Friday, July 27, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Someone (Mom, you're busted) sent me a link to a "Fashion Designer" competition sponsored by this total crap magazine in my hometown.  This is a glossy mag that looks professional until you open it and see that it's rife with typos and bimbos.  It is all about the "scene" in St. Louis with the same people popping up at the same places, looking like they were just teleported from 1998 in their James Perse-tanned-watered-down-LA looks.  A high-end version of them is  A low-end version is, well, them. 

Let me pause before going further.  I know there is good style in my hometown; I see people bring it all the time when I am home.  I have friends there who have great style.  But generally, there is a lot of brand-whoring bad taste.  And it's this BS that gets the local "press."  To me, good style is not trying to be something you're not.  It's not showy (except when it's in feathers or gloves or feeling dandy... more of that, please!).  It's not trying to emulate what you think is another city's style.  (I see the photos of the people on the scene, pretending they are in LA.)  It's not tarted and pushed up or fake-tanned.  That's too easy.  (Oh, and it's also gross.)  I realize my hometown is smack in the middle of the country, so why not make St. Louis style about authenticity, vintage, or well-crafted midwestern items?  When did St. Louis become infatuated with bastardizing bad LA style?  (I will not even sink so low as to give Christian Audigier the thrashing he deserves, but I don't understand why so many people in St. Louis wear that mess.)

OK, so back to this shit rag.  Because it is so removed from relevance or hipness, this magazine is sponsoring a competition to find the top 6 Fashion Designers in St. Louis.

Wait!  SIX? 

Why even pick winners?  "Well, thanks for coming out, folks.  Looks like you ALL win!" 

I didn't dig around enough to see what all six will win (or if there will be a no-holds-barred cage match to pick the ultimate winner... YES, now I'm interested!  Oh wait, that's MY competition.), mostly because I remember how much I enjoyed watching those first few seasons of Project Runway back in SF* (with wine and Stellies and Milosh, bien sur) and now the exact opposite feelings arise when I think of anything remotely smacking of Project Runway.  Besides, isn't Project Runway itself so watered down?  (Hello... Lifetime, is it?)  How can people squeeze any more from the idea of it?  Why not figure out a new, inherently St. Louis-style competition instead of copying something that was cool 7+ years ago?  And make it about ribs, please.  (Oh wait, now we're back to MY competition.)

So my mom sent me the link for the local designers in competition to see if I knew anyone.  I did not.  Therefore I feel it's well within my right as someone who actually works in "the industry" to remark on what I found.  I didn't put names or names of lines with the quoted material below.

Except that I must tell you that one of the "labels" is called Haus.  HAUS.  As in what frat dudes call each other at the gym.  Or how one burly bub would formally address another mid-rile:  "Take it easy, Haus."  (OK, maybe it's spelled "hoss," but they are homonyms.)  At the very least, it's the German word for "house."  So why why WHY would you ever choose this word to represent your line of ladies' wear?!? 

For the rest, I tried to categorize them for your laughing, er, reading pleasure.  I was struck by how serious these designers took themselves, especially for people who aren't seeing major sales, raking in real dough, or working in a major fashion market.  (Sorry StL, but I don't think anyone considers you a global fashion hub.)  My favorite was all of the designers who wrote about themselves in the third person.  Wait... is this blurb from Vogue?  Oh no, it's just YOU trying to make yourself seem more important because "someone else" is talking about you.  Phhffft!  You don't fool me!

Here goes:

This word was a real bugaboo for our designers.  I caught a "boehmian," but the real beverage-spitter was "bohomenian."  Bohomenia?  That's in eastern Europe, right?

This simple one had them all a-tizzy, too.  Witness:  "Sheek" and my favorite "Sheik."  As in "Duncan"?  Or "Mohammad"? 

Is that what they called it in the Olde West?

I blame the magazine for this, as apparently they offered this spelling in their drop-down menu.  Shame on you, dumb magazine;  you're making this worse than it has to be.  The best part was seeing how many designers slotted themselves as "Avante Garde," when there was nothing at all edgy or avant about their pieces.  One "Avante Garde" designer went so far as to reference the great gateway artist Salvador Dali**

"Artistic Influence? Salvador Dali is one of my favorite artists, and definitely influences my work. I love the fact that since he is a surrealist artist, when you look at his work it is always different, nothing is normal. And I would definitely say that when I go to create a garment it is my goal to produce something different and unique."

Still bad, but at least this one has heart!

I give you:  "Izzac Mizarahi" and "Dani Atrach."  The last one's actually a dude.  He may be no "haus," but he certainly doesn't end his name with an "i."  Tsk, tsk.

