Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recommended: Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight

Just released on DVD, the compelling and illuminating doc on Milton Glaser, the great graphic designer, "Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight", directed by Wendy Keys.


Glaser: Problem-solver, artist, mensch. Gourmet, flaneur, mentor. Intellectual, activist, philosopher.

The depth
of his humanity and intelligence seem boundless and he shares these gifts generously. Now in his eighties, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2009.

In the film, he recalls the "Eureka! moment" for his 1977 design of the iconic "I Love New York" logo (for which he made not a penny in royalties) among other reflections on "the moment when an idea moves from the back of your brain to the front."

For anyone interested in design, communication, working collaboratively, the nature of creativity and art–you simply must see it!

Though Milton Glaser's works are striking, I was as enthralled by his wisdom as much as by his images.

Here's a six-minute excerpt in which Glaser comments on art and its contribution to society, why he teaches and his continuing joy in his work.




"I am fortunate that I am still astonished."
- Milton Glaser

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vacation clothes

Vacation clothes are a lark: lightweight, lighthearted, usually simple, always packable.

I don't drop serious money on summer-holiday wear: the season is short, and why worry about dribbling vinaigrette on a $300 top? But neither do I want to look like a retired gym teacher in dependable khaki. And the days of tying on a little sarong are over; I need more cover.

I've discovered clothes by Lilikoi, sold at a neighbourhood boutique (Any Direct Flight, for Toronton
ians), other shops and on their web site.

Lilikoi
pieces are the intersection of interesting, functional and witty. A top like the Karina ($110), of viscose made from bamboo, looks relaxedl but not sloppy. Okay, not cheap, but its virtues are many: hand-printed, from a super-green company and well-made by decently-paid people in Nelson, B.C.. My oldest Lilikoi looks great after three summers. Sizing XS to XXL.

Rose Gar
den dress, available in red, grey or black, $162. Wear to a seaside restuarant or city museum. And so much more comfortable on a plane than pants.

Not all
Lilikoi pieces are printed; here's the Flamenco skirt, $132 in bamboo, organic cotton and spandex. Feels like baby clothes (in a good way). Grey, black and ivory.

I don't like to carry jewelry on vacation, so usually take one pair with screw backs that stay put during any activity and dangles for evening.

But if shopping for one versatile pair to wear with everything, I'd pick these Gurhan silver and gold hoops, 1 1/8 inch diameter, $525 from Twist.


Or I'd wear Ross-Simons' 1 3/4-inch diameter turquoise hoops capped in 14k, price $125 (and 25% off), essence-of-summer against black, white, colours.

When touring in the sun, a hat is wise. But I have left some costly chapeaux on chairs. Here's a good-looking packable straw cloche, the Cloche Belle (Style PA02). Not as massive as a huge-brimmed hat, so fits into your handbag, and it's only $16, from Berkeley Hat.

This witty Albertus Swanepoel hat is the other end of the spend spectrum, at $950 (from Barney's), a sly wink of a hat. Borrow the brio and add a bright band and flower to your Cloche Belle.

Pile everything into a sunny orange "Casiana" leather tote, $399 from Floto.

Bon voyage!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do ya think I'm sexy? Oh. Then how about dinner?

On June 23, The Globe and Mail published the results of a recent Ipsos/Reed study on how 24 other countries view Canadians.

In response to the statement, "Canadians are sexy", a scant 39% of the French agreed.

But in response to the statement, "Canadians are someone I'd invite into my home for a meal", whoa! 94% of the French are willing to tie the feed bag on a Canadian.

Does this mean we're desirable to bring home for dinner because we're not very sexy? "Oh, don't worry dear, he's just a Canadian", says the French wife as Ryan Reynolds tucks into her blanquette de veau.

The French are at the top of the list of 24 countries for those who find us polite: 95%! Do they figure they can watch us do the dishes?

Whom do the French think is sexy? Study doesn't say, but I suspect it's the Argentinians, all flowy hair, tangas and polo ponies, but we paid for this poll, let them buy their own worship.


71% of Indians think we're sexy–the highest rating we got–which will not surprise if you've ever been "Eve-baited" in Mumbai. But only 32% of Swedes think so, which is probably because they are busy ogling the world's hottest people, i.e., other Swedes.

Way more Americans than French find us sexy, 50%, but this is low because most Americans can't tell the difference between Canadians and Americans, especially late at night in a bar. And we are too polite (87% of Americans think so) to correct them.

In the cellar for the ratings–sexy (32%), polite (57%) and would welcome for a meal (56%)–are the Japanese. Go figure, when every third restaurant here is a sushi bar. It's alarming that they find us unappealing, and let's face it, they are so polite themselves that their real rating is likely far lower. "Canadian" is probably Japanese slang for "not if she was the last woman on the planet."

