Friday, September 25, 2009

The Intersection of Art, Architecture and Fashion

Those of you who have been reading our columns since their inception (so long ago!) are probably thinking 'Well, east coast girls are hip. I really dig those styles they wear.'* Some of you, however, might be wondering if we ever discuss anything deeper than our shade of lipstick. So with this entry we'll try to put to rest any doubts.

Several years ago, Valerie, an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum, and an ardent lover of hats, commissioned a hat in that shape, thinking there was something inherently hat-like about the Guggenheim. For this job, she contacted possibly the only person in the United States who could have done it, the incomparable Ignatius. The hat, very close to anatomically correct (and completely millinarily correct), with a body of pale straw, ties of gossamer, and a skylight of black netting and Swarovski crystals, had its first outing on Easter, 2007 (where it was adored by Europeans and ignored by Americans), and its second on September 20, 2009.

Tradition demands that one not wear white after Labor Day, and by association one should probably not wear straw hats, either. With global warming a fact of life, we thought there must be some leeway in that, though not much. So the hat had to come out now, or not till 2010.

Happily, the wondrous Kandinsky exhibition had started only days before, and we realized in a flash what we needed to do to properly launch the Guggenheim hat and coordinate our outfits. Valerie wore the Guggenheim hat and white Calvin Klein linen suit (the perfect tabula rasa for the occasion). In synch with the architectural theme, Jean wore a ziggurat hat, which topped off a matching Issey Miyake dress and skirt in bright Kandinsky-like colors and mathematical designs on a graph paper grid.

Off we went to the Guggenheim Museum (by good fortune, in a taxi whose roof was high enough for the hat to fit in), where upon alighting, we were immediately mobbed by people who Got It, and wanted to photograph us.

We then got in line to buy our tickets, but when we arrived at Admissions, we were waved through by the cute and savvy young art lovers manning the desks, who also Got It. Our passes said "Staff Guest", so our visit, though barely begun, had already started out on a high note.

Starting at the top of the structure, we worked our way down the Guggenheim's elemental spiral, stopping along the way to accede graciously to demands for photographs (from museum goers and museum staff alike), as if we were celebrities promoting our latest movie. (Readers, we're open to offers!)

Art history buffs among our readers may know that while teaching at the Bauhaus in the early 1920s, Kandinsky formulated a school of thought that associated certain geometric shapes with specific colors. According to his theory, the circle, square and triangle each had its own appropriate primary color, based on the shared characteristics of those colors and shapes (for example, warmth). For readers guessing which color Kandinsky matched with which shape, see below to check your answer.**

Jean's dress and skirt, exuberant with circles, squares and triangles*** in a way seldom seen in fashion, wreak havoc with Kandinsky's theories. They have no red or yellow at all, their circles are green and their triangles are orange. Could this be Japanese sensibilities at work, or simply another case of the new generation rejecting everything the previous generation held dear (as every generation must)?

Photos were taken discreetly throughout the exhibition, but were generously allowed (encouraged?) by the staff on the main floor, and we did not disappoint our public. (Jean especially delighted in the dichotomy of reactions during our downard spiral: While some security staff declared all photos verboten, others posed with us to memorialize the encounter with their own cameras!)

In the interests of full disclosure, it should be said that we are by no means the first to contemplate the interrelationship between art, architecture and fashion. In 2006, Los Angeles MOCA did a wonderful exhibition entitled Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, in which a veritable who's who of architects and fashion designers were represented.**** Unfortunately, that show did not make it to the east coast, so we did our best to compensate for that oversight.

On April 7, 2009, we dashed off to the Van Alen Institute to attend "Soft Geometries: A Conversation with Yeohlee Teng and Calvin Tsao." What started as a public conversation between one of our favorite designers (YEOHLEE inc) and an award-winning architect (Tsao & McKown) on the relationship between fashion and architecture, civic identity and social responsibility, became a fascinating opportunity to exchange ideas with them and other members of the audience. We rubbed shoulders with Kohle Yohannan and complimented him on his impressive collection of Valentina couture, which we'd just seen on display at the Museum of the City of New York last Spring.

We are now trying to decide how best to dress for our upcoming fall inspection of Frank Gehry's gorgeous gift to Chelsea.

