Archive for the 'Fashion & Style' Category

Last minute travel…

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

… is the only way to go! ūüôā

Everything has come together very nicely indeed, thank God.¬† I leave tomorrow morning for Mexico City (via Houston, Texas) and I’ll be flying back late at night next Tuesday.

Today was spent hurrying through the many errands that inevitably arise before a trip.¬† I got a new prescription for Cipro (I used up my stash on World Tour).¬† I printed out my boarding passes.¬† I got a haircut.¬† I’m not sure how I’m going to write the two essays due immediately after I get back, but I’ll think of something.

My happy story for the day happened right after my haircut near the Prudential Center.¬† As background, since last night I’d been looking around for an inexpensive travel guidebook to Mexico City.¬† Naturally, all the copies in the Harvard library system had been checked out, presumably by other students on break.¬† (Don’t even get me started on trying to find a Spanish phrase book in the system – that’s a story for Ryan!)¬† So this evening, after managing to catch the stylist at his only open¬†appointment for today (Kent squeezed me in while¬†the guy before me¬†was waiting for¬†his highlights to set), I wandered over to the Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center mall and browsed through the travel guide section.¬† As expected, I was loathe to pay the $30 (including tax) for a shiny new¬†Fodor’s or Frommer’s that I would only use for a week.¬† But then lo and behold, when I reached up and pulled down a random copy of the guide book I really wanted–the latest Lonely Planet Mexico–I found it marked with a “50% Off” sticker!¬† Turns out that one copy was discounted on account of being “damaged”, i.e., the spine was a little creased as you can see in the picture below (maybe it was dropped in the stock room).¬† Looks good to me!¬† And I’m sure it’ll look much more damaged when I get back in a week.

 Lonely Planet Mexico (27 Mar 2007)

Perfect timing, I say ūüôā

Forgiven; forgotten?

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

The most arresting article I’ve read anywhere recently is this feature on Imelda Marcos from this month’s W magazine.¬†

Imelda was of course the first lady of the Philippines for quite a while (1965-1986)¬†while her husband, Ferdinand, was President.¬† Outside of the Philippines she’s famous mainly for her staggering shoe collection, the cost of which¬†is probably some small fraction of the huge sums of money the Marcos’ are accused of embezzling from the national coffers (allegedly around five billion¬†dollars).¬† But the article is fascinating mainly for the richness of Imelda’s story, the people she knew (Saddam, Doris Duke and the Pope all make cameos)¬†and the vividness of her personality.¬†

Much more interesting than anything that could be written about Anna Nicole.  Go read and see for yourself.

I dreamt last night of my time in the Army, for the first time within memory.¬† It was a little¬†unexpected, and nice in a way to see those familiar faces again.¬† I wonder what everyone is up to?¬† Maybe this dream was triggered by¬†my fast-approaching return to¬†my lieu de naissance¬†ūüôā

Scrappy day

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Oh, scrappy day.

I was distracted enough to miss my 1pm.¬† And that’s the least of it.

I’m going back to bed.¬† Wake me in the morning.

I want to see a full, high-quality video of the Viktor & Rolf show.¬† Pretty unbelievable – I want to see these clothes on some covers and editorials (like that Dolce and Gabbana dress that’s everywhere right now).

Ouch.

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but when it’s cold my hands somehow become more prone to scrapes.¬† Today I managed to accumulate something like six or eight papercuts in four or five different incidents… by the end of the day I realised that my left hand was tingling from the cumulative effect.¬† In fact, I just washed my hands and each little cut is still smarting!

As a postscript to what I wrote about Ellen Degeneres yesterday, I forgot to mention that it made me happy to find that Ellen’s myspace page actually showed the pictures she had taken of her and Clint Eastwood during the Oscars – the ones she had Steven Spielberg take for her, which was a¬†hilarious gag to watch¬†ūüôā

Also, Ellen’s on the March 2007 cover of W magazine, in a glowing portrait by Michael Thompson.¬† I mention this more to note the scary/beautiful series of black-and-white portraits, also by Thompson, that accompany the feature.¬† I don’t know if it was intentional, but Ellen looks completely transformed in each of them, even though all the pictures feature the same hair and makeup.¬† When I first saw the magazine,¬†I was struck by this effect: in the first she looks¬†uncannily like Glenn Close, in the second she¬†perfectly channels¬†Princess Diana, and in the final poster-sized portrait she¬†reminds me of¬†Sharon Stone.¬† See the pictures here¬†and see what you think.

PS: Since I mentioned Princess Diana, and in one of seminars today we participated in a fascinating, real-time negotiation role-play about the expansion of Camp Babylon in Iraq (which in reality has come under mounting criticism since 2004 for the damage that US military operations have done to that priceless archaelogical site), this piece of trivia seems relevant.  In a nutshell: later this year, Prince Harry is being deployed to Iraq on a tour of duty. 

