Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Decade of Issey and a Miyake to Dai For

A Double Dose of Japanese Design

Ever since we debuted on Bravo's "Fashion Hunters", we've become very recognizable and, for better or worse, -- in many viewer's eyes -- forever linked with legendary Japanese designer "Issey Miyake". We could hardly ask for better than that, particularly on our first national appearance. What if we were inextricably linked with, say, excess hair removal?

Judging by unsolicited and highly supportive comments we continue to receive from a broad swath of people (who have hailed us on the street, at the Philadelphia Craft Show, at the Pier Antiques Show, at the Brooklyn Museum, at the supermarket, on subway platforms and other places), we have a developed a whole new legion of fans (who, alas, had no idea we did a blog until we gave them our business card). Although anyone who is not thoroughly smitten with us following our TV debut may simply not bother to approach us, most New Yorkers have a reputation for sharing their frank and unexpurgated opinions with the world at large, so it looks as though, to quote our beloved Oscar Wilde: Nothing succeeds like excess. (Thank heavens!) And while we're quoting Oscar, here are thirteen more of his bons mots très apropos: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Sooooooo, it was especially fitting that we attended a party on November 3rd, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Issey Miyake store on Hudson Street in its still striking Frank Gehry-designed Tribeca location. We rendezvoused with our friend artist Katherine Crone, and discovered we were all decked out in Miyake finery to commemmorate the evening. It was the perfect trifecta of Partying, People Watching and Shopping. Sublime!


We'd met the DJ at Fashion's Night Out earlier this fall. His musical selections matched the hip, upbeat mood of the crowd. You could observe people absent-mindedly start to rock to the beat, tap a foot, shake a booty.

Valerie ran into Marybeth (who makes extraordinary Japanese sweet cakes - tasty and the very definition of EYE CANDY) at the party.

At this event, the customers are always as chic and as interesting as the staff and designers. (Sometimes, only the shopping bag provides a much needed visual clue.)

Issey creative director and buyer Zari was one of our very dapper hosts that evening. In addition to wine and bubbly (flecked with a smattering of edible flowers), they served the most delicious tiny cream puffs with metallic glitter-flecked frosting.

Another Issey employee models this marvelously graphic pleated skirt.


Fan favorite Louise Doktor is frequently photographed by Bill Cunningham because of her unusual style and taste. Needless to say, on this occasion, Louise did not disappoint. Her multi-color coat was the perfect counterpoint to her signature coal-black black hair and dark-rimmed eyes.

Shortly after arrival, we bumped into Brandon Acton-Bond, who was subversively wearing his Miyake trousers under long shorts. Where does he get such restraint? (Obviously, we don't suffer from that condition.)

This is Ryo Miyamoto, who does a street style blog. We first ran into him at the Independent Fashion Bloggers Conference and then again on Fashion's Night Out (FNO) at IF Soho. He has an amazing eye for individuality and detail.

People Watchers had the tables turned on them at this event. Case in point, model/blogger Wataru, a devoted Comme des Garcons fan, obviously also likes Miyake. (Although we couldn't at first remember his real name, Jean immediately blurted out his knickname -- Bob -- the minute she laid eyes on him. When we first met him at FNO, he explained that his nickname "Bob" came from the fact that he used to have a hairdo just like Jean's.) Check out Wataru's blog, An Unknown Quantity. (Great name!)

Even the ubiquitous photographers dress for this party!

This gentleman was sporting a vintage Miyake jacket in shades of grey and black and looked right in style, demonstrating once again the timeless quality of Issey's designs.

This pair of ladies clad in black and grey were shopping and hanging out, obviously enjoying the scene. (See how we date ourselves? People younger than us drop the 'out' and just say 'hanging'. But what do young people know? We hear they think FRIEND is a verb. Imagine!)

Grey and black were among the most popular colors, judging by the attire of the guest/shoppers that evening. Check out this dude's fab white boots.

Both men and women got into the act.

Jean wants to know this Miyake-clad woman's secret for persuading her non-Miyake husband to attend these types of events.

We met this pair when we first entered the party. Both were obvious Miyake devotees, further proving the point that Issey Miyake designs appeal to a wide audience, and come in a myriad of colors in addition to black and grey!


