Archive for February, 2009

Welcome to the Fishbowl
February 19, 2009

Today marks the first day of the Pisces period.  Happy birth season to all my fellow fish.  To peep famed astrologer Susan Miller’s insights into what might be in your stars –no matter your sign– check Astrology Zone.pisces

Mode d’Afrique
February 17, 2009

I fell in love with Paris-based Malian designer Lamine Kouyaté’s Xuly Bët Funkin’ Fashion Factory back in the nineties. He was ahead of the Western curve on re-purposing fabrics, indeed actual garments in his designs. With his merrowed edges and interesting patchwork he was funky progenitor to the likes of the fly ladies of Harriet’s Alter Ego. I wore a faux fur jacket that I’d bought from him until it was threadbare–oh how I miss that piece!

I was amped upon learning that he would be one of four designers (including Nigeria’s Tiffany Amber, South Africa’s Stoned Cherrie and Nigeria’s Momo) showing under the Arise Magazine-sponsored African Fashion Collective during Fall ’09 Fashion Week. In an industry not known to be particularly inclined toward featuring models of color in any great numbers during the twice yearly cavalcade of fashion in Bryant Park (especially for the Fall shows), post-election, post-Vogue Italia Black Issue, post-Bethann Hardison’s crusade for casting diversity, certainly there’d be a sea of black faces, both on and off the runway. And at this show, there was: Alek Wek, Chanel Iman, Jaunel, Liya Kibede, Nnenna, Oluchi, Sessilee Lopez, Ubah and the lone male Tyson Beckford. The Terminator-inspired video for Grace Jones’ new release, Corporate Cannibals, featuring the distorted black and white visage of Grace, opened the show. It was great to see the sauntering Stacey MacKenzie’s return to the catwalk, but the crowd went wild when Grace herself, a scintillating 60-years-old with great gams, assumed the stage in a Xuly Bët hooded dress, neckline down-to-there and hemline up-to-there.

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Backstage: Grace Jones upclose and personal in Xuly Bët, Work! Liya Kebede in Momo’s demure ensemble of animal prints. Photos: New York Times

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Ruching reigns at Xuly Bët: Oluchi in a sizzling dress with a clever spin on the ubiquitous “Ghana must go” bag. Photo: Getty Images

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Model superstars, Alek Wek and Tyson Beckford rock Xuly Bët’s signature red stitching. Photo: Getty Images

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Folake Folarin-Coker’s use of Ankara fabric at Tiffany Amber. Photos: Robert Mitra for WWD

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Neutrals paired with vivid brights at Stoned Cherrie. Photos Robert Mitra for WWD.

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Fit and Flair: feminine looks from Fati Abisuela for MOMO Photos: Robert Mitra for WWD.

Check the London Telegraph for video coverage.

Do the Right Thing at 20
February 16, 2009

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the unwarranted warnings of possible “incendiary” reactions among the black community upon the release of Do the Right Thing. Though it did not incite the predicted violence, it did spark dialogue about race in the United States. The seminal Spike Lee joint, released in June 1989, has since been named to a myriad of best film lists and is included in the National Film Registry of the US Library of Congress as a “culturally significant” film.

On February 26, the fine folks at ImageNation will present in their 5th collab with Lincoln Center, a 20th anniversary celebration and screening of Do the Right Thing. The invitation-only event begins at 6pm with a Settepani-catered reception and a performance of the Public Enemy anthem, Fight the Power, by Chuck D and indie rockers Apollo Heights. The screening begins promptly at 7pm and will be followed by a cast and crew discussion moderated by Stew (of Tony-award winning Passing Strange.)

Join ImageNation by February 18, 2009 and receive a complimentary invitation to the festivities at the Walter Reade Theater. 70 Lincoln Center Plaza at 165 West 65th Street in Manhattan.

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Heart the Hook
February 13, 2009

In consideration of this weekend’s red-themed holiday, I wondered what Red Hook, Brooklyn had in the offing. The relatively remote section of the BK was named the descriptive “Roode Hoek” (red point) by Dutch colonists in 1636 for its ruddy soil and peninsular shape. Today the in-flux waterfront area boasts an IKEA and Fairway Supermarket while remaining home to the tenants of the 30-building Red Hook Houses. Streets like Columbia, Van Brunt and Conover are dotted with shops, cafes and bars. Some are neighborhood mainstays, like Sunny’s (holding it down on the drink front since the late 1800’s) but more likely are recent additions like Botanica, great for elegant adult libations.

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The ever-present truck at Sunny’s

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Botanica at twilight. Photo by Melissa Hom.

Though I have my concerns for the area re: over-gentrification and displacement, Red Hook, how can we love thee? Let me count the ways.

