Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The “Hats Heard Round the World” Challenge is Here!


Today’s modern couture hats are without a doubt the purest-existing expression of wearable art, ornaments for the head that are often part jewelry, part sculpture, and are usually one-of-a-kind, painstakingly handmade with love by an actual person or team of people who sit squarely on the wall between artist and artisan. I am so happy to announce that hats are surging back into fashion. For many a true hat enthusiast, hats never went *out* of fashion, but fashion did not seem to agree for a few decades there, starting around 1970 or so.


Nowadays I feel like there is always an occasion for a spectacular hat on every outfit I see in the mags and the shops and on television, a bold statement, but here comes an even bolder one: Society seems just a bit less civilized without the hat as a fixture on women’s heads, as couture hats these days defy and transcend every expectation society once defined for the hat, thanks to trend-setting master milliners who have pushed the couture envelope.


New milliners are popping up worldwide, and millinery classes from old-school milliners are on the rise with feverish demand where the art of the hat is both revealed and discovered.

As part of this blog, I am launching a “Hats Heard Round the World” Challenge to milliners globally for a unique and exciting fashion opportunity. Its goal? To spread the love and enthusiasm and adoration for chic hats and headwear worldwide and reiterate the message that hats are universal in every culture.


Hats selected for the challenge will be featured in the “Hats Heard Round the World” fashion editorial, styled and shot in top couture, and published on the blog. For milliners interested in participating, please email for details.

For you, my readers, you’ll meet countless milliners from all over the planet—world-class, award-winning, utterly fabulous milliners, as well as aspiring milliners who are self-taught and have never taken a single class—but all of them have one thread in common: talent. And all of them prove without a doubt that hat-making, or millinery, as it’s known, is not a dying art. In fact for many of these artists, millinery is their entire life and their devotion and passion.


We will travel to Canada to visit with an award-winning milliner and felting expert, Trish Hirschkorn, and see her breathtaking hat made from clay (yes, clay!) that will dazzle you with its utter spectacular-ness! On the opposite side of Canada we’ll stop at the atelier of the versatile artist Maria Curcic, whose love for classic couture and valuable vintage surfaces in her incredible heirloom creations. Maria has one hat in particular that I’m absolutely obsessed with, a topper that would make Scarlet O’Hara green with envy!

We will jet across the world to the Eastern Bloc to Poland, and on to Russia, to meet the gifted milliners Hania Bulczyńska and Svetlana Gulyaeva, respectively, both of whom studied under one of my favorite milliners, a spectacular genius in hats, the great Anya Caliendo. And we will dash off to Israel for two milliners whose couture hats are as different as day and night, and their hats could not be any more so as well! Each milliner’s process is a unique one, and results in unique pieces of wearable art, the anti-thesis of disposable fashion.

Yes, we are taking a virtual tour around the world on the brim of a hat! Australia, Ireland, England, Asia, Italy, France, Belgium and of course the United States are also all on deck! Isn’t it exciting?!?!

Every milliner featured in the Hats Heard Round the World editorial will be interviewed and an article written about him or her. You will examine the designer’s unique creative process, read about their materials, hear about their influences and influencers, and discover perhaps just a bit of what it is that makes them tick.


As part of this series I’ll also teach you how to wear a hat—that is, how to position a hat properly on your head—as well as how to choose the perfect hats for you and your image and your age and face. My good friend from Australia, stellar stylist Lynette Pater will be chiming in on that. Lynette will give some helpful tips on wardrobe styling, accessorizing, and overall execution of a “look” when wearing various styles of hats and headwear, and we will also discuss how to style your makeup and hair with all kinds of various hats, with advice from my friend and celebrity hairstylist, the fashionable Edward Tricomi of the perpetually-chic Warren Tricomi Salon in NYC. And of course I’ll be throwing in my two cents as usual. So stay tuned!


He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

~ St. Francis of Assisi


Ciao for now, from your favorite fashionista!

