Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tiffany Haddish

Vogue September 2010
Tiffany Haddish is wonder woman.

Haddish had me at 'I'm gonna wear this Alexander McQueen dress all of the time ...' when she stood on the SNL stage giving her host's monologue. If ever I had an Alexander McQueen dress to wear, I would wear it to the grocery store too. But the message behind Haddish's proclamation was not lost ... you've got to be real to be funny. And this girl is for real.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Karl Lagerfeld's Desk

I am fascinated by Karl Lagerfeld. His desk is a place that I would love to explore. In thechaos, some sort of organization has been established ... a method in the madness in the truest sense. And the cat, Choupette, is, naturally, a beautiful specimen, and her tail, I'm sure that she is a lady, has been fluffed for the photograph.

In the piece accompanying the photograph by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue, Hamish Bowles writes,"Savagely unsentimental, relentlessly un-nostalgic, he remains, in his ninth decade, fueled by his insatiable curiosity and passion for the present and the future. "I have a strong survival instinct," he says." I guess so. At 85, Lagerfeld continues the kind of pace that one expects of someone far younger, not because of age, but interest. I have to wonder what made him that he is so focused on design that it seems that it is the only thing that his mind processes.

I am sitting at my desk now. It has moved from its former home of 24 years, and in its former life, I collected, not stacks of inspiration, but magazine clippings and photographs that I would admire as I stalled in putting my fingers to the keyboard. Now, I have a window to look at/through, not a wall. I have not begun to tape the images to the window frame or create a new space for them on an adjacent wall. I'm not sure that I will. I look out now on a windy day and the tall evergreens that I argued so heartily to remove as they didn't 'match' the others in the line along the road and find them to be beguiling. They are tall and wide and seem to be made of beautiful light, intricate lace. Each moves so delicately in the breeze that gusts through it. Black birds flutter in and through them in a system of organization that had I not spent many minutes procrastinating, I may have missed. In Autumn, I wonder at what the scene will look like as the seasons move through the year. Fortunately, the evergreens will stay constant. They will be the stalwart, the base, of what could be come a window of transcendence, but also one that is a comfort in its sameness.

I wonder what Karl thinks about when he looks up from his papers, admires the puff that is Choupette's tail, and considers what is right there in front of him.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ralph Lauren at 50 Years: Remembering Marshall Field's Country Shop

Vogue September 2018

Gately's the People's store in Roseland

After college, like many, I was directionless. Although my experience had taught me many things, I was not taught what to look for in a job, much less how to find a job. So I moved back to my parent's house and got a part-time job at a store that had always held a fascination for me: Marshall Field's. Before realizing it, I had headed to a place that I had always loved, a department store, so the first step was in the right direction as I worked for that company for ten years.

As a child, I can remember going with my mom to Gately's, the People's Store, in the Roseland Community on the southside of Chicago. The memories are but ghosts with transparent edges as I was but a very small girl. But I have a sense of the bustle of the place and the specialness of a visit there for I know that my mother didn't have the time nor the finance to spend a lot of it in a department store. Last year, some 50 years after I would have gone, I drove to the sight of the store on Michigan Avenue, but not much was left to see. The neighborhood, once a gem, has become the same shadowy memory that is mine of the area.
Ben Franklin in Riverdale on 144th Street

My family moved further south to Riverdale when I was five. The next department store that I came to love was the Ben Franklin on 144th Street. When I was young, we had an all-access pass to the community. We were free to go anywhere our legs or bikes could take us. Typically that meant that we would roll up to the park or go to the White Hen Pantry to buy a slushy if funds were available, which was a rare occurrence. But when I had a few more cents than normal, I couldn't wait to go into the Ben Franklin. I can remember that store so clearly with its array of trinkets and treasures. For whatever reason, and this is true today, one of my favorite aisles to shop was the office supply one. I loved to look at the pens, paper, clips- all of the little things that were so neatly ordered on the shelves. I used to dream of getting locked in to Ben Franklin and having to spend the night. I would plan out which aisle I would go to first and which aisle I would spend the most time in. I didn't think that I would ever sleep for the time it would take to investigate every aisle.

Not long after I began working at Marshall Field's, I was given more and more responsibility. I was a college graduate after all. Or maybe it was because I was just a natural at merchandising. My manager could just tell me where the boxes were and she knew that I would do my thing. I loved the challenge of organizing merchandise. The first department that I worked in was Accessories. In the summer, I would arrange hundreds of pairs of sunglasses on the towers and get every pair out. I can remember one display case that I was particularly proud of that contained expensive evening bags where I placed dress shoes to make the display show off the coordination of the two products. The bags sold out.

After a year of working in Accessories, I was offered the job of assistant manager for the dress department and The County Shop. My manager was an old stalwart who wasn't too happy to get me. While I was working at that store, I was trying to figure out my own style. Coming off college as a new waver, my hair and clothes were not, I can see know, quite appropriate for a suburban branch of an upscale retailer. But I had skills and someone was noticing it. Bernie, the manager, didn't want me around the dresses. The dress department in this particular branch had the highest dress sales in the company. I suppose not having any competition contributed to this. I was exiled to the Country Shop.

Beverly Miller
The County Shop was the life work of buyer Beverly Miller. For the Country Shop, she built a business whose base was Ralph Lauren. Then she layered it with her private label brand that was truly private label at its best. It was a luxury brand, not the nonsense that fills Macy's today with the likes of Alfani and Charter Club. It was an interesting post for me as I did not claim the polo/country club aesthetic for myself. Coming out of my punk phase, I had entered a French phase. I had my mother sew me a black skirt, I put on a black sweater, and I would layer resale purchased strands of pearls and gold chains. Chanel was my muse. Maybe that's why Bernie never liked me.

