There are other people who knew Louise Wilson, the beloved and well respected fashion professor at London’s Central Saint Martins, better than I did. People like Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders, the British designers who she mentored. Or someone like Alexander McQueen, who she famously found as a student and helped scoot on his way to becoming a fashion legend. But in the many times that I was graced with her company, I was impressed with this woman who could command a room and inspire generations of creative young people. She was feisty and she was direct. She pushed people to their limits. Don’t just take my word for it, though. In the wake of her passing yesterday (she died in her sleep at the age of 52), someone passed onto me some encouraging words, originally written by Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher, that she had posted on a bulletin board in her office. I shall republish here as a most appropriate legacy.
BELIEVE IN YOUR FUCKING SELF. STAY UP ALL FUCKING NIGHT. WORK OUTSIDE OF YOUR FUCKING HABITS. KNOW WHEN TO FUCKING SPEAK UP. FUCKING COLLABORATE. DON’T FUCKING PROCRASTINATE. GET OVER YOUR FUCKING SELF. KEEP FUCKING LEARNING. FORM FOLLOWS FUCKING FUNCTION. A COMPUTER IS A LITE-BRITE FOR BAD FUCKING IDEAS. FIND FUCKING INSPIRATION EVERYWHERE. FUCKING NETWORK. EDUCATE YOUR FUCKING CLIENT. TRUST YOUR FUCKING GUT. ASK FOR FUCKING HELP. MAKE IT FUCKING SUSTAINABLE. QUESTION FUCKING EVERYTHING. HAVE A FUCKING CONCEPT. LEARN TO TAKE SOME FUCKING CRITICISM. MAKE ME FUCKING CARE. USE FUCKING SPELL CHECK. DO YOUR FUCKING RESEARCH. SKETCH MORE FUCKING IDEAS. THE PROBLEM CONTAINS THE FUCKING SOLUTION. THINK ABOUT THE FUCKING POSSIBILITIES.
And here, an interview she did for Nick Knight’s ShowStudio
I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I’m the guy that can spend hours leafing through an old Yearbook, or, more recently, stalking old friends from former lives on Facebook. (Maria Zemen, if you’re reading this, can you hurry up and join Facebook? Thankyew.) And in particular, music is something that can zing me back to a forgotten time. Hole songs remind me of when me and the aforementioned Maria crashed a concert as high schoolers in Missouri. The Moulin Rouge soundtrack reminds me of freshmen year of college. Any Johnny Cash song reminds me of Hillsboro, where my uncle Fred built the Blasberg Family farm. N’SYNC reminds me of experimenting with shitty hair highlights. Kyle Minogue reminds me of my year abroad when I lived in London and started my career in fashion. Ricky Martin just reminds me of being happy. Ha! Anyway, when I stumbled upon this 10 minute long music video of all the best songs of 2013, it reminded me of all the things I did (and a few of the things I didn’t do) in the past twelve months. Sit back, listen, and remember the year that was.
This is my friend Hayley Bloomingdale multitasking on three mobile devices at the Met gala earlier this year. She is a sweet, soft spoken California transplant who lives in New York and works at Moda Operandi. She is also one of the funniest young women I’ve ever met. (Why is it always funnier when a dirty joke comes from a girl with a blowout and wearing a ball gown?) Anyway, at a recent fundraising dinner I had the good fortune of sitting next to her. Full disclosure: My primary phone is a Blackberry and I can barely get through an Instagram posting without assistance. But Hayley quite accurately told me that there were some glaring absences in the world of Emoji’s. She even had a list. So, herein is a list we compiled of symbols and icons the iPeople need to get on. Got some more? Leave your suggestions in the comments.
- The middle finger
- G-rated sex positions (Could be illustrated by wildlife)
- More birds in general
- Exotic fish in general
- Fluffy, adorable sheep
- Ethnic diversity in general
- Fingers crossed
- A full pizza, not just a slice
- Electric chair
- Marijuana leaf
- Male twinsies
- Cowboy hat
- Gold chain necklace
- Swimming pool
- Convertible car
- More bridal options
- A bloody knife
- More comedic weapons in general
- Girl with lots of shopping bags
- The Obama family
- Michael Jordan doing a slam dunk
- Talk to the hand face
- More crustaceans in general
- Native American headdress (We agreed since I’m part Cherokee Indian I can use this)
- Sheriffs badge
- Witch hat
Did we miss one? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section.
