Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fashion Conscious

It might take a while but I’m going somewhere with this folks, hang on…

Sometimes when I speak with friends who have careers that are socially more "aware" than mine, I get a little confused about my passion for all (more like most) things style and media related. Example? My boy KZ teaches math to high school kids in his native Newark, NJ and mentors teenage gang members after work. He does this despite knowing that he could easily earn more dough with his undergrad engineering and graduate degrees in psychology. Knowing this has, on occasion, made me pause about my own aspirations as an editor. Another example is the time I had what I thought was a particularly rough week at work prior to going on a road-trip with some girlfriends. Right before I started to rattle off how frustrated I was about this, that and the third at my own gig, I asked my girl MoMo - who happens to be a pediatrician - how work was going for her. At the time, she was finishing up her last year of residency and had been assigned to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She proceeded to tell me that her unit lost three babies that week. She ended her story by explaining that the hardest part hadn’t even been the actual deaths (although that was obviously heartbreaking) but having to tell the parents that their child didn’t make it. Needless to say, I received a healthy dose of perspective and everything I was feeling about my magazine job felt really, really insignificant.

But sometimes, I am reminded that style goes much deeper than most of us give it credit for and even I am surprised at how powerful it can be. This happened to me twice recently. A couple weeks back I wore a Barack Obama tee shirt (with a pencil skirt and heels of course) to work. By lunch, I lost count of how many times someone commented on the shirt. Young and old, male and female - the shirt garnered quite a bit of attention. Now while I admit that I am not *exactly sure who I’m voting for at this point (I’m not educated enough about any of the candidates yet) I am so excited that Obama is even in the race. Every time I think about Bloody Sunday (Goggle it), especially because I have so much family in Selma, AL, my pride for Obama running just increases. I’m reminded of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. My $20 tee shirt sparked up many thought-provoking conversations - ranging from universal healthcare to the war in Iraq. Yep, sure did.

The second epiphany was just last Thursday, September 20th. I, along with countless others, wore black in support of Mychal Bell and the other Jena Six members. Now, in NYC, wearing all black is as common as yellow taxicabs but on Thursday it meant so, so much more. It felt good to see folks on the subway, on the block and even in the boardroom taking a stand against injustice in their own way. My girl CM couldn’t pull an all black ensemble together so she tied a black bandana around one of her wrists. Whenever she explained what her homemade cuff was about, as she was forced to do throughout the day, she informed someone else about the case.

So, God didn’t see it fit for me to be a teacher or a doctor. I do what I do for a living because (most of the time) I truly love it. I didn’t design that Obama tee shirt nor did I put out the mandate for folks to wear black on Thursday. Still, I have found and will continue to find ways to give back what I can, when I can, to those who I can because it’s my style. And style goes way beyond clothes or profession. I guess we sometimes have to be reminded of what we already know.

*Though I’m not exactly sure who is getting my vote, I’m definitely leaning towards Obama. I’ve heard him speak live twice, most recently last month at the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) conference in Vegas. He was informative, charismatic and didn’t at all appear to be a talking head like so many politicians. For those who are fearful that he lacks enough experience for the president slot; he posed the question, ‘Where has experience gotten us the last seven years?’


Sunday, September 23, 2007

NY Fashion Week Re-cap, Part Dos & Tres

I decided to combine my final takes of NY S/S ’08 Fashion Week. Like to read it, here it go: (I’m sorry, I know that was corny.)

Places - This season, designers were inspired by lots of exotic locales like the Mediterrean, (Tracy Reese) Cannes (Kimora Lee Simmons) and ‘Under the Volcano' (Diane von Furstenberg). Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal because designers say this practically every season about their spring collections. But it was different hearing and reading about these destinations this past fashion week because I actually have three friends who traveled to St. Tropez this year. None of them are millionaires. Granted, two were on a honeymoon (together) and the third was traveling for work. Still, the idea of affordable luxury has now translated to travel and I’m loving it! I even heard someone call St. Barths the new South Beach recently. Ha. I don’t know about all that. But the thought of more working class folks branching out of traditional vacay spots is good stuff.

Sexy St. Tropez

Things - I noticed that lots of designers included asymmetrical necklines in their spring collections. Proenza Schouler, Carlos Miele and Cynthia Steffe incorporated this neckline into their designs. Digs it. A lot. It looks new again. The asymmetrical trend made it onto the runways via hair as well. Anna Sui’s models rocked it with these funky wigs. Told y’all Kelis was ahead of her time.

