Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Brave young students in Hong Kong join a pro-democracy protest, organized by Occupy Central with Peace and Love.
Authorities react by using tear gas and pepper spray.
These photos are from the Huffington Post.
Do we want to live in a society without independent courts and free press? No we don't. Today will be the second day of the protest, and I hope even more people will come and protest peacefully.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Only in Italy can paparazzi look glam. I have never been in Venice and this picture makes me realize I must go. Although I love living in Hong Kong, I feel starved for architectural beauty and art. The Daily Mail (from where I pinched these pictures) cleverly (yes cleverly!) contrasted this scene with a Canaletto painting of a similar vista in the 1700's.
This picture was intriguing as well - it was taken at a dinner before the wedding I think, and it's in one of those old school Italian restaurants where the food may be sublime but the atmosphere is lacking. I have always wondered why the people who build some of the most beautiful buildings on the outside pay so little attention to the look of the buildings on the inside. And when you have white undecorated walls, the yellow lighting is going to be very harsh for sure. So here we have John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and next to John a girl with her hair pulled in a gym bun (Matt Damon's wife?), a bald man, and a middle aged couple with no obvious style, all sitting with Anna Wintour in her perfect dress, her perfect jewels, and her perfect bob. I bet the girl with gym bun is feeling the pressure. What does one say to Anna Wintour at a dinner like this? And look at the women at the back table - are they part of the wedding or just accidental diners with a great story to tell for the rest of their lives?
Monday, September 22, 2014
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Here's what I think of Gap's condescending Dress Normal campaign (I guess the word condescending gives it away)
I have until now resisted the urge to say something negative about the current Gap advertising campaign. I thought I should focus on positive things, rather than stuff I don't like. After all it seems a bit mean spirited to attack a grey mousy person for wanting to be grey and mousy. And I don't feel the need to force my love of fashion on the world - with this blog I expect to preach to the converted - I am not a fashion missionary in search of a grey mouse make-over.
But then I read the press release that came with Gap's Dress Normal campaign.
Gap's Fall Campaign Celebrates Individuality By Challenging The Convention Of Dressing Normal
'Dress Normal' boldly instructs individuals to shape their own authentic, personal style—and intentionally challenges every one of us to dress for ourselves."
If Gap's unapologetic message had been: Dress Normal and Be As Forgettable As You Want To Be, I'd be celebrating with them. After all, fashion has become an annoyingly pervasive element of western culture. High end designers work with car and furniture manufacturers, they sell clothing next to the candy isle in Target, and magazines and newspapers love publishing street style fashion images, all of which may have led innocent people to believe that everyone (no longer just the rich or famous) is now expected to be extremely well dressed at all times and that a disinterest in clothes renders them irrelevant or abnormal.
But then the company explained what could have been a simple and fresh message in fashion advertising with a whole lot of pseudo intellectual mumbo jumbo about intentionally challenging us to dress for ourselves, and their message not only became condescending but it also felt a bit like they were backpedalling, and using nonsensical language to diffuse criticism.
The fact is, the Gap is a perfect store for people who don't want to partake in fashion. It sells regular clothes of average quality at a fairly reasonable price, clothes that will keep you warm and comfortable, and may just pass the casual Friday test at work. If you want to dress normal, this is a pretty decent place to go.
But Gap believes they are more than just a purveyor of clothes to protect our bodies from the elements. They want to guide us in shaping our own authentic personal style. And they have even hired Elisabeth Moss and Anjelica Huston among others to show us how. Unfortunately, the minute Elisabeth Moss puts on her "normal" Gap clothes, she turns into the grey mouse her character Peggy was before she became Peggy the confident copy writer. And poor Zosia Mamet is pictured wearing the "normal" uniform half-heartedly rebellious girls everywhere have been wearing for the last 30 years, a flowery dress, a denim jacket and boots - predictable yes, but not exactly challenging or authentic (unlike her daytime job on Girls, one of the most innovative shows on television).
Poor Gap seems to be suffering from a terrible identity crisis. LLBean and Land's End are about great quality, practical, down-to-earth clothing for every situation and for all climates. H&M and Forever 21 are all about the newest trends at a very competitive price. Zara and Ann Taylor are about fashion for women who know their designer labels, and J.Crew is about classic clothes with an irresistibly quirky twist.