My opinion on Angelina Jolie has vacillated in the decade-and-a-half-or-so that she has been a part of my cultural consciousness. Though, I can remember when I first became aware of the pouty-lipped Hollywood next of kin: The silver, sparkly, low-cut, body skimming Randolph Duke dress she wore to collect her Golden Globe Award for portraying late 90′s supermodel Gia Carangi for a TV movie will be forever engrained in my brain. (I remember having to then go to a magical place called Blockbuster, which doesn’t exist anymore, to rent the movie, which also had a profound effect on me.) If you don’t know that dress, it’s worth a Google search.
In the years that followed, there were a variety of transformations. I was into her when she was Goth and weird and had black hair and made edgy movies (forget ‘Girl, Interrupted,’ has everyone seen ‘Hackers’?). But then I was sort of over her when she made out with her brother at the Oscars. Not because I think it’s weird to make out with a sibling, but because I thought it was a cheap gimmick to get attention. I felt like, ‘Listen, bitch, you just won an Oscar, you’re going to be in the paper tomorrow regardless.’
It was hard to shake that interview where she came out of a limo at a movie premiere and told a reporter that she had just had sex with Billy Bob Thornton inside of it. The poor driver. (I was unmoved by the admission that the two had created necklaces for each other of their own blood. I like a statement accessory.) But I was into her as Lara Croft, because that’s badass.
I’m a Jennifer Aniston fan, so I was none to pleased when she wedged her fat lips into the middle of that relationship and split them up, though I have to admit her and Brad Pitt made a fabulous couple. And was I the only person who really enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Even today, if that’s an option on an airplane, I rewatch that movie. When she’s in the white men’s oxford and he’s only in boxer shorts is cinematic gold.
My jury is still out on the double mastectomy she had last year. I don’t know enough about breast cancer to weigh in on the benefits of that, and whether or not her decision to be so public about her surgery will encourage or confuse other women about what to do if they have a history of the disease in their family. At the very least, it seems like a whole lot of trouble to go through for a boob job. (I’m making a joke here. Don’t leave me nasty comments.)
Then came her humanitarian effort. In the beginning, I wanted to be behind it. But one has to wonder if the girl that fucked Billy Bob Thornton in the limo just a few years before really had her heart in it. And despite the documentary films and the campaigns and the fat donation checks, I still had a teeny tiny reservation. Until I saw this video. Angelina, you’ve wooed me over here. In the video she’s accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2013 Governors Awards, which is an award that has previously gone to Oprah, Liz Taylor, Paul Newman and a bunch of other successful actors with hearts of gold. In it, she thanks Brad, who is still hot even with a bit of older distinguished man bloat, and one of her sons. And then she thanks her late mother for teaching her the importance of living a life beyond Hollywood, and that true success is measured beyond a box office. For this momma’s boy? I was putty in her hands.
Sure, she’s an actress and delivering a good speech is part of the job. But I believe her here, and that’s because I wanted to. I want Angelina, who has been through so much (drugs, a mother dying, bad relationships, do I have to bring up the fucking Billy Bob again) to have come out the other side. I want her to want to make the world a better place in whatever way she can. And if that involves a bit of grandstanding and Saint Angelina photo shoots, I’m down. So, as of right now, I’m a fan. Again. Maybe I will go and get that mammogram after all.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not a Taylor Swift song. There is profane verbage not intended for small children or to be played loudly in a work environment. Please consider your adult level of auditory enjoyment as well as your volume dial before pressing play.
Every fashion week, there’s a song that resonates in my head as the soundtrack of that particular season. Rick Owens, who’s show this year was one of the most memorable for a completely different reason (Google it!), introduced we fashion folk to the phrase “IMMA READ” several seasons ago. But this season, Robyn’s song, ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To D,o” hit a note with me because of its anthem that the things those I love so much (“fashion” being first on the list) are all slowing killing me. Remember, I’ve just spent four days cooped up in bed with an infected esophagus. The other refrains that are killing Robyn in this song? Smoking, diet, heels, shopping, ego and a lack of sleep. Preach, girrl! All set to a dancy disco beat? Immediately added to my iTunes.
