Life, Sounds, Films, Trends, Wardrobe, Palette, Inspiration, Love
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
LIFE: Check us out: We've moved!
We've moved the blog and site to www.readmuse.com where you will find more regular posts, essays, videos (coming soon) and other fun things. The site is still a work in progress, so please be sure to email your feedback (your thoughts, likes and dislikes) to us at email@example.com.
We've been hard at work on our redesign, updating our content management system and other fancy Web things. Due to technical difficulties, it's going live a few days later than planned. But, please be sure to check back with us next week.
Mildred Loving, an often overlooked and accidental civil rights pioneer who was banned from Virginia after marrying a white man (she was black), passed away on May 2 at age 68. You may have read her backstory in a history class or two in school (depending on where you're from): she married Richard Loving and was arrested a few days later for violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act. They avoided jail time by promising never to come back to the state. She in turn took her case to the American Civil Liberties Union who took it to the Supreme Court whose justices overturned Virginia's racist law. Read more about her here.
We love The Roots' searing political lyrics on "Rising Down" because it's substantive and taps into a lot of feelings that come up among our friends when we discuss the election, war and life in general. On a completely different level, we're feeling their current single, "Rising Up," for its obvious D.C. go go references. For those of you who don't know, go go is a regional sound that's pretty much exclusive to the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area. It overlaps with Miami bass in that they both share a drop-it-like-it's-hot kind of sensibility. Musically, go go is quite different from the Miami sound, though, because the drum patterns are much grittier and raw in a D.I.Y. sense (think kitchen pots and pans). So we had to include a few old favorite go go tracks for a little study.
1) The world of music production is largely dominated by men. But Santi White aka Santogold has been holding it down for the alternative chicks ever since the early '00s when she wrote and produced music for Res' "How I Do" , an album we loved. She's also produced for M.I.A. and co-written a song with Mark Ronson for Lily Allen.
2) She's the anti-Beyoncé. Not that we don't love our R&B divas too. But it's kind of refreshing to see artists like Santi, who Björk enlisted to tour with her las year, and Janelle Monae give us unique point of views that don't necessarily involve sex on a platter or trifling men who won't pay phone bills.
3) She's persistent. Santi, who once worked A&R for Epic Records, has been screwed over by the music industry more than a few times (hence the name of her former punk band, Stiffed, which we also were digging). Lucky for us, she persevered through the bull-ish.
WHO: Tina Chadha, a writer and editor based in Manhattan WHY: The wide/slightly flared leg jean looks a little more fresh than skinny jeans at the moment.
WHO: Three sales staffers at Dover Street Market in London WHY: Because whenever we see red tights on the street it looks like the wearer is trying way too hard. The girl rocking them on the left is one of the few we've seen pull the look off in a nonchalant kind of way.
Could we one day see black models appear in Vogue as frequently as their white counterparts? No telling. But the brand is taking a step in the right direction by addressing the dearth of diversity in its pages with its Italian edition. The Independent reports that Vogue Italia's July issue will mostly feature black models shot by Steven Meisel. That's thanks in no small part to the movement Bethann Hardison started to bring attention to the problem. Editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani decided to address the issue, "Because nobody is using black girls. I see so many beautiful girls and they were complaining that they are not used enough." Here's hoping that it actually promotes long-term change instead of flavor-of-the-month trendiness.
WARDROBE: Yet another reason why we need to go to Japan
We just got back from a very short trip to London and stopped by Dover Street Market, the retail project/wonderland of all things cool, obscure and edgy owned by Rei Kawakubo. While browsing through the bottom floor we happened upon several racks filled with these amazingly constructed skirts, dresses, jackets and coats, some embellished with embroidered and brass spiders. Others had rows of matte paillettes. We wanted it all and made a mental note to find the brand, Undercover Co., Ltd. when we returned to New York. Sadly, the line, designed by Jun Takahashi, who has a huge cult following and store in Japan and earned impressive reviews when he showed his spring collection in Paris, is not sold anywhere in the U.S., which sucks for us. Surely, some of the city's cool emporiums like Opening Ceremony or Kirna Zabete could hook a girl up by buying Takahashi's goods? Here's a pic of the coat that set our mouths salivating and a few other looks we like. The photos really don't do the clothes justice though.
