Sunday, April 24, 2011

Look Us Up - We're in the Book

On Thursday, April 14th, we seriously overdrew our account at the Bank of Fabulousness! (Jean says: I've personally exceeded my quota of style sightings for the next six months!) One of our favorite style blogs published its first book -- the eponymously titled "StyleLikeU" -- and invited us to the book launch party hosted by none other than Vanity Fair Magazine. The book launch and website relaunch celebration was held at The House of Bumble, a chic hair salon, in the heart of the tres chic Meatpacking District. As if that weren't wonderful enough, bloggers turned authors Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum were sweet enough to select the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas for inclusion in their tome, published by powerHouse Books. Because the book features the creme de la creme of SLU's blog, we were truly honored. Needless to say, all of the guests who appear in the book rose to the occasion and dressed to kill. (See below kiddies, Auntie Jean isn't exaggerating.) While Valerie chose to riff on the milk maid theme (by way of Issey Miyake!), I went hard-core Goth, complete with black coq feather hat and platform boots.

Here' a cover shot of the 222-page book, chock full of photographs of individuals and montages of accessories (shoes, bracelets, rings, baubles, necklaces, etc.). A shot of my hands with my black bakelite rings and red bracelets graces the upper left section of page 99.

We're positively thrilled that our photographs appear on page 205. The quote ("There isn't a VOICE for women of a certain age in fashion. We are not invisible and we are not dead and we're still consumers") comes right from our SLU video and really sums up our point of view.

Here we are celebrating with our hosts. Elisa Goodkind appears dead center in the middle with Ramona Canino on the far left and Lily Mandelbaum on the far right. Did I mention that the bubbly was flowing all evening, that the appetizers were divine, and that they were topped off at the end of the evening by tiny (warm) greeen tea jelly donuts? Divine. Might I take this occasion to note a recent shift in Valerie's style of dress, away from colors to graphic black and white? Perhaps my influence is beginning to seep over into her subconscious? Stay tuned, and you be the judge... Valerie says: I scoff at this. Can you hear me scoffing? Here: Scoff, scoff. Anyone would think Jean invented black the ways she carries on. Scoff, scoff, scoff.

The Dutch burghers were wearing it hundreds of years before Jean was a so much as a glimmer in her father's eye, and the Beatles wore it before Jean had bought her first black ANYthing (I'm guessing).

You don't hear any of them saying that Jean got the idea to wear black from them, do you? The problem is that a LOT of my polychrome clothes no longer fit me ('specially around the waist), and searching for replacements is a task, not a joy. When I was a size 8, I could sometimes wear a 6, or go one size up to a 10. Now that I'm a 12, the world thinks I shouldn't be wearing color at all, and doesn't make much of it in my size. And as for going one size up to a 14 - all you 14s out there: how often do you find anything you like in your size and preferred color? Not to mention that here in New York, it's easier to find black clothing than it is to find a good cup of coffee. (That coffee chain you're going to counter with does NOT make good coffee. Sorry.)

AND, continues Valerie, in high dudgeon, only a few hours before we wrote this blog entry, I told Jean I had found a vintage blue Norma Kamali dress IN MY SIZE (OMG!), and her eyes got as big as saucers when I told her about the one I'd found a year ago at a local thrift shop and had to let go because it was a size small. (Jean can wear a small. SIGH.) Shall I keep my eyes out for you if another one pops up, I asked, surprised that she would want something blue. And Jean said I should. So I ask you. Not quite sure what I ask you, but you can fill it in for yourself.

Valerie says: this lady was the 'bouncer' at the velvet cord when I arrived, and escorted me and an elevator full of others up to the party. Not too many people could have worn what I called her 'naked dress'. Jean says: Her illusion top was just that. Strategically places swirls of lace fabric covered (just barely) her magnificent decolletage. The dress was a show-stopper. (Click on photos to enlarge.) She looked fab coming AND going. More about her kohl-eyed companion later.

Because we were in the belly of the beast, so to speak, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that several guests took advantage of the fact that the party was in a gorgeously appointed salon. This woman seized the moment and had her hair cut. The House of Bumble staff were extremely attractive and, from what we saw, equally talented. (Valerie says: it was the oddest thing to see. All of us swanning about, music thumping, and these few people doing about their business as if the party weren't happening. Sort of like two movie sets colliding.)

The gentleman on the right reminded both of us of Billy Idol, although he probably wasn't born yet when "White Wedding" hit the charts. But the hair, the jacket, the oversize sunglasses, the attitude. It was like we were transported back to the '80s.

