Thursday, November 25, 2010

Links a la Mode -- IFB

And once again my cranky natterings are included in IFB's weekly roundup.  Enjoy many insightful posts!

links a la mode

Giving Thanks

Edited by: Holier than Now

It's  Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and many of us are looking forward to the  Black Friday sales - oh wait, I mean spending time with our families  and friends! But it's wonderful (and kind of weird) that so many of the  people that influence and support us on a daily basis won't be gathered  around our table; they'll be hanging around our web address, retweeting  our (sometimes) witty comments, liking our latest post on Facebook, etc.  Whether or not you celebrate turkey day, as a blogger it's hard not to  be full of gratitude for the resources we share on a regular basis. This  week, Tickle Me Chic helps ban the blogging blues, Previously Owned does your holiday gift shopping for you, and Make the World a Prettier Place sums up the reason so many of us are grateful just to be alive (hello? fashion!) with a visual history.

Links à la Mode: November 25th


Shopbop bags: Burch, Matt & Natt, Minkoff, IRO, Botkier, Gryson, LAMB, Chloe, BE&D, DVF

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lanvin for H&M -- really?

I’m so ambiguously uneasy about designer collabs with fast fashion chains. On one hand, the democratization of fashion and all that jazz. On the other, there’s this – people who spend $1500 on Lanvin for H&M. People talk about how much they spent, a few commenters point out that they could’ve gotten the  real Lanvin for the money, other commenters saying that this IS NOT THE POINT -- $1700 will only buy you one Lanvin thing instead of several.  And this, to me, is the most interesting point. Because… $1700 is a lot of money. Something that costs this much is so out of the question for me that I don’t even get tempted. Most designer clothing is like art to me – beautiful, unattainable, and to be admired from afar without ever thinking of ownership.

But fast fashion is all about ownership and consumption – lots and lots, because each single item is so cheap. There’s no admiration component at all. And while every single thing is cheap, the cost adds up. $99-$199 is the cost of most Lanvin for H&M dresses – a tad steep for fast fashion, but very cheap for the designer items. That is, cheap enough to tempt one into buying, and often multiple items. 

And this is really the thing: designer-fast fashion collabs end up costing more to many people because even though they would never buy the original designer, they buy the collabs. They are a cunning way of luring so many people to become consumers instead of admirers, of making them spend money on the brand they would never even consider before because it’s so out of their range. So we spend more, and get… what exactly do we get? Polyester, Made in China (and probably nowhere near fair labor practices) that carry a designer tag – a legal knock off, really. 

So we can talk about democratization of fashion, but really, doesn’t it simply increase consumerism and exploitation of cheap overseas labor? And is it really different from the more traditional designer diffusion items, like perfume, scarves and sunglasses?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book day!

So it looks like The House of Discarded Dreams is available on Amazon. Yay!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I've responded to all subs sent before September 10th. If you sent a submission before that date, you should've received either a rejection or a hold request; if you haven't received a response, please query.

Try to get your stories to me before December 1st -- I will be accepting subs until Dec 31st, but since I'll be making most of my selections in December, there's a pretty good chance that the antho will fill up before the deadline. Stragglers beware.

Finally, I'm getting way too many werewolves and not enough other creatures. At this point, wolves are a very very tough sell. As well as Little Red Riding Hood retellings. As well as "victim turns the table" stories. Oh, and bantering paranormal investigators, if they do banter, should be at least amusing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


These are from the greenhouse at my school. Behold the gorgeousness!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Fashion Show -- Season Two! With spoilers.

So the Fashion Show, Bravo's response to losing Project Runway, has returned for season two. Kelly Rowland has been replaced by Iman, which was a wise decision. She's a host/judge supermodel, much like Heidi, but better. Oh, so much better!

Overall, what PR has ultimately chose was accessibility and grudging concession to what 'women in the streets' actually wear -- which, in the producing and judging minds, are drab, unimaginative clothes in the mold of Heidi's New Balance line and trickling down boho esthetics, with a dash of Alexander Wang and other 'edgy' but deeply conventional designers. Klum represents this reluctant, nose-holding accessibility very well -- just like many a diffusion line.

