everything is never quite enough (mikeijames) wrote,
everything is never quite enough

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melt down, break down, shut down.

it's amazing how much the tenor of life can change in but a quarter. a season. however, one must say, that in this, by far the best year of my life, i've encountered a season of desuetude of my own making. unlike years past where i could blame such a season on the excesses of fast living or the reaping of seeds of irresponsibility, this time i can honestly say that the season has not come because of the inability or the incapability, but out of pure unadulterated responsibility. and while it aggravates me to my core, it feels good in an odd counter-intuitive way. after two full quarters of the fullest of living i've had in so many years, i've finally started to re-enter my groove. i'm doing the things i like. i'm going the places i choose. and i'm living how i want to live. it's not as if my life proceeds without its deficiencies, but even those remain better than the hell from which i've emerged. i've gone from a season of outright extroversion to one of near total introversion and introspection. it's clarified some things. it's focused my eyes in a strange way once again. and it's funny. the thing i love about fashion. about politics. about celebrity. about royalty. about so many things. it's the exciting undercurrent of change. the way one sweeping zeitgeist can overtake the frenzy of just moments ago. within the span of just a few months we find one flock rushing from masculine lines and dark desolate obsessions to flushes of full color and the luxurious fineries of the caviar life. we can find a political party in supermajority one minute and overwhelmed by a wave election the next only to find themselves in a position of strength not even on year later. we watch television mainstays cancelled unceremoniously on the one hand while the most base of critical nightmares reaches bigger audiences and garners more money than people can keep up with. we find find even old institutions like the royal family usher in change: we've watched as the queen of england must not only hand over her crown to an adulteress who under-girded the divorce of the future king but now to someone as common as myself. someone who wears reiss like me. someone with a sister like mine. someone with a brother who i would probably run into at a bar. yes, change, it's in the air. it touches all things. it's even in the earth. since i last wrote, our very planet has found itself rocked by horrific tsunamis in japan and astounding volcanoes in iceland. tornadoes have touched town in missouri and massachusetts.

yes, change: but, of course, my mind rushes to fashion. the theatre of fashion has once again embodied the change in the world while dramatizing it in its own way. trying to understand the world. trying to make sense of the things happening to it. and we saw this most spectacularly at chanel. the king of all fashion houses in a way. in a somewhat prophetic fashion, three days before the earthquake in japan, while fashion's biggest concern came about in whispers of anti-semitism surrounding dior's designer, karl lagerfeld sent out this edgy collection filled with worker man jumpsuits and scuffed up boots against a backdrop of smoking, distrubing desolation. how eerie to think how on the money this vision of the world would become. but, much like the world, with its short attention span that forgets about the disaster in japan over the daily heap of glossy headlines, so has chanel left behind that darkness and emerged with one of the most frothy, devil-may-care, rhapsodies to outright luxury that we've seen from the house in many years. this time coming days before the cannes film festival, karl sent out his women in fresh squirts of lemon yellow and in sparkling swimsuits with their chanel beach towels dragging behind them on the boardwalk. he cast an older model -- invoking all those chanel women of a certain age no doubt -- in the midst of a gaggle of gentleman callers with a rueful smile on her face. yes. the world has certainly moved on.

and in this country, while i might fancy myself conservative, we have found an odd interpretation of conservativism asserting itself in washington and pontificating itself out of power not even one year after it swept in with great fanfare with a near government shut down one day and a medicare scare the next. when i wrote last, one might have thought the had the trump card -- quite literally actually -- and that they might seize an opportunity to hold the house, take the senate, and eke out a victory for the white house, but since then, we've seen the president capture osama bin laden, draw the idealogues out of the republican party shadows, and cast himself as a decisive leader who might not have accomplished all he wanted but has done the best he can with the political realities he got dealt. and although he might've gotten elected as an anti-war president, he not only ordered military action into pakistan without their consent or even notice, but he has precipitated a conflict in libya, and re-started military tribunals against those still in guantanamo.

