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Potiche or Trophy Wife.  Just saw the French film and enjoyed it.  It is set in 1977 and has iconic stars or should I say legends such as Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

potiche

I like watching foreign films as it gives me an insight to the culture, food, fashion, lifestyle of a country without actually going there.  Of course, if I have a choice between visiting a foreign country versus sitting in a dark theater, munching on extra-calorie pop-corn and living life vicariously via celluloid, I will definitely opt for the former.

Like I said earlier the film is set in 1977 and although a light hearted comedy portrays a sort of “coming out” of women, an emancipation if you will.  It explores serious cultural issues such as embarkation of women’s journey in the corporate work place, sexual liberation of women, women in politics-strong women yet retaining their femininity.

Being a fashion fiend, I was particularly impressed by the clothes worn by the actors.  They were stylish, strong and sexy while still maintaining a sense of elegance and dignity.  The outfits resonated the sentiment of the era.  Liberation of women without sacrificing seductive style.  Women have tread a thin line when it comes to fashion, particularly working women.  As a practicing attorney and a full participant of the corporate world I subject myself to the daily dilemma of presenting a no-nonsense corporate image; an image of trust and reliability; an image not so distracting that my words are not heard but without sacrificing style and staying true to my gender.

The movie was forthcoming in such a context.  The outfits were form-fitted, accentuating the curves of the female body, yet maintained a virtuous decorum (wow that is one word seldom used in the context of modern fashion.)

For example a form fitted skirt was paired with a chiffon blouse tied at the collar with long sleeves; a mid-length skirt was seen worn with a thin fitted shirt, buttons open at the collar, thereby exposing the nape of the neck and leaving certain things to the  imagination of the viewer.  Such small measures of seductivity and provocation are so much more titillating than leaving nothing to the imagination.

guccigucci

As fashion is circular, I have seen designers take cue from the past this year.  Dresses continue to have the fun and the flirtatious element but some designers have juxtaposed tasteful accents.  Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2011 selection is an example.  Frida Giannini has a bow tie collar dress with full-length sleeves constructed in mounds of ravishing flowy fabrics.  She has models wearing a silk tie scarf with an elegant cashmere fur-collar coat.  Such outfits are demure yet suggestive.

So, the mantra to be repeated is “yes, you can assert your intellect, femininity and style without being a Potiche-Trophy Wife.”

My last post was cerebrally heavy so I want to make this a fun one!  A blend of heavy and light is always good for the soul.

solange azagury-partridge

Rings are not just an accessory but an extension of my mood.  They are tiny and understated yet expressive; coy yet bold; sometimes in full view and at other times play peek-a-boo.  They are not like other accessories, for example earrings that are there for all to see, at all times during the period the wearer wears them.  Not rings.  Rings are not blatant, they are not obvious, you cannot take them for granted.  They play hide and seek with the viewer depending on how expressive or inexpressive the wearer is.  They take on the personality of the wearer.  Dull or exciting…that is if for you to decide.

solange azagury-partridge

I talk with my hands.  I express with my hands.  When I want to make a point, my hands take on a definitive role and my ring expresses a purpose.  When I get excited, my hands are animated and flail all over the place with my ring going in circular motions in the air.  When my mercurial temper rises you can definitely see the violent flashing of my ring.  At such times my ring is in full view.  At other times, I recoil, I withdraw, I recede, I am pensive and my ring adapts to my mood like a chameleon and hides.

solange azagury-partridge

It is an extension of my mood, my personality, my emotions on that particular day, the specific hour and the precise moment.

Lately I have fallen in love with the whimsical rings designed by British born designer Solange Azagury-Partridge.  They are fun, quirky, unconventional, bold, striking and definitely a conversation starter.  The rings compliment my idiosyncrasies.  Now if only I had the dough to buy them, I would supersede the Disney version of an animated character!

 John Galliano was fired from the famed fashion house of Dior because of anti-Semitic remarks he made to a non-Jewish couple at a café in Paris.

john galliano

The comments were nefarious, wicked and unconscionable. They were disrespectful and showed an indifference towards the biggest genocide the world has witnessed.

 When Galliano made the comments, his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit allowed in France. And French law also makes it a crime to incite racial hatred. This law has been used to punish anti-Semitic remarks in the past. If convicted at trial, Galliano would face up to six months in prison and a hefty fine up to 31,000 Euros or $43,353 U.S. dollars.

 As a practicing attorney, fashion designer, and blogger, Galliano’s firing set the wheels of my trained legal mind in action. My brain started somersaulting, analyzing various theories of law while comparing and contrasting the laws of the United States and France.

