The Look of Love

There are times when donning nothing feels better than the first wear of your new favorite outfit.

I have been traveling for the last 2 weeks and am finally coming home. Just in time for my birthday. So, in celebration of my birth and homecoming, I will be taking a few days off in the desert to rejuvenate.

For my intentions this weekend I will look to John and Yoko for fashion inspiration. Think Amsterdam Hilton Bed-In. Sometimes, it's not about the clothes you wear; all you need is love.


No Playing Outside

Being a kid used to be about going outside, playing til the street lights came on, getting a little dirty and scuffed up in the process. Those of us who dressed ourselves took pride in our independence, and years later have the pleasure of looking back and getting a good laugh out of our savvy (or completely crazy) outfits.

Now, designers that we love are creating diffusion lines for our (or our friends') offspring. There's always been Baby GAP, but now we also have Little Marc, Juicy Couture for baby and kids and many others—all spanning the grounds from toddler to tween.

America's sweetheart designer, Phillip Lim, has now joined the little league of designers catering to mommy and their mini me. Barney's New York has picked up the line, and starting today, Kid by Phillip Lim can be purchased at Barney's stores or on their website.

The collection is comprised of cute cotton tiered shift dresses, semi-serious trenches, and adorable separates. The poppy hued, multi-fold day dress is no less than precious. Basically, Kid offers miniature versions of dresses we would normally covet, and for some reason the sub-zero sizes make them look even more adorable.

But with prices ranging from $165 to the mid-$300s, one can't help but wonder what the Lim kid will be permitted to do. It's hard to imagine this little gamine playing tag, picking flowers or climbing the jungle gym. All kidding aside, it begs the question—what will become of this new generation of stylish brats who are becoming designer-conscious at an age when they should be experimenting with eating paste?


Early Arrivals

Every day the world gets a little smaller, and the reach and sway of luxury brands becomes more expansive.

As a part of my job, I travel to various international locales, each in their own right pursuing a piece of the budding retail market. Today I find myself in Azerbaijan.

To be honest, I was unaware this country existed until I was booking travel reservations. Last night, as my plane descended in to the capital of Baku, I became skeptical. Looking down on the nondescript city seated aside the Caspian Sea, I was doubtful that there was any promise of discovering a glittering metropolis-in-the-making. Driving through the dust-filled streets en route to my hotel, I grew increasingly so.

Today, touring the city, I was surprised to see the caliber of international luxury brands littering the streets. Armani. Escada. Ferragamo. MaxMara. Chopard. Lacoste. Hugo Boss.

Cartier reportedly just opened last week to the much buzzed-about fanfare of actress and spokesmodel, Monica Belucci's, coinciding visit.

What impressed me more was the telltale "Coming Soon" signs of the second wave of trailblazers. Valentino, Diesel, Burberry... It is apparent that the city is actively soliciting brands to enter the region.

Aside from the mounting luxury presence, the rumors of a bid for the 2018 Summer Olympics has the city whipped in to a wind storm of construction, what locals have dubbed, "The Year of Construction."

It amazes me how a city's desire for "modernity" often leads it in to the lap of luxury. The country, outside Baku's city center, is still steeped in poverty and entrenched in it's rural roots. The national language is Azerbaijani, but most city-dwellers speak Russian (it seceded from the USSR in 1991) because it is considered provincial to speak in the local tongue.

What is it that really makes a country modern? It is the buildings, with their nouveau-something architecture? Is it the politics or the people? Or is it the commerce? It seems that the new strategy to proving to the world that you are a modern nation is by the means of establishing an enviable list of shopping destinations.

As much as you want to cheer on a developing country, it is hard when all it seems to be doing is emulating the older kids on the play ground. Hopefully the agenda behind the street-front facades of the new commercial and bureaucratic buildings is also future-minded.


Withering Heights

This spring platforms, heels and wedges are rising to new heights. With vertiginous footwear ubiquitous on the runway, the occasional model stumble has become commonplace.

Psychedelic fairyland heels flitted down Prada and Miu Miu’s Spring ’08 runways. Defying the laws of Physics, it’s pure geometry at Chanel, future shock at Dior—and I’m still trying to solve the gravitational mystery of Marc Jacobs and Antonio Berardi’s levitating heels.

