30 March 2011

The Wisdom and Disenchantment of the Style Rookie

Tavi (aka The Style Rookie) had a recent blog post that really resonated with me. In this post, titled "I feel like the photo to accompany this post should be a lot more intense and introspective-seeming but hey! mirrors are pretty introspective," Tavi wrote about, basically, becoming disenchanted with the fashion world, wondering if she'll always be interested in fashion, and where to go from here. I've kind of felt that way myself lately, mainly because a big opportunity has landed in my lap, one that I was not expecting and that has completely dumbfounded me. I have the chance to accomplish my lifelong dream, and I'm wondering if I even want to.

Like Tavi addressed in her post, something "is different" about the fashion industry now. I know exactly what she means. The fashion world has changed so much in the past five-six years that I barely recognize it. I find myself asking, "Is this what I wanted? Is this the field that I became utterly enraptured with more than a decade ago?" I just don't like the changes that I'm seeing and I'm finding that I want to distance myself from it, not become more engrossed. The fact that fashion has become so fashionable lately is really a double-edged sword.

When I first became interested in fashion back in my early high school years, opportunities in this field were beyond limited. Teen Vogue didn't exist. Ed2010.com didn't exist. I don't even think Vogue.com existed. I was the only person in my high school who read Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and W. Even in college, the only girl on my freshman hall who was remotely interested in fashion and aesthetics had never seen an issue of W (she stumbled into my room one night and wondered what the giant magazine I was holding was...um, W). But, back then, Karolina Kurkova was more likely to grace the cover than Kim Kardashian. And then along came "Project Runway," The Sartorialist, "The September Issue," "Valentino: The Last Emperor," "Sex and the City" (well, SATC existed when I was in high school, but it didn't explode in popularity until I was in college). And suddenly everyone wants a piece of the fashion pie. It's no longer unique or esoteric. There are now tons of different opportunities in the industry, but everyone is after them now.

Like I said, it's really a double-edged sword. When I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, I wrote about the democratization of high fashion, and how this is a good thing. It isn't a field that should be limited to the provenance of the elite. Fashion, as the industry has gained popularity, has recently become a field worthy of academic consideration...and it certainly wasn't before. Case-in-point: Parsons created a Masters in Fashion Studies program (the program is only in the second year of its genesis). I wrote about how this was significant and how the field was not frivolous. This is something that I have been trying to convince myself of, really, for an entire decade. Is it important? Does it merit academic exploration? Does it make a worthwhile contribution to society? In my scholarship essay, I argued that, yes, it is important and it is something to be studied. I wasn't able to convince the Fulbright Committee of this, of course, and sometimes I have trouble convincing myself.

This is only because of the changes that have come about as a result of its popularity, globalization, and democratization. Now I meet people who say they are interested in fashion but do not know who Valerie Steele is (Are you kidding me??!! That's like being interested in politics and not knowing who Hilary Clinton is.) They don't know about Edna Woolman-Chase and the early origins of Condé Nast. They're not familiar with the writings of Lisa Armstrong and Suzy Menkes or the curatorial work of Harold Koda and Hamish Bowles. I've even met fashion design majors who couldn't hold conversations on the contributions of Cristobal Balenciaga ("Who?"), Diana Vreeland, and Edward Steichen. What are people learning about fashion then? What is it about the field that they like? How can you proclaim to be concerned about this subject if you're not cognizant of the most important people to have shaped it?

All of this leads me to wonder where fashion is heading and if I really want to be a part of it. Will I wake up one day and realize that my dream was just an illusion? Like Tavi hinted at in her blog post, for many of us, the illusion already started to shatter after the recent John Galliano incident. Here is a person who I've admired for nearly ten years. I wrote about wanting to curate a fashion exhibit around his fantastical closing runway outfits. I had him listed as an inspiration in my blog bio (which I've since removed for fear that others might think I'm anti-Semitic were I to have kept it). And then he's shouting about loving Hitler and being fired by Dior and being sent off to rehab. Prior to that incident, Alexander McQueen committed suicide. Here was someone who many of us thought would revolutionize the industry and become a lifelong, household name. And even before that, Valentino was somewhat forced into retirement when his label was bought. I know that these unfortunate events could happen in any industry. People pass, retire, get fired, etc. It just makes me question my commitment to fashion on some level.