This gentleman modeled a graphic long, grey vest.

Valerie couldn't resist getting into the act, trying on this great orange and gray vest. (We both lusted over it when we first saw it on an Issey employee on Fashion's Night Out. See our FNO posting for another photo of this fabulous origami piece.) A great design that simultaneously hides and celebrates hips.

Here are glimpses of four of the store installations.

The Miyake logo greets you as you cross the threshold to enter or leave the store. Much as we hated to leave when the party was in full swing, we had to shoot uptown to FIT for the opening of Rose Hartman's photography exhibition. POOR us!

Dai Fujiwara at Japan Society

Valerie says: Late in October Katherine Crone emailed me one day (who phones anymore?) to ask if I wanted to go with her to the Dai Fujiwara slide show lecture, interview and reception scheduled for mid-November at Japan Society. For those of you who don’t know who Dai Fujiwara is, here is a portion of the brief biography on Japan Society’s website:

[Dai Fujiwara] joined the Miyake Design Studio in 1995 as a member of the Issey Miyake Paris collection team. In 1998 he started the A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) project with Miyake, winning the Good Design Award in 2000. The project was exhibited at Vitra Design Museum in Berlin as well as MoMA. Fujiwara became the creative director of ISSEY MIYAKE in 2006. In 2008, he left to start DAIFUJIWARA AND COMPANY.

So as a dyed-in-the-wool fan, of course I wanted to go, and for multiple reasons.

On the appointed evening, I thought the best way to honor the master would be to wear an item he is known for. I struggled into the top half of the suit that made its television debut several weeks ago. And into my bag I carefully slipped my copy of A-Poc Making: Issey Miyake and Dai Fujiwara, in hopes that I could get it autographed.

Katherine and I sat in the second row, and had a great view. (Jean, alas, was away on business.)

Following the lecture, there was a Q&A session, so I thrust my arm into the air, puffy cuffed A-POC sleeve and all, and took the opportunity to ask Mr. Fujiwara about his jacket, which was two interwoven shades of blue. After graciously answering my question, he said “And you are also wearing something interesting. Is it one of our designs?” I replied “Yes, I wore it for you.” Mr. Fujiwara then said, among other things, that it was one of his favorite designs. “It is also one of Issey’s favorites”, he added.

Well! Way to make my day!

At the reception, I thrust my digital camera into Katherine’s hands, whipped out my book, and patiently waited on line for Mr. Fujiwara’s attention. When it was my turn, I asked him if he would mind signing the book and he kindly obliged, while Katherine hurriedly took a few pictures under less than perfect circumstances.

Oh, to be Horst P. Horst, or Helmut Newton – with hours in which to plan a shot, set up the lighting, adjust the wrinkles on the model’s blouse, turn the head ever so slightly and raise one eyebrow just so…

But there were many people waiting behind us, so we hit the shutter a few times, and hoped for the best.

For a brief moment, everything came together. Dai Fujiwara, the fabulous design he made with Issey Miyake (well, the blouse half of it), the book that features the design, Katherine and me. And Mr. Fujiwara couldn’t have been nicer, or happier to see his work in the –um – flesh. I returned home with a smile on my face that I don't need to explain to anyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'd Rather Be in Philadelphia*

... attending the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show

On Friday, November 11th, we made our annual trek to the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show at the Convention Center. This year, we sported press passes since we'd be covering the show for the third time and are members of the Independent Fashion Bloggers Association. We took the 8 AM bus, arrived just at the 10 AM show opening and started our coverage. At 11:11 AM on 11/11/11, we paused to toast the occasion! We brought with us two strawberry basil margaritas that one of our favorite restaurants kindly whipped up the night before, and poured into plastic bottles for us. We don't want you to think we drank the whole thing at the toast. We still had a good bit left when we took a break in the late afternoon. We just wanted a memorable way to observe the moment.

Here we are with our favorite milliners Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens -- They're the ones responsible for Valerie's Guggenheim Museum hat. Jean's purchases (in the boxes) promise to make appearances in the blog in the weeks to come -- stay tuned!

