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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Accessory to Murder

The contents of some handbags are quite mysterious, but are they worthy of a movie? If it's a Dior bag, then probably so. The company has been taunting us with this Lady Dior viral trailer, sending us cryptic tweets on a par with Cold War spy communiqués: "Remember this secret number: N°751B43" and "Someone is trying to unscrew the lock on the door." It's a kind of whodunnit nouveau-noir thriller with steamy close-ups of Dior pumps, a gunshot and some somewhat gratuitous bondage, all of which revolve around what may or may not be inside Marion Cotillard's bag. (It's directed by Olivier Dahan, her director in La Vie en Rose.) We wish we could know right now what, exactly, is in that damn bag, but with all the cinematic gestures in fragrance marketing right now, we're thinking it's a perfume. Maybe. Whatever it is, it's sure to be killer when the full six and a half minutes are finally released on May 20.

—Liz Armstrong

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Hint Tip: Transformazium

Transformazium, a group of amazing women (artists, organizers, social reformers and sweethearts, each one of them), up and transplanted themselves to a mostly abandoned steel town outside Pittsburgh last winter as a sincere, long-term life experiment to fix up an old, beautiful, weird church and turn it into a community skill-sharing center. They are 100% living the change they want to see in the world, teaching themselves how to farm, taking responsibility for their own roles in their physical environment—and disinterested third parties can confirm it is working. Of course, this kind of thing takes money; hence, Transformazium's arty boat cruise without the boat this Saturday. Amber Valentine and Hint's Liz Armstrong will DJ the dance party afterward...

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Watch Your Back

Liz Armstrong sees the signs...

When you're on a road trip deep into this country, you know shit's getting scary when grocery stores disgust you. They offer nothing edible and, as further proof of widespread malnutrition, you see biohazard boxes in public restrooms for syringe disposal after insulin administration. This is when billboards get weirder, advertising a lucrative business owned by the likes of Dick Raper, advocating having your baby and hoarding firearms in the name of Jesus—unironically. Frightening though they may be, these are billboards of isolated, idealistic dreamers, so fascinating that you’ll even crane your neck to see around them on the other side. This is what Totalities, Chris Johanson's current installation at Deitch Projects (Soho outpost), feels like: you can't see the message until you're on the wrong side of it, looking back.

Walking through a painted patchwork wall of flesh tones, you're faced with an angular primer-gray Willy Wonka tunnel. The view at the end of it could be of nothing, or maybe a mirror? Will you get through? Yes, you will—you'll pop out into a labyrinth of billboard-style paintings made on reclaimed wood, all facing the wrong way. Any angle at which you initially approach the installation leaves you feeling like you can't see anything. Only when you get to the middle, where you face a spinning meteorite of more primer-gray ugliness and shards of mirror (death to the disco ball!), can you then turn around and face what's been in front of you the whole time. You've stepped into a metaphor and you can't get out: you have to head to the end before you can start.

On these billboards, beams of color fall off the page, and beams of color pile up like hemorrhoids in the ass of the painting. They tell us to expand and contract, or touch god and go back inside ourselves. Like signs in the heartland, they urge you to hang on to your unpopular values, you wild creature! Your dreams are yours, yours alone—keep them. Only one written missive floats by in Johanson's sea of wordless documents, a black board with gray text scrawled with the kind of shaky finger a bored kid in the back seat of the car uses on a fogged up window: “CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Yeah, I think I can. But more importantly, I think he means: CAN YOU HEAR YOURSELF?



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Sunday, September 7, 2008

New York Fashion Week: Threeasfour

Deep math makes flames and the sun is a fractal that exploded on Threeasfour leggings. The perfect, odd shapes of nature—the theme Gabi, Adi and Ange have been obsessing about since forever, for this collection more literally than ever—sidled up more beguilingly than you'd expect. Gone are their blatant sci-fi asymmetrical vagina references, replaced by such creatures as a stingray, represented as flaps on soft skirts and shorts that wrapped around the hips, as if wing-like pockets were pulled out and tied at the coccyx. They showed us the sea as we mythologize it: gentle at sunrise, softly fluttering with arresting bits of strangeness as the tide subsides. As such, in their collection, Threeasfour spiraled silk around the body like a shell, flattened jellyfish bibs on dresses and fastened actual shells onto leather. And at the end, Aphrodite rose from a metaphorical cushion of foam—or rather, the taupe and white ensembles that preceded her—wearing a dress of tinkling capiz-shell discs.

