Thursday, May 28, 2009

THE DREAM MACHINE

Reader "Rosanna" asked, "How do I get my dream job?" As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is a loaded question simply because there are very few people who can answer it. I bet people in HR or recruiting don't even like their jobs!

In my lifetime I have only met TWO people who said they have their dream jobs. And the second person I only met this week!! Worse, I only met the first person this time last year!!

Clearly I don't have experience in giving employment advice but I will do my best.

It seems to me that the ideal job will be something you like to do which people will pay you for. Being good at it is also a huge bonus. For many of us, that would be watching TV, gossiping and surfing the net but we don't get paid for it. I don't even know how to watch TV because I can't turn on the TV in any of my homes. But I can do it easily in hotels.

Gossiping will be a good job--look at Liz Smith, Perez Hilton and Richard Johnson who have made careers out of it---but not many can do it well and profitably (Like I'm afraid Perez Hilton's incoming is not enough to cover his outgoing legal costs).

However, for us mere career mortals, what to do?

For some reason this week, I discussed careers with one too many people in different cities that I felt I was running a regional recruitment agency. These discussions made me look back at my own career and in retrospect, I did hold my dream jobs only at that time I didn't know it.

I always wanted to work in the fashion business and at the start, I was bent on being a merchandiser or designer. But when a boy named Marc Jacobs in the classroom next to yours gets a job at Charivari and your teacher says that buyers at Saks are never going to leave, you lose hope.

It gets worse when you get closed out of all the design classes you wanted except a garment production class held in a dark room filled with unglamorous sewing and cutting machines. Your classmates are other losers who couldn't get into the glamorous courses.

Your teacher happened to be the production manager of then-famous denim company, Marithe et Francois Girbaud. And she said ONE THING that completely changed your view of fashion and changed the course of your career. "I know many of you are here and disappointed that you have been closed out of design classes. Little do people know that if you go into production you will start at more money and do just as much travel as any designer. The only difference is that you will spend more time in factories."

Money? Travel? I'M FUCKIN' THERE!! You could have told me I was going to become a prositute and I'd still have been first in line!!

"You may not know this," she continued, "But as a production manager you can make as much money and do as much traveling in the same way as a designer. Same hotels, same class of travel and the reason for this is financial responsibility. Production is very important to any company because it is where money is generated. And lost. It is also a direct line to owners."

I found this to be true in my first job in the Los Angeles garment industry. And there was no other department in a garment company that was more important to the owners than production. Sales reports come out everyday but daily discussions usually happen only during market weeks when majority of the sales are done. In most companies, wherever you are or the boss is in the world, you have to discuss numbers, total shipped units and 'cuts' at the end of EVERY SINGLE DAY. I think the Hollywood equivalent are rushes.

But it wasn't easy to get there. I finished school at about the time financial turmoil hit Wall Street in the famous Black Monday of October 1987 so jobs were not exactly falling onto my lap while I sat at my desk dreaming about a job.

I had to look and even when I found my first job, selling shoes at Joan and David in Beverly Hills, it wasn't exactly my dream job although many movie stars came through the store.

But it was a job and better than nothing. This is where lack of pride served me well. I was so desperate, I took anything!! (Which I think is a good thing)

However, if you harbour the dream, sometimes the tooth fairy arrives in the form of a regular customer who asked me, "What do you really want to do with your life? Surely not just selling shoes...."

I told her and the following week was my interview with the head of patterns at Carole Little, then a very big sportswear label. It wasn't exactly my dream job but it was a foot in the door that would open to many dream jobs to come.

But I realized that only now, in retrospect.

I had the money, the travel, the positions (which I worked up from) and the jobs that I really enjoyed with respected Southern California labels. It also helped that they were not very expensive labels as I believe (even if I am a snob at heart) great clothes and fashion should be accessible to everyone. There is a huge difference in quality and service between cheap and expensive goods but everyone should be able to dress well on a budget. As Karl said, "It doesn't matter if an HnM jacket falls apart but if a Chanel jacket falls apart, it's a crime!"

(Today I only wear French labels--except for Fendi-- but there was I time, when I was working in LA that I only wore American because I worked for Americans)

But enough about me. I want to tell you about the only two people I know who have their dream jobs. One similarity they have is that they love the products they sell but they also happen to work for leading names in their respective industries. (Okay, hint: one works for a bank whose stock went down to 1 USD but didn't they all?) The 'names' don't have to be particularly big(although the bank is) but it has to be a brand that has a good reputation both to insiders and end consumers. That always helps and that makes selling particularly easier.

