This Doesn’t Bode Well For Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, 2008

By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI
Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT (AP) — A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Iran is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric’s unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair

No word yet on whether women’s fashion is to blame for the eruption in Iceland.

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Fashion Crisis: Please Help Tomorrow (Saturday)!

Finding a prom date is hard enough, but at least we can do something to help out with the dresses. I just got an email from Pamela Brown, and it seems Operation Fairy Dust, the prom dress giveaway in Brooklyn, still needs volunteers for the afternoon shift tomorrow from 2:00-6:30. Please email her at pam.brown@wgirls.org if you can help–she’ll add you to the volunteer list and send you more information.
Let me know if you’ll be there so I can say hi as after I wrap up the morning shift! Honestly, I don’t really know what could be more fun than this. Sprinkle some fairy dust, and help someone not have a traumatic prom.

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The Web We Weave

Last night at the Loomstate party, I told someone I was a journalist.

“Who do you work for?” he asked.

“I’m independent,” I replied, which is funny, because in many ways, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, my stories are my own and I have no editor to answer to, but lately I get overwhelmed thinking about everyone pitching in to help me with the completion of a website about sustainable style, based on my recent trip to Sweden.

I’ll limit my example to yesterday alone. I’ve asked two of the Swedish designers I’m writing about for additional photographs for the site. One simply sent me a login to peruse her server as I pleased, and the other emailed me selected favorites, including the one below, of her colleague weaving wool in Scotland. I tend to have my Sweden emails in the morning, thanks to the time difference, and these were particularly lovely to wake up to.

But it was time to get down to business. One of my mounting challenges in writing about sustainability, as I’ve noted, is the tremendous task of defining the word. Recently, a Huffington Post reader called Denis Ethier alerted me on Twitter (I get it now!) that he had just left a comment under my article. Indeed, dear Denis had advised  me that in using the term “sustainable growth,” I had employed an oxymoron, and directed me to Dr. Albert Bartlett’s Laws of Sustainability.

Dr. Bartlett, who holds a PhD in Nuclear Physics from Harvard, has been writing and lecturing about sustainability for forty years, and I found his papers to be at once helpful and harrowing.

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race,” Dr. Bartlett once famously said, “is our inability to understand the exponential function.” (That’s the green one.) I was experiencing an inability to understand a great number of things, but I was able to perceive an exponentially increasing portion of panic. So I did what any perplexed fashion enthusiast would do, and directly contacted a nuclear physicist. Within moments Dr. Bartlett replied to my email, with his home telephone number and a warning he knew nothing “about fashions.” We had an enlightening chat, which you’ll be able to read about once the Sweden site is done.

New Source: Dr. Al Bartlett

By the time we said goodbye, Loomstate’s Earth Day party was about to begin. Commemorating Earth Day in a basement beneath midtown seemed a little counterintuitive until I walked into the sprawling room and saw Pemba Sherpa, one of my absolute favorite souls on this planet. Edun, my previous employer, was once housed in the same SoHo apartment as fashion brands Rogan and Loomstate. Things have since grown and separated a bit (exponentially? I’m not sure.), and Pemba remains the single employee all three labels share. This speaks to their intelligence, because any place blessed with Pemba’s presence on a daily basis will find their employees learning daily lessons about patient kindness from his example.

Old Friend: Pemba Sherpa (on my last day at Edun)

He used to be a guide in the Himalayas (now he treks between Edun, Rogan and Loomstate’s Tribeca offices, handling all things logistical), so Pemba’s appreciation for the planet comes from a uniquely elevated perspective. He knows I love stories from his native Nepal, and he recently returned, but this time his most exciting revelation was not about the mountains, but about an unplanned pregnancy in his community, which resulted in an unplanned adoption, and now Pemba is the proud papa of Arbin Tshering Dorjee Sherpa. I thought of Dr. Bartlett’s famous lecture on population growth, and how heartily he might approve of Pemba’s adoption strategy. It also occurred to me that if I’m ever reborn, Pemba’s family might be a good one to go for.

Just then, 40 drummers filed in, and took their seats at a mishmash of sets under a white pyramid in the center of the cavernous space. Cymbals began to shimmer. A pelican in slow-motion flight was projected onto the pyramid; and Pemba stood beside me, taking pictures. Before long, a strong reverberation took over the room, and it became nearly impossible to distinguish between the beats of the different drummers. Before they started playing Scott Hahn had introduced the program saying they intended to “shatter the illusion that we’re all separate.” Indeed.