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Boat People

Liz Armstrong is moved...

A floating Gypsy-like caravan carrying four precarious pyramids of junk reecently docked on the Hudson for our viewing pleasure. Piles and piles of beautiful refuse—ornate wooden curlicues, ferris-wheel spokes, colorful swings—slowly drifted up to the 70th Street riverfront, linked together by ropes and pirate planks.

A grizzled seafarer hopped from boat to boat with a lantern as his guide, rousing sleeping inhabitants curled up on decks and tucked in improbable nooks. They ascended stairs and ramps to the top of their boats. I counted at least 33 of them, in particular a cutie in 70's gym shorts (not the ones from American Apparel, but the thrift kind, most likely previously worn by a pervert), her perfect ass peeking out. Underneath them she'd layered shredded tights, a low-cut teal leotard with one shoulder dangling off, lumberjack suspenders, plus combat boots. You want to see style, here it is. They were all dressed ridiculously to some extent, and they looked fantastic—the most beautiful people I've seen in a long time.

“There’s no place for you,” the seafarer cried from a podium made of rusted scraps of metal. “I’m terribly sorry, but there’s no place for you.” Then he waxed lyrical for a while about the urge to head for the sea, the causality for which is starved, scorched and overcrowded land with zero opportunity for refertilization. When he finished, others took the podium with equally poetic, partially real soliloquies about the boats and their origins, how long they’ve been on the water and how they pass the time. Back on the dock, where we'd all gathered to watch the spectacle, Dark Dark Dark, a New York/Minneapolis band that sounds as if it came from yonder back in time, provided musical accompaniment suitable for a Venetian cantina or Parisian speakeasy.

The whole thing was masterminded by New York-based artist Swoon, who, among other projects promoting self-sustainability and interaction with one's immediate environment, headed a flotilla of barges made from found stuff down the Mississippi for two consecutive summers. Called Miss Rockaway, the migration started in Minnesota and was supposed to make it to New Orleans, but right around St. Louis the river began to branch in an erratic and volatile way, so most of the captains decided the expedition should end there.

Swoon regrouped those crews and others to assemble four boats, all powered with engines that leave minimal damage in their wake, all elaborately and entirely constructed from reclaimed materials, to cruise around the upper New York area. Unlike Miss Rockaway, Switchback Sea, as this project is named, exists mainly as a vehicle for performance.

A suave-looking gent in a silver suit rolled up in a little speedboat. He was welcomed aboard, given a grubby T-shirt in exchange for his jacket and handed a hunk of bread. The allegories delivered from the podium resumed, building upon their self-created mythology. Are they descendants from criminals? Or free thinkers with no place left to go? Regardless, it was clear they care a great deal about one another, as they sort of picked at one another like monkeys, teased, gathered in small circles to chat, smoked cigs and stared out at the water, curling up together. And they care just as much for their vessels, breaking into frequent pantomime to shine and repair them.

Suddenly everyone went bananas. The suit did something wrong, the trust was broken and a madcap chase involving a hula-hoop ensued. They captured the man, marched him to the highest point of all the ships, stripped him of his shirt, and decorated him with war paint and a headdress. He rolled up the legs of his pants, revealing mismatched socks and red-laced boots. Aha! An anarchist. Now transformed, he’s gone to Croatan, too.

Then the scholar of the boat delivered his speech, a bone-dry pontification about joining the river crew as an intellectual pursuit, going into great detail about his extensive note-taking and theories about who comprises the crew. Meanwhile, the crew—who’d been nothing less than absolutely attentive and respectful of all the other speakers—became restless, braying like donkeys, razzing him. It's obvious his character is there to comment on the nature of cold observation—how dull and clueless it can be, how overintellectualization of art drains its potential for beauty and surprise. I realized I was taking notes as he was talking; I was playing the same role he was. Shamed, I put my notepad and camera away. It was time to just watch instead of drawing conclusions.

Without my recording devices at hand, the rest of the performance took on special importance. This existed just for me (and, okay, everyone else watching, but my memory of it would be my own) and for that reason I’m not going to recount some of the best parts here. Some things really shouldn’t be documented; they should be experienced. So go for yourself, or don't. There’s a party for the project at the new Deitch outpost at 4-40 44th Drive in Long Island City, from 6 to 9 pm tonight.