Valerie says: Jean's camera is on the fritz, so I was left to do all the photographing myself. On a night when Jean takes 100 photos, I'll take maybe 20, so on this evening I photographed not just my favorites, but tried to imagine the people Jean would want to photograph. Periodically she would grab me and hiss in my ear "you have to get that one with the great shoes", or somesuch, and generally I was able to respond that I already had. In this particular crowd, we weren't likely to run into anyone camera-shy, thank goodness, so I was able to unburden myself of my usual hesitancy, and just snap away. Oh, and I say Jean hissed because it was so loud in there I probably wouldn't have heard her otherwise. Who invented the equation VERY LOUD MUSIC = fun? Isn't that an old theory which has since been disproved? Like the one about the earth being flat?

In her modeling heyday, Jenny Shimizu rocked the fashion scene with her exotic looks and aggressive style. She was one of the first models to sport prominent tattoos on the runway. Her androgynous look is quite striking. (Valerie says: there should be a book on models who give up the business, what their thoughts are on leaving the limelight, and what they're doing now.) The dancing redhead behind her is the fabulous Ilona -- she of the 2-inch long red lashes who often appears in Advanced Style.

When I cast my non-animated version of Jessica Rabbit, I want Domonique to play Jessica. She is gorgeous, voluptuous and amazingly sweet. And talented -- she designed and created her entire outfit, including the impossibly sexy transparent red fish-tailed vamp dress, hat and purse. I look like a shrimp on the side of a cocktail glass and she's the spicy horseradish and catsup sauce!

Our friend Tziporah Salamon appears in the book and appeared at the party, escorted by her friend David. As always, she dressed to the nines and did not disappoint.

Imagine my surprise to run into our friend Brandon -- and discover that he was wearing the exact same tiger-printed pleated Issey Miyake pants that I'd just scored at the last sample sale. (I said that silent prayer of thanks to Mary Magdalen, the unofficial patron saint of fashion, that I had chosen NOT to wear my pair that evening!)

Shuva was one of my favorite characters of the evening. He's a punk musician who eschews all corporate trappings such as business cards and email and chooses to combine his wild mohawk with dreadlocks and black-rimmed eyes with Ninja-style pants and shoes. He was a terrific sport and indulged our comments and banter with enormous good humor. Here he is with Julius, wearing the spiked jacket.

Here's a close-up of Shuva's cloven Ninja shoes. If they had been my size, I'd have created a diversion and ripped them right off his feet.

Ilona and her dance partner again. Jean says: Earlier in the evening, when I was walking to the party, I ran into Ari Seth Cohen and Lina who had just accompanied Ilona to an event at DeBeers (yes, THAT DeBeers). Patrick Orcutt from SLU showed up at the same time and he and I volunteered to escort Ilona the rest of the way to the party. She is a tiny bundle of energy. At 91, she puts the rest of us to shame. As you can see from the photo, she was thoroughly enjoying the DJ's selections.

Here are Ilona and Zelda Kaplan. Zelda designs much of her own clothing, which she has made from fabrics she buys on trips to Africa. If Zelda isn't yet a nonagenarian, she's within touching distance of it, and, like Ilona, sets a heck of a standard for the rest of us to live up to. Raise your hand if you saw Zelda on David Letterman several years ago, where she was interviewed just for being who she is.

We spotted Karen Ko and her spiked ankle cuffs and just HAD to photograph them.

Beatrix Ost made the most glamourous entrance wearing the most wonderful jacket, colorful long draped skirt and topped it all of with a gorgeous turban. (She had generously agreed to appear on the gala committee's invitation to Stephen Petronio Company's recent New York City premier of Underland at the Joyce Theater.) She's one of my favorite style icons, so the opportunity to hang out with her was tremendous fun. Valerie nods: her colors and style look like they're right out of Gustav Klimt! She has a wonderful ethereal look about her. Beatrix also recently published a memoir, entitled My Father's House: A Childhood in Wartime Bavaria.

On the left is Malcolm Harris, who appeared with us in Time Out New York's spread on trendy New Yorkers.

Designer Jeffrey B. Williams wowed the crowd with his floor length fur-collared caftan. It is always so much fun to run into Jeffrey because he always has all the best scoops and dish. Nobody does drama like Jeffrey!

Valerie says: I fell in love with this woman's plastic (vinyl?) dress. So much so that I tried multiple times to photograph it, from different angles. TOUGH dress to wear, but she carries it off beautifully.

