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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hint Tip: Gaga for Givenchy

Giving Liberace a run for his money, Lady Gaga will take center stage at The Box on September 15, belting out an acoustic set on a grand piano for the launch of Givenchy’s new men’s fragrance, Play. Hosted by OUT magazine (because clearly it wasn’t gay enough already), the bash will hopefully restore the former hotspot’s reputation, tarnished after its star turn on Gossip Girl. Following in the footsteps of contortionists, female body builders and assorted carnies, her Gaga-ness is a perfect fit.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hooked: Alexander McQueen

From the strangest of birds comes the latest and most covetable of nests, Alexander McQueen's Egg Chair. Better than the Golden, Fabergé and even Cadbury varieties, the ovum throne comes upholstered in fall's signature houndstooth tweed and accented with skull zippers and other signature McQueen hardware. Originally designed as seating for McQueen boutiques worldwide, the Egg Chair is now being released in an uber-limited run of five. Yes, five. A second series will appear just in time for Christmas. Available exclusively at Alexander McQueen boutiques, price upon request.

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to the Present

“TRON was a life-changer. I thought I had seen the future. It was the first film to predict our urge to crawl into our computers and stay there,” says Joan Juliet Buck, fashion maven and former French Vogue editor-in-chief—oh, and the villain in Julie and Julia. Who better to host a screening of Disney's 1981 classic at the Rubin Museum of Art this Friday?

With its bold, seminal vision of the future, TRON may have sparked more than a few fledgling fashion imaginations. It doesn't take a pachydermic memory to recall recent designer homages. Not one to miss a fashion possibility herself, Joan went on to tell us, “I got Leo Lerman at Vogue to send me out west to interview the men behind the computer graphics. I had Helmut Newton photograph a guy lying inside a Cray Computer. I even went to Jet Propulsion Lab, where they were hand-coloring pics of Saturn! I still have the notes from the trip—today viewed from yesterday. Just don't call it back to the future!”

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hooked: Maison Martin Margiela

Maison Margiela's eyewear debut, L’Incognito, brought you sleek anonymity with its black-barred face redaction. Now the Maison brings you the Mono Lens, a highly evolved descendant of the classic aviator—or, perhaps more accurately, a car windshield you can strap to your face. The ultimate in retro futurism by way of Dada playfulness, the latest model also manages to reflect fall's armored mood, in its own perverse way. $495 at Oki-Ni, available in amber or gray.

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Texas Fever

Don’t let one fast-fashion collaboration fool you; Rodarte is still all high-brow and arty references. Theirs is a rarefied fantasy world filled with things like panniers and daytime gloves. This October, the duo are returning to these esoteric roots, teaming up with Colette in Paris for a special exhibit/shop-in-shop. Sprawling across the second floor, the venture will offer an eclectic mix of their fall offerings mixed with “curated” treasures. These include personal faves like CDs, books and movies (i.e. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rosemary's Baby—so they're not all high-brow), and of course, art pieces from friends like Kim Gordon and L.A. artist Elliott Hundley. To be unveiled during Paris Fashion Week (perhaps a sign of things to come?), the collaboration promises to be second only to the Louvre.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hooked: Comme des Garçons PLAY X Converse

Never one to pass up a juicy collaboration, Comme des Garçons is joining forces (again) with Converse on a limited-edition line of sneakers. Following their 2007 debut with Junya Watanabe Man, the Chuck Taylor All Star line is getting the full Rei make-over. But rather than spinning into the conceptual outer reaches, the collaboration goes back to basics—and this time Comme's secondary PLAY line is getting in on the action. The four pared-down styles—two high-tops and two oxfords in black or white canvas—hark back to the original military classics, offered in various color-blocking combos and embossed with PLAY's slightly disarming, unblinking heart logo.

The shoes will hit the ground running at the end of August at Comme des Garçons boutiques worldwide, as well as select PLAY retailers. At just $100 a pop, the collection shows a commitment to recession-friendly prices—and we can think of no better way to spring into fall.

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

+J Walking

At long last, Japanese retailer Uniqlo has confirmed the launch date for its much-anticipated collaboration with minimalist pioneer Jil Sander. The +J collection will hit New York's Soho flagship October 1, a full range of men's and women's tailored classics, including outerwear, denim, knits and accessories.

If the just-released campaign images are any indication, Jil’s first fast-fashion foray hasn't compromised any of her design aesthetic. Pieces like a belted wool coat for women or a three-quarter light coat for men are finished with surgical precision, ensuring that Sander's signature austerity remains intact—even though, with prices ranging from $29.50 to $149.50, it'll be tough to maintain any sort of zen on opening day.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hooked: Alexander Wang

Alexander Wang wants to thin out your emaciated wallet even more this fall, but his Frankie Creeper hi-top boot is pure easy spirit. Not quite a pump, not quite a sneaker, this hefty hybrid is tricked out with a loads of hard-edged attitude, including heady-duty hardware and even a little kilt detail for good measure—perfect for faux skinhead looks or, better yet, Spinderella-inspired Nineties redux.

Christened after his model pals (Frankie, Hanne, Lara), the new kicks are available in kidskin, mock croc and our fave, stone-washed black denim. At $480–520, they’re a moderate enough splurge to ensure a meager diet for weeks to come, which means you're bound to look much better in his matching biker shorts. Available in LA at Opening Ceremony, Oak in NYC and the newly launched AlexanderWang.com.

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hooked: Rick Owens for Eastpak

Who else but the Dark Lord could fill Raf Simons' exacting shoes? Rick Owens is taking over the reigns at Eastpak for their next high-profile collaboration, bringing his unmistakable sensibility to their utilitarian staples. The capsule Rick Owens DRKSHDW Eastpak collection features eleven styles finished in perennial Owens shades of mud, slate and black. Our fave is the classic backpack in distressed canvas treated to look like kangaroo skin (like those sumptuous Owens floppy boots for fall). Morbid? Yes, but just as covetable—and ideal for packing all your candles and cauldrons for witching-hour séances. $296 at Oki-Ni

—Franklin Melendez

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Scent Folder

Celebrity-endorsed designer scents are a dime a dozen, but leave it to Nicolas Ghesquière to add a new twist to the old formula by choosing quirky screen siren Charlotte Gainsbourg as the new face of Balenciaga's soon-to-launch fragrance. The French gamine, who's been buddies with Nicolas for the better part of a decade and who's no stranger to Balenciaga's fashion advertising, can currently be seen mutilating herself into religious ecstasy in Lars von Trier's newest cinematic romp, Antichrist. Clearly, Nicolas isn't going too Hollywood anytime soon. For this very reason, the unlikely location of the fragrance's first fete had an air of mischievous irony: not Paris, but the glitzy Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, where the designer and muse are shooting the campaign.

Though the door was sealed tighter that a submarine hull, there was no shortage of start sightings, like Robin Wright Penn, glowing post-divorce, and the dude himself, Keanu Reeves. It was an odd assortment of glitterati, which ended up resembling one of those Francesco Vezzoli art installations that mock tinseltown (see Natalie Portman in the fake Greed trailer). Nicolas described the scent as very French and very strong—bien sur! Look for it at a fragrance counter near you in February.

—Franklin Melendez

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hooked: Peseta for Marc by Marc Jacobs

For their third collaboration with Marc Jacobs, Peseta—the whimsical Spanish bag maker—revisits hobo chic with their irresistible Ukelele bag, channeling the spirit of Charlie Chaplin's iconic tramp character. Patched together from scraps of durable materials, like worn-in denim, canvas and Dust Bowl-style gingham, the bag comes outfitted with hidden pockets and charm galore. Utilitarian and unisex, it's perfect for pursuing summer wanderlust, joining a traveling vaudeville troupe or indulging in the city’s many picaresque adventures. In the spirit of the Great Depression, it's also easy on a recession budget, at only $98 a pop; it can pay for itself as a donation bin while you sing for your supper on the street. Available at Marc by Marc Jacobs boutiques in Paris and London.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rocket Men

One small step for man, one giant trek to the National History Museum to fete the newest face of Louis Vuitton's heritage campaign. Nope, not Lady Madge in tantric contortions, but a lunar twofer: astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell. Of course, there was more to celebrate than just some glossy snapshops; the party also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, the beginning of the space race and, perhaps most importantly, the ushering in of space-age fashion. The great moment inspired the likes of André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne, who gave us a decade of graphic shapes, metallic accents, optic whites and silver galore—for this we are eternally grateful.

So the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the museum was decked out like a swinging space pad, and those in attendance took a cue from the occasion, donning their spacey best: Cassie in a sheer top and bubble skirt (in the future modesty is démodé), Estelle in a gunmetal Louis Vuitton shift and Buzz Aldrin's wife, Lois, looking like a gracefully-aged Judy Jetson. Lance Bass also made a cameo, perhaps a bit forlorn for his own dashed space trip. Here’s hoping there’ll be a seat for him at the next shuttle launch, or at the very least a bit part in the Star Trek sequel, or prequel, or whatever.

