Sprechen sie prison?

To continue my theme of European websites (this time one that I'm hoping will ship to the US, though they don't specify) I wanted to share Haeftling from Germany. To quote their website "Handcrafted and inspired by convicts...Haeftling was founded in 2003, as the first worldwide brand for Jailwear, under which the handmade products of federal penal institution workshops and trainee programmes are now marketed outside of the prison walls".
Which may not sound like everyone's cup of tea but...the mixture of household goods and clothing are utilitarian, functional, and strangely chic. Though they mainly gravitate towards men's clothing and items for the home there are a few pieces of women's clothing (or things that could be considered unisex - particularly the pyjamas). My two favorites from the site though are the women's denim wrap skirt and the wooden chopping block. Now I just need to figure out if I can actually get them to send things to me...



Girl, you'll be a woman soon

There are some purchases that seem very "adult". Not adult in a kinky way but adult in a "wow, I bought this and feel so grown up now" kind of way. Something that falls under this category is a proper watch.

I've gone through quite a few cheaper watches, mainly Swatch but most recently a leather cuff watch from Anthropologie and I've loved them all in an ephemeral way. They were like candy - inexpensive, brightly colored, and filling an urge for a short time. But the time had come for a (gulp) big girl watch.

It's not just the money (though of course that is a consideration), it's more the thought of picking "the" watch that defines you. This is something that, hopefully, I'll be wearing for a long time...so how do I narrow the endless choices down? There were some things that I knew...I knew that I wanted a watch that was both classic and funky at the same time. I also knew that I wanted a good watch but not one that was so expensive I was going to be nervous to wear it. There was also, I admit, a watch that I had been drooling over since I was a teenager but that I'd always considered to be outside of my price range.

My daydream adult watch was from Hermes. To be precise, my two daydream watches were from Hermes. One was a classic watch on an extra-long strap that wound twice around the wrist...designed originally for pilots during World War II. The second was the Medor, based upon the collier de chien...punk-ish with three studs, the center of which lifts up to reveal the watch face.

A couple of weeks ago...I don't know why...I went into Hermes. There was (honestly) no purpose or motive, I just went in. You've probably guessed by this point that I tried on both of my "dream" watches. The Medor was disappointing. On my wrist at least it looked cheap and wrong. The other watch, with the long double tour strap was...beautiful. The watch itself was the classic Hermes "H" in surgical stainless steel. The face was classic with a subdued scallop effect in the enamel between the lines leading to the numbers. The band was tan with cream stitching which would age beautifully. I sighed, gave the watch back to the sales assistant, and left the store.

My resolve lasted about a week or so. I went back, and the watch with the long strap came home with me. I'd like to think that this was a wise purchase...I hope that this was a wise purchase. One thing that I found out at the store does make me feel better about buying the watch now. The mechanism's are currently made by ETA of Switzerland, who have been making watches since 1793 and are responsible for the movements of watches for companies all the way from Swatch to Cartier. Hermes has invested $2 million in creating their own movements and are in the process of migrating all of their watches to this new movement. Which is great, but...with Hermes own movement the prices go WAY up. While we were in the store we looked at some men's Hermes watches. A typical watch with the old movement was $2,000 - $3,000. A watch with the new movement was between $16,000 - $19,000. I don't know if there will be such a large difference with all of the watches once they transition to the new movements but it definitely made me feel better about my purchase. I'm sure that the new mechanisms are wonderful but would make the watch far too rich for my blood.

So, there it is...I am a woman, with a woman's watch (though I still love Japanese candy and cartoons).


A tale of two cities...

Okay, not cities really...instead, it's a tale of two urban (outfitters).

I was reading British Vogue and saw that Urban Outfitters now had a UK website so I thought I'd check it out. Now I'm trying to decide why Urban Outfitters in the UK sells designs by Cacharel, See by Chloe, Hussein Chalayan, Erotokritos, Sara Berman, Vanessa Bruno, and Tatty Devine and the US stores don't. Okay, in the US stores you can sometimes dig through the piles of t-shirts and hoodies to find some cool things but nowhere near the kind of clothes and accessories you can find in Britain. Why? Does UO really think that no one in the States is interested? It's depressing...even more so because the UK site doesn't even ship to the US.

Patrizia Pepe Trench Coat
Sara Berman Bubble Coat
Erotokritos Glitter Peeptoe
Erotokritos Babydoll Dress


You like badges too?