Get your caffeine fix with a fresh cup of Joe and a pastry nod to good St. Valentine at Baked (359 Van Brunt). Stroll the cobblestone streets and take in the the signs of Old Brooklyn.

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The inviting interior of Baked. Photo: bakednyc.com

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Cobblestones of Van Dyke St. Photo by Wooden Designer

Abandoned trolley car on the waterfront. Photo by Flatbush Gardener

Keep the sexy quotient on high with a stop at the charming Winkworth Ladies Goods, (119 Columbia Street at Kane) where owners Sonya Wells and Susie Plaisted play great music, proffer affirming sartorial advice and offer well-priced, pretty underthings from Princesse Tam Tam as well as the popular in-house line, Pie Bklyn, replete with its lace-trimmed chemises, sultry booty shorts and embellished thigh-high stockings.

Steps away, enjoy the tactile experience of combing the shelves of Freebird Books (123 Columbia) for gently loved books now freed to become part of your library, then head to Main Street Ephemera (205 Columbia) to pick up a vintage card for your beloved(s).

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With a wink, the ladies of Winkworth show how it’s done; lyrical reading; Princesse Tam Tam demi cup and the Valentines of yore.

Check out the special Valentine’s Day menu at the well-reviewed The Good Fork. (391 Van Brunt Street)The cozy restaurant proudly uses fresh produce from Added Value Farm’s Red Hook Market run by local youth.

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Photo by Julian Bushman-Coop

Cap off the night at Botanica (220 Conover) with the legendary Hemingway “Death in the Afternoon” decadent cocktail of champagne and absinthe that hints of of the forbidden. How alluring…

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Photo by Kayaoko Akabori

Talkin’ Shop: Victor Osborne
February 11, 2009

Whilst combing Williamsburg for noteworthy boutiques a few months back, an interesting typeface on an off-the-beaten-path storefront caught my eye. Whizzing by in a car, I made a mental note to check out the closed store later.  When I returned, I realized that it was the atelier of young milliner on the come-up, Victor Osborne.  The F.I.T grad, protégé of millinery maestro, Eugenia Kim launched his eponymous line, Victor Osborne Headwear with partner Zachary Scott in 2005 and has been making noise ever since with placement in such stores as Barney’s CO-OP and Intermix.

The corner location serves as retail space and production facility–the company proudly boasts 100% local production.  Though there are pieces ready-for-purchase, in the true atelier tradition, one can be fitted for a custom hat by the convivial designer himself.  Adjacent to the shop, he hosts the exhibition space, Eye Level “in an effort to connect artists living and/or working in Brooklyn and Queens with their immediate environment, through art, culture and commerce.”

On a recent visit, I was met by an adorably casual, barefooted Victor who was busy finalizing looks for Fashion Week clients, including offerings for Trovata, Diesel and Cynthia Rowley’s Fall ’09 shows.  

If you’re hankering for a VO chapeau, tout de suite, make a weekend jaunt to the shop where current merchandise is reduced dramatically (some pieces as low as $20-$40) to make way for the Spring collection. If a mouse is your favorite shopping buddy, you can also take advantage of their online shop.

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From the Spring ’09 collection.

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Photo from Victor Osborne Blog.

Victor Osborne Atelier

364 Leonard Street

(at the corner of Withers Street)

Brooklyn, NY 11211

347.463.9716

Saturday and Sunday 12pm – 6pm or 

By appointment.

Ain’t Mad at the Hatter
February 11, 2009

When on Inauguration Day Aretha Franklin assumed the podium to grace the proceedings with her gospel-tinged “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes—her coat respectable, her matching hat a spectacle—I said, “Go ‘head Ree, bring it.” Bring them, bring the Sisters in their Sunday best, their crowns their glory, their service, legend. She didn’t simply take us to church, but rather brought the Black church to the Capitol stairs, as much with her raiment as with her awesome voice.

Days later I spied the current issue of V Magazine, Grace Jones fiercely peering out, a slender-swath of shimmery gold at her brow in beautifully stark contrast with her deep brown skin. Atop her head was a blinged-out derby from master milliner, Philip Treacy. She looked incredible. Whether it’s a gele, a trilby, a snap cap or even a wig, no one rocks the headgear quite like a sister.

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V Magazine cover photo: Jean-Paul Goude. 

On this side of the pond, Albertus Q. Swanepoel, Anthony Maxwell, Eugenia Kim, Jacqueline Lamont and Rod Keenan are just a handful of accomplished designers making head way in millinery.

Enamored with Ailey
February 10, 2009

I was tickled to see the President and the First Lady honor their commitment to “date night” with an evening at the Kennedy Center on Friday. Along with a small coterie including daughters Malia and Sasha, the Obamas enjoyed highlights from the 50th anniversary season of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

I took in one of the remarkable programs in December during the run at New York City Center. I had the pleasure of seeing the Maurice Bejart classic ballet, Firebird; Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya’s restaging of the explosive Ulysses Dove piece, Episodes and Love Stories, the contemporary, hip hop-infused collaboration of Artistic Director Judith Jamison, Robert Battle and Puremovement’s Rennie Harris. I look forward to their return to NYC with their engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this Spring.