Meanwhile, given that the average rating for sexy is only a pallid 53 percent, we have some work to do. Boycott Tilley hats and show the world a little somethin'.

Foreign affairs indeed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Barrettes, combs, clasps: Hair accessories

I have been asked, what about hair accessories?

Few accessories look more juvenile on a woman of 50+ than the hard plastic headband. (Hillary Clinton looks like she is about to wash her face in this '08 New York Magazine shot.) I've castigated this item before, and recognize that perfectly wonderful women wear them. If you must wear yours to practice your cello, all right. So, I'd better ante up and provide some alternatives.

I suspect the reason why I see so many women in little-girl headbands and bitsy barrettes is that chic hair accessories are hard to find.

You can go two routes: the decorative, or the discreet.

Decorative

Decorative hair accessories should be considered jewelry; if you'd wear it on your dress, wear it in your hair. You will have to tolerate plastic on most pieces, either in the mechanism or visible surface, but there are some attractive models nethertheless.


Vintage Kimono hair clip, $20, Takishimaya. Made of vintage kimono fabric, 5 inches long.

Plissé bow barrette of Italian leather, in black, cognac, dark blue or coral, $65 from Dominique Duval.


Jaw clips can rise above the plastic look. This leather-covered version comes in six colours; shown, teal, $55 for the Rustic Leather clip, from Dominique Duval.




For a more polished look than a coated elastic, with enough room for thick hair, France Luxe's Volume Ponytail Barrette in camel horn. Price, $24.



L. Ericksen's Makeover Pinch is a long (5 1/2 inch) clip for twist-back styles, and I like the nacré onyx finish, $40 from France Luxe.


For thick,
voluminous hair, this France Luxe Rectangle Volume Barrette, called Voltaire. At nearly 4 inches long, it will hold a low ponytail in place; shown in the summery Voltaire Green colourway; price, $21.



Discreet


Blue Heron Woods make beautiful hair accessories in exotic woods. All pieces are handmade, so your order might take several weeks to produce.

Shown above, Large East Indian Rosewood Barrette, $21. Measures 3 3/4 inches long, a pract
ical size.

Blue Heron's curved mahogony and turquoise hair stick is a graceful option for a twist or up-do; $19.


France Luxe's Sexy Oval is just that, 2 1/2 by 1 1/4 inches, for holding back a smaller amount of hair just so. Comes in nine different finishes, shown , the vibrant Tokyo, $16 from
France Luxe.

This vintage (ca. 1959) black French barrette, price, $18.95 from Accessories of Old, is like nothing I've seen made today. And it's still on its original card.

Like a littl
e twist with your classic?

The France Lu
xe Triple Row Stud Volume Barrette adds pyramid studs for an edgy dimension; price, $98. Available in black and two torty finishes, shown, Tokyo.

I like this so much I might grow my hair!



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crazy hours: Stories from the front

In one week, I heard three stories. I've changed the names.

Sandra, six months into a new job with a global manufacturing company, was, after a workforce reduction,
handed another person's role on top of her own. She works 12-14 hour days. Booked solidly into meetings at work, she brings files home to review in the quiet, until midnight. (Sandra is childless.)

I met her last week and noticed her hollow eyes and gray skin. Her spark has gone.


Betsy, a manager in the Canadian office of a North American firm, told me that her manager, a time zone away, called regularly to discuss business during her maternity leave, and now that she's back, phones as late as 10 pm. on a Sunday evening. He schedules phone meetings for 6 pm., "forgetting" it is one hour later where she is.
But it's 7 pm. at her house, prime family time when wrangling a newborn and toddler.

Marcia, a service manager at a huge telecom, gets BlackBerry buzzes at 9 pm. saying, "WHY aren't you there?"
Though she scheduled time off between Christmas and New Year's, she came in to work for two days to make sure a deal was completed. No one thanked her.

Is it a coincidence that each of these stories is a woman's?


When men tell me about the erosion of their personal time, they duck their heads as if disclosing a shameful secret.
Or they brag. I heard two IT road warriors on a plane boasting about how long it had been since they had been home for a weekend. The winner hadn't seen his family in seven weeks. "What can you do?" he said dismissively.

Two of the three women are looking elsewhere. I've worked with each; they're no wimps, have a top-notch work ethic and understand that emergencies and crunches mean extra hours.

This demand on worker's personal time is increasing. If you are working days, evenings should belong to you, unless you have accepted responsibilities that require extended hours or on-call work. Some hourly workers welcome overtime as a way to make extra income. These women are salaried, and do not want the overtime even if paid.

If employees want to give mega-hours to an organization, that's their business. But I know too many people forfeiting their personal time against their will, cowed, resentful, exploited.

When I began working in corporations four decades ago, the hours were long at certain periods, but you could take compensatory time off, and no one expected to see you first thing in the morning after your red-eye flight from London. It was intense but civilized.

