Sunday, June 26, 2016
It is with the heaviest of hearts that we write this post. By now, the world has heard of the passing of Bill Cunningham.
His fans are legion. He was definitely old school and a real gentleman, but never a fuddy-duddy. In Sanskrit, "Mahatma" means "Great Soul" and Bill Cunningham was a Mahatma of the first order.
Word spread quickly yesterday on Instagram, Facebook and cable and network TV news. Nobody wanted to believe it. Many shared anecdotes about how they were touched by their interactions with Bill in terms that rivaled descriptions of meeting Pope Francis or Mother Teresa. But their descriptions were heartfelt and not exaggerated. He was 87, and after he reached 80 without hanging up his camera, we just assumed we could keep him forever.
He was a fixture at Fashion Week in New York and across the globe. Over nearly four decades he chronicled street fashion and elevated it to an art form.We were lucky enough on several occasions to have met and been photographed by Bill and to chat with him. Every encounter was a privilege and being photographed elicited an inner "Eeeeeeeeeeeeee" reaction in each of us. The world is a far less interesting place without Bill in it.
We wanted to share just a small number of our encounters in memory of Bill.
You could say it all started in 1997, the first year Valerie joined the Easter Parade. She had no idea who Bill was, but she'd seen the annual photo array, and figured she should participate. Everyone photographs everyone at Easter, so as far as Valerie was concerned, Bill could be anyone with a camera. It wasn't until Easter of 2001 that Valerie finally made it into the paper. (See the lady in the green hat and yellow suit?)
When she saw the photo, Valerie knew EXACTLY who'd taken it from that angle. It was a broadly smiling, slim elderly man in a very un-Easter-ly bright blue jacket, who'd taken several shots while alternately crouching and springing forward to keep up with the crowd.
That first success was enough to keep Valerie going back every year, like a gambler at a blackjack table.
When the two of us met, of course we had to do the Easter Parade together, and in 2009 Bill rewarded our first joint effort. At the time, we didn't know how to do screen grabs, but these are the photos that appeared in the paper and in the video:
Here's Jean with our friend Tziporah Salamon (the first time for both of them)
and Valerie with our friend Shiho (who made her own hat).
We made it in again for Easter of 2011 (video here)
And for Asia Week, 2012 (bottom left quarter of the page), among other occasions.
Bill gave us the most wonderful Christmas present imaginable when he featured us wearing Carol Markel's felt helmets in the center of On the Street just before Christmas of 2012. We like to think Bill had a special place in his heart for hats. Before he took up professional photography, he was a milliner, making hats under his own label, William J.
In October 2013, we attended Issey Miyake's Hues of Red party with our pal Shelley aka Forest City Fashionista, and were thrilled to be photographed by Bill. Shelley and Jean appeared in the New York Times in Bill's Evening Hours coverage of the Miyake party - along with Henry Pierre, Louise Doktor and Tziporah Salamon and a lady with red dreads and a terrific gold-toned jacket. Valerie arrived only minutes later, but the moment was gone. Timing is everything.
(To see the full New York Times page, scroll down or click here for a blow-up.)
Here we are again in Bill's coverage of the September 2015 opening night party for FIT's "Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch" exhibition (video here).
What now turns out to be our final encounter with Bill took place just this past April 1, again at Easter. That's us in the top left corner.
It is definitely the end of an era. It is too soon to wonder whether someone else will take over On the Street and Evening Hours, but even if someone does, no one will ever replace Bill. We can all take some comfort knowing that he loved his work - it's fair to say his life was his work, and his greatest source of pleasure - and that he had the rare privilege of continuing to do what he loved until just days before his death. We hope he would have been tickled pink to know how much he is missed and how many lives he touched.
We have lost an icon. But we had him so much longer than we had any right to expect.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Antonio Lopez, probably the most extraordinary fashion illustrator of the 1970s and 80s, is being celebrated at El Museo del Barrio in their current exhibition, Future Funk Fashion. Last week we attended the exhibition's press preview and opening night. We are both fans of the illustrator/artist whose drawings were ubiquitous in our youth. Antonio was the subject of Mauricio and Roger Padilha's book, Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco, which is chock full of his colorful, sweeping illustration of clothing, models and men.