Midway through I’d made a pact—yes, a serious one—with myself to only pursue joy from this point on. By the time the boats went dark I was openly crying. As if cosmically cued to make the moment more cinematic, a bushy-browed old man waddled up next to me and grumbled, “To me, this is irresponsible and pointless, even if it's fun. Do I see myself doing it? No. But I'm envious that they are.” Why be envious? These people made a choice, the same choice available to anyone on that dock, to create their own homes out of nothing and shape reality for themselves. That’s actually the most responsible, meaningful thing you could ever do with your life. At the beginning of the performance the band encouraged the audience to not only turn off our cell phones, but to throw them in the river. If it weren’t for the polluting aspect, I would have.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Setting Your RVCA

Erin Wasson's a smart lass who knows that when people go to a fashion presentation in the Lower East Side, one where the ratio of models (and former models who've smoked their way to early retirement) to civilians is skewed toward the former, there’s no point in putting on a runway show. Instead, for the launch of Erin Wasson x RVCA, she hung up giant posters of herself wearing her designs for the skatewear brand—or rather, of her basically spilling out of her designs, not that I'm complaining one bit—and threw a party so nuts that within the first hour a bunch of guests got stuck in the elevator and had to be axed out. (Or at least that’s what the friendly fireman wielding the enormous chopping tool told me.) We did see one look put to the test, the one Erin was wearing all night. In lace-up, low-waist, flare-leg jeans and beach-girl cotton tank that scooped up right at the small of her back, revealing a total lack of a tramp stamp, she swayed on the dance floor to a rapt audience. It was as close to a live show as we got. Only one person dared approach what felt like her sacred space, but that didn’t stop a cheeky spirit from copping a feel when it seemed no one but a friend was looking.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Peggy and Poly

Liz Armstrong...

After catching my breath from a whirlwind road trip to Chicago, where some friends and I spent a weekend partying with CSS, I caught up with Kansas City's Peggy Noland, who designs costumes for the band's frontwoman, Lovefoxxx. (Peggy has also designed costumes for Ssion frontman—and half-Boy London dreamboat, half-gypsy lion tamer—Cody Critcheloe.) We met on CSS's bus, parked behind the bare-fleshed fairgrounds of Lollapalooza, munching on candy necklaces while watching the band freak out laughing and singing wild songs in Portuguese. Clear outsiders, we became instant friends...

Peggy in her store / Ssion onstage

You looked absolutely perfect throughout our trip, even in the melting hot sun, even after partying all day and night, even when harassed by frat boys, even getting champagne poured all over you. The rest of us looked like we were ridden hard and put away wet. How do you pull it off?
ColorStay make up! I swear by it! What am I going to do if they discontinue it? Shit!

Wanna tell me the basics of how you got started designing?
The path I have found is completely unexpected. I had not intended to make clothing or own a store. My major in college, after an experience working in New Delhi, was Religious Studies. Then I applied for the Peace Corps and didn't get in, and now I am here.

Um, you were on a religious path and then you found god in designing spandex jumpsuits?
(Laughs.) You know, I'm still figuring that one out, too. I had an amazing job after high school working for a clothing line in New Delhi that required me to be there by myself for extended periods of time. It's probably pretty easy to imagine why my priorities changed. All of a sudden, clothing and fashion were a very low priority for me. It’s a Third World country and here I was, this middle-class white girl making clothes. It felt sooooo trite. Honestly, I was ashamed. Long story short: as soon as I was rejected from the Peace Corps and back in Kansas City, my priorities obviously shifted once again. A retail space opened up, and I fought hard for it and got it. Then I learned how to sew. Crazy, I know. And here I am today.

Why stay in Kansas City?
I have a retail store here that I am in love with, and it completely changes every four to six months: the environment, the clothing and otherwise. The newest installation is floor-to-ceiling Polyfil. We wanted to confuse the typical idea of what retail is so we lowered the ceiling four feet—good or bad, comfortable or not. Other than my store, Kansas City is a weird place to be. I stay focused and inspired here. A community that supports its artists is hard to find, and harder to leave. If you can get here, and if you can tap into this energy, you’ll see an incredible ambition—perhaps spiraling from an angry, even jealous boredom that attracts and demands attention. When you find yourself in a city whose energy isn't particularly invested in its youth culture, you find your source of creativity is completely unique and, perhaps more importantly, unaffected.

