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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Q&A: Stefano Pilati

In their own selfish way, fashion victims help the world go 'round. But no one wants to see the end result of hoarding, not even the creative engine behind one of the world's great luxury brands, Yves Saint Laurent. So last night at Barneys New York, with a little encouragement from Julie Gilhart, Stefano Pilati launched New Vintage, an eco-friendly capsule collection made from unused fabrics left over from previous YSL collections, with an emphasis on wearability and affordability. Naturally all fifty limited-edition, numbered pieces sold out within minutes, including a Downtown bag in remnant khaki that Julie craftily scooped up ahead of time. But I also managed a little selfish hoarding of Stefano...

Lee Carter: Did you just fly in?
Stefano Pilati: No no no. I got here a few day ago.

Have you been working nonstop or do you take breaks to romp around the city?
I know I look tan, like I've spent the afternoon in my garden, but actually I've been working nonstop. Normally the summer is more relaxed, but this one, no way. I didn't stop one day. After this I have the cruise show, then men's, then I start to work on women's.

Always moving.
Always moving. I do eleven collections a year.

That's crazy. How do you recharge yourself after a show?
Normally I disappear.

As in, you become a shut-in?
No, I go to Hawaii or skiing in Idaho. You know, I can't really stop thinking about collections, but at least I'm not under so much pressure.

Did you go to the Tony Awards last night? I thought I saw you in the audience on TV.
No, I read about it in the papers. It's not really a part of my world, but I could see Billy Elliott a hundred times.

Let's talk about your New Vintage project with Barneys.
Julie approached me to consider how we could educate the customer about the environment and recycling.

Is this the first time you've done something like this?
Yes. Well, this is the first time I've said it so clearly. I might have considered these aspects in my collections before, but I don't always communicate it. My mission is to challenge people, not to shock or be obvious.

New Vintage feels like it comes from the heart. How do you consider the environment on a personal level? I assume you recycle at home?
Yes, this for sure. And also at work I tell my assistants not to waste too much. For me there are two environments. There is a woman's environment and how she wants to present herself to the world. And then there is the larger environment, which is total. There is nothing more important. We have to start disciplining ourselves. So I wanted to get rid of some fabrics, starting with the ones I like.

Is this the start of a brave green YSL?
I think fashion should get to a different level. But you know, it's fashion. I'm not trying to be the President of the United States.

Or Al Gore?
Or Al Gore.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Q&A: Christopher Bailey

Given his fantastically glamourous job as Burberry's creative director, you might think Christopher Bailey is the type to have glitzy million-dollar condos stretching from Rio to Goa and keep a staff of well-pressed butlers, chauffeurs and vase-dusters. But no. The real Christopher Bailey, with his tousled red hair and generous smile, is a Bob-Dylan-listening, sloppy-sofa-relaxing country boy, as he told me just hours before hosting the star-studded christening of the new Burberry headquarters in New York. Which, apparently, is just part of the job...

Lee Carter: The Burberry tartan is one of the most famous trademarks in the world. What are your own trademarks, passions and fetishes?
Christopher Bailey: One of my biggest things is that I love the countryside. People don't usually associate that with a fashion designer, but it's something that's really important or me. I was brought up in the countryside. I love gardening and spending time in agricultural surroundings.

How very British of you. You're almost as British as Madonna. Do you have horses, too?
I do have horses in my field. That probably makes me a big fat cliché.

More like a thin cliché. You're quite thin.
Well, I'd like to be, but I'm drinking too much.

Welcome to the club! Burberry is such a quintessentially British brand. Are you an Anglophile?
I've never considered myself an Anglophile. I've lived all over the world. I've lived in New York, Munich, Paris, Milan for a long time. Now I'm back in the UK, which is kind of weird. I do love my roots. I do love England and its diversity, but I also love being in other cities. I'd get claustrophobic in one place. Today we're in Manhattan, tomorrow I'm in London, Saturday in Yorkshire...

What's in Yorkshire?
That's where I live. I have a home there, a little cottage.

It must be a very sweet cottage.
It is a very sweet cottage. It's also very old, from 1633. It's an old farmhouse, surrounded by fields and cows and horses.