When I got home, I checked my email, and found a message from a reader who had sent a question about organic concert tee shirts a few weeks ago. We’ve never met in person, but he asked if I had been at the Loomstate party, and then later on the L-train! He had recognized me from those seemingly gratuitous photos I post of myself, and even asked if I was free tonight, as he’s found himself with an extra ticket to the opera. I loved the idea of meeting up for the opera, but am previously engaged for a pow-wow with the Sweden site’s new designer/developer –a young lady called Grace, whose surname, incidentally, is derived from the German for one who weaves.

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Spring in Full Swing

It’s going to be a really busy week here at Closettour.

“Where, at Closettour?” You might ask, and you would not be wrong, since the office travels where I do, whether the San Juan Mountains, San Clemente or Sweden. But for the moment, when I’m not wondering what to wear from my closet in Williamsburg, I’ll most likely be here: the newly minted Center for Journalistic Innovation at CUNY.

This is where a few of us working with grants from Jeff Jarvis Entrepreneurial Journalism class will be working. As you can see, it’s still a place in progress (more computers to come), and I’ve been told I’ll be responsible for the layout, as the aesthetically inclined chick in this incubator.

File:Pink peeps.jpg

This is a very different role from my one at Edun, where I simply packed boxes and got out of the way when we moved our offices from SoHo to Tribeca. But here, it’s a wholly different crowd of co-workers. For the last several months, I’ve worked back-to-back with Joe Filippazzo and Tom Clark, who founded Knotebooks, an open-source site for physics lessons.

Yesterday Tom asked me whether I felt pressure to always dress the part of a person covering fashion. And yet, I could have asked him the very same question–see his tee-shirt below, which reads, “No, I will not fix your computer.” Incidentally, that was what I had just asked him to do. Who’s dressing the part now?

Actually we both are.

I happened to be wearing this little Loomstate vest, a favorite layering piece this time of year. On the subway a few days ago, I ran into Berrin Noorata, who I used to share that SoHo office with when Loomstate, Rogan and Edun were all under one roof. Berrin organizes the brand’s parties, and she told me not to miss the one to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow night. I will not, and you shouldn’t either. They even have a school bus for downtowners.

And speaking of Earth Day, it will be interesting to see what comes of the CEO Water Mandate Meeting, also happening this week, over at the United Nations. Henrik Lampa, H&M’s Environmental Supply Chain Manager, who I met in Stockholm, told me one of H&M’s main issues when it comes to water conservation is denim washing, and he’ll be looking at how the clever application of chemistry might reduce the water footprint of a pair of jeans. H&M has had their fair share of environmental missteps over the last few months, but there’s no denying that they apply some serious manpower (and money) to investigating how the fashion industry might leave a lighter footprint on the planet.

jeans H&M Shop Online

It’s a complicated relationship, and one I’ll explore further on a site I’m developing about sustainable style, based on material from Sweden. So, that’s what I’m working on between the lines of the blog here, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of it soon. Assuming I sustain until the end of the week, I’ll be styling pre-loved prom dresses for their new owners on Saturday morning–email operationfairydustnyc@yahoo.com if you’re interested in joining me–or you can always find me right here, wondering what to wear.

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Want to Build a Lifestyle Brand? Build a Lifestyle.

For most bloggers, linking to last week’s story is sort of like wearing last season’s clothes. But let’s be honest, I do wear last season’s clothes, and Rebecca Mead’s ramble through Brunello Cucinelli‘s Umbrian kingdom of cashmere, in the March 29 New Yorker is already a classic, much like Cucinelli’s casually elegant clothing.

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The philosopher-king of cashmere’s unusual approach to his business–applying his Greco-Roman values to his home, his office, his sample factories and even establishing a small surrounding city in his vision, made me wonder why we don’t see this more often with American designers, so keen on ever-lucrative lifestyle brand. So why not build lifestyles?

Sure, Betsey Johnson had Betseyville and Ralph Lauren has Telluride‘s Double RL Ranch (and Round Hill in Montego Bay and the beach house in Montauk and the Bedford estate), but these holiday homes and resorts are available to but a few privileged guests.

