Monday, January 25, 2010

we're in a recession??

I’m watching with great interest how the mood generated by a tanked US economy and all-pervasive joblessness is seeping into fashion. Jeans, in particular. The city seems to be sliding back into grunge mode … your faded blues have to be on the street-sleeping side of tattered for you to be acceptably stylish. Store windows (and fashion shows) are replete with ripped tights and torn, frayed designer jeans that have – wait for it – been splattered with paint! And you’re gonna pay for that?!

But New York wouldn’t be New York if it weren’t filled with contradictions. For a country proudly founded on capitalism, and endlessly promoting its exuberant culture of consumerism, lessons from our newest Great Depression haven’t sunk in just yet. Fresh from the howling of daily newspapers over the million-dollar payouts promised to bank executives infamously bailed out by the US government, the wealthy are trying to tamp down visible signs of their affluence. The homes they’re buying are less flamboyant, the cars they drive, less sleek and low-slung, the champagne labels they imbibe hidden discreetly in the ice-cooler.

Wherever there are lines the length of Broadway filled with the unemployed, there will always be a rarefied number who have escaped that fate. And there will be those who don’t blink at whipping out the plastic, whatever the price. There is no better example than the ad in a women’s fashion magazine, which had a little Emporio Armani silk vest covered in beaded ribbons ranged alongside a bracelet made of rainbow-coloured cotton threads, tiny mother-of-pearl charms dangling from them. The Armani tank was $675. The string bracelet was $1060.

Go figure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

how icy is icy?

While Capetonians are battling a 40º heat wave and firing up their braais with a glass of lightly wooded chenin blanc in hand, we’re wrapping ourselves up to withstand heavily-minus plummets of the mercury. And there’s a whole other fashion trend going down here, evident in some pretty interesting head gear.

Hats I once deemed to belong in the depths of dork-ville are turning up on the prettiest faces – knitted caps with strings and pompoms, slouchy poorboy caps, headbands of the softest furriest animal pelts (whatever happened to PETA, who were once so famous for throwing a dead raccoon on Anna Wintour’s elegant restaurant plate and pouring red paint on her stairs?). Fur (the real kind) is everywhere. It seems that consciences are lost in the frigidity of winter.

The most prevalent head gear is the old-fashioned aviator’s cap, or trapper’s hat, with its dangling ear flaps and weird wadge of fur at the forehead. What on earth is that for? Decoration? They come in every permutation, from cloth to leather to suede, but always with furry ear and head flaps. Then there are New Yorkers with a sense of humour, wearing woollen caps topped with flayed punk fringes, like shaved horse’s manes. I even saw a woman wearing a Hannibal Lecter-style face mask in soft pliable fabric, with pin-prick holes to breathe through.

That’s how cold it is.

We ran an 8km race in Central Park on the weekend. It was
-7°C. The wind was so icy it hurt my face. I couldn’t speak my lips were so numb. I also wasn’t sure whether my streaming nasal passages had produced icicles projecting from the tip of my nose. And when we grabbed cups of water off the tables alongside the road, the water had frozen in the cups. Now that’s an experience I can’t recall ever having had before.

A little more magical were the ice floes jammed in the Hudson River. In some places the ice was packed so tight, the river wasn’t moving; in others, slabs looking like giant pancakes heaved and fell as boats forged through the ice like a scene out of Antarctica. A seagull floated off on an ice-pancake, quizzically watching the waters spin by.