Saturday, February 28, 2009

I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You

I love a good love story. Whether the tale is told through novels such as The Bronze Horseman, The Time Travellers Wife or even the Twilight series (yes, I've read them all), on the big screen in movies like Gone With the Wind, Roman Holiday and Ghost, or through my own friend's trials and tribulations - I'm a romantic at heart.

This is dedicated to the perfect kind of love.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hello cupcake

Holy headrush, who needs cocktails when you can have sugar? Manhattan seems to be the unofficial town of cupcakes and I've had a bit too much fun trying out as many as I can get my sticky little fingers on.

Without further ado, the top five cupcake purveyors in town:

1. Sugar Sweet Sunshine - 126 Rivington St
This cute Lower East Side bakery, decorated with funky light fixtures and mismatched thrift-shop furniture, is renowned for its trademark little pieces of heaven - their $1.50 cupcakes. Best flavours: Pistachio and Spicy Pumpkin

2. Magnolia Bakery - 401 Bleecker St, at 11th St
If you're willing to wait in the line that seems to perpetually snake around the blue-awning corner, you'll be rewarded with delicious cupcakes frosted in pretty pastel colors. Best flavour: Hummingbird

3. Babycakes - 248 Broome St, btwn Ludlow and Orchard
Their radically wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free cupcakes are the yummiest in town - and you’ve got to love a place that sells frosting shots for a buck, mmm. Best flavour: Red Velvet

4. Billy’s Bakery - 184 Ninth Ave, btwn W21st and W22nd St
This Chelsea bakery, known for its moist, buttery cupcakes topped with to-die-for icing, are beautifully displayed with the retro charm of a family kitchen circa 1940. Best flavours: all of them

5. Buttercup Bake Shop - 973 Second Ave, nr. 51st St
The tiny bakery sports a retro 1950s look, with a pastel colour scheme and fake pressed-tin ceilings. Best flavours: Devil Dog and Lady Baltimore

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rose tints

With the world temporarily blinded by all things lovely and beautiful during the Fall fashion shows, and with a boyfriend modeling in those shows in Milan and London, it got me thinking about how much we don’t know behind the glamorous facade. Or how much we do know – but choose to ignore.

For a model, right next the drugs always on offer from agents and having to deal with seedy male clients who will assure you campaign status if you play up to their affections, there’s the relentless anxiety about weight and a compulsion to fit into the unreasonably small size of runway clothing - which is now even affecting the boys. While it used to be fashionable for male models to sport the six-pack with pecs and biceps, even they are shrinking before our eyes.

Picture this: a 6'3", 72kg male model is asked to try on a pair of pants at a Gucci casting…but he’s too big for them. How? Because the pants in question are a size 27. And so the mantra between the boys becomes ‘lose weight or you lose the jobs’ – if you thought all the anorexic hoop-la was just for the girls, you’re sadly mistaken.

Then there are the actual clothes that sashay down the runway on these gaunt looking creatures. They don’t just miraculously turn up in your favourite store a few months later you know. If you haven’t read Dana Thomas’s book, How Luxury Lost It’s Luster, let it be the next thing you pick up. It will change your view on Canal St, the LVMH group and the never-ending cycle that is fashion forever. One poignant point that will stick with me forever is when Dana talks about an assembly plant in Thailand that had seven children, all under ten years old, sitting on the floor making counterfeit leather handbags: "The owners had broken the children's legs and tied the lower leg to the thigh so the bones wouldn't mend. He did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play."

On top of this, there are the Asian factories (the same ones that put together bags for luxury brands whose owners insist they're manufactured only in Italy) worldwide that are collapsing at an extremely fast rate. Indians claim 700,000 clothing and textile workers have lost their jobs already and at just one single textile factory in Shanghai, 300 workers did not return after the Chinese New Year. Unfortunately the fashion carnage will get worse and the weak will get a lot weaker.

The whole world has been hit hard by the recession, but no industry more so than fashion because it is, and will always be, a luxury rather than a necessity - which means far too many people lose their jobs, including myself.

That's why it really pissed me off when I read Jamie Huckbody’s (Editor of Australian Harper’s Bazaar) most recent editor’s letter. He described the news headlines that scream Global Recession as boring, which to an extent they are, but he then went on to say the fact he’d just ordered two pairs of custom made Gucci shoes, two Vivienne Westwood suits and a stack of made-to-measure shirts worried him a bit because, how could he possibly pay off his credit card debt now that there are no banks to lend him the money? Is he serious? Doesn’t he realise that’s mildly insulting to many of his readers? It’s exactly this kind of attitude that is what’s wrong with the fashion industry.

But, no matter how many fake and soulless people are in this industry, no matter how many young models are taken advantage of and no matter how brainwashed we let ourselves become by luxury goods marketing, at the end of the day, no-one really cares because deep down we all just want to look pretty in beautiful clothes - and no-where is that more true than in New York.

