Sunday, December 20, 2009

Token of Friendship, w/Strings Attached


“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


Let’s see, Gift No. 7, and the finale:

Late! No time to waste. Less than 30 minutes to peruse the eclectic, offbeat stock of Links of London, so thoughtfully arranged around the jewelry concern’s Park Avenue location, its second freestanding store in New York.

Straightaway, I set about my exploration of sterling silver and 18-karat gold cufflinks, pendants, money clips, necklaces, rings, charms and so forth. In search of that one piece that would speak to me.

Parched after venturing a ways, I had a glass of sparkling wine while I chatted to other guests and to the helpful and attentive staff, who talked up the stock with undisguised enthusiasm. Not a stiff upper lip amongst them. Armed with far more information about LoL than I would ever have occasion to use, I resumed the expedition.

At the center display case my gaze settled on a whole line of bracelets called friendship bracelets (pictured below and costing $180-$215, with some proceeds from sales going to the ONEXONE Children). But did I hear a faint voice in the corner of the case? Was it coming from the multi-colored band of threads that reminded me of the wires in those old-fangled bombs? And the wires in old-fangled car batteries? And the sort of strings childhood friends once upon a time utilized to craft bracelets for each other as expressions of their fealty – the jewelry version of the blood oath? The very same.

The counter staff person, an affable young chap, informed me that this was the Custom Friendship Bracelet (above, $295), or I would learn soon enough, the innards thereof. How fetching! And quaint! Only an erstwhile British law practitioner/fishmonger (and wife) who got started in the jewelry business with a gift of salmon-shaped cufflinks – hence the name, Links – to chefs to whom the couple supplied fish could fashion a bunch of strings willy nilly – et voila! – a friendship bracelet. The humor of it. So Monty Python. So Fawlty Towers. Gotta love those Brits. They could sell Americans toilet water as a cure for obesity and we’d buy it, I surmised.

Does one tie the strings together to close the – er – bracelet, I inquired rather without guile? All the while I am thinking that for 300 bucks those threads must be made from Egyptian cotton. Of course, I'd deduced that I could make one for 30 cents. Aware that I was quite serious and earnest, the staffer chuckled – “bless her clueless heart,” his expression seemed to say – and explained that from the threads one would, for instance, choose four colors and a desired width. Then all would be encased in sterling silver and would be fastened with a sterling clasp. Et voila!

I’d still wager that on this side of the pond Brits could make massive sales on toilet water.

Learn more about Links of London at www.linksoflondon.com and ONEXONE Children's Charity at www.onexone.org.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some of Agathe's Good Scents for Us All

“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


Let’s see, Gift No. 6:

When I decided to attend the launch party for the Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris line at Bergdorf Goodman, I imagined that it was just another fragrance debut. A perfumer, even one of the most famous in the world, throwing a shindig to introduce his new scent to a (hopefully) receptive and exclusive public. I’d be in and out in 30 minutes tops, I calculated, long enough to pay proper respects.

My imagination was way off, for FK’s vision is much grander than a mere cologne. This goes far beyond his thriving bespoke (made to order) business. Or his scents for Elizabeth Arden, Giorgio Armani, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, et al.

A Frenchman of Turkish/Armenian descent, FK has imagined “24 hours of a perfumed life.” In other words, a product line, “because day after day, perfume does exist for me as a part of the art of living, as a transcendent approach to life,” he waxes poetic in the press materials. He works in the main from a base of white flowers (Aqua Universalis), orange flowers (APOM), and rose (Lumiere Noire), but the scents vary (great marketing!) from product to product.

Naturally, cologne (for morning and evening, $195), eau de toilette and eau de parfum (for him and her, $130 to $185) are to be expected. But by my count, the cologne and two eau des only add up to around 9 hours. What of the other 15 hours? Mmm …

Scented Candle – ($65) Why not offer the hostess one of these in lieu of flowers? It sits on a zinc base with a felt underside, rendering it quiet and non-detrimental to fragile surfaces. More important, the host will be able to spend more time with guests because s/he won’t feel obligated to go in search of a vase.

Interior Perfume ($55) – What a charming euphemism for air freshener! Move over Glade.

