Sunday, February 22, 2009

THE LOVE I LOST


The Upper East Side (57 th and 5th) is where I hang because it has museums, shops, restaurants and most of all, clean, accessible bathrooms--BG, Bendel's, Carlyle, Barney's. I never went downtown until they opened Macy's because of the loo situation.


Just as New York Fashion Week comes to a close, I have realized that the city that never sleeps has slowly been putting me to sleep. Yes, I have lost my love for New York City and I feel like I have outgrown a great love.

There was nowhere I EVAH wanted to live than Manhattan. On my first visit to New York as a kid, I vowed that I would live and work in the most exciting city in the world and not just anywhere but the Upper East Side. (Of course, as a starving student in the 80s I could only afford to SHARE in the East Village but the Upper East Side was the ball I had my eye on)

I reluctantly moved to Los Angeles then vowed to become bi-coastal. Which I did become to a certain extent as the real money in the fashion business was and still is made in New York City.

Every year since I moved back to Asia 15 years ago, I made a pilgrimage to New York and Los Angeles, what I always believed to be the greatest cities in the world. Until yesterday.

What was the arnis stick that broke the Commes des Garcons stuffed back?
I saw an ad in the FT Weekend for apartments on the Upper East Side and for the first weekend of our 8 years of marriage I did not ask my husband, "Can we buy a New York apartment?" (I also used to ask this question before every trip to New York) The answer, of course, was always a resounding "NO" (Because New York City is EXACTLY like Delhi except with yelllow cabs)

Up until last summer, I had ads for New York apartments tacked to my desk wall.

Particularly in the last five years, I have found going to America like joining a UN Relief effort. It really is a third world country compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, Dubai and Heathrow Terminal 5. You should see the rest of the UK...unchanged since Victorian times and I realized the Rome airport has not changed since pre-Christian Times when St Peter was giving out flyers at the entrance for the cult of some dude Jesus.

In the last few years, I have often wondered why I have slowly lost excitement over America. I think it is because the world has changed. It doesn't have to do with something as shallow as tourism or fashion but with the shift in political and economic power. I don't think America has completetly lost its power but these days, it has to share and BEG from countries like China and the Middle East.
(As a Chinese finance minister said (something like), "Why are we accused of currency manipulation? We lent them the money and now that they squandered it, it's our fault? Since when was a lender to blame?")

I hate to rain on you-s Obama fans (believe me, if I was a US citizen, I would have voted for him, too) and those who 'Hope for Change' but the only achievement of Obama so far is that he is the first American president to take over a country as it is beginning to lose power.

HEY! That ain't so bad. He should talk to Queen Elizabeth because she took over when the sun was setting on the British Empire and she ain't doin' too bad!

Proof of waning US markets came last week at lunch with a major but still privately-held fashion holding company based in Hong Kong. They have numerous JVs with large American and European brands and as Asian partners of one of the largest publicly-held American clothing companies (as in every household owns something made by them!), they consantly compare business notes and share ideas.

I was told by the CFO that with this particular American partner, the 'American' division was worried for their jobs because 'business stopped practically overnight' but the 'international' division had nothing to fear.

Before I close, I just want to comment on the Michelle Obama Vogue cover. Because I think they are overexposed as a family and as her husband has achieved nothing yet except celebrity, it is too soon to be on the cover of any major magazine even if you dress well and are a stellar lawyer. What if this all ends in tears? (And it probably will because more people are gonna get poorer in the next couple of years and how da dude gonna tell dem peeps dat the American people owe money to dem chinks?)
Don't we love Carla Bruni with her dog? Only the French. One of the French weeklies---Gala or Point de Vue,---since they cater to my low-level French--- had a fashion feature: Carla vs Michelle. You be the judge.

Now that we are on the topic of world abomination--ay--domination....I just remembered a conversation I had with a friend who stayed with us over Chinese New Year.

She has a son at one of the best boarding schools in England but he is struggling with French. I told her that maybe he needs to take a completely different, Un-Romance language from the BRIC+M group...(well, Spanish and Portuguese are Romance languages but Portuguese doesn't count for anything...) because the world is changing.

So she asked me--How would YOU educate a child? (You talkin' to me? Moi? Me and my home boy who have no higher education and can't even discipline their dogs??)