What's the proper name of your retail store, and what’s in it? Do you actually sell garments made of that Polyfil stuff?
Oh yeah, babe! People think it's weird, or a joke, or stupid—and I guess it kind of is all of those things. The name of the store is Peggy Noland—Kansas City, although there is no name on the window.

Word on the street is you make a lot of your own prints. Is that true?
Yes ma'am! It's true!

It seems like you're into giving form to freeform materials. Is this something you do consciously?
No, I guess not, although there is an intentional sculptural element to what I do. “Soft sculpture” is a category that many of my designs fit into.

You teach at an art school?
I’ve just accepted a teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute. I'm the Sewn Construction teacher. I'm replacing a woman who has been teaching in the Fibers department for some time now, so I have big shoes to fill. Also this year I'm collaborating with a number of artists. Of particular interest is a capsule collection with Malcolm Stewart and Bec Stupac of the Brazilian collective avaf [assume vivid astro focus]. It's an expansion of personal work for all of us, with an emphasis on the unwearable wearable.

Let’s expand on the topic of the unwearable wardrobe. What's the point? I ain't being sassy, I'm just asking questions like a journalist. How the hell would you sell this stuff? Know what I mean?
I like sass, girl! Yeah, I get what you're saying. These pieces appeal to a customer who's an art collector more than a ready-to-wear buyer. The design and price reflect that. Having a retail space in Kansas City has been challenging, but the challenge isn't finding a customer. Customers exist here, there just aren't many of them. It's been an “If you build it, they will come” experience.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Banding Together

Liz Armstrong and gang go on the road...

Recently two friends and I planned to spend Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago partying with CSS, the enthusiastic alterna-jam dance band from Brazil, and then hightail it back home to New York by Sunday night. Of course we took our sweet-ass time getting there. We stopped in a rundown mining town outside Pittsburgh for a night, then spent another at my parents’ house in the Windy City, soaking in their rave-style hot tub equipped with a 16-color light show as Lykke Li blasted through the surround-sound system.

Finally, on Friday, we arrived at Lollapalooza, with its immense fairgrounds bursting at the seams with ladies in bikini tops and shady characters (aka potential new friends) rolling joints in the bushes. We tiptoed into the CSS bus and, lo and behold, there was my soul-twin Cody Critcheloe, the wizard behind the hi-NRG prop-punk band SSION, sitting next to the fantastic Miss Peggy Noland, costume designer for CSS, Ssion and Tilly and the Wall. Peggy—who's the subject of my next blog, a Q&A—calls everyone "babe" because she really thinks everyone is one. There's a genuine smile on her face at all times, and she keeps her hair styled in an immaculately wild bouffant. Though she'd forgotten her own clothes on her bed in Kansas City, at least she remembered to bring a stash of costumes for CSS's Lovefoxxx, which she had stuffed into a dirty canvas bag and decorated with a dollar sign, like she'd just robbed a bank and decided to carry around the evidence.

Lovefoxxx rummaged through the selection and pulled out body leotard after body leotard, one a metallic silver with polyester vines and flowers dangling off the neckline like some kind of glamorous Swamp Thing, another a burgundy crushed-velvet number with a Holly Hobby-esque doll on the rump like a pervy bustle. She settled on the most outrageous of the offerings, a bright red outfit entwined with a garish garland of purple and yellow flowers, which came with a matching halo. Suddenly everyone in the band burst into a crazy Brazilian song about a guy who needs bread and tea.

Before Lovefoxxx got dressed, we all hit the press tent for free booze, pizza and some desperately needed armpit fanning. (Okay, no one provided that last service except ourselves.) Renata, creator and star of the video for “Left Behind” (the first single off CSS's new CD) and also the band's backup dancer for the weekend, strolled up wearing the exact same neon tunic as Lovefoxxx. Oops! Most stars would freak the hell out, point a finger and dismiss the duplicate, but not in this case. They simply stomped around the fairgrounds together.

