Sunday, May 28, 2017

Red Rocks and Blue Sky

The weather was beautiful when I visited Denver recently - the temperature hovered between 25 - 28 degrees Celsius (that's 77 - 84 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans) - and the sky was an intense blue with a few fluffy clouds.  It was perfect weather for a trip to Red Rocks Park located about 15 minutes outside of the city of Denver.

As I live in the flat landscape of London, Ontario, it was a treat for me to to see the mountains as we drove to Red Rocks.

The park is located along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and is named for the large red sandstone rock formations inside the parks 804 acres.  It is owned and maintained by the City of Denver, which purchased the park in 1928.

One of the towering sandstone formations that give the park its name

The "jewel in the crown" of the park is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre which was part of the original vision of John Brisben Walker who owned the park until it was sold to the City of Denver.  The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1936 and 1941 and was designed by Denver architect Burnham Hoyt.

According to the Historic Red Rocks website, "The Amphitheatre project required the removal of 25,000 cubic yards of rock and dirt and used 90,000 square feet of flagstone, ten carloads of cement, 800 tons of quarried stone, and 30,000 pounds of reinforced steel." 

The view from the top of the Amphitheatre is amazing - on a clear day you can see the city of Denver.

The Amphitheatre is a world renowned open-air concert venue with seating for approximately 9,500 people.  The Beatles performed at the venue in 1964, and in 1983 U2 played a concert there which was filmed as part of "U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky".   There was a concert scheduled for the night we were there, but it was too late for us to change plans and get tickets.  It would have been an incredible experience to see a concert under the stars.  Some day....

Many people use the seats of the Amphitheatre as their own outdoor gym - while we were there people were running across, and up and down the seats, and one man jumped from the bottom row to the top, one level at a time.  He looked like he was ready to pass out when he reached the top.

Judith looked lovely in her floaty blouse that caught the breeze.

There are large rock outcroppings on either side of the Amphitheatre and they have names - I believe this one is the "Ship Rock".

The view behind the Amphitheatre

It was an absolutely beautiful day, and it was nice to get out of the city for an hour or two.

On our way back to Denver we stopped for lunch in the small community of Evergreen, home of the Little Bear Saloon and the Muddy Buck Cafe and Bar.

We stopped in The Little Bear for a few minutes, and the place definitely has all the trappings of an old Western Saloon.  Over the years, the building has been home to a church, a dance hall and a drugstore.   According to their website, the bar has the reputation for being "Colorado's rowdiest mountain bar".  

License plates from across the country and an old cash register greet customers inside the entrance.

Judith had heard that women used to throw their bras at the musicians who played on the stage and the bras are now part of the decor.   Oddly, their website makes no mention of the bras, but they are indeed there.

Signed photographs of musicians that have played at the Little Bear decorate the back wall

And there ended my excursion into the wild west of Colorado.  It was fun to see this side of the state as well as the cosmopolitan city of Denver.  As much as I enjoy looking at beautiful scenery (I believe I said "WOW" a lot as we approached Red Rocks Park) and exploring out of the way places, I'm a city girl at heart.   Many thanks to Judith for being a marvelous tour guide.

Judith and I did a photo shoot with her friend Dan, who takes the photos for her blog, and you can see the results in this post on her blog. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shockwave: Japanese Fashion Design at the Denver Art Museum

If you follow my Instagram you know I recently visited Denver, Colorado, and my friend Judith.  While the main purpose of my visit was to spend time with her, I was also looking forward to taking in some of the sights and culture of the city of Denver.  On my first day there we headed to the Denver Art Museum.

The Denver Art Museum, which is one of the largest art museums between the west coast and Chicago, is located in the Civic Center of Denver.  The section in the photo above is the Hamilton Building, clad in titanium panels.  The museum is known for its collection of American Indian Art.

The controversial sculpture titled "Shoot-out" by Red Grooms resides on the roof of the museum restaurant.  It had been removed from two other locations in downtown Denver after protesters called  it demeaning and insensitive to Native Americans.