—Franklin Melendez

Buzz & Lois Aldrin, Cassie

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On the Campaign Trail: Yves Saint Laurent

Stefano Pilati serves up another clash of the titans for YSL's fall 2010 campaign featuring Christy Turlington, shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Who else could follow up the veteran glamour of Claudia Schiffer, bleached and resplendent under the Hollywood sun? Looking toned and timeless (and not in a plastic kind of way), Christy's otherworldly beauty offsets the hard elegance of fall and its slightly sinister edge. You can never go wrong with leather bustiers and biker jackets—and the bags aren't half bad either. Get ready to start fawning over Christy in your fave glossies come August.

—Franklin Melendez

courtesy YSL

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hooked: Tatty Devine for Peter Jensen

The quirky lasses at Tatty Devine have teamed up with Peter Jensen to bring to life (or at least three dimensions) his too-cute-for-words bunny logo. In the spirit of previous collaborations, the gals have tapped into their cartoonish whimsy, whipping up a line of accessories and prints for Jensen’s 2010 resort collection. You can find the silly rabbit, designed by illustrator (and longtime Jensen pal) Charlotte Mann, frolicking on everything from shift dresses and swimsuits to oversized tees and charm bracelets. But our favorite, hands down, are the plastic rabbit sunglasses, available in black and a variety of pastels. Daring yet adorable, the wacky frames are perfect for poolside lounging or foiling the plans of a wabbit-hunting baldy. A limited number will be released into the wild in November.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Day 6

—Franklin Melendez

Last day of shows and everyone is in a complete daze. Telltale signs a fashion journalist is burnt out: an eerily attentive face, overly styled ensembles (drop crotches, gladiators), a disregard for the cardinal sin of a repeat outfit or no outfit in favor of sweats, frazzled laughter followed by some reference to your editor. We suffer acutely from all of these symptoms, but soldier on.

Isabela Capeto provided a haunting presentation, with a bare backdrop and elaborate choreography that culminated with a ghostly line-up of models. The collection continued the week's strongest trends: slouchy tailoring executed in killer prints, which the Brazilians excel at. Later, Movimiento was exactly what you'd expect from Brazilian swimwear, including tropical foliage headpieces and wooden jewelry. The effect was slutty Chiquita Banana, but in the best way possible.

But the day's highlight was, of course, Alexandre Herchcovitch menswear, separate from women's and surprisingly restrained. “I wanted to play with the idea of dress up,” Alexandre said after the show. And true to his word the collection was a witty unraveling of a suit, replete with references to Clockwork Orange and Magritte.

Alexandre Herchcovitch

We headed backstage to document the glory. Despite the generous bounty of hunks, we quickly discovered that interviewing male models is a difficult science. Rather than providing witty sound bites, they prefer to rough-house, dig into their backpacks, blast their earphones or make stupid jokes. It's all very charming, but not very interesting. I was about to settle for leering when one of the veterans, 22-year-old Alex Schulz. Asked for reasons to love Sao Paulo, he gave us an extensive list, becoming for a moment an impromptu Goodwill Ambassador. He offered up historical tidbits, restaurant recommendations, and even a travel tip (allegedly a small island off the southern coast remains a paradise unspoiled by tourists). “You should definitely stay another week,” he urged. We thanked him profusely; I may have offered a marriage of convenience in gratitude. We turned to leave when Alex, recalling another reason to enjoy the city, said, “I forgot to mention, there’s a lot of good-looking boys, no?” Maybe I can manage another week.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Day 5

—Franklin Melendez

Like a true fashion editor, today I refused to take off my glasses, but mostly because I’m dreadfully hungover, so much so that I have the shakes. Jeremy is faring a bit better, though he still dons industrial-sized shades. Hovering between the living and the dead, I drag myself to the shows. Thankfully, I'm immediately perked up by two of the best collections so far. The first homerun comes courtesy of Neon designers Dudu Bertholini (a legend in Brazil) and Rita Comparato. The show, staged outside, included a live band playing a medley of James Bond themes. Fittingly, the show served up resort wear in the truest sense of the term, all caftans and turbans—the kind you'd see on Peggy Guggenheim in the 40s, lounging on a Riviera yacht, or perhaps Lou Lou de la Falaise in the 70s, reclining poolside with Yves in Morocco. There might be a little with Mrs. Roper thrown in, but I'm not one to judge, and the result is still lush and chic. The crowd went bananas when a particularly nubile model stomped out in a full-body flouro thong—now that's Brazil.


Next is Ronaldo Fraga, who is the polar opposite. He falls somewhere between the Brazilian Junya Watanabe and Henrik Vibskov, but like all the best shows so far he takes culturally specific references and twists them into his own rich, sexy idiom. With Day of the Dead paper decorations as its reference, the collection offered a strong point of view, blending an unmistakable Latin flair with a conceptual edge. Highlights included woven fabric crosses, cutout paper skirts and hammered-tin necklaces.

Ronaldo Fraga

The rest of the day is a blur, but a bit of fashion grit shamed me out of my torpor. Allegedly, one overzealous Russian editor walked nose first into a glass door at the hotel, fracturing her Slavic schnoz on the spot, much to the dismay of the PR crew. Asked if she’d like to go to the emergency room, she simply shrugged and said, “Mmm…later?” And there she was, front row, in five-inch Lanvin pumps. And that, my friends, is dedication.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Day 4

—Franklin Melendez

Today in Sao Paulo, there was a single word on everyone's lips: Raquel. The hometown gal was to make her sole appearance, opening and closing the Animale show, a premium denim brand, and the anticipation was electric. Everywhere I turned I overheard the purr of those two syllables like some divine incantation. Rrrrah-quel. There was wild speculation over her fees, outlandish diva demands (reportedly no one could use her mirror) and even political aspirations. I swooned at the thought of an entire nation under her iron rule, and made it my sole mission to get a sound bite.

Now, what follows is a true chronicle of the misfortunes that befell your humble narrator. When we got to Animale, naturally I squeezed myself backstage, joining a cramped pen where the international press had been rounded up like a herd of famished predators. The plan was that we'd be escorted into another room and allotted a few seconds of Raquel's royal attention. But as we were lead in, the sight of a make-up artist attentively smudging kohl over Raquel's eyelid proved too much for one Bolivian editor, who cracked on the spot and bum-rushed. Logically, the rest of us followed and chaos ensued. I was trampled by photographers and we were promptly escorted out. Later on, bruised and defeated, I settled into my seat. The lights came on to illuminate her 5’11 Amazonian splendor. The crown erupted, somebody wept.


Besides Animale, the day's shows were a mixed bag. With its emphasis on denim, the Brazilian market can sometimes encroach into Real Housewives territory. Erika Ikezili had some charming pieces—balloon shorts, rompers—despite the cluttered styling. Maria Garcia offered playful cocktail attire in short flouncy proportions and Fause Haten served up some serious space-gladiator action, somewhere between Clash of the Titans and Barbarella, replete with antennae accessories.

Later that evening, I met up with photographer and fellow Hint contributor Jeremy Kost. He tried to console me by introducing me to Sao Paulo nightlife, which basically means mega-plex clubs. The multi-levels, lasers and writhing male go-go dancers, with their ripped and shirtless torsos, looked oddly familiar and I realized this could have been an episode of Queer as Folk. We were quickly ushered into the VIP lounge, brimming with young, undiscovered male models. This brought me solace, and in that instant I knew that somewhere Raquel was watching over me.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Day 3

—Franklin Melendez

Today we devised a helpful little game, assigning Brazilian designers with an American equivalent. We put the system to the test at the first show, Reinaldo Lourenço, who we estimated was the Brazilian Narciso Rodriguez. Which didn't come without a heated dispute, so take it with a grain of salt. Staged at the picturesque FAAP art school, the collection used a Edwardian jacket as its premise, gathered in the back and cleverly elaborated in an array of colors and tailoring options—short, long, cropped, etc. The gathering motif also provided some inventive cocktail dresses in fabrics that look a bit like raffia, evoking Junya Watanabe's adventures in Africa. While exiting, we stumbled onto the art students and immediately started “street casting,” which has become the code name for blatantly leering at the local goods—and there are plenty.

Reinaldo Lourenço

Next up, Simone Nunes was more easily agreed upon as the Brazilian Karen Walker, replete with 60's shift dresses and quirky eyewear. The music was also right on target, though the construction was questionable at times and the styling a bit cluttered (Tim Gunn would definitely not approve), but overall girly and charming.

