Fashion & Style
June 28, 2013 | by Magdalena Edwards
I practiced, practiced, practiced my versions of Rio de Janeiro’s local customs throughout July 2003, from ordering an açai with granola at the corner juice bar to people-watching, while being watched, on the beach. One internationally accepted custom that varies in local execution is looking put-together while not attracting the attention of pickpockets or scammers. I studied the poses and gestures of Carioca women–esse jeitinho, that little way of doing it–so that I might communicate, without over-communicating, that my sporty red fabric cross-body bag and my canvas tote held nothing worth pinching.
The usual contents of my two bags: a notebook, a cell phone with a prepaid SIM card, some cash, a bottle of water, and a book or two if I was headed to PUC, Rio’s Catholic University nestled at the edge of the lush Tijuca Forest, or to the Botafogo neighborhood to visit the Rui Barbosa Foundation’s special archives, which include the literary papers of Vinícius de Moraes, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Manuel Bandeira, João Cabral de Melo Neto, and Clarice Lispector, all translated into English by Elizabeth Bishop during her years in Brazil.
One afternoon I decided to walk from PUC, in Rio’s Gávea neighborhood, to my apartment in Ipanema. July is the coldest month in Rio, with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F), and this particular day was cloudy, so almost no one was on the beach. As I entered Ipanema by way of the bustling foot traffic on Rua Visconde de Pirajá, I noticed that the street vendors, who usually displayed their wares on large pieces of dark fabric that could be made quickly into knapsacks if the police arrived, held the day’s items tightly to their chests. A cluster of women, and a few men, jostled each other with arms outstretched to buy.
I stopped and stared at what was being sold: dark brown handbags stamped in a gold monogram pattern and decorated with pink smiling flowers arranged in whimsical irregularity. The flowers beckoned me with their red mouths, which I then noticed were open, midlaughter. The prospective buyers’ tensed expressions, and the fact that others on the sidewalk were studying the scene, made me ask myself, Do I want one too?
I had witnessed, and wanted, an extravaganza of counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags in the cherry blossom motif created by Takashi Murakami and commissioned by Marc Jacobs. Some say these are among the most counterfeited handbags ever. Read More »
June 21, 2012 | by Katherine Bernard
With fashion, true love isn’t about the money. It’s about the conversation. By that I mean decoding the statements on the runway each season and bringing them into culture simply by going about my everyday life. Conversing with someone on the street using the lines and proportions of our clothing: “Nice denim rip. You layered two T-shirts? That collar/hemline/texture is slightly off, and I like it.” I learned how to read these cues and appreciate making odd bits look chic from studying the work of Miuccia Prada.
The other day, I tried explaining to a friend whose primary associations with Prada are 1998 Jay Z lyrics (“I like a lot of Prada, Alize and vodka”) why this summer I took pleasure in making a boys lacrosse penny elegant for evening. I picked it up in a Maryland thrift store for two dollars. To most, a practice jersey is as far from a fete like the MoMA’s Party in the Garden as one could get. In that crowd, if you say P.S. you mean Proenza Schouler, and Stella is followed by McCartney more often than Artois.
I wore it underneath a silk blazer, with a skirt of tiered fringe. The empowerment I felt was real—there is something about taking a garment of unexpected origin and making it reference something completely new (look at Alexander Wang’s brilliant athletic-inspired collection this season) that excites me.
I think of Prada as being synonymous with intelligence and controlled tension; the pith of confidence. Her clothes remind me that I haven’t seen everything, and even on a Hannah Horvath budget, I try to maintain allegiance to her pursuit of self-defined beauty. I feel strong taking a risk, and every morning I try to assemble a look that would make Miuccia say, This is right.
February 20, 2012 | by Emily Gould
In 2008 Luca Turin, a European biochemist who’d done groundbreaking research on how olfaction works, joined forces with Tania Sanchez, a thirtyish American, to produce an English edition of his cult hit French perfume guide. The result, their Perfumes: The Guide, has a wide readership among people who admire good perfume, but it deserves a wider one among people who admire good criticism of any kind. I found it in the “fashion” section of a classy bookstore, and in retrospect this seems like finding Madame Bovary shelved with the historical romances.
Unfortunately, though, Perfumes has the side effect of making the reader—well, this reader—embark immediately on the kind of quest that leads her to a lot of esoteric corners of the internet and shoddy midtown shops. But more on that later.
I picked up Perfumes on a whim, expecting standard women’s magazine perfume writing: imaginary fruits and lavish adjectives, nonsense marketing descriptions bracketed with pseudoscientific junk about how smells awaken our reptilian base nature. Sanchez seems to have anticipated this concern. “Smell psychologists and the uncritical journalists who love them get a lot of mileage out of calling smell the most primitive sense. But as with all of the work of evolutionary psychologists, the conclusions that support our desires and reinforce our prejudices are those of which we should be most wary,” she writes.
I read the rest of that page standing up in the store and finished the introduction on line at the cash register.