Valerie: Ignatius Guggenheim hat, Calvin Klein suit, white linen Sym's shirt, white nubuck and black elastic Arche shoes, H&M bag.
Jean: Vintage 40's hat (orignally from the Blum Store in Philadelphia), Rick Owens T-shirt, Issey Miyake Pleats Please dress and fishtail skirt, Lounge Fly bag, Dansko clogs.

* You might even be humming it to yourself. Seems like it should have a catchy tune to go with it.
** Circle = blue; square = red; triangle = yellow. For more on Kandinsky, check out SmartHistory.
*** (as well as mathematical notations whose accuracy we have not verified)
**** If anyone has an extra copy of the sold-out catalogue, please send it to us!

Post Script, 9/29/09
And this just in: Piet van Dekar of Amsterdam spotted us in front of the Guggenheim, took us back home, and gave us a prominent place at the Rijksmuseum. We're honored and humbled!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We Walk the Walk: Checking Out the LIC Art Gallery Walk

We ventured into Long Island City Saturday, 9/19 to drool over gallery gen's exquisite textiles, ceramics, scupture, paintings and screens on display at its warehouse gallery. Valerie incorporated into her ensemble a blue linen placemat with India ink design made several years ago by the gallery's owner and chief artist, Yoshiaki Yuki, basting it to the back of the jacket of her white linen Calvin Klein suit (a thrift shop find). After a refreshing cup of mugi cha with charming Masahiko Tasaki, we admired the gorgeous Junichi Arai/Yoshiaki Yuki collaborations (see one above, behind Jean) and the colorfully graphic paintings. Positively dazzled, we set off into the night to explore other galleries.

We jumped off the #7 train and strolled through Space Womb on Jackson Avenue, Local Project on Davis Street, and Dean Project (which had generously donated the free gallery walk map that guided our steps) on 21st Street. We were thrilled to discover a veritable graffiti wonderland down the block from Local Project that covered walls, storefronts, and even trucks in everything from tags to anime in larger than life scale. We gleefully took full advantage of this A list Technicolor and Cinemascope photo op.

Since everything is on the net these days, afterward we googled* Davis Street to discover that there is a website for street art, and a number of entries for Davis Street alone. Click here to see more of the Davis Street graffiti art. If you delete everything in your browser address following the ".org/", you can go to their home page and surf for other fabulous graffiti worldwide.

Jean is wearing a vintage Italian woven pancake hat in black straw, Kyodan peplum jacket, Theory t-shirt, Brigitte harem pants, Lounge Fly bag and Crocs sling-back flats. Valerie, who more than 20 years after the memorable Talking Heads tour is only now getting around to trying out her own smaller version of David Byrne's big white suit, is also wearing a vintage blue Issey Miyake men's hat, modern copy of a blue Chinese Warring States bead, white linen blouse from Sym's, H&M canvas shibori bag, and fabulously comfortable Land's End Mary Jane Trekkers in cornflower blue.

*Does google - the verb - need to be capitalized? Maybe not. When Fraternity of Man sang 'Don't bogart that joint, my friend', were they mentally capitalizing the B?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fashion's Night Out

OMG! OMO! Norma Kamali's store was the most exciting stop in our fun-filled evening September 10th. Looking fabulous in a black jumpsuit, Norma (above, far left, with Jean) greeted and chatted with us and other shoppers. In addition to providing a huge rack of clothes priced at $100 and under, and cheery, attractive assistants ready to make the experience memorable, she offered free massages and manicures. While Valerie availed herself of a blissful chair massage (above right, with brawny masseur), Norma paused during her manicure to ask me some rather perceptive questions about health care reform. (Beautiful and brainy!) Guests were also treated to lavender marshmallows, panna cotta, rose petal merengues, popcorn, lavender shortbread cookies and bubbly soda and champagne. Marvelous, dahlings.

We stopped off at Manolo Blahnik's, where we hoped to entreat the master to make a more extensive line of stunning flats (and by the way, do you think he could put some cushy rubber soles on them?), but as he hadn't arrived yet, we mollified ourselves with full bodied bellinis and fresh flavorful cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and a leaf of basil. Ne plus ultra!