The empire waist was much less prevalent; making room for lots of belted skirts and dresses. A la the ‘sexy secretary’ look.

Also saw a lot of black and white.

The dress with pockets trend of this past spring/summer seems to be carrying over as well…

Fashion week ended with a gripping panel discussion moderated by Bethann Hardison on the absence of Black models on the runway. The big dogs definitely came out. Naomi Campbell, Andre Leon Talley, Iman, Liya Kebede and Tracey Reese were all in attendance. I really wish I could have been there because it was indeed history. Imagine all that talent in one room! However, in speaking with a friend who did attend, I learned that the conversation led many to fondly reminisce about days gone past when the Black model was all the rage. But, I personally think it was just a sign of the times. During the 1970’s - on the heels of the civil-rights movement, the peak of the women’s lib movement - it may have seemed that the Black model was being celebrated. We all saw Mahogany. But there is a huge difference between being a novelty and being truly appreciated. In order to change things in the multi-billion dollar industry of fashion, one must have power. I will simply end with this. NYC Fashion Week began two days early this season; just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Who do you think is running things?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

NY Fashion Week Re-cap, Part Uno

The Spring/Summer 2008 NY ‘Shows’ officially began on Wednesday, September 4th. Twice a year, NYC welcomes both national and international buyers, press, stylists and socialites to view collections of the next season. The Big Apple kicks things off, then the mayhem continues in London (although not nearly as many folks attend), Milan and Paris. This season I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself thinking about all of the different ways I have participated in various fashion week elements over the years. While studying at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) I often volunteered to be a dresser backstage during the shows. Eventually I even got paid for it. I’ve been a dresser both here in NY and in London. I’ve worked with publicists to collect RSVPs and plan seating charts (that was beyond stressful - the politics!), I’ve worked with publicists to check attendees in as well (yeah, I had a clipboard and everything), I’ve assisted a designer in putting on her own fashion week showroom presentation and lastly I’ve covered the shows as a journalist. Well, after all of that, I still get excited during fashion week. The anticipation of discovering a promising new line or even appreciating the talent of old faves truly gets ‘ole Bsquared a little pumped. But what I don’t enjoy is the celebrity circus that NY Fashion Week has become. Call me jaded but, I don’t attend shows to gawk at celebs in the front row - I go to see the clothes and observe the hair and make-up trends. I certainly understand why the celebs are there, but when is enough going to be enough?

This season I didn’t get to attend very many shows at all because my paying gig had me quite busy over the last week and a half. Writing blogs is fun but mama likes her 401k more. And honestly, I didn’t get invited to very many either. That’s the truth, Ruth. But, based on what I did see, hear and read, I’m giving my take on the people, places and things that were memorable from S/S ’08 NY Fashion Week.
We’re gonna start things off with people. Oh, but first I have to mention that I was a cheesin’ fool after meeting Robin Givhan of the Washington Post outside the tents the second day of fashion week. We had spoken on the phone (I interviewed her for a story.) but never actually met in person. Robin is the first person to win a Pulitzer Prize for fashion criticism and just happens to be a Black woman. Meeting her and getting the chance to catch up in person really made my day. Oh, oh, oh and I also had the opportunity to interview Alek Wek for another blog (For church and state reasons, I can’t name the other blog here…) which was dope. It was a very impromptu situation but I was pumped. I had been in Alek’s presence before (as a dresser back in late 90’s) but it was a delight to finally meet her. Alek’s accomplishments as a model, entrepreneur and now author are certainly admirable. But, I have so much respect for how she always pays homage to her deceased father. So I guess I do get excited over more than the clothes - just not the folks that appear in US Weekly and In Touch…

On to the real good stuff! Below are the peeps that raised more than a few eyebrows during NY’s recent S/S ’08 shows…

