Archive for October, 2009

The ’60s Eye
October 26, 2009

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You probably think this fabulous ’60s image is a page out of Vogue (“Makeup design by Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo” reads the credit!) but it’s from a magazine I found recently at my mother’s house, the November 1967 issue of McCall’s. The beauty story is “Feather Fantasies” and the issue also includes the debut of Truman Capote’s short story “The Thanksgiving Visitor” (his follow-up to  the classic “A Christmas Memory”) and an accompanying interview of Capote by Gloria Steinem, with his portrait by Avedon splashed across a page and a half of the once-standard oversize magazine (before postal regulations of the ’70s shrunk everything).

McCalls coverIn those days, McCall’s was the glamour girl of the “Seven Sisters” magazines – including Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Ladies’ Home Journal – aimed at the suburban wife, and enormously successful. (At their ’70s peak, the “Sisters” combined circulation was a staggering 45 million!) The McCall’s issue is an unbelievable time capsule, including the topical – a survey of doctors about the Pill (just six years old), then-First-Daughter Lynda Johnson’s tale of her engagement, a heartbreaking photo essay about a mining tragedy in Wales – amid the fashion and beauty stories and pages and pages and pages of holiday entertaining recipes, from cheese puffs and toasted anchovy rolls to candied grapefruit baskets (for gifts!) and three different and rather involved fruitcakes.

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Whether intentional or not, the avian theme continues in a fashion photo of the actress Anouk Aimee, just after A Man and a Woman catapulted her to fame, in a Donald Brooks gown of guinea hen and ostrich feathers. She’s exulted as a “Real-Woman” – hyphenated – (“All else about this classically-boned, chestnut-maned enchantress is this-moment-real”) along with cover girl Marisa Mell, a now obscure ’60s bombshell (in the era of Ursula Andress and Virna Lisi), who was about to storm Broadway in a David Merrick musical version of, I swear, Mata Hari, directed by Vincente Minnelli (Liza’s dad, of course, and apparently the overproduced $800,000 vehicle flopped out-of-town in Washington and so there was no storming). Mell seems an odd cover choice for housewives in Denver and Detroit, from her “Real-Woman measurements, 38-24-38” (shades of Mad Men’s Joan), but she reels (reals?) them in at the end: “Sex? Her ideas are both contemporary and ancient. ‘A Real-Woman doesn’t want sexual freedom; she wants to belong to a man. Men should stop the big hunt after business and money. Life is the important thing. Human beings are the miracles.’ Marvelous, miraculous Marisa.” Unfortunately my scanner is not big enough to relay the 14-inch high page of marvelous, miraculous Marisa in her floor-length fox and cheetah fur coat.

But wait, there’s more. After our proverbial homemaker has painted her eyelids like feathers, swallowed her Pill, relaxed with the new Capote fiction, zipped up her dinner gown and finished baking a batch of Fig Bonbons, she still has to have something to talk about – like the new music. McCall’s comes to the rescue with “How Not to Flop at Pop” with now cringe-worthy advice: “Don’t say. ‘it’s very pretty.’ Say things like, ‘It should go high on the charts,’ or ‘It turns me on.’ “

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One of the most amazing things is that nearly every photograph in the issue – from Marisa to the miners, from the eye shadow to the eggnog pie – was taken by the magazine’s art director, Otto Storch. Renowned in art direction history as part of the “New York School” of the ’50s and ’60s, he was a disciple of Harper’s Bazaar’s legendary Alexey Brodovitch, and helped hof_main_storchrevolutionize magazine design by integrating all the elements of a layout – headlines, text and photography – in his designs, often by twisting and manipulating type in this pre-computer era – as in his famed “forty-winks” layout. By 1967, Storch was nearing the end of his career at McCall’s – after two editors and with a 6-million circulation, TPTB veered more conservative as money men invariably do once something is a success – and he seamlessly moved into a full-time and lucrative career as an ad photographer for American Express, Volkswagen and others. Storch died in 1999, at age 86, and by then the magazine was on its last legs – if you don’t remember, it was sold in 2000 and Rosie O’Donnell became editorial director. Relaunched as Rosie, it tanked in 2002 amid lawsuits and widely reported infighting. The Golden Age of magazines, and McCall’s ‘’60s gloss and glamour were long gone by then.

