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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Screen Saver, Part III

Next in my series of chats with big-screen costume designers is the charming, quiet and sun-kissed Michael Kaplan, who shot out of the gate with his first film, the camp classic Can't Stop the Music, in 1980. Just a couple years later he irrevocably changed the fashion vernacular with Flashdance and Blade Runner. But as he tells me, his next film and dream job, Burlesque (with Cher!), just might be his greatest moment yet. By Cesar Padilla

Let's start with your first film.
Yes, Can't Stop the Music, the Village People movie. There were four of us working on the film and I was assigned the Village People.

How was the experience?
It was the epitome of what was going on at the time. One thing I do remember, which was a first, is [producer] Allan Carr asking me to accentuate the Village People's crotches.

So you were responsible for that?
Yes. (Smiles.)

Was there anyone who didn't need a little something extra?
No, they all needed stuffing.

Were people getting laid on set?
It was a big job and I had my mind on work, although...well, I can't go into detail out of respect for the dead.

Were you getting laid on set?
No, I never combine work and play.

Let's talk Valerie Perrine.
Valerie was supposed to play a high fashion model and, well, it was a little bit of a stretch so I suggested having a make-up artist from the fashion industry do her make-up. Everyone thought it was great idea except Valerie. She was furious and felt challenged. When the day arrived to start filming she said okay, but on one condition. She allowed the make-up artist to do only half her face and she would do the other half because she felt she knew what worked best for her.

How did the split face turn out?
She did two screen tests with each half and she was right. She knew how she looked best. We have the same eye doctor and just the other day I saw her for the first time in a long time. I wondered if she remembered any of that.

You also worked with Michael Jackson. What was that like?
I did two Pepsi commercials with Michael. It was strange because all his comments had to do with food. We'd be deciding on a shirt color and mention the color peach and he'd say, "oh, peaches and cream." Or I'd mention salmon and he would say, "smoked salmon on a bagel." For the color cherry he said, "I love cherries, do you like cherries?" He asked everyone in the room. He was very childlike and sweet.

Did you always want to be a costume designer?
I majored in sculpture, painting and illustration, but as I was graduating I realized I wasn't meant to be a fine artist. After some soul-searching I realized costume design was something that really fascinated me. Not so much fashion design but creating characters with clothing, creating a world. Being a costume designer is such a great job, I may be unemployed at the end of every film but every time I start one it's a whole new cast of characters and a new world to create. So much better than working in a bank.

What's your earliest fashion memory?
There was this movie I was very interested in as a child called The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing, with Joan Collins. She played the original Gibson Girl, Evelyn Nesbit.

Why do you think it resonated with you?
I only saw it once, but it kicked off something.

What was the first piece of clothing you ever made?
It wasn't really a piece of clothing. I painted someone's body for a ball at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The first piece of actual clothing I made was for a party I was invited to at the West Hollywood Women's League. It was their first annual spring formal and all the men had to come dressed as women and all the women as men. I designed a cream-colored silk floor-length ball gown for myself.

Sexy or demure?
Demure, please! It was backless and on the bias. I looked ravishing. My date, Daphne Parker, wore a cream silk tailcoat and top hat. I didn't make her outfit.

Do you still sew?
I can, but very badly. I would be fired if I had to sew the costumes.

What's your process for a film?
I do lots of sketches. Early on I did all my own sketches. Now I do rough sketches and give them to an artist.

Have you saved all your sketches?
I've been better about it as of late. I do have most of the sketches from Blade Runner.

What are the films you are most proud of?
Probably Blade Runner, Flashdance and Fight Club.

Blade Runner came very early in your career, followed immediately by Flashdance. How did your participation in those epic cinematic moments come about?
For Blade Runner, Ridley Scott was interviewing people and most of the costume designers in the union were talking to him about silver mylar as a means to convey the future, but he wanted to meet someone young and fresh with new ideas. At the time I was the newest member of the union. Someone said he should meet the newest member, so we met. After that Ridley recommended me to Adrian Lyne and that's how Flashdance came about. I have to say, I love working with Brits.

With Flashdance, not only did your fashion choices influence a generation, but you influenced fashion for the rest of time! How does it feel to have achieved such a global impact?
I love it.

American Apparel wouldn't exist without Flashdance.
I've had directors say they're doing a movie and they want me to start a trend like Flashdance. But you have to have a good script to start with.