Much as I love the badges that I've made in the Badge-o-matic 2000 recently I can't help but fall for these from APC (it probably doesn't hurt that I'm an APC addict). The good news is that they're available on APC's website for $10 the set...the bad news is that postage is $9...guess I'll just admire them from afar.


It looks warm, but what is it?

As we enter the days of cold winds and snow flurries it seems like time to unearth the necessary accessories. Hats, gloves, and scarves have all made it into the light and are blinking in the autumnal sunshine. But there is one other winter accessory that I have been trying (single-handedly) to bring back for the last few years, and that is the muff. For those of you a little hazy on muffs, here is what Webster’s dictionary has to say:

Pronunciation: 'm&f
Function: noun
Etymology: Dutch mof, from Middle French moufle mitten, from Medieval Latin muffula : a warm tubular covering for the hands

I'm not sure if anyone currently produces muffs...I've certainly never seen anyone else actually using one...

Luckily I have two faux fur Emporio Armani muffs from the 80's. Bear with me here because I know this is starting to sound tacky, but they're not...honestly. One is a relatively low key everyday muff in a pale brown/grey and the other is an extra-long evening muff with tassels. They're fun, unique, functional...how many accessories fill all of those criteria?

So, come on, join the crusade for warm hands and the return of the muff!


A Taschen for Fashion

On a cold blustery evening what could be better than a glass of chilled white wine, a homemade Shepherd's Pie in the oven, The Avengers starring Diana Rigg as the one and only Emma Peel on DVD and a good book? In this case, a very good book. "Fashion History" - a fashion history from the 18th to 20th century was published as part of Taschen's 25th anniversary celebration. Beautifully illustrated and covering everything from stomachers to Martin Margiela this is true fashion porn and features items from The Kyoto Costume Institute in a boxed, hardcover, two volume set.
To quote from Taschen's website, "Clothes define people. A person's clothing, whether it's a sari, kimono, or business suit, is an essential key to his or her culture, class, personality, or even religion. The Kyoto Costume Institute recognizes the importance of understanding clothing sociologically, historically, and artistically. Founded in 1978, the KCI holds one of the world's most extensive clothing collections and has curated many exhibitions worldwide. With an emphasis on Western women's clothing, the KCI has amassed a wide range of historical garments, underwear, shoes, and fashion accessories dating from the 18th century to the present day.
Showcasing a vast selection from the Institute's archives of skilled photographs depicting the clothing expertly displayed and arranged on custom-made mannequins, Fashion History is a fascinating excursion through the last three centuries of clothing trends. The KCI believes that "clothing is an essential manifestation of our very being" and their passion and dedication positively radiate from every page of this book."
Every page is inspirational and perfectly illustrates the importance of fashion history...from the unknown, unnamed designers of the 17 and 1800's through Victorian mourning garments to Fortuny, Lanvin, Chanel...Dior's New Look, Courreges and Yun Takahashi of Undercover. Perfection in a box.


Black Attack

I’d been holding off on the black nail varnish trend until the weather got a little cooler, I love really dark short nails but they never feels right for me in the summer. I was also hoping that some of the hysteria surrounding Chanel’s Black Satin polish would have abated but no, bottles that originally retailed for $18 are now selling on eBay for $150! Okay, I understand status/cult items but this is ridiculous...

Anyway, I recently bought a bottle of Rimmel’s Black Satin polish which set me back around $3 (a saving of $15 or $147 depending on how you want to look at it). It’s a great, deep black and looks more chic than goth. For black with a little glitz I can also recommend Nars’ Orpheus, a black with micro-particles of scarlet glitter, which I’ve been wearing for several years. I don’t find Nars nail varnishes the most long-lasting but I love the colors so can forgive them their lack of longevity.



The question of whether you have a shopping issue can probably be safely answered if you go to an unveiling for an installation and, instead of looking at the art (which wasn’t that great), you end up shopping. Alright I should probably have known what was going to happen, especially as the event was happening at one of my favorite stores. I am exceedingly happy with my purchases though...