An avid reader of this blog will know that I travel quite extensively. And even though I manage to work in quite a bit of socializing (and drinking) while I do it, most of it’s for work. Which is why I’ve tried to spend a bit of quality time away from my computer on this last bit of summer, before we get thrust back into the fashion week swirl. But there are a few things in this world that make me want to flip open this laptop. Jay-Z is one of those things. So is Marina Abramovic. And certainly, so is Taylor Swift. So, when a friend of mine forwarded me this video of Jay-Z’s ‘Picasso’s Baby’ set to Taylor Swift’s ’22,’ I knew I had to come out of holiday mode, if even only for this post. (Last month, I posted my take on the concept of Jay-Z’s making of the video, which I missed because I was in Paris reporting on the haute couture shows, but I was still moved to discuss because it reminded me of Pop art and Pop music mashups of yester decades.) I have made no secret of my affection for Ms. Swift and her sweet country songs. So, the idea of Jay-Z’s music video laid over her track, ’22,’ the tale of young female adolescence, which I probably also have more affinity for than a grown man should, put a giant smile on my face. Have you seen it? If not, check it out here:
Jay-Z, live, with Marina Abramovic at the Pace Gallery in New York
Last night, I want to sleep pissed off. Umm, was I the only person in the entire world that didn’t know that Jay-Z was going to pull a Marina Abramovic at the Pace Gallery in New York? The king of hip hop performed for six straight hours yesterday, and if the images I saw (which were mainly on Instagram, and on nearly every single one of my friends’ feeds) were to be believed, not only did he interact with Marina in a Pop music salute to her The Artist is Present performance piece, he threw down with the audience too. No really, from artists to fashion editors to assistants to socialites to whoever: Everyone knew Jay Z was going to pop up at Pace, apart from me. (Not that I mind. I’m in Paris! So, na na ni na na.) The kids over at Dis magazine compiled some Vine videos of Jay and Marina rocking out, which you can find here.
I was obsessed with this performance that I didn’t see. Although, the reviews have been a mixed bag. While mostthought it was a clever performance, some thought that Marina was diluting the purity of her own work by collaborating with a Pop star and, likewise, some people thought that Jay-Z had no part trying to conform his art into someone else’s. But to those people I say: Shut up! To be honest, I’m not particularly invested in what other people have to say on the internet. (The only blog you should listen to is this one, dammit!) What I thought was so marvelous about this performance was how it collided these two worlds: hip hop and performance art. Not that they hadn’t met before: Marina isn’t unfamiliar with the worlds of hip hop, after all. I blame Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci for that; I have a picture of him with Ciara and Marina on my desktop because it makes me smile. Not to mention we’ve seen Jay-Z and that wife of his at art fairs and galleries around the world. I remember two years ago at Art Basel Miami there was nearly a riot when word spread that they were at the Gagosian stall.
Jay is following in Kanye’s tracks into the world’s of avante garde art. And I must concede that it’s not like Jay completely left his comfort box here. The best comment I read on the internet? “If Jay-Z is an artist because he lip synced a song for six hours, then Milli Vanilli deserves an entire retrospective at the MOMA.” But I must celebrate Jay for sparking this discussion at all. That he entered a hall of performance art with Marina, the Queen, to me is feat enough.
It reminded me of another cultural collision, which I was also not physically present at. (Though, for that one I had a much better excuse: In 1979, I wasn’t born yet.) David Bowie performed on Saturday Night Live with the performance artist Klaus Nomi, which may be an uncommon name to some of my readers. If so, Google it! I didn’t know about this particular SNL performance until I went to the Bowie exhibit at the V&A earlier this year with my friends Jack and Lazaro from Proenza Schouler. They featured clips, which I thought were fantastic: There is Bowie, dressed in a purple military jacket and tight pencil skirt, with Nomi and Joey Arias; in another more fantastic clip, there is Bowie dressed up like, well, it’s hard to explain – maybe a pie-shaped tuxedo wedding cupcake? It took some digging, but I found the clips and will imbed them below.