Peace. Love. Beauty.



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sequoia Emmanuelle Photography: Have Art, Will Travel

wedding veils

Hi guys! If you’re in my hood this week, meaning the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s an incredible treat waiting here for you! Sequoia Emmanuelle is in the house! Specifically, she’ll be at Beats Antique’s ShadowBox storefront Tuesday in Berkeley–her first appearance here in two years.

It’s a celebration of her newest, color-drenched masterpieces, and as a special gift she will also be available for book signing of her long-awaited, highly-anticipated tome titled “Duende,” a visually-juicy anthology of her illustrious career in fashion photography.

Sequoia began her career in the year 2000, after studying photography at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and has since lived in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she’s currently based. She unites her talents in fashion, set design, painting and graphic design in her beautifully bizarre portraits steeped in surrealism.

Inspired by and having worked with many of the unique talents of the West coast underground music, fashion, art and dance scene, her avant-garde captures have surfaced as album art and have been published in many a magazine, such as Italian Vogue, Dark Beauty, Giuseppina Magazine, and The Dapifer, pictured top.

If you have the loot, you can even book a shoot with Sequoia while she’s in town for a limited time, as spaces are filling up rapidly. Now take a look at some of my favorite works by Sequoia Emmanuelle.

Ashley Joy Beck, above, looks divine in deVour Magazine with this lace wig, resplendent in nothing more than a massive Asian headdress by Bubbles and Frown Haberdashery Shoppe.

bea 1

The portraits above and below, of the visionary Hollywood stylist and costume designer Bea Akerlund, are hauntingly beautiful.

The dynamic pairing of Sequoia and Bea yields some pretty impressive captures, darkly-themed and deliciously noir, during Bea’s film shoot “In the Closet” for Fuse TV.


I love the shot above, where Sequoia uses dramatic color and striking composition for maximum effect. It’s interesting, the way she integrates a playful sensuality into downright dangerous themes. Just look at that capture!

desert dune portrait

A myriad of sepia stone sets the backdrop for the shot above, Sequoia’s stark study in exoticism, with a raven-haired beauty wearing dramatic facial jewelry.


This photo takes glitter to a whole new level of glamour, with makeup by Debra Macki. Alive with brilliant color and texture, it’s simply flawless!

red velvet boots

Facial jewelry has never been so right. It’s amazing how Sequoia can make the bizarre look beautiful.

floral headpiece

Even a simple floral headdress looks sultry on this model. It’s innocence-with-an-edge.


The impeccable beauty, music artist Ivy Levan, looks authoritative and powerful sitting regally in a grand metallic chair in front of the lens of Sequoia Emmanuelle. So much mood in one defiant capture. I love the drama!

gem encrusted face 2

This model looks oddly vulnerable in Sequoia’s ‘Wildchild’ series. Glamorously punctuated with sparkling gems and dotted with body makeup, she is a fantastical vision. There’s something about the contrast in this piece that makes it rivetingly unique, and I love the playful lighting.

orange opulence

Overt in opulent orange, this shot speaks of decadent alienation.

kat von d beauty

Sequoia’s piece for Kat Von D Beauty is awash in beautiful blues, featuring a deep indigo lip on the feline-faced Ivy Levan.

blue velvet

‘Blue Velvet,’ above, is another spectacular vision in cyan. Loving the avant-garde hand jewelry and the dramatic turquoise topper! Moody lighting and slivers of shine make this photo more than memorable.

gold glitter freckles

I just love the risks Sequoia takes in her styling. As if vivid slashes of teal eyeshadow and a poppy-red mouth are not enough drama, Sequoia sees to it that the model above is adorned flirtatiously with a constellation of gilded freckles.

This is a show not to be missed! Hope I see you Tuesday…Ciao for now, from your favorite fashionista!

Peace. Love. Beauty.


