Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Village Vanguard, the Roots of all Hipster

When exploring social history, I like to look at its relation to fashion. Who were the people setting trends and revolutionizing the culture? So I decided to look into the origins of Hipster. You know, that sub-culture that has always been about revolting against society, being strongly-associated with a particular look, and has even spawned sites like Look at this fucking hipster. I guess you can say I have this fascination with it.

The late 1940's-1950's was a time when being prudent and politically correct were the right things to be. This was the generation where hipster began.The emergence of a group of writers and artists, called the Beats, brought about a different ideology. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg wrote about spontaneity and breaking the repressions of society. Their Beat poetry evolved from improvised spoken word and the musical nuances of jazz, highly influenced by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. The poetry gatherings would take place at coffeehouses around NYC, mainly the Village Vanguard. They explored the existentialist themes that were revived by Sartre and Albert Camus. As Sartre put it, "man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count no one but himself; that he is alone." And why wouldn't their philosophy make sense during a post-war time? After all, the word existence derives from the Latin word existere, meaning "to stand out". And this is what hipster culture is about. 

With this movement, the world of fashion began to take note and inspiration from the Beat style - dark clothing, berets, horn-rimmed glasses, turtlenecks, white under-shirts and faded jeans. It was the era of the cool cats and chicks. James Dean and Marlon Brando embodied the 'rebel without a cause' style. For women, it was a very androgynous way of dressing; a wardrobe consisting of slacks, oversized sweaters, men's shirting, blazers, leggings and ballet flats. Fashion it-girls of the era - Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy and Edie - all embraced this hipster look. As creative director of Dior at the time, Yves Saint Laurent showed a collection in 1960 based on Beat style, which drastically revolutionized the post-war "New Look" dresses.

Transition to the Beat Generation 
Song: Blue in Green by Mile Davis

With new hipster icons like Zooey Deschanel, new stomping grounds like Brooklyn, and even skinny jeans for guys (eh, New Boyz), the hipster look has since evolved. However it still stays true to its rebellious roots of finding your own voice and style within an overbearing mass society. After all, you stand alone and you were born to stand out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We all want a little Oscar in our lives...

I woke up bright and early on Monday, June 7th. I had already configured my outfit the night before- a turquoise and purple linen strapless dress, classic cotton cardigan, simple silver bracelet and wedge sandals. At 12:40 pm, I arrived at 583 Park Avenue by foot. 

I walked up to the left balcony as directed and then took a look around at the beautiful venue. It was familiar. Yes, of course - Oscar always presents his shows here. The seats started to fill up below. As the top fashion contenders began to arrive, all of us - Parsons and F.I.T. students alike - snapped photos and live tweeted: @ the ODLR show.. Spotted @mrjoezee, Anna, Amy Astley, Desirée Rogers, Stefano Tonchi..

I watched Oscar himself welcome Anna and walk her to her seat: first row, next to Desirée Rogers. The three of them sat and chatted for a bit. A little after 1 pm, the lights dimmed and music turned on. Ah, french music - light and breezy mood - perfect for the Resort collection. I've never been to St. Tropez but this is how I envision it!

I fell in love with nautical stripes and vivid reds. Oscar graced us with beautiful, modern sophisticated looks. And the gowns, breathless; some reminding me of southern Spain - a flamenco influence. The Kelly green basketweave silk gazar gown was my favorite. Not only was it a lovely color, but the soft draping created a gorgeous silhouette.  

my own photos.

The straw boater hats and the iPad leather cases were the perfect accessoires - a mix of classic and modern.

I didn't want it to end. Fortunately, I captured the Oscar de la Renta Resort 2011 Finale. I even tried to catch Oscar on video at the end!

I would definitely like to thank the entire team at Oscar de La Renta for inviting and welcoming Parsons and FIT students to the Resort show. It was a great and memorable experience...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"New York City Eats Its Young"

image courtesy of

Recently one of my good friends got me hooked on a new HBO series: How to Make It in America. The series stars Bryan Greenberg (as Ben) and Victor Rasuk (as Cam) as two best friends trying to make it in New York City. This leads them to the idea of starting their own premium denim/lifestyle brand: Crisp. 

The main attraction to the show is that it depicts the life that many 20-somethings are embarking on right now. There's a wave of young adults living this lifestyle - the one when you don't necessarily know if you'll have a paycheck next week, but you're still out there trying to make an impact somehow. Pretty much, we are trying to stay alive in this city! I've had this conversation with friends - about pursuing the creative/
entrepreneurial life; leaving current jobs behind (which I've already done) and becoming, I don't know - assistants or working random side jobs, until we can launch our own business. Essentially, it's going with the theme of "fuck the man until we are the man" (as Cam likes to say).

I love that the show involves fashion and design -- visits to sample makers and the John Varvatos studio; references to Barneys and Nylon Mag. Quickly we find out that $3,000 will buy you serious yardage of premium denim, $1,500 will get you a pattern and sample and that Japanese buyers like vintage t-shirts saying: New York City Eats Its Young.

The other bonus is the great soundtrack for each episode, including the theme song by Aloe Blacc - which proclaims "I need a dollar, that's all I need" - and a melange of new and old school artists like Phoenix, Hot Chip, Broken Bells, Bag Raiders, the Rolling Stones, and Otis Redding.
The first season is over, a mere 8 episodes, but BOY, do I look forward to a second season! 