One of the many victims of the AIDS crisis, Lopez died at the age of 44 in 1987. That so many of his contemporaries were lost at the same time may have contributed to his not receiving the recognition he so clearly deserved. This exhibition, with literally hundreds of drawings, dazzles the eye and demonstrates why he was so in demand at many of the major fashion magazines of the day. The show also highlights his collaboration with his creative partner and lover Juan E. Ramos who died at 53 in 1995.
The gorgeous illustration above of Angelo Colon is one of the highlights of the exhibition. Over three feet tall, the sketch was part of a live demonstration given for students in 1983. Lopez himself said that fashion illustration of the period had become very boring and "WASPy". With his use of color, line, and particularly his choice of models, Lopez infused his illustrations with life, and vibrant sexuality.
In contrast to people in the fashion world today, many of whom dress in "normcore", Lopez (below) lived and loved the look he promoted, full of color, balance, attention to detail, and a little - or a lot - of outrageousness.
Here he is sketching one of his models, with Karl Largerfeld looking on.
Much as we would like to, we can't show you the exhibition's amazing start-to-finish video of Lopez sketching Angelo Colon, but you can click here to see him doing another live demonstration. He has a very strong and confident hand, and a masterful use of line. (Watch how he uses his entire arm, not just his hand, to get the desired effect.)
In this half finished color illustration, you can get some idea of his process. Lopez's models tend to have a louche, come-hither look about them. They often view the viewer. The artist lures you into loving the clothes by luring you into loving the model. His use of shading adds to the interest of the illustrations. In the clothes, shading gives the illusion of the texture and luxury of the material. In the model, Lopez takes the extra time to emphasize facial contours by adding dabs of white to the eyes, cheek, nose, lips and chin.
Here's an illustration of a dress with a black velvet yoke and matching skirt, held together by a large golden jeweled violin, and a smaller green violin at the hip.
Below is the dress the illustration was drawn from, the only actual garment in the exhibition.
There were quite a few drawings of impossible, but nevertheless marvelous, shoes...
And in one display case were plexiglass versions of several of the obviously unwearable but fabulously glamorous shoes.
The exhibition points out that Lopez discovered such well known faces as Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland and Tina Chow. The portrait below is Sayoko Yamaguchi, who was often photographed in highly colorful make up.
On the walls were quite a few sketches that appeared to be preliminary drafts, but the lines are so lovingly and expertly drawn that it is easy to imagine what the actual product looked like. In the drawing below, Lopez catches the feminine, romantic mood of the dress with the the soft, voluminous folds, and the model's delicate features. (Sorry about the reflections in the glass.)
Here, the model's sportier, jauntier clothing is matched by the forward thrust of her hips and leg. In both of these photos, the clothed woman is accompanied by a nearly nude man. Each figure was probably drawn independently, but it's interesting that the artist makes the effort to bring the figures together with an understated hand gesture.
There is a vibrancy and urgency to his drawings. Even when there are no facial expressions, the body language is telling. The women below are straight-backed, in control, proud, and dancing effortlessly in their stilettos.
A different side of Lopez, as if he were drawing for comic books:
Imagine what Jean would have looked like had Antonio sketched her!
Since it was opening night, we have to show you some of the marvelous people we ran into. Amelia Malayamba-Ansotegui (left), who co-curated the show, posed with artist Julia Santos-Solomon in a gorgeous reversible Italian coat.
Artists and designers Ruben and Isabel Toledo bookended one of the guests in a photo. Ruben drew the fabulous pattern on Isabel's dress with a black marker.
Patrick McDonald sported a tropical look.
Paul Van Ravenstein and Pat Cleveland made the scene. Pat was one of Antonio's favorite subjects, and appears in many of the illustrations in the show.
