Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Sparkles on Union Square

Paul Smith. I like the tree!

Last Friday after work I did a little lap around Union Square with my camera to see what I could capture of the holiday window displays. It was a chilly, clear evening making the most of the twinkling lights. The sidewalks were bustling with groups of out-of-town shoppers loaded with shopping bags. Some of the stores went for the flash and shine and others took a more subdued approach.  

Saks: Dolce & Gabbana 

Saks: Lily Samii and Yigal Azrouel

Saks: Fendi

Neiman Marcus: Oscar de la Renta

Neiman Marcus: dress, Tom Ford

The small casement windows at Tiffany's are beautiful glimpses into a miniature world. The tree is only about a foot tall and those are bejeweled bangle bracelets leaning against the stairs.

Another dollhouse setting at Tiffany's. It's hard to see, but on the steps under the tiny Tiffany's box is a diamond-encrusted key pendant. 

A minimal and arty Hermes. 

A blast of color at Kate Spade.

Barneys and Disney created a runway fantasy cartoon that plays in one their windows featuring fashion insiders and celebs. If you have five minutes, take a look at the video. It's silly and fun. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fire Burn, and Cauldron Bubble: Chanel in Scotland

Just when I was despairing that perhaps Chanel had left fantasy and romance behind, my fashion friend Karen sent me a link to this video for the Paris-Edimbourg 2012/13 Metiers d'Art Show, which took place two days ago. Lagerfeld has staged this extravagant event every year for the last ten years. This year the show took place at the 15th Century Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.

But what does Chanel have to do with Scotland? From 1924 to 1931 Coco Chanel had a love affair with The Duke of Westminster and Coco took up hunting, fishing and wearing the Duke's Scottish wool and tweed clothing and then adapted them into her designs, along with the Fair Isle knits.  For the last twenty-five years, Chanel has produced their knits at Barrie Knitwear of Hawick, saving the nearly ninety-year-old factory from closing.

The video is about fourteen minutes long, but it's worth watching the drama of bonfires blazing, snow falling and a moody, cold castle setting right out of Macbeth. It's another world and another time, but Lagerfeld richly layers the models with beautiful wool, lace, leather, Chanel chains, bags, shoes and jewelry making it all very new and very desirable.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Project Dressing Well (on a budget!)

Goodbyes has two shops. The men's store and women's sale items are on side of the street, and the women's shop is across the street. 

Here's a new reality TV show idea, "Project Dressing Well." Give contestants a minimum amount of money and an event to attend and see who can pull together the best look for the least cost. If I were on that show, I'd hit a consignment shop first and top of my list would be Goodbyes on Sacramento Street in San Francisco.

The women's shop.

Last weekend, Matt and I observed Small Business Saturday by avoiding the Union Square holiday crush and instead we strolled beautiful, calm Sacramento Street. Our first stop: Goodbyes. They accepted most of the items I brought to consign, which included these boots. I hope they make someone very happy because they certainly didn't work for me. And what they didn't take, the woman was very sweet and apologetic, giving me the reason why for each. While I was consigning, Matt was perusing the men's shop and found two very nice shirts. One is a new, extremely soft fine-wale blue corduroy labeled "Bugatchi Uomo." These shirts normally sell for around $149, Matt paid $30. And he found a heavy linen teal green shirt for $13. I bought an elegant black satin Brooks Brothers blouse with french cuffs, like new, for $35. Goodbyes may not be the least expensive consignment shop, but if the item is in great condition, it's still a lot less expensive than retail. Consignment shopping can be a little hit and miss, but we usually find something. And the serendipity is fun, you never know what you'll find.

Four years ago, we were invited by our wonderful friends in Germany to their wedding. It was a two-week long celebration, culminating in a formal dinner and dance on the Rhine River. First thought: "What to wear?!!!" We headed straight to Goodbyes. Matt found this dashing Hugo Boss tuxedo and a YSL tuxedo shirt. And I found this elegant Ralph Lauren evening dress. The combined cost of both outfits? Around $300.

