Monday, January 28, 2008

Preaching To The Choir

Liya, Iman, Bethann and Naomi at the first event in Sept. '07

It can never be said that Bethann Hardison doesn't try. On Wednesday evening, the mother of Kadeem "Dwayne Wayne" Hardison hosted yet another symposium on the lack of Black models on the runway. Held at NYC's swanky Bowery Hotel, Hardison succeeded in getting folks fired up (for the third time) over the industry's lily white fashion shows.

The audience was filled with a unique (Damon Dash was in the house with rapper Jim Jones) mix of fashion's movers and shakers -- designers, model agency owners, casting agents, stylists, journalists and models. The latter even had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the topic. Two gorgeous young women gave their first-hand accounts of what an aspiring model of color is facing in 2008. Get this -- one recounted for the room how she was strongly advised to get a nose job when first entering the game! Andre Leon Talley was there in spirit (his body was in Chicago assisting with Obama's campaign) as Hardison read an uplifting message from the longtime Vogue editor about diversity. Wonder when we'll see more diversity within the pages of Vogue. The evening proved to be quite colorful but led to a predictable round of the blame game. The designers blame the stylists. The stylists blame the casting directors. The casting folks blame... you get the point.

However, optimism filled the air when the president of Elite Models pledged to donate $1,000 towards Hardison's next event. That was a nice gesture. I think that because Hardison (a former model and agent herself) was courageous enough to begin this conversation, some influential people at the very least are starting to think about why there are so few models of color in the forefront of mainstream fashion. But I must confess that I still don't feel "asking" the industry to increase the number of Black models on the runway is the move in 2008. At least a few folks in attendance appeared to agree with me. I'm also not looking to return to this "golden era" when Black models were all the rage. Pet rocks were all the rage at one point in time as well. We are not novelties.

My evening ended on a high note when I asked the stunning Jessica White to pose for a PPT pic and she happily obliged. Unlike the majority of our current models of color she is American born. The Victoria's Secret model was also quite gracious after I congratulated her on the prestigious Maybelline contract she recently scored.

I'll be attending shows for NY Fashion Week very soon and I'll certainly keep an eye out for Jessica and other models of color on the runways. Perhaps some of this preaching has indeed fallen on the ears of someone beyond the choir.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bloggin' at The Met

Finally! I've been promising this one and here it is. The fashion exhibit at the Met was well worth the visit. The exact name is: blog.mode:addressing fashion. In a nutshell, the exhibit displays about 40 garments and accessories from the 18th century to present. Since everyone has (ahem) an opinion on style these days, the folks at the Met decided to allow visitors to blog on the exhibit while at the exhibit. A "blog bar" with about eight or nine laptops is stationed in the midst of it all for folks to express what they liked, disliked or were indifferent about in a public forum. Some of the posts will actually be compiled and packaged into a book. What a crafty way to make (even more)money, huh?

One of the standout items for me was a pink silk gown by Vivienne Westwood. I was drawn to it because she's known for her punk-inspired, over-the-top sexy numbers but this piece was soft and feminine in a traditional way. She keeps folks guessing and I admire that. I also really liked the red 18th century velvet men's blazer. Peep the pics of both below. Please excuse the darkness. This is the best my camera phone could do with the blah museum lighting. Other designers featured in the exhibit are Donna Karan, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Curator Harold Koda told Women's Wear Daily that each of the pieces was selected because it raises a lot of questions. Hmmmm... I guess that explains these croco-embossed patent leather pumps also by Vivienne Westwood. Pretty hysterical, right? Fun Fact: these are the same shoes Naomi Campbell fell in on the runway a few years back. I decided to blog on them at the exhibit.

So if you're in NYC or plan to be in the near future; check it out. The Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute is scheduled to display blog mode until April 13th, 2008. And again folks, the Met is basically FREE!!! The admission fee is suggested; not required.