Philadelphia jeweler Sharon Rosenthal is seated amid some of her wonderful designs. Sharon has a great talent for putting disparate media together and coming up with great one of a kind conversation pieces.

Paul W. Sumner of Greensboro, North Carolina has also shown at the Smithsonian Craft Show. His schools of metal fish are both colorful and humorous.

The common element in Paul's current work is a hand carved wooden form to which he pieces, raises and nails or screws a closely fitted sheet metal skin, using tin, copper, rusted steel, galvanized steel, and antique painted tins for the surface. Here are some of his metal insects.

Myong Urso of Rochester, NY presided over a very well edited collection of her jewelry, some of which you can glimpse in the photo. Myong drapes fabric over wire to make three dimensional pieces. Some have random patchwork-style stitch work in them, deftly combining hard and soft media, and adding completely unexpected touches.

We had just seen Danielle Gori-Montanelli and her wonderful felt jewelry last month at the LOOT show at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. Danielle has been commuting between the U.S. and (SIGH) Florence. So much to envy; so little time...

Kari Lonning of Ridgefield, Connecticut weaves beautiful baskets. We also loved her silver locks and put together look.

Here's an example of one of Kari's baskets, woven of artist-dyed rattan reed using commercial, waterfast dyes, using multi-element twining and the artist's own "hairy" technique, where thousands of short pieces of reed are woven into the walls of the baskets. Double-wall constructions are woven as two separate baskets then joined together at the outer rim.

Jaclyn Davidson of Middlebury, Vermont makes jewelry for powerful, confident women. Her material of choice is steel, to which she adds other precious metals or stones. She is pictured wearing one of her designs.

Here is another of Jaclyn Davidson's designs which is a much more delicate lace like lattice work of metal with gold ginko leaves. Although her work appears heavy, it "sits" on the neck and collar bone quite comfortably.

It's not unusual for artists to begin working in art after coming from completely un-artistic backgrounds. When we mentioned to Francesca Vitali that we have day jobs, she replied that she too has a day job - as a chemist. Much of Francesca's work consists of metal and paper, but that's sort of like saying much of Leonardo da Vinci's work consists of paint. Francesca folds paper into shapes so tiny and un-paper-like that one has to look very closely to grasp the nature and exactitude of her work. On further reflection, it makes sense that a chemist, who works on a molecular level, would create art that requires very close inspection before it reveals its wonders. You can see quite a few examples of Francesca’s work on a great website called Crafthaus. Once you’ve finished looking at Francesca’s work, take a look at the other wonderful Crafthaus selections, too.

A perennial favorite is the team of Ford and Forlano who arrange their work in a large yet intimate walled-off interior, so one has the feeling of being in an art gallery, with enough time and space to stand back and ponder. Until recently, all their jewelry in mind-boggling shapes and colors appeared to be inspired by the kinds of sea creatures most of us never see, except in pictures. Now they're moving into cubism and abstract expressionism, once again with compelling results. Ford and Forlano enjoy using found objects in their work. Note in the abstract piece below (photo from their Facebook page) a letter H from an old lettering set.

JoAnne Russo from Saxons River, Vermont produces basketry of the highest order. We also think she has a great long and lean look.

In addition to traditional basketry techniques, JoAnne stitches and adds sewing notions, using diverse materials to shape interesting forms to create sculptural work.

Valerie says: I have a special place in my heart for Erica Rosenfeld, whose work I first saw around 2003 at Urban Glass, a glass making workshop/studio in downtown Brooklyn (with a stellar list of visiting instructors and supporters). Even while she was still learning her craft her work distinguished itself in its creativity from those around her. When I first saw she was selling at the Museum of Arts and Design (two years ago?), I was as proud of her as if she were one of my relatives, even though I'd never met her. She was busy at her booth (a good sign), so I took this hurried picture of her. She had a blue ribbon up. The Show had awarded her The Cohn Family Trust Prize for Excellence in Glass. Below is a photo taken of her work from the home page of her website. It's so tactile, you want to run your hand over it.