Roger Padilha and Josh McLaughlin posed in front of one of several of Antonio's iconic shoe drawings.
We posed in front of the dramatic graffiti mural which was one of the main props in Antonio and Juan's studio and may have been painted by the Rock Steady Crew.
A few weeks back, we took a Diseno Shoe Design Workshop co-sponsored by Cooper Hewitt and El Museo del Barrio, and conducted by Edmund Castillo, chief designer at Aquatalia. Let's just say that we drew outside the lines and didn't exactly follow directions, but Edmund (left) was a good sport. He posed with photographer Rose Hartman and his boss from Aquatalia.
Jean couldn't help but notice how Valerie's hat and earrings mirrored those in the image in this poster that Antonio designed for Versace c. 1981-82.
The press preview was followed by a VIP reception that included a party in the lobby and on the plaza in front of the museum. Jean ran into designer Narciso Rodriguez, who had also designed costumes for Stephen Petronio Dance Company.
Doris Casap, who is on the board of El Museo, was sweet enough to pose for a photo.
We loved running into Steve Caputo from Lower East Studios at the VIP party.
Author and illustrator Bil Donovan always looks incredibly dapper. We loved his Dior tie. The cameo-like flower is hand painted.
Jean just about freaked when she got to meet Michelle Lamy in the flesh. She wore her clothes back in the day and has been a fan for many years. Woo hoo!
Out on the plaza, Valerie ran into Alejandro Figueredo who was also enjoying the balmy weather.
We had noticed each of the members of this group individually during the show, but when they ended up all sitting together outside, we had to take a photo. Actress Parker Posey (now blond) is in the center and the lady on the right, Leana Zuniga, owns Electric Feathers, an avant garde women's wear store in Brooklyn.
This British couple was enjoying the evening. We loved her shirt.
Jasmin Hernandez and her friend Marquita posed for a photo before we headed outside.
Go see the exhibition!
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Here we are, last Thursday evening, at The Jane Hotel for a party celebrating Pat Cleveland's new book, "Walking with the Muses". Since we never communicate clearly in advance about what we plan to wear to an event (because we often don't know ourselves what we'll be wearing until the last possible moment), it is a source of amusement when we end up looking so perfectly coordinated.
Nothing makes a girl's heart go pitter patter like an invitation from MAO PR. When this arrived via email a couple weeks ago, we were thrilled since nobody throws a party like Mauricio and Roger Padilha. We are big fans of Pat Cleveland, whom we've covered on numerous occasions: "When Fashion Danced", the Stephen Burrows show at the Museum of the City of New York, which she helped coordinate; "Versailles", the documentary about about French and American designers' runway shows at Versailles in Paris in which American designers -- and the black models like Pat Cleveland and Alva Chin -- stole the show are just two that come to mind. And the hosts of the evening were a cavalcade of fashion's elite.
We can't wait to buy our own copies of the book. Thursday evening's event was a celebration, not a book signing, where the guest of honor performed for the crowd and brought the house down. She wasn't encumbered with book signing, she was too busy partying. Our kind of gal!
While Jean was waiting outside the hotel for Valerie (ahem, one of the few times Jean has been the one kept waiting ...) [ahem, counters Valerie, because Jean directed her by phone to go north when she should have said south], she shot photos of arriving guests. Since our love of crustaceans is much documented, this gentleman's black bomber with a big red lobster embroidered on the left shoulder was a knockout in our book. Their looks were also perfectly complementary.
Next to exit a limo was none other than designer Zana Bayne, one of our all-time faves, and her boyfriend, Todd Pendu. She has expanded her line of harnesses and chokers to include beautifully constructed handbags, like the one on her shoulder. And check out those star earrings!
Once we stepped inside the lobby of the hotel, we ran into photographer Christopher Makos, who used to run with Andy Warhol and got him started in photography, and Calvin Klein, one of the most influential American designers equally famous for his sportswear and evening clothes and his men's and women's collections.