If you ask someone working in their dream job what they like about it, they will usually tell you it's the product or "I like thinking of ideas for clients," but (and there's always a but) they will always say, "BUT... I don't like the admin work or the politics."

Don't we all?? In fact, if you think about it, what REALLY makes you hate your job is the admin and/or the politics. In short, the people!!! They always drive you crazy!! (Which has always been my problem and this is why I think zoo keepers, vets and museum specialists REALLY love their jobs because you are either working with animals who never talk back and are only too happy to be fed, dead people or animals or artifacts that tell a story without speaking)

There is also the subject of determination. This week, I was talking to a friend about how the standards of media staff in (fill in developed Asian country) are so low that they accept mediocre applicants from (fill in Third World English speaking country).

The reply? "They got their jobs not really from ability but sheer determination."

My advice:

A) 1/3 desperation + 2/3 determination = dream job (of course, you will have to identify this for yourself!)

B) As much as I advise you to 'take anything', that only applies for entry level or wanting a change. At all other levels, ALWAYS DO IT FOR MONEY!! Never for love. Not ever. Although I know some success stories, it's the riskiest thing. I would never advise it.

My next entry will be on a far more easier topic---dressing for a tropical wedding.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

THROW HER TO THE LIONS (CITY)

There will be no entries until the beginning of June because I will be in Singapore for a week and after that I KNOW I will be busy with other deadlines such as the ones that pay me REAL money.

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL

...because I'm a lousy cook and had abso-fuckin-lutely no chance of cooking an edible meal except for kibble and chicken soup for the dogs. (And even that I mess up occassionally)

Until now.

I believe cooking is like intelligence, style, personality and perhaps writing ability. You either have the talent or you don't and no amount of Master's degrees or studying with the masters will make you a great cook.

Unless you are Russian. I told my hairdresser today that cooking is a talent and he said except if you are Russian because they can serve a buffet from literally nothing in the refrigerator.

I have trained my maids to do everything but cook. In that department, I can't even tell them how to make tea or boil water. When God was giving out cooking demonstrations, I was still browsing the home decor and fashion departments while getting sidetracked by a scarf tying demo.

However, everything changed last Friday when I hired RICARDO SILVA (mailto:biotico2003@yahoo.co.uk;%20+852 6894-2582), a Portuguese chef to teach my maids and me how to cook. Nora and Monica can cook well. In fact, they said they didn't need any more potato recipes because they know so many. (Maybe they are secretly Russian)

They have also mastered the art of juicing because they have to serve me some kind of fresh juice combination everyday.

What they wanted to learn was a fresh pesto recipe and a salad dressing recipe which I, who only knows how to pay (not even choose something in a jar) thought would be a good idea. I also wanted them to see that there were people who ate vegetables other than salad and stir fry.

Chef Ricardo is a vegetarian who specializes in (what else?) vegetarian dishes but since arriving in Hong Kong, he has expanded his repertoire. He has trained the staff of several prominent HK families and also prepared food for their dinner parties.

Part of Chef Ricardo's extended repertoire is lamb which I decided to make an exception of because I don't eat any meat except chicken and it is hard to find good lamb in HK. (Not that I have had first hand experience but that's what many people say!)

I plan on using his recipe when I cook in Europe where local lamb is always available. (Now I just have to learn how to use the grill) It also works with chicken but the strong flavour really goes better with lamb.

His lamb's strength lies in the marinade which we used to marinate the meat overnight.

What's in it? Right now, I don't know. I just had the recipe printed out and passed it to Nora.
At some point I will read it and panic because I will not know where to get the ingredients or what they look like. Obviously this will happen in Europe where I will look like a fool.

He also taught us a great pesto sauce made of basil (which might be like saying a cake recipe with flour) and pine nuts but he said we could substitute the basil or blend it with parsley, coriander and/or rocket).

To keep the rich green color of leftover pesto, pour some olive oil on top of it before putting it in the refrigerator.

Then there was the dressing whose formula was 1/3 acid (balsamic vinegar or bleach if you want to kill your guests), 2/3 olive oil, lime, salt, mustard or whatever you want to put in such as pureed raspberries or strawberrries, honey, etc..

Next month, Chef Ricardo returns to Chez Sutherland to teach us how to make tiramisu and sabayon with champagne.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

THE JEWELS AND THE CLOWN (that's me!)