Incense papers ($25) – The eccentric aunt who goes in for chanting and palm-reading may appreciate these strips. Even if she isn't eccentric, even if chanting and palm-reading aren't her thing her appreciation is almost a given. Place them in a container such as a drawer or suitcase (my plan for my samples) or burn them. Light the fire with one of the matches included with the 20 strips in a slender match box.

Perfumed Leather Bracelet ($200) – Inspired by leather gloves, it fastens with a sleek monogrammed silver magnetic clasp. A fragrant alternative to a wrist watch

Agathe’s Bubbles ($20) – Says FK of his little muse: “For Agathe, I have created a collection of scents to help discover the world of fragrance while playing. Twist, blow, marvel! … Here’s an opportunity to both program children to love a brand, and for adults to get in touch with their inner 6-year-old (smart marketing!, both).

Laundry Detergent (fabric softener, too, $45)– Banish the thought of dirty gym socks and rough towels! Move over Tide. Bounce, Downy

Like the man said, 24 hours of a perfumed life.

Learn more about Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris at www.franciskurkdjian.com

Friday, December 18, 2009

Passion, Pitfalls, Pumps and Pea Coats


“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


Let’s see, Gift No. 5:

One scene in “When Harry Met Sally” instantly turned it into a classic of the date-film genre.

It grew out of an innocuous-enough brainstorming conversation between director/producer Rob Reiner and screenwriter/associate producer Nora Ephron. RR asked about one secret that every woman has that men don’t know about. Her answer: they fake orgasms. He was incredulous.

RR stormed out of his office at Castlerock Studios and found a group of female assistants/secretary types and demanded an answer. “I thought they were going to lie, NE told ELLE magazine editor-in-chief Roberta Myers and others at Ann Taylor where over cocktails (prosecco) she was discussing another of her provocative works, “Love Lost and What I Wore.” “But they all admitted to it.” He was incredulous. She was incredulous.

And that is how the orgasm scene came about, and it was a group effort, NE disclosed. One person decided that the Meg Ryan character would let the Billy Crystal character in on the secret. Another decided that she would do a verbal simulation in a public place. Another that the character played by Estelle Reiner (mama of RR) would react to it rather than BC’s. And yet another that ER would utter that famous line, “I’ll have what she’s having” … NE said she’d seen the film on airplanes without that scene, thusly annotated “because kids might be watching.” And the result? “It’s not as good without the scene,” she said, producing a gale of laughter.

“WHMS,” NE acknowledged, spawned a motherlode of opportunities, including “Love, Lost and What I Wore,” the Ilene Beckerman best-seller that she and her sister, Dahlia Ephron, adapted to Broadway (Westside Theatre Downstairs) where it has been well-received. In the book, IB recounts the story of her life through frocks as diverse as a Brownie uniform and Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress. In the Ephrons’ hands, Rosie O’Donnell, Tyne Daly, Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of Diana) and others in the rotating cast, tell via vignettes and monologues stories informed by the experiences of friends of the Ephrons through their clothes and accessories, including purses, which – like those of many women – are vessels containing all manner of flotsam and jetsam.

Last night, two people won tickets (currently as low as $75) to the night’s performance of the play. Not cheap, but a steal when one factors in that a portion of ticket sales go to Dress for Success. Shoppers who spent at least $150 at Ann Taylor were rewarded with a free copy of the book, which is currently available in hardcover for as little as $0.95, yes, 95 cents, on Amazon. This is a st/deal worth breaking my money diet for.

Learn more about the stage version of “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” including, ticket information, at http://www.lovelossonstage.com/ ... Visit Amazon online at www.amazon.com ... Learn more about Dress for Success at dressforsuccess.org.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping the Wobbly Bits in Their Proper Place

The high-waist embrace brief from Donna Karan Shapewear comes in black, dark beige and dark teak. Photo courtesy of Donna Karan

“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


Let’s see, Gift No. 4:


Ladies (and some of you gentleman), may I have your attention, please? ’Tis always the season, which means that if you’re going to step out in that Ralph Lauren Blue Label metallic turtleneck dress (See Wednesday, 16 Dec.) and other form-fitting frocks, you do not – I repeat, do not – want to do so if showing are unsightly bulges, bumps, dimples and bodaciously visible lines. Absolutely. Not.

