Monday, November 24, 2014

MiN New York

With the holidays fast approaching, now feels like the right time to start discussing gift giving and well … even just some new place to see and experience. The destination, experience and gift categories can be solved with a single visit to one of New York City’s rarest treasures. MiN is hiding in plain sight on Crosby Street and offers the visitor an experience which is exactly what proprietors Mindy Yang and Chad Murawczyk  pride themselves on. MiN is part apothecary, gift shop, gallery, olfactory agora, speak easy and remembrance of times gone by. Think Santa Maria Novella in Firenze as a possible frame of reference!

So let’s talk about gifts which can vary from the simplest of items such as bars of D.R. Harris almond oil soap or Trumper shaving cream. Please keep in mind we are NOT speaking of Sephora or Duane Reade varieties but a carefully curated selection of the world’s finest brands that offer a heritage and reputation known only to the very savvy. The offerings boggle the mind and range as said from a bar of soap to the wonderful scents which take the form of candles, eau de toilettes, perfumes, lotions, unguents and colognes. You might even find a scented water to use in your steam iron when pressing your fine linens. Simply said, this establishment has items you never knew you needed!

One of their most incredible items is their own private brand of candles which you might equate to Rigaud or a Dyptique on steroids; these candles far outshine their competition on so many levels. Aside from their custom scents these pillars of scent or bougies, if you will, release their fragrance even when unlit. When lit, these are the most incredible dispensers of scent as they permeate your space but never overpower the recipient’s olfactory senses. If all that is not enough then there are the custom designed translucent bone china lidded canisters that hold each candle. Each container has its own amazing traits including exclusive patterns and even platinum detailing.

For the more adventurous and financially blessed shopper, there is the Bespoke Fragrance Flight or BFF if you will, where a Wonder Pilot will steer you through the discovery of scents that are best suited for the “passenger.” My question is simply “can you verbalize and share your olfactory stimulants and memories?” Within approximately one hour the recipient will have arrived at possibly 5 “destinations” based on their responses ... think about it!! Not as easy as one might think!

One of the newest MiN innovations is Scent Stories which equates to an olfactory art experience or plainly stated a once in a lifetime experience for the most discerning of “noses!” A rather abbreviated explanation is that these perfumes are of limited edition that are signed and numbered. Your membership to this exclusive club takes place in MiN’s Members Vault where the entire process and selection occurs. Once again, the MiN experience is unlike any other!

From an educational point of view, allow Ms. Yang or one of her acolytes to inform you about the difference between truly bespoke scents and what it means to be a genuine perfumer as opposed to a potion maker! Here is a simple example to explain... think of a bartender mixing drinks as opposed to the distiller who actually creates the liquor! It’s an enlightening part of the MiN adventure.

My question to you … “what are you waiting for?”

Monday, November 17, 2014

LOYD / FORD spring 2015

One of the things that has become so apparent to me about this design team is that they defy conventions and write their own rules when it comes to their collections. What is so peculiar to those observations is that their output is steeped in the oldest traditions of fashion and yet they remain totally modern and in a class by themselves.

In today’s world of fashion we have so called designers who don’t drape or don’t sketch or both, let alone sew. So many of the current crop of so called designers talk and talk and espouse and offer all this blah blah blah about their collections as if that can explain away poor design and bad choices. Well, here we have 2 designers who act as a collective one man band, they drape, they sew, they supervise their production, they buy their own piece goods and they have only one agenda which is to promote their brand. Such qualities, work ethic and efforts deserve attention in the fashion arena as they are true designers, not stylists and not directors but designers who design. Their intimate relationship with their product dictates the incredible attention to detail as well as the overall perfection of their output.

For spring 2015, LOYD / FORD has positioned the brand for expansion by enlarging the collection, upping the ante with their incredible handwork and beading,  additional silhouettes such as pants, more long dresses and introducing color to what had been a primarily black collection. In essence, this is an evolutionary step aimed at the growth of the brand. Such changes strengthen and insure their position amongst the highest caliber of international fashion brands. Some will scoff at my assessment but these eyes see greatness and what they don’t see is the current “me too” syndrome …. The sameness that pervades fashion at this time. Imagine ... designers who have a mission, a voice and a vision!

To that end, let’s talk about the excruciating wealth of detail and the visual extravagance of these clothes. My take is that they have a signature shape which is possibly referential to Dior and even possibly Balenciaga. Please visualize the “new look” fitted narrow top to release into that explosion of a fuller bottom half  and that is where Balenciaga enters the picture when he did his bubble like skirts which were again the bottom of what was a fitted top half. No matter the silhouette and no matter the amount of detail, the LOYD / FORD dresses remain light to the eye with an almost ethereal quality about them; not an easy task given the extravagance of details whether in beading, embellishments or fabric effects.

Make no mistake, if you haven’t already guessed, these designers have made a diehard fan of me by showing me that there are still designers who design and actually have original thoughts in their heads! How positively refreshing that they have a “signature,” that they don’t believe that less is more, that they have learned who their clientele is and most of all that the world of fashion needs them for they exemplify the creative spirit that has made fashion an international topic of discussion.

What you see in the slideshow is but a tease of their oeuvre but you will get the picture if you are savvy enough. These are not clothes that are to everyone’s liking but they are the clothes that speak to me as well as to a cast of international A list retailers. The new year will bring them increased exposure... whether at Zurich fashion week or in St. Moritz in high season. The stage is being set for international recognition they have earned and now it will be their turn to show off the fruits of their labors.