Our Sunday Best

I’ve been wanting to post on this topic for a long time. Actually, it’s something that fascinated me long before I even had a blog. That something is Black folks and how we dress for church.

I believe (I’m sure someone has written a thesis on this or something...) that Black folks traditionally dress up for church because during the times of slavery, Sunday was the only day our ancestors were allowed to wear what they wanted to wear. So attending church wasn’t solely to worship. It was a time to fellowship, catch up with folks and show off real personal style since most were very limited in what they could wear Monday through Saturday. Those people did what they had to do in order to make it through the unthinkable. Nothing short of genius in my opinion. And the fact that there are traces of this still present today is simply remarkable.

My maternal grandmother even had special handkerchiefs just for church. I am not implying that Black people did or do go to church for a fashion show. (Perhaps some do.) But, I truly believe that, for better or worse, we have passed this act on from generation to generation for the reasons identified above. During service yesterday, I took particular notice that an increasing number of people wear jeans and even sneakers to worship services at my church. I happen to attend what some people might describe as a "mega" church and many of the members are in their teens and early 20s. Even I wear pants to church now (my mother would have NEVER allowed me to growing up) and my work and church clothes often overlap. But I still make an effort to "dress-up" when I attend a church service on Sunday. Hey, it is what it is and I’m being honest.

There is no "kicker" for this post -- I just needed to get this off my chest. Do you guys still (consciously or not) dress up for church? Talk about it. C.J. - what’s your take on this?

Happy MLK, Jr. Day!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Trip I Never Took That Changed My Life

Earlier today I paid a visit to the Met to view the fashion exhibit I was supposed to check out last week. The fashion exhibit was well worth it but that review will come later this week. In order to get to the fashion exhibit, I had to walk through the Egyptian one first. Now, the Egyptian section of the Met is truly one of my favorite places in NYC. As I made my way through, I remembered the story about Egypt below I never posted.

While perusing a magazine rack recently, I noticed a compelling coverline on an issue of Travel & Leisure mag: The Trip That Changed My Life. I then began to think about the trips (big and small) that made a significant impression on my own life. There’s a slew of them because I learn something every place I travel to. Some stuff certainly seems more profound than others but it’s knowledge all the same.

But soon after I thought about the trip that I didn’t take that changed me. Changed for the better too. God works in such mysterious ways…

It was 1994 -- my senior year of high school. A group of my friends were in a youth social organization called Jack & Jill. (I’m sure many of you reading this were Jack & Jill members.) Well, said friends were going on a big trip to Egypt to celebrate completing high school. Several chapters were involved and the trip was in the works for some time. About a month before their actual departure, someone apparently dropped out and I was asked if I wanted to take their place. I contemplated going initially, especially after my dear mother scrambled up the funds for my possible trip. But I had mixed feelings about the invitation that led me to reconsider going. I felt as though I was an afterthought, a charity-case even. I wasn’t in the loop from the beginning and didn’t want to seem as though I was "trying to fit in". I was not a Jack & Jill member, wasn’t in on the trip from the get-go and therefore I eventually said, "No".

My 17 year-old self didn’t have the wisdom to kick my pride to the curb. I didn’t know that visiting Egypt was an opportunity to walk on the soil where civilization began, take personal pics of the pyramids that still boggle the minds of anthropologists and view the place that the Sphinx calls home. I didn’t know that a decade or so later, I wouldn’t care in the least what my then peers thought about me. Now, some 14 years later, I haven’t a clue what I did that week during Spring Break when my friends were in Cairo. But I do know that I won’t allow my ego to ever get in the way of such a fabulous opportunity again. Ever. As an adult, I try to take advantage of any and every chance to travel to a new place. And when I do finally make that trip to Egypt (because I will), it will be that much more rewarding.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bend It Like Posh

Dear Mr. Blackwell,

I recently learned that you included Victoria "Posh" Beckham on your Worst Dressed List.