How did you come up with the Flashdance look?
I read the script and thought a lot about the characters and what they would wear. Jennifer Beals was a construction worker without a lot of money, shown reading fashion magazines. The idea of a sweatshirt covered all the areas of her life. As a dancer she would personalize her clothes and Jennifer has very beautiful shoulders. If she didn't have beautiful shoulders I would have covered them.

Do you still have the sweatshirt?
Yes, I kept one of the three we used.

What's your dream film?
I think I may be about to make it. I'm in the process of finishing The Sorcerer's Apprentice, but the film I am about to start is Burlesque.

Burlesque, the new Cher film?
Yes. I have worked with many beautiful people, but this is a musical with so many beautiful women. There are eighteen numbers in the entire film. It's about a young girl, played by Christina Aguilera, whose parent dies and she decides to go for it and get the fuck out of town. She heads west and winds up at a burlesque club run by Cher!

Have you worked with Cher before?
I worked as a sketch artist, fabric shopper and assistant costume designer on the Sonny and Cher Show, after the Cher show. It was my first job. I doubt she remembers me. We had little contact.


What can we look forward to, clothing-wise, in Burlesque?
I don't know yet. I need to go on my vacation next week and separate myself from this last film before I start on this one.

How was working on the most recent Star Trek?
It was terrible for me. I got sick in the middle of production and I wasn't able to enjoy the project as much as I would have liked. It was interesting because I never watched Star Trek and I told the director that I probably wasn't the most qualified for the job. He answered that he wanted a fresh take on Star Trek and that qualified me even more. I was so afraid I was going to wake up one morning to a legion of trekkies outside my door.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fight Club is a very sexy movie. Was that something you were conscious of while making the film?
[Director] David Fincher and I spoke before I started creating the look for the film. I said to him I know you don't like color and flamboyance, so how far can I go with Tyler Durden. He said not far.

It's a very homoerotic film. It caused a lot of boners.
In the audience maybe. I just followed the road map of the screenplay.

Speaking of boners, what was the air like on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith?
You could cut it with a knife. I love working with them. I've worked with Brad a few times now. It was my first time working with Angelina. Once we got to know each other everything went great.

What's been your biggest fashion faux pas?
I don't regret any of my work.

What's your guilty pleasure?
You sound like Barbara Walters.

But she can't smile like I can, Michael.
My guilty pleasure is bacon, french fries, calamari—anything that combines fat and salt.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where the Boys Are

—Cesar Padilla

I know nothing of gay porn. Honest! But last weekend I had the chance to attend the GayVN Awards (no idea why it's called that) at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, hosted by Janice Dickinson and Margaret Cho. Reading the categories beforehand—Best Threeway, Best Oral Sex, Best Pearl Necklace—I knew I was in for a wild ride, or at least some shiggles.

Like all good celebrations, the partying began early—as in, the night before. Masses of sculpted, well-hung porn stars and their twink hangers-on took over the Castro as nominated "actors" were put on display at the bars. The best was an ample young stud bouncing up and down on a trampoline in front of the notorious Twin Peaks. It was all very fascinating, tragic, fun, decadent, Dada.

Prior to the awards, Janice stirred up some shit in an interview when asked about bottoming for her co-host. She responded with "Margaret Cho can wash my fucking car." If only she could recognize that she isn't that funny, although she did look amazing. After weeks of going over scripts, Janice then dropped the bomb that she doesn't do scripts, which wasn't her brightest idea, nor was hitting the open bar before going onstage. Yet she managed to make it through her bits, repeatedly pumping her fist in the air, flashing her big smile and yelling something about gay shame over and over.

Margaret Cho, on the other hand, was flawless, and kept everyone in stitches with her caustic sense of humor. When we weren't cheering her on, we were erupting with laughter every time the nominees were announced, with titles like Paging Dr. Finger and Spread Dat Butta, which were up for Best Group Scene. I forgot who won, but over 100 participants took the stage.

Falcon Studios monopolized the awards, which must have sent waves of penis envy among the competition. Their new film, To The Last Man, was filmed on a ranch for a whole sixteen days. Apparently, they're changing the landscape of gay porn and heralding in a new genre—one with real acting. I guess that means the script has more dialogue than "You like that cock? Yeah! Take it!" (Speaking of cock, in line for a urinal, waiting for what seemed like forever, I overheard one hung horse say to another, and I kid you not, "Hey, nice schlong!")

