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Fashion (#110 of 12)

Watch: M.I.A. Teams with H&M for Fashion-Forward New Music Video "Rewear It"

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Watch: M.I.A. Teams with H&M for Fashion-Forward New Music Video “Rewear It”
Watch: M.I.A. Teams with H&M for Fashion-Forward New Music Video “Rewear It”

With its soft, flattering cinematography and dazzling, kaleidoscopic set pieces, M.I.A.’s music video for last year’s “Borders” risked turning the life-or-death plight of refugees into a fashion runway. The image of the artist as the fearless leader of an army of émigrés, however, was a simple, potent, and timely one, landing the clip at #2 on our list of the Best Music Videos of 2015.

Now, M.I.A., a.k.a. Maya Arulpragasam, is back with “Rewear It,” which literally and deliberately fuses environmental activism with fashion. A partnership with retail giant H&M, the new single and accompanying “visual content piece” aim to raise awareness about textile recycling, encouraging fans to donate unwanted clothing so they can be used to create new products.

Impressions from Frieze New York 2012

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Impressions from Frieze New York 2012
Impressions from Frieze New York 2012

By the time I got back home last night from the final day of Frieze Art New York, the fair staff tweeted: “That’s it, I’m done. Gonna put on my jammies and take a long nap. See you @friezenewyork 2013.” But let’s rewind 2012: I had showed up at the South entrance, but the press attendant was on lunch break, so I walked along the tent north. The wind picked up and the skies looked glum. The outside of a giant white tent, constructed specifically for the exhibition, didn’t inspire visions of grandeur, but the walk allowed me to hear the Susan Philipsz outdoor sound installation We’ll All Go Together. There was Joshua Callaghan’s sculpture Two Dollar Umbrella, a heart-warming sight for any New Yorker who recalls into what bizarre disfigurement a cheap umbrella may be forced by gusts. By Rathin Barman’s intriguing Untitled, a wall of brick and wire with a single sunflower planted on the inside, the friendly guard warned me that I had gotten too close; a tiny red flag in the grass was meant to keep me off. The brisk walk got me thinking about the fair’s calculated spontaneity—the tent arising as if out of nowhere, in a precarious environment. The most visible manifestation of this was a large pit of muddy water fenced off, as if it too were art, by the north entrance.

The Nina Garcia Project

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The Nina Garcia Project
The Nina Garcia Project

Nina Garcia can’t act. She can barely conceal her revulsion when a contestant on Project Runway trots out a skirt the color of paprika on devilled eggs, and she certainly can’t act as if she isn’t personally offended by such a garment. She can’t act as if Heidi Klum’s constant waffling between German-dominatrix authority and Betty Draper-esque petulance doesn’t send her into a weekly rage coma. And she can’t act comfortable when she’s asked to strut around, along with regulars Tim Gunn, Michael Kors, and Klum, the green screen in Project Runway’s opening credits this year, woodenly declaring that it’s all about “attitude.” But why would we want her to act? Nina Garcia is a fierce—and I mean that both ways—fashion critic, an opinionated and fashionable lady, and an editor with 30 years of experience in journalism and design, but she is not a television personality.

Despite this, over the course of nine seasons, Garcia’s deadpan critique has become an integral, if not the integral, piece at the heart of Project Runway’s cult success, balancing out Gunn’s nutty professor, Kors’s catty curmudgeon, and Klum’s fussy, pretty, mean girl. Kors and Gunn are just as authoritative in their critical judgments, but they both also translate to television better (as does the indubitably foxy, stern, though surprisingly populist, Klum, but more on her in a moment). Over the years, Gunn has evolved into a kind of intellectual camp counselor, and Kors has mastered the art of the bitchy, cutting simile (“She looks like Barefoot Appalachian Lil’ Abner Barbie”), making them more conventionally legible presences on the small screen. In other words, whether it’s Gordon Ramsay, Tyra Banks, or that creepy fellow always leering about on The Bachelorette, the balance of Project Runway’s judges at least loosely conform to reality-TV character types.

The Spectacular Confrontations of "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

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The Spectacular Confrontations of “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”
The Spectacular Confrontations of “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”

It’s a violent business, tailoring. Cutting, ripping, pinning, yanking, pressing, stretching, stitching; we put the raw materials of our clothes through quite a lot before putting them on our bodies. Typically, these exertions result in the merely presentable, occasionally the fetching, rarely the beautiful, and perhaps once in a generation, the transcendent. Throughout his career, beginning in the 1990s and lasting right up to his suicide in February 2010, Lee Alexander McQueen constantly laid bare the brutal qualities of his craft. In doing so, he upended our notions of bodily contours, movement through space, and beauty itself.

