Bad Situation

Hilarious report in the WSJ blog about Abercrombie & Fitch paying Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of the Jersey Shore to NOT wear its brand due to “deep concern” over negative brand associations.  It’s like when so-called “chavs” started wearing Burberry tartan as the uniform of choice across the UK back in the mid-noughties.  That was one hell of a nightmare for the Burberry brand, though that brand is decidedly more aspirational than A&F which is more known for their barely clad models and politically incorrect T-shirts.   Which then begs the question if A&F is genuinely concerned about the Situation bringing down their image with all the tacky Jersey Shore associations or if they just want to fire up some good ol’ fashioned controversy for buzz.  After all, it sounds like they were the ones that released a statement about it.  If I were Snooki, I’d start wearing head to toe A&F and refuse to stop wearing any of it until they paid at least triple what they paid the Situation.  Work it, girl.  For real.

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Craftsmanship is Sexy

Living basically across the street from the Brooklyn Flea, I know that I have no excuse for being about a decade behind the curve in finally taking up a D.I.Y. activity that requires a modicum of manual dexterity.  Thanks to a Lifebooker Loot certificate for a beginning knitting course at La Casita purchased about a year ago and the kick in the pants (a combination of impending certificate expiration date and rapidly expanding belly) needed to actually redeem it, I can proudly say that I am now on my way to hand-crafting my first non-edible project as a grown-up.  Starting to knit a baby blanket is hardly a cause for public self-congratulations, but I have to say that an intimate knowledge of how much time and effort goes into making something that I could easily buy for a quarter of the price I spent on the yarn is really eye-opening.  It’s not hard to see why there has been such a huge resurgence of interest in craftsmanship and highly skilled manual labor as a result of all this amateur Etsy-style crafting activity.  There’s an element of elevated appreciation — gee whiz, how did he make that? — that naturally comes with having tried to make something out of nothing yourself.

The interest in craftsmanship seems to be pretty universal in mature economies across the board.  The shokunin (craftsman/artisan) boom has been growing in Japan for a while now and most international luxury brands with any heritage and dignity seem to have shifted their focus from logo-driven celebrity flash to an emphasis on the actual work that goes into their products.  Not surprising, given that in these markets, the default setting is overseas mass-production and an abundance of pretty much anything you need at comically low prices.  (The iPhone 3G is $49 today!)  Naturally, the swingback reaction to such a culture of ‘easy everything’ is to seek out things that are genuinely complicated and difficult.  Like comparing a baroque oratorio to a Black Eyed Peas reworking of a song from Dirty Dancing.  Scary fact: Handel composed the entirety of the Messiah in just 24 days!  I mean, no disrespect, but mad skillz just doesn’t mean what it used to.

Anyway,  I’m losing my train of thought again.  Oh right, so what I wanted to do was post these videos that Shota sent over and direct you all to Dunhill’s awesome Day 8 site that showcases the work of their craftsmen like this “Making Heritage” video below.  Super hot, but totally suitable for work.

 

This video for Red Wing Shoes I saw on Hypebeast today is similarly awesome, though decidedly more proletarian in flavor.  Viva Manual Labor!  Being a “knowledge worker” is overrated.  It’s what pays my bills for sure, but I certainly wouldn’t mind making something for a living.  PowerPoint Schmowerpoint.  -sigh-  But first things first…I should finish this blanket.

For What It’s Worth

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — the polarization of media consumption keeps on escalating.  The day after Borders went out of business I find myself reading on Grub Street about how a set of $625 cookbooks are rapidly selling out.  I’ve long found it fascinating how mega-brands like Newsweek struggle to turn a profit while over on Mercer Street, the folks at Visionaire have been churning out deluxe magazines typically costing at least a couple hundred dollars since 1991 without a hitch.  Apples and oranges in terms of content, perhaps, but the point is that in the realm of media publishing, as things get more crap and diluted overall with the majority of product becoming either free or extremely affordable, there’s a simultaneous growth in demand for a truly luxury experience.

Radiohead’s controversial experiment with their release of In Rainbows back in 2007 was truly a harbinger of post-consumption consumption.  Their release of their digital album for free in conjunction with a super-slick and pricey LP offering basically reflected today’s consumer landscape to a T.  Some people just don’t want to pay for anything or don’t care enough to pay for something, while others will sell their internal organs for a piece of something they love.  The band is back this week with an announcement that they’ll be releasing a new album, The King of Limbs, digitally (not free but on the cheap) via their website on February 19.  What they are calling their deluxe ‘Newspaper Album,’ which consists of two clear 10″ vinyl records in a purpose-built record sleeve, a CD and ‘”many large sheets of artwork, 625 tiny pieces of artwork and a full-colour piece of oxo-degradeable plastic to hold it all together,” will be shipped out in March for fans who pre-order for the obviously worth it price of $48.  Around the same as a face-value ticket to see LCD Soundsystem for their farewell show at MSG!  That is, if you are an evil scalper bot who was actually able to procure a ticket at the price. (Another example of astounding consumer demand in this era of Free! but I digress…)

You're so very welcome...