For all Janice's antics, if there were a Biggest Bitch award, it might have gone to Michael Lucas, gay porn legend and king among schlongs. When on stage, he rehashed an old feud with an unscrupulous starlet who once lied about his age and, according to Michael, besmirched the industry's reputation. Later, at the afterparty, that starlet's porn-star boyfriend offered a few choice words to Mr. Lucas and found himself expelled, handcuffed and hauled off to jail. Way to suck all the fun out of the awards, guys.

Sadly, because video cameras weren't allowed inside the theater, thousands of hilarious moments were lost. The gaggle of drag queens alone, primping and cackling in the ladies room, would have provided hours of entertainment. But here's a clip we found of Margaret Cho singing about award winner (Best Top) Ricky Sinz's dick size...



And a few more snippets shot by Mat Cote...

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Barcelona Hopping

By Cesar Padilla...

I have to admit that, with Spain recently banning skin-and-bones models, I was looking forward to some Lane Bryant big-girl action at Barcelona Fashion Week (aka 080 Barcelona Fashion). But apparently the ban has been lifted. Between the skinny models and an international selection of designers, I felt like I could have been in Paris—for better or worse. And then there's the avant-garde, Gaudi-inspired goth streak that runs through Catalonia, best exemplified by local dark star Txell Miras.


Txell Miras

Australian label materialbyproduct delivered the most classic collection of the week. Based on the House of Chanel, it started off on the drab side, but quickly gained momentum with striking lightweight black dresses with a vertical modernist print in a pale blue pattern. Unfortunately, their concept of a dressing room on the runway made for a tedious and repetitive show that left many yawning.


materialbyproduct

Another homage—this time to that master of all things tight and sexy, Azzedine Alaïa—came from Canadian label markfast, a come-hither collection of short body-hugging mini-dresses for the woman who probably doesn't keep her clothes on very long. After the show, the designer recoiled when I used the word "slutty." I explained that slutty isn't an insult, just a way of life, and one that I don't judge. I know plenty of women whose pubes might trickle out the bottom of his dresses—as in, not interested in wearing panties. Let's be real.


markfast

Representing the Spaniards, local talent Miriam Ponsa sent out modern urban survivalists. She used an interesting military palette to convey her Rei Kawakubo-inspired abstract designs, with a nod to innocence in the form of cute denim clamdiggers for a nice pastoral touch.


Miriam Ponsa

Japanese designer Seiko Taki was another star of the week. The clothes had no real hanger appeal, but once her romantic, sensual vision arrived, it took the room by surprise. Wild applause followed, along with an emotional moment from the designer.


Seiko Taki

MAREUNROL'S started off with an incredible, quick-cut short film reminiscent of Bonnie & Clyde. Then came out gangster-style trenches, patchwork dresses and insane wigs worthy of Cousin It from the Addams Family. Mojitos made it all the better.


MAREUNROL'S

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Screen Saver, Part II

By Cesar Padilla...

For the second installment of my illuminating, hilarious and sometimes salacious Q&As with costumers (notice the vowels), I caught up with goth mama Arianne Phillips. And let me tell you it was no easy feat, considering she's constantly on the road styling for Madonna, Courtney Love or Lenny Kravitz (her former roommate). Plus she's one of the most sought-after costume designers in Hollywood, with film credits that include Girl, Interrupted, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Walk the Line, which garnered her an Academy Award nomination in 2005. But caught up with her I did, and I made sure to cover all the bases. We talked candidly about everything from drugs and male idolatry to dressing the Material Girl and (not) doing Guy...

You just finished a film last week. Can you tell me about it?
It was the new Tom Ford film. It's his directorial debut and it was awesome. He's a natural director and it was so great to work with someone who has such an amazing vernacular for costumes and clothing. The story is so great. I've been attached to it for a while, since he chose to go for independent funding. It's based on the Christopher Isherwood novel A Single Man. Set in 1962, it stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. I guess I'm becoming the mid-century girl.

What was your first film and how was the experience?
Bail Jumper, a small indie film in New York that was very patched together. I had absolutely no experience other than the music videos I had styled. I was learning on the fly. It was down and dirty and I wanted more!

