Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monkey Business

I, like so many other New Yorkers, am stressed out. With the hurricane, the election and our early- bird blizzard, things have just gotten to be a little too out of control. Anxiety is the new normal and upheaval is the order of the day. One doesn't have to be flooded out of their home, without electricity or heat or water for going on 2 weeks, unable to find gas or public transport to get from what was once your home to your job to feel a sense on unease. All those mornings I didn't want to get out of bed are nothing to the feelings I've had of late. Things just don't feel right.

Fortunately, the election went the way I'd hoped. That's all I'll say about politics. Except, I'm still struck by the look on Anne Romney's face as Mitt conceded. In her red Oscar or Fiandaca or whatever it was she wore, with those boulder sized rock crystal beads around her neck, she looked as though she'd been woken from some nightmare only to find that the dream was real and all of it while standing in front of millions of people. So much for smug, self satisfaction.

 Smug self satisfaction is the operative phrase. Fashion today, or more to the point, the fashion business, has drowned in its own puddle of standing water. Reading the news of Balenciaga, the exit of Nicholas Ghesquierre and the machinations of LVMH to somehow show up PPR, Nicholas' supposed dissatisfaction with the lack of "support" given by Mr. Pinault, his unhappiness at the "freedom" and "license" so freely given to Hedi Slimane for his re-tread of (Y)SL, all of this "business" is stultifyingly dull and has nothing to do with fashion. Fashion, that poor unsuspecting victim, not to mention all of us who have followed her, as though she were a siren song or the pied piper, have come to a place in the forest empty of trees, water, sky or light. It's a scorched earth we stand on.

Slimane's (Y)SL means little or nothing to me. Other than editors and the conglomerate that owns and supports it and a few die-hard sheep it has no validity. Balenciaga has been the same in my eyes for years. Sure, the accessories, shoes and bits and pieces made money and noise.
lock-step editors
The gush of hyperbole from editors like Suzy Menkes at the International Herald Tribune and others at the Times, WSJ and a host of blogs/bloggers made Ghesquierre out to be the most influential design force of the past 10 years. The item he sent the world scurrying to copy was a pair of cargo pants. Gee. ( I know I over simplify, but I'm trying to make a point here. Work with me on this...) From his beginning where he "designed"a much photographed vest that was a COMPLETE copy of one by the master of collage, Koos van den Akker, put an sour taste in my mouth. Koos was my last boss before I struck out on my own. There is only one Koos, and fortunately the world is about to learn a great deal more about him thanks to an up-coming book and documentary film.

Nicholas who pointedly avoided the Balenciaga archive made one unfortunate misstep by that decision. The ethos of Balenciaga's approach to design was that the fabric, no matter its property: hard or soft, must move with the body. Never should it be in combat with the body. Despite all the creative experiments that Nicholas achieved with his fabrics, many of them man made state of the art manipulations of disparate materials they rarely worked with the body. Hard, harder and rock hardest is one way to describe them.They were the stuff of a trend poisoned editor's dream. Aggressive, self-consciously studied clothing rested on the shoulders of models like provocative sandwich boards, one moment drwing attention and the next repelling it. The rare times I came upon women in the street wearing the label it was too often re-issued designs from the original archive. They were often coats that made your heart stop. So, no tears from this corner. If LVMH now wants to give him his own label, he should remember that is in name and contract only. One need only to look at Galliano and his eponymous label to see that it is only yours as long as you have a job. The moment you're no longer essential, the name stays and you go.

