Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Short Film

Thankfully, on this very messy morning, I am working at home in my snow-white pajamas, so I haven’t had to wonder what to wear just yet. But faced with my preponderance of coffee mugs drying next to the sink I laughed, thinking of this beautiful little film about my very favorite topic.

Miranda July may have been joking yesterday, but Lina Plioplyte and Julie Miller, who made this for Dossier, are not. They totally get it, and the clothes are fantastic. Bravo! 

p.s. If you’re in the mood for little movies and you missed Monday, go back and have a look at my footage from sheep-herding by helicopter too!

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Miranda July: Where Do Buttons Come From?

Miranda July is totally fronting on my beat. Watch this:

Thanks for the heads up, Skye!

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Cynthia Rowley’s Meta Madness

In high school, I came to New York City and fell head-over-heels for an unattainable Cynthia Rowley bubblegum-pink strapless satin gown. (It was the late ‘90s.)

Ever since, the designer has remained a sort of NYC fashion fairy for me. When I moved here in 2003 I would wander to her boutique in the West Village when I needed some color. In my first job, at a housewares design company, I got to work on development for her Target collection. I can’t remember what I wore for my single meeting with her, but I’ll never forget a chance encounter on a busy Saturday in her shop, when she admired my (my!) loden green sweater hood, decorated with a knitted pink peony sticking out of my camel-colored leather jacket. I was thrilled last season when Dossier assigned me to cover her show (find below, my notes from the occasion), and pleased as punch to be assigned back this season.

Ms. Rowley has always struck me as a creature not just of fashion, but also of art and business…sort of a princess of pop culture. That combination of savvy and style came through this season, on her runway, in her front row (graced by her friend Thelma Golden) and also in a really clever collaboration with the Gagosian Gallery, where she is selling original samples from the show, photographic reproductions of her collection on fabric panels for fans to cut and sew themselves and even sewing kits, complete with a label, for customers to affix wherever they please…The New York Times called it Duchampian, but it’s sort of more Prince or Warhollian, no?

Whatever it is, I love it. It’s a sexy sort of meta mind-f— that one could also wear to dinner. (Or contrarily, in front of the computer, as they blog about blogging.) Maybe there’s some room in this  for an archival re-release of that rose-colored gown I never got to wear to the prom. It would look lovely printed on a floor-length cotton tank dress.

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A Man and His Tweed

The night before Fashion Week began, I read an article in which the Financial Times’ style editor lamented the lack of a common lexicon when it comes to sustainability in style. She asked a variety of designers for their definitions and, of course, they varied greatly. Incidentally, the first show Dossier assigned me to cover was John Patrick Organic, a collection one might presume to be made of entirely organic fabrics. But one might be presumptuous. 

There were, indeed, some pieces, like the turtleneck on the left, made from fabrics that were, well, conventionally organic. But the most interesting fabric was not organic–at least, not according to the federal regulation. My favorite pieces in the collection–high-waisted shorts and trousers and a riding jacket with peaked shoulders were made of something called Harris Tweed. 

Just as John Patrick was beginning to tell me about it, a rather distinguished looking continental type strode into the show, donning  a great deal of tweed himself. John Patrick, flitting between photo opps and interviews, looked relieved to hand me off to an authority, and so I was introduced to Mr. Alan L. Bain, the Director of Harris Tweed Textiles:

Mr. Bain told me all about the Act of Parliament that protects the name of Harris Tweed, 100% sheep’s wool that must be spun, dyed and handwoven (at home!) by the islanders of the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. Each bolt is stamped with a Maltese cross and orb, the stamp of Harris Tweed–a coat of arms that John Patrick, incidentally, integrated into the arm of a coat:

It’s beautiful stuff, full of multi-colored flecks–the result of tossing together different colored skeins of dyed wool before spinning the yarns. 

“It’s like baking a cake,” Mr. Bain said. “You have a recipe of different percents of colors.” (I was partial to an orchid pink shade used in a pair of high-waisted shorts.) It’s a recipe the Scots have been using since the 1800s, for a natural, bio-degradable, and, dare I say, beautiful fabric. But my guess would be that it isn’t cheap, which might be why Harris Tweeds’ production is down to one quarter of what it was 15 years ago (400,000 meters per year vs. 1,600,000 in 1995). The Act of Parliament was taken up by Prince Charles and the wool lords (not to be confused with war lords–we’re not talking about Blood Tweed) to protect the traditional techniques of farming and fabric production. The girls from Vogue arrived while I was chatting with Mr. Bain. They loved the tweeds. J Crew has apparently taken up the fabric as well. 