What's your dream film?
It would be a moody spectacle starring Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet and Tilda Swinton, directed by Bob Fosse, Fellini or Kubrick, with cinematography by John Alcott, Sven Nykvist, Robbie Muller, Chris Doyle or Harris Savides. It would be a period piece on location in London, Paris or the south of France, with music by Bowie, Eno, Stephen Trask and Mozart.

What's your worst moment on set?
It was at the beginning of my film career. I was getting my trailer door kicked in by an angry actress who I neglected to get thermals for. The producer told me I should go home and not come back for a few days.

What's your worst diva moment?
Me? Diva? Never!

Do you sew?
Only in an emergency.

What's the first thing you ever sewed?
The holes in my rainbow toe socks circa 1976.

I know you're into black. Do you ever wear color?
No. Black, black, black! I'm a tired ol' goth!

What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be all my Halloween costumes—a witch, an actress and a princess.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
In all seriousness, my mother. She is an awesome woman.

What was on your walls when you were 15?
There is a funny story about that because it was my 15th birthday exactly. I had very liberal hippie parents and I told my mom I wanted to do mushrooms. She said the only way I could take them was under her supervision, which is the same thing she did on my first date. I had to take them in the house and I had to get them myself because she wasn't going to score my drugs. So a few of my girlfriends came over for a sleepover and right as we were peaking my mom walked into the room and sat on the corner of my bed. There wasn't a inch of space on my walls that wasn't covered with a poster of a British rock star—Rod Stewart, The Bay City Rollers, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc. We were listening to rock music and she decided that this was the time for her to give me her feminist dissertation on rock gods and male idolatry. In particular, you may know this poster, Robert Plant in the tightest pair of hip huggers, with the biggest bulge imaginable. My mom was going on about these men I didn't know on my wall and we were just tripping our brains out.

Still into rock gods?
Well, just last night I had a moment. [Night Ranger's] Sister Christian came on the radio and, I don't know, I just had a moment and turned it up.

What's your biggest fashion faux pas, personally?
A deconstructed hippie grunge plaid baby-doll dress or a collaged/decoupaged pair of wooden platforms that I wore in high school.

What's your dream decade?
The future.

What's your guiltiest pleasure?
Anything salty followed by a sugar chaser. All of my memories are built around food. Food is my inspiration.

Best Courtney Love moment?
We're at an Oscar party and she and Jack Nicholson are smoking cigars in the dark. Too many more to mention.



Best Madonna moment?
My first meeting with her and Jean-Paul Gaultier in her apartment in New York, listening to the Ray of Light CD before it was released, planning and discussing the costumes for the Frozen video.

Worst Madonna moment?
Being chased by rabid paparazzi in Italy en route to the MTV Europe Music Awards. I thought we were going to die in that car.

What was working on Swept Away like?
It was one of the best times I ever had. We were on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. It was a very intimate crew. I got permission to leave a week early and then I was called back when they decided to add a musical number at the very end. We needed an outfit and I couldn't find one so I ended up at the Versace showroom in Milan. I remember it was truffle season. It was awesome. See, all my memories are tied to food.


Madonna in Swept Away

Tell me your favorite outfit of this Madge tour.
The sexy robot section, the crystal football shoulders and the Joan of Arc silver armor breastplate in the final section.

Any onstage accidents?
In 1989, Lenny Kravitz ripped a pair of vintage bell bottoms onstage and, to my shock and horror, he turned around and out popped the jewels!

Your favorite rock band right now?
Wilco, Goldfrapp, Vampire Weekend, The Ting Tings, Duffy.

Who taught you air guitar?
Jimmy page, of course!

What's your next project?
I'm flying to Rio to shoot the cover of W with Madonna and Steven Klein. It's our third W cover.

Last question, and please be honest with me. I really want to bone Guy Ritchie. Do I stand a chance?
No way.

That sucks. Thanks, Arianne. See you in L.A. in a few weeks for mango margaritas.


Sketch for Hedwig and the Angry Inch / still from Walk the Line / Arianne's Oscar nomination certificate

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big Fat Greek Fashion Show

Cesar Padilla...

I'm not a tit man (my boyfriend will attest to this), but the first thing I noticed at Hellenic Fashion Week in Athens recently were the breasts. They were real and big, just like the hips. We're talking women, not girls waiting for their first pube or starving themselves to be the next Kate Moss. Show after show confirmed the Greeks like to keep it real. Beautiful hook-nosed models with striking ancient profiles, sometimes even mannish, strutted down the runway in a barrage of hits and misses for spring.