But then I look around my room and my apartment. I've been archiving issues of Vogue for so long that I must store them in three different locations (the early archives are at home with my Dad, the middle years are in storage at my Mom's, and the most recent editions along with my favorite issues are in my apartment). I've visited fashion museums and exhibits on two continents. I've collected rare editions of books on fashion (some that are valued at over $200 on amazon.com). And I have dreamed night and day about seeing my name on Vogue's masthead. It's the one thing that I've thought would make my life complete. If I could just accomplish that, I'd truly be happy. I would want nothing. And now the opportunity is before me, and, like Tavi, I'm wondering if I should "get out of it what I get out of it, ignore or laugh at the rest, and bring the enjoyable stuff back home to add to my collection of all that stuff I'm trying to absorb" (The Style Rookie).

I'm still pondering that, but I'm as disenchanted as I've ever been. I really wish I could say otherwise.

(** quotations are from The Style Rookie at http://www.thestylerookie.com/**)

29 March 2011

easyJet Heads to Amman, Jordan

One of my favorite travel bloggers, A Lady in London, has been Tweeting about an upcoming trip to Amman, Jordan for the past couple days. Her tweets on the side of the blog really piqued my curiosity, so I checked out her Twitter page. She had tweeted about taking a press trip to Amman with members of easyJet, citing the reason for the trip as the airline's expansion to Jordan. I think this is pretty exciting news for budget travel. easyJet's expansion makes the Middle East that much more accessible to travelers who are looking for deals or who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to venture to that corner of the world.

I must confess that despite this initial enthusiasm, I have had sort of a love/hate relationship with the budget airlines in Europe. My sister and I have spent many-a-night huddled on the floor of airports in Luton, Stanstead, Gatwick, and other cities around Europe waiting for an inconvenient (but cheap) flight to somewhere like Warsaw or Paris. On our most recent trip, our plans to travel to Stockholm and Oslo were thwarted by sky-high carry-on baggage fees (disclaimer: the flights were not booked with easyJet) that caused us to eat the price of the tickets and vow to visit the cities on our next European excursion. In fact, I don't think I have flown with a budget carrier since a flight with Laura from Krakow to Berlin in 2006. (I try to save all of my boarding cards.)

Instead, we've been flying out of Heathrow with British Airways (my absolute favorite airline in the entire world) or Iberia. In other words, we've generally shied away from making plans on the budget airlines, even though they provide low-cost service to destinations like Istanbul, Fez, Bucharest, and Helsinki (so, some pretty fantastic places that we want to visit).

easyJet's expansion to Amman might cause me to rethink my recent aversion to the budget carriers. Petra is a must-see destination on my travel list, and easyJet just made it that much more affordable for me to visit...so, thank you, easyJet! I look forward to flying with you again.

The Fabulous Traina Sisters

Victoria and Vanessa Traina are without a doubt two of the most stylish sisters in the whole of fashion-dom. They're up there with Mary-Kate and Ashley, Lucy and Plum Sykes, Missy and Frankie Rayder, Jaime and Jodie Kidd, and any other stylish sister duo I failed to mention. They exude style, which is not surprising given their lineage. As the daughters of best-selling author Danielle Steele (who collects couture the way most people collect, oh, DVDs), they've been exposed to high fashion from a very early age. They had a formal coming-out at the legendary Crillon Ball in Paris (other debutantes have included Jane Aldridge, Lauren Bush, Anna's daughter, and Dree Hemingway). And now they're fixtures on the international fashion scene, attending the major shows and even acting as design muses for certain designers. So, it should come as no surprise when the sisters step out looking as fabulous as they did in the above photo from Vogue.com.

