Thursday, May 3, 2012

Press and Fold: (Really) Lost in Translation

                                         The Issey Miyake 132.5 in Minami-Aoyama: How did I
                                       manage to shop here if I couldn't even work the i-Pad look books?
                                      Origami dress: not for everyone but could change the way we pack.


Every garment perfectly flat packs into a square. Who woulda thunk?

TOKYO----Being an Issey Miyake fan dates me but after a long hiatus of not being a customer, I made a new Miyake jacket purchase last week at the Issey Miyake 132.5 store conveniently located next to Yohji Yamamoto for whom I have never stopped being a customer. Nothing from Miyake has excited me in maybe 20 years because other brands got in the way but an exhibition last month at Tokyo Midtown's Design Sight museum inspired me to re-examine the brand.

The exhibition was a retrospective using Irving Penn's photographs. While viewing it, I found myself saying any one of the following phrases--- "Hey where is THAT jacket/top/coat of mine?", "Oh I should have bought that when I saw it in --New York, his store, Tokyo, Diane B, Charivari, etc..", Ïf I wore that today it would STILL look good.." "What happened to my Issey Wind Coat?" Ï KNEW I should have just lived on toast for a week to buy that scarf..." I thought THAT SHOULD be signs of a good thing. Clothing that still looks timeless after 20-30 years HAS to be fabulous.

(I'm not sure but I think...) 132.5 was started in 2008 and I only noticed the shop in Aoyama last year partly because it is in an ugly brick building next to a parking lot. (Yohji also blends into that particular parking lot and I can never find it despite going there a few times a year for many years)

The line seems to use only one type of high tech all-weather fabric (it's Japanese, remember?) which is a by-product of recycling. Unlike the popular Pleats Please which also packs flat but is 2 dimensional, 132.5 opens into a three dimensional garment thanks to buttons in strategic places and a type of computer algorithm that allows designers to cut a pattern and pre-pleat or fashion the garment with folds, then permanent press every studied crease. From a production manager's point of view, I can only say, "I don't think we can make it in China and I don't think it's gonna be 10 bucks a garment including hangers and shipping...AND I don't think we'll be able to find a pattern maker...."

So based in that premise and because I don't want look like a mainland Chinese fashion victim, I bought a jacket and will test it when I travel to Hong Kong next week.
A wonderful German woman who may be the world's greatest packer, taught me to use zippered cases to flat pack and organize everything in such a way that "You don't have to unpack..."

I don't think I'm going to be wearing the origami dresses on my next trip to the supermarket or to walk the dog but I think the trousers and jackets will look great with 'more normal'' pieces in fabrics like silk jersey, cotton, linen, etc..
If this 132.5 passes my test, I may not have to pack...or unpack.

Before I close, I leave you with an adventure in Japanese language studies:
Part of reading lessons is the all-important menu which is usually in Katakana (for slang and foreign words). My lesson yesterday was reading a quasi-'French"" menu which had the requisite BLT, Tuna and Tomato sandwich, etc..
But that's not the joke.
When I got to "Daily Special" (in traditional Japanese) which I read as "Pura Do-Ri Zu-Ru" (in Katakana) I was stumped....My teacher and I arrived at the word "Plat du Jour..."
Her explanation: Kitty-san, that is Japanese pronunciation of French words...

But that's not the joke either. The special at a French restaurant was...Wait for it: Spanish Omelette.
Her explanation: Ah, that is only Spanish-style omelette but restaurant is still French.

Nice. Truly international.
Arisugawa Park, Tokyo

TOKYO---After a year and last night's unsolicited twelve-hour sleep, I have decided to revive my blog today. I say that every year but life DOES get in the way and I have become so far behind in technology that I'm worried about my survival. I didn't even recognize my own blog.

Anyway, let's start with life in Tokyo which is as close to perfection as anyone can get. Everyday I walk through this beautiful park to get into town. The Japanese are so civilised and being in their parks is such a joy--no screaming, no dog shit, no being hit by balls, no liter, no running, no noise even when a group of 20 Japanese adults and children are picnic-ing....except when there is a group of five Australians. THEN you have enough noise to destroy your perfect park experience.