Local talent mixed with a selection of designers shipped in from abroad made for an interesting week in the chaotic city. Highlights included Antwerp Royal Academy graduate Demna Gvasalia, whose collection won my heart with its goth agenda—high goth at that. I fucking love goth and anyone who pushes it for summer, in my book, shreds.


Demna Gvasalia, Maria Mastori & Filep Motwari

Angelos Bratis' collection, inspired by the world of perfume, featured some gorgeous and not so gorgeous asymmetrical gowns. There were a few moments reminiscent of Gianni Versace's draping, which is a good thing, but the best part were the large single earrings by Maria Mastori that dangled down to the nipple. Maria also teamed up with designer Filep Motwari. A little on the busy side, with unneccesary 1940's hair nets on all the models, his show featured amazing leather bags, massive rings, armbands and genius oversized neckwear. The clothes weren't as stunning, but props for using models well into their 50s.

The biggest problem with fashion in any city these days is the level of seriousness people place on it. It took guest designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac to remind everyone that fashion is serious, but also creative and fun. After several days of enduring bias cut after asymmetric bias cut and way too many pieces posing as expensive pajamas, it was refreshing to see his child-like sunglasses, hats and other accessories fashioned from Legos. They, along with dresses with huge printed faces surrounded by mounds of hair, made Jean Charles the star of the week. (Hanging out with him the day after his show, I found myself spouting confessions like, "I can't believe you're not gay" and "I'm so sad you're not gay." His reply? "That's why I got into fashion. Everyone was gay and there were all these beautiful girls around." Genius! I'm guessing he is a tit man.)


Jean Charles de Castelbajac

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Screen Saver, Part I

Cesar Padilla, owner of Cherry vintage store, pops a few questions to Emmy nominated costume designer John Dunn...

Having a vintage clothing business in New York City has afforded me the privilege of working with many creative and talented people. Over the next few months, I will be conducting a series of interviews with costume designers from the worlds of film and television. First up is John Dunn, whom I met when we worked on The Notorious Bettie Page. I've since had the pleasure of supplying clothes to him for Factory Girl, I'm Not There and the pilot of Mad Men, the show for which he's currently nominated for an Emmy...


The cast of Mad Men

Let's start with the basics. What was your first film?
New York Stories, directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Nick Nolte and Roseanna Arquette.

What was the first outfit you ever made?
I was in the first grade and my teacher, Sister Mary Joseph Ignatius, had a class contest. Each of us had to make an outfit for the Virgin Mary on her holy day. Most of the kids made things out of crêpe paper and foil. I went home at lunch and picked an armload of flowers from our lilac bush. I fashioned a spectacular robe and crown out of them.

Who have you most liked dressing?
Gretchen Moll as Bettie Page. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan and Heath Ledger as Robbie in I'm Not There. David Bowie as Andy Warhol in Basquiat. Guy Pierce as Andy Warhol in Factory Girl. My favorite films ever are The Women (the 1939 version), Doctor Zhivago and Bonnie and Clyde.


I'm Not There

What's your dream film?
Javier Bardem and Cate Blanchett, directed by Todd Haynes.

Typically, what's your biggest challenge?
Convincing film directors to add dream ballets to the script.

What was your worst experience?
It's one of my life goals to never work in Shreveport, Louisiana, ever again.

Your most embarrassing moment?
Stabbing an A-list actress in her butt with a huge safety pin when I was adjusting her pregnancy padding on our first fitting. No regrets, though. Except not having a trust fund.

Now, darling, what was your worst drama queen moment?
How dare you? Don't ever, ever ask me that question again.

Lee and I love it when a bulbous cockhead is visible through pants. Was it your idea to make Seth Rogen's trousers such a prominent feature in Pineapple Express? I'd like to think that was your expert tailoring.
We weren't even thinking about that! We spent countless hours fitting that suit so it would look like a cheap suit that Seth's character had stolen from his uncle's closet.

Do you sew?
Yes, but don't tell anyone.

What sewing machine do you use?
One that someone else is operating. I'm pretty lousy, but when forced at gunpoint to sew, I'm almost passable on a vintage Singer Featherweight. They're indestructible and unstoppable.

Where were you when you heard that you were nominated for an Emmy?
One of my closest friends called me at six in the morning while I was in my bathroom upchucking some bad shellfish. I instantly felt much better.