But the day’s real treat was Agua de Coco, my first swimwear show. It was a major production, with elaborate staging that looked like a public art commission or the backdrop for Olympic opening ceremonies. Clearly the beach is serious business for Brazilians, treated with the care and reverence usually reserved for award show red carpets. The offerings lived up to expectations, and can best be described as evening swimwear—imagine a few strategic strips of an Oscar dress paired with bikini bottoms. The audacity is pure genius, despite doubts about underwater functionality. Highlights included some amazing pleated tops, perfect for lounging poolside or reclining on a rapper's yacht. And though it's been noted a million times, it's worth saying again: those bodies! Mathematical perfection. And for that, there is simply no American equivalent.

Agua de Coco

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Day 2

—Franklin Melendez

So I've already made travel-besties here in Sao Paulo; it's with one of the editors of Japanese Vogue and L'Uomo Vogue Japan, who's neither Japanese nor based in Tokyo. Like all good besties, we're instant bad influences on each another and devise numerous escape plans for the beach and/or shopping. We settle for giggling in the corner and picking out Brazilian boyfriends, concocting schemes to photograph them under false pretenses. Right now she's coordinating a shoot with Mario in Rio, attacking her Blackberry with intrepid abandon.

A few things to note about Sao Paolo Fashion Week that New York could learn from. One, they are very organized and take into account travel from different venues so that one is unlikely to miss a show because one couldn't hail a cab in Hell's Kitchen or was trampled by the editors of Teen Vogue. Two, the organizers are actually nice to the press. They let us in, tuck us into our seats and even consider some of our more outlandish requests, like interviews or backstage access. And three, they hold the main events in a centralized location, not scattered across the city like a scavenger hunt. The overall effect is not unlike a vision of Christmas Yet To Come for the New York schedule when it relocates to Lincoln Center.

As for the shows, there were some lovely offerings from Maria Bonita, who whipped up an ode to the countryside by utilizing mantas (checked napkins) and checked market bags as the point of departure. The whimsical theme was spun into sophisticated geometric shift dresses, à la Maria Cornejo. There was a clean yet historically rich ethos reminiscent of early Herchcovitch. Rubber dresses and rubberized cotton completed the references to Brazilian plantation life. I coveted some printed, cut-out oxfords that would look perf with my new Givenchy shorts.

But the day's main event was clearly Alexandre Herchcovitch for women (he also stages a men's show). He took current trends—structure, padded shoulders—and exploded them into piñata-like proportions. The catwalk showcased all his strengths: expertly juxtaposed print-on-print, clever uses of texture and a bit of club-kid shock value. And yet it still managed to engage tailoring on a very technical level. It's Ale’s genius. Some nice lace insets were reminiscent of Christopher Kane, as was a lovely flesh-tone and sheer jumpsuit. The last look was literally a piñata: shredded ribbons over exposed boning and football-like padding—the perfect smash hit to end the show.

Alexandre Herchcovitch

Forum was mostly cocktail wear, and accordingly the front row was jam-packed with ridiculously hot Brazilian telenovela stars I didn't recognize. I inquired with a seatmate, who only mumbled something in a sexy Portuguese accent. Exactly. The collection was a lovely mediation on oceanic themes—fish boning, waves, shells, fish—incorporated into the construction and decoration. There was one slight misstep with a skirt that looked like it had been encrusted with those clams and starfish traction cutouts for your tub. But aside from that, no Little Mermaid moments to report.


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sao Paulo Fashion Week: Day 1

—Franklin Melendez

Brazilian fashion is much more than an excuse to idolize Gisele, refine microscopic swimwear or replenish Madonna’s cougar fodder—though the former two are juggernaut industries in their own right and revered nationally to the point of religious fervor. As the summer 09/10 season of Sao Paolo Fashion Week kicks off, it's clear that the country that elevated the G-string to a science has moved on to new territory, along the way transforming the cosmopolitan city into an international fashion destination. Colette, for example, is lending its seal of approval by feting SPFW with a pop-up shop. Colette Loves SPFW is a Parisian valentine to our tropical hosts, stocked chock-full of specially designed goodies by the likes of Genevieve Gaucklet, Fafi, Ima Galeria and Brazilian fashion rag MAG!

Of course, there are the shows, lots of them. Today, opening day, the highlight had to be Colcci, for two reasons. One, Miss Bunchen stalked the runway in her sole catwalk appearance. And two, so did the aforementioned boy-toy, Jesus Luz. I'm told by a Columbian reporter that last year he almost stole the leggy one's spotlight by causing the type of pandemonium usually reserved for student riots or the premiere of a telenovela. This season he caused less of a problem on the runway, and all eyes were rightfully on the clothes. A superstar in Brazil, Colcci presented a frothy assortment of flesh-tone patchwork baby dolls and pastel sportswear with a slightly marooned-at-sea feel.


But this wouldn’t be a proper fashion week without a kick-off bash. In this case, it was a celebration for Bethy Lagardère (seen here posing with a Gaultier gown designed for her in Brazil’s national colors for the 1998 Soccer World Cup), whose massive personal collection of couture was previewed in anticipation of an upcoming exhibition. Resembling a cross between Deeda Blair and Bianca Jagger, with a dash of Della Reese, Lagardère is also being honored with the documentary Bounjour Madame, which traces her adventures in life and love—and couture, including Alaïa, Ungaro and Dior, to name just a few. Guests, admirers, designer and loads of Brazilian celebrities packed into the top floor of the luxe retail palace Iguatemi. (I note with approval that, south of the equator, anything elastic and neon-hued counts as black-tie attire.) Also on hand were Anne Valerie Hash, of whom Lagardère has been a longtime patron, and Alexis Mabille, who looked surprisingly relaxed, even though his upcoming Paris menswear debut is only a week away.

Naturally, once you provide unlimited champagne to a roomful of jet-lagged, tropically dazed editors and members of the press, conversation inevitably turns to one subject: Jesus. Yes, the most favored pet of her Madgeness manages to turn world-weary editors into a pack of giggling schoolgirls—I can't even exempt myself. Topics ranged from backstage sightings to height disputes (“He has magnificent blue eyes,” purred one editor, “but he’s a tiny little man!”). Consensus is that despite his youthful missteps (best to avoid tattoos of one’s own name), we'd be willing to forgive and forget.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Big Time Sensuality

The sale racks might be bursting at the seams with misbegotten celebrity clothing lines (gee, thanks, Heidiwood), but we can always squeeze one more, especially when it's from fashion's muse-with-the-most, Beth Ditto. With her debut collection for Evans, Topshop's plus-size line, the voluptuous vixen brings some of her sexy pop-punk signatures to the ample and curvy. If you can't make it to London for the opening stampede, which should be fairly epic, Evans is setting up a special e-shop that goes live July 9, when the collection hits stores.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hint Tip: Colette

Leave it to Colette to add a little glamour to the globally conscious with its latest project. In collaboration with Bow Wow International and curator Karta Healy, the Paris boutique is staging MeWeCycle, a bicycle-themed exhibition and shop-within-shop featuring wares made from 100% recycled materials. Discarded skateboards are turned into furniture, aluminum foil fashioned into lighting fixtures and vintage grain sacks whipped into totes. Eclectic and inventive, it proves that all you need is French cachet to turn other people's trash into designer-approved treasure. The project also includes limited-edition products from the likes of Wood Wood, Opening Ceremony and Lala Berlin. Launching in time for Word Environment Day on June 5, it's a good excuse to go green—it sure beats shopping in your closet.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Let Your Mouse Say It Loud

The great democratic experiment might never revolutionize fashion, a realm notorious for its feudal hierarchies and iron-willed tyrants, but it might add a bit of suspense to the upcoming CFDA Fashion Awards, which just announced its first Popular Vote Award. Why it's not called People's Choice, we don't know, but pitting designer against designer will let fans and followers have a say in the sacred process. Mind you, this is the same logic that let that other guy beat out Adam and that prematurely ousted a nubile Lil' Kim from dancing glory, but we're confident the fashion crowd will take their civic duties more seriously. Created in collabs with WWD, polls are open from May 27 - June 9, with the winner announced along with the others on June 15 in the big ceremony at Lincoln Center.

Naturally, as we're on the voting panel this year, we promise to do all we can to rig the results.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Game On

Reminding us there's more to being British than Posh Spice's perma-pose or Madge's faux accent, Fred Perry is celebrating its centennial in sportsmanlike style. Founded by the shrunken empire's most nimble tennis pro, Frederick John Perry, the label has been a pioneer in the world of sportswear, relentlessly cultivating that unmistakable gentlemanly pedigree (so that even if we don’t mind our Ps and Qs off the court, we can look like we do). Along the way, the label has evolved from tennis whites to full-on brand, recently enlisting fashion all-stars like Raf Simons to spruce up its image. Naturally this calls for a yearlong celebration and a special website to chronicle the festivities, show great moments from tennis history and, perhaps most importantly, peddle goodies. Our favorite so far is the limited-edition Piaggio Scooter—the perfect Mod accessory to any proper English look.