From there, off to Barney's, where we saw and were seen. On one floor alone were Simon Doonan (shown here with Valerie), Isabel Toledo with a line of admirers a mile long waiting to have her autograph her new book, and Lady Jay (shown here with Jean), whom we caught before her show. Lady Jay is so wonderfully tall that we couldn't fit all of her into the photograph. In a rare change of priorities, we got her shoes in, but only at the expense of her fabulous cocktail hat. Barney's provided our first (and hopefully not last) encounter with Karlo, whose blog COMA (Confessions of a Makeup Artiste) is a total hoot.

We dashed into Calvin Klein to check out the clothes and the crowd. Both were hot. As Valerie schmoozed with the fabulous Elise and Caroline Rueda and their gloriously tressed friend, I made the acquaintance of Bret - a tall, blond vision whose length of leg was exceeded only by the length of his lashes! From the top of his insouciant chauffeur's cap with patent visor, past his sleeveless frilled top and flag trousers to the tips of his dizzyingly high platforms, he was a treat. His take on the crowd was refreshing. Although he was mobbed, he grabbed each of us for a photo op.

We stopped at Taryn Rose, where we checked out the fashionable flats, were treated to another welcome glass of bubbly and a bite of dark chocolate. Valerie, in footless tights, took advantage of the reflexology offered (GREAT idea!!!) by Joanne Silver. Jean, in panty hose, was not about to fuss with taking them off, even for a fabulous foot rub.

At some point, we made our way to Issey Miyake, grooved to the DJ, drooled over the clothes and swooned over Sachie, up from Pleats Please for the events in a frothy pleated saffron confection that looked like a Buddhist monk's robes taken to the nth degree - and then some.

Jean is wearing a vintage black Hino & Malee tunic, Pucci nylon and elastane swim cap, DKNY Wellies (fully prepared for the rains which were mercifully late and light) and LoungeFly purse (from ENZ in the East Village).

Valerie is wearing a vintage aerated modified bowler by Hattie Carnegie, Jaeger jacket, H&M shirt, Issey Miyake skirt, bracelet of trilobite fossils in silver from Evolution, and (flat) Arche shoes.

Both our hats off to the countless people who put together so many wonderful events, as well as the throngs of people who turned out in their gladdest of glad rags to commemorate it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Play With Your Clothes - Get Your Ducks in a Row

Jean says: Get your ducks in a row! I manufacture excuses to incorporate a set of vintage '50s plastic duckie diaper pins (about $15 from the Pier Antiques Show) into my normally black/grey wardrobe palette. Nothing shouts corporate compliance like pink duckies, I always say. (With yellow wings & blue eyes & beaks, the pink duckies cover all of the infant gender bases.) Valerie persuaded me to further this wardrobe leitmotif by strongly recommending my recent Topshop purchase of pink socks with yellow duckies. Stay tuned for reports of future duckie outings!

Valerie adds: The first time Jean wore these, also on this shirt, she'd lined them up half on the left, half on the right, so from a distance they looked a bit like military braid on a jacket. The juxtaposition of the military precision and the smiling duckies was priceless!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shoe Kaddish*

Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin,
Prada, Miu Miu and Lanvin
Rate their product's sex appeal
Proportionate to its dizzying heel.
And fashion magazines concur
That pointy toes are de rigeur.
So those of us with hammer toes
Neuromas, bunions, heaven knows
Decry our fate and curse the day
We gave our sexy heels away
To then buy Crocs that hug the ground
And let our toes cavort around.
We women of a certain age
Who yearn for heels all the rage
Lack the cushioning required
To wear those temples inversely spired.
But no men take the time to schmooze
With women wearing Merrell shoes.
In flattened sole and widened toe
We're shunned by mighty Manolo.
"Can't comfy shoes be sexy too?"
We plead in vain to Jimmy Choo.
"You've no idea the pain one feels
In one's knees when wearing heels."
And so we cry "Oh masters, dear
Our sad lament please kindly hear:
Make a shoe that looks like THAT
But do please leave the heel FLAT.
For age dictates our footwear choices.
We beseech you, hear our voices
And make a shoe that's not so spiky."
Reply the masters:
"Let them wear Nike."

*All rights reserved. This poem cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent of the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.

Fabulous vintage orange suede shoes with pointy heels, pointy toes and pointy tongue by Manolo Blahnik. No longer possible to wear; never possible to give away. Flat black and white shoes with crepe soles, linen vamp (from a Bergdorf napkin) and elastic ankle strap designed and hand made by Valerie in frustration after years of not finding any fabulous flat shoes at retailers (and after months of shoe making lessons).