From then on, the weekend was a nonstop memory-in-the-making, the kind of weekend you can't process until after it's done and you look at the photos, thinking, “When did that happen?” We danced our brains out, sang Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” at karaoke, partied on abandoned train tracks, shopped for cowgirl gear (watch out for my new fall look—yeehaw!), enjoyed a limo ride courtesy of a club where CSS was DJing and danced some more while ripping up posters and throwing them in the air like confetti.

Around 3 am on Saturday, we called it quits. We looked like we'd been hanging out in a hamster cage, covered in bits of paper stuck to our bodies with champagne. Into the car we went and, like total badasses, headed home straight from the party. We took a small break around 7 am, found a cheap motel in our new favorite town of Elkhart, Indiana (where the McDonald's has a fancy fireplace and leopard-print window treatment) and crashed for exactly three hours because one of us had the scientific notion that any more or less than that would mess with our biorhythms. So we set the alarm, made ourselves rise from the dead and got back in the car. It was total tweaker town in that vehicle, I tell ya. We talked about everything, just to stay awake. Nothing was safe or sacred. Good thing there was no recording device, except for my camera with a dwindling battery...

Dancing at Lollapalooza / Lovefoxxx checking out costumes

Lovefoxxx and Luiza onstage at Lollapalooza / Carol DJing

Lovefoxxx and Luiza in the limo / Heading home

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let Your Eyes Do the Talking

Really, what's the point of false eyelashes that are meant to look natural? All that time, patience and theatricality wasted on subtlety? No. Give me a tiara of hair for my eyelids, something fantastical, surreal and too expensive for your run-of-the-mill drag queen in a slime-green bob. Give me a set of Viktor & Rolf’s new babies, any of the three styles, all made for Shu Uemura. Swirl is a thick and luscious pair that nearly looks like a second hairstyle, calling to mind the elegant, elongated swoop of a pheasant’s tail. Wing looks like Dadaist paperclips, or the loopy fringe on the hand towels in a cheesecake starlet’s powder room. Rhombus—the arty version of the junkiest drugstore lashes that give an altogether too-alert and unnatural appearance—reveal a gold embossed harlequin pattern only visible when demurely lower your eyes. Inspired by Marcel Marceau, the recently deceased French mime, they make it so you don't have to say a word to get your point across. $170 per pair, at colette.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

CITIZEN:Citizen Has It All Sewn Up

You're on a serious road trip, starving, and all you keep passing are creepy-looking ma 'n' pa joints serving a menu you imagine must contain possum. Your belly's grumbling louder than a recalcitrant Hillary Clinton supporter, but you don't want to stop for fear of one innocent meal turning into nonconsensual employ as someone's gimp. Finally, you spot the jackpot: a reflective green billboard with familiar fast-food logos. Ahhh, civilization is nigh. And then your stomach sinks as you realize Taco Bell is your anchor.

Screw old-timey quirkiness; modern ubiquity is the benchmark of American comfort. Which is why wicked San Francisco gallery and e-shop CITIZEN:Citizen stitched up ten cozy patchwork quilts emblazoned with logos of 58 of this country's most iconic mass-market food chains, retailers and corporations. Handmade by Bradley Price and Joel Yatscoff, American Comfort Quilt is supposed to be a work of art, but who wouldn’t find warmth swaddled in the splendor of those who've branded America the place it is today?

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Some prefer to wear fragrance as a veil; others want a coat of armor. To satisfy this need for either subtlety or strength, perfumers release their potions in different delivery systems. Diptyque just cut the ribbon on their first dabbling in the traditional art of cologne, the most delicate in perfume concentrate. The resulting three L'eaus (des Hesperides, de L'eau, de Neroli)—all more sparkling, herby versions of previously released favorites—linger just long enough to spark up witty conversation, then dash before the repartee gets too deep. My favorite is the L'eau de Neroli, which works well as a cologne—most neroli fragrances in eau de parfum concentration are way too hot and deep, over-saturated and overwrought. This one prances on my aura. $145 each at Diptyque boutiques, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some fragrances prefer to keep their gender assignment elusive; others shout it from mountaintops. Thierry Mugler's AngelMEN Pure Coffee, the sequel to his gay disco hit AngelMEN, smells like a Jack London type, a pioneering adventurer with a penchant for exotic collections. Imagine the inside of his hope chest, filled half with tackle, half with burlap sacks of coffee beans and other organic ephemera from faraway lands—and then imagine his cologne. Voila! AngelMEN Pure Coffee. $65 for 3.4 oz, available in April at most department stores.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wow, Chloe Sevigny must be a real busy lady these days, what with launching her new Blossom-meets-The Clash line for Opening Ceremony, style advising at British Elle and providing the face for Chloé's new eau de parfum. Now she's the so-called ambassador of Samsonite Black Label's new Trunk line of vintage-style luggage, designed by creative director Quentin Mackay. Last spring Christina Ricci held this title, vamping for a cute line of rollers and carry-ons that were decked out in cheeky floral prints, à la grandma's kitchen curtains. This time Samsonite went further back in time with an articulate, handmade resurrection of the original trunk collection the Shwayder Brothers (who founded Samsonite) created in the 20s. The interiors were kept intact, but the unwieldy clunk was surrendered to cross-terminal wheel needs and overhead-compartment-era streamlining. Very diplomatic, Chloe.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: +46