What I find inspiring in any artist, from Jay to Bowie and Marina to Nomi, is the willingness to try something new. I don’t want to say push the envelope, because that expression irritates me. To push the envelope is to try and get by with something that someone shouldn’t, like when kids play the Penis Game on the school bus. (Please tell me you know the Penis Game. If not, back to Google!) I don’t think Jay and Marina were doing that. They’re trying new experiences with new people who want to see new things. I can’t say Marina’s biggest fans are card carrying members of Jay Z’s fan club. I can’t say Jay Z’s fans know Marina’s last name, much less how to spell it. But for six hours one afternoon in New York, they got together, shared ideas, and created an international buzz that is still reverberating. And that, my friends, is the power of art.
Despite the naysayers, the haute couture has continued through credit crunches and international recessions. And good thing too because, as Daphne Guinness has been happy to tell me, “the couture is the laboratory of the fashion arts.” As the shows dwindled off the schedule, we’ve seen other parts of the industry rally: Now in Paris, between couture shows, myself and other editors take time to see the Fine Jewelry appointments (Diamonds! Cartier! Rubies! Van Cleef! Bvlgari!) that we sometimes don’t have time to see during the ready-to-wear shows. Also, many designers show their resort collections, and there is time to see the menswear shows too. (Which reminds me: Christopher Kane and J.W. Anderson, if you’re reading this: My shirts have better been ordered.)
What I find so interesting about the couture shows now is the casting. Here’s some insider info: It’s just not worth it for the big girls to do the couture shows anymore. Unless you’re on an exclusive and flights and boarding are paid for, or else you already live in Paris or are here for a job, the cost of coming to Paris and paying for a nice hotel is more than what you would make walking in the half dozen fashion shows on the schedule. So, if a big girl has two options — one to come to Paris and break even, at best, or do a catalogue job somewhere else — she’s going to take the money and run (as opposed to runway. Har har har.) What this situation has created, however, is an opening on the catwalk for fashion’s new faces to showcase their stuff. Which I think is so ironic because the couture shows really should be the upper echelon of design. So, for many of these girls, it is sink or swim. Figure out how to wear this $100,000 gown or go home.
I asked my friend Douglas Perrett of the blog Confessions of a Casting Director about this phenemonon and he agreed. And he also picked out his favorite new faces from the haute couture shows. Think of it as supermodel tryouts. These are the girls who made the first cut, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will be back for training in the fall. The ready-to-wear fashion shows are just around the corner, ladies. Suit up!
Sasha Luss: Sasha was born in Russia in 1992 but didn’t start modeling until 2007. Her big break came more recently in 2013. The 5’10 model has done campaigns for Chérie ma Chérie, Badilo, Tate, Bohemique & Furla.
Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2013
Ashleigh Good: Ashley was born in England in 1992 and later moved to New Zealand with her family where she was discovered while waiting at a bus stop on the way to her job at a local coffee shop. Her big moment came when she booked an exclusive for Givenchy in Fall 2012.
Christian Dior Fall 2013 Couture by Raf Simons
Pauline Hoarau: Pauline was born in Reunion, France in 1994. In 2011 she placed in the top 7 for the World Finalists at the Elite Model Look Contest. Since then she has been featured on the cover of Elle Italy and Elle France.
Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2013
Kayley Chabot: The 5’11 model was only 13 when she was signed to her first agency. Now, at 17, she has begun to enter the spotlight after walking in critical shows such as Alexander Wang in SS13.
Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2013
Nicole Pollard: The 18-year-old model was born in Brisbane, Australia and seems determined to stay connected to her home country despite making it big elsewhere. Her first modeling experience came during Sydney Fashion Week in 2011. In 2012 she was named the face of Perth Fashion Week. On a much larger scale, she has scored two exclusives with Dior- including Raf Simons much-anticipated first collection in FW12. More recently she has appeared in the SS13 Dior campaign.
Armani Privé Haute Couture Fall 2013
Elizabeth Erm: The Estonian 5’10 model was born in Tartu in 1993. She was discovered at the age of 17 at a local mall. Her breakout came in FW13 when she opened for Lacoste.
Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2013
Tessa Bennenbroek: This 6’0 Dutch stunner is both new and mysterious. After a playing a pivotal roll during the haute couture season in the likes of such legendary designers as Elie Saab, Versace, and Armani, we are sure to be seeing a lot of Tessa.