The possibility for tragedy is really too horrible to contemplate.

Footnotes, This Month in Pop Culture, Oscar Style 2007

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Yup, this is going to be a long one.¬† But I’ll make it as brief as I can.

Brief, unlike the thesis footnotes I’ve been writing.¬† Yesterday, I spent just over two hours working on one part of my draft, and it went like this:

First¬†five minutes:¬† I write a single, relatively unimportant¬†sentence to support a sub-subclaim I want to make: “A simple scatter-plot of the same data with best-fit line indicates that this pair-wise correlation does not appear to be overly influenced by outliers, as seen in Figure 2*[26].”¬†

Next two hours:  I write Footnote 26, which is currently over 500 words long, and takes up about three quarters of that page.

Conclusion: I’m never going to finish writing this…!!!

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever¬†felt this continuously press√©.¬† Every day it feels like I’ve committed some awful crime and I’m just doomed to waiting to be caught…¬† the awful crime being not having already completed my thesis, of course.¬† Quelle horreur!

Miscellaneous (American) pop-culture observations for February 2007, aka¬†“American Femininity” month:

(1) This seemed to have been a¬†month of¬†unsually high visibility for lesbians.¬† You had Ellen Degeneres hosting the Oscars, with her partner Portia de Rossi naturally making an appearance on the red carpet and at the after parties.¬† At the same Oscars, Melissa Etheridge performedI Need¬†to Wake Up“, a song she wrote for the film¬†An Inconvenient Truth, inspired she said by Al Gore’s message about the need to address climate change.¬† When the song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song a little later, Melissa jumped up, kissed her partner Tammy Lynn Michaels and in her acceptance speech proceeded to thank her “incredible wife Tammy” and their four children.¬† On a related note, I have to say that I was extremely confused when reading this article from People covering the birth of Melissa and Tammy’s twins back in October last year.¬† I still can’t figure out exactly what the quote “these are our first two babies conceived together” means, from a clinical/genetics perspective…

(2) The national spotlight this past month was also¬†cast a little further afield on motherhood in general.¬† Between Anna Nicole Smith’s unexpected death and Britney’s unexpected episodes, I’d say the outlook on all-American motherhood is looking a little tainted right now.¬† This is in¬†contrast to¬†last year, say,¬†when we had periods of focusing on women like Nancy Pelosi (raised five children before running for office at 47!) or Angelina Jolie and Madonna’s admirable adoption decisions.¬†(All this is in even starker contrast to last year’s focus on fathers, like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt who both became new dads.)

PS: And as a tenuously related bizarre pop culture “event” around women, let’s not forget¬†about NASA astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak…

I’m going to quickly wrap up with my Oscars¬†2007 style observations:

(1) I feel bad for the women who wore things that the American public is unattuned to understanding (never mind liking).¬† I noticed in going through the “vote: love it or hate it?” slideshow on People.com that I very clearly skew European when it comes to style.¬† I especially felt bad for the ladies who¬†chose Valentino (Anne Hathaway,¬†Zhang Ziyi, Cameron Diaz), whose signature ruffles and bows¬†are almost continuously reviled by the American public – although Cameron’s dress was admittedly not very flattering.¬† The same generally applies to people who wore this year’s Chanel (Kirsten Dunst, Penelope Cruz later in the night).¬† And of course I¬†found Meryl Streep’s red carpet Prada¬†ensemble both very witty as well as stylishly interesting (not to mention flattering), while most other viewers seemed to despise the look.

(2) In contrast, most voters seemed to love Liv Tyler in Marc Jacobs at the Vanity Fair party, which I did not.  So American. 

(3) I non-exhaustively loved:
On the red carpet: Jodie Foster in Vera Wang and Penelope Cruz¬†in Versace…¬†
At the Vanity Fair party: Katie Holmes in Armani Priv√© and Natalie Portman in Lanvin…
Everywhere: Jennifer Hudson, whom I thought looked stunning throughout her multiple dress changes.

Writing this was relaxing.  Now back to work!  *feels shoulder muscles tensing*

Eventfulness

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Yipes, we’ve had a pretty full day.

Surprise news from two friends.  Pretty surprising news Рsurprising enough that I felt glum and drained for a bit.

A surprise comment, much more pleasant of a surprise, although it made me feel a little bad too – this is why it’s easier to lavish praise than to give criticism, I think.¬† I’ll have to deal with it some other time though.

Almost all of my afternoon, evening and night was spent struggling with just one fiddly aspect of my dataset.¬† I feel like I just worked on a very hard, very long Ec problem set, and I’m *still* not done.¬†¬† What’s¬†particularly frustrating is that the cumulative 30+ hours that has been spent on just this single, very simple indicator will probably translate into an overlooked line in my thesis: “Data for per capita GDP measured in constant 2000 US$ was compiled for the respective country years (see details in Appendix II, Section b)”.