We had a health, and delicious, lunch in the Mad Greens restaurant located in the building across from the museum, and afterwards I couldn't resist having a photo taken with this unusual sculpture.  For the record, I did not push the man face first into the water - he was like that when we found him.  I did, however, rather enjoy resting my hand on his butt, and from the worn and shiny appearance of that particular area of the figure, I was certainly not the first person to do so.

The exhibit that we came to see was located in the Textile Art Gallery, where we also found these stunning Haida Button Blankets on display.

The blanket on the left, depicting two killer whales, was created in 1925 by Northwest Coast Native artist, Willie Seaweed, and was worn by the artist during a variety of dances.

On to the the main event...

even the sign for the exhibit was cool!

Shockwave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980's - 1990's features 70 pieces by Japanese designers whose creations created shockwaves when they were first shown in Paris.  The exhibit, showcasing work by Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe, Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garcons) and Yohji Yamamoto, is the inaugural exhibit organized by Florence Muller, the museum's Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and curator of fashion.

This burnout velvet dress by Rei Kawakubo from her Autumn/Winter 1996-1997 collection introduces the exhibit.   The shape, pattern and colour of the piece echoes both Renaissance-era tunics and Japanese kimonos.

On the left is iconic molded plastic bustier by Issey Miyake from 1983, and right is a rattan and bamboo bodice designed by Miyake and made by Japanese bamboo master Kosuge Shochikudo

The exhibit is organized into five thematic sections, including "How East Met West" and "Deconstruction/Reconstruction", and includes design catalogues and video footage from runway fashion shows of the various designers.   In the 1980's, the fashion capitals were Paris, New York, Milan and London, and Japan was not on the radar at all.  In order to be noticed, and to show the new face of design in Japan, the designers in this exhibit created clothing that was unlike anything that had been seen on a runway before.  It was bold, avant-garde, and to the eyes of many people, unflattering and ugly.

Clothing and video footage from Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garcons' Autumn-Winter 1982 - 1983 show had its own display area.  The show which shocked audiences with clothing that appeared to have been through a war, and was dubbed the "Hiroshima" collection by critics.

Up to that point in time, the silhouette for women promoted by Western designers was form-fitting, worn with high heels that thrust the body forward, emphasizing the breast and buttocks.  Much of what was shown by the Japanese designers was oversized, and hid, or even distorted, women's bodies.  The colours were dark, the fabrics often distressed or ripped, and the models wore flat shoes, which gave them a natural and comfortable (ie. more masculine) stride on the runway.  The exhibit includes pieces from European designers of the same time period such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Anne-Marie Beretta and Thierry Mugler whose tailored, body-conscious designs contrasted with the free-flowing, draped and over-sized pieces by the Japanese designers.

dress from Paris designer Anne-Marie Beretta from 1989

An oversized, draped tunic dress by Issey Miyake contrasts with a molded, form-fitting suit by Thierry Mugler

A quote from fashion writer Bernadine Morris from the New York Times, in October, 1983 that described her feelings on seeing these unconventional designs was reproduced on the wall:

"The clothes are loose, strong, and strange".  "They seem to come not only from another culture, but from another planet."

Asymmetrical, inside-out dress by Rei Kawakubo from her Autumn/Winter 1997-1998 collection plays with the conventional ideas of balance in a garment with uneven "breasts" and askew shoulders.

In 1997, Rei Kawakubo was invited by dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham to create the costumes and stage design for his dance "Scenario".  She originally declined the offer, but changed her mind while she was creating her  Comme des Garcons collection which featured gingham checked outfits with padding in odd places. The pieces she created for Cunningham used the same down padding to distort the dancers' bodies, altering their proportions and the sense of their own bodies.  Footage of "Scenario" played on a screen next to one of Kawakubo's "Bump" jackets and skirt.

The bright colours and graphic motifs that adorn the pieces (such as the sweater from 1980 in the photo above) by Kansai Yamamoto, who was inspired by bold, colourful Japanese woodblock prints, are very indicative of the pop culture of the 1980's.  Yamamoto is known for the eye-popping designs he created in the 1970's for David Bowie for his Ziggy Stardust tour.  