I bet you've done it up very nicely.
Actually I just finished a huge renovation. I hope it's nice. It's very simple. I love it.

What's your taste when it comes to interiors?
I don't like things when they feel too prissy or untouchable. If you're going to have a sofa then it should be a big sloppy sofa. I like a bit of grime and dirt as well. I don't like things too spotless and perfect. The same with clothes. I want clothes to feel like you own them, not like they own you. They should be a little disheveled and broken down.

Like they have stories to tell.
Yes, exactly. I love stories and poetry.

Do you really like poetry?
I don't love poetry. [Laughs.] We have something on English TV at the moment. They're trying to promote poetry in the UK, so I'm going to start reading poetry. I think I haven't been patient enough in the past.

I know music, too, is one of your interests. And I hear you discovered One Night Only, the band that's playing at tonight's launch...
I wouldn't say I discovered them. I would love to say that. I guess I found them before they hit.

What does music mean to you and how does it play into your work?
Music is so important. I love so many different types of music, from classical to one of my favorite artists, Bob Dylan. I love Joni Mitchell, the Stones, punk, the Pistols.

I'd love to see a punk-inspired Burberry collection. What would that look like?
I'm always a little influenced by punk anyway. But I like it when you discover that it's influenced by punk rather than wearing safety pins all over.

Not that you've never done that.
Not that I've never done that.

What's the most outrageous thing you've ever worn?
I was never crazy, but I did dye my hair blue. That's not so wild.

A lot of designers pretend like they lead normal lives, but it's rarely true. What's a typical weekend like for you?
I spend a lot of time in my studio working on a gazillion things, from fragrances to new buildings to designing furniture, and of course all the collections. But I also have my life outside the office, though I'm not a party person. I like to celebrate but I prefer intimacy to big parties, so I will usually go out for dinner or cook for friends and family. I spent last weekend with my family. We just cooked, read the newspapers, drank too much.

Let's talk about the new New York headquarters. It's a huge undertaking.
Yes, a labor of love. It's slightly smaller than our new London global headquarters. We designed it with the same plans, same layout, same furniture. But we do not have the big Burberry sign in London.

Neon just feels so New York.
Exactly. It's one of only six grandfathered buildings in New York where you can do that, so it's a big deal for us to be able to affect the iconic Manhattan skyline, which I love. And everyone here has a great can-do attitude. You guys are always glass half-full, whereas maybe in the UK we're a bit glass half-empty. There's always such camaraderie in New York. It's a pleasure being here.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Q&A: Vince Aletti

Music, arts and culture critic—and voracious collector of magazines and photographs—Vince Aletti has one of those tirelessly inquisitive, faultlessly analytical minds. He's widely acknowledged as the first to document the disco movement, and throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s he wrote for a variety of magazines, including Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and Artforum. These days he reviews photography exhibitions for The New Yorker and recently he's been spending a lot of time at the International Center of Photography (ICP), curating This Is Not a Fashion Photograph and co-curating Weird Beauty (both currently on view), as well as working on an upcoming Richard Avedon retrospective. Here, by phone, I interrogate the interrogator...

Lee Carter: Are you a fan of fashion?
Vince Aletti: I've been interested in fashion photography for a long time. I collected fashion magazines, issue by issue, to get a better sense of the work of photographers I'm interested in, especially Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. For me it's the best way to understand what a working photographer does.

Did you meet Penn or Avedon?
I became friendly with Avedon in the last five or six years of his life. We met a number of times, but mainly we stayed in touch by mail.

What was it like to meet the person you worshipped?
Intimidating, of course. I met Penn as well, at his studio with Peter MacGill from Pace/MacGill gallery. Then I met him separately for breakfast once or twice. It was difficult to have a conversation that wasn't just a series of questions on my part about things I'd always been curious about, but they both put me at ease. They were both very charming and intelligent men.