We loved how understated these two were, while still looking great. LOTS of people wore lots of glitz, but these guys were wonderful just being themselves.

Valerie says: We THINK this is Fay Leshner, who graces the cover of the book. Great dress, and great make up. Check out the shoes that go with the dress. Not only are they fab, they seem to have two different heels - clear and opaque. That's not just the light, is it???

At one point, there were three women in turbans mixing it up on the dance floor. With my poor little digital camera, it was impossible to photograph them all facing me at the same time, but as Jean and I are both turban fans, it was great to see three women doing free advertising for millinery. This was one of the three women.

Valerie says: I was tickled to see this woman in a long Norma Kamali jacket. The print is a westernized version of the mud cloth indigenous to Mali, called bogolanfini. In the same material I have the Norma version of a shalwar kameez - the long tunic and pants often seen in Pakistan. This design dates back to somewhere around 1990, or earlier.

Valerie says: here's the smoking room, on the sidewalk. Jean says: The icing on the cake was the goodie bag! We all got our own copies of the book, along with generously sized bottles of Bumble and bumble products. Heavenly! When we were leaving the party, we ran into this stylish lineup outside. They were probably all heading to the after-party. (Valerie says: we didn't go - we have to get our beauty sleep.)

When we finally trundled off to the subway to wend our way home, several of the other riders asked if we'd been out to an event. (What gave it away??) Then they whipped out their iPhones and asked if they could take pictures of us. We've learned now to say yes, if they'll return the favor a take a picture of us with our camera (seen here). That way we don't each have to take a shot of the other. We had a blast.

When we got off the train, there were two buskers playing wonderful music on their guitars. It sounded like mandolin music - gentle, sweet, tender, romantic - and so delicately played. Lovely way to end an evening.

And so to bed...

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Valerie is wearing: splint, bustier by H&M, metal and polyester shibori scarf by Junichi Arai, skirt by Issey Miyake, high heeled sneakers by Chinese Laundry.

Jean is wearing: vintage coq feather hat; Kyodan jacket; Lili wide-legged linen pants tied at the ankles; Lux de Ville handbag with "diamond" watch from Canal Street attached to the strap; self-customized Dansko clogs; vintage Revue frames; brass bird and black coral earrings by Kirsten Hawthorne; vintage bakelite rings.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Come Up and Sit on My SOFA Sometime


Valerie says: There were so many fabulous people at the SOFA opening that it was often difficult to see the fabulous art. At SOFA's entrance was Joan Mirviss's Gallery, packed to the gills with admirers, and in the center of it all was Jack Lenor Larsen, one of SOFA's most valued supporters. In my typical fashion, I was too abashed to take a photograph of him. He was, as always, wearing one of his many hats - and I mean the real thing, not the proverbial hats we claim to wear to signify our many responsibilities at work. Also spotted there was Joe Earle, Vice President and Director of the Japan Society Gallery.

Jean says: Imagine how suicidal I was to learn that, due to a business commitment, I would miss opening night of the 14th annual SOFA! I was in an airplane flying homeward while Valerie gallantly filled in for the two of us. While the assignment couldn't have been in better hands, I was, I admit, very disappointed. This is one of the few events in which the attendees nearly eclipse the amazing contemporary artworks on display.

Valerie adds: Jean hasn't mentioned that we both expected to see none other than Mr. Bill, who must not have shown up because he knew that Jean would not be there. At the end of the evening, I left her a voice mail telling her, essentially, that it was not necessary to hate me, since I wouldn't be appearing in the New York Times in the Sunday Style Section. Not THIS Sunday, anyway...

But back to the people who WERE there. Early on, at the David Richard Contemporary Gallery, I ran into B.E. Noel (below), an art advisor, wearing a faceted emerald green Issey Miyake dress, and rivers of liquidy silver at her ears and around her neck. She was fabulous. We saw her again on Saturday, in a completely different incarnation, and equally fabulous.

Soon after, I ran into Sara Basch. Sara is a goldsmith, but she can also do wonders with miniature corks, as shown here. Sara is among the many women who don't have websites, so their fabulous work goes unseen by web surfers. We women of a certain age grew up with SLIDES, and now the thought of converting everything to a brand new medium is, if not intimidating, then time-consuming. Mid-career artists also have - with good reason - a fear of putting their work up on the net. Many have had their work copied by others as a result.

Multitalented Yuka Hasegawa made her own coat and hat. Yuka's luxurious fur felt hats are often available at Barney's.

Michal Landau was wearing this great net jewelry you see around her neck, as well as the hammered silver bracelet barely visible on her arm.