And let's not even discuss a quiet walk down my street until....I reach the housing for the Chinese Embassy  and hear screaming and yelling (in Chinese, moshirong!!) from the dormitory. Perhaps they found a Japanese dissident under one of the beds? 

The Japanese have been taught to be polite and restrained in public and my Japanese friends claim to be quite animated at home..."We scream!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

LOOS-ING IT

HONG KONG---Unlike the 1.999 billion people who tuned into the royal wedding, my husband who is British (and not just- plain-British -but -Old- Etonian-British), seemed not to be remotely interested. Growing up in a historical city like London makes him take landmark buildings for granted. Until a few years ago, he had never set foot in places such as Westminster Abbey, founded by Edward the Confessor in 1066. He is 50, born and raised in London. (Me: You've NEVAH been to Westminster? Him: No. Maybe because well, it's always just THERE.) He has also never been to Buckingham Palace while I go every summer for one exhibit or another. If it's not the Queen's dresses, it's the garden, etc....

So when the currently-happy royal couple went to sign their marriage documents in a 'room from the time of Edward the Confessor," I was impressed and he wasn't. (this was the room at the back of the altar where no cameras were allowed)

Me: Wow--I wonder what's in that Edward the Confessor Room...I bet it's really something!
Him: It's probably come scuzzy room or old office that holds vestments and crap. Maybe there's a loo in there. Mind you, I don't know how she's gonna go in that dress. I know for sure there is someone in THAT church who is dying for a pee since they had to wait so long.

Now I remember what he said when we went to Eton:
Me: (touching the desks) Wow--it must have been something to sit on these desks with all that history from the 14-1500s....I bet the wood and graffiti have lots to tell.
Him: Can you imagine centuries of germs festering in those things? Kids fall asleep and drool, wipe their noses, stick all sorts of things...
Me: If you could kill germs the way you kill romance....(we'd be living in a villa in Monaco now)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

WHEN ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH

Today's quote: If beauty is a 10, nine of it is dressing.

HONG KONG ---People often ask me why I buy multiples of certain things such as Roger Vivier buckle shoes, Alaia flats,Belgian shoes, Kotur Wallace and Anya Hindmarch Ebury bags....The reason is that they work with my lifestyle and my style of dress. But sometimes I have bought them knowing they didn't work and I bought by default (ie I was suckered!!)


This is me and Tallulah Butthead II in HER DOG HOUSE in Hong Kong. Yes. When people ask me, "Are you in the doghouse now/tonight?" I answer "Yes!" Literally. (See? The bitch is asking me to get off her sofa) Speaking of.... I have two of these silk Dries beaded tops. A glitzy one for blingy Hong Kong and an emerald green one in Tokyo to match my glow when I turn green from radiation.
NOW HERE is the root of all evil dressed in Swarovski crystals and satin finery (badder than a bad dog or bad robot) ....An animal (print) walks among us. Although I love their leather and patent shoes, my relationship with RV satins (definitely not the RVs Bible-reading and gun-toting America travels in) is like divorce for a serial monogamist: Just like divorce, the first was painful and expensive and the succeeding marriages were just expensive.

NOW THESE TWO I LOVE!!! Just like a co-dependent, I bought these two pairs knowing how painful the first pair was. My reason? Or rather the shop girl's retail logic, "They are the last pairs and (wait for it...) they are YOUR SIZE. After this, Out of stock la..."

Should I buy these two even if the last one hurt me?
(And here is why you end up doing multiple purchases or end up falling in love again for whatever reason, just don't charge me for it)
"Yes because this is a completely different style (or insert name of new love interest here). You have room at the sides." (sometimes just having a room will make people happy)

They have indeed turned out to be really comfortable, practical and beautiful...Something like my relationship with...ME!!

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A funny thing happened to us at the HK Dog Rescue. For some reason, after making a trip by taxi, MTR and on foot, we arrived at the HKDR kennels not only not to be welcomed but to also walk away with the impression that we did not deserve to get a dog. Hmph!!

The other night, a jeweller told me that the famous Paris jeweller JAR (Joel A Rosenthal) was not really a snob as most people think but someone who is particular about who he sells to knowing he does not need to compromise or put up with having to sell keyrings.

JAR has been known to turn down some of the most famous people for whatever reason.