Once we entered the packed ballroom, we were greeted by dancers who gave a hint of the evening's Josephine Baker theme.
Whom did we run into next but Johnny Cassanova and Faustina Rose, who had also perfectly coordinated their two-piece outfits and two-toned hair.
Kayvon and Anna Sands always make a statement. This was the first time we'd seen Kayvon's long locks in any shade other than platinum. Loved the new look.
Designer Jason Brickhill and his boyfriend Khris Diaz were thoroughly enjoying the evening.
Although we saw Patrick McDonald in the crowded ballroom and he and Jean exchanged kisses, we got separated when the performance began and never got a shot of Patrick! or of Joey Arias! We did snag a photo of Patrick's good buddy Lauren Ezersky who was sweet enough to pose for us before leaving for the evening. It wasn't until we were putting this together that we realized it was a two-fer -- we'd also caught Kyle Farmery (also in black and white) in the background.
This photo captures the essence of the evening. Everyone was in such a good mood, it was infectious. Loved this dapper gent's looks and attitude.
Markus Kelle glams it up, with a new hairdo, metal collar and armfuls of bangles.
Legendary model Corey Grant Tippen, whom we first met with Pat Cleveland at Roger and Mauricio Padilha's panel discussion at FIT on their book about Antonio Lopez, is one of our favorite Instagrammers. He was squiring these two lovely ladies around the ballroom before the performance.
Although Jean spied Tang outside, she couldn't get a shot before she and her party moved quickly up the steps into the hotel. So we were so happy when she posed for us later. This photo also gives you an idea of how amazing space the ballroom at the Jane is. Check out the taxidermy, beautifully carved antique wooden framed mirror, portraits hung on the walls, beautiful light fixtures and impossibly high ceiling.
Anna Zand and Kyle Farmery.
How fun are William Noguchi and Danielle Mahoney? They often appear together on each other's Instagram accounts, often in matching outfits. On this occasion, they outdid themselves.
Partygoers dressed for the occasion, which added to the party atmosphere.
It is always a treat to run into photographer Andrew Werner, and when he also showed up in black and white, we just had to take a picture together.
After lots of schmoozing, the crowd snapped to attention when designer Zac Posen, one of the hosts of the event, climbed the staircase overlooking the ballroom, took the microphone and announced that the performance was about to begin.
Six singers then appeared on the balcony to serenade the crowd with "Tonight, Josephine" and to introduce the star of the evening.
Pat Cleveland channeled Josephine Baker that evening. She looked utterly glamorous and who ever know she could sing? We all knew she could dance, but this was a revelation. And her slinky gold lame gown and flapper headress were beyond perfection. She danced down and up each staircase that flanked the balcony and threw us all a kiss. It truly was what they call "a moment".
It was one of the few times she stopped long enough for us to snap a photograph. She was in constant motion. Enough said. Check out the video.
After descending the stairs, Pat joined her line up of back up singers and dancers, also dressed in gold, who echoed the Paris-in-the-20s theme.
At the completion of the performance, Pat joined Roger Padilha, designer Stephen Burrows and writer/editor Michael Gross for a tete-a-tete before they retired to the VIP room.
After bidding everyone goodbye, we then retired to Gitanes, the restaurant in the lobby of The Jane Hotel, to test the timber of the cocktail menu and its execution. Needless to say, they passed with flying colors!
We always like to tinker with the ingredients ("Could you add fresh ginger to this drink and substitute champagne for gin in that one? Oh, and no ice.") and it is always so refreshing when staff and bartenders are as accommodating as they are at Gitanes. (Later, we were told, the staff was initially quizzical about our requests, but wound up agreeing we'd made good choices. Yeah, we get that a lot. Really!)
As we headed to the subway, on a corner we ran into this trio who had enjoyed the party as much as we did. From left to right: recording artist Phil Eggleston, celebrity stylist Joseph Bullock and international recording artist/actress Alyson Williams. The street corner provided the perfect lighting. All too soon it was over and we were on our way again.
Needless to say, we had a blast!