"[Label name deleted] is inspired by the black-and-white visuals of Hollywood's classic film noir and tossed with a dark gothic aesthetic using corsets, buckles, and bondage tape. It projects a feeling of the elegant restraint of women throughout past centuries."

Also:  "tossed with"!  Hi-yah!

"My line is for those fearless ones that love being vibrant in bold colors. What you see now is what happens when I listen to music whilst sketching. In this particular case, I was listening to Earth, Wind, and Fire."

That's right, in this case I had on the grooves.

Also note:  "whilst."  Thank you, your majesty.  We will let you know if you're in our top six.


This guy barely comes up for air.  (Also, he used the ol' ALL CAPS trick to put him in front of the others!)  You surely caught:  "Sex A Peel." (Reminds me of the big "potato a-peel" ending of the old Tato Skins commercials.  Except there it actually made sense.)  And "Sheik" (previously discussed).

Also, thanks for telling me what your photos show.  I'm reading this on the internet so I'm not blind, bozo.  Noted that the shirt could be "PAIRED UP WITH" a bottom of one's own choosing.  I'm pretty sure this "up with" phrasing is accompanied by a mouth click or a hand snap when stated live.  And finally, settle the hell down with your inspiration.  Really, "ALL PERSONS, PLACES, AND THINGS" inspire you?  Well, I don't want to see a line based on the turd you dropped this morning.  Hey, you said "ALL."

8.  META
"The line explores a variety of design elements, such as line, shape, and repetition."

Wait... the "line explores... line"?  Duuuuude.

I know I was going to keep this anonymous, but what is this??


How do you even pronounce that?  And what does it mean?  If the name of your line is written in code, how could it possibly be marketed to the general public?  And the people with good taste, the people circling in the real fashion world?  Well, I'm pretty sure they don't play this shit.  Go on, you try explaining your line's dumb name to Andre Leon Talley.  I dare you.  I guarantee you he renames it something descriptive in no more than four letters, the first two being S and H.

Check out these scene setters.  Please allow me a few [] interruptions:

"When you walk out your door, the world becomes your audience. The streetlights suspended from above guide you down the runway. The flashbulbs are going off, blinker by blinker as you walk down the street. The beat of your heels mimics the one being projected through your headphones. Your thick designer sunglasses morph into blinders [Blinders?  Oh, I get it now. I'm a horse.], delaying the daylight of reality.  [Stupid reality and its light.  Good thing I have these blinders.]  Anything other than that cup of coffee in your near future seems to fade away. Slow sipping leads to reminiscing, while staring at the red lipstick kiss on the side of your coffee mug… [Yuck?  Why is this mug dirty?] You’re suddenly thinking of his voice and how delicious he smelled… [And how good that NARS Dragon Girl looked on him?]  You just had to slide him the napkin with your number signed in that same red lipstick. [Oh thank god, you've been talking about MY red lipstick this whole time.]  The memory makes you smile as you take another sip of your coffee.  [So I'm a whore not a horse?]"


"Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a beautiful Princess and her beautiful Mother, the Queen. [The Queen Mother, is it?]  If you close your eyes and let your imagination gobble you up, you'll escape to the mysterious kingdom. [A monarchical kingdom?  That is mysterious.]  It IS a wonderland. Animals, trees, flowers, and the even the shadows at night, talk to you for hours and hours. [Are the walls melting yet?]  All the mythical stories are here for the taking. [Tell the one about when Zeus wants to get in that one lady's pants so he turns her into a cow!]  The kingdom has no sense of time. [Oh, no requests?  Boo.]  What year is it? No one knows. [And no one cares if the Zeus story is off the table.  Hurumph!]  Everything glistens in the fresh sunshine and when the moon rises, the dark creatures come out to play. The little Princess twirls everyday, like a ballerina swallowed by a perfect tulip. [I don't like the idea of these predatory tulips.]  The Queen is independent, generous, and caring. The kind of beauty that never gets lost. [Can someone tell me where I left my beauty?  Please??]  My designs are born in this wonderland. A dream land that is delicate, brave, unexpected, and enchanting."

I can't make this stuff up.

In conclusion, I would put up anyone--ANYONE--I have ever worked with in this industry (or any other industry, for that matter) against these jokers.  Hell, I would even put up my own self--and I can't sew!  At the very least, I could guarantee an insightful and creative blurb with no more than one spelling error.  And that might just be enough to take this competition.

* (Disclaimer, I watched most of the 2010 season when I was home for 3 months and was trying to support one of the St. Louis designers in competition, but there was lots of bad shizz, to be sure.)