—Franklin Melendez

Raf Simons for Fred Perry

Fred Perry Piaggio Scooter

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hooked: Be@rbrick

Not much time left to see the three larger-than-life Be@rbrick figures installed in the windows of Dover Street Market, temporarily transforming the shopping mecca into a conceptual animal preserve. Part of Comme des Garçons' ongoing collaboration with the iconic Japanese toymaker MedicomToy, the ursine display embodies the new Black line, preppy basics embossed with the Be@rbrick silhouette—which pretty much amounts to Comme's Play line, but with anthropomorphized bears. An adorable assortment of T-shirts, sweatshirts, button-downs and the like will tempt even the most discerning of tastes (we'll resist the obvious Goldilocks reference here). But our favorite from the bountiful menagerie are the charm keychains, which feature the cuddly critters in colorful metals. More portable than the seven-foot variety, they let you take your toys with you wherever you go.

—Franklin Melendez

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Goss Dressing

The scandalous world of Manhattan’s elite is heading straight for Target in what might be Gossip Girl’s best plot twist yet (at least, in its erratic sophomore season, which is drawing to a painfully awkward close—Poppy Lifton, really?). For the second installment of its Designer Collaboration series (following Alexander McQueen), the egalitarian retailer has enlisted perennial flower child Anna Sui to whip up a capsule collection based on the show's four female leads.

Expect lots of flirty, baby-doll printed frocks worthy of raccoon-eyed Jenny and Boho diehard Serena. You'll have to stretch your imagination a little when it comes to Park Avenue maven Lady Waldorf, and we're not quite sure of the fourth, but we're keeping our fingers crossed it'll be Chuck Bass—who's already proved he can look dashing in purple, velvet and other Sui signatures.

In a rollercoaster ride that has seen us through the highs of Jenny’s fashion whirlwind to the lows of a Bernie Madoff-inspired scandal, we're hoping this retail stint will reset the show's priorities to what really matters: fashion. Otherwise, we'd just watch Rachel Maddow. Hits stores nationwide September 13.

—Franklin Melendez

Anna Sui, fall 09

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hooked: Ruby & Maison Martin Margiela

Leave it to the French to transform a dowdy safety precaution, the bike helmet, into a coveted accessory. Since 1996, Ruby has been keeping fashionable noggins cozy and cushioned with its slick line of Jet Helmets. Now the culprit behind dreaded helmet hair has been reinvented into a vision straight out of Speed Racer (the original, not the crappy remake), with the added bonus that it can withstand a high-impact collision. Can you say that about your Speedy bag or gladiator sandals?

For its latest venture, Ruby has enlisted the help of Maison Maison Margiela, which is apparently feeling extra frisky in the wake of its twentieth anniversary celebration. The result is a limited-edition carbon shell painted in Margiela's inimitable Meudon White (that familiar white coat over boots, jeans, jackets, etc. that you've doled out big bucks for), which Margiela and his studio elves at rue St. Maur have scribbled with their tiny signatures for a sublime graffiti effect. The Ruby & Maison Martin Margiela helmet promises to make your flash down the road that much more dashing. Limited to 600, available in Paris at Colette.

—Franklin Melendez

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Hooked: Alexander McQueen

No one delivers tough girl like Alexander McQueen, but for the girl on the go, fall's hobble shoes, hubcap headgear and a face full of Leigh Bowery make-up might prove a tad, um, time-consuming. For a speedier solution, opt for his Faithful bags, distilling fall's edge into more portable, practical dimensions. Inspired by the 1968 cult classic The Girl on a Motorcycle (watch the trailer on YouTube—seriously, watch it), the bags channel a rebellious Marianne Faithfull, who ditches her hubby and hits the road in skintight black leather, like a cross between Marlon Brando and Pamela Anderson.

The tote ($2295) deconstructs the classic biker jacket, offering enough zippers, studs and buckles to keep you balanced on your chopper. But our favorite is the clutch ($895), with its matching driving glove conveniently attached. It's perfect for outrunning the authorities while keeping all those bad-girl essentials handy. At Alexander McQueen stores in July, available in classic leather and, for a bit of wanderlust, an assortment of exotic skins.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hooked: Bernhard Willhem x MYKITA

Titillated by the thrill and pageantry (and perhaps the spandex), Bernhard Willhelm whipped up an ode to winter sports for his latest men's collection—specifically, the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. The nod to sport during the disco decade might also explain Bernhard’s less than utilitarian take on the gear, which, needless to say, doesn’t follow IOC regulations, much less keep the frost from nibbling at your medals.

Still, as you're speeding down the slopes in a neon leotard and a face full of make-up, as Bernhard showed for fall, rest assured at least one thing will be protected: your vision. In collaboration with the techno-chic wizardry of MYKITA, Bernhard has produced a limited series of monochrome, mirrored aviators with ultra-lightweight sheet-metal frames. Sleek and aerodynamic, these are the jetsetting alternative to clunky goggles. Available in three athletic-y hues, they’re sure to give you that swinger's edge while deflecting snow-glare and harmful UV rays.

—Franklin Melendez

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Loft and Found

Like all good conceptual outlets, Sartorial Loft LA traffics in monochromatic palettes, precipitously low crotches and complicates silhouettes that require serious intellectual maneuvering, as well as some physical agility. Fueled largely by word of mouth, the new website has been stripped down to basics (want, click, buy), attracting a devoted clientele willing to exchange first-borns for choice pieces by hard-to-find designers such as Damir Doma, Carol Christian Poell and Carpe Diem. “The site was actually started as a means to an end,” says co-founder David Choi. “We wanted to open a boutique offering our favorite lines as they were difficult acquisitions to make.” A brick-and-mortar shop is also in the works, debuting at the end of the month. We commend them for their efforts, which is really more of a public service in a land where everyone east of La Brea has taken to looking like a dried-up Jonas Brother.

—Franklin Melendez

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Topping Point

Forget the G-20 summit in London and the grim economic news our world leaders are discussing. The U.S. Topshop/Topman four-story megaplex has finally opened its doors in Soho, christened by Kate Moss gleefully twirling on a podium in her own creations alongside Topshop owner and retail tycoon (and one of England's wealthiest men) Sir Philip Green—or Uncle Phil, as she calls him. Oh please, so would you if you could use his private jet whenever you wanted. This was amid no fewer than four frenzied days of private parties, dinners at Balthazar, gift-card grabbing on the street, VIP shopping events, billboards at every turn and very, very happy people everywhere. Happy. Happy, dammit!

Now, there was a time when this would've made us all jelly in the knees, maybe even sent us into an impromptu rendition of "At Last," à la Beyonce at Obama's inauguration. But that would have been, um, closer to last September. Since then, our hearts have been toyed with too many times, tortured with “construction delays,” “safety permits” and so on—all sounding too much like excuses from “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Still, like all co-dependent relationships, there’s a lot to keep us going back for more. For one, an entire floor of Kate Moss for Topshop, some juicy designer collaborations with the likes of Preen and, allegedly, an on-call courier service—in case you have a life-threatening deficiency of skinnies or shrunken blazers. So we're going to ignore the part of us that agrees with what the Guardian wrote—"(It's) hard to comprehend such febrile anticipation for what is, essentially, a mid-budget fast-fashion chain store found in most high streets"—and just be happy.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greater Tokyo

Dries Van Noten is betting it'll take more than a little global recession to temper the Japanese lust for fashion. He’s just unveiled a multilevel flagship in the Aoyama district of Tokyo—and here's your first peek. Like its Paris counterpart, the Japanese outpost is designed as a visual dialogue with the locale and its history. But thankfully, this doesn't involve cliches like kimono displays, cherry blossoms or the leftover sets from Memoirs of a Geisha.

No stranger to exotic destinations, Dries always opts for a more restrained approach, transforming his cultural encounters in subtle yet unexpected ways. This time around, fashion's own Lawrence of Arabia has produced a stark juxtaposition, mixing lavish 17th-century European paintings against daring reinterpretations of them by contemporary Japanese artists—all in a zen, vaguely industrial backdrop. It's a new meditation on East meets West, modernity meets tradition, that’s less like The Last Samurai and more like that Bjork/Barney thing with the whales.

Oh, and of course, the clothes—tons and tons of it: women's, men's and accessories. But get a head start now. Chances are, small sizes will sell out first.

—Franklin Melendez

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just In: Marc Jacobs to Wed

It's official. After a year of speculation, persistent rumors and close calls, Marc Jacobs and Lorenzo Martone, his hunky Brazilian beau, have announced their engagement. The happy couple went public today, arriving in Martone’s native Sao Paolo with matching rings. The official reason for the visit is to launch Marc’s new boutique, but that opened back in January, so could this be a meeting with the in-laws, the asking of the hand?