(** photo from www.vogue.com**)

Alexandra Kotur Departs Vogue

And another one bites the dust over at Vogue. Alexandra Kotur, the magazine's current Style Director, will be departing Vogue for the greener, more society-laden pages of Town & Country, according to WWD. Unlike the other recent Vogue upheavals, I don't have a strong opinion regarding Ms. Kotur's departure. Her work always focused more on the aspects of the fashion industry that I find rather unappealing: society, society balls and parties, rich people/ heiresses wearing Lanvin, etc. Even when she was the Senior Editor for Special Projects back in 2003, I don't know that her work really jumped off the page and moved me in the way that, say, the reviews of Sarah Mower always have done. She's talented, to be sure, but she wasn't someone that I wanted to emulate.

So, who do I think will be replacing her at Vogue? That's a tough one. There have been so many changes to that masthead in the past year and a half that even I can barely keep up with it. This person would have to have an edge on society happenings, since he or she will be responsible for gathering the Ten Best Dressed/ Girl-of-the Moment ladies. This person will also be involved with the big productions Vogue puts on, like the Met Ball (though I believe Sylvana Ward-Durret handles the brunt of that). I'm predicting the promotion will come from the top middle of the masthead, someone young who has been at Vogue for a few years. Maybe relative newcomer Ricki de Sole? As the daughter of Domenico de Sole, she certainly knows a thing or two about money and Society. She probably has connections up the wazoo, too. Still, she hasn't been with the magazine that long, and heiresses tend to depart pretty quickly (um...Devon (née Schuster) Radziwill, Claiborne Swanson), so that might not be a safe pick. I don't know, I'm stumped.

Will I be reading T&C now that another Vogue alumna is joining the ranks? T&C is one of those magazines that I covertly flip through on occasion. It's one of the more pretentious magazines, in my opinion, out there. It's on par with something like the Robb Report in that it makes no bones about who the target audience really is. Magazines like Vogue, Bazaar, T+L, etc. feature ideas that are sophisticated and cultured, which appeals to a certain group of people, but they aren't blatantly focused on wealth. I only became interested in T&C when Lauren Bush appeared on the cover back in the early 2000s. Since then other society girls like Amanda Hearst (or was it Lydia?), Lauren Santo Domingo, and Eugenia Silva have appeared on the cover. The fashion editorials are OK, but nothing forward-thinking enough to really hold my attention. So, no, I really doubt I'll be reading T&C any more than I do now.

Congratulations are in order to Ms. Kotur, though. Brava!

22 March 2011

Inspiration and the Bookstore Tradition

One of my favorite things to do is to spend several hours at a bookstore, reading all of the new magazines, journals, and books that I can. The goal is to come up with inspiration: new ideas for articles and blog posts, as well as ideas to stir the mind. This is one of the things that I picked up when I met with an editor at Teen Vogue in the summer of 2009. She began each day by sifting through dozens of newspapers and clipping or bookmarking articles and ideas that could be of use for her own work later on. She struck me as not only an extremely successful person (if you work at a national magazine, chances are high that you're a go-getter in every sense of the word), but an incredibly brilliant journalist. I'm already an intellectually curious person, but I definitely wanted to emulate what I saw in this editor even more.

What do I read when I camp out at the bookstore for a couple hours? Here are the titles that I'm most likely to sift through:

- Vogue (Obviously. I begin by writing down all of the changes to the masthead. For April, Anna hired lots of new folks, so I like to find out as much about those individuals as I can.)

- Condé Nast Traveler (This is one of my favorite travel magazines, so I always read it. I used to subscribe and probably will again. I find that the advice is a little more useful for my budget and travel style than upscale mags like T+L).

- Travel & Leisure (Even though the articles tend to cater to a higher income crowd, I still read this magazine each month.)

- National Geographic Traveler (I really love this magazine. I always come up with great ideas either for blog posts or for future travel initiatives.)

- Tricycle (I only recently began reading this Buddhist publication, but I absolutely love it. Great ideas, excellent advice, lots of information to stir the brain.)