We first met Christy Klug at 11:11 AM, when we were having our celebratory cocktails. We were trying to self-photograph, in a badly lit space with the camera on automatic timer on a nearby table with no tripod. Christy saw us and kindly offered to take a picture of us, resulting -thank goodness - in the photo at the head of today's posting. Our photo of Christy doesn't do justice to her or her outfit (from another of the Craft Show exhibitors). Like so many of the people we met, Christy started out in a completely different field, and simply decided to teach herself metalsmithing. (She has a wonderfully eclectic background. Take a look at her website for more info.) We're always leery of taking pictures of artists' work. At the very least it's presumptuous, at the worst it can be - or appear to be - a prelude to intellectual property theft. So below is a photo of one of Christy's thought-provoking minimalist pieces taken from her website.

We always love stopping by Amy Nguyen's booth. We want almost everything. OK, everything. We used to delight in seeing her work at the late great Takashimaya boutique, which went the way of so many niche markets when the economy did - well, you know what it did. Where Takashimaya once stood there is now a Forever 21, and we can no longer see Amy's always dazzling work as easily as before. Rushing for the bus back to New York, we hurriedly took this picture of Amy and her husband Ky (pronounced Kee). We asked Amy to show off her Trippen shoes, which she obligingly did.

We first saw the piece below at the Philadelphia Craft Show one or two years ago, and still LOVE it. We borrowed the photo from her website, which you can link to here to see more mouthwatering work. The caption for the coat reads: "Linen shibori coat. Stitched, pieced. All colors are hand-dyed."

Every year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts artists from another country. Finland and Israel have been two recent guest countries. This year, the Show featured 25 artists from Scotland. The added treat, in addition to their artwork, furniture and designs, was the fact that many wore their traditional plaids and woolens. Many of the men wore kilts. Elizabeth Gaffney from Ochiltree, Ayrshire showed her felt clothing and accessories.

James Donald of Edinburgh featured wearable textiles. He cut quite a figure himself, in a polka dot vest over his kilt (with humorous fish pin), silver buckles on his shoes and and white leather skull sporran (from Sporran Nation).

According to Wickipedia, the "Sporran ( /ˈspɒrən/; Scottish Gaelic for "purse") is a traditional part of male Scottish Highland dress. It is a pouch that performs the same function as pockets on the pocketless Scottish kilt. Made of leather or fur, the ornamentation of the sporran is determined by the formality of dress worn with it. The sporran is worn on a leather strap or chain, conventionally positioned in front of the groin of the wearer. Since the traditional kilt does not have pockets, the sporran serves as a wallet and container for any other necessary personal items. It is essentially a survival of the common European medieval belt-pouch, superseded elsewhere as clothing came to have pockets, but continuing in the Scottish Highlands because of the lack of these accessories in traditional dress."

Furniture maker Angus Ross favored a more traditional fur sporran.

The Craft Show was not only great for getting one's accessible art fix, it was also great for people watching. We saw any number of women (and a smaller number of men) with wonderful hairstyles, glasses, and outfits that suited them beautifully and individualized them perfectly. Everyone is there for the art, though, so it's very hard to interrupt people while they're focusing on some gorgeous object to ask for a picture. We were both bowled over by Stacy Creamer, who had it all put together from head to toe. We heard another woman ask her who made her skirt, and Stacy replied Kedem Sasson. We don't want to repeat that name too often here, because his clothing is hard enough to come by without encouraging further competition for it.

Stacy Creamer isn't just a supporter of art work. It also turns out she makes her own. Below is a fabulous multicolored geometric necklace of Stacy's, featured on the website of The Bead Society of Greater New York.

We loved this woman's sweater, which seems as though it might have been inspired by the jackets (doublets?) worn by fashionable men of the Italian Renaissance. Those of us with actual hips could really rock this jacket. One of the designers on Project Runway once sneered at a design (it had fabulous outsized pockets), saying "What woman wants to emphasize her HIPS?" We say "What woman wants to wear something made by a designer who doesn't know how to glorify every part of a woman's body?"

(detail of The Court of Mantua, by Andrea Mantegna, circa 1471)

These ladies who said they staged craft shows also said they were having a blast at the Philadelphia Museum show.

We just loved the turquoise streak in this woman's hair, and her sense of humor and spunk.

(*with apologies to William Claude Duckenfield, aka W.C. Fields, who may never actually have said this.)