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Project Rundown?
October 23, 2009

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There’s been a lot of smack-talking all over the internets about the dismal turn taken by this season’s Project Runway, its first at a new home over at Lifetime. Every week, on blog show wrap-ups and countless comments in response (my current fave – a wry poster who called the show “deeply adequate”), folks say the contestants aren’t as talented as past seasons, that Nina and Michael have been absent way too much and they blame it on changing the locale to LA, the move to Lifetime, the weather, the phases of the moon . . .who knows?

It’s not rocket science, people. The show is tired. T-I-R-E-D. The challenges are tired. The monotony is tired. Tim’s tired. Heidi’s tired. And a bit grouchy. The contestants are always tired. And a lot whiney. And guest judge Milla Jovovich hit the bull’s-eye last night, saying the runway results looked like they were from, “Project I-don’t-mind-it.” Zing!

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You look at the designers and think, “Is this the best they could do?” The drama, or lack of it, seems right out of high school (and not in a good Glee way), revolving around two cliched tropes of adolescence, mean girls and a dreamy guy. They’ve tried to make Irina (center, above) wear the bitch crown because she has frequently expressed a dim view of her rivals while single-mindedly racking up three wins so far. But last night when the group was all sitting around the “dorm” having drinks, she seemed to fit right in and nobody had their claws out

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Then there’s Logan, the hipster Seattle stud, who except for the impermeable Irina seems to have everybody crushin’ on him – on both sides of the camera. Lifetime’s producers dutifully indulge their Television for Women imperative by showing him shirtless or in a tank top at least once an episode. And of course he’s straight, to boot, making him a fantasy object for lots of the women viewers (and many of the men). But the dirty little secret is he’s not a very good designer and you can’t be blamed for perversely anticipating if this is the week he’ll be auf-ed.

As for the rest, the ladies were so alike that the only reason they are starting to register is because there are so few of them left. Except for Gordana, a generation older, who trembles, dithers, apologizes and complains, always weary. Even Heidi’s fed up, because she gives her a little scolding every week.  The two other men, as of last night, were tied in a race for the bottom  – weepy Christopher and creepy Nicolas. Both way missed the mark. Nicolas lost. Did anyone notice?

Taking It on the Shin
October 21, 2009

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I love Julianne Moore and I was just telling a friend the other day that it doesn’t seem like she’s in nearly enough movies these days. At the Elle Women in Hollywood event, she got a jump on fashionable things in a sand-dune-colored  Calvin Klein (a sponsor) – one of designer Francisco Costa’s signature ombre tank dresses from the just-seen Spring 2010 collection. But her feet were still firmly grounded in fall, in wickedly shin-strapped Givenchy evening sandals that were way more bondage than beach. Still, it worked and she worked it – the dress was the perfect length on her gorgeous legs.

500x_92057980_10500x_92058077_10Incredibly, at the same party, the shin game continued as actresses Kat Dennings and Dianna Agron (Glee) both chose the same Brobdingnagian platform with thick webbing across the foot and above the ankle. It’s definitely a look, as they say, and I like it with the leggy black shirt-dress – the long sleeves balance out the weight of the wedge-like sole. The ivory fairy-princess dress pairing (despite the black chain belt – a stylist’s touch?) puzzles – is it me or does it sorta look like she skipped out on house arrest still wearing her ankle monitor?

Leather and Repeat
October 19, 2009

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“Six thousand dollars? And it’s not even leath-uh,” exclaims Joan Cusack’s bridge-and-tunnel Cyn to Melanie Griffith’s Tess in the ’80s classic Working Girl. Well, working girls as well as ladies who play all day will have a generous bonus of leather options come spring, since plush plongé and couture calfskin were all over the recent runway shows.

I’ve talked about the Celine collection from Phoebe Philo before but her luxe minimalism was a game-changer in fashion – in nearly every exit she worked leather into a series of stark shapes – effortless T-shirts, cropped pullover “shrugs” and gently shaped dresses like the one above. On this side of the Atlantic, Michael Kors’ tastes were decidedly more vanilla as he put a ’80s spin on a white leather shift.

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Donatella Versace reaches back one decade more for her ’70s-centric yet thoroughly modern spring coat, intricately worked with pretty pastel trim, in a standout collection that also included candy-colored leather minis, sweet even with their studded spirals.

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If you just want a little something-something to ward off an early spring chill, Londoner Giles Deacon offered a zipper vest in (with apologies to Tom Wolfe) kandy-kolored tangerine flake. Baby!

