Wednesday, November 27, 2013

David Bowie Is....

a performer, poet, painter, musician, mime, stylist, actor, artist, dancer, set and costume designer, writer, pop star, androgynous style icon.....have I forgotten anything?  Let's just call him a Renaissance Man, shall we?

It was my birthday last weekend, and my gift to myself was a trip to Toronto to see the David Bowie Is exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and visit with a couple of friends.  I've never considered myself a die-hard David Bowie fan - when I was a teenager, he wasn't even on my musical radar.  However, over the last 20 years, I have grown to appreciate his wide-ranging talent, seemingly endless ability to re-invent himself, and his creative and flamboyant style.  I am the proud owner of a vinyl copy of Diamond Dogs, complete with gatefold sleeve (you have to be a certain age to know what that means).

The exhibit, which debuted at London's Victoria and Albert Museum last Spring, contains more than 300 items selected from David Bowie's personal archive, including photographs, lyric sheets, sketches, paintings, costumes, books, album covers, letters, even a mugshot from his 1976 arrest and the keys to his Berlin apartment.  The technology used in the exhibit is mind-bogglingly impressive.  Viewer wear headphones that are triggered by sensors in various parts of the exhibit that allow them to listen to music videos, concerts, and interviews.  One room of the exhibit is devoted to excerpts from his films, another to his music videos, and the last room in the exhibit is a high-ceiling-ed, multi-media temple featuring footage from various concerts.  One could easily spend several happy hours surrounded by Bowie's sound and vision (see what I did there).

Signs in the exhibit prohibited photography, so I discreetly defied the rules in order to bring you the photos below, so don't report me, ok?

Costume designed by Kansai Yamamoto for Bowie's "Aladdin Sane" tour

 Union Jack print frock coat designed by Alexander McQueen

Costume worn during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1979 in which he performed "Man Who Sold the World".  The stiff, bowling pin-shaped costume restricted Bowie's movement so that he had to be carried on and off stage by his backup singers, Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi.

Pierrot costume designed by Natasha Korniloff worn in the "Ashes to Ashes" video below

Tattered frock coat designed by Bowie for his fiftieth birthday celebration

The exhibit is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until November 29th and is scheduled for further stops in Berlin, Sao Paulo, Paris, and Chicago.  See it if you can.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My First Giveaway - Cute and Cozy Mittens!!

I have had a few companies approach me about doing a giveaway on my blog, but I'm not interested in promoting businesses with whom I have no relationship with, or from whom I would not purchase anything.  Then I received a message through Facebook from a young woman living here in London named Jennie Gibbons, who makes the loveliest mittens, offering me a pair of her creations to give away on my blog.  Since I am hopeless at anything related to sewing or crafting, I have great respect for those who are talented in that respect.  Jennie sells her mittens under the name Sew Deer, and asked if I would like to work with her to custom design a pair that I could give away to a lucky reader.  I think we did a marvelous job - Jennie chose the colours,  and I gave her the quote.  We both decided that a cat in a top hat was awesome.

We met for a coffee, and I got to know a bit more about her.  She is as sweet as her mittens, and in addition to being an avid crafter, she also works at Mine 101 and volunteers at Women's Community House. 

The actual colour of the mittens is somewhere between the colour in the photo above and the one where Jennie is wearing them.  Crappy indoor lighting - Grrrr.

The mittens are made from recycled wool coats and blankets, and are lined with fleece or flannel.  Jennie creates the designs and embroiders them on the mittens by hand.  A coordinating pom pom is the finishing touch.   The mittens sell for $30 a pair, and as she will also do custom orders, I asked if she would make a special pair for me.....

I love my Forest City Fashionista mittens!!!  I suggested the colour and the words, and Jennie added the rat. We received a huge dump of snow here this weekend, and the temperatures plummeted to below zero, so I'll be wearing them soon.

So here's how it works - leave a comment on this post, and if you have a Facebook account, please "like" Jennie's facebook page for her business (not a requirement for entry, just a nice supportive thing to do).  On November 30th I will put everyone's name who wants to be part of the giveaway in a hat and draw a winner, who will be notified by email and on my blog.  As an FYI, the mittens are one size, (medium to large) and are toasty warm! 

Jennie also sells her mittens on Etsy here

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New York Stories - The Final Chapter

In my final chapter of my New York Stories, I recap some of the things about the city, and in particular, the area known as Chelsea, that makes it my my favourite place to visit.

New Yorkers love their dogs.  In Chelsea there are many residential apartments and in the mornings, every other person that you pass is walking a dog.  It took me forever to get places because I was always stopping to say hello to yet another adorable canine.  I ran into these two dog walkers and was impressed by how well-behaved their charges were.

New Yorkers love Halloween!  This year was New York's 40th Annual Village Halloween Parade (last year's was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy).  The parade attracts approximately two million spectators and fifty thousand participants.  New Yorkers also love decorating their homes for the event.  These "skeleton flamingos" were the coolest decorations I saw while I was there.  I don't know if the person who put them out painted them, or purchased them like that. There was a store on every block that was dedicated entirely to Halloween-related items.