One of our favorite galleries is browngrotta arts, which specializes in weaving and dyeing. Here is Nancy Moore Bess, whose basket work is always a surprise and a delight, making the viewer ask 'how' and 'what'. There were a number of other artists there, whom I wish I could have photographed with their art. Lots of great things to see and covet.

There was a moment at the Maria Elena Kravetz Gallery when it was not too crowded to have a look, and I photographed these women showing off some of the gallery's art to great advantage. The one is a very light, ethereal netting (in nylon?); the other is sterling silver discs embedded with small metal netting.

Julie Dale, owner of Julie Artisans' Gallery, showed up wearing a yummy felt coat with striking lettered graphics by Francoise Hoffmann. I can make out such French words as 'feutre' - felt, 'doux' - soft, 'laine' - wool, and 'textiles' (you can look that one up yourself), so essentially the artist is doing a little self promotion or teaching, with a bit of tongue in cheek humor. I covet this coat, so I had to show both sides of it.

While I'm on the subject of felt, I ran into Gar Wang at Tai Gallery. Tai specializes in contemporary Japanese bamboo baskets of extraordinary design.

Gar caught my eye because of the felt jacket she made herself. I didn't realize until she pointed it out that the coat has no side seams, which means that in order to have its wrap-the-body shape, it had to be made in the round, being shaped while the felt was still wet. This is extra challenging, because you have to be able to predict what size the felt will shrink to while still in mid-process. The whole point is not to cut anything.

gallery gen had its usual knock-out booth design, with eye-popping works by Yoshiaki Yuki. Masako Dempo is wearing a dress created from material by Junichi Arai. Hidden away were a number of luscious textiles, including a white polyester pleated scarf (not shown) with one of Mr. Yuki's bold black calligraphic designs on it, and a touch of red at the edging, which Jean bought.

I ran into Suzanne Golden in front the Charon Kransen Gallery where she is showing colorful beaded bracelets so finely crafted that they almost look like intricate mathematical constructions. Here she is wearing two of her creations. With her is Christina Viera, who on this day wore a hat and necklace she designed and made herself.

Aside from Jack Larsen, I saw two men on opening night wearing hats. One was wearing a humorous contemporary top hat; the other was this gentleman, in what looks to be a Moroccan hat. (Do correct me if I'm wrong, any of you who know.) I admired his hat; he admired mine. I'm on a mission to give men positive reinforcement on the hat front, in hopes that will encourage them to wear them more often. This gent did a great job wearing red accents with an otherwise understated (but sharp!) suit.

As earlier mentioned, artists are - rightly - less than enthusiastic about having their work photographed, for fear of copycats, so both of us were unwilling to ask to photograph work, lest we be mistaken for artists on the prowl for ideas, and not mere gawkers. Here, however, are three photos that SOFA used to advertise the event.

We found this wonderful untitled silver box by Toru Kaneko at Katie Jones Gallery almost by accident. We had been expecting something large, but in fact the box is around a foot long, and a few inches high. Everything Katie has is fabulous.

At Contemporary Applied Arts there were several of these Twisted Forms by Merete Rasmussen in various colors. By Saturday, most of them had been sold. Contrary to the silver box, which looks large and is small, the Twisted Forms were all the size of punch bowls, but could be interpreted to be the size of a bracelet in the photo. These were gorgeous in color, and sensuous in design. They look perfect for caressing with eyes closed.

There were numerous wonderful ceramic artists at the show. Bodil Manz was represented at Lacoste Gallery by several beautiful porcelain pieces with very simple but arresting designs.

Saturday Afternoon:

Jean says: On Saturday, I was chomping at the bit, so to speak, to go to SOFA. I got dolled up, took the #6 train to the 68th Street stop and hot-footed it over to the Armory on Park Avenue and 67th Street. I picked up my press pass at the desk and headed into the show to meet Valerie. Once I was reunited with my partner in crime, and running up and down the aisles trying to see everything in the show, all was right in the world. Very shortly after entering the Armory, we ran into that wonderfully talented redhead Suzanne Golden and her ever-stylish sidekick, artist and photographer Christina Viera. Needless to say, we had to memorialize the moment on film. Here's a shot with Suzanne in the middle, wearing even taller platforms than I. She had several of her amazing beaded creations and a magnificently colorful acrylic necklace on display at Charon Kransen Arts.

Suzanne is modeling the outfit she wore to the show on Thursday, April 14th, the day after the gala opening. Visible on the wall behind here are several of her beaded bracelets and multi-tiered necklaces.