This and a lot of other details aren't known just yet, such as the date and location (see what you're missing, California?), but the ceremony promises to be the stuff of fashion legend. After all, the Marc empire has enough star power to put most royal nuptials to shame. Just imagine the guest list, the registry and who'll walk the bride down the aisle. And then there's the all-important wedding dress. Will it be a full-on Westwood punk gown, or pleated skorts, or perhaps Brazilian swim trunks for beachside vows? Obviously Aggy will flounce around as the flower girl, but will Kate be the Maid of Honor? And, if so, whose? Will Anna be ordained in time to perform the rites? And can we expect Tilda to be Best Man? Or Kim?

Not since Elton and David have we been so excited about a marriage. In fact that might be the only time we've been excited by a marriage. Which is probably why we never to cry at weddings, but we have to confess, we're seriously tearing up at this. Congrats, Marc and Lorenzo!

—Franklin Melendez

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Hooked: Jil Sander

Leave it to Raf Simons to transform the lowly utility belt—usually reserved for portly repairmen and outdoorsy lesbians—into spring's most daring accessory. But not quite a utility belt, and not quite a purse, fanny pack or holster, the inventive hybrid is made up of three various detachable compartments that give order to all those loose ends crammed untidily into your clutch or pocket: iPhone, concealer and credit card. Of course, in Raf’s expert hands the utilitarian goes full-on luxe with supple calfskin in shocking red, yellow and blue, as well as the more minimal-friendly black and white. $965 at Jil Sander boutiques worldwide.

—Franklin Melendez

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

New York Fashion Week: Rad Hourani

As I’m about to get my post-show turn with Rad Hourani, I'm brushed aside—quite unceremoniously, I might add—by a small army of PR assistants ushering in Vogue's European Editor-at-Large, Hamish Bowles. As his glamorous title suggests (and which I note for sheer envy), he's hardly a rare sighting during Fashion Week. Yet, with his penchant for tortoise shell and tweed, it was a bit surprising to see him standing backstage among Hourani's conceptual feats of architectural knits, black leather, geometric cut-outs and precarious unisex heels. The look is hard, uncompromising, aggressive and rapturous.

But then, Hourani's fall '09 show was already causing quite a stir. He had refined his lexicon while expanded his vocabulary with complex layers entwined with accessories, jewelry and metallic flashes—all overseen by legendary stylist Patti Wilson, who consulted on the show. Longtime collaborator with Steven Meisel, she's been responsible for championing a unique brand of dark glamour—the perfect complement to Hourani's vision. The result was even more concentrated Hourani goodness, as he noted, once I finally reached him: “It was a continuation from the beginning, but I felt like doing more, having a bit of fun but in a slick way.”

But this hadn't solved the Bowles mystery, so at the after-party at Gold Bar, I wondered aloud to Hourani if we'd be spotting the impeccably groomed Monsieur Dapper with a new dark look. “He did come by the showroom to try on some of the collection,” Hourani answered. Even the boots? “Well, boys have gotten quite good at walking in those heels!”

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Girl Gone Wild

By Franklin Melendez...

The once-ubiquitous Fashion Week hangover has become a thing of the past. We used to see it all the time: stylists nodding off with pins in hand and models swaying in heels, hunched over coffee cups. But these are different times and all the chipper faces and alert smiles in the front row betray an ominous fact, that the week is almost over and there have been far too few parties to show for it. Leave it to Erin Wasson to right this unsightly wrong with a smash fete for her Erin Wasson x RVCA label in the penthouse of Milk Studios.

The crush at the door was buzzed with anticipation. But of course Erin had more than a wine reception up her Lycra sleeve. As the elevator opened, Manhattan's well-coifed spilled out, only to be greeted by blasting Sixties' rock and garbage cans lined with hefty bags. More tailgate BBQ than snooty soiree, the order of the day was rowdy reveling, with some slutty monster-truck action thrown in—even at the bar, where the night's cocktail of choice was the good old jello shot, with jello scraped fresh from the platter.

While handily double-fisting drinks, Erin explained the mood of the collection. "The inspiration was Stevie Ray Vaughan,” she said, citing the legendary Texas-born guitarist. “It's a little bit Texas, a little bit rock'n'roll. I just wanted to pull from my Texas roots. I like a certain kind of aesthetic, so I made something for those type of girls.”

Those types of girls turned out in hordes, including fellow catwalkers Lara Stone and Coco Rocha, who, apparently not exempt from the recession, has taken on a gig as reporter for the E channel. Fellow bad-girl/DJ/artist Aurel Schmidt was also on hand, as well Alexander Wang, who I blamed for being a bad influence on Erin. “No, she's a bad influence on me!” he quickly retorted. Still swooning over the Proenza Schouler collection, Opening Ceremony's Humberto Leon and Carol Kim arrived, joining the bawdy fray alongside most of the perfume ads you've seen recently and the entire staff of Teen Vogue.

True to its claim, the collection offered rocker-babe glamour (think Uma Thurman in Hysterical Blindness), replete with Lycra, spandex, leather and even crushed velvet, which is apparently the fabric of choice for next season—a bit trashy, a bit bad and totally fun. Roiling in a flash of bulbs was a luminous Leighton Meester, aka Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, who said she's been a longtime fan of Erin's. “I love her clothes. They’re comfortable, casual but glamorous!” Would Blair approve? “I don’t think she’d approve of the cut-out spandex, but maybe she needs to have a little more fun!”

As the party wore on, rumors surfaced of an after-party involving a bucking bronco. “Yes, there will be a mechanical bull!" confirmed Erin. "And there will be a prize for the person who stays on it the longest. But it's a secret prize” Our favorite kind.

So the party reconvened at the LES bar Mason-Dixon, but not everyone cozied up the idea of riding a bull. Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte wondered what a bronco-tossing would do to one of their delicate confections, saying, “This might be too much of a rager for us.” I heartily agreed, fancying myself more of a lady. But some of the studlier attendee had no trouble keeping up, including one brave boy who, clearly wanting to impress our hostess, stripped down to his undies and rode in an impressive display of upper thigh-strength. Standing next to Lara Stone, I suggested she try next, but she declined, wanting to avoid sports-related injuries. But not Erin, who, in an oversized T-shirt and side-pony, rode the bull multiple times, beating any and all challengers, which means we may never know what that secret prize was!

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys

By Franklin Melendez...

While on the subject of communion with male spirits, Tim Hamilton presented his fall collection on Sunday at the lofty Lehmann Maupin Gallery. For several seasons now, Hamilton has been crafting his signature menswear just below the radar, but always attracting the attention of those in the know. Of course, a platter of teen hunks never hurts either. Assembled on risers, the boys provided swoon-worthy hangers for Hamilton's beautifully crafted, luxurious staples, which were a little like Doctor Zhivago crossed with Tom of Finland.

Livelier than the usual runway affair, the boys actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. Many pouted, grinding to the music, with beer in hand. But before the Sunday buffet could turn into after-hours peep show, I headed backstage to reach the notoriously camera-shy designer. “There’s some early 20th-century points of departure,” he noted. “Vienna in the 20s, painterly knits, dramatic topcoats.”

Tim Hamilton

The presentation spilled into the evening and much of it spilled over into the notorious Club Sandwhich just a few doors down at Norwood House. With four floors of pounding music, the notorious French fete resembled something like a fashion circuit party. With Sylvester thumping in the background, I felt the primeval urge to take off my T-shirt and tuck it into a hanky-adorned back pocket—an urge I didn't act on. Partiers included Alexander Wang (with most of the Elle team), Marc Jacobs and his stud-muffin boyfriend Lorenzo Martone—who, I must admit, I wouldn't mind seeing shirtless and waving a glow stick.

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New York Fashion Week: Jeremy Laing

By Franklin Melendez...

I sat directly behind a comely yet disconcertingly composed twelve-year-old, clad in purple tights, flippy skirt, boucle jacket and yes, even a satin hair ribbon. Perched in Jeremy Laing's front row with other social jewels, the prep-school princess kept cozy company with top editors, including Teen Vogue's Aya Kanai and most of the Harper’s Bazaar team crammed into a tight little corner. Annoying, yes, but her diminutiveness allowed me full view. Then there was the glittery support of Jeremy's friends (and fellow Canadians) artist Terrence Koh, cocooned in nubbly black, and legendary queer radical daddy, AA Bronson, in signature ZZ Top beard.

As for the collection, it was nothing short of exquisite, an incisive exploration of architectural shapes, fabric innovation and modern adornment. There were some re-imaginings of previous interests, such as minerals and crystal shapes, which were translated into bold proportions and lush treatments, such as a strong-shouldered coated wool coat that glistened unctuously like a faceted piece of fresh coal. It was as if Laing were re-channeling some of that initial spirit that made him such a talent to watch in the first place.