 Would Galliano be prosecuted for the atrocious speech in the U.S.? Would the U.S. Constitution afford any protections to such blasphemous speech? Or would Galliano’s speech be considered “fighting words,” and unprotected by the First Amendment?

 Galliano’s was fired the same week when the U.S. Supreme court issued a controversial decision addressing First Amendment Freedom of Speech in the case of Snyder v. Phelps (the Westboro Baptist Church case). Picketers appeared at the funeral of a soldier who died in Iraq and carried signs that said “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “Thank God for IEDs,” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The Court once again confirmed the broad parameters of Freedom of Speech. Chief Justice Roberts explained, “Such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt. If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

 Although First Amendment protection is broad, it is not absolute. The seminal 1942 case, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, established a restriction on Freedom of Speech called “fighting words.” Under the “fighting words” doctrine, the government can prohibit speech that is directed to a specific person and causes immediate injury (e.g., emotional harm) or tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

If the Galliano incident occurred in the U.S., he would shout out the defense of Freedom of Speech until his husky smoker’s voice acquired baritonic levels. Of course, Justice Roberts, who issued the majority opinion in the Snyder case, would be the “poster Judge” for the whimsical and eccentric designer.

 Galliano would argue he was merely voicing an opinion, albeit a despicable one, but still an opinion; it was his expression; he was exercising his fundamental right of Freedom of Speech. And, if his words were merely “upsetting” or aroused “contempt,” his speech would be protected, just as in the Snyder case.

 But his speech could be punished if it amounted to “fighting words.” Galliano would argue that he made the comments in a relaxed environment at a café in Paris while having dinner. He had twice the legal level of alcohol in his system. If you see the YouTube video the slurring of his speech and the droopiness of his eyes are evident. There was no loud swearing in the universal language of love; no shattering of champagne flutes brimming with Moet and Chandon (no pun intended LVMH); no throwing of his Dior fedora at anyone; and no slinging of Roquefort fromage at the café patrons. No breach of peace occurred or was threatened, he would say.

 On the other hand, Galliano’s speech took place in France, a country bordering Germany where the persecution and murders of millions of Jews took place. The wounds of people have not healed and never will because of the heinous nature of the crimes.

 Imagine if such comments were made at a 5th Avenue Jewish Rabbi Center in New York City—the result would be a provocation of emotions leading to plates of rugelach being thrown at Galliano, thereby leading to breach of peace. Context matters, a prosecutor would say.

 It is a topic worth vigorous and open debate. We all have our opinions, and I am by no means justifying Galliano’s comments. I am simply analyzing them within the parameters of the mighty U.S. Constitution. It is a canopy of protections for the common man. Imagine living in a country where a mere opinion could lead to a beheading. It would be stifling and crippling to any form of expression. We are fortunate to have the protections and live the under the safe harbinger of U.S. Constitution.

 What is your opinion?

 

New York City, sky scrapers, luxe hotel rooms, peep holes, high-end orchid plants and beautiful people waiting with baited breath in anticipatory isolation.

The Bottega Veneta film called “Viaggio Notturno” or night journey is a stark film noir depicting all of the above and more.  The “more” being the signature Bottega Veneta woven leather satchels, luggage, valises, planners, eye masks, phone cases, over-sized shades and a luxuriating cashmere shawl carried by beautiful people residing in isolated hotel rooms.

Hotel rooms are intriguing. Hotels rooms have a character of their own.  They have millions of people enter and leave them.  The room does not take the personality of the resident; in fact the resident adjusts to the personality of the room.

People enter the hotel room with baggage. They enter not just with physical baggage, but also emotional baggage.  How many of us have felt a sense of isolation, excitement, fear, trepidation in a hotel room in a new city when traveling alone.  The hotel room accommodates our emotions and keeps them inside locked doors, resident after resident.

Most hotel rooms boast similar characteristics, whether a $100 or $700 room.  There is a common theme running through them.  The commonality of a hotel room, city after city provides comfort and a sense of familiarity for a resident on the road.

A traveler will come across a well-placed expensive orchid plant or an obligatory palm tree that can survive without much light, love or water depending on the room tariff.  There will be either luxurious fifteen hundred thread count sheets or less.  In the bathroom closet and if there is none then behind the door, there will be hanging two thick and plush extra-white robes with gold emblems embroidered on the pockets or thin yellowing robes, again depending upon how much was charged on your American Express card.  There are peep holes, blinds, and half eaten plates from last night’s room service.  All of the above will be consistent in a hotel room; only the residents will change.