As long as we can remember, we've had a soft spot for cupcakes. We can break down the city by its cupcake offerings. For example: West Village (Magnolia Bakery), SoHo (Dean & Deluca), Hell's Kitchen (Cupcake Cafe) and the list goes on and on. Well we're psyched to have a new spot to add to our mental inventory, the Lower East Side pastry shop, How Sweet It Is, which was started by friends Beth Pilar and Ellen Sternau. We're planning to indulge in their red devil cupcakes this weekend.
H&M just announced that Rei Kawakubo, the woman behind Commes des Garçons, will design a capsule collection for the brand that will hit stores this fall. "I have always been interested in the balance between creation and business. It is a dilemma, although for me creation has always been the first priority. It is a fascinating challenge to work with H&M since it is a chance to take the dilemma to its extreme, and try to solve it", she says in a statement.
Rei is the designer whose work influences nearly all of your favorites. Remember that controversial Marc Jacobs show that started two hours late last September? The clothes? Influenced by Rei. And that's just one example of many.
Had an "I love New York" moment today when we went to Jhumpa Lahiri's reading at Barnes and Noble at Union Square. She was there to read excerpts from her collection of short stories, "Unaccustomed Earth." The third floor of the place was entirely full--like, can hardly breathe and it's hard to see past the heads in front of you kind of full. But despite the cramped conditions, people looked genuinely psyched to be there, listening to her read. Some had looks of squinty-eyed concentration. Others, literally had smiles on their faces. But overall, the crowd was mostly young, spanning college age to late 30s, the same age group accused of contributing to the demise of newspapers and magazines and other forms of words on paper. The crowd was also incredibly diverse. It was the polar opposite of the mostly older, white group we're accustomed to seeing at readings from authors at Lahiri's level (that is, the Pulitzer Prize winning level). We walked out of there feeling happy to see so many different kinds of people excited about a book.
If it weren't for all of the commotion surrounding Mariah Carey and Madonna's upcoming albums, we would have forgotten that major record labels still exist. It's hard out here for a rock, pop or R&B star to make money in music these days. People aren't exactly running to Tower Records to buy albums anymore. Oh wait, Tower Records went out of business two years ago. The record label business can be especially brutal for new artists. That's why we're feeling a mixture of happiness and trepidation about the fact that Janelle Monáe, who we've gushed over on this blog before, just signed a deal with Sean "Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records. Big Boi will be co-executive producing her new album "Metropolis" (happy), but she'll also be in a stable that includes the boringly over-sexed MTV reality group, Danity Kane (sad). Fingers crossed, she'll be able to hold on to her singular point of view in Puffy land. We look forward to hearing the new music and seeing her perform at Blender Theater this Thursday (click here for details).
How inspiring was Barack Obama's speech today? The idea of race in America is an incredibly complicated and loaded one. But we love that he tackled it so directly and honestly. His speech felt like a definitive political and cultural moment. And we're not just saying that because of the gang of emails and text messages we got afterwards.
We usually can't be bothered with celebrity clothing lines but made an exception for Chloe Sevigny who has always had an innate, uniquely cool sense of style. The first two words that came to mind when we peeped the look book for her spring collection with Opening Ceremony is the phrase, "do you," minus the eye-rolling and sarcasm that normally accompanies it. The clothes look like they came out of her own closet in that they all have a certain specific-yet-nondescript, non-trendy progressiveness about them. The outfits also remind us of early Sassy magazine fashion spreads (she was an intern at the mag). This striped shirt dress is our favorite of the group.