Preserving the progressive spirit of +46—a semiannual fair of hot new designers from Sweden and beyond—Annika Berger (of Skyward) created an installation for her small art-terrorist collection. Thrillingly spooky and confusing, the show was a cross between a haunted house and a construction site, entered through a dark hallway full of tree branches and blasting with strobe lights and a soundtrack of noise. This dropped you off in an enormous trashed-out room with cardboard boxes, cables that snaked into infinity, floodlights with minds of their own and random industrial ephemera. Black tarps suspended from the ceiling sectioned off small cubicles, inside which models stood motionless (minus one on a treadmill) in top-heavy, graphic-print getups that focused on headgear. White arrows on the floor directed you in circles, making the experience an unnavigable environment that, through reverse psychology, gave Annika's collection a sense of place.


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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week

Also seen at Stockholm Fashion Week: flannel-loving friends of Melissa Etheridge; dirty dock-workers; runaway Holly Hobbys on heroin; WWII-era homerun hitters; bearded pipe-smoking den daddies; and ball-busting working women.





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Friday, February 1, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Helena Hörstedt

Helena Hörstedt—who's as much an artisan as a designer—banished us naughty children to a gloomy, low-ceilinged basement, where we crammed into rows arranged to resemble a spider's web. Models as black widows attacked from all directions, speedily weaving through the audience in all-black dresses and bonnets in fabric obsessively folded and knotted into geometric shapes. (See Helena's previous collection.)

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Stockholm Fashion Week: The Local Firm

Before I left for Stockholm someone advised me to pack all black, “or else you’re going to feel really self-conscious.” I was a little skeptical, but listened anyway. Well, that's pretty much what was on the runways (occasionally mixed with navy, petrol, gray or even—gasp!—white), and done really seriously and earnestly. That is, until The Local Firm came along and spoiled everyone's un-fun. Sweden's lighter version of Martin Margiela sent out super-sharp jeans that look like one pair from the knee up and another from the knee down, umpire-inspired knit spats, color-blocked tops & tees, baseball caps with PVC-trimmed brims and, for women, veiled with a swatch of mourning widow's tulle.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Cheap Monday

The price-conscious folks at Cheap Monday say pigeons, ducks and foxes inspired their fall collection. That’s all well and good, but really there’s no need to make such claims. We don’t look to Cheap Monday for strokes of genius—we just want to find out what the skinny-jeans set will be wearing next season. Here’s a preview.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Carin Wester

Please all, let's stop making so many statements through our wardrobe about our toughness—there’s been so much permutation on the theme already—and let's start making them about our vulnerability. Carin Wester has figured out how with her women's and men's fall collection. At first glance, the gender roles we've seen the last batch of seasons seem to be reinforced: the men appear to be the teddy bears, little characters outfitted in a sweet mixture of Where’s Waldo, Marcel Marceau and the type of sailor we romanticize when we think of sailors—silent, tattooed, muscly, poetic—and women are once again calling the shots in leather gloves and head-to-toe black. But the longer the study, the more the blinds part and we’re left blinking in the sunlight of an inspired vision. Dresses, which cover the front of the body, totally open up at the back, complete with slit-vented elbows. If an exposed back doesn't scream unguarded, please tell me what does. Men, meanwhile, are bundled up and then some, down to gigantic Aspen-cozy mittens whose proportions deem them sinister. Throughout the collection—and this is where Carin slyly shows her hand—hemlines on women tilt backward, pitching garments slightly upward and open; on men, hems tilt forward so they seem more enveloped, brooding and potentially ready to pounce.