What are you wearing to the Emmys?
It's a black tie event and Mad Men is set in 1960 New York, so I'm going in a vintage tux à la Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Daft Pink

Cesar Padilla plugs Victoria's PINK Secret...

Last week I was asked by a designer for Victoria Secret's PINK line—a home run for the company, cited in WWD as one of the most visited brands on MySpace—where he could find cool inspiration in Los Angeles. My response? "I won't tell you, but I'll show you." A few calls to his travel agent later and off we were for two days in my hometown, with the bonus that I was to attend PINKAPALOOZA, a genius traveling publicity event held this time at the Santa Monica Pier, complete with 3000 TEAM PINK "coeds" and a live performance by Fallout Boy.

I love wearing the color, so when I first saw the pink facelift the Pier had been given, a wicked smile came across my face—pink floor, pink ferris wheel, pink photo booth. It was crazy, everything had been painted pink.

For those unfamiliar with TEAM PINK, it takes its iconography from the sports graphics of universities, focusing on a coed lifestyle with lots of pajama parties, pillow fights and frothy dreams of milk-white all-American boys. I love that. I want the team captain. Yeah bitch, and I'll fight you for it, too.

At TEAM PINK there was a silly rivalry between USC and UCLA, as cheerleaders from both teams circled the thousands of wholesome Jessica Simpson types and busted out their best rah-rahs. The only self-important moment came when Fallout Boy was finishing up their press conference and photo shoot. When it came time to exit and make their way backstage for their performance, Ashlee Simpson, clutching the hand of her hair-rock husband Pete Wentz, ducked in with her free hand shielding her face from paparazzi. Only, there was no paparazzi around.

Anyway, after one Fallout Boy song, I realized what I already knew, these guys weren't for me. I made my way off the Pier and headed home to L.A.'s East Side.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Cesar Padilla meets up with Tim Gunn in America's middle...

I have a place in Louisville, Kentucky, and when I was browsing through the paper on a recent visit, I read that Tim Gunn was going to make a personal appearance at a local mall. Heaven! And he would MC a Liz Claiborne fashion show at that mall. Amazing grace!! I knew I couldn't miss the engagement and the chance to see suburban women ask him fashion advice. And miss it, I didn't. Nor did I miss the a photo-op with Tim, the gift with purchase of $100 or more of Liz Claiborne. I even managed to lob a few questions of my own to reality TV's fashion guru, who was, as you can imagine, just as polite and on-message as he is on Project Runway...

Who's the Liz Claiborne woman?
The current misconception we have is that the Liz Claiborne woman who started with the company in 1976 is still the same woman. What we are finding is that, no, she is not the same woman and that her daughter and daughter's daughter are now our customers. Our goal is to trim all the excess and concentrate on a better product, a more irresistible product. It is also an effort to reposition the brand. This will be seen with the new women's collections from Isaac Mizrahi and men's from John Bartlett.

Is this an attempt by LC to put a face on a company which has had no public face for some time?
Most definitely.

Would you care to comment on this year's Project Runway winner, Christian Siriano?
He's nothing but fierce! (Laughs.) He's also the type of person you want to give a big hug and a big slap to at the same time. I truly believe he is this generation's Marc Jacobs.

How do you feel about being a gay icon?
It is a great honor, seriously.

Here were a couple of questions from the audience...

I recently lost 90 pounds and I'm going to lose 30 more. Now I have all this extra hanging flesh. What kind of blouses should I wear?
First of all, congratulations on losing 90 pounds. (Applause.) I would suggest not wearing any tops that go past your hips and you should consider wearing tops with a V-neck to take attention away from areas of excess flesh.

If you were a racehorse at the Kentucky Derby, what would your name be?
Make It Work!

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cesar Padilla hits the Humana Festival...

Unlikely though it is, given its red-state location, the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the country's most prestigious forums for new American plays, attracting the best contemporary playwrights from far and wide. With plans to be in the area—and a theater critic only in the sense that this was my fifth time attending the festival—I decided to catch three of the eight plays on offer.