Between Janelle Monáe and Stacey Epps, Atlanta is quickly replacing London as our favorite source of new progressive soul. Her single, "Floatin," gives us a mid-to-late 90s feel. We're thinking of Pete Rock and CL Smooth when we hear this.
Friends tell us the Whitney Biennial is "underwhelming" this year. But we're going to check it out anyway. But we're even more excited about heading downtown to Deitch Projects afterward to make like Mos Def and Jack Black in "Be Kind/Rewind" and film our own boot-leg movie. While the idea of using an art exhibit to plug a movie sounds sketchy on paper, we love the DIY "sweding" concept--mainly because it reminds us of those amusement park make-your-own-music-video booths we used to go to in high school.
Alber Elbaz, one-time designer for Yves Saint Laurent, has really hit a groove. He can practically do no wrong in the eyes of the fashion world's opinion leaders. We weren't that crazy about the turtleneck dress he opened up his fall 2008 collection with. But we love everything that came afterwards. Among the collection's cooler aspects, his treatment of ruffles, which can be annoyingly girly in the hands of anyone else. Elbaz used strips of fabrics to make the idea look clean and modern. (photos from Style.com)
Katoucha, one of the first black models to achieve international fame, was found dead in the Seine river yesterday. She had been missing since January. Originally from Guinea, she's probably most known for her runway work with Yves Saint Laurent. Her career began with Lanvin, where she worked as a fit model she later got her big break on the runway with Thierry Mugler in the 80s. She was awful an activist, speaking out against female genital mutilation and talking about her personal experience with the ritual in her memoir, Katoucha, In My Flesh.
SOUNDS: Music videos are becoming cool again: Okay, well at least one video: Erykah Badu
We love this video because:
A) It takes us back to 1998 when Erykah Badu released the clip for "Bag Lady," which was a really clever riff off of Ntozake Shange's book and play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf: A Choreopoem. It was so smart and just plain good.
B) It takes us back to a time when we used to love channel surfing through BET and MTV to see what new music videos were released each week and talk about them with our friends. It's no secret the videos shown on major networks are lamer than lame.
C) The song is fire in a low-key kind of way. Her entire new album, "New Amerykah" makes us think of Alicia Keys' "As I Am" in that it's not necessarily breaking new sonic ground, but plays to her strengths: soulful, spaced-out (for more spacey things that we like, read our Balenciaga post below) music. She also seems to meld the narrative approach she took with her second album, "Mama's Gun" with the jam session quality of her third, "Worldwide," which is a smart move considering that the last album made us wish that we were hearing it live rather than on a stereo.
(And random silly question: When did Erykah go and develop thighs and a booty? Remember when she used to be all bony? She's giving Beyoncé a run for her money. We're not mad.)
WARDROBE: The highlight of Paris fashion week: Razor sharp
Gabbing with a friend who's in the trenches of Paris Fashion Week, our conversation turned to how lackluster fashion has been looking for fall 2008 (yes, even in Paris). Of all of the collections that have shown there so far, she says Balenciaga was hands down the best. And after taking a look through all of the shows posted at Style.com, we have to agree. We love Nicaolas Ghesquière's attention to line and the space age-yness of it all. The opening series of cocktail dresses are how we imagine guests dressing for Truman Capote's Black and White ball, if it took place in 2040.
WARDROBE: The Milan collections: A really big deal
The Prada runway shows (like most of the others in Milan) have always been notoriously white. Miuccia Prada is also one of the fashion world's definitive directional designers, an industry leader. When she makes a statement, other designers follow. So sadly, when she began showing her clothes on a series of young, wide-eyed, blank-faced Eastern European models, it began a trend in fashion that made it hard for girls who didn't fit that mold to get work. So the fact that she cast model Jourdan Dunn in her fall 2008 show is a huge deal. The last black woman to walk a Prada show was Naomi Campbell. And that happened in the 90s, quite a long time ago. Let's hope more designers follow.