When the four of us got together, it was like planets colliding. Christina was wearing an amazing zip-front leather coat-vest that I was thrilled to learn she'd designed and fashioned herself. The orangey-red tone of the largest front panels was a perfect foil for Suzanne's orange and black necklace, orange socks and fiery locks. No one can rock cat-eye glasses and spit curls better than Christina! They say that birds of a feather flock together. We definitely gravitated toward each other, connecting, separating and reconnecting later, to grab a nosh, hang out, compare notes and share observations in the VIP lounge. (My apple butternut squash soup by Butterfield caterers was absolutely divine!)

Valerie and I met designer Mary Jaeger (right) in the main aisle and got to chat before she headed to one of the lectures. I was also glad to run into Israeli designer Sara Basch (left) at the show and even happier to learn that she'll be in the States for awhile. Valerie got a great shot of Sara on opening night wearing a very interesting black neckpiece (see above). When we met on Saturday, she was wearing a necklace that appeared to be constructed of tiny corks, strung in tight rows. It was one of the most intriguing pieces I saw that day. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

We were delighted to encounter Mathias Alfen at the show. He was literally a lifesize puppet figure, with a huge two-faced head atop his own dome. The front-facing visage had an articulated jaw that he appeared to open and close with a tug on a string.

Two-faced shoes were a very hilarious touch. In this rear view, you can see he repeated his name and had even affixed another pair of sneakers (facing backwards) to the ones he was wearing. He was humorous both coming and going. Later, we were wondering how he could manage to walk down steps in that footwear since the second pair would not have cleared the risers on the stairs. He'd have to walk sideways down the steps, like a man wearing snowshoes!

Not too long after our arrival, we admired Lois Altman's beaded necklace. She introduced herself to us after we stopped her. She said that her husband actually made the beads and she had fashioned them into the necklace. What was even more fun was the fact that neither is a commercial artist. They design and make jewelry for their own personal use -- and for very lucky friends.

It was wonderful accidentally running into Marla, an old friend from Washington, D.C. and her partner, Norman, who now live near Boston. They are avid collectors who attend not only the New York but also the Chicago shows. We got the chance to catch up on family and mutual acquaintances. We were roomates in the early 1970s in a spacious apartment on Connecticut Avenue near the Washington Zoo. Where does the time go? (Valerie says: Jean's camera is on the fritz, and I stupidly didn't think to take a picture. Still not thinking like a professional. And Jean's too polite to remind me...)

We stopped by Aaron Faber Gallery to say hi and to admire the jewelry, which was artfully displayed (and yummy, says Valerie). We met this lovely lady who worked there, and who happened to be wearing a scarf from gallery gen as a lightweight shawl. Her Yoshiaki Yuki scarf was as light as foam and she wore it in a wonderfully casual way that further enhanced its beauty.

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat; Comme des Garcons jacket; Zara dhouti pants; Doc Martens' black patent boot; vintage glasses; black coral and brass earrings by Kirsten Hawthorne; Lux De Ville black quilted patent handbag with huge dice charms; and vintage bakelite, modern resin and sentimental favorite gold rings.

Valerie is wearing: on opening night, a Patricia Underwood asymetrical hat in oxblood red straw, with a feather from a long ago flea market added to it; Pleats Please blouse, Issey Miyake handkerchief hem vest with (unseen) stuffed piping in the back; a wooden bud vase; Jones New York linen pants and Cole Haan - Nike shoes. On Saturday: vintage Gianni Versace jacket; black and white shibori sweater by Il Punto; vintage pants by Krizia and Arche shoes.

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We received the e mail below from Tove Hermanson. We pass it along to you in its entirety, in hopes of interesting you, but in particular we are interested in her talk on the fashions depicted in German Expressionist painter Ernst Kirchner's many Berlin Street Scenes, painted around 1914-1915. We're attaching photos of some of the paintings so you'll see why we're so excited by this. Do check out the website highlighted below to see the variety of topics.

A fantastic FREE conference is coming up, focusing on street fashion! In addition to guests Guy Trebay of the NY Times; Jimmy Webb of Trash and Vaudeville; and Carolin Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution; I am delighted to present my own paper Street Fashion of Kirchner's Street Walkers: Berlin, 1913 - 1915. Hosted by the esteemed institution of Yale, it is deliberately geared toward a wide audience: academic, professional, and the generally intellectually curious. It will be held April 22-23 (half of Easter / Passover weekend) in New Haven, CT. Check out the website for details. I hope to see you there!