As long as Ralph Lauren is branding bed sheets, house-paint and 1500 cattle, why not brand his own supply chain, and maybe even build a little colony around it? I’m serious. Imagine if American designers established enclaves for producing high-end capsule collections where the entire supply chain–and not just the look–aligned with their values. Now that would build a brand.

Here are my proposals for a few I’d like to visit.

Image from Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

Donna Karan’s Pure Peru: Donna Karan could establish a small factory in the mountains outside Máncora, Peru, to produce her existing DKNY Pure line. She could use naturally colored organic Peruvian pima cotton to create heavenly cotton tees in the sandy beiges and whispery pinks she used for the collection in the ’90s.  Mead mentioned 90-minute lunch breaks at the Cucinelli factory–enough time for pasta, salad, grilled meat and wine (for less than five bucks in the cafeteria), followed by a nap. Maybe Karan’s macrobiotic chef could whip up meals in an outdoor kitchen, and factory workers could re-energize with afternoon meditation breaks. The designer could host guests for retreats at Samana Chakra, a little beachfront spot I visited after a production trip for Edun a while back. Pure Peru? Sign me up, the shirts and the retreat.

Ralph and Ricky Lauren, Image by Gilles de Chabaneix, Architectural Digest

Ralph Lauren Red, White and Blue Label: For his All-American collection, Lauren could make it…wait for it…all American. He could bring down some of the beef cattle from Double RL and start a little cotton farm in South Carolina. Since organic cotton can only be harvested once per year (as opposed to conventional cotton’s three yearly harvests) Lauren could rotate his crops with grain to feed the cattle in the winter. Naturally, they would be grass-fed the rest of the year. Lauren could find some  old equipment from the area’s historic mills and make fabrics to send to factories in nearby Surry County, NC, a community that’s been hit especially hard by job losses in the textile sector. (BLS predicts the job market will lose 71,500 sewing machine operators between 2008 and 2018.) He could follow Steven Alan‘s lead and resurrect the old-school Made in the USA tag that’s sewn into some of Alan’s signature pieces.

Ms. Mead wrote of Cucinelli’s commitment to his country, where 100% of his collection is manufactured. When the financial crisis hit, she said, Saks showed their support for Cucinelli by dedicating its windows to his brand and hosting an event with the cuisine of his Umbrian home. What could be more American than an organic cotton dress farmed from land that helped raise a (branded) burger in the off-season? I’ll have one of each, and come down for the cattle round-up.

Yvon Chouinard, Image from Ben Baker Photo

Patagonia’s Camp Cleanest Line: Okay, I’m cheating, because The Cleanest Line is already the brand’s blog, but the double entendre is too good. As you can read in his book, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard applies his philosophy–which involves a great respect for the outdoors and his employees, and providing the time for the latter to enjoy the former–to his business offices in Ventura, California. Camp Cleanest Line could appeal to Pata-groupies who not only love the clothing and want to observe this management technique in action, but also want to take a break to surf Rincon if conditions are conducive. Visitors could participate in a beach clean-up like the one the Patagonia employees recently did, and the trash they collect could be recycled into fleece. Patagonia produces largely in China, but they take the dramatic step of making their factory list public, so any camper who really wanted to follow their soda bottles overseas could. Come to think of it, I’d say Patagonia’s sort of already established a lifestyle brand, which might be why I’m sitting here in the garment district longing for, well, that Patagonia lifestyle.

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Fashionable Transport

My wheels, pictured below in the illustrious pavilion behind my building. This classic cruiser is sort of an iteration of the dress I wrote about yesterday: retro, red, reliable.  

I bought that dress in 2000 in Santa Barbara, the city that showed me the meaning of riding in style. This weekend, I cycled back, via an interview for Bike by the Sea.

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Happy Easter from Closettour

This dress was originally purchased from Anthropologie in the year 2000, for the occasion of my sister’s college graduation, which is pictured below after a long night of celebration.


I’ve worn the wrap-dress (Anthropologie’s private label, made in the USA) every year since, layered with a semblance of slips, swimsuits and stockings take it from spring to summer and into fall.

Many of these moments (above) were immortalized by my friend and former neighbor Tom Slaughter, and today the dress is back, with an old Laura Ashley petticoat beneath and an American Apparel hoodie over the top–my easy ensemble for Easter brunch with long-lost pal Julie Roads. It’s all about resurrection.

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