First, the negative review. The Break/s, by Marc Bumuthi Joseph, was billed as an autobiographical odyssey set to a hip-hop soundtrack. Fair enough, but before the show started, his drummer walked around the stage and asked a mostly Caucasian audience what they thought about "white people in hip hop." In true dorky fashion, most responded with the unimaginative, "I think it's great!" I was bothered by this for some time; it was so vanilla. Joseph is a talented-enough performer, but his artsy-fartsy journey out of the Bronx—not to mention the experimental, Alvin-Aileyesque dance moves—is an exercise in what's wrong with hip hop today: there's too much and it's too broad. Modern hip hop has become a verbal, sonic and visual case of diarrhea.

On the other hand, the other two new plays I saw were outstanding. In Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, new playwright Jennifer Haley blurred the line between reality and video games, crafting an incredible suburban nightmare in which soulless children stare into the void and annihilate their parents.

And finally, an irreverent little love story called Becky Shaw appears to be the breakout play of the season, a hysterical roller coaster focusing on Max, a waspy self-made man holding a financially strapped family together. When his half-sister and her husband set him up with the tarty title character, portrayed by a flawless Annie Parisse, the damage becomes pleasantly irreparable.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cesar Padilla meets his That Guy...

I just saw Paranoid Park, director Gus Van Sant's latest film set in a skate park, and I have to say I'm on the fence. He's been on my mind a lot recently. While discussing Paranoid Park with friends, I was berated for missing out on Elephant, his Columbine film. (To be honest, I have missed most of his recent work—clearly to my detriment). While I still have not seen Gerry, I'm convinced it is the most important film of the decade.) So while I try to be a purist and see films on the big screen, I decided to watch Elephant at home. It was absolutely sublime. I was enthralled by it, and its utter lack of morality yet elegance of execution. No other director in recent memory has been able to capture the complexity of modern youth so beautifully.

So when open casting calls were sent out a couple of months ago in San Francisco for his upcoming film on slain Bay Area politician and 70's gay-rights activist Harvey Milk, I went with script in hand. I, too, want to direct feature films—even writing two horror scripts of late—and I, too, am uninterested in morality. I thought Gus would understand what I am trying to do. I figured, with all his Good Will bullshit, that he would get me. I am, after all, a bad-ass Latino faggot raised in late 70's- early 80's Southeast Los Angeles on punk rock and horchata. I have directed a couple of award-winning short films and 3 music videos for Mexican Zapatista death metal band Brujeria.

As he sat alone in the school auditorium, and as his people busily photographed the eager young actors who came, I took the opportunity to approach him. I told him about my vintage store, Cherry, and how we had provided a substantial amount of men's clothing for Factory Girl, I'm Not There and American Gangster (yes, that is Russell Crowe wearing my vintage Levi 517s throughout the film). I suggested they call the store if they were need of period apparel and he introduced me to his costume designer. It is after this that I asked him If I could leave my script with him to read, to which he politely replied, "No."

For anyone who has ever wanted to create, there is That Guy, the dick who says no after you've summoned all your courage, the dick who watches as you walk away more hardened and vulnerable than you've ever felt before. In a way, I respect him more for his brutal honesty, but for me, Gus Van Sant is That Guy.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cesar Padilla talks about sex...

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about attending the Sex Workers' Art Show this week. Like my man said, "I thought the show was going to be an exercise in 'my pussy, my father, my pain.'" Instead, what I saw was a fascinating perspective on the industry through cabaret, burlesque, spoken word and film—created and performed by members of the industry to dispel the myth that sex workers are good for/at only one thing.

To a packed house at Fuzion nightclub in Louisville, Kentucky, this was the show's final performance on the tour, a controversial six-week run that saw several clashes with university administrations and heavy-handed, right-wing factions. (Check out creator and performer Annie Oakley's confrontation with that tired-ass conservative motormouth Laura Ingraham on the hideous O'Reilly Factor.)

It's always seemed to me there would be a lot of humor in the real world of the sex trade. And the performers here know this to be true. Asian-American dominatrix Keva I Lee's interactive performance was pure genius, a reenactment of an absurd yet real encounter. Prior to her entrance, an audience member volunteered to play the slave. They then emerge together, with the slave on a dog chain, and proceed to hilariously demystify a real rendezvous in which a client asks her to humiliate him in her native tongue. "Native tongue?" she wonders aloud onstage, followed by a raunchy approximation of "I want that pretty yellow purse." The client wouldn't know the difference, right?