The People Pleaser: Harriette Cole

Her creative director seat at Ebony magazine is barely warm but Harriette Cole already has the fashion and publishing industries buzzing. In less than a year, she’s turned Ebony from a bit of a snore to a must-read. Who can forget the July issue with no cover images, no salacious coverlines, just the question: ‘Who you calling a …?’ Genius. Trust me, in the publishing industry, that takes a lot of balls. Even with her outstanding credentials: best-selling author, fashion and then lifestyle director at Essence, columnist for The New York Daily News, Editor in Chief of Uptown - what she created within the pages of the September 2007 issue of Ebony is nothing short of remarkable. Clearly, I’m not alone in this thinking because Harriette was honored in a fete at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 5th. My girl Alek Wek, Andre Leon Talley, Tracy Reese and even Cicely Tyson attended to show their support. Harriette, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

More Than A Trophy: Alexis Phifer

Alexis Phifer is the designer/creator of the up and coming Ghita label. She’s also engaged to hip-pop star Kayne West. Last week was her NY Fashion Week debut. Now before we go comparing her to Kai Milla, Kimora Lee Simmons and Rachel Roy (who are all quite talented - for different reasons- in their own right) it is important to note that Ms. Phifer did (reportedly) attend design school years before even meeting the Louis Vuitton Don. Her Ghita line is sold in Henri Bendel. (I’ve always appreciated Bendels for taking chances on new designers.) Is she reaping some benefits through her relationship to Kayne? Absolutely. But, from what I have seen thus far, her stuff is sexy, tasteful and wearable. My fave designers include Tracy Reese, Alice Temperley and Catherine Malandrino so I’m definitely a sucker for feminine and detailed frocks. A fashion stylist friend attended the show and had this to say. "The collection was [primarily] Grecian style dresses, with a lil' PVC detail to trick it out and futuristic inspired accessories." Of course, designing is only the beginning. Production and distribution are another and those are the areas where so many new designers drop the ball. I’m sure loads of retailers are now interested in carrying the line so the pressure is on for Ghita to perform. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m happy to see a sister doing her thing.

Model Behavior: Sabina Karlsson

The moment I saw her begin the Cynthia Steffe show I thought to myself, ‘Who is she?’ Well, she is Sabina Karlsson. She hails from Sweden and apparently was a final contestant on Sweden’s Next Top Model. She has a massive amount of frizzy, red hair that just won’t stop. She also has freckles, and a full nose and full lips. She is not skinny to the point of looking emaciated. She is someone I expect to see a lot more of - both on the runways and in print. In addition to Cynthia Steffe, she walked in the Abaeté, Heatherette and Tracy Reese shows. Mark my words, Sabina Karlsson is one to watch.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Happy NYC Fashion Week!

This post is the first of many on a super-duper fly guy or gal; revealing (what else?) their favorite people, places and things. That's right, every month, PPT will uncover the style recipe of a different individual through
9 Questions For...

Who better to kick things off than Michaela Angela Davis? This District of Columbia native (North West to be exact) has brought her unique (She'll pair a dashiki and stilettos to the office on a Monday.) style sensibility to the pages of a host of magazines including Essence, Honey, New York, Vanity Fair and Vibe. She's dressed folks like Mary J. Blige and Diana Ross. Presently, Ms. Davis is hard at work as a board member for Black Girls Rock! Inc. This non-profit mentoring organization was established for young women of color to help build their self-esteem and self-worth. PPT caught up with the self-proclaimed urbanista before she jetted off to South Africa Fashion Week. (Yeah, Bsquared was jealous too.) Read on to find out why you shouldn't sleep on amazon.com, how similiar b-boys are to MLK, Jr. and why your next vacation could happen a lot sooner than you planned.

PPT: Who are your fave people?
MAD: Martin Luther King, Jr. because even when he was being arrested, he still looked dapper and dignified. Folks who aren’t afraid to be who they are from Shirley Chilsom to Miles Davis to the hip-hop pioneers in the early 1980s in the South Bronx.

PPT: Where are your fave places?
MAD: Marakesh, Morocco. It seems like everything in me got right when I went there. It is like the center of the earth. I like places where cultures converge. But there are still a lot of places in the world left for me to see.

PPT: What are your fave things?
MAD: If I was only allowed to have one thing, I think it would have to be something alive. Like some sort of flower. So it would probably be lily of the valley or hydrangea. But, I don’t know -- I might have to have a pair of Christian Louboutins. Like the 6-inch [heel] joints just so I could remember what it feels like to be sexy. [laughs]

PPT: What’s been your biggest splurge?
MAD: Last year I purchased a pair of Azzedine Alia thigh high boots at retail. Even though I own things that were gifts that are more valuable like artwork, those have probably been my most expensive purchase. Still paying for them as a matter of fact.