** After a discussion with Sweet Daddy on the road somewhere between Biarritz and Bilbao, I concluded this:  Dali is a gateway artist.  He got me and many other 8th graders interested in art.  But when I look back at Dali now, most of it doesn't hold for me.  I know he had chops; he could really paint.  And I appreciate the code, the idea of things representing other things.  But I just don't respect it like I did way back when.  Partially, this is because of later Dali's overly marketed persona.  But also it's because I don't think surrealism holds up so well.  Most of it looks so dated.  And why must every museum gift shop--no matter the bent of the museum--have some melting watch paraphenelia on offer?  Stop it, people.  So thanks to Dali for piquing my interest in art, but 37-year-old Jodi sure doesn't see it the same way as 14-year-old Jodi.  But that's growing up for you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Richard Serra Excites Me So!

Getting off all things Gehry (yo, I would never even get on that), let's talk about the BEST part of the Guggenheim--the Richard Serra room!  Seen below, it's called "The Matter of Time."

I knew of Serra well enough (my fine hometown is home to two of his pieces; see me wander through "Joe" here), and my first thought on seeing the pieces in this enclosed environment was, "Boo!  They should be outside where they can weather appropriately."

My second thought was something like, "Hey jerk, could you move your ill-placed baby vehicle so others may enter the sculpture?!"  Yeah, some ass-mom left her child blocking the entrance while she was nowhere to be seen.  Hurumph.  This woman clearly was not up on her sculptural etiquette.

But back to my first thought about the sculptures being better served out of doors.  Well, tally that point for the Guggenheim because having the pieces in a controlled environment allows you to experience the acoustic changes in a way impossible outside.  There were moments I was damn-near playing foot piano, listening to the way the sounds changed.  (Touché, Guggers.  Touché.)

Which leads me to "All of The Ways to Experience a Serra" (or, "How I Almost Lost My Proverbial Shit Inside a Serra Sculpture").

Look, it may have been the glass of wine I had at lunch or it may have been that I was wearing my glasses that day (this sometimes trips out my peripheral vision ever so slightly), but when R.Serra started tipping the snaking metal toward me and I felt off-kilter and the sound of my footsteps was changing and I started to feel space tightening around me and my feet fumbled a bit but I kept leaning, leaning, leaning into it, trusting it was going to open up and free me, listening to the sounds continue to change, looking at the crusty metal patina, walking walking, thinking how much longer can this go on the thing didn't look that big?, when it opens... and I've reached the middle... and I can breathe and smile and want to start clapping and squealing like a baby child.

You got me, Mr. Serra!  Your big metal thingy that looks like nothing from the outside, it ingested me, squeezed me tight, tripped me up, and released me to stand there and wonder what the hell just happened.  There were times when I felt like I was either going to cry or vomit or have some kind of extreme physiological response (I bring your attention back to the glass of wine from lunch), but I assure you this is GOOD.  I am trying to tell you that I enjoyed this experience because it was a giant freaking EXPERIENCE brought on by A-R-T.

After I realized what a trip I had been on, I grabbed my sense of wonder by the arm and took the rest of them with such a curiosity.  All of my senses were firing.  (OK, except taste.  Shoot, I should have licked it!)  I didn't want to miss one damn thing that Serra was putting out there.  Snake me around, buddy!  Let's see where you take me!

I have not had such a visceral and emotional and multi-sensory experience to art in ages.  (Though, I think often of the hours I wasted on the Cremaster cycle and this always incites an urge to vomit, but that's different.  Hey Barney, I want my money back!  No, even better, I want those HOURS back.  You insult us to assume that anyone has time to spare on your schlock.  *End digression.*)  I loved experiencing these sculptures more than I can tell you, and I am fairly certain that Richard Serra is a genius.

Now if only they would have let him build the damn museum.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Store Dogs

Faceless fluff in Biarritz.

Fancy in San Sebastian.


Day 1 of foul-weather excursions took us to Bilbao, the largest city on the Spanish side of the Basque region and the largest city overall in Basque country.  Bilbao's been described as the "Pittsburgh of Spain," and though I haven't spent much time in Pittsburgh, I'm guessing this is fairly accurate.  The town is pretty ho-hum.  Not so pretty, not so exciting, and it was a Saturday and most downtown shops were deadsville.  Snore.

What Bilbao does have is a Guggenheim Museum.  Yeah, the Frank Gehry one.  You can see it looming at the end of the street here.

But before I get into the Gehry building, let's talk about something happy:  Jeff Koons' "Puppy"!