Friday, July 8, 2016

The Meaning of Life and The Purpose of Life and Issie Blow

issie sublime in red

One of my earliest memories from childhood is a cold day at the beach in San Francisco, my sister and I walking with my mother and my father. I don’t remember how old I was, but I must have been very young because my dad was still around, and the ocean was a new experience for me.

As I walked the shore with my father at my side and my mother and sister trailing behind us, I collected treasures from the briny, surf-soaked sands. There was a multitude of shells, pieces of glass and driftwood, and a plentitude of pebbles, each a tiny work of art from nature, and each a masterpiece in its own right.

I would gather my souvenirs from the sea and contemplate their perfection, or lack thereof, in my tiny hands as we walked. None of the treasures were without flaw. Perhaps a gnarl in a shell or a blemish on a stone rendered them, in my mind, inadequate. So upon reflection I would inevitably discard each treasure that I discovered by simply dropping it along the walk until we came back to the car to leave, at which point I saw that I had nothing.

My sister, however, had the most intriguing collection of beautiful little things as we came to the end of our walk. In her findings were darling shells and colorful stones with character and wonderful, memorable relics that I examined in awe. I remember telling my mother with incredulity how lovely each item was, and asking how my sister found these beguiling mementos on our walk when I had seen only imperfect specimens.

My mother simply smiled for the longest time as I fawned over the glorious treasures. How could my sister have found such wondrous art, I asked, when I found nothing? My mother finally replied, “Shannon, she picked up the things that you discarded.”

The story reminds me of a quote by Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

The story also reminds me that imperfection is interesting, flaws equate uniqueness, and nothing in life should be taken for granted. Beauty is everywhere, and when you seek beauty in all things and all people, you not only find it, you become it.

This thinking brings to mind one woman so mesmerizingly unique that, despite her flaws, she remains radiant, beautiful and memorable long after she was discarded as an imperfect specimen in an industry obsessed with perfection. I’m referring to Isabella Blow, the British stylist and fashion editor whose suicide death in 2007 left a bittersweet legacy, as well as an imperfect wardrobe–a diary in clothing, if you will–which is now on display until 28 August at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia.

toupee uk

“Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life,” provides the opportunity to examine more than 45 of Issie’s outfits, as well as rare photographs of her in her finery. In addition, you can see some of her favorite jewelry and shoes, and of course the signature hats that made both her, and her protégé, milliner friend Philip Treacy, pictured above with Isabella, famous.

The remarkable thing about Isabella, to me, was her unwavering authenticity in an inauthentic world. Like any artistic community, the fashion industry is filled with superficial people–talentless clingers scented with insincerity and insecurity–who really couldn’t give a fuck about anyone else. Issie, on the other hand, she cared. She cared about talent and vision and genius, fostering countless “unknown” artists and promoting their growth and flourish. She was the real deal, and she had heart.


Issie discovered the meaning of life when she sought beauty, and fulfilled her purpose in life when she gave it away. She unearthed the curious, the interesting, the magnificent, when she brought us Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen, pictured above with Isabella, and many more. Thank you Issie. You are neither gone nor forgotten.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Black Swan: Maya Angelou, Words to Live By & The Passing of Greatness

Maya angelou

‘The Black Swan’ is proverbial for something extremely rare or non-existent. Maya Angelou, the mute little girl whose written voice changed the world–The Black Swan of both politics and art–died quietly in her North Carolina home last Wednesday. She was 86.

This Renaissance woman, an award-winning poet, actress and author, published more than 30 titles and received more than 50 honorary degrees. As a civil rights activist she worked directly with both Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and befriended Nelson Mandela.

Angelou was a Pulitzer Prize nominee, a notably quotable writer and a profound human being. A repeat White House guest, Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.

Clinton on Wednesday praised Angelou as “a national treasure” and “beloved friend.”

“The poems and stories she wrote and read us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace,” Clinton said.