Bottega Veneta expertly weaves a story of hotel rooms with its finely woven luxe leather products. A story of two beautiful people with baggage-Bottega Veneta baggage and emotional baggage.  There is anticipation, there is trepidation and there is angst.  The hotel room absorbs it all and provides a few minutes of respite to the weary to unwind, reflect and luxuriate in their Bottega Veneta luxuries.

India is on the global radar.  India is the “talk of the globe.”  India is Conspicuous!

It has gone from being the land of snake charmers, beggars, saffron robed sadhus (hermits) and the home of the “new” 7th wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal, to one of the fastest rising BRIC nations, boasting the top 15 richest people on the Forbes list and having an array of luxury brands forgoing opening stores in U.S. and Europe and courting and serenading India.

The tags have changed from the “third world country” to the “rising super power.”  All of a sudden the peaceful yogic and meditative nation has become an exploding power to reckon.

 masaba gupta

Fashion has come to the forefront with the rise of the middle class and increase in the disposable income.  Expedited globalization has increased the awareness quotient for international brands, fashion styles, the “it” bags, shoes etc.  There is an exponential growth of the fine taste of luxury.

masaba gupta

There is a boom of international brands such as Louis Vuitton who released a special edition Diwali dress to join in the jubilations of the festival of lights; Gucci who came up with a special clutch as the accessory to be carried with the traditional sari; Burberry, Christopher Bailey himself made a recent trip to India for a tete-a-tete with the who’s who of Bollywood; Dior; L’Occitane and of course the very flamboyant Roberto Cavalli to satisfy the ostentatious element of the Indian psyche.  After all, what is the point of all the wealth when one can’t flaunt it by wearing a theatrical Cavalli caftan!

anand kabra

 Indian designers have jumped on the fast speeding fashion Ferrari as well (no longer the term band wagon can be used for the speeding growth in India.)

Indian designers have made an effort to understand the “international” fashion market.  The fashion shows have increased.  The fall/winter, spring/summer concepts have been adopted and the runway shows are becoming artistic productions with Bollywood stars being lured to walk the ramp as “show stoppers.”  Famous musicians croon in the background in fashion shows as gangly and lanky models with “not so” quintessential Indian features slither on the runway with angry expressions on their faces.

The designers have learnt that they need to veer away from the traditional dresses such as the sari to cater to the global market.  They have grasped that they need to make their clothes reach out to the “much enamored by the West” masses of India if they want to compete with the infiltrating international brands. 

I understand that change is the essential element for all growth.  Stagnancy can only cause decay and eventually death.  However, as a much exposed fashion aficionado, I do have a bone to pick with the Indian designers.  I understand that they need to compete in the global market and venture outside the customary conventionalism.  However, simply aping the West is not the answer either.  Because then there is no uniqueness, no originality, no newness.  We already have the McQueen, McCartney, Balenciaga and Lanvin, we do not need a clone of them.  Anna dello Russo has done the cherry hat a million times, conjure up another accessory!  View the photos below, are they reminiscent of looks we may have recently seen…a deja vu, if you will!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few Indian designers who are unique and churn out awe-inspiring designs season after season.  They have stayed true to their unique signature designs and incorporated them with modernism for the global appeal.  My favorites are Sabyasachi, Masaba Gupta and Anand Kabra. 

I perfectly understand that we all seek inspiration from somewhere.  Even the masters such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo were inspired by other artists.  Nothing wrong with that.  Be inspired, but bring your true identity to your designs to make them unique.  Especially in fashion, uniqueness is a prerequisite, else it is “mass fashion.”

I usually do not do street style blogs as I do not find most people to be visually stimulating. Most try to look like clones of each other, in a maddening effort to conform to whatever the “it” look is of that season. No “X,” “Y,” or “Z” factor there!

However, after meeting William, I was compelled to write at least one street style blog (pardon my photography, as I am a klutz). I mean, how many times does one come across a chic, stylish checker enrolled in OTIS fashion school working at an uber organic store such as Whole Foods?

I like to buy at organic stores, even though it often has a dire effect on my bank account. It is not that I am a health freak or have an “oh-so elite” sensibility that I want my strawberries to be only organic and my Labneh (Greek yoghurt) to be made of hormone free, chemical free, only grass-fed, free-range cows (after all the negations, does it even qualify as milk?). What I find alluring at such organic stores is the uniqueness of products. They stock goodies from all over the world and that gives me the much-desired international flavor. Honey yoghurt from France–I like the sound of that.

But most things in life form a pattern. The generic ones have a pattern, and even the unique ones form a pattern. The issue then arises, if there is a pattern to unique, does it truly stay “unique,” or become generic? I know, it is a circular argument and my legal brain just went on a tangent. So getting back to where I was, when I go to the organic stores, I see a pattern there as well. One pattern is the fashion sense of the checkers. The customary sight at such stores is hippy chic! Long overgrown hair, no make-up, Buddha rings on the fingers, an OM tote lying under the cash register, crocs on the feet, and a heightened awareness of how adding 2 drops of Echinacea to your rhubarb ginger tea can make you in sync with your Kundalini.