Gap used to be about plain jeans, khakis and T-shirts, ironically all manufactured in poetically beautiful and colorful places like India and Vietnam, even though the company loves to emphasize its Americanness. There are still jeans, but they lack the lightweight easiness and trendy fit of the luxury brands (or those by cheap and cheerful mega company Inditex for that matter), and there are still T-shirts, but again there is a lack of fit and also a lack of the nonchalance that competitors like Splendid and James Perse have achieved in their knitwear (but of course something Inditex has copied splendidly).
I paid a visit to Gap's store on Queen's Road Central this afternoon, because I wanted to see the Dress Normal clothes for myself. This store has two women's floors, and it was clear that the high end campaign clothes were on the ground floor. The leather jacket Anjelica Huston wears in one of her portraits (the leather version of the jacket above) is nicely sewn with big clean stitching and decent leather. But it costs HKD$2800 (or US $360) - no wonder it's nice, it may well be Gap's most expensive item ever. Ask yourself though, if you had HKD$2800 in your pocket for random spending, would you go to Gap?
nice stitching - I liked this shirt
dresses from hell in one hundred varieties
a good jacket, but at US $360, it's unlikely to be revenue generator
another nice shirt
an ill-fitting lumpy jacket with dropped shoulder detail (is this the jacket Elisabeth Moss is wearing in the ad?)
who would spend money on this coat? it looks like it's spent a few years in one of those funny vacuum sealed storage bags you can buy on late night infomercials
another one - this is just about staff training I suppose, but since the store has been open for 4 years I think there is an issue here
and of course there are ample opportunities for a bargain
The other items on the ground floor are denim shirts. There is a good selection of thick denim, thin denim, and chambray, although most shirts are cut in the exact same western style. There are also nice shirts in cotton voile and the stitching on all shirts is impressive. But all along the walls are dresses which make me want to cry, from baby doll dresses to dresses with fitted bodices and severe, stiff A-line skirts, these dresses are so incredibly wrong. I own a small clothing company and I know my customers' bodies. There is no way you can a fit princess seam dress with a tightly fitted waist on the majority of your customers. Some have small boobs, some have big boobs, some have small waists, some have big waists, some women have size 8 on top and a size 4 on bottom or vice versa, some have long torsos and some have short torsos. It's like making a one-size-fits-all bra. It's just not going to work.
After I make it down to the other women's floor, regular old Gap is back. There are no special jackets here, or no fine cotton voile shirts. There are endless sale signs and lumpy wrinkly jackets, granted it's a busy Saturday afternoon, but it is a horrible mess everywhere.
What in heaven's name does Gap stand for nowadays? Just pretending it is a brand Anjelica Huston wants to wear is not going to be effective. There need to be good clothes in the store, and not just a few special things on the main floor. The most recent would-be savior of Gap is the Danish brain behind COS, Rebekka Bay. It's undoubtedly Rebekka's Scandinavian stamp on the dark denim trench coats, and the waxed black cotton trenches with raw edged details and belt. Frankly, if Rebekka is also the brain behind this advertising campaign, I won't get my hopes up for a fast recovery.
It's Gap's relentless insistence on competing with trendy fashion companies that has boggled my mind for years. In all my years in America, London and Hong Kong, I can't remember ever making an impulse purchase at Gap, but I am pretty sure I have made a hundred at J.Crew. Dress Normal is a bit depressing, it's as if you are throwing in the towel.
Feels to me like Gap has just appointed itself the fun police.
Friday, September 19, 2014
My interest in fashion's love for 60s trends really perked when I saw the Gucci show for this fall. There had been mod moments before in recent shows, like the graphic yellow and white and black and white shift dresses at Louis Vuitton for Spring 2013, but too often interpretations of mod fashion appear clownish or jokey today. Frida Giannini at Gucci knows how to bring back an era, however, and the 60s looked brilliant and well worth a re-visit in her Fall 2014 show.
I suppose the good thing about the hectic fashion weeks' schedule is that you get to wait and see what is worth investing in, because the spring shows are happening right as you start thinking of buying a pair of new boots. And let me tell you, at Gucci all the block heels were entirely gone, replaced by much more seventies inspired boots and shoes. The clothes, however, still showed the 60s in skirt suits and fitted coats, and moved towards the 70s as well with over-the-knee halter dresses worn with tall brown suede boots. There was a totally lovely Adam Ant jacket worn with cropped wide leg jeans, and some very pretty Asian inspired silk print dresses in unexpected color combinations.
