Generation C — as in connection, community, customization — can add another C to the mix: curation. A new and free gifting app, GiftVibes, is bringing a sense of adventure and imagination to the sometimes tedious process of shopping.
Here's how the platform works. A user buys an item from one of the GiftVibe's partner merchants, just like traditional online shopping. It could be an actual thing or a digital thing, like a store coupon, song files, or even a selfie (for the seriously cash-challenged). Recipients then must use their smartphone to locate an address and 'open' the gift — sort of like a scavenger hunt.
It's a clever way to surprise someone with a dinner or party, or invite friends to an event. Social-media celebs and those who think they are can communicate with their fans or followers through GiftVibes, and eventually stores will use the app to offer samples and other freebies, searchable on the app's gift map. The experience is fully customizable, down to the designer gift-wrapping.
Mr. Lash and I don't do Christmas, though I'm not above accepting gifts any time of the year. But don't you hate getting a mink scarf with a list of instructions as long as your leg about how not to wear it? At least Carnaby Street is only a few Manolos away from Lash Mansion when I need a break from the manservant. A good shoe, like a good wine, improves with age.
Mod central in the 1960s, Carnaby became uncool for a few decades with faux punks spraying their hair blue and fat ladies having their photographs taken. Now Carnaby is cool again. Its Christmas lights went up straight after Halloween and sinister Santa's followers are shopping till they drop.
What sort of people celebrate a mooby man who sneaks into homes with a sack of ho ho ho, then allow their bawling, snot-nosed elves to sit on his lap? Twisted people with eyes wide shut and mouths wide open, that's who. They're the same types who have nothing better to worry about than who Anna Wintour — in London this week for the British Fashion Awards — puts on the cover of Vogue. Kim Kardashian does look like a ho on holiday, but previous covergirl Lena Dunham is practically an ambassador for Alarming Burds Anonymous.Read More
The house of Versace is about two things: youth and vanity. It's often credited with creating the supermodel, a woman with seemingly divine powers that elevated her, in stature and status, above her working peers. Those plunging necklines that inspired women to heed, or perhaps prove, that sex can be a powerful weapon. It’s a cliché, for sure, but isn’t Versace all about a scandalous archetype? Garish and outré iconography that borders on bad taste has made the Versace clan a superbly wealthy one. When the matriarch witch in American Horror Story: Coven, played by Jessica Lange, declared that she “took all that power, poured it back into myself, and dressed it up in Chanel,” somewhere Donatella sprang from her vinyl leopard couch and proclaimed, “This bitch is a Versace woman!” All fanciful guesswork, of course, because it’s hard to imagine Donatella Versace ever sitting still. After all, she designs upward of twelve collections a year, not to mention her side projects, including Versace hotels and decorating the interiors of private jets for Russian billionaires.
If fashion, like Versace, is about youth and vanity, it’s interesting that Donatella has decided to cast Madonna for her third Versace ready-to-wear campaign. “Madonna is one of the true icons of Versace,” the designer said. “I am thrilled to have my friend and the most powerful and directional artist as the face of Versace for spring 2015.” Madonna’s arms are long and robust, her hair a manicured mess of blond tresses that makes her look similar to Courtney Love. Her eyes impose an animalistic yearning, the kind that says that if she can’t have you in bed then she'll have you for dinner. In a 1997 profile in The New Yorker, published just days after Gianni’s assassination, Andrea Lee wrote that Donatella “seems to have come from within Gianni, like a rib taken from his side; he often told journalists that she was his ideal woman” (a curious observation, if only for its serpentine symbolism, as the same slithering reptile that adorns Medusa’s head might have lured Eve to sin). And, in an effort to multiply that image, Versace now gravitates only to other dangerous blondes: Lady Gaga, who fronted the brand’s last spring campaign; Anna Ewers, the face of fall 2014; and, finally, her many fragrance models, including Lara Stone, Candice Swanepoel, Lindsey Wixson and Iselin Steiro. Donatella herself was the original model of the Versace fragrance, Blonde, first released in 1995.
Lady Gaga for Versace, spring 2014
In that New Yorker piece, when asked if she enjoyed being photographed, Donatella Versace cried, “I detest it! But it’s good for business.” So explains the near-Medusa level of intrigue with vanity and image, not unlike another self-mythologizing designer, Rick Owens. He once reprimanded those who, as he told The Telegraph, “send these models out wearing these concoctions, and then they come out [after the show] in jeans and a sweatshirt.” He added, “It makes me crazy, because you are sending out this message that you don't believe in what you're saying." For Owens, who forgoes traditional channels of advertising and instead embodies and inhabits with an almost ecclesiastical fidelity the perfervid pursuit of “glunge” (glamour and grunge, as Owens calls it), his best form of advertising is himself — in any number of guises. This September, a 25-foot polystyrene statue of Rick Owens was erected outside the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London. Hard to miss.
But that was an awesome display of vanity rather than an effort to guarantee immortality. And immortality is what all these blonde Versace advertisements are about. Gianni Versace once wished he could alter the passage of time, saying, “I’d like to live forever. If there’s anything I’m afraid of, it’s missing what will happen tomorrow.” If the social and cultural fabric wrapped the elite in comfortable layers of their own mightiness, Gianni ripped those layers to expose midriffs and thighs and daring inches of neck. It’s possible that Donatella might not have become aware of her own mortality had Gianni not met such an early death. In fact, she is known to carry the pewter skeleton key to Casa Casuarina — the last thing Gianni touched — as a reminder of what it means to live, and to live with purpose. It’s fair to say that Donatella is one of the most ingenious branding strategists of our time. She’s the most bankable blonde since Barbie. She carried Gianni’s flame with pomp and pluck to generate her own heat. And it’s very, very hot.