Wanting to delay the trek down nine flights of stairs after the show, I caught up with Mr. Bronson, to ask his thoughts on the collection: "Well, we’re friends of Jeremy’s, and we enjoyed the show immensely! We don't get invited to that many shows. But it's funny—when we're in Paris, we actually get invited to many more!” They have better taste, I assured him, before inquiring about current projects: "Right now I'm working on a seance called Invocations of the Queer Spirits, which is gonna happen on Governor’s Island. It's an old 18th-century stone prison that’s basically a big graveyard. It was an all-male prison which has seen a lot of action.” And that, pretty much says it all.

Jeremy Laing

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

We're With the Bland

By Franklin Melendez...

What is Bland? According to the press release, it's a “fantastic experiment in modification and restraint that reveals a dynamic meta-aesthetic that is only desirable via adjective-heavy tropes, run-on sentences and compounded German vocabulary.” We might translate this semi-serious, semiotic code by saying Bland is one of those amorphous fashion-art hybrids with an enviably cool following from the moment of inception, which makes its actual content seem almost negligible.

The brainchild of Teddy, longstanding charter member of the Deitch Projects tribe, the line debuted last year at the Wooster space with a another art-heavy presentation involving mannequins, an all-black palette and conceptual pantomime-dance. The line offered some cleverly tailored jumpsuits and beautifully draped tops—a promising first presentation that took a turn to the macabre this time, maybe as an homage to its host Terrence Koh and his gallery space, ASS (Asia Song Society).

Returning to the mannequin theme, the result this season was less mime convention, more lost reels from Silence of the Lambs. It played out like the fashion-week fantasy of Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, replete with studding, corsetry, rivets and hardware. The effect was brought to full-force when descending into the cavernous basement of ASS, which, needless to say, has witnessed its share of debauchery.

When asked about how the collaboration came about, Terence and Teddy were a bit at a loss. Teddy: “Well, it just…happened. Suddenly we thought we’d be here.” Terence: “It sort of...just happened…and then we were making vanilla milkshakes.” Fair enough.

Of course, all the cerebral gloom and doom was no match for the revelers, who included Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson, artist Aurel Smidt and most of the cast of Butt. It made for a good thumping party, which the city quickly took note of, sending over a fire inspector before the night was over.

photos Maz Redpath

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hooked: Lanvin Strassée

Who says conspicuous consumption is over? To top off a vibrant spring collection of sumptuous color, effervescent shapes and shocking animal prints (who ever thought we'd see lavender leopard from Lanvin?), Alber Elbaz has come out these oversized sunglasses, brazenly encrusted with large, colored crystals. Called Strassée, they're a little bit Dame Edna, a little bit Betty Rubble and all rock-hard glamour. True, at $1500 a pop, you might need your own stimulus package to make them a reality, but at least you can feel assured they're not the handiwork of some madcap bedazzler. Each of two colors comes in a limited edition of only 250, exclusively at ILORI.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Prada Hit Parade

Prada seems to be setting its sights on total world domination. Not content with sending everyone on a scramble for lace last season, now the style juggernaut has enlisted four leading fashion editors—visionary image-makers in their own right—to take over and make over key Prada boutiques.

More than glorified window dressing, The Iconoclasts will showcase individual interpretations of Prada's spring '09 collection, with its lush metallics and platforms worth the tumble. The project, to be fully documented on its website, will kick off with W's Alex White transforming the Soho boutique (2/13), followed by Love's Katie Grand in London (2/13) and Oliver Rizzo in Milan (2/25), culminating with Carine Roitfeld's triumphant conversion of the Avenue Montaigne store in Paris (3/5). These are your icons, folks.

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

True Hollywood Story

In case you were wondering, the dictionary defines "manifesto" as a “public declaration of intentions, goals or motives, such as issued by a government or sovereign.” This is a grand tradition of pomp and circumstance. Imagine the Soviet Bloc, all drab and red accents, pushing the party line. Or better yet, the Parisian avant-garde—sans culottes—papering the Left Bank with leaflets.

Somewhere between the two lies fashion's current sovereign, Stefano Pilati, whose reign at Yves Saint Laurent is renewed each season not just by a fresh collection, but by his very own Manifesto, which captures the line's current essence in an easy, portable format. So what's his latest decree? YSL goes full-on Hollywood with an Amazonian Claudia Shaffer (in banana pants and sequins), resplendent under the glare of the California sun and that ubiquitous hillside sign. It's stark, brazen and savagely glamorous—the stuff of silver-screen dreams, with a little David Lynch thrown in.

Shot by Inez & Vinoodh, this season’s Manifesto will be released to the masses on the streets of Paris, London, Milan, Tokyo and, of course, New York on February 14. A limited number will be distributed in exclusive YSL totes with a USB port downloaded with exclusive video footage. Is this the ushering in of a glorious style revolution?

—Franklin Melendez

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Hint Tip: Paul Rowland

Paul Rowland kicks off New York Fashion Week with an exhibition of compelling, haunting, yet quirky portraits snapped over the past five years. More interested in process than snapping a pretty picture, the founder of Women Models traces the subtle negotiations—both in front of and behind the camera—that transform nubile bodies into icons of the beautiful and strange. Transformations, February 13-20, 12-6:00 pm, 136 10th Avenue, ground floor. Opening reception (by invitation only) is Thursday, February 12, 6-9:00 pm...

—Franklin Melendez

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Romantic Movement

By Franklin Melendez...

This has been the talk of couture week in Paris, so it must be true—plus we've been hearing it for a little while now. Though unconfirmed, rumors abound that Olivier Theyskens will be leaving his post at Nina Ricci. We doubt anyone can hear anything over all that swishing of taffeta, but it seems the willowy young Belgian might be living up to his fashion legend, that of a romantic yet tragically doomed hero.

The descent into Dickensian drama began in 2001 with the shuttering of his namesake label, where he toiled over corsetry for Madge at the tender age 22. This was followed by his rapturous, though brief stint at Rochas, where he spun organza into fragile suiting. After financial problems at Rochas sent him packing, Nina Ricci seemed like the long-awaited happy turn.

But it seems the top brass there has been aggressively pushing for more commercial collections to jumpstart less than stellar sales. Apparently jodhpurs and will-o'-the-wisp gowns aren't selling like they used to. But Theyskens won't budge, and why should he? Add to that a difficult fall collection—the long-short hemline combo didn't work for Demi Moore either, even at the height of the '80s—and you have a recipe for disaster when his contract is up soon.

And, we have to say it, Blake Lively at the Golden Globes didn't do anyone any favors. The Gossip Girl was virtually spilling out of her Nina Ricci strapless gown—presumably a sample that was a size (or two) on the small side. We're still waiting for final word, but in the meantime here's hoping our talented hero lives to see another day—and that our maligned heroine won't be led astray by the false assurance of stylists.

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Fountain of Sonic Youth

By Franklin Melendez...

The first lady of art rock, Kim Gordon, turns her attention once more to fashion. Apparently the Sonic Youth songstress and post-punk dowager is not satisfied with rupturing eardrums with epic feedback loops or befuddling the art world with obscure rituals staged in cramped Lower East Side galleries alongside even more conceptual (oh yes, there is such a thing) chanteuses. Or maybe she just wants a breather. Whatever the case, Gordon's latest design project, Mirror/Dash, will not pick up where X Girl left off.

But first, for those of you not old enough to remember her first iconic foray into fashion, a brief history lesson: long before a pixie-cut nymphet by the name of Chloe Sevigny skateboarded away with our hearts in Kids, a raucous riot girl by the name of Kathleen Hanna romped around a Sonic Youth video in baby ringers and shrunken baseball tees emblazoned with a winking pussycat. This was the quintessential mid-'90s cool tomboy, who accessorized her Manic Panic-dyed hair with Dickies and cut-off Ben Davis—and for whom Gordon churned out an equally disaffected wardrobe.

So that was X Girl, but this is Mirror/Dash, a slightly more grown-up version. The key word here are “edgy” and “feminine." Although, if we remember our Daria episodes correctly, “edgy” is a term that’s not to be trusted. So let's just say minimal, wearable and with organic materials, featuring slouchy T-shirt dresses and smart cropped blazers. Basically, all the things you used to find at local thrift stores while ditching seventh period, but now conveniently available at Urban Outfitters (starting February 16).

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Party Pooping

By Franklin Melendez...

Even before the first looks of fall '09 hit the catwalk, the economic downturn is already dampening the modicum of festiveness we've been able to cough up for New York Fashion Week—or rather, its parties. According to WWD, two of the week's better bashes—Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs—have been called off, and others are following suit, either opting for low-key, recession-appropriate dinners (snooze) or canceling post-show celebrations altogether. Based on similar grumbles we've been hearing from designers, expect more depressing news in the next three weeks.