Anyway, as usual my train of thought seems to have been hijacked by Thom Yorke.  I believe what I was originally trying to say is, dude, check out these luxury books in a custom Goyard trunk I saw in a bookshop window in Montreal!

Traveling Luxury Library by Goyard -- spotted in Montreal

Illegal Wedding Fair in NYC

I haven’t had a spare moment to blog for the last couple of months since planning for the Illegal Wedding Fair went into high gear!  This is my better-late-than-never post about the upcoming event that we’ve been feverishly working on, with an additional note to say I probably won’t be posting anything until after June 6 when all of this is over and I have time to do normal things again like pick up the dry cleaning and wash the dishes.

So here’s everything you need to know about the IWF.  It’s NYC’s premier same-sex wedding fair event taking place on Sunday, June 6 at the stunning townhouse venue, 632 on Hudson.  It’s a 4 hour event from noon-4pm with over 25 local vendors showcasing their work, all of whom unanimously support marriage equality.  There will be gorgeous wedding cakes by Cake Alchemy and Nine Cakes, a fabulous dinner-party vignette by floral designers Poppies & Posies in collaboration with the incredibly talented calligrapher Bryn Chernoff of Paperfinger, utilizing furniture and tableware provided by Broadway Party Rentals.  You’ll be able to nibble on delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by eco-chic caterers Stuart & Welch, as well as Brooklyn’s own DISH Food & Events.  There will be an explosion of gorgeous flowers everywhere, designed by our participating gay-friendly florists, including Saipua, Worship Luxury, and the elusive/exclusive private florist Shaun Carson.  Luxury event designer Zak Kunish of ZAK Events will be showcasing his talents, as well as Marie Danielle Vil-Young, event coordinator of À Votre Service Events.

E&V Weddings, the featured photographers of the Illegal Wedding Fair will be taking over an entire room in the upper triplex that I like to call “the Chuck Bass Opium Den,” offering retro-vintage portraiture and all sorts of photographic goodness.  Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Kelly Guenther will also be on hand to showcase what she calls her “wedding photojournalism,” as will luxury events photographer Robert DiScalfani‘s crew.  You’ll find some gorgeous wedding gowns by Lovely bridal shop in a room that looks like Marie Antoinette’s boudoir, sample beautiful favors by Amy’s Cookies and Bespoke Chocolates, and even get to talk to speech consultants at The Oratory Laboratory about how not to embarrass yourself when giving that semi-drunk and tearful speech at your next wedding.  Face Time Beauty Concierge will be doing touch-ups and offering advice on how to look your best, and wellness guru Tory Marsh will be giving advice on health and nutrition.  You can find same-sex wedding bands designed by Rony Tennenbaum, who recently opened a boutique in Nolita, and check out the beautiful stationery of both Lion in the Sun Park Slope and Atelier Isabey.  Am I leaving anything out?  All this while enjoying cocktails expertly mixed by Payman Bahmani of Life’s a Cocktail and Mayur Subbarao of Evoe to the sounds of some great performers provided by Elan Artists!  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, right?

If you start to feel overwhelmed you can take a breather in the gorgeous lounge space on the ground-floor created by the furniture and props rental outfit, Taylor Creative.  From there you can look across to the Speaker’s Corner and catch some amazing talks by David Toussaint, author of Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony, Annie Lee, principal planner and founder of Daughter of Design, and Dr. Anne Klaeysen & Law’nence Miller, officiants from the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

Meet Kirsten & Maria Palladino, the Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of Equally Wed, the nation’s premier same-sex wedding magazine and our national media sponsor for this event.  They’re coming all the way from Hotlanta so come say hi!  We’re also crossing our fingers that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn might be able to drop in to give an address so this is serious stuff!  We’ve got a ton of great products to raffle off for charity from our amazing sponsors, including a few of those famous Marriage is So Gay T-shirts.  Everyone will go home with a sweet swag bag and enjoy products from sponsors illy issimo and popchips among many others.  Our hearts are full with love and gratitude for all the awesome people participating in realizing this one-of-a-kind event.  Come on out and share the love on June 6!  Say NO to marriage discrimination in our state (and everywhere else, for that matter), and let’s hope that next year this will be the LEGAL Wedding Fair!

Tickets are $35 per person / $60 per couple – available here via Brown Paper Tickets, the first and only fair trade ticketing company.  See you at the party!

Books for Looking

Andy Spade of Partners & Spade

I stopped into Partners & Spade yesterday and had a little chuckle over Andy Spade‘s wall installation of framed clothbound books, which if I recall correctly, was titled something along the lines of “An Argument for Looking at Books Not Reading Them.”  Cheeky and so wonderfully in touch with the current book-fetishizing zeitgeist!  I noticed the other day while browsing an Anthropologie store that those gorgeous clothbound Penguins designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith which I’ve been coveting for ages had made their way across the pond and were now available outside of the UK.  It’s admittedly a tad depressing to see editions of Dickens and Hardy scattered between cashmere twin-sets and shabby chic hand towels at an Anthro store, as it pretty much confirms the crossover of the book from vessel for content to object for display.  The vast majority of these books will presumably live out their lives on a whimsically curated antique shelf, their glued spines never to be cracked.  However, given the current state of the book industry, I have to applaud any and all attempts to revive interest in literature even if the tactics used are entirely aesthetic.