Spring was good to Puppy, as he was in full bloom.  He looks out at Bilbao, welcoming visitors to the monstrosity of a museum.

Oops.  Here I go.

I have been the opposite of a fan of Frank Gehry since watching the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry some years ago.  His paper crumpling techniques did not inspire respect from me.  I was more impressed by the skill it took for the people in his office to translate his childish renderings into something that could actually be made, ugly as it may be.  I will give all the props in the world to the people crunching the numbers and running the programs to enable something like this to be built.  But I have few good words to say about the aesthetics of the building itself.

For me, it is a confused jumble.  There were parts I liked (like the glass walls, reflecting back on themselves and the landscape outside), but generally the whole thing felt really haphazard and incoherent.  The sandy granite tiles in atrium were more reminiscent of an office building in suburban St. Louis.  And then there were curvy white drywalled areas.  And the glass walls.  And stairways that were hard to find and didn't take you where you wanted to go.  I don't know, I just didn't like it.  It wasn't warm.  It wasn't interesting.  It was confusing and felt thrown together.  I don't know how so many damn critics can be in its thrall.

Back to happier things, here's Jeff Koons' "Tulip."

Looking out from the back terrace.

Another view from the back terrace.  

As for the contents of the museum, the collection of Serra sculptures is bar none.  (More on that later.)  And there was an exhibit of David Hockney's landscapes that I enjoyed more than I would have thought.  The exhibit included some of Hockney's iPad landscapes, and it's pretty impressive what the ol' boy can do on the new technology.  Google it to see more.  

I'll leave you with this shot of a dog waiting for his owner to finish her gelato with the Guggenheim in the background.

Bayonne and Biarritz

An old friend had recently graduated from MBA school and was hastily planning a last-minute trip to Europe, backpack-style just like we did when we graduated from plain ol' college so many years ago.  Would I be in Paris and also would I like to meet him somewhere for a weekend getaway?  Yes and yes!

We took the weekend getaway first, taking a quick flight down to Biarritz.  We rented a car, which was immediately a giant point of stress for me as I hadn't driven in over 6 months.  (We struggled with the insurance question at the counter, opting only for the "basic"insurance.  [Oh, how many times have I been in this situation, only now it was in Europe = worse.]  I kept trying to put our limited coverage out of my mind, but there it was creeping around every traffic circle.  (What do they have against stoplights, by the way?)  During the first few hours of driving, I was the vision of a nervous wreck--knuckles white with grip, veins in neck bulging, everything tight and tense.  But thankfully I had a good navigation buddy who didn't mind over-stating things to me in a tone suitable to talking someone off a ledge, and there weren't any wrecks.

Despite our initial inclinations to drop the car off early (I wanted it GONE), we were grateful to have it for the weekend because the weather was cool/cloudy/rainy.  So instead of chillin' on the beach in Biarritz, we drove down the coast to Spain.

We hit the city of Bayonne just after arriving.  Bayonne is famous for its ham, as well as for its history of bullfighting.  It's less touristy than Biarritz, though it is equidistant from the little airport both cities share. 

The Nive River in the middle of the city.

There was a brocante on, so we stopped and had a gander.

This is the Cathedrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne, which has a lovely cloister built around a courtyard full of headless statues and large stone tiles that are actually gravestones.  It's always a strange feeling to look down and realize you're standing on someone's remains.  Whoops.

We checked out a few stores in Bayonne (and bought a paper cone full of freshly shaved meat... noms), walked by the rugby field, and then headed to Biarritz, our HQ for the weekend.

This is the fancy little town of Biarritz.

Biarritz is a classy little surf town (with not one but TWO casinos) on the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic.  The brave souls on the beach are few, as the weather was generally uncooperative and cool.  

Roses were in full bloom on our visit.  They were everywhere!

This creepy cemetery was on our walk from the hotel to the beach.

I spotted this kitteh family on one of our walks.  Two kittens and an especially intense momma (second from left).  I wanted to take them all and have a little kitty troupe, but they're pretty lucky living in Biarritz, even if they're only squatting in someone's garden.

I liked Biarritz alright, but I no doubt would have been smitten if the weather was good and we could have strolled around in swimsuits and sandals.  It's part of the Basque region, which runs from France to Spain and is the land of pelote (in the US, the most well-known version of which is Jai Alai), fresh seafood, part of the Pyrenees, esplette peppers, kalimotxo (a drink of half red wine/half cola), pintxos (the Basque version of tapas), a predominant use of the letter X, wild ponies (pottok), sheeps' milk cheese (like Idiazabal), and the cutest damn typeface in the world.

More Basque region to follow.  

Stuff On Walls #598