The Fashion Show, on the other hand, has Iman and Isaac Mizrahi (ironically, the king of diffusion lines), who seem to be pushing for a much more high fashion, theatrical sensibility. And in my opinion, if one was to make a TV show about fashion, this is the way to go. I know that there's bad blood between Tim Gunn and Isaac Mizrahi -- and please don't make me choose! Gunn is like a long-lost uncle; Mizrahi is hugely entertaining and says terrible things to people. Oh, and another judge is Laura Brown of Elle Magazine.

Now to the show itself. First, all challenges are team challenges - there're two fashion houses, so that creates some interesting dynamics: even though there are individual winners/losers, the emphasis is on creating a cohesive collection and cooperation. I'm curious to see how that will play out.

Then there was the challenge itself: to use Iman as the muse. Cultural hilarity referencing tribal patterns and contrasting Iman's Somalian past with her now being a part of the "modern world" -- all of it by the House of Nami (Iman backward, get it?). The end result was surprisingly good, with mostly white collection with interesting and varied shapes.

The other team (House of Emerald Syx), on the other hand, had Calvin. Calvin was appalled by the idea of having to work with people, and let his displeasure be known. They chose to work with bright colors! They lost because of lack of cohesion. Calvin made a pretty decent saffron yellow draped number, which was deemed 'cheap' and landed him in the bottom two. He stayed however. The girl who made the abominable parasite ruffle dress went home, but not before her and Calvin traded words. (I suspect that they will keep Calvin as long as possible -- he's a one man resentment engine.)

The guest judge was Rachel Roy, who was also a guest judge on Project Runway. Future guest judges will include Rachel Zoe, Johnny Weir, and Dita von Teese -- people who should've been guest judges on PR, but weren't. I was actually dreaming about PR being completely revamped, with the judging panel composed of Simon Doonan, Lynne Yaeger, and Tilda Swinton, with Apfel, Horyn and von Teese guest-judging. Thank you, Fashion Show, for partially fulfilling my dream! Let's hope the rest of the season lives up to the expectations.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Gentlewoman -- Autumn/Winter 2010

I finally got a subscription to The Gentlewoman -- I wanted it ever since Susie Bubble waxed poetic about it. Subscriptions to the US aren't cheap, but I broke and got one anyway. I wasn't disappointed.

The magazine doesn't contain a single article on weight loss, diet, exercise routine, or man-pleasing (as one would expect from something named The Gentlewoman, but still, in the world of ladymags, it's a surprise.) Instead, it contains interviews with successful women, profiles of more successful women and cultural icons, age and racial diversity, a delightful article on apples, and several features on fashion and clothes. And it's really great. I don't necessarily demand that all ladymags be deep deep reading; but anything that doesn't assume that I'm an insecure shopaholic blow-up doll is a welcome relief.

So here are some pages snapped with my phone, for the purposes of conveying the experience; I do sincerely hope that some of you decide to subscribe. Ten bucks seems like a lot to drop on a magazine, but this one is hefty and beautiful and treats its readers as people! Anyway, here.

Some ads! With Part I Table of Contents.

And a very nice portrait of Ashley Olsen, who gives a good, thoughtful interview about running Elizabeth and James.

Next up, we have more detailed interviews and profiles of people like British comic Julia Davis (who doesn't really smoke, as the caption helpfully explains):

And Yoko Ono, who is shockingly not at all maligned:


Then there's a profile of Lukwesa Burak:

Then there's a great, great feature on Inez van Lamsweerde (who's also on the cover), and whose photography is just so startling and interesting:

What I really love about magazines as a genre is the random element: there are always articles on some unexpected matters, of which I may have not thought -- but here it is, and it's cool, and I learned something. This time, it's apples!

Beautiful photography and informative text about apple varieties: not the subject I expected, but glad to have encountered.