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You’d expect the house of Hermès to have the last word, and its “Tennis, Anyone?” collection did not disappoint. Leather master Jean Paul Gaultier’s ingenious pleated skirts of strips of leather and chiffon made for adorable little tennis dresses that will probably see plenty of action – just not on any court. Game, Set, Match!

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Weight for It
October 15, 2009

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Boy, fashion is barely standing on its spindly little legs this week, sorta collapsing under its own weight – or lack of it. By now you all know about Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton – first she was deflated by a round of extreme retouching by her employer and lizzie-miller-2then we found out she had already been taken out of the lineup and fired altogether six months ago when her size-4 figure reportedly became too big for the clothes. From the news today comes a report that overweight women’s self-esteem plunges when they look at any model, whether she’s toothpick thin or flaunts a few extra pounds (like Lizzie Miller, left) Skinny girls had the opposite reaction: they always felt better when they looked at a model, whatever her size. In France and England, meanwhile, there’s a move to label Photoshop-crazy retouched images on a sliding scale with a health warning like they do for smoking. And in Germany, leading mag Brigitte will no longer use models in its pages, only “real women” that readers could identify with. Of course, Bavaria’s favorite-son fashionista Karl Lagerfeld dismissed that with a wave of his gloved hand: “No one wants to see curvy women,” Lagerfeld was quoted.”You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Nice.

There’s no denying that Ralph’s retouching was absurd, however limited they say the use of the image was intended to be. According to insiders speaking out in blog comments,amd_lauren there was even a reaction inside the company before the picture was released. On the matter of Hamilton’s dismissal, their statement that she did not live up to the terms of her contract probably means that yes, her now size-4 body didn’t fit into their samples. No doubt that’s true – she’s 23 now and has been working for the company since she was 15, so she’s not a gangly teen-age girl anymore. And unfortunately that’s the problem and it’s a lot bigger than Lauren – the runways of the world are now populated by the beautiful beanpoles and the entire fashion system of runway and sample garments has been “downsized” to their 0 to 2 frames. The reign of the shapely supermodel, being long over, has been replaced by underdevloped hordes of mostly Slavic teens, like the Prada model at the top of the page.  And it’s Prada, headed by a woman I must point out, that usually gets the credit for turning the industry to the look-alike and lanky Lolita’s. They wanted the clothes to stand out and the girls to disappear on the runway; well it seems they got their wish and then some.

As for magazines, Diana Vreeland famously said they were “the places that people dream,” and now some people see only a nightmare. Overheated blog Jezebel doesn’t even believe the skinny on skinnies – that they like looking at models.  No, no, no – models are part of the “beauty-industrial complex (that) is basically designed to enscript” women everywhere. (Are they armed? Is Agent Orange the new trendy color?) I know the topic is serious, but the true wisdom comes from a reader who notes that models are, like always, just models – beautifully shaped and cellulite-free – whatever their size. Women need to look elsewhere for their self-esteem.”The “plus” and “real” women never look like us,” she adds. “It’s easier to ignore the message sent by the skinny model.”

Going into Schock
October 13, 2009

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I’d been meaning to mention GQ‘s October fashion spread with 28-year-old Illinois Republican congressional freshman Aaron Schock, where he mimes a typical day of political activity kitted out in Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers and Club Monaco.  6a00d8341c730253ef01156e44eb2e970c-800wiAmerica first got Schock-ed when TMZ ran this pic uncovering the effect of the rep’s reps – rippling abs and broad pecs – in a pair of red swim trunks that catapulted him to web fame as a Huffington Post hottie shortly after he was sworn in. And he’s a darling of Conde Nast, with his GQ photos and a Details profile earlier this year. The Washington It Boy takes all the attention in stride, he says in GQ, because it helps him to stand out “in a sea of 435 people in Congress,” and he slams the Bush-era Republican Party for “a failure to communicate” that’s keeping young people away from the GOP. Of course, the magazine doesn’t mention the committed conservative Baptist’s own stands against issues like abortion in any circumstance, affirmative action or gay marriage, much like many of his party’s “base” – which might also be part of the reason. I’m just not sure what exactly Schock thinks they are communicating (despite the headline “The (New) Conservative Agenda”) as GQ just twirls the youngest member of Congress around for his issue-free “Isn’t It Bro-mantic” model turn in front of the camera.