So, if you're a Bien Vestidista (or Vestidisto) and need some sparkle for a holiday party or simply want something new to wear and don't want to spend the big bucks, check out your local consignment shops. It's good for your look, your wallet and the environment.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Man Ray vs. Brad Pitt

I'm sure that by now, you've seen the newest ad campaign for Chanel No. 5 featuring Brad Pitt. It premiered about a month ago and parodies have been rife. If you haven't seen, or would like to see it again,  take a look at the thirty-second spot, I'd love to know what you think. My initial reaction was "This is odd, really odd." And then I tried to be open-minded to the "new creative." The point of advertising is to get your attention and having a man tout a woman's perfume is different, and having that man be Brad Pitt definitely gets attention. But I'm sticking with my original impression; the campaign is not compelling and it's confusing. Several people I spoke with thought Chanel was introducing a new men's fragrance. 

Instead of sexy, Brad looks squirmy and uncomfortable, one dimensional. He's more listless than passionate. The ad is black and white, with an overall grungy gray feel. Brad is standing in the corner of a gray room wearing a wrinkled shirt with the tail hanging out and his hands defensively in his pockets. So instead of me feeling intrigued, captivated and drawn in to the world of Chanel No. 5, I feel distanced. And I'm an easy mark. For the last thirty years I've always had a bottle or two of Chanel perfume, and I still get giddy over a new one.
I can imagine the ad agency was told to attract a younger audience, that Chanel No. 5 is no longer your grandmother's perfume. That's the problem with a classic: it's wonderful to be so recognizable and the Chanel No. 5 scent, bottle and name comprises one of the most iconic brands in the world. But how do you market to a new audience without compromising what makes it great? How do you stay true to the brand but tell the story in a new way? Millions and billions are spent consulting with brand experts to answer this question. But at minimum, you keep it interesting. Looking up, down, left and right, Brad delivers this soliloquy:

"It's not a journey. Every journey ends, be we go on. The world turns and we turn with it. Plans disappear and dreams take over. But wherever I go, there you are, my luck, my fate, my fortune. Chanel No. 5. Inevitable." 

Ho hum. Brad, is that a cliche in your pocket or are you just bored to see me?

A L'Heure de l'observatoire: Les amoureaux, painting by Man Ray, 1932-1934

About the same time that this campaign premiered, Matt and I went to the Legion of Honor to the Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism exhibit. Now there's a story of modern passion, romance, glamour, artfulness and rich, fascinating lives, all the qualities I associate with Chanel No. 5.  Man Ray was a chick magnet. The more I read about him, the more girlfriends I discover he had, from Paris to Los Angeles. And they all seemed to happily pose nude for his camera or paintbrush. Lee Miller was his love from 1929 to 1932 when they lived together in Paris. She left him and he was devastated. Man Ray did the above painting of Lee Miller's lips and wrote these words, wrought with passion:

"It is seven o'clock in the morning, before the hunger of the imagination is satisfied. The sun has not yet decided to rise or set -- but your mouth comes. It becomes two bodies separated by a horizon, slim, undulating, like the earth and the sky, like you and me and so like all microscopic objects, invisible to the eye. Lips of the sun, you draw me endlessly nearer, and in this instant before awakening, when I cast loose from my body -- I am weightless -- I meet you in the even light and empty space, and, my only reality, kiss you with all that is left of me: my own lips."

I read those words in a crowded museum on a Sunday afternoon and Man Ray's love and longing swept me up and carried me away to a world of romance. If you're going to use a man to sell perfume, give me one that leaves me wanting more! In this instance, a dead Man Ray has more life than a live Brad Pitt. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Viva La Catrina-tude

La Parroquia on Dia de Los Muertos with papel picado fluttering in the night breeze.

We're in San Miguel de Allende now, experiencing the week-long celebration of Dia de los Muertos. Day of the Dead is my favorite holiday and I usually honor it by building an altar at home and participating in the procession in San Francisco's Mission District on November 2.

So it's a dream come true for me to be in Mexico for the holiday. As you can imagine, the festivities are rich and beautiful here. On November 1 was the Concurso de Catrinas where hundreds of Catrinas and Catrines gathered in El Jardin, the center of town, to show off their Bien Vestido best.

Catrina and Catrine is the well-dressed society couple. Women have really taken to the image of Catrina, she is the embodiment of bold style with no fear about showing off her beauty and daring persona. Below are just a few of the hundreds that promenaded around El Jardin.

Her entire "wedding dress" was fashioned from the obituary pages. Fabulosa!