Sanchez goes on to debunk any and all fixed ideas anyone might have had about perfume in an economical four pages. She describes the ways the industry has discouraged serious perfume criticism, from concealing the identities of fragrances’ authors to lying about formulas and content. She explains why this is a golden age of perfume criticism (the Internet). She dismisses the notion that talking about our pleasures ruins them. “The fact is,” she announces in closing, “this stuff is worth loving. As with the tawdriest pop melody, there is a base pleasure in perfume, in just about any perfume, even the cheapest and most starved of ideas, that is better than no perfume at all.”
And then the real fun begins: the reviews. Read More »
September 26, 2011 | by Ali Pechman
It’s easy to overlook that Vogue, seemingly eponymous with the word fashion, debuted after Harper’s Bazaar, America’s first fashion magazine. Steeped longer in the Victorianism that defined the nineteenth century, Bazaar set about cataloguing the changes that an era of colonialism and industrialization brought to women’s dress. The original weekly (titled Harper’s Bazar) saw its first printing in November of 1867, as a slim, sixteen-page newsprint volume featuring drawings and articles on every aspect of fashion. The news item “Colors” reads more like an issue of political importance. (“Bismarck, or gold-brown, is the prevailing shade, and reappears in some guise almost every where. The new shades of green are its only formidable rivals. The deep green known as ‘Invisible,’ now called ‘Mermaid,’ is in great favor.”) An early cover from an 1868 issue shows hand-drawn hairstyles alongside paper-doll-like figures, nodding at French sophistication with hairdo trends like the “diadem of curls” and the “fleur de lis coiffure of braids.”
“Harper’s Bazaar: A Decade of Style” at the International Center of Photography catalogues the transformations that technology of a different sort wrought on women’s bodies. The collection of more than thirty images—vivid color photographs from the past decade under editor Glenda Bailey—features work by famed fashion photographers such as Patrick Demarchelier, Terry Richardson, and Peter Lindbergh, as well as art-world luminaries like Nan Goldin and Chuck Close. Read More »
September 15, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
“Yes, there’s an elevator,” a worried guest was assured on Tuesday night in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. This was no small concern. The event she was on hand to attend, cohosted by Ari Seth Cohen and Tavi Gevinson, was located in the basement. And the crowd was largely over eighty.
The evening was a celebration of Ari Seth Cohen’s street-style blog, Advanced Style. As the name suggests, the ladies of the silver-haired set are Cohen’s muses; the site contains a mix of known fashion royalty, like Iris Apfel and Beatrix Ost, and strangers whose dashing ensembles catch the photographer’s eye. It was both disconcerting and wonderful to see the parade of extravagantly dressed grandes dames enter the aggressively hip Ace, which had been rendered especially youthful by the descent of New York Fashion Week attendees.
Fashion Week parties, as anyone can tell you, are largely about exclusion: lists, velvet ropes, and stony-faced, implacable bouncers. This one was no different, but instead of models and actresses, the women being ushered to the head of the line and pursued by photographers were white-haired, turbaned, and carrying canes. Periodically, organizers scanned the crowded hotel lobby: when they spotted a hat or a caftan, the old lady in question was whisked ceremoniously downstairs to Liberty Hall.Read More »
June 9, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
“Wanted,” the advertisement read, “sixteen- or seventeen-year-old apprentice cutter for Savile Row firm. Energetic … Intelligent … Smart appearance …” I was skeptical (what the hell was a cutter?) but Dad made the call and we were granted an appointment at ten the following Tuesday. I had never heard of Huntsman before. For that matter, I am not sure that I had ever heard of Savile Row.”
So began, somewhat ignominiously, Richard Anderson’s career as a bespoke tailor. Today, Anderson is “The King of Savile Row,” as The Independent called him—but in 1982 he was a teenager with failing grades who showed up for an interview in white socks, a short-sleeved shirt, and a school blazer.
Anderson’s memoir, Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed, has been called the Kitchen Confidential of the tailoring world, an insider’s look at the industry and one that exposes a certain amount of its foibles and eccentricity. But what’s even more of a revelation than the ins and outs of cutting and fitting is the sheer thoroughness of the traditional apprenticeship, which Anderson served. Even thirty years ago when Anderson got his start, the kind of ground-up dues paying he describes was on the wane; in an era of overnight success, it’s almost unimaginable.
It’s no shock that, since everything’s ripe for the TV picking, even Savile Row got its own BBC special—a reality program that made it look, says Anderson, “quite glamorous.” And as a result, he now gets some ten or fifteen letters a weeks from prospective employees. However, their notion of apprenticeship doesn’t involve sweeping or cutting, let alone the kind of respect for institutional authority that was the backbone of Anderson’s training. “They tend to think they’d quite enjoy designing,” Anderson explains dryly, adding that they also tend to be older and “there’s a big difference between a seventeen-year-old kid just out of school and a twenty-something who’s seen a bit of the world.” Especially one in today’s England, he need not add.