Monday, September 26, 2011

Going Down to Chinatown : Ralph Lauren

The back of a an evening jacket done as a shawl collard
robe embroidered with Chinese motifs.  Detail, for me, is
everything.  This piece alone is worth not eating for a month.
As you know, I love a lot of things; my list is quite expansive and somewhat enviable.  One of the things that constantly gets my motor running is Chinoiserie; the West's interpretation of Chinese design as decorative elements.  Simplicity and opulence are hard notes to strike in tandem, but to me, that's Chinoiserie.  Imagine how tittered I became when I saw that for Fall 2011, Ralph Lauren showed a heavy dose of Chinoise with his Deco inspired collection.  As always, his sleek menswear inspired suiting and stunning frocks were present, but they were tempered with a nod to a different era ripe with streamlined elegance and exotic dreams of far away lands.  Have a look for yourself.

- Ian
Elegant simplicity in jade with a
plunging neckline.
The tiny bag done in calf hair with
carved stone embellishment.

Classic men's suiting for trousers with a cropped jacket.
I love the drama of the portrait collar and the femininity of
the charmeuse blouse underneath.

I was crazy for this look for one big reason,
the fur trimmed vest over the tweed jacket.
So unexpected and dramatic.

That beautiful embroidery just adds another
layer of texture and dimension.  And
I love the carved pendants too!

Is it wrong to want this printed dinner jacket to be made for men?
It makes me want to host an eclectic dinner party where
I bring guests back from the dead for one night of rousing conversation.

I'm crazy for this Bordeaux color, and
Laurens limited palette in general. 
The wholecollection was
as much about texture
as it was color.
Bordeaux again, fur trimmed. 
I'm a sucker for velvet,
and the silk variety plays
with light like no other. 

Lauren has started a line of semi-precious jewelry to compliment his
seasonal collections.  I love the organic simplicity of the Chinese
ornaments and the way they have been scaled to become these
showstopping earrings punctuated by faceted jet drops.

The sleeve of a one shouldered dress embellished with dragon embroidery.
So beautifully rendered and so thoughtful to create a Dolman sleeve so
the image would be uninterrupted.

A gown with a minimalist simplicity that transcends centuries and
remains ageless.

The illusion panel of a cocktail dress shows off sensuous
Asian embroidery.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flying My Freak Flag - The Introduction to Mrs. Kennedy.

It's now official.  I am 'that guy'.  I'm 'that guy' who sings along to whatever is on his ipod with no concern for his dignity.  At the gym.  On an elliptical. 

I will say, in my defense, that I only lip sync, and head and arm movements in the style of Beyonce, Usher, or any other artist I choose to goof to, male or female, are limited to times when there is no one around me or when I am at the back of the room and no one can see me directly.  But, the fact of the matter is, I am 'that guy', and there is Security footage to prove it.

You could say I have a freak flag that I am not afraid to fly.  I was once, sadly, without one.  When I was younger, I used to be almost paralyzed with thoughts of what someone would think of me if I did something I thought was out of sync with the collective societies approval.  Oh the embarrassment of being dropped off at the mall by my Dad in his big yellow Chevrolet that sounded like a wheat thrasher! (but then you realize how lucky you are to have a ride at all).  Oh the humanity of not getting those shoes that everyone has! (how lucky I was to even get new shoes at all). There comes a point in your life where you stop caring so much about what people you don't know think about you, you get out of your own way, and you start focusing on more important things that make you happy.  Given that I can hold my own with a rousing renditions of 'Single Ladies' and '9 to 5', I'd say I'm obviously at that point.
President and Mrs. Kennedy, with guests, at the first State
Dinner they hosted.
Over the course of my career as a Designer and an Educator, I have stumbled upon some amazing personalities; true icons of style.  People who have done nothing but fly their freak flags high and proud, and it's their brazen individuality and flagrant nose-thumbing that has cemented their positions in history.  Because I love trivia and people of style, chiming in with random bits of information that will hopefully inspire you to be nothing but who you are seems like a good idea. 