The residents of this apartment building went all out in the spirit of the holiday. 

Every block has a interesting building.  Clockwise from upper right - The Chelsea Modern, where one bedroom units sell for about $2 million (yep, you read that right...);  The Dream Downtown Boutique Hotel; Walker Tower, built in 1929 by architect Ralph Walker and currently being restored.

This parking lot on 10th Avenue always has the coolest billboards

 Inspiration on the wall of the Chelsea Brooklyn Industries

Independently-owned stores like Eye Candy, which had a carefully curated selection of vintage and contemporary accessories and a few choice items of clothing made for wonderful browsing when out for a walk.  I visited this store twice while I was in New York as it was two blocks from my hotel, and each time had an enjoyable conversation about vintage shopping with owner Ron Caldwell. 

You can find yourself a superhero even if you're not a damsel in distress

And then there's the Art....

Chelsea is home to more than 300 art galleries.  On my list for this visit was the Jonathan Levine Gallery, where work was on view by three artists, two of whom I had read about in Juxtapoz magazine.   Above is one of Tara McPherson's ghostly, illuminated, women from her "Wandering Luminations" series.   I especially loved the colour palette in this particular painting. McPherson's work includes poster art, for which she is well known, toys, comics, and advertising illustrations.  

Japanese artist Masakatsu Sashie created large paintings featuring structures formed of man-made objects hovering over landscapes that look like dumpsites, piled high with glowing television screens and other electronic detrius.  It was cool to examine them up close to see the objects that make up the orb in this painting, including vending machines, fans, air conditioners, and gasoline pumps.

  Tentacle candelabra by Adam Wallacavage

I had heard about Adam Wallacavage from a link sent to me by a friend to a virtual tour of his fantastical apartment.   When I heard he had an exhibit of his art, including his signature "octopus chandeliers", at a gallery in New York when I was there, I had to see it.  His work is as cool in real life as it is in the video and photographs.  You can see more of his gorgeous chandeliers on his website.

One of Yoko Ono's Wish Tree installations was in the courtyard of Jim Kempner Fine Art.  I read some of the wishes that others had tied to the tree, and then left my own.  Many of the wishes were for world peace, but some were quite personal, such as the two above.  I think at one time we all wished we would lose our virginity to our soulmate, if we believed in such things.  I wish that Flora will be happy too!

 And then there's the people

I had seen photos of Christina Viera on Advanced Style, and fell in love with her sculptural, eclectic style.  A fan of Japanese clothing design, in particular,  Comme des Garcons, she mixes strong shapes with statement accessories, including hats that she has made herself.  I contacted her when I knew I was going to New York to see if she would be willing to meet for a coffee.  She was, and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours together that included a visit to the Chelsea Market.

The Chelsea Market is an indoor food market with over 35 vendors selling literally everything from soup to nuts.  I will definitely have to visit again the next time I'm in New York.

My supremely stylish and wonderfully entertaining New York partners in crime, The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.  Jean, left and Valerie - Thank you for upping the fun quotient every time I visit.

Farewell New York, my home away from home, til next time....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vintage Cashmere and The Wearable Art Show

I'm wearing one of my new favourite vintage pieces that I scored recently at Mesh - a gorgeous, kitten-soft cashmere sweater by Ballantyne knits in Scotland.  It was insanely inexpensive, came with the original tag, and aside from being manufactured by one of Scotland's top quality cashmere manufacturers, it was also designed by Bonnie Cashin, a pioneer in American sportswear design.  She is known for using luxurious materials in her designs such as leather, mohair, cashmere and tweed.

Cashin designed knitwear for Ballantyne from 1964 - 1968, which would have been when this sweater was made.  It is in mint condition, so I am assuming it was never worn.  It's beautifully made, and incorporates two of my favourite colours into a retro-yet-modern shape.  Definitely one of my best secondhand purchases.

I love mixing eras in an outfit, and the 1960's sweater gets along perfectly well with my retail purchased pants from last spring, and my faux doc martens.

cashmere sweater - Mesh
pants - The Bay (half-price!)
Boots - Housing Works Thrift Store
vintage eyeglass frames - The Sentimentalist

The Wearable Art Sale....

This weekend, the Covent Garden Market plays host to The Wearable Art Sale, with 16 vendors offering scarves, jewellery, garments, knitwear, etc.  Heather and I stopped by tonight to check it out.

Canadian textile artist Patricia Richardson designs and sells hats under her label, Paddy Kelleher Designs.  She makes her own patterns and designs and embellishes her hats with embroidery, beading and pleating.

 Norrie Duncan had some very cool leather and metal bracelets for sale at her booth, and I had a difficult time choosing just one.

This woman was trying on a shoulder bag made of recycled fur from Eco Luxe Furs.  The bags are gorgeous - there were three different styles, each from different types of fur.  If I had one of these, I'd be petting it all the time!

I admired the recycled fur bags, but ended up taking home this fun hand knit shoulder bag from Elan Knits.  Ellen Mallet is the designer/creator, and is also the wardrobe mistress for Original Kids Theatre Company (and as it turned out, a follower of my blog).  The bag is large enough to hold my camera and my wallet, which is the crucial test for me when it comes to purses.

