturers who would assemble a team to gather together to ambush a designer collection into a shop by a good six weeks. European designers waited for textile deliveries that were always late, factory workers to return from weeks off in the summer, kicking shipping boxes out the door as quickly as possibly to play beat the cancellation date. Shop buyers fought with schedules and complained that Vogue was doing editorials before anything arrived.

Buyers were stuck with loyalty (and hefty minimums) even in the face of of one of those "omg, you've done it again" collections where everything was wrong. Can you really buy enough plain white blouses and black pants to pass the minimum and make something of the mess in shop?

Shops phoned in to Mastercard, Visa and American Express for approval, a plodding painful where-do-you-look process; there was always the possibility of no and maybe I wasn't the only one holding my breath and hoping "let me pay for this, let me take it, hurry up, oh please." The chip is, no doubt, a distant cousin of that time.

Pierre Berge, the rock strong business partner of YSL, taught the rest of the designers (truth) to care about the brand, not to just sell to any shop for just more money but to do a no-punches-pulled tour of America to make sure all the claims about movie star customers and a fashion mix straight from designer heaven was true, that clothes should not end up in a discount shop such as Loehmans or Century21. They did it, growing money, licenses and movie-stardom in leaps, trying to become as successful as Calvin Klein.  Rumors \about money laundering, the Mafia, at Versace and other Italian houses. Who knew what was up. These houses sold more clothes raking in more profits than seemed feasible. Where were all these shoppers ponying up thousands for dresses coming from? There was New York, Los Angeles and Chicago apart from Hong Kong, Tokyo and European cities.

Money was at the heart of it. Here in Los Angeles, size four to eight could sell out while tens and twelves (were there fourteens?) languished even unto the sale racks.  7, 7 1/2 and 8 were the shoe sizes that would sell out but reluctantly you'd add fives, sixes, nines and tens. If the minimum was too high as it was at many houses, you could take a chance that the most extravagant evening clothes wouldn't be shipped, too difficult for the textile house to produce small quantities: minimums met and yet avoided.

Was. Was ok, was very good. A period called Then. Things that had no part of Then:

  • Faxes, cells, computers
  • Look books and videos/cd's/dvd's, youtube
  • Bloggeratti 
  • Designer websites
  • Flash sales sites
  • Online shopping ala (ok, there was no online)
  • Democracy in fashion and, umm, social media
  • Thank you ... yes, I know: a few buyers waited (ad nauseum) for thanks for your order pal
  • Special emissaries (huh?) for Chanel etc
  • Hotel suites for swag, just plain giving things away would have made anyone in fashion faint 
  • Red carpet free haute couture and payments, omg, for wearing "our" dress
  • Hundreds of billions of dollars to buy out your boutique to take it big time
  • Live fashion reporting (there was Elsa Klensch once a week and that was it)
  • Friendly returns (ok, we all took returns but you'd never know it from our clenched teeth)I

Is. Is is very good: social conscience and doors flung open. Fashion is barely produced in America; once it was a major industry. French fashion might have a made in Romania label, nothing would be sent in a taxi to a particular seamstress, as Karl Lagerfeld at Chloe had done.  Fast fashion has a cadre of designers waiting like wallflowers to collaborate things. talking about "masstige" and "why not." Red carpets unrolled (rolled out?) for press parties for reality tv people, fashion magazines and bloggers too.

Fashion shows are live streamed, sometimes with designer q&a's simultaneously, in a cloud to whatever you sign into, designer websites let you order from bypassing the shops that built the brands.

The front row continues with Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Carla Sozzana, and the lot of Vogue editors but squeezing closer to the middle will be and the Kardashian/Jenner clan.

Fashion uses interns: glamorous, brilliant, young, highly educated, energy content to sometimes be paid but mostly for the association.  Bryanboy, who may sweat glitter, wrote about this phenomenon and its true meaning in his post "Coffee Runners Are The Future Of Fashion Reporting."

Bloggers stormed open the doors of the sequestered, established world of fashion. The internet exploded, certainly one of the reasons that a recent IHT Luxury Conference revealed has become ingrained: the bother of shopping in a real store and dealing with the frustration of limited inventories whilst at the computer the entire world's stock is available with two clicks, along with the act of dealing with real people, not as easy as the forgiving websites have become.

Within the bloggeratti are rich rewards for the few: Marc Jacobs naming a handbag after Bryanboy to the photographic campaigns of Garance Dore to the reputed seven-figures Scott Schuman made for his book The Sartorialist which he just happened to launch at Bergdorf Goodman. Several are on the go-to list for opinions on collections, campaigns, magazine covers, models, the industry and are maturing as rapidly as they shot from behind a computer screen to stories in Vogue and the NYTimes. And then the Instagram stars, the SnapChat divas.