Twiggy by Richard Avedon

Speaking of Avedon, you're working on an upcoming show of his at the ICP, with co-curator Carol Squiers. What's been the most challenging aspect so far?
Trying to fit in all the great pictures. Avedon was a ruthless editor of his own work, so there are plenty of photographs that we'd like to include that do not exist as exhibition prints. But just making space for the available prints is turning out to be a challenge. There are so many extraordinary images, from the early Paris collections work to later sessions with Penelope Tree, Twiggy, Lauren Hutton, Barbra Streisand, Veruschka. We want to tell the most complete story about Avedon's long and prolific career in fashion, but right now we wish we had a third floor to work with!

A friend recently showed me Male, a book of male portraits you compiled. It's really beautiful.
Thanks. Yes, in addition to my collection of magazines, I have a smaller collection of photographs. I showed some of it last year at White Columns and much more of it just came out as a book, which I'm delighted to have out in the world. I also have a book of my disco columns coming out from DJhistory.com in London later this month. It's nearly 500 pages!


Yes, I'd read you were the first person to write about disco. Is that true? Were you a disco bunny?
I was probably the first established rock critic to write about the music that later became known as disco—in Rolling Stone in 1973—mainly because I'd been going out to clubs like the Loft and Tenth Floor. But I was never any kind of bunny—a little too serious for that, I'm afraid. I was one of the few people who actually went to clubs close to the time they opened, at midnight, and left before the bunnies arrived en mass around 4 am. I liked watching the dance floor fill up and overflow.

When you collect photos and magazines, what criteria do you use? What do you go for?
It sounds cliche, but something that speaks to me immediately, that grabs me and means something emotionally. This is how I went through ICP's collection and culled images for This Is Not a Fashion Photograph.

How do you think fashion photography will fare in this recession?
I hope fashion photographers continue to be inspired by whatever gets them going, no matter what the economy is doing. I hope people sail through the recession without losing sight of the role fashion has in our lives, which is to keep us diverted. We need exciting pictures to get us through the day.

Last question: which designers are you wearing right now?
Head-to-toe J. Crew and Adidas Stan Smith sneakers.

What a perfect Sunday afternoon ensemble. I'm in my pajamas, so you're clearly more fashionable than I am.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Q&A: Alexandre Herchcovitch

Paris, late-90s. That's when I saw my first Alexandre Herchcovitch show and witnessed the Brazilian's impeccable, abstract sense of color, shape and proportion, not to mention his knack for provocation. I remember thinking it was as if Couture and Carnaval had a steamy one-night-stand. Years later at São Paulo Fashion Week, as he, Pat Field and I donned neon wigs and sped off to the Festa de Peruca (Wig Party), I learned of his drag roots and skull collection. Which is to say, Ale is full of surprises. Here, a few more...

What's your first fashion memory?
I remember observing my mother while she was dressing to go out. I used to sit on the floor inside her closet and help her choose what to wear. I recall her wearing, in the middle of the 80s, an extra-tight stretch catsuit with leggings and a bat-sleeve sweatshirt, and always with extremely pointy high-heeled pumps. I remember another time she came home with very short hair, half blonde and half red. I thought it was beautiful!

Who were your childhood idols? Were they female like mine?
At first, there was my mother. I was always at her side. Soon after, when I was a teenager, Boy George showed through make-up and clothing that there are no physical limits when it comes to gender change.

You've told me you got your start in the drag scene of São Paulo. What's the funniest escândalo from back in the day?
I started my career as a designer by making clothes for drag queens (not being one of them), prostitutes and transvestites in São Paulo. I dressed the first and most famous Brazilian drag queen, Márcia Pantera. I've made more than 300 outfits for her, but today she has none of them. Her shows were very aggressive. She did things like hang upside down from the club’s lighting, dive into the crowd, bathe herself in beer onstage. Naturally, the clothes could not survive this. One time, Márcia started undressing and threw the accessories I'd made for her into the crowd. At the end, the hostess kindly asked the audience to return them, since they were part of my collection, but to my surprise, no one did! I was shocked and sad with the loss of those precious pieces.

Pretend you're in a beauty pageant. What would your evening gown look like? And your swimsuit?
The gown would be fairly simple, well-cut and structured, probably navy blue, and made with wool, my favorite fabric. The swimsuit would be made with fabric, probably the same as the dress, to match.