Arghgh.¬† Never mind that of course the countries I’m working with have terribly patchy, approximate¬†or non-existant economic/demography/weather time-series data.¬† And that the different sources I’ve had to reconstruct my data from have used¬†non-equivalent reporting choices¬†and naming conventions.¬† Plus of course I’m not exactly an expert on how to interpret and manipulate PPP, constant/current LCU and deflators to get exactly what I want.¬† Trust me, it was a lot harder than it seems.¬† More accurately, it remains a lot harder than it seems – I’m not even done because I simply cannot get the¬†figures for Afghanistan to look plausible so I’m clearly doing something wrong.

Meanwhile, in a much happier place (relative to where I am with work), Milan fashion week continues.¬† I haven’t had much of a chance to look through the collections, and womenswear is so impossible to keep abreast of anyway.¬†¬†Based on what I’ve seen so far,¬†I’m impressed¬†at how¬†Miuccia Prada translated the vision she presented at her menswear show into womenswear, given how difficult that vision was (I especially remember the ultra-fuzzy, slightly boxy, enveloping sweaters and coats).¬† And Cavalli really surprised me with the direction he’s taking, further and further away from what he’s known for – I’ll have to look at the collection again to decide whether I prefer¬†the new restrained and lady-like classicism to his more theatrical, super-glamorous previous work.¬† And Dolce & Gabbana!¬† Oh!¬† It was pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from that runway – super-strong, aggressively sexy, stunningly iconographic ensembles and dresses.¬† In contrast, the Gucci womenswear seemed much more subdued, and at first glance appeared to¬†be missing some of¬†the confidence of the menswear.

Time for bed.

Economics, Environment, Development and Fashion

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

As I was saying to Professor L. after class, I think it is impossible to comprehensively capture “real” economic costs and benefits related to either environmental change (whether degradation, use or exploitation) or to development projects and development, broadly conceived.¬† I don’t even think the approximations have any claim to robustness, especially when tested against the yardstick¬†of usefully guiding action or policy choices**.

Firstly there’s the idea that economic values are only relational and defined against a fast-moving dynamic (not necessarily an equilibrium)¬†that varies across time (snapshot, cumulative, absolute sum, discounted, cycles), space and frame of reference (level of economic aggregation, particular individuals).¬† And that’s just the easy stuff–say sale price of a plot of land, commodity prices, wages¬†or insurance premiums–and by “easy” I mean “already set by available markets” (even if completely arbitrarily–economists are well aware of the fuzziness around calculating GDP and the “stickiness” of prices and wages).¬† Then you move on to the ever more clearly philosophical and subjective measures: value of a life (life years, DALYs, healthcare costs, lost productivity, social networks), non-use values, “shadow prices”, impact of culture, identity, human security/suffering,¬†and the cracks in the universalist appeal of economic benefit/cost analysis widen, and widen irreparably in my mind.¬† And then of course economic value is fundamentally about exchange and perceived equivalence.¬† But you can never really hope to exchange experiences or make ephemera equivalent to other ephemera in a meaningful way – I have zero desire to be part of a forest dwelling tribe, nor do¬†these¬†forest dwellers¬†presumably desire to attend fashion shows and watch Ugly Betty.

* Fortunately, as the easy response to what Professor¬†L. thought might be the difficult consequence of my¬†critique of economics¬†(“Then what are we left with¬†to guide action or make decisions?”), I think the trick then lies in playing the existing language/philosophical/ideology game (shades of Wittgenstein) and perhaps shifting the rules to favor whatever outcome you prefer.¬† In the end, the same feature that I highlight as the key flaw in economic thinking–the reliance on “exchange” and “exchangability” (or substitution, equivalence etc.)–is also the marker of its dominance.¬† As the dominant ideology (notwithstanding Barthes’ insistence that ideology must necessarily/definitionally be dominant), “economics” is a broadly shared set of values (or “myths” in the language of Barthes, ie both sign and signified sensu de Saussure) that has permeated not just everyday life (“It’s the economy, stupid”; “Greed is good”; “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”), but more importantly the ruling classes.¬† So you work within the boundaries of these existing constructions (or just beyond that) to get what you want (or desire, in the reified sense).

** Further, my critique of economics is not really that it cannot accurately model human choices; in fact as a constructivist I think the relationship is primarily and increasingly reversed – the generalized “mythological” ideology of economics creates a paradigm where people are conditioned to “naturally” act as homo economicus,¬†akin to Orwell’s “Newspeak” if you like.¬† Rather, my critique is directed towards the trifold illusions of empiricist accuracy, universality (applicable to answering just about any practical question) and neutrality (objective, moral-neutral, non-ideological/political) that are figured (figur√©)or¬†gestured at¬†by “economics”.¬† I suppose most of this is structurally defined, and thus will¬†endure as long as the edifice of economics dominates thinking, discourse and (most of all) intuition.