Mixed among the clothing designs are some chairs created by Japanese designers such as this velvet, flower-shaped armchair by Masanori Umeda next to Kansai Yamamoto's printed cotton "Kansai" jacket

"How High The Moon" armchair by Shiro Kuramata    

A display was devoted to Issey Miyake's "Pleats Please" line, launched in 1993.  The garments are cut and sewn together from a single piece of high quality polyester fabric nearly three times the size of the garment, and then placed between two sheets of paper and hand fed into a pleats machine.  The clothing emerges with permanent pleats, which allows it to store and travel well, require no ironing, and dry quickly.   The "Cabbage Chair" by Nendo, in between the two garments in the photo above, was commissioned by Miyake to be made from the pleated paper that is a by-product of the pleating process for his fabric.

The exhibit included a video montage of Issey Miyake Spring-Summer 1999 collection, "A-POC (acronym for "A piece of cloth") King and Queen and Le Feu"

Details from two Yohji Yamamoto designs:  The houndstooth jacket (2003-3004) on the left had removable embroidered linen cuffs, and shows an influence of Western design.  I liked the simplicity of the summer dress from around 1998 on the right, with the exposed rolled neckline.

This beautiful Issey Miyake shirt with origami folding is from 2002, and was on display in the "How East Met West" section which explored how designers mixed Japanese forms and patterns with Western shapes and textiles. 

The "How West Met East" section featured designers such as John Galliano, Dries Van Noten, Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela who were inspired by the innovative Japanese designers and incorporated their aesthetic into their own designs.  The John Galliano dress in the middle from his Spring-Summer 2000 collection incorporates the asymmetry common to many of the Japanese designs.

The exhibit, which has been on display since the Fall of 2016, ends on May 28th, and I was very happy to have the opportunity to see it before it closed.  Hopefully, with Florence Muller (who curated the 2012 YSL exhibit at the Denver Art Museum) as the curator of Textile Art and Fashion at DAM, exhibits like these which feature fashion design as art will become more common, and more popular.   If you're interested in seeing more avante-garde Japanese design, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibit of Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons designs until September 4th.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Queens of the Thrift Age

In the past several years, thrift shopping has become popular across all ages and income brackets.  Something that used to be practiced only by people with very little money has become a recreational activity, a creative challenge, and even a competitive sport for people who can afford to shop retail.   If you've followed my blog for a while, you know how much I enjoy thrift shopping.  I've been scoping out the Goodwill and Salvation Army Thrift Stores since I moved to London to attend university in 1980, when you could find beautiful vintage pieces for inexpensive prices.   As a student, I didn't have much money to spend, so I was thrilled to find a butter-soft suede jacket and like-new army boots for under $10.  Now that I am an adult (in theory)with a full-time job, I could buy more things retail if I wanted to, but the majority of my wardrobe comes from consignment, vintage and thrift shops, and I consider myself to be an excellent secondhand shopper.

I never go to a secondhand store with something specific in mind and that way I'm open to whatever treasure presents itself.  I can usually scan a rack and tell within a minute or two if there is anything worth a closer look.  The more you shop at thrift stores, the more discerning your eye becomes, and with practice I've learned to distinguish good quality fabric by sight and/or touch.  I will plan on spending least 2 hours if I am heading to a large thrift store because I like to look through the entire store.   I will do a "serious" thrifting trip at least once a month but I know people who visit their favourite stores several times a week.

Some of my outfits made of thrifted pieces....