Other acts included Dirty Martini and her can-can-like homage to the stripper scene in The Graduate and Erin Markey's rousing tale of transforming into her alter ego Bridget, courtesy of St. Bridget. The show isn't for everyone, naturally, but if you have an open mind and you get the chance, GO!


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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cesar Padilla gets lucky in Kentucky (not in that way, we think)...

After a week of watching the bony step out of their car services for a showdown of uninspired fashion at Bryant Park, I found it as refreshing as sweet tea on an August afternoon to saunter into Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, for the National Tractor Pull Championships and America's largest farm machinery show. No pretension, no double air-kisses, no chinchilla, no ghostly black, no swish.

Instead, I was surrounded by thousands of super-hot men working their best racing gear, denim and jumpsuits. When not racing their hot rods or doing wheelies in tractors (seriously), they were slurping on ice cream cones or downing foot-long Italian sausages. I kept asking myself: Am I the only one getting how hot this is? Take that, Bryant Park.

On your mark, get set, PULL!


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A rant from Cesar Padilla, owner of Cherry vintage store in New York...

In the thick of New York Fashion Week, I really got on the idea that humanity needs to stop wearing black. I looked around at the makers, shakers and patrons of tomorrow's fashion and realized they all look depressed, uninspired, tired, too skinny, sulky and lame as they judged yet another sad black sack.

I found myself fantasizing about creating a Black Clothes Burning Day, like the disco fires in Chicago stadium in the late 1970s. Imagine Giants stadium full of Japanese chicks working smurf blue, black girls in head-to-toe pink and me, all throwing mounds of black fabric into a massive bonfire. Poof! Gone! Wearing vintage Sprouse and Versace, Bonnie Cashin, Jeremy Scott and Kansai Yamamoto, we'd stare into the inferno and chant, "Burn! Burn!" The Olsens would dislodge those black quilted Chanel bags from their elbows and, finally cracking a smile, toss them in. Tom Ford, tears streaming down his face, would appear on the jumbo screen and vow never to make anything black again. He'd promise it to us.

That's the dream anyway. More realistically, I want to set a trash can outside my West Village vintage boutique, where people can bring their tired black clothes and burn them in exchange for a sizable discount on something colorful.

As you can probably tell, I can't stand black. I don't get it. As a fat person, I can tell you there is not one piece of black clothing that is going to slim you down. I look around the streets of New York and want to shout: "Who died? No really, who the fuck died?" I'll go to that funeral wearing lime green. I want to celebrate life. We are surrounded by a beautiful experience. So why are you wearing black?

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cesar Padilla ponders a desperate situation...

Recently, the best-selling novelist Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby, The Boys from Brazil) passed away. As I read his obituary, I fondly recalled what is, in my opinion, his greatest work, The Stepford Wives—so prophetic in recognizing the decline of the post-feminist woman. I now realize that everywhere I go, the Desperate Housewife is the new Stepford Wife. Across the country, women en masse seem fascinated with losing their identities in an effort to consume that most boring, uninspired look seen on TV. At best, the look is Donna Karan; at worst, TJ Maxx—the same nasty blonde highlights, the same damaged and fried look, same eyebrows. Ad nauseam. Housewives, newscasters, lawyers, politicians, socialites, debutantes, strippers, single women, moms and so on. Should they show crack or not? Valley or no valley? These are the new degrees of separation.

And as American women do their best to channel their inner Desperate Housewife, fashion companies across the board have done a tremendous job in the homogenization of these women. As I venture into retail establishments, I realize how uniform women's fashion has become. The urban woman is now the suburban woman and vice versa. What was once relegated to Stepford is now everywhere. What is the difference between Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Gap, Old Navy, Bebe, Forever 21, Calypso and the rest when they all have the same color palettes, fabrics, styles and cuts, give or take a few inches? C'mon ladies, rise above.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

The Real "It" Bag

Forget the Kelly, Hobo and Spy. The most important and influential bag of the 20th-century and beyond—whether you agree or not, partake or not—is the Ziploc plastic baggie. Often seen in clusters, the Bag, as it's known in certain fashion circles, travels anywhere: your freezer, your pocket, your glasstop table. Available in all shapes and sizes, the Bag can carry anything from sandwiches and dog treats to green buds, white powder and baby laxative. It's also the most versatile of accessories, going from day to night and back to day again. Of course, people can get really greedy around the Bag and it can cause all kinds of shit. Still, in fashion, it seems everyone wants to know who has the Bag—and who did it.

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