Clothbound Penguin Classics designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith

As further evidence of the fetishizing of books, take a look at these amazing Book Lights by Design Studio MS in the UK.  Sadly they are currently only available with UK voltage plugs but I suppose I can always buy a converter.  I want, I want!

The Book Light (2009) by Design Studio MS

Continuing on this train of thought, the lovely photographs of book spines by Mickey Smith also come to mind, as well as the series of bookshelf illustrations by Jane Mount — both available on Jen Bekman’s 20×200.  Don’t have a bookshelf in your apartment?  Just put up some pictures of books and presto!  Nah, I’m just kidding.  Like Andy Spade’s collection of framed books, presumably this kind of book-inspired art appeals most to people who actually do read quite a bit.

Word Study by Mickey Smith
Bookshelf 20 by Jane Mount

To blather on even further, I was at a charity benefit the other day where limited edition art books were being auctioned off for thousands of dollars.  At those kind of prices they’re obviously more investment vehicle than actual thing to be enjoyed (imagine spilling coffee on your $4000 book!), but it really spelled out for me the reality that in the world of books, content has largely become divorced from the object.  Kraken Opus, which recently released a Michael Jackson Opus for a relatively cheap $250, quite literally describes their limited edition books as an alternative investment that helps to “diversify your wealth.”  I’m sure that while among these buyers of $4000+ limited edition books on everything from Arsenal to Prince will be die-hard fans who just want to own it no matter what, I suspect the majority of Opus’ customers never even break open the wooden crate it comes in and send it straight to their vaults to appreciate in value alongside their Château Margaux.  The only time I ever saw an Opus book was under a glass case at Heathrow and that particular edition (Super Bowl XL) weighed a whopping 80 lbs.  It takes “coffee table book” to a whole new level.  You probably need to be in the NFL yourself to actually turn the page so it certainly is not a book meant for reading.  So then what of the mundane task of reading?  We have the Kindle and Nook for that!

Kraken Opus' limited edition books

A Dandy Old Time in Tokyo

tokyodandy

Apologies for the long hiatus! I was in Japan (again) doing a project on the evolution of luxury followed by erm…cultural research (read: having fun) in Bangkok.  Posts on that to follow!  Anyway, where to begin?  This time around I met the creators of the Tokyo Dandy blog, Dan and Joe, who were not only super cool (to be expected), but super nice and down to earth (unexpected).  Dan is English and Joe is Japanese — and together they run one of the most buzzed about bilingual fashion/nightlife blogs in Japan.  I was luckily in town for the site’s first anniversary party at the Trump Room in Shibuya, a crazy space decked out in mirrors and red velvet that is hidden inside a random old office building.  The place was so glam-packed that I was feeling incredibly out of place in my super-casual A.P.C. dress until bizarrely enough, a slim-suited frenchman came up and thanked me for wearing the brand.  Turns out he was head of promotions for A.P.C. in Japan.  Only in Tokyo!

So the party was insanely fun and later in the week I met up with Dan to pick his brain about what he saw happening in the Tokyo luxury scene as it pertains to the super-fashionable (but not necessarily super-wealthy) kids he’s friends with and throws events for.  Perhaps the word luxury is a bit confusing here, but it seems to me that in a country where pretty much everyone owns something from LV, lifestyle aspirations for the younger generation have shifted away from brand-affliliated status to something more knowledge and community-based. The inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West that I used to see growing up has totally faded and has been replaced by cultural confidence and a greater desire to play a more integral role in the rest of the world.  As Dan put it, “The (Japanese) kids today know that they’re considered cool. They see pictures of themselves in foreign magazines.”  This generation doesn’t ooh and aah over some impenetrable ‘scene’ populated only by tall Western models — they not only feel included, they feel like they’re creating it themselves.

Furthermore, unlike their parents who worked non-stop in pursuit of the middle-class ideal of being just like everybody else, the people who populate Tokyo Dandy’s world would much rather work a crappy job at a convenience store if it meant they could maintain the freedom to pursue their interests. Dan knew of a number of people who successfully started shops and brands out of the money they scraped together from years of working odd jobs.  It seems that in today’s Japan, the ability to take risks and have the balls to choose freedom over security is turning out to be the ultimate luxury.  It’s also worth noting that the shift from being intimidated by gaijin (foreigners) to being friends with them regardless of what level your english is has done wonders for this growing class of New Cosmopolitans.  A good TOEFL score may get you a higher paying job, but having a network of friends from around the world is way cooler and will probably end up benefiting you more in the end!

Dan & Joe of Tokyo Dandy
Dan & Joe of Tokyo Dandy at Trump Room