And her last words echoed the same characteristic intelligence and dignity that she had shown her entire life. Her final tweet: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, Maya Angelou grew up amidst poverty and racism, and had many compelling stories to tell. She penned seven autobiographical works, most notably her breakthrough book and best-selling 1969 memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

In it, she writes about how she was raped at age 7 by her mother’s boyfriend. The man spent one day in jail before being released, but was murdered four days later by Angelou’s uncles. After his murder, Angelou, convinced she was to blame for his death, became mute for five years. The book, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best seller by an African-American woman, was encouraged by her novelist friend James Baldwin.

Baldwin was Angelou’s mentor, and Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey. Oprah said that Angelou was reliably strong and supportive through Winfrey’s most difficult times. “She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

At the time of her death, Angelou was working on an autobiography about her experiences with national and world leaders.

And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.

Farewell, Black Swan.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Richard Avedon: The Mind Behind the Man Behind the Lens

Richard avedon with camera

American fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon, above, shaped society’s views regarding fashion, beauty and culture over the last half-century perhaps more than any modern photographer, and is one of history’s greatest artists. Born 91 years ago yesterday, he worked at a feverish pace up until his sudden death from a cerebral hemorrhage on October 1, 2004 at the age of 81.

Dovima with elephants

Now, 10 years after his death, his work is still as relevant as it was when he was alive, or perhaps even more so. In an age of digital photography and photo manipulation, Avedon’s creativity, skill and intuition surpass most modern photographers that I have studied…And his work was so groundbreaking and unique that it defies imitation.

Dovima with elephants 2

Avedon’s associations with high fashion are immediately identifiable, specifically due to his remarkable style of photography which involves the braiding of haute couture with a curious twist, as seen above in these portraits taken in 1955 of his model and muse Dovima, wearing Dior at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris.

Nowadays you just don’t see this kind of powerful dichotomy in fashion photography–an ethereal beauty in the finest of couture, posing as would a prima ballerina, and co-existing with quiet grandeur–giant circus elephants, chained down in their dirty environment, their majestic trunks mirroring the curves of statuesque Dovima’s graceful limbs. Shots like these don’t just happen. They are the result of years of learning and experimenting, and of course, boundless talent.

Avedon became chief photographer for Harper’s Bazaar in the late forties, under the direction of the legendary Alexey Brodovitch. In 1966 he left Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue. But Avedon spoke casually about his brilliance. “Fashion is where I make my living,” he stated. “Then there’s the deeper pleasure of doing my portraits,” he added.

Dovima and dog

And Avedon’s portraits are not just his passion; they are his forté. But especially in his fashion shots there is the element of intimacy and understanding consistent with fine portraiture, as evidenced above in this photo of Dovima with her dog, Sacha. Her cloche and suit by Balenciaga, photographed in Café Des Deux Magots, Paris, in August 1955. The moment is neither premeditated nor completely spontaneous, and that is what makes it so magical.

This magic is most obvious when he captures a peculiarly candid moment, revealing the contemplative expressions of his subjects, with whom he fully engages. “My portraits,” he said, “are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.”

Bazaar 1950

Avedon shot this iconic photo for Harper’s Bazaar in 1950 with the model dressed in Balenciaga, and she possesses the same type of wistful grace as that of Dovima, the Prima Ballerina of Models.

Dovima reading newspaper

Above, Dovima is pictured in a cape ensemble by Lanvin-Castillo, and photographed at Place Francois-Premier in Paris, August 1955.

Avedon’s body of work is consistently disarming and most of it is brilliantly captured in stark black and white. I had a photography professor in college who lectured on achieving greatness in the vocation. He quoted Canada’s famous photojournalist Ted Grant, who said, “When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls,” and this was a technique that Avedon knew all too well. Shot after shot in bold black and white documents what the eye cannot see–he exposes the souls of his subjects, and with a hidden agenda: to understand and experience a more remote side of life, such as a sliver of authentic Americana, for example. In so doing, Avedon passes this understanding along to a hungry audience.