Blogging attracted journalists too: (Wendy Brandes and Sasha Wilkins of Liberty London Girl) and the masthead of W Magazine, InStyle and the assorted Vogues are overweight blogs by their own and guests.

Fashion can be immediate in a way that benefits the people who work within it. It is, after all, a business.

(Love Vanessa Friedman's post "Facebook, fashion and fantasy.")

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

No Photography Please At Tom Ford

"I don't get the need for this immediacy. In fact, I think it's bad," Ford said. "The way the system works now, you see the clothes, within an hour or so they're online, the world sees them. They don't get to a store for six months. The next week, young celebrity girls are wearing them on red carpets. They're in every magazine. The customer is bored with those clothes by the time they get to the store. They're overexposed, you're tired of them, they've lost their freshness."

I'd love a sit down and dish with Tom. The polite note at Tom's London Fashion Show today was a quiet reminder that this is different, special and no photographs please. A few tweets "chic bohemian luxurious collection" and "sexy, chic, don't mess with me."  Rock star clothes that cost the moon and it's nice that way. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Antoine's Story and Ed Hardy, yes I know .. Ed Hardy?

There's something honky-tonk about boardwalks. Here in Venice there's flophouses mingling with architected houses that weigh in with a several million dollar price tag. Bicyclists with helmets, skaters that might have a marker stuffed into their socks, mommies pushing swings not high enough for toddlers who love the swoosh and freedom of flying up to the sky and drug/drink addled homeless in varying states of decay. Tucked into doorways, under bushes, church steps and sometimes the middle of a sidewalk, they rest, half hidden under a blanket. Luckier ones rile the city up by living in their cars or small trailers. The beach and then the ocean are for everyone.  Kelly Cutrone read palms here.

You get used to the homeless as quickly as the sightings of Bruce Willis. Churros and designer pizza, flipflops and Lanvin ballets. Gentrification is held at bay, barely.

I live on a walk street two blocks from the beach, parking is in the alley behind my house. My neighbor's house is blue and she parks under a mature lemon tree. It could be somewhere in the South of France and is very removed from the fracas and raunch of The Boardwalk.

A man reading a book and eating a sandwich in the shade of that pretty tree last week, half-hidden by a parked car. A few hours later I backed into my parking spot under a pepper tree and he was still there, half-hidden under a blanket. My fingers ready to tweet for help to Venice311.

Incongruously, white Ed Hardy sneakers poked through the edge of the blanket.

"I'm an Iraqui vet. I'm hungry .. I need help."

I returned with a bottle of water and an organic green salad from Whole Foods. He looked at the healthy greens and then at me. Ah, not a salad eater ...

Venice311 knows everything that goes on here and how to get things done. Who should I call for help. Antoine stood up, a slight man clean shaven and neat. He was so skinny. I drove him to get a hamburger. He waited patiently outside, telling me he was ashamed that he wasn't dressed well enough and didn't want to be around people. Venice311 and I came up with an emergency plan. She drove her large SUV to my house to park. A large roomy back area with a sleeping bag.

I let Antoine into my house for a shower, telling him sternly that if Papa Bear, my 120 pound Bernese, sensed that I was anxious at all, he would promptly eat Antoine. He accepted that with another sweet "yes, ma'am."

The next morning Venic311, Antoine and I sat at my kitchen table. He'd been in the Navy for eight years, the last two in Iraq and was being treated at the Veterans Administration in Long Beach for PTSD. Someone had laced a cigarette with crystal meth a few months ago and he'd stopped taking his medication. He'd found his way to Venice and hung with a small group of addicts and drunks who slept on the wide steps of a nearby church, staying together for protection. A quick downfall, and maybe the speed of it saved him.

His grandmother in Louisiana had brought him up; he'd been too ashamed to call her for help. I handed him the phone and he made the call, a hard thing to admit to this much-loved woman that he'd gone awry.

We took him to the Clare Foundation, a place that won't turn away someone who needs a hand and to detox. He was accepted into their 30 day program.

He may very well go back to finish training to be an MRI technician. He called yesterday to thank me .. "thank you, Miss Madeleine." And immediately let me know that he didn't think he could become a vegetarian, very politely. Candy, pringles and gatorade would be nice.

It didn't end well actually. He was kicked out for fighting and I don't know what happened after that.
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