1) A tie neck plaid shirt by Karen Walker. I’ve been a fan of the New Zealander’s designs for years but have had problems finding anyone who stocked her clothes in the U.S. Now that she has started showing at New York fashion week I’m hoping that her clothes will be more available. This shirt wasn’t from the current collection, which means the additional bonus of it being about 30% of the regular price, but it has (to me at least) a timeless quality. As I’ve previously only viewed them from afar this is my first Karen Walker piece and I am very impressed by the quality and details. The high, stand-up collar is kept that way by three tabs sewn to the underside, through which the tie passes...another nice detail is that the buttons are stamped “k.”...and the fabric is incredibly soft.
2) A shawl/scarf by Harald. Once again, this is a first for me from this specific designer. I liked Robert Geller’s work for Cloak menswear. Cloak was one of those designers where I liked pieces of the collections but not necessarily the whole and Harald seems to be the same...though with Harald a higher percentage fall into the like column. On a whole, I preferred the Spring/Summer collection but the scarf is one of the Fall/Winter items that I really like (some would I argue that I never met a scarf I didn’t like but I would like to think that I am slightly more choosy). As it appears to be based on a kahfiyah scarf I am slightly curious how it will be received in the current political climate...we shall see.


And the winner is...

I just received a link to these rosettes and prize ribbons by Jessica Grindstaff. It's like My Little Pony was ambushed by the goths. What's not to love? They can be purchased at www.ravinstyle.com OR they could be added to the craft project list. The rosettes themselves are relatively easy to make so probably the hardest part will be finding just the right "object" to add.

Maybe a trip to the fun store is in order, they may have some children's party favors that I can apply a silver coating to...


Tissue, a tissue, we all fall down

So, let's face it, I have issues...I'll spend 2 weeks wages on a handbag. I see it in the store, walk up to it, touch it, try it on and "vogue" in front of the mirror. At this point either the endorphin rush is so huge that I rush to the counter and scream "I'll take it!!!" or I continue to stalk my prey like a hungry lioness on the Serengeti. When I eventually succumb, the sales person wraps the bag in whatever embellishments the store specialises in...tissue paper, ribbon, bags, stickers, candy (yes, I have received bags wrapped with candy...who could ask for anything more?) and I carry my purchase home triumphantly.

Then...yes, what happens then?

The ideal? Each handbag stuffed with tissue paper, placed inside its dust bag and stood or laid on a shelf.

The reality? Most of the time, pretty close to the ideal...with an occasional lapse due to rushed changes between bags in the mornings. It's 6am and yesterday's pomegranite Marc Jacobs Venetia doesn't go with today's ensemble. Tip contents onto bed, pull new bag from shelf, add wallet, keys, etc to new bag and run out of the door. Venetia is left lying on the bed, empty and forlorn.

Yes, I feel guilty when I come home and see her lying there but I promise that, in the future, I won't treat her this way...unless it's 6am and I need to be at work by 7.


Crafty Little Me

I just saw these Marni SS07 bracelets on Style.com. I love Marni's jewellery but feel that it's generally too expensive. Plus, I love a good craft project and I think that these bracelets are very do-able from a DIY perspective...just the thing for those long winter nights. I need to do some button and bead shopping but will post an update once I've finished.

A few years ago I fell in love with a Prada beaded neckplate which was out of my price range. With some felt, ribbon, and a broken vintage jet necklace I put together a one-off copy. And isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Funnily enough, I've worn "my" necklace dozens of times, received quite a few compliments and wouldn't swop it for the real thing.


Mail Alert

According to Webster’s dictionary, to “stalk” is to pursue obsessively and to the point of harassment. Well, I think I’m being stalked by Barneys.

In the last few weeks I’ve received eight Barneys catalogs in the mail…eight!!! They are for women’s designer clothing (1), men’s designer clothing (2), Co-Op (1), beauty (1), Barney’s own label clothing (1), designer shoes (1) and designer handbags (1).

Like most other people I like to receive things in the mail…and I enjoy the window-shopping element of looking at the catalogs. Probably the most fascinating thing was a black leather suitcase with wheels for $6,900. You’re not going to check a bag like that and, quite frankly, if you can spend $7,000 on a suitcase you’re probably not carrying your own luggage anyway so why do you need the wheels? Are you a rich socialite who is about to elope?

Alright, I confess, there were a couple of Lanvin handbags that started me drooling and a short APC cape with toggles that I could definitely see myself wearing but did I need all of those booklets? Sadly, the answer is probably yes.

So, go ahead, fill my mailbox with booklets and my dreams with handbags. I will cease to complain.