This sheared beaver jacket in my favourite colour combination is available from WrightByDesign.  They also had some very cute fur-trimmed wool capes, scarves and hats.

The Wearable Art Sale continues at Covent Garden Market on Saturday from 10 am - 6 pm, and Sunday, from 12 pm - 4 pm.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New York Stories Part Three - Hues of Red at Issey Miyake

While I was in New York the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas received an invitation to a party at the Tribeca Issey Miyake store to showcase the Autumn/Winter 2013 collection.   They generously included me in the RSVP.   The theme was "Hues of Red" and guests were encouraged to wear red (my favourite power colour!) while they shopped, enjoyed "red" themed cocktails, and mingled with fellow Miyake fans, with music by DJ Keiichiro of 24 Hour Party People.   I happen to love Miyake's designs, so it was a treat to be able to see them up close, and attend a real New York fashion party.  Many of the guests were wearing clothing from the designer's previous collections.

Unfortunately, Valerie was late getting to the party, so for a while, Jean and I were left to our own devices.  As you can see, we did pay attention to the dress code and wore our best red (and black, of course..)  I had purchased the silk Japanese coat from Miyamoto Antiques at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing show that afternoon.  It was priced under $50 and was the perfect thing for the event.
Henry Pierre was definitely the most colourful person there, in head-to-toe Issey Miyake and a stuffed red dragon on his shoulder.  The one wall of the store was decorated with large aerial photographs of Manhattan, printed onto black fabric.   We were thinking how amazing one of those would look on our respective living room walls.

 Guests were treated to Profiteroles iced in hues of red

If I could have chosen one item to take home from the store it would have been this dress.

Not that there weren't a number of other beautiful things in the store....

This man is wearing a Miyake top from the A-POC line, which is based on a manufacturing method that uses computer technology to create clothing from a single piece of thread in a single process.
He is also wearing a Miyake pleated coat as a skirt.  

Miyake is best known for his pleated designs.  His experimentation in the 1980's with new ways of pleating led to garment pleating, in which the garments are cut and sewn first, and then sandwiched between layers of paper and fed into a heat press, where they are "pleated".  The fabric's memory holds the pleats. 

 Andrew Chen, the wholesale account executive and e-commerce strategist for Issey Miyake, poses for a photo with Jean.

Some of the guests chose not to incorporate the colour of the evening into their outfit, but when you look as cool as this woman in her Miyake ensemble, who cares?

Two more women who chose their own preferred colour scheme for the evening - the woman on the left is wearing Miyake's signature pleats from head to toe, including a top worn as a scarf;  the woman on the right made the clothing she was wearing and had the funkiest glasses.

I had been admiring Davey Mitchell's outfit all evening, so I asked him to pose for a photo. 

This is the view of the back of Davey's coat.  I ran into Davey again at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing show on Saturday where he was wearing yet another fabulous outfit.

Valerie arrived and we were a trio once more!  Thanks to the IF's for the photo as I didn't have any of the three of us from the evening.

Valerie was wearing one of her many wonderful hats and a statement necklace in the evening's signature colour.  I managed to catch a shot of her "listening intently" face.

I loved the juxtaposition of the outfits worn by these two friends.  The man on the left is fashion photographer Alexo Wandael, who must have been at least 6'3" (unfortunately, I did not get the name of the other man).   Jean later took an excellent photo of me with Wandael and his friend which appears in the IF's  blog post about the party, and I look very pleased with myself to be sandwiched between two very attractive men.

 I referred to this man as "the cozy guy" all night as he was wearing a fleece poncho that made me want to snuggle up to him every time I ran into him (and I did).

I had a long and very interesting conversation with these two women from Philadelphia.

The woman on the right in the previous photo had the most wonderful accessories -  her sleekly minimalist handbag looked like a case for a recorder or a flute, and I loved the polka dot gloves!

I loved this man's whole look....

 ....especially his gorgeous shoes

Another guest who decided to forgo the red, but looked so cool in gold and pink
For me, one of the highlights of the evening was meeting Bill Cunningham, New York's original street style photographer, wearing his trademark blue workman's jacket and shooting photos for the NY Times.  If you have not yet seen the documentary about him by Richard Press, it's a delightful and fascinating film.   I was completely star-struck, and I think I must have hit Jean's arm a half a dozen times while saying under my breath: "It's Bill, it's Bill, it's Bill!"  I felt like I had received the New York seal of approval when he took photos of Jean and I (Valerie had not arrived at this point), along with a number of the other party guests, but I assumed the photos would never see the light of day.   Lo and behold, when we checked the Style Section of the New York Times on Sunday November 3rd, what should we see but this: 

Yes, that is Jean, Henry Pierre and yours truly in the left hand photo
To see the original full page, go here

The party broke up shortly after 9 pm when security started herding us towards the doors, so the three of us went for a bite and a cocktail at Kittichai, the fabulous Thai restaurant at the SoHo Thompson Hotel.  I felt like I'd had a "Cinderella Goes to the Ball" kind of evening, except that I still had both my shoes.