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Watch this. Bill Cunningham New York

26 Sep

In lieu of keeping on topic of our wise elders that we could learn a thing or three from, Bill Cunningham may just be my new hero after watching Bill Cunningham New York.  I keep finding myself being overly attracted to either kids under the age of 15 or people over the age of 75.  Maybe it’s because they share the same common thread of having less inhibitions on what is important.  The rest of us in the middle are more worried about what everyone else is doing/thinking, which makes the meat a little less easy to taste.  That’s why Bill is my hero.

Bill Cunningham is thought of the original street photographer in having shot the streets of New York since the late 60’s.  “I’m not interested in celebrities with their free dresses,” Cunningham says in the film. “I’m interested in the clothes.”  He keeps the schedule of a fisherman, rain or shine, blizzard or hurricane, he hits the street with his 35mm Nikon and tirelessly documents fashion on everyday people.  He has a spread that appears weekly in the Sunday New York Times Fashion section, that points out trends before Anna Wintour reports on them in the pages of Vogue.  More than highlighting his prolific body of work, this film really makes you love Bill for what he stands for, which is his independence and ethical stance on what fashion should be.  He often refuses to get paid because he feels then people could then tell him what to do.  He’s one of the few tenants left in the famous Carnegie Hall lofts, with a studio that is no larger than a closet, filled with filing cabinets of negatives and art books.  It’s ironic for a man who’s incredibly passionate about fashion to laugh at ever having the need for a closet.  He only has the clothes on his back and a change of the exact same clothes that he hangs through the handle of a filing drawer.  As for his ethics, he’s never taken a mean photograph to out someone for their fashion mishaps.  He only takes photos of what he loves.  He even left his job documenting fashion for WWD (Women’s Wear Daily), one of the most sought after jobs for any fashion photographer, because they took his images and divided them into a worst and best dressed list.  It devistated him to see his subjects in a negative light.

You can still see Cunningham riding his 28th Schwinn bike (other 27 have been stolen over the years) with his camera around his neck hopping from one charity event to the next fashion event, while dodging taxis from the Upper East Side to Soho.  He’s 82, has no intention to ever stop, because documenting what he sees on the streets is his one love.

“There is no reason to be doom and gloom and think that fashion is finished… The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it, it would be like doing away with civilisation.”

“The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.”

“I don’t decide anything,” he says. “I let the street speak to me, and in order for the street to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is.”

In 2008, Cunningham was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres , by the French Ministry of Culture. In his speech, he was overcome with emotion. He told the assembled glitterati: “It’s as true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty, will find it.”

You should watch this documentary, whether you care about fashion or photography.  We all have a lot to learn from it.  It’s available on DVD or you can stream it on Netflix.

I’d eat documentaries for breakfast everyday if I could.

26 Aug

After seeing Senna last night, it has been confirmed… There’s nothing better than a good documentary.  I’m not even saying in the realm of film exclusively, more like there’s nothing better in life.  When I was doing my silly (yet very satisfying) project of watching a film a day for a year, I did my fare share of working in some wholesome documentaries, which brings me to my second conclusion: watching documentaries is the best thing you can do for stay at home research in the world of wardrobe styling.  You get to explore a portal to a world that you would never normally be able to be a part of.   For instance, I didn’t know the Donkey Kong champion looks like a limo driver, which in my mind is good to know.  I also didn’t know what someone who was obsessed with 80’s pop icon Tiffany in 2010 would look like a serial killer.  Again, good to know.  This beats doing research through feature films because all the characters have been painstakingly calculated from a bunch of super creative people, while a documentary shows you as it is, undoubtedly from a perspective, but without too much idling in the wardrobe department.  Documentaries are 90 to 120 minutes of solid spying that burn a deep hole in my memory for stereotypes that I can pull out of my hat upon job requests.  Thank god for Netflix instant stream.  Oh, and make sure you see Senna.  It will take you on a memorable ride.  If nothing else, you get to stare at this handsome chap for 2 hours.

Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

28 Jun

My friend hyped this movie up for how weird it made her feel.  She followed that with how awesome it is.  Of course, I then had to watch Dogtooth, in which it is coincidentally the first Greek film I’ve seen, right before I set sail on my first trip to Greece.  It was nominated for Best Foreign Film, but I have a feeling most might turn it off while watching it.  Love it or hate it, you won’t forget this movie.  I think I’ve thought about Dogtooth everyday since watching it, and I think about this dance practically every hour.  If this suggests how the Greek’s dance in a night club, you’ll without a doubt see me tearing up a rug in a discotheque nightly.  Yikes, take 5 minutes to watch this.  SOoooo weird.

I’m obsessed with Ann Roth.

4 Apr

Costume designer of the new HBO series, Mildred Pierce, costume designer of all things awesome…  Ann Roth is my new hero.  This isn’t only because of her body of work that includes movies such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient, Midnight Cowboy and 109 other films(!), but also because she’s 80, works 16 hour days and is still completely enthralled in her career.  When I did my movie-a-day project last year and profiled each costume designer, I found her name coming up again and again to movies I loved.  I’ve since grown a small obsession with her and try to see everything she does.

Harper’s Bazaar interviews her this month because of her work for Mildred Pierce.  She makes a lot of great points that I couldn’t agree with her more on.  She talks about how little her job has to do with fashion.  She creates looks for characters, not the runway, which is a common misconception of the costume designer’s role.  The costumes are only intended to serve the narrative.  For a wardrobe stylist in advertising, the same is true.  You’re representing a character, a demographic, and telling a story of how he or she would experience the product.  It has little to do with what everyone thinks is fashionable (unless it applies directly to the product), rather, whether it fits the narrative of what we’re trying to imply for the product.

Here’s some highlights from the interview, which you can read in its entireity here.

““I would never look at movies for my work. I would look at real clothes from the period and photographs from the period. One doesn’t look at other people’s work.” Instead, Roth takes an almost forensic approach to costuming her characters, assessing them from the inside out.  For Mildred Pierce, she decided that based on Mildred’s means, she would have shopped at Bullock’s department store, rather than at the tonier shops in Beverly Hills. She does this for all her characters, she says. “I think about how much money they spent, where they go, does she have a drawer for silk slips…”

You can also see her in action in this HBO behind the scenes video on the making of Mildred Pierce.  I recommend watching the entire video, but if you’re only interested in learning more about Roth, she’s highlighted about 13 minutes in.

If only I could hold her coffee cup on a project.  I would sell my soul to do the honor.

Press Pause Play

9 Mar

Press Pause Play is a documentary being released at SXSW this weekend on how the digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent of people in an unprecedented way, while also unleashing unlimited creative opportunities.  The film asks, “But does democratized culture mean better art, film, music and literature or is true talent instead flooded and drowned in the vast digital ocean of mass culture? Is it cultural democracy or mediocrity?”

Interesting interview with Seth Godin from the film.  “The industry is dead.”

I’m very excited to see this.  In just seeing the trailer, it makes me think about the pressure we need to put on ourselves to keep thriving in our creative careers.  There are so many elements beyond being talented to predict your success.  The kicker is that no one is going to tell you how to do it.  Unfortunately, it isn’t black and white, meaning there isn’t a right or wrong way anymore.  The playing field has flattened and it is up to you to find the best way to use all the information that is at your fingertips.  That’s the real pressure.  It all being up to you.

On the flip side, which I also can see, here’s Rob Haggart’s (A Photo Editor)  take on this film:

The trailers have been floating around for awhile now and whenever I watch them I can’t help but hear my bullshit alarm screaming in the back of my head, because they’ve interviewed a bunch of people who plan to make millions off all the wannabee artists that are now suddenly empowered by the internet. I would argue that while it’s gotten easier for people to create things and absurdly easy to distribute them, creating something interesting and engaging has remained as difficult as ever.

Frocktalk

7 Mar

I heart this blog about costume design for the big screen.  Frocktalk is written by Kristin M. Burke, who has designed for over 40 films and written two books on the art of costume design.  Not only does she interview some of the top CDs in the industry, she also writes reviews of the CD for current films along with her well known costume design friends AND gives many heart felt inside looks to working as a costume designer in Hollywood.