Is it right that a US$1,200 Stella McCartney bag is marked up so humongously that it still turns a profit when it's on sale for a mere $160, four months later? Who knows - but it's something to ponder over your morning coffee.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Love Olivia x

Being a million miles away from my boyfriend in London, friends in Auckland and parents in Melbourne has gotten me thinking about letters.

Sure, Skype and Facebook have helped to keep me sane since I moved to New York, but I'm always so envious of my flatmate Julie when she receives letters and parcels in the mail with hearts and flowers drawn all over the pretty envelopes.

In a world where so many of us only communicate by text, telephone, email and even Twitter, the real thing is a prized asset.

Letter writing requires effort. Addresses have to be found, stamps bought, post boxes sought out, but mostly they are private, personal and intimate. They make you think about the love letters your great-grandparents sent to each other during the war, the pen-pals you had when you were in primary school and the long notes you wrote to your friends in Bio and Maths.

While your first love e-mail probably won't ring a bell, you'll always remember your first love letter (or in my case a poem penned by a 10-year-old whose mother then had his love for me immortalized in a poetry book - you know who you are), and you'll always cherish the Best Friends Forever letters written on Hello Kitty stationary when school feuds, family dramas and what-to-say-to-your-crush-at-lunch just got too hard.

An e-mail could never compete with intimate words written in personal handwriting, the excitement when something other than a bill arrives in the post box - and, there's no denying the appeal of Hermès and Tiffany and Co. stationary sets...

Excuse me while I try out my new found penmanship, keep an eye on the post Bruce.

An April 10, 1912-dated letter written on Titanic stationery

Lionel Trains confessed it was guilty of 75 years of male chauvinism after Caroline wrote this letter

Monday, February 23, 2009

Team Jen

Watching Jennifer Aniston present the award for Best Animation with Jack Black definitely wins the Oscar for most awkward and awful moment to sit through. I just wanted to jump through the screen and give her a great big hug.

Angie and Brad were sitting directly in-front of her just a few feet away, with the camera jumping from her to them and back every few seconds, presumably watching for some Brangelina reaction to her presence. She stumbled over her words while trying to 'act' her way through a few jokes with Jack, looking as agitated and distressed as Robert Pattinson in Twilight.

Wall-E won (obviously) and as soon as the Oscar had been handed over Jen grabbed Jack's arm, yanking him off stage as quickly as possible. However, a minute later she was back apologizing to the audience because she didn't realize she also had to present Best Short Animation. Oops.

She did look gorgeous though.

Goodbye to all that

Something that comes with closing down an office, is throwing things out.

It can actually be quite therapeutic, throwing out the tonnes of paper that has accumulated over the years, the mounds of cds of paparazzi images, the old floppy disks - of which the contents will be forever unknown.

But it was distressing when I had to face the magazines. The 15 years of Vogue (American and British), the 12 years of Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Nylon, Elle. You name it, we had it. Decades of it. And it all had go. It was heartbreaking, but I tried to make it as quick and painless as possible...until I got to Vogue.

I piled them on my desk, grabbed a coffee and started with July 1993. I flicked through each issue, ripping out anything I thought was too good to have disappear forever before I put them, year by year, into the recycle bin.

Here are a just a few (if I had my way there would be hundreds) of my favourite images from Vogue's 1999-2003 fashion pages.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Scarlet Fever

In the last two years I've become a bit of a hair chameleon. The thrill of the change is rather addicting - sitting there, scared like hell that you've made a mistake, but then loving the blow-dried new you once the scissors have stopped snipping and the foils have come off.

It's like the ultimate adrenaline rush for wimpy people, like me, who don't have the guts for sky diving, bungee jumping and other scary extreme sports.

I've gone from a mousey-brown, to platinum blonde, to a dark chestnut brown and then I chopped my longs locks off into a Katie Holmes-esque bob. I've tried to keep that interesting too, going from a short sharp bob with eyebrow skimming bangs (a little too helmetey for me) to a little longer, more casual, ruffled bob. In truth I could just be getting lazy - bobs are very high maintenance. So now I'm bored, once again.

The answer is me sitting in a chair at the Aveda Institute in Soho next Friday morning, to have my (now light brown) hair dyed red.

Why? In words of Vogue's Grace Coddington, herself a well-know redhead, "The great thing about red hair is that it doesn't matter how dully you dress. It's like a hat. It's the most fancy accessory you can think of".

While I wonder if anything redheaded will happen to me with my newly transformed tresses, the journalist in me knows I should be immune to the stereotypes that come with hair colour. No, I didn't have more fun as a blonde but I was taken less seriously, and I know people have funny ideas about redheads.
Redheads? Apparently they mean business. They're tough. They’re mean. They have a bad temper and are even a little mischievous and impulsive.

But whatever, now that I'm game it's just a question of what kind of redhead I want to be.

Uma Thurman as Posion Ivy in Batman red? Or Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! red? Hmmm...