So, for our first jaunt into quirky and stylish history, we have a bite sized morsel about Jackie Kennedy.  The epitome of style and culture during the 1960's and throughout her life, Jackie was not without her sly twists.  During her relatively short time as First Lady, she hosted quite a few State Dinners.  Beautiful antique china and crystal was used, and of course delicious meals were served.  But Jackie wanted to keep the magic of the evening exclusive to the White House.  When a guest requested a specific recipe that was served that night, Mrs. Kennedy obliged graciously as any good hostess would, but not before tweaking the ingredient list just enough to make the dish fall flat when the guest tried to make it for themselves!  She'd increase the salt or or onion or remove an ingredient entirely, keeping the magic of the meal wrapped tightly in White House mystique.

- Ian

Jackie photographed during her 1962 televised tour of the newly refurbished
Executive mansion.  Mrs. Kennedy did an incredible service to the home
by restoring its historic interiors.

Just because I love this photo.  Jackie the socialite
before a beautiful Japanese screen in the 1950's.

Interiors on Film - The Women

L to R : Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford,
Rosalind Russell.

The Women has got to be one of my favorite films; I can watch it over and over and be entertained as if it were the first time and not the tenth.  I'm speaking of the 1939 original with an all star, all female, cast headed by Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford, not the rehash with Meg Ryan and Annette Benning.  I refuse to see the updated version because I feel it would anger and upset me since the George Cukor directed original was perfection. 

For those who are unfamiliar, the story is a simple one of adultery and situational comedy; a New York wife and mother discovers through Beauty Salon gossip that her husband has been stepping out with a department store perfume girl.  Humiliated and depressed, she flees to Nevada to get a divorce.  While there, she is introduced to a variety of colorful women, all with man trouble of their own, who will inspire her to fight tooth and nail to get her husband back, if that is what she really wants.  Of course the story ends well with the happy reunion of the estranged couple and the ousting to the trollop. 

What makes this film stand out, besides the acting, writing and beautiful Adrian costumes, are the beautiful 'contemporary' sets designed by MGM's Cedric Gibbons; and for a design junkie like myself, wonderful interiors can make up for a multitude of sins, not that The Women has any.  Gibbons transports us from chic salons and glossy city apartments to Colonial country homes and nouveau riche man-traps without leaving the comforts of a sound stage in Culver City, Ca.  While I adore beautiful locations, there's still magic in conjuring an exotic land or beautiful boudoir in an airplane hangar or a studio back lot.  Gibbons most definitely has that movie magic we all love to crave, and the few images I could dig up from this iconic film illustrate that talent beautifully.

- Ian

Sydney's Salon, where our story opens.  The film had wonderful nods to surrealism
in it's costumes and sets, as seen here with the trompe l'oeil landscape walls
and the hand holding the crystal ball.  I also love the sweeping staircase, for
purely selfish and decadent reasons.
One of Adrian's many costumes with Surrealist influences (if you need a hint, it's the three
disembodied, stylized eyes).  Designers like Elsa Schiaparelli were finding
inspiration in artists like Salvador Dali at the time.

Mary Haines' (Shearer) City Apartment.  Two things infatuate me with this interior.
One -  That Blackamoore Cachepot.  In the film, it's seen overflowing with flowers.
I wonder what happened to it?  Because I really, really, want it.

Two - The liberal use of quilting.  Not only is the furniture done in
quilted fabric, but look at the drapes!  Floor to ceiling box quilting.
It's genius.  Total genius.  I want to replicate it for a project.
The Haines Country House.  I know it's a set.  I know it's synthesized reality.
But I really want to have a Colonial home with a powder room large enough to
have a Sheraton desk, a Ladder back chair and a floor to ceiling built in
corner cabinet to display my collection of cut crystal decanters (which I am also,
currently, without).  And dig that wallpaper!  It's fab!

Apparently, this look became known as 'Hollywood Colonial'.  Think Mr. Blandings, or
even the season where Lucy moved to Connecticut.  Beautiful early American and Georgian
architecture mixes with 20th century furnishings to create the look. 

The Kitchen in the Country House.  Utterly charming with its painted brick and
frilled curtains.

You know a Set Designer was responsible for this work.  A lovely
painted stair, dark wood floors, pictorial wallpaper (loving that) and a
striking bay window configuration at the foot of the landing.

Crystal's (Crawford) man-trap of a bathroom.  Imagine what the rest of the home
looks like!  As garish as it is, I am fascinated by that glass bathtub with it's
wave base.  And check out that lyre shaped towel holder!