WHEELLL--Thank you for asking mon avis.....
I told her I would put the kid in UK boarding like her with an extra BRIC+M language preferrably Spanish (not Portuguese) plus the languages of my heritage--Chinese and Tagalog (doesn't have to be fluent but enough to be an artista to talk to Kuya Germs and Kuya Boy and order at Pepper Lunch).
THEN Ox-bridge for two years, then the US for a year or two just to loosen up like Toby Young.
THEN a suffering post after school for gap year and/or for a first job in some rat, disease and mosquito-infested city for experience (AND NO living with relatives--that means Philippines, UK and France are out). Maybe he'll hit the jackpot like people who came to HK in the 60s....


What about French? My stand on the French is that they had it coming even before the US and UK> Their era ended with Louis XVI...Okay, no Napoleon...Matagal na la-os sila pero sige pa rin. Very nationalistic and very good PR for their language.

Before I croak, the whole of France is going to be a World Heritage Site and tourists will have to pay to come into my house because it will become a fuckin' museum!!!

Sa totoo lang, (and this was told to me by a wealthy Pinoy woman married to a French guy) "Sa totoo lang, my son is learning French but pang-glamour lang yan because you can't really use it anywhere but France."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

THE EMPERORS OF CLOTHES

WHELL! I guess I was away longer that I thought I would be. What with having to take a side day trip to a historical European city and other fashion follow-ups....Oh dear! What we do for style even in these days of financial turmoil....
The gossip world (well, at least mine) is like retail. Not busy at all except for the bit of information I heard (NOT from the patola vine because it is getting trimmed and grafted) that the Philippine Tatler wants to put Wendy Puyat on its cover and is still 'waiting for approval' from Hong Kong.
Hmmm....I wonder how long this 'wait' will be.
In deeper conversations, a the funny thing that happened on the way back from India...Kitty: If you see Amazon selling 'Valentino: The Last Emperor,' could you buy it for me?
Husband: The emperor of what?
K: Waddaya mean the emperor of what? The emperor of the sun...tan. FASHION!
H: How many emperors of fashion are there? What happened to that freak with white hair in a pony tail? Aren't there some poufs having a sale of some sort?
K: Okay--there has been an ongoing war between these poufs since the time the brassiere was invented and I don't want to go there. Evah! I don't even go to their shows.
H: Does the white haired freak have a DVD?
K: KARL--YES! Many, which I have seen. But I want Valentino's.


Since we are on the topic of rich poufs, the two 'having a sale' next week (23-25 Feb) are the late Yves Saint Laurent (in my opinion the REAL emperor) and his longtime domestic and business partner Pierre Berge. The Christie's sale is estimated to fetch about USD 400 million. The collection was put together over 40 years and many items such as a Matisse for USD 20 million and a CHAIR from Eileen Grey for USD 2 million, could cost as much as a New York or London flat or a house with a golf course in Florida. Or to put it locally, a house in Forbes with some change for decorating.

Anyway, this collection is a great example of 'what I did for love." In the case of Berge, he paid all the bills (even when YSL overspent) and is donating the bulk of the proceeds to The Pierre Berge AIDS Foundation. Some money will go to the Yves Saint Laurent museum.

Berge will keep only a few pieces as the memories, which are more important to him, will never leave him. He has made public that he is keeping their first purchase together, an African bird sculpture whose worth pales in comparison to everything else they owned. Now that's love.

Speaking of AIDS projects, I would like you, my adoring public to turn your attention to the following website set-up by two most fabulous people: Brian Gorrell and Shola Luna.
Check out their AIDS "Stay Negative" service site: http://www.positivism.ph/.

It is beautifully laid out and designed. I love the page turning sound! There is general advice and QnA with fighter and survivor Shola Luna on how to deal with the disease. This is no faggy fashion project but an intelligent guide to HIV for EVERYONE---as in those who have it, those who don't, those who might have it, those who think they have it but are afraid of everything including themselves, those who know someone who has it, those in denial or panic and those who simply know NUTTIN'!!!

PLUS There is legit medical advice from a doctor. NOT Vickie Belo or Chin Palafox.

This week, I leave you with the final conversation my husband and I had before he went for his ovepriced haircut at a barber shop that doesn't include a shampoo. "I would rather have an aging Chinese barber than a pouf touch my hair."

K: OOhhh..I know this song.. Gotta find my.....Corner of the Sky. What show did this tune come from?
H: How should I know!! Is this a trick question to find out if I'm gay?