- Vanity Fair (I never read all of the articles, but I enjoy analyzing the masthead and contributors.)

- Lucky (One doesn't so much read Lucky as look at the pictures of clothing, shoes, makeup, accessories, etc. I still come up with some interesting ideas after each perusal, though. I'm also enjoying seeing how the new EIC is transforming the magazine.)

- International editions of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Australian editions are my current favorites.

- The Atlantic (If I'm in the mood for some current events or political junk (which is rare), this is where I turn.)

- Women's Health (I haven't carried out my resolution to go to the gym, but I am curious to read about ways to eat healthier or maintain an overall healthier lifestyle. And, who knows, I might go to the gym one more time this year...though I doubt it.)

Then I make my way to the real treasures: the books. I always walk down the fiction and literature aisles, jotting down titles as I go. I also head to travel (of course!) and then Eastern Philosophy and Religion, which is my new area of interest. I think I wrote down at least five titles from the Buddhism and Tao shelves to request from my local library.

What kinds of notes am I left with after all of this reading and note-taking has finished (about two hours overall)? Well, yesterday I came across an article about the volcano in Iceland that I might write a letter to the editor in response to; I read about a bridal boutique in my area (featured in Lucky) that I'll probably check out either for personal reasons or for the blog; I jotted down two book titles that I'll be requesting from the library; I wrote down a few websites about eco-living that I'll want to check out; I came up with two more ideas for blog posts; and I ended up making a mad dash to the library to reserve more books on Buddhism. Who knows what ideas will pop into my head that I'll want to explore in greater detail after a mad reading session.

I write all of this to offer ideas that might inspire you, but also to wonder where your inspiration for writing, learning, and, well, living come from. So, what inspires you? What motivates you to rework your lifestyle, read new things, or experiment with different concepts?

Time is a precious luxury, so I know we're all committed to making the most out of the time we have!

21 March 2011

"To a Mountain in Tibet" Part One

If a book could be accompanied by an audio soundtrack or "theme song," I think the song that would best fit Colin Thubron's newest book, "To a Mountain in Tibet," would be U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." I've only just begun reading it, but this is a powerful book with an important underlying theme that really resonates with me.

Colin Thubron is a British travel writer (I like to think of him as the British Paul Theroux, or Paul Theroux as the American Colin Thubron) who has produced such literary hallmarks as "Shadow of the Silk Road" and "The Lost Heart of Asia." What I love about his writing is that he is honest and straightforward, if even a bit of a curmudgeon at times, while fully immersing himself in and exploring the local culture. The reader knows that he is not taking this journey merely for the sake of selling a book; there is something deep and intrinsic that imbues his curiosity about the world, and it shines through in his books.

"To a Mountain in Tibet" is more than a travel narrative. While coping with his own familial loss, Thubron decides to undertake a pilgrimage to Mount Kailas in Tibet, a place that is sacred to one-fifth of humanity, according to the book-jacket (I'm sure this figure is true, but I'll have to verify it). An abbot Thubron encounters along the journey tells him about the mountain, "You know this is a mountain of great power. To travel there multiplies merit. The Buddha often flew there with his followers. And spiritual treasure-seekers meditated there - thousands of them- so its caves are full of blessing." The reader knows right from the beginning of the book that this is a special journey with a unique purpose. What is it that Thubron is searching for? What has compelled him to make this journey, to climb a mountain that no one ever has before? What is he hoping to find and will he, in fact, find it?

I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know how the journey will end, but I understand and appreciate Thubron's quest already. Unlike many of the reviewers on GoodReads, I haven't found his writing to be depressing. Instead, I have found it to be introspective and highly personal. Aren't we all searching for something? That perfect job or experience that will make our life complete? Thubron is approaching this search inwardly, for he writes about the tenants of Buddhism in "To a Mountain in Tibet."