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Stockholm Fashion Week: Rodebjer

There was a special flavor of punk in Rodebjer's collection—not city or suburban punk, but small-town punk, the realest kind. It doesn't rebel against anything systematic, corporate or manufactured, but something inherently stifling in its surroundings. Confrontationally sullen, the collection had an undeniable sweetness to its surly enterprise, the way it feels when a teenager hates you with such passion that it's endearing. Models with flyaway and greasy hair wore narrow corduroys rolled up at the bottom, not-cool farmer’s daughter jeans, cafeteria-server smocks, cat-eye glasses, long-sleeved mini-dresses decorated with a tiny box of a vest, menacing hoodies—hood up, of course, hands stuffed in pockets—and blouses with bitchy little ruffles. Blank-faced, they skulked to the end of the runway in a black cloud of apathy, like when your mom summoned you from across the house and you'd take your sweet-ass time getting there. Add to that enormous elephant-eared tops that tied around the neck in a bib, a double-breasted Donald Trump sportcoat as dress (which is showing up everywhere, actually) and an incredible jodhpur jumpsuit, and you have an evocative, wearable collection—the kind of curled-upper-lip clothing you wear when you roll out of bed expecting to have a bad day and want to revel in it.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stockholm Fashion Week: Filippa K

Designers thumb their noses at trends by either deconstructing them or ignoring them. Filippa K is in the latter camp. Until this season, she had never participated in Stockholm Fashion Week, instead throwing a party in a small art space and inviting pretty much everyone to cram in and look at her latest women's and men's collection. This time though, for fall 08, she rolled out a black rubber runway at the opulent Swedish Royal Opera and blasted, among other rock-punk anthems, Patti Smith's "Free Money."

At first the whole production seemed a little off. Models were well-behaved in well-executed monosyllabic designs, and the audience sat still, begging the question: Why go to great lengths to secure such a massively gilded space and set up a little strip of contrast if she didn't want to show utter decadence, chaos or rebelliousness? And then it started to sink in. All the men's ties, which so rudely clashed with plaid shirts, were tied improperly and worn outside the collar around a bare neck. Bulky, near-shapeless sweaters or mean leather jackets crushed delicate, hand-painted silk dresses and tops, while belts were not threaded through loops and suspenders were not on shoulders. Richly subversive and rewarding, the quiet anarchy belied a compliant appearance, subtly emitting a strong message: all is not quiet in the land of the acquiescent. Watch out.

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Stockholm Fashion Week: Sandra Backlund

Sandra Backlund's knitwear—or, more accurately, wearable knitscapes—possesses a violent gentility, with its cascading bells, bouncing caulifloral clusters, baseball-sized chenille pompons and knotted drainpipes. Her indefatigable dresses, resembling armor made from soufflé, seemed to burst with joy as they pulled and ached and exalted the body, not unlike the way a chandelier dangles precariously from a ceiling to shower light across a room. Which is exactly what Sandra did, lowering the theater's huge glittering light-beasts to runway level so her models could walk around them, which perfectly hammered home her message of strength through fragility.


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Monday, December 24, 2007

Can't keep track of all the recent store renovations? Liz Armstrong sums up...

When Hermès acquired more property for their expansion on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré—they now reside in not one address but three, simply so clients wouldn't have to walk up multiple flights of stairs—they threw a 24-hour bash with Indian dancers, gospel singers, classical pianists, circus entertainment, a performance by Jane Birkin and a Parisian tradition of onion soup at dawn. Hard to imagine the brand started by making saddles.

We're not sure what it is about the tranquility of nature that makes us want to shop, but leave it to Peter Marino to tactfully exploit the connection for the Place Vendome Chanel boutique in Paris. Nine months in the making, his design of an additional 1,000 square feet—devoted to jewelry—has been outfitted with scads of crystals and an enormous atruim.

Dolce & Gabbana
In a total shocker, Dolce & Gabbana went big and shiny for their New York store expansion. Now every surface, including a black glass stairway and glass chandeliers, in the nearly 13,000-square-foot mall on Madison gleams like Liberace's powder room. (Heads up Chicago and San Francisco, word is you're next.)