It's also interesting to see how much better shows look when the girls walk on a beautiful oak runway rather than a stark white one. At Burberry the runway was painted in greens and yellows which made for much happier watching. Pretty hair and make-up helps as well - it still stuns me twice a year how many designers prefer a too-cool-for-school approach to the models' hair and make-up. Everyone loves a pretty girl - and if the clothes are only so-so, a pretty girl can make you believe they were great. But Frida Giannini already knows all that of course - that's why she is truly ab fab.
a hit of Asia
leather and lace
gorgeous 70s moment
another variation on a shirt dress - they are everywhere for spring
how great is this Adam Ant jacket?
Frida's colors are always so beautiful
I love this print (photos via Vogue)
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Fashion's temporary love for flats suits me just fine - I have spent most of my time last week in these three high street versions. From left to right: boots from COS, slip on sneakers from Zara, and plastic patent flats from Zara with non-slip rubber soles which are absolutely brilliant in typhoon rain. I always get compliments on them.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Monday, September 8, 2014
3.1 Phillip Lim via Vogue
New York Fashion Week is almost over and as a consumer who wants to save some money I am glad to report that not much will be changing in our spring wardrobes. Designers are still interested in 90s minimalism, and there were plenty of oversized shapes and green prints (possibly inspired by last spring's retro palm prints which seemed a commercial hit on high streets everywhere). I love a bit of drama in a dress so I am focusing here on the mixed print dresses seen at Phillip Lim, Ohne Titel, Thakoon, and Prabal Gurung. I am not sure how those dresses do in the shops because they are possibly too memorable - the second time you wear the dress people will recognize it, the third time they will be wondering if you have anything else in your closet. That said, I am grateful for those designers in New York who do send exciting clothes down the runway. Commercialism can be a horrible bore.
Ohne Titel via Vogue
Thakoon via Vogue
Prabal Gurung via Vogue
I used to go to football matches a fair bit. My dad is an obsessive fan and ex-player, and my husband loves Fulham Football Club rather more than any heterosexual American man should. Anyway, the PSV Eindhoven stadium and Craven Cottage are familiar venues to me, and I have even traveled for football, to stadiums like Nou Camp in Barcelona. But the best moments in my football fan career have been Fulham home games against Manchester United in the early 2000s when David Beckham would take corner kicks just a short distance from my husband's season ticket seats. I never needed to be drunk to scream Nice ass, David!!!!! at the top of my lungs. It was simply the best ass ever, even when covered by big baggy shorts.
On Saturday The Daily Telegraph reported that David is ready to help England. Well, H A L L E L U J A H ! ! !
I am not sure we will ever see another 1966 out of the English, but if David helps, they are for sure going to be the hottest footballers seen anywhere. If he will make them work out as hard as he does, they will all have rock hard six-pack bodies. If he will work on their facial hair, none of them will ever have to worry about hair plugs again (who needs hair on the scalp when they could have a perfect stubble on the jaw - Wayne, please take notes). If he will dress them their football jerseys will be tighter than those of gli azzurri (the blues, a.k.a. the Italians), and their suits will be Savile Row tailoring in Italian Super 150s wool. What is not to love. Please please pretty please, people in the Football Association, heed the call.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Duddell's - on Saturday night at 8.45 PM the terrace was entirely absolutely dead empty. There was not a single person in the sizable lounge/bar area either. Not anyone. Except for three bored waiters. And on the way out, it appeared only two tables in the also sizable third floor restaurant were occupied.
Yet my handsome Italian friend Fabio in his Burberry sandals (who lives in London but is on a three-month secondment teaching fashion marketing in Shanghai) was told he couldn't enter unless he removed his designer shoes for some sad black canvas bedroom slippers from the coat room.
After Fabio managed to get his sandals back from the Duddell's coat room we went on to dinner at Mott 32, where soon after we arrived the place was as empty as Catholic church on a Tuesday afternoon.
Beautiful, but very empty.