A view through Crystals bath and into her Boudoir.  Look at the sliver of bed!
The serpentine bed spread trimmed with tassels is really rather nice.  I love the telephone
stretched to Crystal's bath tray.  You can tell she'll be marinating for a few hours. 
And that silk head rest is killing me!

The Ladies Lounge, home to the films final showdown between Crystal and Mary.
Deeply tufted furnishings, fringes, mirrored tables and a city view create the mood
of late Deco opulence and feminine beauty.  I also love that Gibbons has created
opportunitues for grand entries in all of his sets with architectural elements emphasize
the theatrical qualities of his interiors.

Details of the Lounge are incredible.  The doors are silver leaf!  With crystal knobs!
The vanities are Chinoiserie in inspiration, but the legs are Lucite and the tops mirrored!
The wall mirrors are topped with a Pagoda crown!  How utterly decadent.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Missoni for Target - The Aftermath.

And we're done here.  Most Target stores looked liek this
hours after the doors opened.
I just have to ask one question.  Just one.  Are you people insane?! 

Like much of upwardly mobile middle class America with some knowledge of fashion, I saw the Missoni for Target commericals on TV and waited with eager anticipation for that slow boat to pull into the dock.  And even though they offered guys a paltry selection of products to purchase (one grandpa sweater and a few ties?  Bitch please.) I still dropped in my local Target to see if there was anything marvelous.  It was as if it never happened!  Displays were barren, the signs still hanging from the ceiling like a flag above a desolate battle ground.  Not one stitch of Missoni left for anyone, anywhere.  Not one dish, throw, or candle.  What happen?, you may ask; well, I'll lay it on you.

Screen shot from the National commerical.

Missoni for Target looks.
Keep in mind my conjecture is often times closer to reality than most people like to admit, so let's just call the following scenario fact for the sake of argument.  Ahem.  Crazy people laid in wait outside their chosen store at an unholy hour of the morning.  When the doors open, a scene which I can only imagine was akin to the running of the Bulls in Pamplona ensued.  Greedy people with stubby little fingers careen their red carts toward moderately priced goods of Italian design and questionable origins and converge on it like jackals. 

Elbows are thrown, unwatched carts pillaged, stink eyes given.  Inevitably someone brought their brood of cranky kids and most likely they were miserable little wretches the whole time (note to the unaware - don't bring the kids to the bloodbath!  It messes up your game and angers the opposition.), and I shudder to think what they did to those poor people in the red shirts.  I know Target isn't union but I'd hope they have a nice medical package.  After the carcass is stripped, the gluttons cash out and make their way back home, fat with their spoils.

Really Target? Missoni at your disposal and you give men a Gramps sweater? 
 One would think that the lucky few who purchased the limited run of pieces would be happily wearing them and showing them off to their unlucky cohorts, but the story doesn't end there.  It ends on eBay, where, at 10:03 pm Sunday September 18th, there were over 700 pages of Missoni for Target products, all marked up to almost double the retail price found at the store.  Again, I must ask.  Are you people insane?!  700 pages?!

The pieces sold at Target are barely worth what they retail for; it's all acrylic and rayon blends, nowhere near the quality of the real McCoy found at Saks or Neimans.  Yes, I know the price point is way beyond that of Target, but with a name like Missoni, you're purchasing design, heritage, and above all, quality.  A true Missoni will last a lifetime.  Targets version will be pulled out of shape and unravelling before the month is through.  It's the Missoni look at Target prices, but it will not become a cherished and envied heriloom like the real deal will.

The bike, which would have forced me to think of actually
riding it, though it would probably get stolen the first time
I left it locked outside Starbucks.

Now that eBay is littered with the collection, we finally have the variety we were promised (it was the largest designer tie in for the store, some 400 items) but how many people will be desperate enough to shell out $1,600.00 plus shipping for the Missoni emblazoned bike that originally cost $400.00?  Or over $100.00 for some $39.00 pumps that are worth $20.00 at best?  I'm thinking not many, but I could be wrong.  But I don't think I am.

- Ian

P.S. - Rumors of a second shipment abound, but who knows when it will arrive or what will be in it.  Odds are, there will be another repeat of the early morning stampede.  So, either gird your loins and join the fight, or save your pennies for an authentic Missoni from Saks on sale.