Now, we don't mean to sulk, but isn't a good fete one of the reasons we undertake the trials and tribulations of the February schedule, braving arctic temperatures and even frostier PR hacks, not to mention unsightly delays in remote locations? If recent signs are any indication, it seems the most resounding trend for fall might very well be out of Zoolander. Let us fear the resounding words of Mugatu: "I show you the future of fashion, I give you Derelicte!"

Remember, in these trying times, the most responsible course of action might be to throw on something frivolous and wash down the hard times with a few glasses of anything sparkling and bubbly.

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Hooked: Gram x SWD

Come March, the Swedish wunderkinds at Gram add extra spring to your step with their latest collaboration, a limited range of shoes with Annika Berger. In case you've been living under your rock-star hair, the sprightly Swede is the mastermind behind SWD/Skyward, the unisex line whose techno prints and unapologetic proportions have been shocking hearts and blinding retinas far and wide. The collaboration, Gram x SWD, merges their shared experiments in surface and material with transparent soles and an artful "folder paper" imprint. The result is somewhere between Rauschenberg and roadkill—perfect for post-apocalyptic raves, day-glo fallout and walking boldly into the future. €150-190 at Gram, Doshaburi in Barcelona and Shine in Hong Kong.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


By Franklin Melendez...

It is a universal truth that Christian Louboutin's signature red soles have become the must-have heels of sole-less social creatures everywhere. From Lauren Davis to Blair Waldorf, nary a gossip girl around town would forego that extra skip in her step, courtesy of a crimson flash. But these are dire times—so dire that the line between fact and fiction is blurred. Take Gossip Girl's own economic meltdowns in season two. Money laundering? Bad investments? Phoney companies? Escapes from the FBI? The fate of the Archibalds could easily be ripped from real headlines.

Still, the master cobbler isn't letting a few Dow downturns tarnish his style. Take his new Manhattan showroom, engineered by glitzy studio 212box—which also design his stores—completed on an extreme budget. If "extreme budget" and Louboutin seem like an unlikely pairing, it goes to show that desperate times call for resourcefulness. With found and collected objects used for décor, from a collection of leaves gathered in Cairo to salvaged stained-glass panels from old JFK terminals, the space provides an eclectic setting for Louboutin's sumptuous offerings—a juxtaposition of high and low, rustic and charming. Like when Nate squats at his parent's foreclosed manse.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hint Tip: Damien Hirst

Nothing says yuletide cheer like loads and loads of new things, as Damien Hirst knows well. Never one to miss a commercial holiday, he's joining the Christmas fray, releasing an exclusive holiday selection for Other Criteria, his twin London boutiques, selling limited editions, rare artists' books and other arty odds and ends. It's not the Neiman Marcus holiday catalog of yore (no helicopters or taxidermied endangered species), but there's plenty to wet the erudite and refined palate—and with some reasonable prices (Phillip Allen tees start at 30 quid).

Our picks: Hirst's silkscreened heart with butterflies (also doubles as an early Valentine), his Pharmacy Wallpaper (enough said) and Johannes Albers' B-Side Joy Division. Of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays without a splurge. Ours would be Hirst's Hallucinatory Head, a psychedelic plastic skull that’s not quite the diamond-studded version, but enough to tide us over till next year.

Pharmacy Wallpaper

B-Side Joy Division

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Benjamin Cho

Franklin Melendez asks, What about your friends?...

If there's a lesson to be learned from Benjamin Cho, it's the answer to that proverbial riddle, posed in antiquity by mystic trio TLC: “What about your friends? Will they stand their ground? Will they be lowdown?” On Tuesday night, that answer rang loud and clear. Of course, as a pillar of the old New Downtown, Cho has always counted on his loyal brotherhood of worn out flannels, faded skinnies and jaunty trilbies to litter the front row. So much so that naysayers have begun to grumble that perhaps the biggest attraction is around the runway, rather than on it. Believe what you will, but during the hour-long delay it proved a welcome distraction—and a true test of friendship. As expected, the Altman was jam-packed with Ben's loyal following, those trusty regulars who have trekked over the years to venues high and night, heeding Morrissey’s crooning like the call of tribal drums. This is also where the cross-pollination between the worlds of art and fashion is at its richest. It is the best of times—or the worst of times, depending on who you ask. But chances are, you too, my friend, have danced the night away, listless and sullen, rubbing elbows with a few artsy celebs (Chloe Sevigny) or celeb-y artists (Ryan McGinley, Dan Colen, Terrence Koh).

During the wait, there was ample time to appreciate some new added twists, such as the ubiquitous starlet date. Leigh Lezark of the MisShapes knows the secret to a good ensemble is a major accessory, and she chose to offset her sassy number with brooding actor Max Minghella, who made the considerable journey from Columbia University for the festivities. Downtown poster boy Nate Lowman settled for half of the Olsen duo, bringing along a wide-eyed Mary Kate, who perched in her seat like a dispossessed sprite. The entire crew hobnobbed backstage before the show with Ryan McGinley. The makeshift VIP lounge was guarded by a somewhat confused security guard, who seemed unsure as to what this rag-tag group of human photo-ops needed guarding from in the first place. The social scene was aflutter, and no one blinked when, an hour and change past the scheduled time, the lights finally dimmed and the show began.

The show featured a series of Cho signatures—a hit parade, if you will, of shift dresses and eccentric embellishments, including a nod to the macramé treatment that catapulted Cho into the spotlight in the first place. It was an intriguing summary of past efforts, but on the whole not great news, at least judging from the unenthusiastic crowd, who, afterwards, packed in backstage for the post-show meet and greet. There was Ben, beaming, triumphant, surrounded by Leigh, Nate, Mary Kate and now Max—the Mrs. Dalloway of the Lower East Side. I too congratulated Ben on another great effort, and was for a moment struck by a vision of a future yet to come: the downtown bunch living out their twilight years together in a pastel Miami house, frolicking, zany, golden—and never forgetting to thank each other for being a friend.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Hess Natur by Miguel Adrover

The environment strikes back, observes Franklin Melendez...

As I reported recently in Shoptart, the eco-friendly German line Hess Natur has enlisted the talent of Miguel Adrover, the Spanish style maverick who shook up the New York fashion scene in the mid-90s with his globally minded antics. Despite a lengthy hiatus, the wunderkind is back—less kind, but still wunder—in fighting form. And if the presentation at Matthew Marks gallery was any indication, I mean this literally. Armed with a giant lily pad, the Majorcan began running around the installation of giant totems covered with webby recycled wool dresses. It wasn’t exactly clear if this was part of the grand plan or a case of too much pre-celebration. Either way, the partnership will involve much more than a spiritual communion with Gaya and the other Earth spirits. Sure, the commotion shook some leaves and scattered a few guests (I spotted stylist J.J. Ferrer inching towards the escape routes), but it brought home the point that Miguel is wild for the environment. When approached for comment, Miguel simply smiled and enveloped me in crushing bear hug. If I needed explaining, the writing on the wall said it all: “The protective arms of nature embraces us with gifts of life. It is in our hand to return that affection.”

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New York Fashion Week: Karen Walker

Franklin Melendez gives you food for thought...

The big news at Karen Walker? Healthy beauty, glowing cheeks and soft peach tones. Here, the requisite greige attack was reinvented in all sorts of delectable hues, from pudding to custards and creams. The rich choices perfectly accentuated Walker’s light voluminous confections: ruffled tent dresses with a slightly 60's flair—somewhere between The Stepford Wives and Lolita. But perhaps the biggest news of all was that, despite all the moaning and groaning, the overblown weight debates and much-maligned return of the waifs, it turns models do eat. A lot. So the best treat, along with Karen's sugary sweets, was a glimpse of our favorite gazelles grazing the horn of plenty between hair and make-up. Ikeleine munched on chips, the Russian beauties stuck to grapes and regular Coke (not diet, can you handle?) and Du Huan braved a whole Reuben sandwich. Gorge-ous! I left the show elated.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Patrik Ervell

Franklin Melendez goes skin-deep...

Wistfully, I abandoned my luxurious repose in the newly temperate weather yesterday to arrive early at Patrik Ervell's show and capture the backstage scene. Now, it is a truth universally accepted that when it comes to streamlined menswear, Ervell is unrivaled. He spins outerwear with Protestant precision: austere without being ascetic, designy without being ostentatious. It's a complete ethos that infuses every detail.

As I entered the dressing area, it became evident this extends not only to his collections, but to anything and anyone surrounding it. Everywhere I looked there were obscenely pretty boys in the bloom of youth, with eyes like stars, pouts like petals. It was a model bouquet that would have sent Goethe and young Werther into effusive hysterics. With enough chiseled cheekbones to start a quarry, they reclined pastorally, contemplating their photogenic life tragedies: lost high-school textbooks, broken skateboards, late express buses. Uri, a poignantly lithe Ukranian urchin (via the Bronx), shared his woes riding the M22. I yearned to compose a sonnet in his honor and strum out its melancholy notes on a lute. After mistaking yet another assistant for a moody model, I came to realize even the stage help is picturesque, as are the photographers, dressers, make-up artists and so on. I seem to remember a passage in Plato about this, something in The Symposium about a fabled plane of ideal forms.

