Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rico Lebrun's Costume Art

 I knew the artist Rico Lebrun (1900-1961) as a student at UCLA.  Articulate, he learned English by reading and re-reading Moby Dick, and Melville's urgency and grandeur was in Rico's talk and imagery.   To my surprise I find currently on Ebay a drawing of the costumes he designed for Camelita Maracci's ballet Circo di Espagna, New York 1951.   Clearly form does not follow function, for these drawing do nothing to let the body convey suppressed feeling or achieve meaningful shapes.   There is no music here.  Instead, the fashions of the pretty senoritas have taken on the raw emotions of the bull-ring: fear; anger; the need for protection; defiance of vulnerability with decorative patterns; doom, for in the bull-ring there must be a death.

Women for Bull Ring Scene

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Designer at Sea

Harken Performance Wear
Dawn Moore enjoying being here
Dawn Moore designs clothes for one of the world's largest sailing and yachting hardware companies, Harken.  Her team performance technical  gear is worn by athletes who are expected to defy the forces of watery nature, compete, and look good. This means clothes must be waterproof yet breathable and fit to accommodate spontaneous and rapid movement while remaining comfortable.  And for good measure all designs have to be confined to four colors: red, navy, khaki, and charcoal.   But limitations focus the creative mind by uncompromisingly pointing to what must be resolved.  Educated in London, "I've traveled and surfed the world. I love putting a slightly contemporary spin on my work while keeping true to the beauty of the ancient island cultures."  She spent over an hour with us exploring.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pilgrims and Pilgrimage

Jacob Zakaria, Designer
Boccaccio (1313-1375) in Italy and Chaucer (1343-1400) in England advanced our literature by creating tales from common life about people traveling to inspirational, holy places.  They wrote stories about  pilgrims "on the road" to somewhere special.  Jacob Zakaria, fashion designer, was asked: What do you do when you need inspiration, when the juices are dry?  "Every year I go to Art Basel in Miami Beach Florida."  Is it to find shapes from new art, or glean from snippets of conversation phrases that ignite inner poetry?  Reminding us that fashion is a down-to-earth activity [the word comes from the Italian facere=to make], Jacob states: "I want to see who is wearing what."

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Mikayla Shaffer came into the bookstore with her dad Edward to find a book for the holidays.  Appropriately shy and yet curious, she said: "I love drawing."  When asked what do you like drawing, what inspires you she explained: "one day dad was working with cartoon characters and a figure caught my eye and I drew a dress. "  As it happened, dad had a picture of the dress in his phone which he proudly sends us.  Mikayla is 7 years old.

Daughter and Dad
"I love drawing"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What it Takes

For six years Eric Puestow has been with Joe's Black Book, a recruitment and consulting firm that has helped Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Lagerfeld. A graduate from Florida State University, I asked him what's the most important skill necessary to succeed.  He answered with easy certainty: "Fire in the belly, tyrannically going after everything you don't know, and keeping hungry to learn."  Here he is buying Fashion for Profit to help him further understand the apparel industry's distinctive way of thinking as suggested by this book's ability to explain procedures and the language of fashion.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fashion Statements

"The amazing aspect of fashion is that it is more beautiful than the beautiful: it is fascinating.  Its seductive capacity is independent of all judgments."

Jean Baudrillard

Monday, December 12, 2011

Body Language

Mosaccio, Before and After

Why the current fascination with clothes, with dressing-up, and fashion?  Imagine a time when we had no clothes.  In the Old Testament our nakedness was appropriate for the garden of Eden, but in one bite of an apple shame descended with clothing, as Adam and Eve left their first home and joined worldly existence.  Garments as sewn fig leaves became the necessary adornment for "going out."

In the most famous painting of the expulsion from paradise, Mosaccio captured the emotions of guilt, loss, and pain.
The church authorities of the Carmelite Order in Florence not satisfied with the artist's use of hands to cover nakedness, ordered fig leaves [symbols of femininity and abundance ].

Throughout the history of fashion a charming dialogue has taken place between naked freedom and clothed civility, both positive virtues-perfect in our "no fault age". 


Friday, December 2, 2011

How different do you want to be? The New Naive

A recent issue of Viewpoint, a magazine "exploring the way we will live" predicts our aesthetic future.  "Mixing styles and transcending genres with a childlike disregard for the rules, a new school of illustrators and designers is rediscovering the expressive power of naivety.  The handmade is combined with the digitally designed, the real and the unreal."   Here are some of the creations of Louise Gray from Britain that are reminiscent of dressing-up at an 8 year-old birthday party.  What's missing? Laughing faces and jumping around.

Glamour is where glamour goes

Dana Mathers loves celebrities and they love her dresses.  Can't tell who's who? Ray, the company's vice-president of communications came to the bookstore this afternoon to bring lots of magazines and books to Australia. "We'll be back in two months, this is Dana's favorite store in the whole world."
With Eva Langoria

Why can't my dye house produce the Pantone colors I need?

Monique [on the right] and friends

A few days ago Monique, a designer in Los Angeles, came into the bookstore saying: "she bought from me the Pantone book of colors for home and fashion but the dye house she uses doesn't produce the exact Pantone colors.  Why?"  Not being sure of the answer, I wrote to my friend at Pantone in New Jersey and asked him what should Monique do?  Here is his answer:

"Tell her that on the back of every swatch card there is a URL for This is a joint website of Pantone and the
dye stuffs manufacturer, Clariant. As long as she purchases a swatch card
and has the UPC code on the back, she will be able to access the formula
we use to achieve this color. This information will help even if she does
not use Clariant dyes.
If this doesn't help, please forward my contact information to her and I
will assist her directly.

Hope this helps.

What did she do?  Changed dye-houses.