The 88-foot-tall spruce currently holding court at Rockefeller Center has some stiff competition in London. Conjured by British designers Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby of Boudicca, an evergreen at the Victoria & Albert Museum is tricked-out with a custom soundtrack by composer Daniel Pemberton and its own "damp forest smell" by perfumer Geza Schoen. But it's the piece de resistance up top that has people talking: a 24-inch fiberglass and papier mache mannequin, dressed in a lace-covered corset with delicate roses running across her shoulder and feather wings sprouting from her back. But Miss V&A's no prim and proper holiday angel; for all that sweet detailing, she has exposed steel alloy pins for arms and molded, fingered hands. Why? The figurine was partly inspired by Broach and Kirkby's interests in robots and the slightly creepy mechanical dancing doll in Fellini's Seventies flick Casanova. The other main inspiration was Hans Christian Andersen's tale of "The Little Match Girl." The storybook heroine "strikes her match to see her dreams," says Broach. "She sees them, then dies and is taken to heaven. There's a dark beauty that's very natural to Boudicca language." Also noteworthy: the figure's coiffure, designed by Paris' Laurent Philippon of Bumble & bumble. "She looks a bit like Elizabeth's Cate Blanchett," says Broach, "with a kind of glorious Thirties wave mixed in."
Two of my favorite holiday-season-in-New-York restaurant traditions are dining at 21 Club to the caroling sounds of the Salvation Army Band and enjoying a calorie-laden lunch at Le Cirque. Today I indulged in the latter. The Christmas tree in the Bloomberg building courtyard, from which one enters the restaurant, was all aglow, as was the slightly smaller but equally festive one inside the bar area. Christmas spirit was in full effect. Ivanka Trump was there (apparently for the second day in a row) dining with mom Ivana, whose hair was as impressively bouffant as ever. Sirio Maccioni, the venerable owner, sat at the bar slurping soup and kissing the regulars hello. And I finally got the chance to ask Mario Maccioni, one of Sirio's three handsome sons, the question I've long wondered about Le Cirque: Does Ruth Reichl dine there today, nearly 15 years after her now legendary side-by-side reviews of the restaurant in The New York Times—one written from the perspective of a VIP restaurant critic, and one from the critic in a disguise that rendered her unrecognizable. "Yes, Ruth comes often now," Mario cheerfully told me today. "She was just here yesterday. We are all friendly now—her, my father, me. Back then," he pauses here, rolling his eyes back to that past review, "well, not so much. But now we are all friends!"
In traffic-clogged L.A., geography is a form of social currency. So it was a surprise to see an array of industry heavyweights, including Natalie Portman, Michael Cera, Edward Norton and Spike Jonze, pack into a grungy shop in far-off Echo Park on Saturday night to celebrate the opening of a new location of 826LA the non-profit writing/tutoring center founded by novelist Dave Eggers.
The center, geared toward local students between the ages of six and 18, is cheekily disguised as a storefront called The Echo Park Time Travel Mart. (The name thing is in line with the organization's five other locations; the Brooklyn center, 826NYC, has a sign out front that reads Superhero Supply Co.)
As well as Cera, much of the team behind Juno were there, including director Jason Reitman, co-star Jason Bateman and screenwriter Diablo Cody. Also spotted in the crowd were Jesse Dylan, The Daily Show's Demetri Martin, director Mike White (The Year of the Dog), producing partners Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger (Little Miss Sunshine), Lukas Haas and interior designer Brad Dunning.
Images courtesy Daily Monster
Fresh off her selection as one of five international winners of the Cartier Women's Initiative Award, fashion designer Angel Chang was in a celebratory mood on a recent Thursday evening in New York' Flatiron district: Chang, a former design assistant to Donna Karan, was demonstrating the unorthodox qualities of a filmy chiffon cocktail dress from her spring 2008 line, thirteen pieces of which were on display as part of a Ralph Pucci exhibition of new furniture, fashion and photography. "You just blow on it," she said, pressing a piece of the floaty dress to her mouth, "and the maps appear." Indeed, the tangerine-hued fabric turned pale, revealing a network of downtown New York streets, part of Chang's collaboration with Red Maps, a company that sells blueprints of major cities dotted with boutiques, cafes and noteworthy sites. Partnering with engineers and "interaction designers" to create the thermochromatic dress (which shifts color at 85 degrees or higher), Chang is at the forefront of a movement incorporating technology into the everyday frock - or jacket, as she proved last season with her velvet one trimmed with Ipod controls. But there are other benefits to the clothes besides techno-innovation. Smiling and running her hands over the dress, Chang noted, "This way, you know where the restaurants are."
Saturday night's hailstorm couldn't thwart holiday revelers determined to squeeze the last drops of fun out of the weekend. While I was contently tucked into a party close to home, some of my more adventurous friends headed to Beatrice Inn, where they spotted Mary-Kate Olsen keeping warm in the arms of her latest paramour, hipster artiste Nate Lowman. She was wearing her signature gobs of jewelry while making out with him on a banquette.