PPT: Now, how about your ultimate budget find?
MAD: I got the Jean-Paul Goude Jungle Fever book for $60 on amazon.com when I had just seen it at a gallery for $850 two days before! I thought a zero was missing [from the price]. The book has all these great pictures in it of Grace Jones and Tookie Smith when they were his muses.

PPT: What’s the last book you read?
MAD: Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing by Joy Degruy Leary. I like her - she’s cool.

PPT: Who are you listening to?
MAD: Recently, a lot of feel good, old-school happy music. Like Sly [and The Family Stone] and Stevie [Wonder]. But my song of the summer is Make Me Better by Fabolous and Ne-Yo. Finally there’s a song that is loving towards women from young guys. I guess I’m interested in being happy.

PPT: Your last vacay was to (not work related)?
MAD: Yesterday when I meditated. I really felt like I had transported myself somewhere quiet and serene. And I can go there for free. I’ve got frequent flier miles! [laughs]

PPT: What’s your definition of style?
MAD: When you make choices that are uninfluenced by anything other than your own self. When what you wear, what you eat, where you live, what you read, what you listen to is all the truth of who you say you are. People with real style are making choices closest to their own chest.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

And a child shall lead them.

Have a childlike (not childish!) approach to life, think laterally and always be curious, observant and optimistic. And treat everyone with the same consideration, whether it’s a student or a famous person. That definitely comes back in a good way.

- Fashion designer (one of my faves) Paul Smith, Domino magazine, August 2007 issue

Cough it up to all the inescapable ‘Back to School’ promotions but over the last week I’ve been fascinated with children and their effortless approach to style. (I also baby-sat my two year-old goddaughter yesterday and now have a deep and sincere appreciation for pre-school teachers everywhere.) Earlier this week, one of my co-workers brought her five year-old daughter, Little Miss N, to the office. Not only is this kid ridiculously smart (How many five year-olds can converse with adults about The Arc de Triomphe?) but she still has the sweet innocence that we love children so much for (She draws pictures for her mom’s co-workers so we can proudly hang them around the office.) Well, during this recent visit, Little Miss N was even more jovial than usual because she had just gotten her ears pierced. Talk about excited. The earrings were pink (she seems to love pink) and all was right in her little world. Her style has already begun to form and although it will undoubtedly evolve over the years, she is truly in tune with what she does and doesn’t like to wear. And for reasons that have virtually nothing to do with what celebrity wore what designer to the last red-carpet soiree. That is definitely fascinating to me. Here we are with all these degrees and life experience yet everyone still wants to look like everyone else.

I’d like to end with a little piece (read below) I wrote a while back for a writing class I took at NYU. It just seemed to work perfectly with this post. By the way, I internally debated posting about this topic for the past couple of days because it seemed too obscure for blog that is supposed to be about style. But then I tapped into my inner-child and decided to do what I wanted. Because I wanted. I hope whoever reads this blog enjoys the piece but if not, it’s okay. It makes me happy just to share it. Oh, Little Miss N will be so proud of me.

"Let’s go. You’re gonna make Mommy late!" This was a frequent plea from my mother to my toddler ears. The reason is surprising to most. Typical culprits for stealing a child’s attention: cartoons, playdo and the like didn’t factor in. During this time of my life, I didn’t go very far without my navy blue Minnie Mouse pocketbook. The purse was pretty basic in it’s design, about what one would expect a three year old to carry. The front of the purse was Minnie’s plastic face and the remaining parts of the bag were canvas. I was not a huge fan of the Disney character. In fact, I probably couldn’t have cared any less about whose picture was on it. My bag did however exhibit my individual style, something that was and still is very important to me. Perhaps very few others in the toddler set carried the bag or maybe it coordinated well with my Osh Kosh ensembles at the time. Whatever the reasons were, I did not go on many outings without it. Once an older cousin asked, "What do you have in your purse?" With dignity I answered, "Tissues and Chapstick." While the contents of my Minnie Mouse pocketbook may have seemed insignificant, I found it absolutely necessary to have my bag with me at all family gatherings or wherever my toddler social calendar took me. To this day, accessories are still one of the most important elements of style to me. And to think, it all began with a Minnie Mouse pocketbook.