Birds do it, bees do it…

Last weekend I bought an Alexander McQueen karma sutra scarf…black background, white border of skulls, and copulating skeletons in the center (subtle, I know). I work in a standard, corporate, office environment but, as yesterday was “jeans day” I thought I’d wear the scarf and see what happened.

I foresaw several possible scenarios:

    A glance…a look of disgust (sex in the office!!!)…silence
    A look…another look…a discussion on office protocol
    A trip to Human Resources

What actually happened was…nothing. It may be that no one noticed the design; I was wearing it, not waving it around. Or it may be that I’d created an issue where there wasn’t one. Only time will tell, as I now plan on wearing the scarf on regular business days.

But now I’m wondering, have our working lives become so structured and “coded”…code of ethics, code of behavior, dress code…that we are censoring ourselves unnecessarily? I try not to but, obviously, some of it is filtering through.


Look...but don't touch

This may be yet another indication of my neurotic tendancies but...I have a problem with people touching my clothing. You know how it is; you're wearing something soft and suddenly people are rubbing you like you're a lucky rabbit's foot.

I appreciate the interest but I’m sure they’ve touched fabric before so why the reflex action? This isn’t a signal of intimacy issues, I just wonder what they touched beforehand. Is that the residue of lunch that you are wiping off on my sweater? Are your palms sweating as you caress my suede handbag? Did I see you just change a toner cartridge?

To illustrate the depths of my mania, here is a cautionary tale.

I once bought a rather expensive coat at Nicole Fahri; it was loose, fell below-the-knee and was made from a soft, pale grey lambswool and angora mix. The first winter I wore it I drove people insane. I wouldn’t sit down on the bus or train during my commute in case someone had spilled something on the seat. I avoided people with beverages or food like they had the plague. I finally realized that I had gone over the edge when I brought a garment bag in to work and reverently placed the coat in it each morning…”just in case”.

I maintained this manic behavior for the entire winter. By the next winter I had relaxed my vigilance. The coat was still beautiful, but there were newer coats to be cherished and cared for. Then it dawned on me, "saving" something for so long that it goes out of fashion isn't the point. Clothes will fade and tear and lose their shape...but the memories of what you did when you wore them or how you felt...those will last forever.


This old thing? Oh, it’s wooly mammoth…

I was in Barney’s Co-Op the other day and saw these bracelets by Jessica Kagan Cushman in one of the jewelry cases. They’re cool and funky, yet harken back to the scrimshaw pieces created by whalers in the early 1800’s. A marriage of the modern and traditional…could anything be better?
Of course, I had to try one…and they are beautiful. I could definitely see myself with several of these on my arm. Plus, what a conversation starter…how many times can you say that your accessory is made of fossilized mammoth tusk, an animal that ceased to exist 10,000 years ago? The only downside is that each bracelet costs between $995 and $1,250…

So, unless Barneys has a very good sale this is something that will remain on the wish list...extinct.


Tie a knot in it

Continuing from my last post, I recently found a booklet from the 80’s entitled “How to wear your Hermes scarf”. Apart from the dated photographs of the models, which cause an accident-on-the-highway type reaction…”I can’t look”…”I can’t help myself”…this is an interesting little booklet.

There are instructions for 14 different ways to tie a standard square scarf, most including diagrams. The booklet’s final page also includes the “basic folds”. Quite frankly, I never knew there were this many options. I wear scarves quite often but with the squares I usually limited myself to:

• the Grace Kelly headscarf…prince and exotic lifestyle not included
• the Wild West neckerchief…fold scarf in half (I rhyme!), place around neck tying at the back
• the wealthy gangbanger – fold, wrap around the wrist, and tie
• the ladies-who-lunch handbag accessory, aka the conspicuous consumer…tie, nonchalantly, around one of your handbag’s handles

Now, numerous options have been added…

• the “Sophisticated Lady”…a Joan Collins/Dynasty-esque headwrap
• the “Butterfly”…essentially a huge bow at the neck
• the “Eiffel Tower”…this ends up looking like a men’s kipper tie so I’m not sure where the name comes from

The most wearable style from the booklet, and one that I will definitely try is the “Silk Necklace”. A series of manipulations involving folding and tying the scarf create “beads” in the fabric. The result is then placed around the neck, like a necklace, and tied at the back.

As Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes says in the introduction, “Ready to begin tying? Let’s go!”


Here comes "The Groom"

Question - When is a scarf not a scarf?
Answer - When it combines a tribute to the elegance of another era, cartoon graphics, and a healthy shot of logomania.