3 (Designing) Women
October 12, 2009

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Little-known today, Robert Altman’s 1977 meandering masterpiece 3 Women came up the other day at a shoot when I remarked that our model reminded me of the young Shelley Duvall (“That’s a name you don’t hear everyday,” the photographer said drily.) Based on an actual dream of Altman’s, the story traces the lives of the trio (played by Duvall, Janice Rule and Sissy Spacek) as their identities begin to shift and then merge with each other until the boundaries disappear and, as movie critic Roger Ebert says, “the dream is perhaps shared by all three women, each one imagining the other two, each one lacking what the others possess.”

Oddly, he could have been describing the Spring 2010 collections of three other women in Paris last week, who I’ll call “The Chloé Sisters” – because they all came to prominence at the fabled French house.  Stella McCartney, her former assistant Phoebe Philo and her former assistant Hannah MacGibbon were all on the Paris schedule, the first time all three have had individual shows in the same season.  And all three are British imports, educated at  Central St. Martin’s, and all in their late ’30s.

McCartney, whose namesake line is part of Gucci Group, famously took the design reigns at Chloé in the mid-nineties, replacing none other than Karl Lagerfeld, survived the subsequent tempest in a toile, and revived the house with her blend of tailored jackets (owing partly to her time working on Saville Row) and floaty feminine pieces.

In 2001 she began her namesake collection and Philo was named head designer and took the line in a trendier direction with high-waisted trousers and baby-doll dresses 91ad4194b6d1eeb2and a series of iconic handbags, notably the padlocked Paddington, the pandemonium-causing “it ” bag of the decade. When she left in 2006, saying she wanted more time for her family in London, MacGibbon was next in line but surprisingly she opted out, also citing family as the reason. Chloé then bounced through two other designers, and it’s crazy-cool and counterfeiter-clamoring formula took a big hit.  Last year, MacGibbon was talked into coming back full-time to Chloé where she had been consulting, while Philo was named head designer at the also-shaky Celine across town.

Well, as they say, with no further ado – to the runways. Looks like it’s going to be a sexy and self-assured spring for Stella (friend Gwynie Paltrow must be drooling), her signature jackets sporting a rollicking ruffle, her man-trousers topped off with light and lacy no-frills halters and her party flounces slip-sliding away. All the way to the bank.

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Over at Celine, Philo “wears the pants” with a starkly luxurious leather T-shirt, befitting the investment pricetags and her own intention to clear the decks design-wise this season. So it’s all neutral nuances, the only softness coming from soft white cotton pieces paired with severe dark leather. And her night-time is the right time for a tall-drink-of -water slinky cooler.

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MacGibbon’s collection (her second) for Chloé puts her tomboy spin on these same design codes. Personally, if I never hear the term “boyfriend jacket” again, it will be too soon. But that’s her opening gambit, followed by L.L. Beanery: couture workshirts, hunting-worthy stirrup pants, foul-weather Macs and, in an Nottingwood Forest detour, wool capes.  For spring. It all seemed pretty dark and stormy until, at last, the sun broke blazingly through, in delicate white flounced dresses (that could easily go toe-to-toe with anything Karl ever did for Chloé). With kitten heels no less.

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Close Encounter with McQueen
October 9, 2009

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Ever since I watched the watershed Alexander McQueen show from this week on SHOWstudio.com (an experience I highly recommend!), I can’t get it out of my head.  There was spectacle – an pristine platform runway, robo-cameras moving on tracks, enormous enveloping projections – but it was in the details that I found myself entranced by McQueen’ strange and wonderful vocabulary of…pretty.

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LA: Week No More
October 8, 2009

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Well they’ve rolled up the runways at Fashion Week in New York, London and Paris. So it must be time for the latest dysfunctional slot on the global fashion calendar – Fashion Week(s) Los Angeles, which this year is ridiculously almost a whole month long. That’s our Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, above at right, with LA garment titan Max Azria at the Spring 2010 kick-off press conference earlier this week.

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The appearance of Mr. Azria by the mayor’s well-dressed side (dig the pink tie!) only underscores the Emperor’s-New-Clothes conundrum of attempting a Fashion Week in LA. You see, for each of his three LA-based lines – BCBG, Hérve Léger by Max Azria and Max Azria (seen above), Maven Max produces a separate fashion show – in New York.  And any other Los Angeles designer, from the young social to the avant garde, from Monique Lhiullier to Jenni Kayne, from Juan Carlos Obando to Elise Øverland, who wants their clothes to be seen by the outside world likewise follows suit (and dress) forthwith to Manhattan to show their collection.