This week, a friend told me that she has found her self drawn to bling. This was the same woman who told me she couldn't possibly wear 18 mm South Sea pearl earrings because they were 'too big.'



For a jewellry writer and former auction reporter, 'too big" is not an option. In fact, like a bank account, jewels can never be too big. I've tried on a 56-carat diamond and thought it would be perfect for daytime. No one would think it was real.



I've heard everything from the 'sensible', "100,000 USD for a perfect strand of white 16mm pearsl? That's a bargain!" to the 'sentimental', "You know, a ring like that---20 carats, D-flawless--really shows how much your husband loves you but after a few months it will start to look small. Believe me, it's true!!"



"No more shoes, bags and clothes for me. Just bling. It must be my age," said my jewelry converted friend who is in her thirties.



It may be her age but it could be that she found a jeweller (Yewn) that she liked introduced by--ahem--moi!--in a city that has probably the largest volume of diamond sales in the world.



This incident became a sparkling inspiration for me to think of my top three jewelry brands. I have decided to write only about jewelry brands that I think are worth noting not just for their original design (organic, teetering between real and costume, recognizable only to collectors)and everyday wearability but also their limited distribution. And the final qualification is: That I would want anything and everything.

No one could go wrong if they gave me anything (even a pouch) from these three lines:
(Okay--of course, there is Joel A Rosenthal's Paris-based JAR but I think I have to own an oil field, marry a vault or be a big time Colombian cocaine dealer to own something from him)




VERDURA

http://www.verdura.com/

One of Verdura's catalogues has the following opening statement by their CEO Ward Landrigan, "If this portfolio of Verdura classics has made it into your hands, and you are a devotee, it should remind you why you fell in love with Verdura jewelry in the first place. If it is your first encounter with Verdura, prepare yourself --this may be the start of a long romance."


This statement epitomizes everything I have experienced with the brand. As a penniless fashion student in New York in the Eighties, I remember being mesmerized by this line. I vowed that one day I would buy a Maltese Cross bracelet. But life and other brands got in the way and I completely forgot Verdura until I saw it on someone years ago.


What do they say about love being lovelier the second time around?


My second time wasn't just lovelier, but utterly passionate as I ended up with a few bracelets. But VERY FEW....(It was like ending up in bed all day with someone you worshipped from afar--and I'm not talking about letting your new Pomeranian sleep in your bed)


Verdura's original designer was the Sicilian artistocrat Duke Fulco di Verdura who was born in 1898. He designed what we know today as Chanel's Maltese Cross. In 1939, he set-up shop in New York City backed by Cole Porter and Vincent Astor. Babe Paley (after whom they named a collection last year) and Greta Garbo were clients. For their 70th anniversary this year, they will be introducing another blockbuster line.

As Doris Duke reputedly said about her jewels, "Sell everything except the Verdura." Enough said.

A selection can be found at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and the full line is available in their beautiful, destination boutique on Fifth Avenue, laid out like a grand New York flat with fabulous views.


IRADJ MOINI


http://www.iradjmoini.com/
I don't know very much about the history of Iradj Moini and have never interviewed him. It is a relatively new company, having started in 1989 but it has changed to way I look at 'real' and 'costume' jewelry. In fact, the collection literally straddles both sectors of the market because it mixes semi-precious stones, roughly cut precious stones, pearls and Swarovski crystals. The large, chunky stones are combined with an eye to appearing like costume jewelry and the rough cuts relieve real gems of their 'preciousness' if they are otherwise cut in perfect, light reflecting facets.


If Verdura epitomizes Upper East Side chic, Iradj Moini is throw-away, jet-setting hippie-chic. Completely different but it wouldn't surprise me if they had some similar customers.


The collection is not for the faint of fashion "Comme des Garcons applique" heart. It is in fact, for someone who is 'bold and beautiful' (like me!) enough to carry the chunky designs. Iradj Moini is probably the Tony Duquette of our times. (Yet another jeweler that warrants mention)


The website lists only one shop in New York Soho's Spring Street but there are independent antique and jewelry dealers (such as Domont on Sunset in Los Angeles) that sell the line in their shops or online.