“But is it organic?” I asked Mr. Bain. Well, not exactly. Not the dyes, he said. There is one gent on the island, said Mr. Bain, doing organic, but they just didn’t have the demand yet. So, here’s a strictly defined fabric made of natural fibers using a 200-year old method that’s keeping a few Scottish farmers in business. It’s been in a slump, but might make a comeback if the right designers create demand. 

So while it may seem a little dodgy to use the word “organic” as a brand name for a line in which all the fabrics are not organic in the strictest sense, it also seems it wouldn’t make sense to throw out the baby with the bath water. I agree with the Financial Times’ editor, that the fashion industry needs to set some solid, scientifically definable standards of sustainability to adhere to. But I also think we need to leave a little room for interpretation and let it develop, well, organically, to leave a little room in designers’ lexicons for fabrics like Harris Tweed.

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Malia Mills NYC Sample Sale

I know it’s hardly swimsuit season, but Malia Mills‘ are the absolute best, and usually quite pricey. Here’s my own favorite, bought for $20 at their sale last summer:

The suits are made in New York City’s Garment Center, right across the hall from the sale. Here’s a little window into Malia’s workspace I shot last year, where she talks about the importance of overseeing her supply chain. For more on Malia and the Garment District, read up here! And find the details for the sale below. 

Malia Mills is hosting the ultimate swimwear separates celebration!

For two days, find favorite styles from seasons past for $20 bucks a piece at our Studio Sale Extravaganza. It’s a new year, and we’ve got “newly vintage” Malia Mills mixers galore!

Tops 30A to 40DD, Bottoms 2 to 16


Add to your swimwear wardrobe and 10% of your purchase will go to The New York Women’s Foundation. http://www.nywf.org/

When? Wednesday, February 24th and Thursday, February 25th

10 am until 6 pm

Where? Malia Mills, 263 West 38th St, Floor 16, between 7th and 8th Avenues

Cash, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard Accepted

It might seem a world away today, but summertime is inevitable.

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From Backstage to Backcountry: Herding by Helicopter

As promised, I’m following up Fashion Week with some behind-the-scenes stories with you.

Today we’ll go from backstage NYC to backcountry NZ,  thanks to the wonders of video and one very generous helicopter pilot. Ready?

Last week, after Karen Walker‘s Fall 2010 show I snuck back to say hello and find out some details for Dossier. Specifically, I wanted to know about those shag-alicious sheepskin vests. Karen, like my brother-in-law Doug, happens to be Kiwi–which is to say, from New Zealand. Are the sheepskins Kiwi too? I wondered.

In Sheepskin Backstage, Hatnim Lee for Dossier Style

“They are!” exclaimed Karen. But she said they had a hell of a time finding just the right ones. “We had to go all the way to the south of the South Island,” she said. “The coldest part of the country.”

In Sheepskin Backcountry, Jenni Avins for Closettour

The coldest part of the country happens to be an area I know quite well. You may think I’m just some crazy city kid that runs around garment factories and fashion shows wearing overalls ironically, but I’ve actually herded sheep with the best of the best on New Zealand’s wild South Island.

Flying over New Zealand’s Southern Alps

After I left Edun, and before I went to journalism school, I took some time off down on the farm with my sister and her husband, Doug, who herds New Zealand Merinos–just the sort of sheep that shagged up Karen Walker’s collection. Usually we can get the job done with trucks, whistles and well-trained dogs, but sometimes we actually need to hop in a helicopter, depending on where those sheepies are grazing.

You might think someone’s stolen my password, but I’m totally serious. Here’s some original footage from my morning heli-herding with Doug’s next door neighbor. We flew from his farm, way beyond the timberline, and chased (or “mustered” in Kiwi terms) the herd back down to greener pastures.

From backcountry to backstage: it’s warm; it’s wild; it’s wool.

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Winding Down

My parting shot of last night at Bryant Park:

NY Fashion Week is all over, although the coverage and reviews will keep coming for a little longer. What to wear now that the shows are done?

My nightgown, a yellow hooded sweatshirt (appropriated, à la this menswear review) and a brand new hand-knit alpaca hat, compliments of my mom (thanks, momma!) to replace a casualty of New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow night we’ll party, but for tonight, that’s what to wear. Shhhh…

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