Do you wish you were less or more famous?
I never cared about doing what I do to be famous. I don't care for fame. I actually run away from it.

What does the bad economy mean for you? Will you still show your collections in New York?
Sure! I don’t believe in anything that is interrupted and doesn't have a sequence. A crisis serves only to motivate our creativity, and this is what the world needs, better ideas.

What's the most exciting thing coming up for you? Any hot news or collaborations?
I will open a big store in Rio de Janeiro within the first half of this year. Less than a year ago, I joined the management group of a Brazilian brand, InBrands, and we are in a very interesting growth process. I'm also releasing a line of bandages with Band-Aid. And 2010 will be even better!

Ale with muse Geanine Marques

Ale & Alisson Gothz

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Get Your Sneak On

By Lee Carter...

"The closest thing I have to a dress shoe is a pair of black ostrich lace-up sneakers," said Alexander Wang at the Nike Sportswear store at 21 Mercer Street just days before winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in womenswear. "I don't really follow the usual dress codes for formal events. I think the most important thing is to feel comfortable. We're not in the Titanic days anymore."

Clearly Nike Sportswear knew what it was doing when it invited Alex to custom-design his own Air Force 1 kicks (other styles to roll out soon) in a new service called NikeiD Bespoke, exclusive to the Mercer outlet. My own appointment came later, so I tagged along to observe and advise Alex as he worked one-on-one with Nike's Design Director, Jesse Leyva, who gave us quite the education. Did you know Nike invented the word deubré for those little shoelace tags?

Alex moved quickly and intuitively, flicking through all 80-something swatches in a blur of denim, suede, leather and reflective materials—like an ambulance speeding down Santa Monica Boulevard. He settled on a mostly monochromatic mix of black croc skin for the upper, black patent leather for the Swoosh and in back a spotted gray/white pattern called Safari, which was introduced way back in 1987 by legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield.

"I had no idea what I was going to do coming in," Alex said, "but I always seem to gravitate toward the same aesthetics, whether it's my own collection, an interior or whatever. I go for tone-on-tone combos and I love graphic and textural qualities."

Every detail took on monumental importance. We gasped in horror when mock-ups came back showing red threading we thought might look interesting, but so obviously wasn't. The correction was made pronto and conversation returned to an amaaaaazing zipper on a windbreaker (which he bought) and how Michael Phelps is kind of dorky in real life, when he's not winning multiple gold medals.

At one point Alex asked Jesse if a large metal brush he saw on the wall behind us could be used to distress the shoes after they arrived in four weeks. Hmmm, does this mean we can expect distressed Wang sneakers in the future? "Maybe. It takes the wait away from breaking in your sneakers. Nothing looks worse than brand-spanking new sneakers." This must be true because I looked down at his feet and saw scruffy old Nikes probably from the year he was born.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Paper Pushing

Thomas Persson is the mild-mannered editor-in-chief of Acne Paper, the magazine published by the Swedish label of the same name. But as its latest cover makes perfectly clear, this is no dressed-up catalog flogging skinnies and tees. Rather, sold mostly in museums, Acne Paper is a large-scale, thick-stock, finely crafted art biannual with a mission all its own. Unabbreviated, the title says it all: Ambition to Create Novel Expressions. Thomas was in town recently to launch the new winter issue and met up with our very own Lee Carter to start celebrating a little early...

LC: Would I sound like a groupie if I told you I'm a fan of the new issue even before seeing it?
TP: No. Yes. Each issue does get better. I think because we have these themes, which makes the magazine stand apart.

What's the theme of winter?

What's your favorite thing about it?
There's one feature that's my darling. It's about two extraordinary tapestries from the late Middle Ages that went through a major renovation. They're enormous. They're from Belgium, now hanging in Genoa. It took this atelier five years to restore them, which they've been doing for hundreds of years. They tell the story of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king—who was gaaaay.

So the tapestries are gay porn?
No, they're quite sexy though. It's interested to see how sophisticated things were. We think about the Middle Ages as something dark and gloomy, but in fact it was quite a colorful, glorious and glamorous time. You can see that in the tapestries. The women are beautiful with high foreheads and heavy eyelids. The men are very masculine and they all have their own individual expressions. There could be hundreds of men in one fragment yet every inch is so full of detail.