The limited edition Monogram Groom collection from Louis Vuitton takes the classic LV canvas, adds the stripes that can be painted (along with your initial’s of course) on Vuitton’s luggage, and adds a cartoon 1930’s bellhop. I was a fan of the LV collaboration with Murukami and I mourn the passing of style in travel…I don’t care if I can fly across the Atlantic in 7 hours, I want to sail across in 6 days…so, of course, when I saw a picture of a coin purse featuring the new design I knew that I would love to have a piece.

Unfortunately most of the collection is coin purses, wallets, and agendas…none of which I need, even in the fashion “need” sense. Still I thought I would stop by the Louis Vuitton store today to look at them in person. It was as I thought; cute, but none of the options worked for me.

Then I discovered they had made two scarves, a square bandana and a long, rectangular scarf. I decided against the bandana as the groom takes up about a third of the available space and there seemed to be no way of actually wearing the scarf and seeing the character at the same time. The long scarf is perfect though…so many different ways to wear it and half the price of the smallest coin purse, thereby convincing me that this qualifies as a bargain.


Badges...or what to do with magazines part II

Recently, I got my hands on a badge maker, actually a "Badge Factory" from Amazon. Let's overlook the fact that this is made as a hobby center for teenage girls and that one of the marketing slogans is "Close the lemonade stand open the badge factory!"...I confess, I'm addicted.

Not only can you make some unusual, one-off, buttons but it's another great way to use favorite images from magazines. So now I am the proud owner of a one-off Marc Jabobs girl pin (taken from a close-up of a t-shirt), various art badges, and some "ransom note" buttons (individual letters stuck onto a background one by one before I make the badge).

Who needs lemonade? I have badges!!!


Confessions of a shoe miser

This may seem hard to believe (especially to anyone who has gone handbag shopping with me) but for some items I am a downright cheapskate. One of these is shoes. I know, I know…I’ve been told countless times…”good shoes make an outfit”… The problem that I have with spending a lot of money on them is that every step I take, especially outside, is destroying the shoe. It’s definitely a psychological issue because I realize that clothes shrink, zippers stick, and fabric fades but, somehow, that doesn’t bother me. Yet one scuff on an expensive shoe and I’m cursing the Gods.

I’ve managed to overcome my phobia a few times and do own some “good” shoes from Marc Jacobs and Chloe but I tend to carry them to work in my bag and just wear them indoors. It’s depressing; they’re like prisoners in solitary confinement who only get out into the exercise yard once a week.

Luckily it is possible to get some cute, wearable shoes without breaking the bank. If I’m in London, I go to Office, TopShop, or Jones the Bootmaker. Luckily both Office and Jones ship to the US, so if you’re willing to risk the inconvenience of having to return something it is possible to get some great buys. Some options closer to home are Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie.

Hopefully one day I’ll be able to overcome my shoe concerns but, in the meantime, I will continue to buy my bargain shoes...walk softly, and carry a big bag.


Trench – R.I.P.

Six years ago, in London, I bought a black trenchcoat at Joseph. I should mention that I only recently realized that I acquired the coat that long ago. It came to me as I was complaining that a seam on the shoulder was coming undone. I then took a really good look at the coat and came to the further realization that it’s no longer black but more of a dark grey. In short, I have worn the trench so much that it has bleached and is literally falling apart…I have killed it…a funeral must shortly take place (no flowers, just close relatives and accessories).

This is one of those bittersweet fashion moments. There’s comfort in the fact that the money was well spent and you snagged something that you loved and managed to get so much wear out of. At the same time, there’s the anxiety…will there be another trench as useful and wearable as this one? The perfect light coat for Spring and Autumn’s mild and showery weather. Time will tell, but I am now a woman on a mission…and yes, I did pull the Joseph out of my closet today…it was raining.


Fixation Francais

If it wasn't already painfully obvious I have a fixation with French style; carefree, but chic....polished, but not pressed...succeeding without trying (too hard).

As a french fashion junkie I am able to get "fixes" at APC (and was very excited to find Jean Touitou's blog at http://blog.honeyee.com/jean/) but, sadly, haven't been able to find anywhere that stocks Comptoir des Cotonniers. Their current mother/daughter advertising perfectly illustrates the fact that their clothing is timeless...plus I love the Nouvelle Vague track in the background.

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