But nature, and fashion – however dubious – abhor a vacuum and that’s where Los Angeles comes in. Up until a year ago, New York Fashion Week powerhouse IMG produced LA Fashion Week as well, in tandem with the local Smashbox-Studio-owning brothers Factor, Dean and Davis. It was a tortured alliance – originally IMG rolled into town and centered its effort downtown, with a tent and showings at the Standard Hotel.  The Factor boys, however, bristled against the slick NYC “carpetbaggers” and set up a competing venue … way out yonder at their inconveniently located Culver City HQ. After an especially rancorous season, (it was impossible to get back and forth between the two show sites) both sides called a truce and entered into a marriage of supposed fashion convenience by walking down the aisle back to Smashbox.

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It wasn’t pretty. The shows went off OK for several seasons, such as they were, but often attracted more partiers for the free booze than professionals parsing the hemlines. The show spaces were roomy but the common area in between was a crowded free-for-all, especially when they crammed in the bars, the D-list celebs and the de rigueur Mercedes from the show’s sponsor. And Smashbox, in a desolate industrial area, had no surrounding amenities like downtown had; instead there was a parking nightmare of pricey valet fees and interminable waits.  IMG, which produces Fashion Week in NYC, Miami, Moscow and even Mumbai, finally admitted defeat after five years in LA and pulled the hell out. Somewhat surprisingly, so did the once-scrappy Factors, who said they’d be back when the economy brightens up.

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Into the abyss this season comes first, from October 13-15, Downtown LA Fashion Week, headquartered at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, which debuted last year with a single show – of vintage fashions from Decades (above). Running three nights this season, it will include an emerging designers show (the winners of something called the Angel awards from the city, who were already announced at the press conference…we love our awards in LA!). Also on tap, a group show of designers from Israel, a return to the runway from hometown hero Louis Verdad and yet another vintage benefit show, this time from Paper Bag Princess, honoring Valentino, The Last Emperor, which since it came out six months ago seems a bit of a vintage idea as well.

Following that, and new this season are two other venues -from October 17-18, LA Fashion Weekend in Hollywood at Sunset Gower studios from local producer Mikey Kaufmann; and from October 29-31, Rock Fashion Week from NYC-based Rock Media, which recently absorbed Gen-Art, and taking place at Paramount Studios. In between there are single shows, pop-up openings, store launches and, yes, Halloween! It’s a dizzying mash-up and really what’s the purpose?  Aside from the loyal local press, there’s no real coverage or attendance by anyone outside the LA fashion bubble. The city touts a $50 million benefit to LA, but that comes from buyers in town for market week and trade shows, not the endless succession of these runway shows, many of which are for “designers” we may never hear of again. But then again, why confine LA Fashion Week to a mere month?  We could be patting ourselves on our bronzed backs all year long.

The Butler Did It!
October 7, 2009

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Let us now praise famous men. Or, as Rachel Ray might say, “Yum-o!” I came across this picture of Gerard Butler at last night’s premiere of Law Abiding Citizen and, as far as I am concerned, 20061110justinlongthis is the new template for Hollywood men on the red carpet. I’ve been styling in Hollywood for 10 years and for most of that it seems time male stars affected an “I-don’t-care” dishevelled appearance whenever they showed up in public, in their T-shirts, ball caps, carpenter jackets – and worse. No longer – now you see lots of sharp suits on the red carpet. In recent months, Eric Bana, Chris Pine and Shia LeBeouf have especially stood out. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say the turnabout started with Daniel Craig a few years back when he was cast as the original sartorialist James Bond and transformed himself from a casually-clad British character actor to a dashing worldwide movie star – faultless in a wardrobe of sublime Tom Ford suits. (So much so, the story goes, that at a photo shoot with the leading US men’s magazine, he pushed aside the editor’s rack of pro-offered duds to wear his own fantastic Fords he brought along with him!)

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From afar, Butler deftly bridges old and new Hollywood in his sleek dark suit, looking both leading-man handsome and chick-magnet sexy. He definitely wears the pants (and jacket) in this realm; no way does the Versace suit “wear” him and the fit is perfect, right down to the exposed amount of shirt cuff. Up close, you can clock the cool fashion details – the genius black-on-black patterned tie, the subtle stitched cording on the jacket lapel. Of course it’s Hollywood, so the scruff is still with us. But like his casually cropped hair, it just takes the edge off. Hello there.