Um, hundreds of men? What kind of scene is this?
A battle scene. One tapestry is about Alexander's youth and the other is how he conquers the world. Then we have a wonderful cover shoot by Daniel Jackson with Guinevere van Seenus, beautiful pictures inspired by old master paintings.

She's perfect for that. She can do Renaissance, alien, anything.
We also have an interview with Nan Goldin, which is quite brutal in its honesty. It's sort of painful to read because she talks about love, but without being cynical. She's realistic about love and sex and relationships. We also have an interview with the great Noam Chomsky about language, which is really fascinating. And we have a really funny story about wine. It's with Raoul Ruiz, a filmmaker from Chile but based in France. He talked about a certain wine having so much acid that if you spilled it on a tablecloth it would burn a hole right through it.

I must try this wine.
Yes, you should. It was fun to do something about wine that wasn't snobby.

I like how Acne Paper has complete freedom of scope and tone. It's able to touch on so many times and places, and really go beneath the surface. It's a little universe.
That's very nice of you to say. And you're absolutely right. That's what we wanted from the beginning. I like to say it's dinner conversation, as opposed to cocktail conversation. Today, with the web, you can get information in a flash. So in a way, magazines have lost their purpose. I wanted to offer something different. We're more inspired by books than magazines.

How do you come up with your stories?
It all starts with a kind of feeling, which always seems to come when we're already working on an issue. We get an appetite for something else, so each issue is a sort reaction to the previous.

What's your dream story?
An interview with Irving Penn, because he's so reluctant. I love what he writes in his books, there's no bullshit. He's about finding the essence, like in his photographs. He's a great inspiration.

What's the mission of Acne Paper?
To be timeless, to mix the historical with the contemporary. A theme that was relevant 500 years ago can be relevant today. And it needs to have an aesthetic about it. I couldn't do a magazine about passion because what's the color palette of passion? For the color palette of tradition, I immediately think of wooden floors, rustic, old, textured. Then we just research for a while. We'll look at books, go on the Internet, talk to people and boil down the theme. And sometimes we do something just because we want to.

Are there stories you definitely don't want?
There's so much focus on celebrities and consumerism these days, which is fine. But I thought maybe we could not do that, not because we don't like it, but so many other people are doing it.

And clearly you're not funded by advertising.
No. Someone said to me once that we have to advertising. He said without advertising it's not a real magazine. But what is real?

He was saying the prestige of a magazine comes from its advertising, which makes no sense.
For me a real magazine has real content. If you look at most magazines, they're controlled by their advertisers, but we have freedom.

At the same time it's not just promotional material for Acne.
In the beginning, bookstores in Sweden would say, Oh, Acne is doing a magalog. But it's not about Acne. It's called Acne and it's part of the Acne collective, but one has to remember that it's published by all the Acne companies. People got that eventually. We're getting better distribution all the time, primarily through cultural institutions. We've been contacted by the Centre Pompidou and the Tate Modern. We're always sold out.

So in a way, it seems like Acne Paper has reached a kind of perfect form. Is there anything you still really want to try?
Of course, like anything, it can always be better. But if I wanted to try something radically different it would be to start a new magazine. Should we have another champagne?

Yeah, I'm easy.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No Vacancy

Douglas Keeves, who famously Unzipped Isaac Mizrahi thirteen years ago, is still as smarty-pants as ever. The exhibitionist opened up to Lee Carter about his latest documentary, Hotel Gramercy Park, in which he exposes the drama surrounding New York's notoriously bohemian, family-owned luxury lodge recently snapped up by Ian Schrager...

Hotel Gramercy Park is a little like watching The Shining. What madness did you see while making it, and how possessed did you become?
The last days of the old hotel were eerie and sad. I wasn't chased by anyone with a hatchet—that came later—but neighbors practically came after Ian with pitchforks, axes and torches.