No worries, because between Donna Karen Shapewear and Spanx all of your problems are glossed over and smoothed out (no binding and gathering) with an abundance of undergarments infused with innovative materials that know how to handle amorphous thighs, hips, waists, guts, busts and butts, all the while leaving you feeling as if you're wearing a second skin. The result is a sleek, sexy, classy silhouette that is longer/leaner/leggier. One’s self-confidence is all the world will see, which is as it should be, no?

The various articles, costing anywhere from about $18 to $60, have been vetted by no less an authority than the Mighty O. (No doubt, it is clear to whom I refer.)

If I were choosing, I’d opt for DK simply out of familiarity and supreme customer satisfaction. The label has been taking care of my needs, albeit by way of Filene’s Basement, in the tights category for years. They are the best in fit and durability. There is no reason for me to believe that the shapewear won’t similarly deliver. Incidentally, the most expensive (20-something bucks at Saks Fifth Avenue) pair of pantyhose I have ever purchased (done so in a pinch) were DK. The fit is/was incredible. To this day (10 years later) they do not have a run in them ... I’m just sayin’.

Learn more about the lines at barenecessities.com or visit their respective Web sites at www.spanx.com and www.donnakaran.com (click on LIFESTYLE; in the drop-down menu click on HOISERY).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Shiny Object Makes the Heart Go Pitter-Patter

“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


The metallic turtleneck dress from the Ralph Lauren Blue Label collection is on sale at ralphlauren.com for $374, down from $498. Photo courtesy of ralphlauren.com.


Let’s see, Gift No. 3:

Besides meeting Constance Victory, whom I introduced the other day (See, Monday, 14 Dec.), another highlight of the Vogue party to benefit Free Arts NYC at the Ralph Lauren salon at Saks Fifth Avenue was admiring a metallic turtleneck dress from RL’s Blue Label collection.

When I first clapped eyes on it, my heart rate increased and my blood pressure rose too many points. The minx of a dress was fitted on a headless mannequin not at all trying to bring attention to itself. In fact, it was paired with a shearling-trim white satin jacket, also from BL. One would think the self-possessed jacket would have caught my eye. The dress (pictured above) is not the sort of garment that most would notice at first blush, the urban chic that is a touchstone of BL, notwithstanding. Perhaps, though, it was the touches of modernity and the eclectic edge, also character traits of BL. Could it be a simple case of love, which is often difficult to put just the right words to? Its only embellishment is the shine from the metallic. The length is smartly just above the knee. And while the dress is fitted, it is not tight – subtly skimming the curves to create a flattering silhouette on most physiques.

A few others at the party liked it, too, after I pointed it out. They nodded with unconcealed interest as I jawed about how I would treat it like black and wear it with just about every color on the wheel. I imagined it at a black-tie affair and a New Year’s Eve party. On a date, at a wedding and out to dinner. With leggings and flat-fronted skinny jeans. The longer I admired it the more occasions I conjured up to wear it.

Several days later, the dress was still on the brain. Several weeks later, the dress is still on the brain. No, I won’t buy it, even though it’s on sale now – marked down from $498 to $374 at ralphlauren.com – remember the money diet? But I can pen an ode to it, can’t I?

Learn more about Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label collection and the whole RL brand at ralphlauren.com. (Choose the country Web site from which you would like to shop/browse.) The metallic turtleneck dress can also be purchased and/or admired at Saks Fifth Avenue and many stores that carry the collection while supplies last ... Learn more about Free Arts NYC at freeartsnyc.org.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Born Many Years Apart, Yet a Perfect Match

Becki Newton proves that there is more than one way to wear Gap's tubular scarf. Photos courtesy of Gap.

“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


Let’s see, Gift No. 2:

When Gap decided to open another store in Soho, it turned the occasion into an event by throwing a party with that do-gooder formula that’s so au courant: identify a cause (Feeding America); select a partner (NYLON magazine) in said cause; engage a hot deejay (DJ Cassidy); dangle a few celebrities (i.e., Becki Newton, Emmy Rossum); open the bar (beer, water, wine); pass hors d’oeuvres (chocolate-themed sweets) and offer an interesting discount (30 percent).

And because this is Soho, the coolest place on God’s green earth, it can’t be just any Gap store. Uh-uh. It has to have a certain look, and a hook. For instance, be inspired by something hipper-than-thou such as a certain Gap pop-up store in Los Angeles. And a theme helps, something along the lines of Gap’s new 1969 Premium Jeans collection. Do ensure that the jeans bear provocative monikers like “Real Straight” for women and “Skinny” for men and have a place on a “denim wall” constructed of materials that evoke Soho. Industrial metal shelving and acrylic panels are good choices. This is not your father’s Gap, unless he’s an editor at NYLON.