And now, here are a few of Avedon’s most notable portraits, some of celebrities and some of the working class, but all capturing an authenticity and an often poignant humanity of his subjects.

Marilyn with arthur miller

Marilyn Monroe with husband Arthur Miller, New York, May 8, 1957. Avedon called this “The Happy Sitting.”

Nastassjia k

Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent, June 14, 1981.

“When you look at the photograph it all looks so easy,” Avedon said. “[But] she spent two hours on a cement floor naked. The snake…the trainer would start anchoring the snake with her ankles and see where the snake would go, hoping that the snake, cause there is no talking to the snake, would creep up in a way that was beautiful. Meanwhile she would roll back, she’d roll forward, the snake trainer would come and move the snake from one body part to another, I would catch pictures from his legs flying out of the frame, with he being in the frame, the snake was going up, it was really, sort of fashion hell,” Avedon said. However, this ‘fashion hell’ sold two million copies when Avedon put the image on a poster.


Blue Cloud Wright, slaughterhouse worker. Omaha, Nebraska, 1979. Richard Avedon’s portraits are typically shown with emotionless expressions, in very large, passport-style portraits of great detail and high resolution, like the images of the slaughterhouse worker above, and the rest of the photographs below.

Bee keeper

Ronald Fischer, bee keeper, 1981. In 1981 farmer and beekeeper Ron Fischer answered an ad in a national beekeeping journal seeking a man or woman willing to be photographed with bees by a “world-famous photographer.” That photographer turned out to be Richard Avedon.

To get the bees to land on Fischer, a university entomologist he was acquainted with patted queen bee pheromone (an attractant for other bees) onto several spots on Fischer’s head and chest. Then, about 200 feet away, packages of bees were opened on the ground. The bees detected the pheromone and began to move.

Avedon with beekeeper

Fischer still remembers watching the swarm of bees heading his way. “They started forming a cloud over my head,” he said. Above, Avedon works with Fischer on the shoot.

Snake handler

Boyd Fortin, Sweetwater, Texas, 1979.

This image shows a 13-year-old rattlesnake skinner.

“Faces are the ledgers of our experience,” Avedon stated. “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph,” he added, “it is no longer a fact but an opinion.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

For Sale: The Irreverent Iris Apfel

Iris for mac

Style icon Iris Apfel has lived a rich tapestry of a life brimming with beautiful things. Perpetually draped in decadent mounds of eclectic, ethnic jewelry, Iris herself is a piece of art for whom moderation equals mundane, and her wardrobe is a celebration of color and texture. More is more in Iris’s world, and the “geriatric starlet,” as she calls herself, has coined an eccentric style that is unmistakable and truly inimitable.

She will turn 93 on Sunday. Tomorrow night, on the eve of her birthday, she is selling on pieces from her exquisite personal collection of carefully-curated objects, ranging from furniture to apparel, and accessories for both the wardrobe and the home. Each piece has been evaluated with her discerning eye, and hand-picked during a lifetime of shopping around the world.

Iris turquoise

“I used to make two trips to Europe every year,” Iris said, “with at least 40-foot containers each time. I never missed an auction, every estate sale I could dig up, every time I heard of someone who wanted to sell something but they didn’t want to go public…and I really got wonderful things that way.” She continued, “But you can’t keep these things forever. And even if they’re yours, somebody once said to me, ‘You really never own anything on this planet. You just rent.’ I put so much love and attention into everything I’ve bought,” she said, and, speaking of her pieces as though they are living creatures, she added, “I hope that when someone buys something it goes to a good home where it’s loved and respected. That would make me very happy.”

Iris red

The storage facilities that Iris rents in Queens, New York, are positively bursting at the seams with a bounty of objects of desire, and after years of negotiation with the savvy buyers at One Kings Lane, Iris is prepared to let go of a select few pieces–800, to be exact. This is an extraordinary opportunity to own a piece of Iris Apfel, a formidable force in art, fashion and decor.