Many of you agree, and have commented on the factors that have contributed to the shift. And what can we do about it?

I deplore what the pressure to cede private life to corporate "productivity" is doing to these dedicated, hard-working women.





Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peter the dog

I ran into my friend Carolyn in the midst of the city; she had just returned from an errand to a photography studio.

In her childhood, Carolyn's family was adopted by a stray that the vet called "an Eastern Townships farm dog". Carolyn and her brothers begged to keep him. When the wish was granted, her mother dubbed the dog Peter, a name she had once considered for her sons.

Peter loved the family cottage, especially the lake. He'd bound down the dock, launching himself in a graceful arc, to swim with Carolyn's father. Carolyn remembers standing in the water to get her shot of Peter's leap, terrified of soaking the camera.


Years passed, and like all dogs, Peter went to heaven. Carolyn lost her mother; her father, now in his mid-eighties, lives independently thanks to her attention. The cottage he built stands, but frustrated by his physical limitations, he no longer visits. His photo of
Peter faded to a ghostly sepia.

Some memories, though, can be recaptured. Thanks to digital imaging, the lab returned Peter's leap to glorious colour. His fur is lush, the Quebec lake blue, the maples' summer-green leaves bend. He flies forever off that dock.

Peter's photo is Carolyn's loving Father's Day gift to her dad.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pennies from heaven: Talbot's trench

Okay, need a spring raincoat.

Normally, I don't like to wear raincoats; a coated coat feels like a Glad Bag, and if uncoated, I might as well wear a coat or jacket and carry an umbrella. But light packing translates to 'raincoat'.

I'd sp
end about anything for a great raincoat, but given my size (14-16) and height, most European brands don't fit. Burberry and Aquascutum do, but their double-breasted styles made me look like a Tommy Tipee cup. Not a good return for the steep price tag.

Some of
the higher-end coats (Moschino, Akris, Nina Ricci, Boss) were chic but cut for shorter arms and torsos. The Olsen sisters' The Row, my kind of minimalist, is made for Olsen bodies.

After weeks o
f searching, including online, I ended up with a stone trench from Talbot's in quiet clay. It's clean, crisp, and the long placket is far better than a bust full of buttons. That closing, plus vertical pockets and an editing of flaps and furbelows deliver a sleeker line than most.

The coat comes in appealing non-neutrals like gypsy rose (shown) or viridian, fun as an extra but too limiting when packing just one.

The price was unbeatable:
on sale on the web site for $90, with free shipping till June 27.


The trench cost so little that I'm treating it like a pair of basic jeans. If I find my dream raincoat, I'll still buy it.


I'll modify this coat, in two steps:

1. Change all buttons immediately, from fabric-covered to mother-of-pearl. MOP buttons are nearly like wearing pearls! Replacing buttons is always worth the cost and oddly satisfying to me.

2. Depending on how the buttons look, I might upgrade the wrist and belt buckles (currently fabric-covered like the buttons) to leather, removable for cleaning. (Talbot's say dry clean the poly-cotton blend. Another example of their bizarre fabric care directions.) I'll source these locally or order from Klein's.

I could also re
-line the interior. Perhaps in a spring-hued silk, like this pale blue and mocha dot. (Tried the coat in the store but can't remember if it's fully or partially lined.)


Here, Billie Holiday sings"Pennies From Heaven" ca. 1936, accompanied by Benny Goodman's orchestra; Teddy Wilson on piano:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pearl Month project: Rehab your pearls!

This is June, pearl month, when thousands of classic strands will be given to brides, graduates and June birthdays.

Suppose you have your strand, but you don't wear it much.
If they have barely seen light since they came out of the oyster, rehab your pearls!

This fun project need not be costly; even $75 (my estimate for new clasp and stringing) can utterly transform your necklace.


Pearl possibilities



1. Add elements
Use your strand and add charms or decorative elements. Shown, Lacy Loop Necklace by British designer and goldsmith Marianne Anderson.

You can hang the elements from the strand or connect sections with them, as in another of Anderson's designs, the Scroll Necklace.

Though I have not contacted her, I have found that most designers and goldsmiths will work with your material to renovate a piece.


2. Update the clasp

If your pearls
are long enough for you but a bit staid, change the clasp. Amazing how a cool clasp transforms pearls. This 18k vermeil Bali clasp is $24 from Nina Designs. (I like clasps that can be worn to the side or front.)




3. Add more pearls, in an interesting mix
If your strand is classic white, a skilled designer can select pearls to compliment your pearls' body colour and overtones.

Here's a mixed strand from Zara Scoville of Priceless Imperfection. She could add some fab keshis or Tahitians, and I want to see
those!


4. Add stones to make a multi-gem piece
You might have other necklaces to donate to the project, or you could buy some stones. Example: Kojima Company pearl, tanzanite and apetite necklace.