Tsk, tsk.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why your list has become such a cultural phenomenon anyway. But then again, George Bush was elected into office twice. Well, you’ve certainly got a right to your opinion but I need to also give you mine. I know you’ll never read this letter but something about typing it is kinda liberating.

First off, Mrs. Beckham is a bad ass. Period. Fly as she wanna be. Unapologetically sexy. Take that, take that type of sexy. Forget Justin she brought it back for real. Yeah, she can afford to eat a cupcake or two. Of course she’s had work done. And no her vocal ability doesn’t wow me. But I so look forward to seeing pics of her out and about and I know I’m not alone. See, that boho, "I don’t really want you to think I care look" was getting sorta tired. Very tired in fact. There was something so refreshing about Victoria moving across the pond to L.A. and serving all her fierceness to the Uggs, "It" handbags and designer jeans, messy hair uniform wearers of La La land. Plus she manages to stay so fly while being a wife and mother. So what she has a nanny or two, or four?

Yeah, she might be a label whore, favor clothing that is typically tight, short or both but somehow she still manages to look classy and polished. And that is not easy to pull off. Look, this is coming from someone who thinks a tank top and boy shorts can be the epitome of sexy. Still I admire Victoria’s willingness to step out of the box and go slightly left. PC or not. I don’t know the lady, never met her in fact, but she always looks very comfortable in her (Botoxed) skin. Even in 5 inch heels she looks comfortable! It’s obvious that she enjoys dressing up and being the glamazon that she is. Right or wrong. Isn’t that what real style is about anyway? Being true to yourself? Victoria has discovered the silhouettes, designers and even haircuts that flatter her and she rocks with them. Yet she isn’t afraid to experiment with color, textures or even proportions. Now she is constantly wearing those Hollywood friendly oversized shades but hey on her; they do seem to work.

The most fabulous thing about the lady is that I highly doubt she’ll give a hoot about being on your list. In fact, it will probably only make her go harder. She just seems like she’s that chick. Yeah, style really does go way beyond clothes, Mr. Blackwell. I’m positive this footballer’s wife is gonna continue to flaunt her mini skirts and sky-high stilettos for many years to come.

All the best,

PS - Victoria Beckham is a very unlikely subject for a PPT blog post. But I had to throw my two cents your way.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Happy 2008! A gal is trying to accomplish a lot this year. (Don't we all start every year off with such sentiments?) I attempt to visit at least one new place annually and as I mentioned a few posts back, this year I hope to go to South Africa. Well, I just learned via WWD that Paul Smith recently opened not one but two locations in South Africa. The first was in the Jo'burg suburb of Parkhurst followed by a second in Cape Town on the prestigious Millionaire Mile of the V&A Waterfront. I'm pumped. Y'all know how I feel about Paul Smith. 'Ole Paul is not alone either. Chloe, Marni, Miu Miu, Missoni and Stella McCartney have apparently also set up shop in S.A. within the last few months. Now, before anyone goes getting their panties in a bunch, I am more excited about learning of new, raw talent when I do eventually visit South Africa. I'm so not that chick who goes to another country and shops at The Gap. The multi-colored straw fans I purchased at a market in Guinea, West Africa in '02 are hanging on my kitchen wall as I type. (They really compliment my purple kitchen.) Still, I am quite excited about one of my fave designers having two retail stores in a country I've been wanting to visit for the past couple of years. Let's just hope that South Africa doesn't resemble Disney World in the next decade...

Stayin' cool as a Guinean fan in '08

I would be remiss in mentioning Africa and not commenting on the craziness in Kenya. What the crap?! Sadly, I am not nearly as informed about the siutation as I need to be but one of my goals in 2008 is to become more aware of global news. Staying fly but being clueness about what is going on in the world has never been (and will never be) in style. In the meantime, my prayers go out to those who have been displaced, hurt or lost loved ones in this horrible ordeal.

Well, I'm off to the Met to check out The Costume Institute's new exhibit: blog.mode: addressing fashion. I will report back on it next week!