During your introduction of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival, you said you felt squeamish when you screened the finished product to Ian, who features prominently. But I don't remember any scenes where he comes across badly. What was it you were afraid of?
Ian is one obsessive and meticulous guy. And he is very mindful of how he is portrayed. I worried about his portrayal and how he would like the film itself. He had never let anyone near him in this way and he completely trusted us. I wanted it to be honest. After following his process for a year, I had become quite fond of him and very much in awe of his passion and dedication. He loves design. He could have cut corners and saved a truckload of money. Instead, he tweaked and re-tweaked every square inch. I'd say, "Ian, that's nuts. Nobody's going to notice." And without so much as a smile, he'd shoot back: "I would. I'd notice."

Serendipitously, I met Max Weissberg [grandson of former owner Herbert Weissberg] the day after I saw the film. He told me that some truly scandalous stuff was left out. Can you reveal anything now that didn't make the cut? No need to name names—unless you want to, of course.
We didn't leave anything scandalous out except for the sex, drugs and murder. The film was initially more hard-hitting, but it felt too dark and heavy.

Obviously, in your documentaries, the goal is to capture people as they really are. Have you ever had to tell someone not to act for the camera?
Everyone's different when you show up with a camera and crew. The best thing is to spend a lot of time with people. Eventually you become part of the furniture and people go back to their lives and and back to being themselves. That's one reason that docs take so much time. There's a seriously heavy acclamation period. It's once you break through that things start to get interesting.

Your other documentaries include Unzipped and Seamless. Why the move away from fashion?
For me, the fashion world was like Alice Through the Looking Glass—a weird, silly, mysterious place. Above all, beautiful. Most films on fashion only scratch the surface. I'll always feel I am an outsider and certainly never cool enough, but I do get it. In a good film, you try to look beyond the obvious. Unzipped was about the creative process, and Seamless about the heartbreaking, nail-biting business of fashion. Gramercy is about a changing world and who gets left behind. Fundamentally, they're all character-driven stories. I work just as easily outside of fashion as I do in it.

Did you know at the time you were making Unzipped what a moment that Isaac Mizrahi show would be?
It was crazy. Nobody wanted the crane or the camera on the runway. It just wasn't done, but I kept asking and begging. During the show we shoved a Super 8 camera into Shalom's hand, to take it up a notch. It definitely was a moment. Linda, Kate, Cindy, Nikki, Naomi and even Carla Bruni and Padma Lakshmi all whipped up a perfect storm.

It's been thirteen years since Unzipped. These days Isaac is having a welcome comeback. Have you kept in touch with him?
I just worked with Isaac the other day for the first time in many, many years. And in all honesty, he is so fucking good—a documentarian's wet dream.

Do you miss the supermodel era? Without the benefit of hindsight, what era do you think we're in now?
It's difficult not to be nostalgic. Whenever you look back, things were seemingly simpler. Our culture has exploded exponentially and everybody is getting their fifteen minutes. Categories that delineate people, trends and events are irreversibly blurred. It's exciting and daunting. It can be trashy, but what of it? Personally, I love Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. We all need to loosen up and stop pointing fingers.

Out of all the people in your films, including yourself, who's been the biggest diva?
Take your pick. They are all divas, but not all the time. It can make things incredibly difficult. But this is fashion, what else would you expect and what else would you want? As far as I'm concerned, Naomi for president.

What's next for you?
I'm working on a TV series with a network and I'm happy to say it's way not a piece of crap. Stay tuned.

Here's the trailer, exclusively for Hint...

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Giggles with Gareth Pugh and Gang

Gareth holding court in a toga, Richard Mortimer perfecting the burqa, Dazed and Confused's Katie Shillingford nearly breaking a leg, Seven's Joseph Quartana seeing porn in statuary and everyone holding poses in the "gothic garden," one of the many nooks of the sprawling estate where we were staying. These were just some of the boozy shenanigans that happened after Cassette Playa's show in Florence for Pitti Uomo...