It can't have been our shoes... Christoph is red Adidas and Stephanie in super cool Tara Jarmon sandals. Seriously, where is everyone in Hong Kong? Maybe they too, like me, are sick of all the restaurant hype and have gone to share some food and a bottle of beer at their local - which we probably should have done as well. No one there would have objected to Fabio's bordeaux suede sandals, that's for sure.
In a very classic way: a navy peacoat over a button down and winter whites.
Or to tone down an otherwise loud or crazy or dubious piece of clothing. Since the pink shows at her cuffs and her collar, it looks like this girl is wearing an entirely pink dress with long pink sleeves. Thank goodness for the simple navy jumper and hat. And those Vuitton shoes - well they are my biggest regret ever (I mean not buying them at the time).
I have always loved this rather loud bias cut slip dress on its own. But the only way I can carry it off is by wearing it with my COS navy jumper. It even tones down the Aquazurra bondage shoes to a perfectly acceptable day look. Now if only I could walk in those for more than 5 minutes.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
a massive heap of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermès copy scarves in front of a rusty fire door
Everything in this mall is entirely fake, or maybe that is too scary a word. There are endless stalls of sports socks with Nike and Adidas logos woven onto them, which are exactly the same as the official socks your find in Hong Kong. In this case, Nike and Adidas' factories have probably just made some extra and sold them out of the back door. Or maybe Nike and Adidas sanction the selling of their socks at Luo Hu. After all, their mark up is so significant that selling socks at Luo Hu is probably no different from selling socks on sale or in discount packs of three.
There are also endless Balenciaga bags out on display in shop after shop. They look great but they smell like manure or sometimes like wet goat skin. I know a lot about handbags, but the easiest clue to discover whether it is real or fake is probably the smell (although I must admit I was rather dismayed at the smell of my most recent authentic Balenciaga bag, which is disturbingly distinctive, albeit nothing like manure or wet goat).
And then there are a handful of very secret shops, hidden away in attics and basements, where the bags still smell like goats, but have the appearance of some of the finest luxury goods in the world. The only reason these bags are hidden is because their corporate owners, usually LVMH, Chanel, and Hermès, actively fight the counterfeiters and have enough clout with the Chinese government to stop the copy bags from being sold out in the open. Very few of these bags would pass a connoisseur's test, but maybe that is not the point of fashion today.
After all, we buy Zara tops that convey the spirit of Céline, but never the essence of Céline, which is not just about the silhouette but at least as much about the absolute quality of the fabrics and the sewing techniques. For most of us fashion consumers, the fine details do not matter at all and we happily live in this season's Céline look as interpreted by Zara, coping with the fact it's made of acrylic, rather than luxuriating in the fact that it's made of 4-ply cashmere.
No wonder fake Birkins are big business here - these fake bags are all about achieving the look of some of our favorite style icons like Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian, and not so much about the enjoyment of the craftsmanship and the hand stitching. Whereas for one generation, let's say mine, a snap shot of a great life could possibly show a delicious alfresco dinner full of laughter with dear friends, for a Chinese 22-year old in Shenzhen a great life may more likely be about achieving a super cute selfie full of apparent luxury and riches.
There are five floors in this monstrosity of a mall, where men spit out the contents of their horridly congested lungs on the floor around you at the most inopportune moments, and where pretty young mums hold their babies over trash cans when they expect their little bubs are about to shed some human waste. This place is as disgusting as it is fascinating, and if you ever come to Hong Kong, a visit to this sprawling city of more than 10 million people is worth the trouble. Just don't go near any trash cans.
Monday, September 1, 2014
Net-a-Porter is by far my favorite place in the world to shop. But in the fashion world silly pronouncements are never far off, and The Edit (Net-a-Porter's online magazine) reminds us this week just how funny fashion edicts can be.
If you buy one thing this season, make it a peasant dress - the '70s folk trend is set to be huge for Cruise 2015 too. Couture craftwork is the essence of this bohemian look, from Etro's embroidered gilet to Burberry Prorsum's hand-painted sheepskin coat.
Now just remember girls, couture craftwork is the essence of a good peasant dress. Happy shopping!
Zara top with lace sleeves - in store now
Zara jeans - in store now
Balenciaga bag - in store now
Moschino shoes - from the olden days