Or was it because I was good at my job. Miller put together a look book for The Country Shop every season. No expense was spared and the merchandise was lovingly shown on models in luxurious country surroundings, very like Ralph Lauren has become. I loved to work with the cashmere and woolens, layering them on the mannequins and working with the display department to make the shop look like one of the photographs in the look book. Bernie told me one day that the lady herself, Beverly Miller, was coming out for a visit, probably because sales were up. Instead of a "I got you" moment, Miller was impressed with how I was able to display her vision. We got on wonderfully.  And though the clothing was not for me, I appreciated it and treated it lovingly. Needless to say, I wasn't there long before I was called up the show: the downtown store.

And Ralph Lauren has been at it for 50 years. I still love to look at his look books or pages in fashion magazines. Ralph was in the game at the time that I worked at The Country Shop, but he wasn't where he is now. I wonder if Miller and he ever met? They seem so similar in their view of what the world should like. I have a couple of pieces of Ralph, but they aren't favorites. His cut is a mean one and very up and down when I need a little bit more forgiveness. But I love looking at the pictures. He's good for that. Miller? She always sold a good cut with luxury fabric. I remember a navy linen suit that I bought from one of her collections. It was one of my favorites, more so for having worked with her and seeing first hand her talent.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Celebrity Crush

Real Simple October 2018
Having started celebrity fascinations at the tender age of, I am guessing, 13, all that is presented in this article to defend this particular affliction makes sense to me.

1. "It's a breather from the real world:" ain't that the truth. I currently work in a county building and when I am not teaching, I am expected to sit in a dark, dirty, possibly vermin infested back room to collaborate with my colleagues, whom I am not particularly interested in collaborated with as my experience and educational philosophies differ from theirs enormously ... actually, my ideas about anything, for the most part, sets me apart from them. Plus, some aren't particularly forthcoming, so, as I breathe in the stale air and hope that I don't catch anything from any of the surfaces, I read I am not much of an Internet surfer, but for this site, I would be a little embarrassed if any checked how many times a day I take a look to see if anything new has come up in the day. Maybe the Princess, any number of them, has visited a school or hospital. What were they wearing? How did the people react? It is diverting. And in the end, I know way too much about what is going on with William and Kate, but that's okay. It's a brain break ... and I need a lot of those at my current place of employment.

2. "It can encourage you to help others:" this is certainly true for me. Bono, alone, encouraged me to do something in the world. I think that I possess that gene already, but were it not for him, I wouldn't have done Habitat for Humanity builds in Chile and Botswana. When I dragged my butt through 26.2 miles of a marathon, I did it to raise money for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. In many small ways, I have often considered, what would Bono do? I'm teased endlessly for my love of him as it is misunderstood. For me, he is the rock star, yes- but he is also a point of light for me to believe in and he makes me want to be a part of building things up, not tearing them down. I am fully aware that he is human and imperfect as some like to remind me of occasionally, but I am too. And that's okay.

3. "It emboldens you to live your dream:" a few years ago, I saw the David Bowie exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. Not knowing quite what to expect, I was blown away by it. I could've spent hours more in what was, to me, a visit into Bowie's creative mind. Aside from the fashion display and all of its Alexander McQueen wonderfulness, I was most impressed in the area that was devoted to Bowie's Berlin years. One of the exhibition pieces was a machine that Bowie would use to spark lyric ideas. Randomness can spark creativity. And that set me off to thinking. Recently, I've been immersed in Steve Perry's story- the Journey front man who walked away from it all and didn't sing for 20 years. To hear him talk about it is fascinating. I loved Steve Perry more than life itself during high school. I broke up with him in college for New Wave, but he's back, and I can see what I saw in him then and am glad that he's arrived to the now with a story that I understand about talent and creativity. I don't know if these stories help my dream as much as I see the struggle that they face in their creative lives, identify with it and feel encouraged to continue, in my own small way, my own creative pursuits.

4. "It can make you feel connected:" in the summer following sixth grade, I spent every day with the older girl a couple doors down. She had a good stereo and led me away from David Cassidy and introduced me to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, among others. The Beatles, in particular, grabbed a hold of me deep. The first album that I bought with my own money was 'Abbey Road.'  We spend hours listening to her vinyl collection, and I clearly remember feeling my whole being opening up to receive all of the ideas and sounds that came in listening to the music. Going into seventh grade without my new friend who was in high school, I faced two lonely years of not fitting in and general awkwardness ... like most I imagine.  But I had the music. And I lived a full life whenever I listened to it or, even, thought about it. I started my subscription to Rolling Stone at that time. I don't even know if I was aware or savvy enough to fully comprehend everything that I read, but I felt that I was a part of the community, a part of something.

5. "It can help you pick up great style tips:" continuing on with my 13 year old self. I was such a dork, but the love that I had for the bands that I was listening to was so real. I didn't have a lot of clothes at that time and some of my pants, my mother had sewn me. I had one pair of light blue, elephant pant styled cotton pants that she had sewn for me that I took an embroidery needle to and embroidered the names of my favorite bands on the legs of the pants. I didn't quite pick up that style, but I was inspired and began to develop my own sense of it. I did have feathered hair like some of  my favorites, David Cassidy especially, but I'm not so sure that is how it went down. When Madonna came on the scene, I certainly went to the men's department and bought boxer shorts to wear as clothing. Thankfully, I don't have pictures of that! I can't even imagine. Since so much of fascination involves musicians, not actors, I don't know if I picked up style tips from them or their sound crated an impression which led me to create a style.  But I get this.