We see a lot of jewelry brands in the Hong Kong market, both at the local and international level. In fact, the biggest international brands have to be in Hong Kong as this city is not only one of the biggest jewelry markets in the world, it is also the gateway to the whole of Asia, particularly China.
Excitement and lustre are almost non-existent in many established jewelry and designer labels. It is rare for the fashion media (or consumers) to encounter a brand, particularly a local Hong Kong brand and immediately say, "Wow! This is art!"
I know, I know. You are thinking "Qeelin" is an international Chinese brand. Qeelin is in fact an excellent brand and Dennis Chan is extremely talented. There are many pieces I would love to have from their collection but not everything. Their iconic Bobo bears are definitely not me.
But I love everything that Dickson Yewn creates. Note that I did not use the word 'designs' but creates because as I mentioned, every piece is a work of art inspired by furnishings, literature, art and jewelry in Chinese history.
Yewn is probably one of the few jewelry lines in the world that still sets pieces en tremblant. Flowers vibrate atop a spring, petals and leaves move back and forth, a clasp is hidden in the form of a gem-encrusted Chinese lock.
It is like nothing you have every seen before. But it could be something that existed in....the Qing Dynasty.
He likes to use rhodium or blackened gold as a setting and what a difference a color makes. Taking a piece from white gold to black gold (see brooch above) makes all the difference between 'preciousness" (I hate that) and precociousness.
Add to that a client base not of celebrities, not of men buying for women but of high-powered women in business and politics who buy jewelry for themselves. Yewn said he sees his pieces as 'ambassadors' for what Chinese are aesthetically capable of. His clients wear his pieces even when they travel thus exposing his work and introducing his label to the upper echelon of international deal makers (think Forbes Top 500) which rarely includes celebrities.
He has been educated allover the world and is an expert in Chinese history and philosphy which is reflected in its purest artistic form in Yewn and in a more commercial form in Life of Circle which is mostly sterling silver. High-low marketing---not bad for a business plan!
He has two award-winning 'destination' shops in Hong Kong. One at the Landmark and the other in the Peninsula Arcade. Entering his freestanding shops takes you back to a reception room in an aristocratic home in the Qing Dynasty decorated with rosewood furnishings and lattice borders. Select pieces are at Neiman-Marcus, Fragments and Bergdorf Goodman in America and the trend-setting EC One in London.
*************************************************************************************
Reader 'Rosanna' has asked me the loaded question, "How do I land my dream job?" It is, in fact, a very good question but because it is so hard to answer, I will have to do some thinking (also very hard and something I am incapable of) and perhaps do an entry towards the end of May if I don't get any more work.
Sometime this week (very likely Tuesday before I leave for Singapore), I will write an entry on cooking, an activity that I have absolutely no talent, knowledge and authority to discuss but I'll do it anyway because it is like style and intelligence--either you have it or you don't.
Personally, I think I have stayed married all this time because I don't cook. If I did, my husband would either leave me or would have been poisoned in our first week of marriage.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

DOG STORY

The Tallulah-saurus Rex after her fight with Manny Pacquiao in the KO in HK where she won hands down, no contest...a bandaged foot in the shape of a lightbulb.


The Tallulah-Saurus Rex (TSR), as regular readers will recognize, was the French denim-clad door bitch at her sister, Sammy Doggis Jr's exclusive 15th birthday party in Hong Kong.

TSR is officially known as Tallulah Butthead II (the First died of a hemmorhage) named after notorious film star Tallulah Bankhead who reputedly slept with 500 men. But TSR, despite having many admirers, was spayed early. So naturally she is still a virgin at 12 (or 84 in human years).

She lost a claw last Sunday while chasing a wild cat through the woods. If she caught it on a clipboard, it would not have been so bad.

Before that, I cancelled a much-awaited trip to Tokyo because this normally healthy dog suddenly contracted erlichia canis, a tick-borne blood disease which is rare in developed countries.

Years ago, the vet under national health care in Taiwan (their city hospital puts some human US and UK hospitals to shame) identified Sammy as a carrier not TSR and of course, believed that she caught it in the Philippines (where else?). The internet says Vietnam is another potential area but the dogs have never been there.

TSR had a three-week treatment course and just as soon as she got well, she gets a white boxing glove on her foot. Now she can't even play pool with the toothless billiards champ Efren Reyes. But she can win in a biting competition.

Bear with me as I need hours, days to figure out how blogging works.

I still have to put up the 'immovable' entry on the left-hand column on DJ MONTANO, the scammer who did a runner. Like the Angel of Debt in HK, yet another Filipino is setting up shop outside the Philippines to cheat others abroad.

But tips including photos have been coming into http://www.donavictorina.blogspot.com/.