Black and red checked short sleeved top - Talize, tulle skirt - Goodwill Thrift Store

top and pants both from Talize

As you can tell from the sidebar on my page, Talize is my favourite thrift store (they have recently invited me to be a Brand Ambassador) .   The store here in London, Ontario is large, bright, and clean with lots of space between racks to move around.  It has a good turnover of stock, the racks are always full, and rarely have I ever left the store empty handed.  Prices are very reasonable for most items, although, like many other thrift stores, they charge what I think are high prices for secondhand items from cheap fast fashion brands such as Joe Fresh, H & M and Forever 21.  For me, Talize wins over Value Village and Goodwill because of the variety of unique clothing brands I have found there.  The outfit above is a perfect example.  The top is an Asian brand I can't decipher, and made from a thick fabric that feels like neoprene.  The print is a designer knock off and it has a built-in necklace.  I believe it was around $8.  I found the pants a couple of years ago, in the skirt section (which is why I look through all the sections) and they are by Toronto designer Annie Thompson.  Judging from the prices on her website, they were most likely between $300 - $400 new, and I got these for $8.  I had them shortened as they were a bit overwhelming when full-length, and they have become a staple in my wardrobe. 

 denim jacket - The Sentimentalist,  embellished t-shirt - Goodwill Thrift Store, skirt - Mesh Consignment Boutique. Even my eyeglass frames are secondhand, and are also from The Sentimentalist.  The denim jacket gets worn an average of once a week, all year round.

My love of thrift shopping is one of the things I share with several of the women in my blogging community....

Melanie purchases almost all of her clothing secondhand and she has the ability to mix and match pieces that would intimidate less adventurous women.  Her eclectic style has recently been featured in a number of online publications including AARP and Marie Claire Brazil.  She is wearing the jacket from an Emporio Armani suit she found at a secondhand store in the photo above, with a thrifted blouse and pants.

Another outfit created from thrift-store finds, made into something uniquely "Melanie"

Sheila is as hardcore a thrift shopper as they come - her entire outfit, including the shoes, was purchased secondhand.   I love the colour of those pants!

Everything is this very Spring-like outfit was purchased from thrift stores except for the shoes.  Each  piece is a quality brand and it looks like she spent a lot of money.

For Vix, secondhand shopping is a way of life.  Her house, and her wardrobe, are full of secondhand finds and she is also a vintage seller (see her Kinky Melon boutique here).   Her colourful maxi dresses, skirts and jackets come from charity shops, car boot and jumble sales, and other vintage sellers.  Staff at her local charity shops (or "chazzas" as she calls them) will put items aside for her if they think they would suit her.   I'm hoping she leaves the black and white dress in the right hand photo to me in her will (and perhaps I'll be small enough to wear it by then).

Four different women with very different styles,  all wearing items that have been previously owned and enjoyed by other people.   I know many bloggers who shop secondhand, and one of them, Bella, created the Shop Secondhand First badge you see on my front page.   If you're already a thrift shopper, what's the best thing you've ever found?   If you don't thrift shop, why not?  Leave your answer in the comments...

Monday, May 1, 2017

Three Bloggers Walk into the Distillery District...

and have a fabulous time together!

When I learned that Judith, who blogs as The Style Crone, was going to be in Toronto for a few days while her partner spoke at a conference, of course I booked a day off work for a blogger adventure!  Suzanne Carillo was able to join us, and together, we three (blogging) amigos set out to cram as much fun as possible into the few hours we had together.   We met at the Fluevog Store in Toronto's historic Distillery District, where the photo above was taken.

Just look at these two gorgeous dames!  I have spent time with each of them separately, but this was the first time the three of us were able to get together, and I was the sombre-coloured, hat-less one between two rainbows.  

We spent a while taking photos and chatting in the Fluevog Store (a big thank you to the staff for letting us use their store as a rendezvous point and a photo backdrop).  I have always loved the colours and styles of Fluevogs but I've never been able to find a style that is comfortable on my feet.  That didn't stop me from admiring them though.  Suzanne was particularly enamoured with the black and white lace-ups.

The Distillery Historic District, which opened in 2003, is a unique collection of shops, services, restaurants, and event spaces located in the Victorian Industrial buildings of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery in Toronto, Ontario.  Original and modern materials were used to restore the 47 buildings in the Distillery and the result is a delightful pedestrian-friendly space with art installations, patios, cafes and cool boutiques.

The three of us posed for a photo with one of the large outdoor art installations.  It was sunny, but the wind made it chilly and necessary for Suzanne to hold onto her hat.