The show also stars Lake Bell as Rachel (Ben's ex-girlfriend), Eddie Kaye Thomas as David (Ben's nerdy hedge fund-connected friend), Kid Cudi as Domingo (Ben and Cam's friend) and Luis Guzman as Rene (Cam's ex-convict cousin).

Some of my favorite lines from the show:

"Fuck the man!" -Cam
"I'm just a hard working man trying to get by" -Ben
"I didn't know you creative types got up before lunch" -David Kaplan
"You know I get my philosophize on every once in awhile" -Domingo
"The secret is not get rich quick - the secret is to get rich slow and appreciate it" -Kaplan
"Don't trust no one Donald. For real. Not even Mickey" -Wilfredo

Watch this behind-the-scenes clip below from Nylon TV:

video courtesy of Nylon TV

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Jersey: State of Mall

images courtesy of

If New Jersey had a secondary nickname it would be the Mall State. You cannot drive very long in New Jersey without bumping into a mall. But as far as mall experiences go, the top mall in Jersey offers valet parking, concierge service, luxury sitting areas and even strollers for your dog (oui, votre petit chien!). It also houses a fine art gallery of works by distinguished American and European artists (the Wentworth Gallery).

For those unfamiliar with the
Mall at Short Hills, it is an elite shopping center located in North Jersey. The Mall is composed by five anchors - Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s – and approximately 135 retailers. Every day the wealthy inhabitants of Chatham, Florham, Livingston and other surrounding communities (where median family income is over $150,000) congregate at the mall to shop for the finer things in life from Chanel to Louis. Many New York City dwellers migrate to this shopping paradise as well to stock up on luxury good sans sales tax. Back in August of 1969, the New York Times featured an article titled, "You Might Think You're on Fifth Ave., but You're Really in Millburn, N. J."[1]

I have the pleasure of hanging out in Short Hills every weekend, where I work as a stylist for Club Monaco. Some of my clients hand over their Black AmEx card, the
mystical piece of titanium, like its nothing. I can recall during the Holiday season, a man who stopped in to purchase a $1,000 gift card for his girlfriend. Others, however, are a little more reserved with their expenditures during these tough economic times.

The Mall at Short Hills is the child of architect Alfred Taubman. One can say that Victor Gruen invented the mall, but Alfred Taubman clearly perfected it. The average American mall has annual sales of approximately $340 per square foot. As of 2004, Short Hills had average sales of nearly $800 per square foot! Under the genius of Alfred and after four renovations, today, The Mall at Short Hills offers one of the most productive concentrations of luxury and upscale retailers in the world in – all in 1.34 million square feet.[2]

Below is an excerpt from “The Terrazzo Jungle” (The New Yorker)[3]
an article that highlighted Alfred Taubman’s philosophy on retail spaces and mall planning. It provides insight on Short Hills key to success:

The idea is to overcome what Taubman likes to call “threshold resistance,” which is the physical and psychological barrier that stands between a shopper and the inside of a store. “You buy something because it is available and attractive,” Taubman said. “You can’t have any obstacles. The goods have to be all there.”

He likes the main corridors of his shopping malls to be no more than a thousand feet long—the equivalent of about three city blocks—because he believes that three blocks is about as far as peak shopping interest can be sustained, and as he walked he explained the logic behind what retailers like to call “adjacencies.” There was Brooks Brothers, where a man might buy a six-hundred-dollar suit, right across from Johnston & Murphy, where the same man might buy a two-hundred-dollar pair of shoes. The Bose electronics store was next to Brookstone and across from the Sharper Image, so if you got excited about some electronic gizmo in one store you were steps away from getting even more excited by similar gizmos in two other stores. Gucci, Versace, and Chanel were placed near the highest-end department stores, Neiman Marcus and Saks. “Lots of developers just rent out their space like you’d cut a salami,” Taubman explained. “They rent the space based on whether it fits, not necessarily on whether it makes any sense.”

[1] Archives;
[2] The Mall at Short Hills;
[3] March 14,2004;

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Visitaté il Mondo

 my entry collage for Parsons.

For a long time I had been set on joining the fashion and art world. I learned to sew in high school. I played around with different art media. I started keeping inspiration files - in other words, a filing cabinet full of chic postcards, magazine tear-sheets, photos, artwork, sketches and newspaper articles.

In January 2008, I started sorting through my files and pulled out 
an old sunglasses ad with the slogan "Visitaté il Mondo" across the glossy page. It became the inspiration for the entry collage I submitted to Parsons the New School for Design, along with my application and essay.

When I found out I had been accepted into the A.A.S. Fashion Design program, I was ecstatic! I decided I would quit my job at Merrill Lynch and give up my apartment on the Upper East Side to save money on rent. I moved back to NJ. I took 5 days off in between my last day of work and the first day of classes. 

I had gone from Wall Street to Fashion Ave. First semester at Parsons was a total whirlwind. I interned at a fashion public relations firm and worked as a sales model at Abercrombie & Fitch. I was commuting back and forth everyday, with my two Marc Jacobs Little Tate tote bags and my toolbox full of art supplies, jumping between NJ Transit and the Path train (which I still do)

Although my life has changed drastically, everyday now, I live by these same words that inspired my initial project - to visit the world. I've embarked on a journey to explore the past and experience the new. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'm ready to take it on...