A beautifully attired but frightening Frida. 

A darling little Catrina. 

True Catrina-tude. 

A young El Catrine.  With that bow tie, he is muy Bien Vestido!

This is Amelia. Another adorable little Catrina. 

That's me on the left with my friend Elena. 

A very handsome couple. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shoe Porn

My friend in all things style, Karen, gave me this gorgeous book, Blahnik by Boman: Shoes, Photographs and Conversations.  It's a fun take on the shoe, an object that is so fetishsized anyway, then being a Manolo shoe it's a double whammy of sexy suggestiveness. Boman creatively poses the shoes in rich, elegant scenes, each reflective of the shoe's individual style; a leaf and berry-covered strappy sandal finds itself hanging in a fruit tree, a silver-grommeted number cozies up to an adorable fluffy dog wearing a matching collar. Not really pornography, but the photographs are beautiful and playful and remind me of old school "girly pictures." Here's a sampling of a few of the photos below.

My own interpretation of an Eric Boman and Manolo photograph. This is my second pair of Manolo's that Matt gave me about twelve years ago. This feathered beauty is perched on one of Matt's sculptures titled "Lover's Leap". Apropos, no?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bien Vestida: Bianca Jagger

Bianca, front row of the Donna Karan Spring Summer 2013 show. Photo from the blog Americana Manhasset

I love reading the Sunday New York Times, but it can be overwhelming and when I buy it, I read as much as I can on Sunday, and then unread sections collect dust waiting for me to get to them the following week. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy set in. The pressure is too much, so I often choose not to get the NYT at all. I always feel like I'm missing something.

Recently, my friend and colleague, Jessie, and I spontaneously started a weekly ritual. She subscribes to the Sunday NYT, reads it, highlights the articles she thinks I'll be interested in and passes those sections on to me the following week. It's like having a personal reading service. This practice assuages her guilt too; she's giving a second life to her paper.

She also jots little editorial comments next to some of the articles. Like this article on Nick Cave's apartment, Jessie scribbled: "His style is so alive! Love this = love boxes." It's fun to read her comments because I feel like I'm having a dialog when I'm reading the paper. And she's very good at knowing what I'm interested in. We all need personal readers to cut through the media clutter!

But back to dressing well with personal style and meaning. About a month ago she highlighted this paragraph in an article by Bee-Shyuan Chang titled "Not Just Footlights for the Runway" about scene-sters and celebs at NY fashion week. Jessie added the note "Where are we? : )" Good question!

Jessie highlighted the quote below from Bianca Jagger and it struck me as a perfect statement on individual style with flair.

The quote: "I'm into style," Ms. Jagger said. "I'm not a fashion person. Style is not fashion. I'm someone who has a very busy life, so what I wear has to be practical and functional and well cut, and that's timeless. If you look at what I have worn, my style hasn't changed all that much."

Bianca front row at the Caroline Herrera Spring Summer 2013 show. Photo from  Zimbio

Yves Saint-Laurent introduced his Le Smoking in 1966 and Bianca made the tuxedo style all her own. Forty-six years later she is still wearing versions of it; adapting the shoes, accessories, silhouettes and textures so she always looks up-to-the-minute. I've never seen Bianca in person, but I can imagine she would capture my attention first not because of her celebrity status or because she's wearing over-the-top designer clothes; but because she is a discriminating style force, wearing only the best of what feels right to her.

Below are photos of Bianca from the late 60's and 70's, wearing Le Smoking with stunning and elegant style. In her remembrance of Yves Saint Laurent she says "It was part of my liberation to be able to wear trouser suits because it makes life so easy. Trouser suits are practical, but they are only elegant when they are well cut, and Yves's were very well cut."

At Heathrow, 1972
Style is a mix of things; a dynamic package of you, your history, knowing what's important to you and what you like best and fearlessly showing that to the world. Now more than ever we are bombarded with magazines and websites (and blogs!) telling us to buy, buy, buy the latest shoe, skirt, shirt, dress, jacket, perfume, anything and everything and most of it is a lot of noise. The commercial onslaught can be overwhelming and ignoring style all together can seem like the easiest option. But if you do that, you're selling yourself short. You can cut through the clutter and distractions by knowing yourself and your style and making the most of what suits you best.

So, I'm curious, what is your style?