Gianni and Donatella Versace at the launch of their Blonde fragrance in 1996
While Hedi Slimane normally exhibits his photography only at Almine Rech Gallery in Paris and Brussels, he's branched out — just a little — with Sonic, a show of his photos at the YSL Foundation in Paris. Not a big leap, but a meaningful step for Slimane. The intimate exhibition showcases his more significant rock portraits over the years — think Amy Winehouse, Lou Reed, Keith Richards.
A monthly series of rock-related talks has also been organized. For his presentation on December 11, rock historian Hugues Cornière will tell the particular story of specific items from rock's glorious past, including Bob Dylan's Ray-Bans or Ringo Starr's Ludwig drum kit. Cornière is also the owner of Sounds Good record store and author of Cult Objects of Rock.
Sonic, through January 11, 2015, Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, 3 rue Léonce Reynaud, Paris
Mired in customer apathy and a tanking stock price, American Apparel got at least one thing right when it hired 15-year-old Brendan Jordan as its next alterna-model. You'll remember Brendon from that random local news clip that flooded your Facebook feed for several days. It's the one in which he did what any devoted little monster would do in the presence of a camera, ignoring everything around him while gyrating and faux-pouting like Lady Gaga in her Applause video. A YouTube sensation was born.
A bit of text on the ad informs us that “Brendan is from Las Vegas, Nevada. He's half Peruvan (his dad was born and raised in Peru) and he learned Spanish from his extended family that helped care for him. He enjoys taking photos, shopping and collecting Disney memorabilia." Of course he does. "In the future Brendan hopes to have his own TV show and design a clothing line.” Maybe Anna Wintour can get him an internship with Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors.
The oldest French fashion house still in existence, Lanvin, is celebrating its 125th year. Already a festive type, creative director Alber Elbaz has been combing through the archives in preparation for a major retrospective of the woman who started it all, Jeanne Lanvin.
Over a hundred pieces have been sourced for the first Paris exhibition devoted to the couturière, who infused her creations with a playful meticulousness that helped define the joie de vivre of the Belle Epoch. With a taste for travel, not to mention a voracious appetite for books, she was among the first to incorporate ethnic fabrics and non-traditional colors into her oeuvre. The deep blue of the 14th-century frescoes by Fra Angelico became her signature.
More than anything, Lanvin found enduring inspiration in her only child, Marguerite. In 1908, Madame became the first to design a children’s line, and by the time her daughter turned 30, she debuted another first for a designer, her Arpège fragrance. The figures portrayed on the round bottle are the mother and child at play, a logo the house still uses today.
Jeanne Lanvin, March 8 - August 23, 2015, Palais Galliera, Paris
Last year, a Brussels-based fashion multitasker named Aymeric Watine was wondering how he could soup up his store for the holiday season. Then he remembered the Sapins de Noël des Créateurs, an event created 19 years ago by French TV legend Marie Christiane Marek (her US equivalent would be Elsa Klensch). The concept was to have fashion designers use their imagination and recreate Christmas trees, which were then auctioned off for charity. With Marek's blessing, Watine took the idea to the Belgian capital. The first edition attracted 14 designers and 60,000 euros.
This year, 38 designers are on board, including high-profile names like Raf Simons, Stella McCartney, and Diane Von Furstenberg. To be auctioned December 1 for BIG, a breast-cancer awareness group, the creations range from the predictably phallic (such as Natan's spare wood structure) to the pious (Kryst's beautifully pixelated Madonna and child, made of tiny plastic tubes). Among the more unexpected are Jean-Paul Lespagnard's scarf — showing a popular Christmas meal of sushi, waffles, and a roast — draped over a man's head, as well as Wouters and Hendrix's downright campy tree admiring itself in a mirror. Simons' much-anticipated contribution is an large plush sofa in the shape of a tree — baby not included.
Wouters & Hendrix
It's not often that the 18th-century Queen of France and one of the greatest voluptuaries the world has ever known is invoked to describe a contemporary accessory. Nonetheless, Marie Antoinette and her exacting standards are cited by photographer and poet Christopher-Calvin Pollard when detailing his elaborate new shoe for his Iconoduly line, co-founded with the French-American artist Virginie Hauss. So lofty is its concept (and, at $15,000, its price tag) that it transcends footwear altogether. Indeed it's part of the duo's mission to revive, using centuries-old artisanal techniques, what they see as the lost art of adornment.
Let's break it down. Limited to 51, each pair of the Thyrsus shoe (named after a pinecone wand that, in Greek mythology, is associated with prosperity and hedonism) is handmade from beginning to end. The heel itself is carved by a master sculptor from solid cocobolo wood and finished with 24-karat gold leaf; the pinecone scales in the back are individually cut and stitched from fine ostrich-leg leather; the insole is wrapped in Lelievre embroidery; and the outsole is fire-branded with the edition number. Which is to say, nary a synthetic molecule goes into the production.
Incredibly, there is already a wait list, says Pollard. But unlike Birkins, buying into Iconoduly requires rules of ownership. "I am very picky about who I let purchase a pair. All women must first complete a Proust Questionnaire and then the selection process begins." Even when clients are allowed in, there is a shroud of secrecy that must be met at all times — it's a rule.
Pollard says he plans to make exactly one style of shoe per year, and he has the next 20 years already designed and sketched. Even the perks are planned out. For 2015, the Thyrsus will come with a skirt and earrings and, for 2016, the as-yet-unveiled object of adornment will ship with a 22-karat gold headpiece and a bench. Not just any bench, surely, but the most exquisite divan ever made.