New York's Chloé shop, on the other hand, got a make-under. All frippery, minus the equine bronze statues on the doors, has been shipped out, replaced by beige shag carpets and, well, not much else—as if awaiting designer Paulo Melim Andersson's smart, Nancy Drew-like spring collection.

Christian Dior
Dare we call it a picture of Diorian gray? For its 60th anniversary, fifty-six shades of shadow now dress the flagship Dior shop in Paris, including silk rugs hand-woven in Tibet that resemble spilled mercury, walls covered in embossed metallic leather, and a hand-painted fresco of the kind of sky that makes you want to stay in and read. Far from depressing, the somber innuendo's so compounded it seems to make light of itself. All of which, of course, makes you want to spend. This is luxury and tasteful hedonism done right.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

No more shaking fists in rage over closing time at the Prada store. Now, finally, the day of procuring Prada online—if only accessories—is here. A cursory search yields pure squeal-out-loud goodness in the form of squishy little teddy-bear key rings adorned with heaps of sequins and beads, charms and dog collars; pert patent leather wristlets with wee clusters of blooms calling to mind a prom corsage; and those trademark coin purses, wallets, pouches and skinny bags in impeccable leather or nylon. Further investigation turns up watches big and small, a tea set and—ready for this?—a deck of tarot cards (trumps only, you'll have to get your minor arcana elsewhere). Those of us in the States will have to obsess about something else momentarily as, for now, shipping is available in the EU only.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

The re-animated, ever-beloved Helmut Lang reclaimed a huge, slightly smashed and possibly blood-stained disco ball from who knows where and stuck it in the middle of the floor in the Brooklyn gallery space belonging to the lower-case art and culture rag the journal. Is “Next Ever After,” the installation's title, a simple comment on the low-key designer's obvious aversion to glamour? A nod to the plight of his own career—fallen and reborn in another place entirely? At the opening party last week, we (including friend of Helmut Jenny Capitan, Zero designer Maria Cornejo, photog-artist Mark Borthwick, make-up artist Dick Page, artist Christian Jankowski and designer Patrik Ervell) stood around the immobile object of festivity, little dots of light twinkling over our ruddy and snowed-on faces, and pondered our existence.

Dick Page, Jenny Capitan

Maria Cornejo & Mark Borthwick, artist Dave Aarons

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Liz Armstrong gets starry-eyed for Cosmic...

Her surname alone is enough to make one want to marry jeweler Solange Azagury-Partridge, but her explicitly eccentric methodology seals the cupidity. Once a year she dramatically unveils a collection of precious, mind-blowing baubles on the brink of unwearability, along with a limited-edition renegade fragrance to more deeply mine her jewelry’s psychedelic purity. This time around that fragrance, an eau de parfum called Cosmic, comes in a star-faceted silver orb to match her truly arcane diamond and platinum art-deco earrings, breastplate necklaces and wrist-guard bracelets—all designed with notions of planetary alignment and kabalistic practice in mind. The scent, with a romantic floral essence dusted with a downy coat of patchouli, is as powdery and mystical as a cloud blotting out a full moon. Oh, and it contains actual stardust from pulverized meteorites. So dreamy. Sigh. ₤145 for 100 ml at Solange Azagury-Partridge in London or on her website.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Best-known for his gilded widgets designed for more well-appointed sniffing (such as his gold-plated McDonald's stirring spoon and Bic pen cap), Tobias Wong encourages us to examine the notion of luxury without actually having to change our low-brow ways. His latest is the ccPhone (only 50 were made, available exclusively through San Francisco's CITIZEN:Citizen), a fully functional iPhone that the utilitarian-art prankster has restyled and stuffed with artwork and music from like-minded friends.

Actual content is hush-hush, but we can tell you it includes video of Toby's infamous concrete Doorstop molded from an Alvar Aalto Savoy vase (that had to be smashed) and obtuse photos taken by CITIZEN:Citizen owners while on holiday around the globe. Plus—and here's where it really gets interesting—the address book comes pre-stocked and gets updated twice a year with well-known contacts of CITIZEN:Citizen from the fashion, art and design worlds, as well as such randomness as the local taqueria and print shop. Apparently, however, some private home numbers have mysteriously made it in, so no prank calls!

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