Here’s a quote that I love, written by Burke:

Costumes don’t have to be fancy, fussy, expensive or gorgeous to be good.  In fact, most of the costumes we will discuss on this site are, at first glance, rather ordinary.  They become extraordinary, however, when one discovers their deeper meaning.  It is the job of the costume designer to bring the character to life, to inform the audience who this person is, and what he is about, before the actor can even open his mouth.   What we as costume designers seek is appropriateness, costumes that evoke a story and set the scene for our characters.

Check out Frocktalk at http://frocktalk.com/.

Biutiful

16 Feb

Going into this, I knew very little except for that it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.  I wish someone said to me, “Prepare to feel defeated, inconsolably sad, and like you want an ice cream sundae to dry up the tears.”  Damn, a great movie I never, ever want to see again.

Directed and written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also did 21 Grams and Babel, must have the token saying while directing, “Reshoot! I need more sadness!”    Javier Bardem is the star, who I love, and is nothing short of amazing in this, but dang, seeing how he’s a method actor and all, he must have gone through some pretty torturous weeks to get into this role. Beyond the content, which goes from bad to worst, the film is aesthetically disgustingly beautiful, or biutiful, to look at.  There isn’t one cheerful color or one sunny day that brings a break to the viewer.  Or was there?  I only remember extreme darkness.  It’s gritty, often hard to look at, and really gets the job done in making you feel, well, like you have terminal cancer in a city’s slum too.  Go see it, but not at night, preferably on a sunny day, with a bunch of bright-colored candy in tote to bring a little bit of happy to the most depressing movie you’ll ever see.

A Christmas Story

24 Dec

Marathon?  YES!!!!!

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Side note:  The costume designer, Mary McLeod also did Resident Evil, Boondock Saints and Halloween.  That’s something I noticed last year when I was doing my movie-a-day, costume designers definitely don’t get pigeon holed into one style.  Most of them are all over the place.

Merry Christmas!!!

Wardrobe styling has killed the joy of holiday shopping.

23 Dec

I hate to say it, but it’s true.  I did 90% of my holiday shopping online because I try to conserve all my shopping energy for my job, especially during the holiday season.  As you could guess, prepping a wardrobe job takes twice as long due to the number of shoppers and the amateur sales clerks that mass retail stores hire during their busy season.  Then there’s the music, the trendy Christmas music CD that every retail establishment plays on repeat that makes me want to swallow a candy cane whole.  The only bonus to this time of year is you don’t look quite as crazy when you’re returning 10 pairs of slippers in 3 different sizes and multiple shades.  Maybe the brandy new sales clerk just assumes that I aim to please my husband and I like to present “options” under the tree.

A good name for a costume design class. “The psychology of dressing actors.”

17 Dec

I’ve been helping out on and off on a new television series taping in Chicago (more details to come) and I can’t help but compare and contrast the difference between working on wardrobe in advertising, whether it’s print or television and working in film or a television series.  Something I had never had to take into consideration in advertising is, “How would this make the actors feel.”  Especially in print, how the model feels about what they are wearing doesn’t really come into play.   There are some exceptions to this.  For instance, if your subject is someone who is featured in an article in a magazine for something they have done, of course you want them to like what they’re wearing.  But when it comes to advertising, it’s not about them.  They’re there to compliment the product or in television commercials, to sell the product.  In print, it’s not really about looking cute or stylish unless that has to do with the product, it’s about the entire image as a whole making sense.  In television commercials, it’s obviously a little more fluid, but the same rule of thumb goes.

When I shop for advertising assignments, I’m thinking about what I think works, what I think the client will think works, and what I think the photographer/director will think works.  In film and television, you can go right ahead and move all those people aside and put the actor at the top of your list.  You’re caressing their ego with fine cashmere for every item you buy for them.  In the end, if they don’t feel 100% confident in what they’re wearing, even as they’re walking to set, you’re making a frantic run to the stores.

To the actor, how good they look in every scene gets them the next job.  To the costume designer, every detail in their clothing tells you something about their character and sometimes all those details don’t please the actor’s taste.  How do we resolve this? The costume designer becomes really good at the psychology game to make the actors feel comfortable and confident.  Don’t you think it would be a good class?