At the end of the day, my sense is that the world is currently ruled by economists (and businessmen, yes generally men), which corresponds directly and naturally with the primacy of economics as an (invisible, hidden, unknown, disguised, ignored) ideology.¬† Lest we should forget, the world has been ruled previously by priests and philosophers, generals and artists, scientists and patrons of the arts, dandies and hippies….¬†each period marked by its own prevailing zeitgeist.

It is telling that a¬†1960s roundatable discussion and defense (not to mention analysis)¬†of fashion among Roland¬†Barthes, Henri LeFebvre and Jean Duvignaud was richly informed by concepts and issues from¬†literature, history, sociology, technology, morality and linguistics, whereas the various defenses of fashion in the popular film¬†The Devil Wears Prada (2006) reduce essentially to the economic value of an industry measured in¬†“billions of dollars and thousands of jobs”, with¬†brief¬†and empty supporting¬†allusions towards “art” and of the high-quality,¬†yet¬†almost-incidental editorial content¬†(not to be confused with editorial fashion spreads) in fashion magazines.

Ok, enough soapbox for now.  Time to post, and then see if I think I should password protect it or move it offline/elsewhere.

PS: There, I managed to cover all my academic focii at a single go (ESPP/Economics, and French).

Was that a vacation, sort of?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Feeling a touch deflated, after the excitement of speeding on the Acela Express¬†down and up the Northeast Corridor.¬† Two down, one shaky, three to go.¬† It’s all happening so fast now.¬†

On the return trip, the woman who sat next to me (some high-powered headhunter from a top HR consultancy) was fairly intimidating in her ceaselessly efficient productivity.  While I spent most of the 3.5 hours snoozing, eating dinner and doing a small amount of reading, she appeared to accomplish dozens of important tasks on her blackberry, cellphone, laptop, hardback book and miscellaneous presentation folders.  These tasks included (re)scheduling various meetings in different cities on both coasts for the next two weeks.  And all while appearing composed and highly competent the whole time.  She even had the small ziplock bag of roasted almonds (ie healthy power-woman snack) in her stylish (but all-business) minimalist sturdy leather totes in bright red and dusky orange!

I’m reminded also of Prof S.¬† *Impressed*¬†

Maybe I’ll feel more optimistic in the morning, after a nice long sleep.

PS:  I did greatly enjoy my meeting with the Prof today, even if it seemed a little surreal that I had spent all that time travelling (at their expense) for such a brief conversation that could have been mostly (but less personally) conducted over the phone.  And of course the setting was just lovely, and it was nice to catch up with HJ.

The New York runways

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

The first day of NYC menswear shows for FW07/08 were today and overall nothing terribly exciting happened. 

Rag and Bone presented the most tightly edited show (just 19 looks), with few missteps, I think.¬† I love their “Nelson” waistcoats, especially since¬†I had an almost identical one tailored¬†for me¬†two years ago.¬†

John Bartlett’s clothes had the best polished finish of the lot.¬† The Perry Ellis Signature show was really dull, and didn’t seem to have a sharp editorial point to make¬† And finally the Duckie Brown show displayed some creative potential with a few strong ideas (that one plaid coat comes to mind), but fairly poor execution overall (those suits!¬†ugh…) and a remarkable incoherence for just 26 looks (no, a couple of pop-color wigs, gloves and beanies are NOT enough to tie a show together).

Anyway, it’s not like we didn’t know that American menswear is one increasingly unadventurous (and poorly executed)¬†yawn.¬† Hopefully there will be something better to report over the next few days.

The ads in the¬†Adidas boutique¬†round the corner look suspiciously like the current (and long-running) Lacoste ads…¬† hmmmn.

I can now watch HDTV on my pc!  The quality is unbelievable!

Thursday is the new Friday.

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

I didn’t have any classes today, or rather I didn’t have any classes to shop today.

Instead I gave a rather intimate lengthy admissions tour, and then went to lunch with Ming at the Signet.  I hope we both make it past Monday, given that we both really want it now.

I’ve accomplished very little else, and yet (or thus) I’m feeling rather deflated and listless.¬† I know that probably means I need exercise, but I don’t really feel like it.¬† And I also did jog over to the admissions office this morning, which is better than nothing.

In other news, I went to Prof S. and successfully requested unrestricted swipe-card access to HUCE, so I can now spend even longer hours there through the weekend.  Joy!

In fact, I think I’ll head there now.

PS: Paris fashion week (women’s RTW FW07/08) starts today!