For those who aren't familiar with Lowman, he's an NYU graduate whose work is currently on view at the New Museum's "Unmonumental" exhibition. He's 28, with pallid tortured-artist good looks and a penchant for flannel shirts.
Supposedly, it's not the first time the pair have hooked up.
Photos: Lowman on the cover of Me Magazine; Olsen by Tim Jenkins
If Amy Winehouse were a golfer, chances are she'd stub out her ciggy and step up to the tee box in a saucy Death to Argyle polo. The subversive new women's golfwear line, created by a pair of 32-year-old Santa Barbara-based twins who just couldn't bear to hit the links in old-fogey garb, made its debut at the PGA Fall Expo 2008 in Vegas this past September amid a sea of old-school plaids and pastels. Though the buzzed-about collection meets all the rules and regs of even the snootiest country club (the shirts have collars, the shorts hit just above the knee), it's worked up in a decidedly un-golfy palette of black, red and sage green. Featuring puffy sleeves, contrast banding, playing card motifs and Dickies-style pants cuts, the line has a retro, pretty-chola vibe. No wonder owners Cassie and Willow Wayne, who've been playing golf since they were wee tots, envision a life for their togs beyond the 18th hole. "Our parents belong to a club, but public courses are more our thing," says Cassie. "These are clothes for girls who just want to play for fun."
Every day, it seems, there's another new premium jeans line on the market. The latest on our radar is called Aristocrat. The line, launched last spring, is the brainchild of Bob Bak, a fabric specialist who spent over a decade working on denim washes and prototypes for Chanel, Roberto Cavalli and Diesel. I recently spoke with Bak, who explained how his jeans are cut with unusual attention to how they fit in the front (so they stay flat). He also explained how his denim is "green." (He mentioned something about how he uses specially processed water, avoids resin enzymes and uses polymers to free the enzymes—at least I think that's what he said).
He's created 25 or so styles, which are sold at Barneys New York, Ron Herman and Nordstrom (among others). The names of the styles are supposed to be vaguely aristocratic, so one is called Antoinette, another is called Windsor, and one of them is called, yes, Tinsley. "I don't know her personally," Bak said, "but we did send her a pair."
Of course, this made me wonder what Tinsley herself had to say about them, and whether was flattered, amused, or calling her attorneys. So I emailed her.
Evidently, she never received the jeans, or the news that she had inspired a pair in the first place. She wrote this to me: "I think it is so sweet that he named a pair after me, and of course I am very flattered. I had no idea about this. I would love to try them!! Please tell him thank you so much!! I think it is very cute of him!!" Evidently, they're sending another pair her way.
Photo by Steve Eichner
Dressed in a J.C. de Castelbajac-designed black suit embroidered with silver guitars and crowns, Rufus Wainwright cut a sparkling swath through the business suits and mutedly artsy ensembles of MoMA patrons at Tuesday night's opening of "Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings."
Wainwright told me he was there to support the artist's daughter, his "very good friend" fashion designer Bella Freud, who was sporting one of her own designs, a black jumpsuit over a black-and-white shirt printed with stars. The two spent part of the evening chatting with an octogenarian woman in a delicate flapper dress in front of a wall of Lucian's portraits of Bella. Bella explained that Larissa (I didn't catch her last name) designed costumes for musicians, earning her the moniker "the Coco Chanel of rock 'n roll."
When I asked Wainwright if any artists had painted a likeness of him, he laughed. "Yes, but mostly fans from Minnesota—more like folk art," he said.
Photo by Scott Rudd courtesy of MoMA
Since owners of G5s don't need frequent flyer miles anyway, they'll soon have a morally rewarding way to flex their spending power. Early in 2008, Bank of America will launch the Visa Brighter Planet card, which aims to reduce its holder's "carbon footprint." Each dollar spent on the card earns a point that supports a variety of environmental organizations, and a thousand points will offset approximately one ton of carbon dioxide (the effect on global warming is similar to removing a car from the road for two months).
In the world of contemporary art, fashion illustrations don't command much respect. But the under-the-radar Fashion Illustration Gallery (FIG), a London space opened opened last spring by art adviser William Ling in Notting Hill, may help change matters. The gallery exhibits vintage and contemporary works by illustrators such as the late Rene' Gruau, who famously translated Christian Dior's New Look works on paper, and Jean-Philippe Delhomme, who's worked on ad campaigns for Barneys New York. "These are very special artists who in the past have been categorized out of exhibition opportunities. They've never really had a home to show their work," says Ling. (It's also worth mentioning that one of the illustrators who shows at FIG is Tanya Ling—William's wife—who has worked for clients including Louis Vuitton, Jil Sander, Givenchy and Harper's Bazaar.) FIG's newest show (up until December 29) features a selection of works by the Swiss illustrator Francois Berthoud, who has worked for Marni, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang.
Two images from the Berthoud show, from left: ULe Vernis Mirobolant (Amica Italia), 1999 Oil on paper (lino cut print); Lacroix / Pucci, 2004, Oil based ink on paper