I guess these clients felt the same way I did at the HKDR.
One of my greatest dreams is to own something by JAR but I don't think that's going to happen having been turned down at the HKDR, a low point in the food chain.

The Fourth F--Fukuya

HONG KONG--The thing about a place like FUKUYA is that I can't look for photos on Google seeing as I don't even know where to look except maybe in Japanese Google which is too advanced for me. I can walk there from my flat but I can't give anyone clear directions. As part of my lessons, my Japanese teacher asked me to give her the directions in Japanese. I told her I couldn't manage it because I couldn't even give them in English. "But why don't we just do directions to the American Club? That I can do..."

I found FUKUYA because I never leave my neighborhood except to go to Yohji or Uniqlo in Ginza (and that is a day trip). It happens to be 'on the way to the American Club." Fukuya is my neighborhood beauty emporium that sells top end Shiseido (Benfiance, Cle de Peau, SKII), Albion and Kanebo products. The closest I can compare it to in terms of service and sales is Zitomer or Clyde's, both on the Upper East Side in New York. It is similar to those two places because a) it serves mostly the neighborhood and b) the sales people seem to be long serving employees (ie not contractual). But that's where the similarity ends.

Fukuya has several points better than any store I have been to:
1) There is no hard sell. I was discouraged from buying a concealer because it would make me look older. I told them I bought Shiseido\'s new foundation brush already the day before at Tomod's, a drug store chain and what did I get "Arigatoo Gozaimasu, SANK-YU very much-u." What would I get anywhere else ESPECIALLY in Hong Kong? "You should have gotten it here. I would have given you a sample... we have a promo...I bet you paid too much...' (I bought two brushes at Tomod's simply because they looked nice. Little did I know they would be the best things I've ever used."

2) Whether you buy an eyeshadow or an entire skincare programme, you are treated the same way. VERY WELL. First there is the tray and the tea but the tea doesn't come in the tray. The tray is where they put all your products before carrying the thing to 'your seat' which brings me to my next point. You take 'a seat literally at a beauty bar where they 'serve you products and tea' but not before taking your bag (not to steal it but to store it) and tying a bib on you so you don't ruin your outfit.
The only other retail beauty experience that made me feel this lucky to be a woman is PARFUMERIE MEGEVE in Megeve (where else?) which sells top of the line European cosmetics and lingerie.

THIS WEEK's 3 F'S

HONG KONG-I thought it would be a good time to mention 3Fs --fashion, (non) fiction and face.

(NON) FICTION - "The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It" by Tilar Mazzeo is short, chatty but factual considering how little material the author had to go on concerning women entrepreneurs in Napoleonic and post-N France. In it we find out that Marie-Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin was also a Ruinart, THE original champagne making family with links to the legendary Dom Pierre Perignon (and everything we know is really legend because champagne was funny enough, developed in England). She was to blaze the trail for other female producers of bubbly we know and love---such as Lily Bollinger and Mathilde-Emile Laurent-Perrier. Before The Donald there was 'The Veuve' (widow) Cliquot who is known to be the first celebrity businesswoman and marketer par excellence---she created her own bottles to the shape we know today, 'branded' and physically labelled her products for distinction but it was her immediate successor who chose the bright colour, that of yolks from the eggs of Bresse chickens, that we know and love today.


Another book I highly recommend but have not finished (I have 95 more nights to go) is the one below. The title is self-explanatory and because of the tiny size of my brain, I am reading one item every night while I am here in HK. It is amazing how in retrospect we really can sort of 'predict' what will happen by referring to history and yet history 'repeats itself' (not quite) because WE NEVER LEARN when all the answers have been thawed after the last Ice Age but I leave David Attenborough and National Geographic to tell you about that....


FASHION: SUPER A MARKET located behind Issey Miyake in Tokyo's most fashionable area, Minami-Aoyama (read: home to the Prada beehive igloo, Comme and Yohji). Super A is not a shop, it is an experience. The ground floor is laid out and edited like the dressing room of a chic European with casual style. You will find masstige labels like YSL, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs chosen with a great eye and merchandised together with fashion insider favourites with limited distribution like Thom Brown, Viktor and Rolf, John Smedley, Dries van Noten and Jean Paul Knott (whose clothes I dreamt about--and regretted not buying decades ago at Linda Dresner (now closed) in New York--- before I encountered this fabulous find of a shop)



If the ground floor is European, the second level is rich Californian hippie. Think Malibu,. Laurel Canyon and an attitude more Fred Segal than Fred Segal, Melrose and Sta Monica combined which only the Japanese can do. American vintage clothing and Rag and Bone, Acne, James Perse are laid out and styled more stylishly and more casually American that only, yes, the Japanese can do.