Entering its final week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” has established itself as one of the defining events of Summer 2011. The New York Times, in its print edition and Arts Beat blog, has devoted no fewer than seven posts and articles to it. The $45 hardbound catalogue is selling by the tens of thousands. People dress up in elaborate outfits to see the exhibit. And, when it’s all over, “Savage Beauty” will probably rank among the top 20 most-visited Met exhibitions since the museum began taking attendance. The Met has extended the show from July 31 to August 7, extended viewing hours during regular opening days, and has also offered $50 viewing tickets on Mondays, when the museum is normally closed. On the final two days of the show, the museum will remain open until midnight. News of these measures has only added to the buzz surrounding the show, and the crush of visitors continues to pack the exhibition rooms and queues for hours on end to see it.

Designing Woman: Helen Rose

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Designing Woman: Helen Rose
Designing Woman: Helen Rose

One important name missing from the plethora of tributes to Elizabeth Taylor was MGM’s leading costume designer of the 1950s, Helen Rose, who was largely responsible for intensifying Taylor’s distractingly sensual image at the height of her fame.

Rose’s designs placed a strong emphasis on the silhouette. They were elegant and understated, yet innovative, looking natural in spite of their theatrical nature. “Simple and dramatic” is how Rose described her dresses for Taylor. “If you have a magnificent jewel, you put it in a simple setting—you don’t distract from it with a lot of detail.”

This was the dictum which Rose followed when designing for Taylor, including the white chiffon dress with the deep V-neckline in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. “When a Bust Inspector appeared, he took one look at me and called for a stepladder,” Taylor quipped. “He climbed up, peered down, and announced that I needed a higher-cut dress, too much breast was exposed.” To satisfy the “Bust Inspector,” Rose pinned a brooch on the bodice. But as soon as the man left, the brooch was removed and the legendary cleavage was bared.

Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010)

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Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010)
Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010)

Today, the world lost a visionary. A little more than a week after the death of his mother, and just two years after his earliest champion, Isabella Blow, committed suicide, fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen took his own life. He was 40.

Since Issy bought his entire first collection back in 1994, McQueen had grown both as a designer and as an artistic force, not just for designers, stylists, and magazine editors, but spanning the scenes of art, film, and especially music. His vision reflected and simultaneously surpassed the constructs of stage and costume, moving from film to runway to the red carpet with the help of his loyal celebrity following, including Rihanna, Liela Moss, Madonna, and Sarah Jessica Parker, just to name a few. The British designer’s aesthetic consistently reflected the music avant-garde, blurring the borders between runway and reality.

New Scent-sation: Smell Me and…Run?

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New Scent-sation: Smell Me and…Run?
New Scent-sation: Smell Me and…Run?

Last weekend I was out at the club and men were hitting on me more than usual. I don’t really have a hard time meeting guys, but they were approaching from all sides and were particularly aggressive this night. They bought me drinks, asked me to dance, practically begged for my number. It got so bad at one point that the doorman had to come over and ask a few of them to leave. Sure, I was wearing my freakum dress. Yes, I had just gotten a bikini wax earlier that day. But it wasn’t until the bartender asked, “What’s that beguiling vaginal scent I smell?” that it dawned on me. It was the new fragrance I picked up in Chinatown! While shopping for some bubble tea (a delicious iced beverage with engorged tapioca balls), I passed a man holding a sign that said “Free Sun Tan.” I stopped and asked the man who Sun Tan was and why he was being held captive. He pointed to the tanning salon behind him. Well, you can imagine my embarrassment, so I did what anyone would do in that situation and went inside and got my cooter waxed, during which the man’s wife asked if I had a boyfriend. When I told her, in between screams, that I was happily single, she shook her head and insisted I try this ancient aphrodisiac that had been passed down from generation to generation in her family. It was called Vulva. When I got home from the club that night, after being accosted by my cab driver and the homeless man who hangs out outside my building, I went online to do some research and discovered that Vulva wasn’t an ancient Chinese aphrodisiac at all but a German fragrance that smells just like PUSSY! I don’t know how I missed this one, especially since its ad campaign bears a striking resemblance to the one for Tom Ford for Men. Vulva’s website is called Smell Me and Cum, and the company responsible, Vivaeros Special Products, describes it as “a precious vaginal fragrance filled into a small glass phial.” Vile, indeed.

New York Fashion Week: Fall 2008

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New York Fashion Week: Fall 2008
New York Fashion Week: Fall 2008

Sometime in early November while passing by Bryant Park, I noticed a mock-up Fashion Week tent. After a minor panic attack, I realized, no Alexa, it’s not February yet; the girls from Sex and the City were shooting a scene for the upcoming movie. Stand down, Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia! Yes, the baddest bitches are back in town. Wanna see just how bad? Check out InStyle for a sneak preview of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha’s fresh fashions.

New Scent-sation: Part Ew

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New Scent-sation: Part Ew
New Scent-sation: Part Ew

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, here comes Mariah with her titties out, all breathless and moaning. The campaign goes something like, “An ethereal presence. Captivating like a song.” And apparently the potent pheromone ingredients in M by Mariah Carey are only activated when you apply them to your décolleté…while masturbating…in Heaven:

 

I haven’t smelled the stuff yet (my requests for samples were flatly denied), but something tells me M by Mariah Carey is not the start of the singer’s fragrance industry domination. All of this has got me fiending for a simpler time…

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.