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pics from the Rodarte party at Submercer Thursday night, celebrating the Mulleavy sisters' cover of Me magazine. Here, we have Kate Mulleavy & Patrick Li, Chloë Sevigny & Humberto Leon, and my dates (and esteemed Hint Blog contributors) Casey Spooner & Haidee Findlay-Levin. Cameras weren't allowed inside, but I remember seeing—between swigs of an otherworldly lemon-champagne elixir—the blurred faces of, and apparently chatting with, Ryan McGinley, Marcelo Krasilcic and Acne Paper's editor-in-chief Thomas Persson, who hadn't slept in two nights from simultaneous store launches in Paris and New York. Oh yeah, there was that party earlier in the night...

Photos by Kristen Somody Whalen

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Q&A: Frida Giannini

By now, you know all about Gucci's massive concert/auction/benefit/store launch tonight at the United Nations: the mega-draw (Madonna), the acts (Chris Rock, Alicia Keys), the slebs (Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow). I caught up with Gucci creative director Frida Giannini for some tidbits you might not know...

This is a very special night for Gucci. What is it you hope to achieve?
Yes, it is very special indeed. We are raising money for both UNICEF and Raising Malawi, so we hope that the event is a huge success in every way. We are underwriting the entire evening, so 100% of funds generated goes to children affected by HIV and AIDS. Of course, it is also a party, so we hope that everyone has a great time.

Is there a larger message in having the fundraiser at the UN?
There is. The UN is a completely international place. It is bigger than New York, it is bigger than the United States. This global notion parallels the cause to which we are so dedicated. AIDS is a global crisis, one with which people from every country should be concerned. It is much larger than Africa, and we need to remind people of that.

Can we expect to see more grand gestures like this from Gucci?
This is a very special celebration for a very special occasion, the opening of the new Gucci flagship. We will have to wait and see what happens in the future!

The bag collections you've created for the new store look great. What was your inspiration?
Thank you. I wanted to create something extraordinary to parallel the beauty and scale of the new store. There are two collections of bags: the Heritage collection and the New York Exclusive collection. Heritage is a one-of-a-kind collection of bags that represent the ultimate in luxury. I looked through the archives and resurrected several iconic models that I reworked in skins. Additionally I resurrected a vintage print called "Leonardo," which was first created in the '50s. For this print I was inspired by the timing, as its introduction in 1953 coincided with the opening of the first Gucci New York boutique the same year. The New York exclusive bags are more playful, but also collector's items. The Gucci Loves New York bag is of course a tribute to this fantastic city. All proceeds from the Gucci Loves NY products will go towards the care and maintenance of the playgrounds in Central Park.

Can you tell us about your own love of New York? What fond memories do you have of our city?
New York is unlike any city in the world. It has inimitable energy. It is filled with such a multitude of different kinds of people, filled with culture, and filled with history. It is the only city where you can get anything you want at any hour, which I absolutely love. I have many fond memories of coming to New York, but some of my favorites are going vintage shopping with my design team in Soho. And each time I fly into New York and see the skyline of Manhattan, I am in awe.

The new Fifth Avenue store...

The exclusive bags...

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I've long known of Spanish designers' uncanny ability to conjure a dark, rich and gothic grandeur. Surely this has everything to do with the influence of Catholicism and its preoccupation with pageantry, death and black lace. And yet every time I see a fashion show in Spain, I'm surprised all over again. This happened earlier this month on a trip to Santiago de Compostela for the avant-garde fashion festival Noovo—a kind of Iberian Hyères. Santiago is in the far northwest corner of the country, in an autonomous region called Galicia. Its 1000-year-old cathedral is not only a World Heritage Site, but the final destination of the largest pilgrimage in the Catholic church, to this day, attracting swarms of pilgrims each year, some of whom travel on foot (can you imagine?). The cathedral is truly a marvel, even by this devout atheist's standards. In its baroque shadow, Noovo presented some 30 collections by Galician fashion students (competing for the cash and glory of the Loida Prize), Spanish designers and international designers, who included Gareth Pugh, Boudicca, Romain Kremer, Petar Petrov and Threeasfour. I'll post more from Noovo, which is only in its first year, but for now, these are the first- and second-place winners of the award: Paz Villar (top row) and Manuel Bolaño....

Oh, and scroll down a bit to Nov. 13 for a video of Henrik Vibskov's recreation of his musical spring collection.

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