I wandered to the front for a breath of fresh air and stumbled into Zachary from Opening Ceremony, who was still basking in the afterglow of the Alexander Wang after-party: "Foxxy brown was there! This was me, and this was her!” (I played the part of Foxxy in the reenactment). I continued to make the rounds and ran into Felix Burrichter from Pin-Up, who was looking poetically hung-over for undisclosed reasons. “I'd rather not discuss it, but you know…” I do indeed. Aya Kanai from Teen Vogue was looking like a pin-up gal herself. She was considering ditching the rest of the shows that day and heading over to Deitch Projects in Long Island City. As the show wrapped up in its dreamy haze of shoegazer music, I crossed paths with designer Mary Ping. How did you like the show, I asked. “It was lovely as usual!” she said. “And it was the strongest casting of the season!” Looking around, I couldn't help but agree.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Robert Geller

Robert Geller showed his softer side with an incredibly relevant collection that managed to touch on all the season’s key trends, while still refining a distinctive voice. Rock 'n' roll nostalgia? Check. Slouchy, early-Armani tailoring? Check. Soft pleating? Check. Greige palette? Check. The crowd itself embodied this romance, a musical wanderlust of sorts, kind of like Bob Dylan transitioning from folk to rocker. In attendance were Ryan and Chuck from The Cast (the latter in his signature curls, the former in Axel head band), Richard Chai and enough cute, slender boys to give the backstage changing room a run for its money.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Elise Overland

Franklin Melendez braves the elements...

The scene at the Elise Overland presentation in Chelsea resembled the beginning of a big-budget, lavishly styled disaster movie—complete with lithe, precariously heeled refugees in flimsy, water-soaked dresses and editorially disheveled hair. Turns out it was simply the exiting crowd from Alexander Wang's show, myself included, caught in the monsoon that suddenly overtook most of the Eastern seaboard, apparently oblivious to our fashionable duties. We huddled together in a large industrial entryway like hideous wretches, when suddenly Ken Downing, fashion director of Neiman Marcus, ducked in from the downpour and complimented me on my decision to wear high-waters. “A bare leg doesn't get soaked!” he says by way of fashion proclamation, glimpsing at his own water-logged jeans. But like a true pro, he simply ran his finger through his hair and, with a new wet look, forged ahead. Finally the door opened and we groaned in.

The collection, presented as a rotating tableaux vivant (a dying artform!), was a welcome reminder of other climates—modern nomads imagined in washed silks and fine leathers resembling silk. Ever-present greige was reinvented once again, this time in desert hues and dusty sorbet tones. There was also a romantic rock vibe, courtesy of Lennon-like sunglasses (also a bit like that Ab Fab episode where Edie and Patsy remember their foggy days in Morocco, but I digress). “My point of departure was a trip to Marrakech, the Sahara and India,” Elise told me. “The cool desert hues inspired me. The silk was also much more my mood these days, more so than a tiny, girly dress. I still love my leathers, but I treat them so they are thinner than most fabrics.” The trip itself was quite an affair to remember, taken with pals Hope Atherton, whose latest paintings reflect a similar peachy-sandy mood, and Justin Giunta of Subversive jewelry, whose presentation on Wednesday will reveal the extent of the desert jaunt. Later I shared a cab with Justin en route to the tents and inquired about the mystical journey. “You’ll have to see it!" he blasted. "And besides, I have to blog about it myself.”

—Franklin Melendez

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Franklin Melendez reports from Los Angeles Art Weekend...

Turns out Los Angeles is more than the glittery backdrop of The Hills; there's at least more on its cultural radar than Spencer and Heidi's cinematic spats on the stairwells of Area. Tucked away in the L.A. basin's massive sprawl is an ever-expanding art and fashion scene that's transforming the land of wayward starlets into a veritable cultural epicenter, helped along with the second annual Los Angeles Art Weekend—a festival of art-related events, exhibits and soirees.

The weekend kicked off with an East Coast seal of approval when fashion mecca Opening Ceremony celebrated its West Coast location with the addition of a second floor, an homage to the Southland's most venerable and ubiquitous landmark: the mini-mall, with in-store shops from Acne, Topshop, Mayle and Nom de Guerre, as well as the boutique's eponymous line. Sporting a rereleased Maui & Sons surf tee, co-owner Humberto Leon explained, “It's something we always wanted to do as part of the original concept of the store. We wanted to showcase our selections with a multi-level, multi-label store. It's a different way of looking at the traditional department store.” Definitely cooler than the Beverly Center, yet still living up to that lovable adage from Clueless—Cher: "I have direction,” Josh: “Yeah, to the mall.”

left: Vogue editor Lawren Howell, designer Katy Rodriguez, Jeremy Scott, Katy's partner Mark Haddaway
right: photographer Vivan Joyner, artist Agathe Snow

Despite its modest La Cienega location, Opening Ceremony has proven to be quite a draw for celebrities, who are notoriously skittish of venturing east of Robertson. The mini-mall launch party was no exception, with a crowd as hand-picked as the store's designer offerings. Jason Schwartzman, demure in glasses, cracked jokes in the back with East Coast fixture Leo Fitzpatrick. Flavie, from neighboring boutique Scout, browsed the Acne offerings, while the Nom de Guerre boys held court in their section, trading nautical tales. The bubbly flowed, with treats provided by Humberto's caterer-extraordinaire mom. New York’s DJ Kingdom waited in the hallway, ready to ambush the egg rolls, while a reveling Jeremy Scott summed things up: “I think it looks amazing! All the super cool kids love it, and all the tabloid sluts love it. I know Lindsay loves it! So you know they should be set!” A truth for the ages.

The intimate in-store reception was followed by a proper bash on Friday night at the Echoplex, in the heart of Echo Park. As expected, madness abounded with a line trailing around the corner, calling to mind the barricades scene from Les Miserables. But before we could launch into an impromptu rendition of “One Day More,” we were rescued, deus ex machina-style, and ushered inside. The trilby-wearing crowd was bouncing along to tunes by Benjamin Cho, as Angeleno designer Brian Lichtenberg, resembling a woodland nymph en route to aerobics class, danced with New York transplant and photographer Brandon Herman. Thanks to an overzealous Voguer with an impressive arm span (weeerk, indeed), I receive a fan-related injury on the dance floor. The rest is a day-glo blur.

Saturday came, which meant it was time for some serious art observing. Or at least something more conceptual, as we started the day with a brunch hosted by Maison Martin Margiela in Beverly Hills. Everyone, it seemed, had received a secret memo to don their L’Incognito sunglasses. I felt naked and defenseless in my Dior Homme aviators, plagued by a gnawing feeling of démodé. The scene inside could best be described as a restrained fembot convention, complete with lab-coated attendants and suitably rigorous cube-shaped hors d'oeuvres. Whitney Museum curator Shamin Momin lounged leisurely with Biennial artist Drew Heitzler. I inquired about her weekend itinerary, but her glowing tan already spoke volumes: “I'm heading back to the beach, yo. And you can quote me on that.” Fair enough. As if to punctuate the point, Visionaire's Cecilia Dean arrived casually at the last minute in linen cargo pants, flip flops and luxurious beach hair.

The festivities continued closer to the shore, on the ever-expanding strip of galleries on La Cienega, near Venice. Kim Light gallery presented a group show featuring Deitch gallery director Kathy Grayson, whose paintings make me swoon. And it seemed Kathy brought along most of the Lower East Side, ever so cool as they hung around outside taking in tacos and cigarettes, a feat of hand-eye coordination. A few doors down, one of Margiela's fembots guarded the door of the Honor Fraser gallery, where the former model was presenting the work of Andre Ethier, most notably a series of miniature clay dioramas that resembled Gumby gone feral.

The final destination was the opening of Royal/T, touted as the first “maid café” in the U.S. I'm still not quite sure what that means, but model/actress Leila Yavari may have put it best when she described it to me as “Colette with a Japanese fetish in Culver City.” The large space featured an exhibit called Just Love Me, which explored the idea of cuteness, a somewhat devious premise that unfolded into an impressive collection of works by major artists including John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Mike Kelley, Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami. The scene was a bit surreal as tiny Lolitas pranced about with trays full of goodies (candy, buttons, champagne, art catalogs). And yet, it felt appropriate for Los Angeles and its unapologetic mix of high-culture and Hollywood camp. And as the exhibit showed, surface is anything but shallow.

—Franklin Melendez

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