An inexpensive option: mix pearls and glass nugget beads. A good local bead store sells semiprecious beads and can do the stringing; take a photo or sketch to discuss what you want.


4. String on coloured silk

Stringing white pearls on dark silk (charcoal, taupe) or lighter (pink, olive) is a fun way to reno for very little. I'd also change the clasp to something informal.

You
can also use tiny pearls as "knots" between your pearls; shown, Kojima Company Petal Pearl necklace; white pearls with tiny purple-black rice pearls.


5. Put pearls on chain
Using chain instead of stringing on silk gives a light look and makes a chic change. Shown, Pearl Paradise's June special, a 35-inch silver chain strung with 9-10mm Tahitian baroque pearls, $350. (Gold chain also available, and they will make these necklaces in any length requested.)

6. Make your necklace into a brace
let
A good solution if the pearls are tight as a n
ecklace. Make a double-strand bracelet or add more pearl variety to make a lavish piece.

Shown, Pearl Soireé bracelet from Kojima Company.


P.S. About pendants

Now that you ar
e a glorious mature woman, your pearls may need to grow too. Sticking a pendant on too-short pearls only emphasizes their skimpiness, like belting a tight dress.

Lengthen
the strand first by adding other material to get the right length and mood.

Shown, a necklace by Kojima Company: white keshis (classic Akoyas would also look pretty) lengthened by adding 18k gold spacer beads, with a
green amethyst briolette.

It's pearl month! Wear your pearls, grateful for the gifts of nature, especially the lustrous, wondrous sea gem.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Traveling Shoes

We celebrated our dear friend Jim's 60th birthday recently, at a convivial cocktail party attended by friends from at least four decades.

Jim's partner, the sublime Christine, wore jaw-dropping black silk heeled sandals, with long straps twining across the vamp to her slim ankles. She paired them with an ecru silk skirt banded in black lace and a black low-vee necked sweater.

She told me the shoes were loaned by her friend Jan, who had worn them for her wedding 13 years before.

The ebullient Jan appeared at that moment to receive my ardent admiration and reminisce about her wedding.
Her shoes looked as if they had been bought that morning!

Several observations:

1. Well-designed evening shoes seem to have a
longer in-style life than day shoes. That being said, some shapes date and women tend–because they are not worn often– to forget checking them against the current crop.

2. Is it necessary to spend
tippy-top dollar for evening shoes? We tend to think, Why spend hundreds when I'm wearing them for just a few occasions?

Jan's were expensive at the time, but if you're standing at a party, you need the balance and support of a well-made pair. In this shot, you can see that the shoes look delicate but the heel is more substantial than a stiletto and the entire shoe is well-balanced.

It's lovely to have a friend with the same size feet, who will lend you a pair. Christine has many shoes– she's known for them–but isn't it fun to borrow a girlfriend's on occasion? (I would lend shoes or jewelry, but not a dress, after several disasters.)

If you can find a low-priced pair that you can dance in without blisters, grab them, but most revelry-ready shoes are pricey. (Shown, Marni suede and leather sandals; price, $675 from Net-a-porter.)

Jan said that the black pair would be beyond her budget today, three children later. She wondered where to shop for reasonably-priced dressy shoes for herself and her twelve-year-old daughter, who graduates middle school this month.

I suggested Aldo, and perhaps Nine West, who often knock off runway styles. (Shown, the sexy Aldo "Sherles" for Jan; the only 12-year-old I'd let near these is a Scotch.)

3. Evening shoes are the missing link in so many wardrobes. Jim and Christine's loft was full of smartly-dressed guests, but I spotted one or two pairs of officey shoes below an otherwise after-five ensemble.

An elegant cocktail suit deflates when worn with Easy Spirit work heels, even if they are beige.

Replace with these Guiseppe Zanotti leopard-print peep toes, $595 from Net-a-porter and a Negroni.

In summer, let's wear our
low-cut pumps, ballerinas in a dressy material, wispy sandals high or low: anything but the sensible career shoe. And bare our softly curved heels, delectable polished toes–or both.


Nine West's Maribella in off-white and gold satin (and also in black/grey combo), a champagne cocktail of a shoe. (Price, $79 from Nine West.)


You can wear a flat for evening–thank god– if the details are 'evening' enough, like these Elie Tahari beaded and jeweled thong sandals; price, $298 from Neiman Marcus.


Some day sandals are chic enough to glide into casual drinks parties or dinner on a patio. Robert Clergerie's beaded "Macha" sandal, cherry red and black patent, is one; price, $324 on sale at Nordstrom.

I wore flat black evening sandals with leaf-green ponyskin straps from Specchio, one of Christine's favourite shoe haunts.

They are nearly a decade old. Don't tell anyone!