I've been very interested in Buddhism lately (that is another reason why I was drawn to this book), reading such works as "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones," "Living Buddha, Living Christ," and "Awakening the Buddha Within," which I highly, highly recommend. Buddhism really speaks to me even though I wasn't raised in a religious family. We didn't read the Bible or talk about God. (To this day, I don't think my sister has ever even opened a Bible.) Religion was just a non-factor. I remember when a friend from high school said to me, "I've known you all these years, but I don't know what you believe." I recall being absolutely dumbfounded by this question. Believe? What do I believe about what? I didn't have an answer for her, and I probably still do not. Yet, I've been drawn to Buddhism, mostly because the teachings of Buddhism are principles that I believe can fit in with anyone's life, whether s/he is spiritual or not. It's about being a better person, living a full life, being happy with you are, and exploring from within. "Help yourself," as the Buddha said.

So, is this why I believe Colin Thubron made that epic trek to Mount Kailas? Is he a "spiritual treasure-seeker?" And, did he find what he was looking for? I'll find out tomorrow...and I'll let you know!

Happy Birthday, Grace!

One of the most influential figures in modern fashion celebrates her 70th birthday this April. Who is that, you might be wondering? Here are a few clues: 1) she's a redhead; 2) she's Welsh, and 3) she's arguably the world's greatest living stylist (at least she is according to Anna Wintour). I could only be referring to one person: the incomparable Grace Coddington.

In the April letter from the editor, Anna Wintour writes that Grace is "the fashion insider's heroine." This is most certainly true. Before R. J. Cutler's documentary, "The September Issue," put her on the map, so to speak, only people who were truly fanatical about fashion (folks like, um, me) knew about the work and genius of Grace Coddington. She is the Creative Director of Vogue (so second-in-command), but her work takes place behind the scenes. She doesn't write flashy articles about Gwyneth Paltrow or Amar'e Stoudemire like Plum Sykes or Hamish Bowles. She doesn't review the collections like Sarah Mower or contributors like Lynn Yaeger. Yet, her vision permeates every page of the magazine. It's her work that we really remember after sifting through each issue of Vogue. She is the magic-maker or dream-weaver, if you will. She creates the fantasy and she makes the enchanting world of fashion come to life. I don't know where the industry would be without her.

So, here's to you, Grace Coddington. Thank you for your work, your dedication, and your contribution to fashion. May you have another beautiful 70 years!

10 March 2011


Today is Brian's and my six-year anniversary. (Hurray!) It's hard to believe that we met and started dating six years ago today. We've been through a lot together, like most couples who have been together for five years or longer. There have been some terrible haircuts, horrible outfits, loud shoes, but a lot of happiness, too. I think that is because we really balance each other out. That cliché about opposites attracting might actually be true.

I think this was taken in 2007 at my friend Sarah's annual Christmas Party. This is one of those rare photos in which both people are looking at the camera, there is no glare from my glasses, and everyone is smiling.

Here we are having dinner with my dad. I think this was taken in 2005. The quality isn't as good because it was taken with a disposable camera and scanned. I didn't join the digital age until late in 2007, so most early photos of me and Brian are actually in photo albums and not on a desktop.

We're out celebrating one of my best friend's birthdays (Leah!) here. I'm drawing a complete blank on where this was taken, too. Maybe I do need Facebook, after all. I love the red lights in the background, though!

This was taken at Brian's younger sister's wedding in October 2009.

...and maybe the seventh year will finally be the charm for us!

09 March 2011

Sarah Burton's Ice Queen and Court for McQueen

The question over at Alexander McQueen, since the loss of the maestro himself, has been how much should Sarah Burton mesh her individual creativity with the vision that McQueen had himself for his label. After viewing her first complete solo collection for the house of Alexander McQueen, I think she did both perfectly. She married her talents and unique point of view with the raw genius of that of Alexander McQueen in the brilliantly-themed "The Ice Queen and Her Court" collection.

It was a collection of both light and airy and tough and edgy clothing, with little color. Nearly every shoe was a platform laced boot of white or black. Models also wore caps of feathers, fur hoods, and little visible makeup. The collection wasn't entirely wearable, but I don't think it needs to be. There is always a client for those who produce fanciful clothing. In fact, there is one dress in particular that I would be lining up to purchase...