P.S.  if you missed their page in the November issue of ELLE, please have a read and don’t forget to wear LOYD / Ford this year and every year to come.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meet David Wills

One of the most amazing things about David Wills is that his life has intersected with both Hollywood and fashion. Please do not think for a second that this means he cares or worries about the like of the starlet of the day and whose clothes she got to wear without owning them.  Mr. Wills has authored or co-authored 6 or so books and has established himself as the go to guy if you are in search of celebrity photos and their negatives.  Not only has he authored but he is one of the largest collectors, preservationists and curators of archival photos, transparencies and negatives in the world.

Having been fortunate enough to have reviewed several of his books for the New York Journal of Books, It is my please to say that the books are immaculately written and researched as well as being superb  photographic treatments of each subject. Add all that to the fact that he is one helluva nice guy and you have an ideal situation for an interview such as this.

 It is my pleasure to introduce you to David Wills….. And don’t forget to pick up one of his books and get lost in the history of it all!!

1-What is the most treasured possession in your wardrobe?

I have an early 70s Edwardian inspired shirt by Mr. Fish that I would probably run into a burning building to save. It has ruffles !!! I don't wear it often, but when I do I feel very After Dark magazine.

2-What is your most sterling trait and what trait do you treasure most in your friendships?

I think I'm a simple person who still appreciates simple things. I look for that trait in friends as well. If people become too complicated I usually withdraw. 

3-What is your bliss?

Playing with my dogs and watching old movies with my partner, Jeffrey McCall.

4-What is your guilty secret?

I have too many unfortunately - still waters run deep.

5-Where is your ideal home?

Split three ways between Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and The Sunshine Coast in Australia.

6-If you could not be a designer/retailer/etc:, what would you be

I would like to be a traveling food critic, or run a Traci Lords theme park.

7-What is on your bedside table right now?

Well, I could give you the "James Franco" answer and say a copy of Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, but I will be honest and say Frebreze (I'm obsessed with it), a bottle of Tums, and a blu-ray of the original 1978 version of "The Toolbox Murders".

8-What do you wear to bed?

Chanel No. 5 - no, just kidding. Mostly a t-shirt and boxers. 

9-What, if any, book are you reading now or last read?

I'm a big re-reader. The last book was Patricia Bosworth's biography of Montgomery Clift. I read it when I was ten and keep going back every five years or so.

10-What’s your advice to the “newcomer?” 

You get more with sugar than you do with vinegar, and never underestimate the power of saying "no".

11-Who or what is your inspiration/style icon?

Gary Cooper, Fred Hughes, Sterling Saint Jacques, Helmut Berger (in The Picture of Dorian Gray), David Croland (during his modeling days when he was professionally known as "The Crow"), Tommy Nutter.

12-What is the best advice you ever received?

Never let your outer show your inner.

13-In 3 words or less, describe the current state of fashion.

"Retrocentric" (if that's even a word). I live my life for yesterday, but there is a danger in that. The fashion world should take heed. For many years in fashion (on the street at least) I saw a dedication to the casual that I found repellent - everyone looked like they were going camping. I must say that finally seems to be changing.

14-If you were a retailer, would you wear your own designs or shop in your own store ? or where would you shop?

This question doesn't really pertain to me, but I always wanted to have a store that was based on the color yellow. They used to do color-coding a lot in the 60s. The boutiques would have really great names like "My Mother Lives in Cincinnati" or "Mr. Asparagus". Unfortunately, few people look good in yellow - it's also supposed to be the favorite color of psychotics - so I will probably never open a store.

15-If you won a $200,000,000 power ball (lottery), what is the first thing you would buy or do?

Set up a foundation to make sure my money was going to the most deserving charities. 

16-If you could invite up to 4 people for dinner, who would they be…dead or alive?

My Uncle Arthur who was killed in WW2, my mother's mother, Marilyn Monroe (circa. 1962), and The Black Dahlia.

17-What is your favorite movie /or movie star?

Movie - "The Naked Kiss" / Movie star - Marilyn Monroe.

18-What is the one thing you would change about yourself?

I wish I was more relaxed. I also wish I had a better "tuxedo" body.

19-Whose opinion do you value most and why?

My parents - amazing people who have always steered me in the right direction.

20-What store or which designer do you most like to shop in or wear ?

I am much more conservative now. As I get older I buy less and less clothing. I keep it simple at places like Thomas Pink, Calvin Klein and Trina Turk. I have a lot of vintage designer - "The Frippery" in Palm Springs is great for that. I like to have dress shirts custom made in China, but I rarely do that these days. I also have a weakness for Belgian shoes.

21-What’s your take on magazines, books versus the internet?

Well, this question is very personal to me as there is a constant battle in publishing between e-books and the traditional printed book. We are still finding our way. I am often appalled at the idea of a photo book being viewed on a screen. I am all for exposure and bringing new ideas to a different audience, but there is a loss of tactility that I find unfortunate. Photo books will never be replaced as they are ultimately seen by a majority of people as decorative items and coffee table embellishments. Many will buy a book for its cover appeal and never even look at the interior. I also think the internet must certainly be keeping the optometrists in business. Our love affair with screens has become quite disturbing.

22-Do you have a dream collaborator?

I'm not sure I want to collaborate on any future projects - though everything is a collaboration to some extent. 

23-What is your crowning achievement thus far in your career?

I was very proud of my book on Veruschka. 

24-What’s your music library like?

Pretty much rotting in boxes in a storage unit. My tastes constantly change, but I always go back to The Cocteau Twins. I just bought one of those portable record player (from about 1962 I guess). The top half is green and the bottom half is blue (one of my favorite color combos). It's the kind Annette Funicello and her friends would have used. I've been wearing out the needle with a lot of Glen Campbell and Wayne Newton.

25-What and where is your favorite meal?

My mother makes a great lamb baked dinner, but second would have to be Zankou Chicken in Los Angeles.