Atelier Versace Haute Couture Fall 2013
with additional reporting from Caroline Mason
I’m buddies with Francesco Vezzoli for a few reasons. We find ourselves often in the same cities, the same events, in the same crowds, and we have an ability to endlessly entertain each other with societal observations, which are typically ridiculous and occasionally profane. We have many of the same interests too. What are those, you may ask? In the above trailer that he put together for a retrospective tour of his decade and a half as a working artist (which already opened in Rome, and will travel to MOMA PS1 in Brooklyn and then the MOCA Gallery in California later this year), he sums them up most eloquently in a list: Art, fame, religion, obsession, vanity, sex, divas, celebrity and, lastly, Vezzoli himself.
Dr. Thomas B. Ferguson, in his office circa 1980′s
Dr. Thomas B Ferguson, who went to the spiritual hospital in the sky last month at the age of 90, was a big deal in the world of thoracic surgery. Not that I would know. I know about as much of the world of thoracic surgery as Dr. Ferguson knew about the world of high fashion. (But my mother explained it this way: Uncle Tom, as I called him when I was a little boy, was the Tom Ford of heart surgery. Does that clarify it for you?) The reason why I was so moved by his recent passing, however, had nothing to do with his highly decorated, internationally acclaimed career. The reason was that I would not be doing what I’m doing today, I would not be living in New York, chasing my dreams around the world, surrounding myself with creative people – I would not be the person I am today without him. And I don’t know if I ever told him that.
A bit of biography on TBF: He was born on May 6th, 1923 in Oklahoma City, OK. His interest in medicine was sparked by a grandfather who was a horse and buggy doctor in Boggy Depot, OK, at the turn of the century. He attended Duke University and Duke University School of Medicine. At Duke, he met Elizabeth Shanley; they were married in 1948, and stayed married for 65 years.
My mother worked in various capacities for Dr. Ferguson for 42 years. She started a young lady as his secretary and ended a grandmother as his managing editor at a series of medical journals. I didn’t see much of him when I was little, but because of his relationship with my mother we always spoke of him, we always sought his approval, and I was always told to be on my best behavior when he was around. (I never did. Which is why I think he liked me.) When I moved to New York, he always asked after me, always checked in on me. He would write me motivational emails when I felt things weren’t going my way, he always told me I could do whatever I wanted. I knew he was in my corner and I never wanted to disappoint him.
Polaroids of Dr. Ferguson and my mother, early in their professional relationship
The last time I saw Dr. Ferguson was three weeks ago in New York. I had flown back for a few days amid the middle of the Cannes film festival and he was in town for a heart valve procedure. My parents were in town from St. Louis too, and so was his son, Dr. Bruce Ferguson, another cardiothoracic surgeon. The five of us met for dinner the evening before he was admitted to the hospital. It turned out to be one of his last meals. Thinking back on that meal is surreal and bittersweet. Dr. Ferguson didn’t order the steak that night because he thought it was too expensive, which I remember poignantly because it was the last time he ever ordered a meal. (Let that be a lesson for us: Get the steak if we want it.) At dinner I asked him about hiring my mother and what she was like as a young person, and I’m happy I did. It was the first time, as an adult with pasts of our own, we could talk about adult things. He teased my mom for being pushy and bullheaded, and she loved every minute of it.
What will stick with me forever about that dinner was when he said how proud he was of me for moving to a city where I knew no one and carving out a life for myself. I had earned his approval. It was something. I didn’t tell him at the time, which I will always regret, but it was his encouragement — both to me and my parents — that convinced me to move to New York and chase my dreams. Like most overly confident people, beneath my exterior of ambition lies a deep core of insecurity. I wasn’t sure about moving to New York, and neither were my parents. It was Dr. Ferguson who told me I could do it, and told my parents to let me. And I will be thankful for that for the rest of my life.
The two of us created an interesting paradox, an unlikely relationship: He didn’t understand my world and I certainly didn’t know much about his. But I’d like to think there was mutual respect and admiration. He was a great doctor, but more importantly he was a wonderful man.
My mother, flanked by Dr. Ferguson, Sr., and his son, Dr. Ferguson, Jr., the last time I saw him, at dinner in New York City in 2013