Cartoonish and otherworldly, these objets d’art have women everywhere trampling each other to grab the next ”It” shoe. Practicality, whether concerning comfort or shelf life, has been stamped out.

The heavens are the limit—but what goes up, must inevitably come down to earth. Until then, we will be witness to the merely mortal’s attempt to walk in the shoes that make the angels fall.


Feast or Fashion

I was sitting at a café, having a quick bite in between meetings and runway shows. It was early February in Manhattan, the frenetic energy of NY Fashion Week thick in the air. Picking at my veggie sushi, I was confronted by my boss, RS—“is that all you’re going to eat?” I look up at her, and now the rest of our group, eyeing my lunch. I sheepishly explained that I had recently gone vegetarian (for the third time, actually). She is French, and by birthright a connoisseur of all things edible. I knew this revelation would not be greeted with approval or applause.

I became vegetarian for the first time my freshman year of high school. It was one-part animal rights; the other, I suppose could be attributed to my need to forge an identity for myself. My second run was in college. Neither lasted for much over a year. Both led to the same result of anemia and subsequent illness. Looking back, I attribute it to a bad diet. I don’t know why I figured vegetarians could live on pasta alone.

The current attempt was instigated by a book my younger sister gave me for Christmas. I unpeeled the ribbon and paper, read the title and rolled my eyes. Skinny Bitch. What’s this all about, I pressed. Just read it, she said.

I picked it up a few weeks later and found that the contents actually had little to do with what the title connotes (with exception to the sassy prose and the constant reiteration of the phrase Skinny Bitch). The book surprising promotes life-long health and veganism; not a fad diet that would result in a small ass. It goes in to depth about the affect of food on our health, cruelty to animals and the corruption of the government bodies “protecting” our food sources. It was quite affecting, and I decided to give vegetarianism another crack.

It’s amazing how curious people are about what you do or do not eat. I’ve had to explain myself many times, and will admit to being slightly embarrassed to disclose my inspiration came from a book with such a frivolous title.

Once again defending myself, I was uprooted by an unsuspecting question. “So what about your boots, belt, gloves?” I had honestly given little consideration to going vegan with the rest of my lifestyle.

I started contemplating the reality of me, a fashion devotee, shunning all animal-derived products. Sadly, this is the down side of having a little conviction—you end up coming off as a hypocrite.

The main snag is the accessibility of fashion that doesn’t compromise my style or sense of conviction. In high fashion and in the mass-market, the pickings are truly slim.

Stella McCartney is the best for this breed of uncompromising style. A life-long vegetarian, she has built a fashion enterprise offering products that are both cruelty-free and eco-friendly. She even dedicated her F/W’08 show "to everyone who believes you do not need fur in fashion." Her collection offered many ingenious alternatives to fur and leather.

Her line of handbags and footwear are made from only synthetic or natural materials like raffia, wood, faux leather, Lucite, etc. One of my favorites from the F/W’08 collection was the wooden-plated shoulder bag, somewhat resembling medieval armor, with gold, chain-link hardware.

Natalie Portman also recently launched a vegan footwear line in collaboration with Té Casan. She lamented that, "as a vegan, it's been challenging finding designer shoes made of alternative materials. This collection offers a great selection without compromising quality or style." Not so much. Her efforts are commendable, but the actual product leaves me uninspired. And at an average of $255 a pair, they are not exactly reasonable either.

From here the market drops off to small indie brands that sell equally unimaginative designs and most times using low quality fabrications. I’m not sure if inflicting blisters can truly be considered a cruelty-free product.

I’ve never owned a piece of fur and don’t have any obscene pieces of leather products (even my couches are pleather). Just your standard boots and handbags—most of which are vintage. I’m not sure if a hard-core vegan would allow this as a consideration, but it makes me feel a little better.

I have found myself torn between what I would love to do in an ideal world, and my reality. It is a major commitment to forsake all things animal derived. It has to be taken one step at a time. For now, I aim to support the cruelty-free cause, and refrain from buying any unnecessary animal products. It will be on a look and love—but don’t touch—basis. I guess until I can give up organic Gorgonzola I can still keep my vintage leather boots.