I loved the opening look modeled by Freja as the Ice Queen herself.

I could see Daphne Guinness wearing this.

I hope that isn't real fur since I find this entire look highly wearable.

This looks like an ideal suit for the office to me.

Another gorgeous Ice Queen look. I wonder if Tilda Swinton's role in "The Chronicles of Narnia" was partial inspiration for this collection...

Just the slightest touch of color in this delicate lavender ensemble.

And the most beautiful, breath-taking dress of all. Sarah Burton must have a window into my dreams because this is exactly what I have envisioned wearing for a wedding. Time to start saving! I.want.this.dress.

(** all images from style.com**)

Vintage Linda Evangelista

This photo of Linda Evangelista by Mario Testino is one of my absolute favorite fashion photos. It was taken for V Magazine in 2001 and also appeared in Testino's "Portraits" exhibit at London's National Portrait Gallery, where I snatched up this postcard in the museum gift shop. I love the neon green backdrop, the black lace headpiece, and, most of all, the expression on Linda's face. There aren't too many models like her around these days.

(** image: Linda Evangelista, V Magazine, 2001, Paris, Mario Testino; National Portrait Gallery, London**)

04 March 2011

Jesus Statue Puts Swiebodzin on the Map

What does the Polish city of Swiebodzin have in common with Rio de Janeiro? Both cities are home to the world's tallest statues of Jesus Christ. While Rio's world-famous "Christ the Redeemer" formerly held the title of World's Tallest Jesus Statue, Poland's "Christ the King" has now claimed this honor. The new statue in Poland stands at 33 meters tall, which represents one meter for each year of Christ's life. This statue of Christ also includes a giant crown, which puts the statue at 51 meters tall. Rio's Christ statue towers in at 38 meters tall and overlooks the whole of the city atop a mountain.

I would love to know what my Christian friends think of this trend in building large statues of Jesus Christ. Is it in poor taste? Is it a proud symbol of everlasting faith? According to The Christian Science Monitor, feelings are mixed in Poland with some Polish Catholics feeling that the statue represents "megalomania" and "grandiosity." Others, like Bishop Stefan Regmunt, believe that the statue is an affirming sign of faith. And, of course, local businesspeople (and likely tourism agents) hope that the iconography of the statue will attract more visitors to Poland.

I've dreamed of visiting Christ the Redeemer ever since I saw "The Chipmunk Adventure" as a young child. (I still tear up when I hear "Off to See the World.") And I'd love to see Christ the King, too, especially since it's in my motherland.

03 March 2011

Mum's the Word at Vogue

Is anyone else surprised that no one from Vogue has released a statement about John Galliano? The incident has practically monopolized Cathy Horyn's writings for the Times this week. Editors from Italian Vogue and the International Herald Tribune have offered their insight and opinions on the matter. Natalie Portman was quick to condemn what Galliano said and to distance herself from Dior. Why hasn't anyone over at Vogue said anything? They haven't even acknowledged that the incident happened. I've checked their website (www.vogue.com) all week for headlines and...nothing. I know they're in the midst of Paris Fashion Week, but this will likely be the biggest issue confronting the fashion community all year. So, why are we hearing crickets on this matter from Vogue?

Anna, are you out there?

01 March 2011

The End of an Era

Well, it's official. John Galliano has been fired from Christian Dior over accusations of anti-Semitic comments. Who would have guessed that something like this would happen? I still can't believe how quickly this unfolded.

I have been hoping that there is more to the story than we are hearing, but after viewing the video of Galliano making those statements, I just don't know. I am deeply saddened to see Galliano's fantastic career come to an end (not to mention the ongoing defamation of his talent), but I'm even more disappointed to see someone I admired so much act in such a way. This is indeed the end of an era for many reasons.

I'm continuing to read up on this issue. There will no doubt be more discussion as it continues to develop.

(** image from style.com**)