There's a lot more to be said on this. I don't want to go on and on and risk boring you.  The newspapers and blogosphere are jammed with innocuous stories and pathetic bits passed off as news. It's not. Tory Burch's legal problems with her husband Chris of C.Wonder fame (and the guy whose money set her up and continues to head her business' board) is all just a mammoth luxury problem. Anna Wintour and DVF climbing in between the battling parties is unseemly. Kate Moss' supposed nervous breakdown while shooting CK ads in panties sans bra with Marky Mark is simply fantasy. The prescribed Valium to help cope wasn't as effective as coke. Simple math.
Model pregnancies, break-ups and break downs isn't news. Reed Krakoff looking at the camera in a NYT's story about being the consultant to the architects in charge of building the new tower in the Hudson Yards that will house the new Coach headquarters as though he were president of MOMA instead of a handbag company and another that couldn't make a dress that storm victims would take even if it were offered for free. He can design a great bag, but that's the beginning and end of story. He knows how to buy pedigreed art, furniture and homes like the best of them. But that's not rocket science when you have that kind of money. It buys you a cozy seat on the board of the most important body of American Fashion designers, too. In the end, this is all just monkey business. The big ape getting throttled by the rabid chimp with the hairy low hanging balls. Its all just a jungle, and we're just the suckers off to the sides watching helplessly like forlorn bunnies forgotten on the sofa.

*all images shot by me at Montreal's Musee' de Beaux Arts

Friday, November 2, 2012

New York City: Humbled and Healing

NYC Hurricane Sandy
The unimaginable happened. Hurricane Sandy, that unwelcomed and uninvited guest to this teeming city of communities and commerce stealthily slipped up the coastline breaching every barrier in her path. Like so many storms in the recent past New Yorkers had become immune to worry, sure that the weathermen and women were simply hyping a flurry or drizzle to grab the spotlight from the bigger stories in the world.
Preparedness for many of us consisted of buying extra mixers to go with an extended cocktail hour and a back up of popcorn to get us through the extra films we’d rented. Many of us eschewed the nasty business of taping our windows simply because the messy residue of glue left behind was more trouble than its worth when time came to remove it. Better to just kick back, keep the yummies coming and for god’s sake have enough batteries at hand for the TV’s remote. I even ventured to New Jersey to an auction of art and mid-century modern furniture the day the storm hit thinking I’d have an edge with fewer people as foolhardy as myself to venture out. Needless to say, the sparse auction room was but a trick of the eye with 1000 people on the internet and phone lines bidding everything out from under we poor suckers sitting impotently on our folding chairs.
NYC Hurricane Sandy
Well upon leaving at 7 p.m. the rain had started and there was a bit of a gust in the air. By the time we got to the Goethals Bridge and on into Brooklyn Heights (I needed to close my windows, block the fireplace, a wind tunnel for soot and wild life, get some fresh undies, my computer and my rain boots) the rain and wind was blowing sideways down the street. Staying on the UWS seemed wise considering the Mayor had shut down all public transport and closed almost all the bridges; so needlessly dramatic, not to mention inconvenient to my way of thinking. Throughout the night I kept waking up to the screaming wind and rain battering the windows but chalked it up to a noisy storm. It wasn’t. NYC Hurricane Sandy
The following morning showed me and everyone else from New England to North Carolina and New Jersey most dramatically of all that Hurricane Sandy came, saw and conquered us all. Power for many tens of thousands, if not millions is but a memory, even a week after the event.
Got Gas???
Lower Manhattan (from 39th street down) is without light, water or heat, other than what little generators are able to muster. Businesses are shut for the time being. Underground garages, basements of buildings and lobbies and low-lying parks are submerged. The subway system to a large degree is a series of subterranean waterways. Many, many homes in the outer boroughs were burned to the ground with remaining gas lines still burning unabated. Trees are down throughout the city and suburbs taking with them essential power lines, access to roadways and internet/cellular services are compromised in unprecedented ways.
NYC Hurricane Sandy
All of this is just to say that unlike the past where we all squeaked by with little more than a snow day from school or some branches and the odd tree down in a park or some less fortunate neighborhood, this time we got kissed by the big one. All we can do is exercise patience, be helpful and understanding to those around us who are suffering the same discomforts and keep an eye on how the state and national government work through this catastrophe for and with us. That is a telling and important story, of its own. The next time we are threatened with a visit by a boisterous, inelegant blow-hard like Sandy, let’s do all we can to keep her where she belongs… outside instead of in.
The President, Govenor Christie, and The National Gaurd