Super A Market (affiliated with Tomorrowland, www.tomorrowland.jp)
3-18-9 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku 107-0062
www.superamarket.jp

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FACE: In my search for the best foundation, I must have at least 10 foundations of varying shades, textures and formula in every place I live. On top of them (literally) are the sponges and applicators ready for mold and amoeba experiments. But since discovering this miniscule tube (25 g, not enough for some people's coke habits) of CLE DE PEAU CREAM FOUNDATION, my next task is to bring myself to throw out every other foundation I own. (I apply it with a new slanted brush from Shiseido but I think any foundation brush will work just as well) I have also never used a loose powder finer and with a better texture than that of Cle de Peau. You only need to powder your face once (at the start after the foundation and before spackling on anything else) when you do your make-up. Years ago, I bought a top of the line Kanebo from Japan and thought that was the best but I guess the best was yet to come----last month at the fabulous Fukuya (more on that later plus the photo of this product--thanks to my technical ineptness).


Monday, April 4, 2011

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ALL YOUR LIFE?

TOKYO----For most people, blogging is a medium to connect with the public---every activity, even getting out of bed, becomes an event. For me, blogging happens only when life doesn't keep me busy enough. Unfortunately I've been busy since the autumn, mostly travelling and helping my husband with his world tour of 50th birthday parties spanning 2 continents and 3 cities. Our to-ing and fro-ing had reached such a crescendo that when we arrived in Tokyo in the second week of March and were welcomed by the earthquake and tsunami, we decided to stay put and take our chances because we didn't want to uproot ourselves again. (We also found out that current radiation levels in Hong Kong and Rome are higher than Tokyo's) Since we moved to Tokyo in July last year, I had only lived here a total of 6 weeks until this March. Since January, I had not been here at all. I had all sorts of éxcuses'' not to be here--death and disease; and when disaster struck (literally one of the biggest in the world), I chose that time to ''make a commitment" to my new home which I have grown to respect, if not love (yet). And so life goes on with less electricity in a city which used to be lit up like Vegas everyday. But for this town, using less electricity is normal use in the rest of the free world. We haven't given up heated toilet seats. Weeks after the disaster, I had to search for one thing or another--bread, water, milk, etc. But there was no real shortage. Rations were reasonable--1 bag of rice per person per day, 2 cartons of milk, 1 liter of water, etc. Discretionary spending (including dining out) is at an all time low because the public feel they should not be celebrating or enjoying at such a difficult time. It is their way of showing emotional support for disaster victims and thier families. Sakura parties have been discouraged by the government for the same reason. (Although yesterday I saw so many people 'breaking the law') This is the complete opposite of how westerners would behave and I don't know who has the right attitude. On the one hand you want to stimulate the economy with spending but on the other you can understand their sense of community, the same one that got them through the Second World War, the Kobe earthquake, post-Eighties heyday and everything in that mix. Meanwhile, I just thought of doing an entry while I am not busy (hahaha!!) hoping to jump start this blog again for the Nth time. I constantly wonder about the thin line between blogging about one's life and merely 'showing off." Perhaps it's about time? Or perhaps you can join me vicariously in my next entry as I look for a possible outfit to wear to a wedding in Singapore in two weeks. Right now I have the following choices: a) a Lanvin gold silk dress (I have to be T-H-I-N!) b) a Body Amr chocolate chiffon caftan (v Studio 54) and c) a black Ports velvet dress which has been very reliable for everything else but I think would not be a good choice for a wedding in a garden setting. Shoes: 2 pairs of Manolo Blahnik heels--a) peep-toe black patent and b) nude peau de soie which have yet to be worn. I am leaving for Hong Kong on Wednesday and I could go shopping there since I could use a new outfit not only for this wedding but for another one in London in June and my husband's final 50th, also in London in June. Now, can you see why I haven't found time for blogging?