Then there are fashion photoshoots. I liked a lot that some of the captions included bits of information about the models, not just the clothes they're wearing. Here's a page from their Long Looks feature. This is totally how I dress! Score for Team Highwaisted Pants.

Then there are several more features, on things like shapewear and seasonal clothing. Shot in black and white and unapologetic (yes, this sweater is Lanvin.) I think luxury products such as these can be appreciated as art objects -- and frankly, I prefer that. I love Lanvin, will never be able to afford the clothes, but I still can admire them. 

I find admiration for the unreachable much healthier than anxious aspiration of just-out-of-reach things, the insecure grabbing for the almost-affordable. And more inspiring than the perpetual '100 things under 100 bucks you need RIGHT NOW' features popular with Lucky (I do like Lucky) and Marie Claire -- and nowadays, even Vogue is debasing itself with those. Thank you , ladymags, I know what they sell at Target and Old Navy -- show me the beautiful things I wouldn't see otherwise, and forget the social climbing. I'd rather look at pretty things I don't even think about buying than overspend on crap I don't need. Anyway.

Last but not least, Gesticulations!

A really lovely thing about this magazine is it's quality -- good, thick paper, no annoying perfume samples in the creased pages that make the entire magazine artificially stinky... really, what a magazine should be. I'll be renewing. Too bad it only comes out twice a year!

(And since this is shaping up to be a review month... I will be writing about some books I'm reading, as well as Ella Lai's clothes. Yes, again -- she's just that good.)

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Narrator -- Michael Cisco

Michael Cisco, whose book The Traitor I reviewed here, has another book out! I'm reading it -- slowly, as the time mid-semester is precious and split between editing and everything else I want to do, but I just have to talk about The Narrator.

Short version: please go and buy it. Cisco is one of those writers (lamentably few) who write genuinely unusual things. It's a shame he's not more widely read (although I suspect that many of the folks who insist they want new and unusual really don't), and something that needs to be fixed. So read the book, you won't regret it.

It's a little less aggressively strange than The Traitor, but it drips with the same vivid and visual malaise -- white skies, sick trees, vividly drawn snatches of the landscape otherwise drowned in radiance or fog. The language is half-delirious, and the beginning of the book evokes both Notes From Underground and Felix Krull. Low, the protagonist and a student in the college that prepares Narrators (people who recite events until only words encountering them remain, replacing the actual memory of the event), is not supposed to be drafted -- but he is, due to bureaucratic indifference and incompetence of the college administrators. His panicked efforts to avoid draft reminded me of the desperation with which my high school classmates applied to colleges -- the student status granted the draft deferral, and those who were not lucky enough to get in often faked a variety of psychiatric ailments. Low's efforts brought forth this visceral memory in me, all those boys who didn't want to go to the army because they knew it will forever change them; possibly into people they wouldn't like.

Another piercing recognition came when Low describes the separation of priesthood into white and black -- an Orthodox Christian tradition, where only black priesthood (monks) are allowed to rise to the top of the hierarchy, while the white priesthood (parish priests) are usually married and childed. Cisco takes this separation to the next logical extreme, and Life and Death churches are born, even though the similarity with Orthodox Christianity are quite clear.

Then there's the war itself -- Low as the narrator is supposed to document the story, but he has as much trouble as anyone else guessing the point of it all. The looming unease and the whispered uncertainty of it again reminded me of fear of my classmates of being sent to Afghanistan -- that hushed and unknown conflict fought for no discernible reason. It is always tempting to load the story with perceived meanings of the moment and attribute them to writerly intent -- and frankly, many writers aren't clever enough to hide their intent. Not so in this case, where the intent becomes irrelevant since instead we can have meaning.

And this is really something I love about Cisco's writing -- in all the strangeness, there are always these moments of acute, almost painful recognition and identification. I don't know if yours will be the same as mine, but I'm sure you'll find a few there -- be those in the dreamlike wanderings across strange cities and battles, in the unusual crew Low joins, in the palpable terror of the mysterious Edeks. Cisco writes like no one else, and this book is unlike any other, although filled with echoes of things one remembers and Cisco somehow knows.