There are a number of outdoor art installations in the area that are changed periodically.  The steel and lumber "Padlock Love" piece in the photo above was installed in 2014.  Lovers continue to add their Love locks to the piece (if they can find room).

If there is a millinery shop close by, and you are with someone who is as big a hat aficionado as Judith, you must pay a visit.   The Saucy Milliner  is owned by Kelly Dunlap, who unfortunately was on the east coast at the time of our visit, but her lovely assistants made us feel very welcome and graciously allowed us to try on, and photograph some of Dunlap's beautiful creations.

 I don't think that Judith is ever happier than when she is surrounded by hats - just look at that smile!

I really liked this photo I took of Suzanne trying on a studded beret style hat;  the colour was beautiful with her hair.

Although I quite liked the black fur felt studded one in the bottom right, I ended up taking home the striped raffia one in the top photo which is going to be my summer statement hat this year.   Judging from these photos, I appear to have a "trying on hats face".
After the hat shop (trying on hats works up an appetite), it was time to get something to eat, and we decided to try El Catrin,  the Mexican restaurant in The Distillery District.  The first thing that strikes you is the fabulously colourful decor.  One wall is covered in a jaw-dropping mural depicting Dia de los Muertos images (top photo) that took three Mexican artists almost 100 days to paint, the floor is covered with Mexican tiles, and there are groups of amazing shadow boxes that each tell a story.

The section we sat in was backed by this floor-to-ceiling perforated metal screen depicting El Catrin and La Catrina.  Unfortunately, we were too busy enjoying our food and conversation to take any photos of us.  The guacamole, made fresh at the table, was delicious and I had an excellent classic Margarita.  We also had the Baja Tacos, which were quite good. They have a huge heated patio which I'm sure is packed during the summer.  
Fortified by food and drink, we explored more of the shops, including a collection of artist studios located in one of the buildings.  We found a lovely shop called Lilith's Garden which was full of handmade clothing and accessories.

I purchased this fabric and leather cuff at Lilith's Garden

We had time to explore a few more shops, including the SOMA Chocolate shop where I downed a shot of their Maya drinking chocolate, which is flavoured with chili peppers, orange peel, ginger and spices.  That kept me going for the rest of the day!

Before long Judith had to leave us to catch a GO Train and Suzanne and I headed to the closest Salvation Army Thrift store (all the stores had 50% off everything that day).  When you're hardcore thrift shoppers, you will take any opportunity to squeeze in a quick fix.  I found some cool stuff including an embroidered tunic top and a velvet dress, and spent a grand total of $20.  Our thrifting craving satisfied, we decided to explore Queen Street West.  

I neglected to get the name of the packed-to-the-rafters store with this lamp in the window, but the lamp definitely wins my personal "So weird it's Awesome" home decor object award.

This Chinese (?) carved boat was in another antique shop and the creative spelling on the sign entertained me almost as much as the boat itself.

We managed to end up in yet another Fluevog Store.  In 2015 the Queen Street West store moved from their original location to a much larger space which was formerly the home of a National Bank.  The bank vault was turned into the "World's first ever, gravity-defying Vog Vault".  Of course, we had to test it out....

A good blogger is never afraid to look ridiculous for the sake of a good photo

This is what the Vault actually looks like.  One of the staff kindly offered to take these photos of us, and suggested some poses, as we were having difficulty trying to figure out what would work.

The same woman who took our photo told me she had found my Instagram and couldn't believe I did not own a single pair of Fluevogs.  When I explained to her about my foot issues and that I have never found a pair of their shoes that fit me, she made it her personal mission to find me a pair that fit.  We found two pairs that fit relatively well, but I didn't love them.  When she brought out these amazing boots, I knew they wouldn't fit just by looking at them, but I squeezed my foot into them just for a photo.  The two-colour wedge heel, the zipper; I was cursing my bunions and my large feet!

We just had enough time before i had to get to the bus station to stuff ourselves with some yummy pierogis from Loaded Pierogi on Queen Street West.  It was a perfect end to a wonderful day.  I've said it before and I'll say it again; blogger meetups are the best!