It’s a nifty enough concept, but Gap is not building a store on jeans alone. Taking up space on wooden sawhorse tables and in plywood cubes are select pieces from the current collection, including the lush, cherry-red tubular scarf that “Ugly Betty’s” Becki Newton (pictured above) breezed by wearing. Asked where she got it, BN happily pointed it out “over there.” I’d first seen that style in the September issue of Marie Claire, then at H&M. It has also popped up in a few men’s mags. Has exciting possibilities, that one. The Gap scarf is much more affordable than Anna Kula’s version shown to good effect in MC and appears to be at less risk of collecting fur balls than H&M’s. At $19.50, it looks like a keeper.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the red tartan button-down shirt for men and women (possibly marked down from around $50). Gap must have locked that pattern away in its vault, until an opportune time, because I own the very one in a cotton/lycra bodysuit that I bought circa mid-1990s. I know it’s an exact match because I was wearing the bodysuit (now a cropped top after my seamstress at the time had her way with it) the night of the party! The shirt and my top would make a fetching “shirt-set,” judging from the oohs and aahs they elicited from observers. And one can wear the set to a Gap party in the year 2025 and probably still be on trend.

Visit any Gap store or gap.com to shop/browse for the shirt, scarf and other products … Learn more about Feeding America at www.feedingamerica.org.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bringing Old-Fashioned Luxury Back

The Karilaid Karry-All from the Victoire Focx collection also comes in black. Photo courtesy of Victoire Focx.


“FRUGAL fatigue.” You have it? You know what it is, right? The condition – as defined by one of the commentators on CNBC's “Fast Money” – characterized by a weariness of being frugal and thus wanting to spend money. Of a great desire to pony up for something a bit more substantial than toothpaste and toilet paper. According to the “Fast Money” guy, many Americans are tired of T&T and crave SONY&DKNY&BMW&I-PHONE & the like. This being December, FF is probably taking a huge toll on lots of folk.

Yours Truly, on a strict money diet for many moons now, is not suffering from FF. But I would be remiss if I did not do my patriotic duty and lend a hand to my fellow Americans who are agitating to furiously and, no doubt, responsibly spend for the holidays. Over the next several days I will introduce a product (or brand) a day that I would buy for myself or someone else if I were spending (and could afford to, of course).


Let’s see, Gift No। 1:

One of the highlights of a Vogue party to benefit Free Arts NYC at the Ralph Lauren Blue Label salon at Saks Fifth Avenue was meeting the effervescent Constance Victory who reminded me of Holly Golightly. Read about the other highlight later in the week.

While my time with CV at Saks was brief, I had a longer audience a few days later when the young Gotham-based Renaissance woman (model, celebrity stylist, p.r., maven) and RISD grad introduced Victoire Focx, her semi-eponymous handbag and accessories line at Soho House, its U.S. debut.

Constance Victory (below right) and Leslie Jensen show off pieces from CV's handbag and accessories collection. Photo courtesy of Victoire Focx.

The collection, which had its world premiere earlier this year during Milan Fashion Week and is titled “Bag to the Basics; a Return to Luxury,” is an assortment of bespoke pieces (made to order) inspired by the mosaics on the stained-glass windows of Florence’s cathedrals. A CV signature touch is to pair rare hand-painted exotic skins — caiman crocodile, python and lizard— with rich nappa leathers to create unique affairs that embody what she terms old-world charm.

A favorite of mine is a handbag she's christened the Karilaid Karry-All. It's a little number (shown in rust above and featured in black on the Web site homepage) in the shape of an old-school doctor’s bag. It is fabricated from nappa leather, python and lambskin and has tulip-shaped detailing, python handle and detachable python strap. Like all of the handbags, it is lined with “Victoire-ian” purple suede, reminiscent of the hue favored by Roman emperors and Florentine aristocrats. The gladiator-esque boot cuffs turned my head, too.

No doubt, CV is bringing to bear on her brand some lessons she learned during her time at Baby Phat, Michael Kors, Moschino, Valentino et al.

Learn more about the Victoire Focx collection at http://www.victoirefocx.com.
 
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