Impassioned conversations about women are inescapable these days—women and childcare, women in the workplace, women in politics, women and their spending power. But perhaps the most creatively compelling conversation on the topic of women is an imaginary tête-à-tête between designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s not a real conversation, of course, because Schiaparelli died in 1973. “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” is a high-concept audio-visual exchange that the museum’s curators, Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, imagined these two iconoclastic designers of the 20th and 21st centuries might have shared had they known each other.
It might be a stretch to compare a 21st century American designer to a 19thcentury French trunk maker, but that’s the ambitious conceit of the new “Louis Vuitton – Marc Jacobs” exhibit that just opened at Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs and runs through September 16th. Visitors who climb the stairs to the first floor of the multi-media exhibit are immediately confronted with formal portraits of the two men: Louis Vuitton drawn in 1892 by Studio Reutlinger and Marc Jacobs peering out of a highly stylized Rankin photograph. The show, dreamed up by curator Pamela Golbin, compares the work of these two innovators in the context of the seismic cultural and industrial shifts of their times. In broad strokes, it’s an analysis of the fashion industry during two decisive periods of enormous change—19th century industrialization and 21st century globalization. That’s really where the similarities between Mr. Vuitton and Mr. Jacobs end. After all, what do 19th century steamer trunks have in common with $3,000 Murakami bags?
You would be surprised.
Free City casual apparel and accessories are now sold in select Neiman Marcus stores’ On The Go women’s activewear shops. Kate Betts went to the source to pinpoint the appeal of a brand coveted by both the bike-obsessed and the fashion-obsessed.
I remember driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, back in 2007, on a mission to see Nina Garduno’s Free City shop for myself. I’d already seen her now-famous sweatpants and t-shirts in eye-popping color combos, emblazoned with big bold letters and punctuated by a graphic dove. Although Garduno was, and remains, somewhat elusive in the West Coast apparel and retail scene, her first solo shop in the Malibu Country Mart was a de rigeur stop on any tour of Los Angeles from the minute it opened in 2005.
What was it about this place that drew people and generated so much chatter? I came to find out, and I, too, was instantly taken by the personality and spirit of the place—something about the free cup of orange juice, the mountain bikes hanging alongside colorful t-shirts, and the old LP covers decorating the plywood walls had an authenticity that no longer existed in similar emporiums. Needless to say, I left the store that day with an armful of $148 t-shirts. (I never said it was cheap.)
You can see them congregating over coconut water at Juice Generation on Manhattan’s West 72nd street or waiting on line at Whole Foods in Tribeca, drenched in equal parts sweat and neon-colored wicking fabrics. They’re the SoulCycle groupies who spin on average four times a week and travel across the city just to make Laurie Cole’s 9:30 a.m. class or Janet Fitzgerald’s grueling one-hour Sunday morning class. SoulCycle, like its competitor FlyWheel, has become a fitness phenomenon. A single class costs $32 to $36—steep, even by New York standards. But both men and women swear by the payoff of 45 minutes spent sweating and pedaling by candlelight in SoulCycle’s high-tech studios: endorphin highs and svelte silhouettes. And they’ve inspired new activewear trends: neon-colored, camouflage-patterned Nike biking shorts topped by burn-out T-shirts with empowering slogans splashed across the chest, skull-patterned scarves worn as headbands, and Mylar tote bags.
The first time I ever met Lee Alexander McQueen, he was having an outburst. Furious about the flogging he’d received in the press for his first Givenchy haute couture collection—a campy kind of ode to Greek mythology—he had just flown into New York City to work on an ad campaign with the photographer Richard Avedon. When I stupidly mentioned the recent criticism, McQueen began railing against various individuals—most of them quite powerful—in the fashion business, telling me he didn’t give a bleep about them.
For as long as I’ve known Ines de la Fressange, I’ve never not wanted to dress exactly like her. I first met her in Paris in the late Eighties when she was a model for Chanel and was named the Marianne, the national emblem of France. Since then, I’ve run into her at fashion industry dinners or in the Roger Vivier showroom in Paris where she works alongside designer Bruno Frissoni as a brand ambassador. Every time I see Ines she is wearing some indescribably gorgeous piece of clothing, like an emerald green satin shirt, paired with some other, intensely colorful piece like midnight-blue velvet jeans. It’s hard enough to imagine conjuring these things to wear on a daily basis, and harding still, knowing that everything looks better on Ines because she has asparagus thin limbs, a singular Gallic slouch and a brilliant smile. Suffice it to say I’ve never met another 50-year-old woman who can pull off white jeans.
Mark Fuller is like P.T. Barnum. Just add water. Fuller, cofounder of the Los Angeles-based “liquid architecture” firm Water Entertainment Technology—or WET—is probably the world’s most renowned fountain designer. He has illuminated water with fire, made it dance to Frank Sinatra tunes, and sculpted it into monoliths lit from within.
Like Barnum, Fuller creates magical public spectacles that run the gamut from the classical splash at Lincoln Center’s new Revson fountain in New York City, to the wildly dramatic nine-acre long musical fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. His fans range from Hollywood machers to gobsmacked gamblers. Steven Spielberg called Fuller’s Bellagio fountain “the greatest single piece of public entertainment on planet earth.”
There is a photograph of Michelle Obama that I love because among the tens of thousands of pictures of her it captures the essence of her style. It is not your usual First Lady snap shot. No pearls. No power suits. No plastic grin. She is wearing a pair of turquoise jeans and violet Converse sneakers. She is leaning over on the South Lawn of the White House, tugging the leash of the First Dog Bo. She has iPod headphones planted in her ears. She is the very picture of a modern American woman, a working mom with a hard-won resume taking the dog out for a morning walk. She could be any of us superimposed on the august grounds of the White House.
Suppose you’re a struggling graphic designer who custom paints racecar helmets, hockey masks and skateboards for friends in Southern California. An extreme sports fanatic, you spend a lot of time racing jet skies. Then your wife gets pregnant with your first child (first of three), as the early Nineties recession is sinking in. What do you do?
For Tom Bachik, the logical next step was… beauty school?