In such instances, the first thought that comes to my mind is “groupies,” “extremists,” and possibly “weird.”

Therefore, when by serendipity I ended up in William’s row, I was shocked. The first thing that caught my eye was his handsome face and the oh-so-stylish glasses perched on his nose. He complimented my hair; I was shocked as most people lapse into an uncomfortable silence when it comes to my very short, cropped hair, unless I am surrounded by my savvy fashion friends. I knew it then and there that William was unique.

I complimented his t-shirt with the chest-sized red circle on it and his camel-colored jacket.  Of course, his t-shirt was from Opening Ceremony, my very favorite avant-garde store that I earlier blogged about. To add cherry to the frosting, the t-shirt was for a good cause. It was to benefit the Japan earthquake fund and was a limited edition piece.

His jacket was from Barneys, the ultimate destination for people who know fashion.

William was wearing the must-have accessory, a pair of turtle-shell framed glasses from Barton Perreira. As per recent statistics, wearing glasses is the sexiest accessory for both the genders (no longer a manrepellant).

I got to speak with William for a few minutes, despite the boring glares from his supervisor that I could feel on my back for taking up William’s time.

Yes, William is unique and I was proven right when he told me that he is enrolled in fashion school at the esteemed OTIS college of Art and Design. Stay true to yourself William and always live in style!

I’m not a contrarian, I just know I’m right—there’s a difference.” (Quote by Fran Lebowitz)

fran lebowitzfran lebowitz

We as a society have a fascination for individuals who are non-conformist, daring, defying-societal-norms, rule-bending. We may or may not like them or even approve of them, but there is a definite sticky factor to them that piques our interest, fascinates us and lures us to know more about them.

Some find them to be audacious, debauched, depraved and corrupting-the-fabric-of-moral-society kind of folks. A no-no for their children to have as role models.

Others like me, find them to be brave, fearless and gutsy. They dare to risk and they risk. They don’t just live life but live a Big life on their own terms–they are Unique.

Lebowitz is interwoven into the NYC pop-culture fabric, the same as Snookie is into the New Jersey pop-culture, for whatever that is worth!

A Jew by birth, expelled from school due to general “surliness,” picked up by the quintessential lord of pop-culture Andy Warhol to write for the Interview magazine and thereafter acquired various titles such as the sardonic American author, writer with the acerbic wit, social commentator and among other titles, the most-stylish by Vanity Fair magazine. She has her own documentary named Public Speaking, directed by none other than the prolific director Martin Scorsese.

She is a true Contrarian who has lived life on her own terms. She is 60-years old and yet an enigma to the die-hard pop-culture followers. A full-boiled egg that all want to crack and cannot get enough of, but nobody has successfully peeled it yet.

A recluse by nature, yet the cynosure of all eyes in the high echelon of the New York culture scene (Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair is counted as one of her close friends). She hobnobs with the cultural elite, the nouveau riche and the intelligentsia (yes, she has her own dedicated table at the Waverly Inn). She is photographed for glossy magazines, has journalists scampering for an interview with her to enhance their resumes and has an IMDb site dedicated to her (isn’t that the final stamp of being a celebrity!). Despite such high exposure, that another celebrity would only get after multiple visits to the jail, a clothing line for Target and a stint at Betty Ford Clinic, little is known of her personal life. She is 60-years old and yet people continue to speculate about her sexuality and her sexual preferences. Truly bewildering.

She is unruly. In this politically correct “smoke free,” “ban on smoking” society, she smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and in fact locked horns with Mayor Bloomberg after the ban on smoking in restaurants was enforced in NYC.

She defies cultural norms. A woman, but has never been photographed wearing a skirt or a dress. Her signature attire is the manly men suits tailored at Savile Row. What can I say, she knows style!

She is quirky. She drives a 1978 checker cab, true to the “yellow” spirit of NYC. I am sure the cabbies are proud of her.

She non-conforms. In this world of social media and internet marketing, she does not own a Blackberry, iPhone or iPad and prefers to write the old-fashioned way with a pen on a legal pad. Oh the horror of it, how dare she!

Yes, she is Unique. She has a devil-may-care attitude. She is confident. Most importantly, she believes in herself–she believes in herself even if she is not right!

She inspires me to believe in myself, to be confident despite my quirks, eccentricities, whims and idiosyncrasies. She should inspire you as well.