Photo: Kevin Lamarque for Reuters.

Last year, it was my honor to style some of the promotional photography for the golden anniversary of the legendary company and was awed by the dancers’ incredible strength, grace and total mastery of their exquisite bodies. Hugo Boss and Roberto da Carrara provided menswear and I sought out Brooklyn-based Nadia Tarr’s signature wrap dress for the women. The line Butter by Nadia, is a collection of one-size convertible matte or satin jersey dresses, brilliantly conceived as they are flattering to every figure type and available in a multitude of colors.

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Photo: Andrew Eccles

Awesome dancers Clifton Brown in Hugo Boss and Linda Celeste Sims in Butter by Nadia.

Design Within Reach
February 6, 2009

Dorian Webb, Inc., purveyors of beautiful semi-precious jewelry and exquisite chandeliers is changing its focus after 18 years of wholesale business. Through tomorrow, February 7, current inventory is being offered at 50% off the wholesale price to the public.

I am a proud owner of the infinitely wearable, textured, multi-sized, silver link necklace in its single-strand variety.  The triple-strand version is now available for $395 and the designer’s glistening faceted bangles are now a mere $15 each.

Pictured below, a sampling of the chandeliers includes Tutto Topazio, now $2,220; Small Festival, now $350 and Oro, now $1,150.

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Photo courtesy Dorian Webb, Inc.

Dorian Webb

259 W 30th Street Storefront

(between 7th and 8th Avenues)

New York, NY

212.239.2390

Open 9am – 5pm

Coloring the Comics
February 4, 2009

This Friday teeming hordes of pop culture fans will descend upon The Javits Center for New York Comic Con, the East Coast’s largest popular culture convention for a weekend of panels and previewing the latest in comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies, and television.  In the creative conglomeration will be a number of African-American artists, who like Aaron McGruder continue to blaze a trail bringing black faces and stories to the pages of comic books and graphic novels.

N. Steven Harris

Sequential illustrator, N.Steven Harris, whose fierce, kick-ass protagonist, Jasira, from The Fringe book series is pictured here will discuss the Black presence in comics tonight on 90.3 WHCR between 8:30 and 10:30pm. Click here for the link to the live webcast.

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From “The Fringe, Book 1,” by N. Steven Harris

Andre Campbell

His affection for the Marvel Comics vision-impaired hero Daredevil a no-brainer, Baltimore-based cartoonist Andre Campbell is himself legally blind.  My mom recently hipped me to his work through a Washington Post Magazine cover story.

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One of Andre Campbell’s characters for Heritage Comics, Captain Goodwill.

Jennifer Cruté

Freckle-faced artist Jennifer Cruté is the muse for her own illustrated remembrances in Jennifer’s Journal: The Life of a Suburban Girl.  Her simply drawn characters have a nostalgic roundness that calls to mind Sunny, Honey and the early days of  Ebony Jr.

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A portrait of the artist as ‘burbs-to-urban transplant on the A train.

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A couple of years ago, Jenn Cruté presented me with my own likeness for my birthday.

Talkin’ Shop: N Harlem
February 3, 2009

Since April 2006, the boutique N Harlem New York has melded downtown polish with uptown panache, catering to the eclectic tastes of Harlem’s fashionable denizens.  Inhabiting two glorious floors on 116th Street, the shop stocks apparel and accessories for men and women as well as beauty products and home goods for stylish living.  Owners Nikoa Evans, Larry Ortiz and Lenn Shebar like to mix it up: established brands such as Rock & Republic and Armand Basi share space with emerging talent such as Omar and Goldspun.

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Photo by John Lei for the New York Times.

The inviting space has been the launching pad for many a product debut including Diane Da Costa’s Tai Lip Shine from Three Custom Color Specialists. This week, Dirty Dolls Lingerie premieres its line of naughty underpinnings for the curvaceous woman (30C – 44DDD) on Thursday, February 5th from 6 – 8:30pm.  Sticklers for perfect fit, the Dirty Dolls will be on hand for custom bra fittings.  Reserve an appointment online at fittings@dirtydollslingerie.com.

Enjoy a cocktail as triple-threat performer and Dirty Dolls muse, Carmen Barika stars in a burlesque show featuring the designs at 7pm. Be sure to RSVP: 212-961-1036 or info@nharlemnewyork.com.

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Photo by Good Behaviour; model, Carmen Barika.

N Harlem

114 W. 116 Street

Between Seventh and Lenox Avenues

New York, NY

212-961-1036