Iris at home 2

Iris’s education and career are as fascinating as her travels and the goodies that she acquires during the trips. She studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. Iris worked for Women’s Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson.

In 1950, she, with husband Carl, launched a textile firm, Old World Weavers. In addition, during that time, she was interior decorator to nine presidents in the White House–including Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City premiered an exhibition about Apfel in 2005 titled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. The exhibit’s success prompted its own traveling version.

Iris grey

In addition, the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida, is in the conceptual phase of designing a building which will house a dedicated gallery of Apfel’s clothes, accessories and furnishings. Epic.

You go, girl!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fashion Galore! The Death and Rebirth of a Fashion Eccentric, Isabella Blow


“Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”

–Vincent van Gogh

There’s no denying that Vincent van Gogh was a genius and that after his death he became a legend. And there’s no denying that his life, plagued with poverty and failure, was not a paved road. But flowers did indeed grow on it. Paintings of swirling madness, the flowers he left behind for us to ponder and enjoy.


British fashion icon Isabella Blow, above, was a flower that sprouted along a different path–a road less traveled, perhaps, but infinitely more interesting. She fought severe depression for years before killing herself by drinking weed killer in 2007 at age 48. Born November 19, 1958, today she would have been 55 years old.


Credited with discovering the brilliant British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, above…


…as well as the models Stella Tennant, pictured left, and Sophie Dahl, above right, her global influence in fashion is undeniable.

And now, Somerset House in London, in partnership with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins, present Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, a fashion exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life and illustrious 30-year career of an undeniable flower, a patron of both fashion and art, Isabella Blow.

The muse of hat designer Philip Treacy, Isabella had a penchant for the unusual and the bizarre. She regularly wore outlandishly creative hats like the ones pictured in this article–all designed by Treacy, in fact–and she wore them with brazen, unapologetic glamour.

Jeremy Langmead, now the editor in chief of the online men’s clothing retailer MrPorter, hired Isabella as fashion director of the Sunday Times Style Magazine in London in 1997. He tells a memorable story to a reporter about this fashion eccentric:


“Imagine the office at News International, all the male journalists sitting around in shirt sleeves,” he said. “In comes Isabella wearing giant antlers sticking out from the top of a coat,” like the brown pony hair blazer with impala horns above, designed by her protégé, McQueen.

“It was absolutely about who she was in her soul,” Langmead continued. “At lunchtime she would sit among all the printers, eating her roast beef dressed like that, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.”


Her fantastic vision combining lobster and diamonds–two of my favorite things–was emulated by Lady Gaga as seen in the photograph above.

Isabella’s career began as Anna Wintour’s assistant at US Vogue in 1983 before she moved back to London in 1986. On her return to London she worked at Tatler followed by British Vogue. In 1997 she became the Fashion Director of the Sunday Times Style after which she returned to Tatler as Fashion Director.


The exhibition will showcase more than a hundred pieces from her incredibly rich collection, one of the most important private collections of late 20th Century/early 21st Century British fashion design, now owned by Isabella’s friend, Daphne Guinness.

“This exhibition is, to me, a bittersweet event,” Guinness said. “Isabella Blow made our world more vivid, trailing color with every pace she took. It is a sorrier place for her absence. When I visited her beloved clothes in a storage room in South Kensington, it seemed quite clear the collection would be of immense value to a great many people. I do believe that in choosing to exhibit them we’ve done the right thing–and that it is what she would have wanted. I am doing this in memory of a dear friend, in the hope that her legacy may continue to aid and inspire generations of designers to come.”


To accompany the exhibition, there will be a catalogue with new, commissioned photography of the Isabella Blow Collection, like the ones above and below, all with models wearing pieces from Isabella’s collection and shot by Nick Knight.

Incredibly, Knight, a British fashion photographer, shot all the photos on his iPhone camera.


Fashion Galore! opens tonight and runs through March 2, 2014 at the Somerset House in London, England. Book your tickets here.


Happy birthday, Isabella.