strange days indeed, but none has distracted me so much as the events that have transpired in my own life. i had one of those quick flitted romances that jar me to the core while not have the semblances of seriousness that so many other's relationships seem to display. i met someone. and for the first time in a long time, i felt like i met someone that could honestly become my next someone. in the way i felt about the exsomeone. it felt serious. and enduring. and real. it cut to the core. quickly. it wasn't odd and intriguing like the long horn. it wasn't confusing and emotionally fraught like the stock broker. it was just real. i could lay there and be myself without the pretense. and if i were to say i had developed a new type in my old age, this someone would fit that bill. brown hair, brown eyes, owns a dog, goes to baseball games, from the midwest, with the build of an athlete and the temperament of everyday people. but, like so many other situations in the past, it came with a basket full of asterisks and caveats. this new someone lived in orange city florida, this new someone had recently gotten out of a relationship. but i felt the pull right from the start. we met online as so many do at about two in the morning. we talked online for a couple of hours and then followed it up with a conversation on the phone until five in the morning. we went out for coffee that morning and made plans for dinner that same night. we had dinner and then went to the grand prix downtown. we came back to my place. we held hands. we made out like teenagers. we shed our clothes. and i thought that i could actually fall in love. call me crazy. why do i say that? because we didn't have sex. my choice. my decision. we proceeded to conduct somewhat of a long-distance and phone sexing affair for weeks until my new someone's mother contracted breast cancer and that family emergency uprooted my someone from orange city to allentown, pennsylvania. for good. just like that.

i'm starting to think my turnover time for getting over these flash in the pan instant relationships in the internet age remains about three months. one month of actual involvement followed by this odd introspective two months where i don't meet anyone and don't want to do anything. except, that is, when i travel: after my birthday in south beach -- which hatched obsessions over brioni sneakers, w hotel bars, and more south american adventures -- i had a quick week in manhattan for one of their high holidays, st. patrick's day. while this trip did not stand out as one of my grand manhattan adventures with bottle service at a nightclub or fantastic bars filled with beautiful people or overpriced eats at fantastic restaurants, it definitely let me see the real new york once again. i touched down on a wednesday and proceeded to lose and/or break two of my friend's spare keys to her apartment. after i slept most of the wednesday due to my working nights, jen and i ventured out to pil y pil, a new tapas restaurant on the upper east side that looked straight out of the imagination of a crazed painter with wooden vines crawling up every visible wall and wine bottled suspended in air on slats of metal reminding us of the real world bustling just outside the door. jen and i caught up over some cheap rioja and fantastic bites before we stumbled our way over to uva, the wine bar she's talked to me about for years but that we never made it to. well, uva showcased everything about manhattan that i love. on a wednesday night, this place found itself stuffed to the gills with the right type of people. and while i guzzled malbec against the cold air peeking in with each opening of the door, the thumping beats of the music and the loud chatter of the skinny-jeaned and 5F'd diners made me swood. jen said this showed her just out of place she belonged in a place like new york. and i felt home. there exist few cities in this world. well, in the country, at least, that could boast such a crowd of well-coifed yuppies doling out fourteen dollars a glass of wine on a wednesday night at a random wine bar on a random street in new york. while i don't remember leaving -- nor did i even remember going to that bar until seven weeks later -- we went back home and i obsessed about going back out. she begged off and i went to the neighborhood waterhole, "the tool box." and i started in with the grey goose and sat down at one of the two unoccupied bar stools while a sweating martini glass sat sweating in front of the empty bar stool beside me. in a blink, a wall streeter in heavy good wool in one of those perfectly tailored suits came barrelling in like a water buffalo barking into a blackberry and re-claiming a martini in a bubbly guzzle before noticing me. i opened with a simple line: "you're brave," i said: and this wall streeter came back with a smile saying, "why do you say that?" : "to leave a full drink unattended in a bar like this? you're brave": we then started talking about how shitty the martini drank and what vodka it got made with and i recommended something better as is my wont and started talking about our lives: i noticed the golden band on the wedding finger so i pressed and got the surprising answer of not only marriage -- of the legal variety in new york not the conversational kind that so many use in bars these days -- and we got into it and apparently the other half not only knows all about it, but is okay with it. i mean, if this wall streeter indeed were doing something dasterdly, would the wall streeter do something so boldly in the open as to sit at a bar full of people: well, this got me to turn on my bar stool to face this wall streeter -- something of a in-my-thirties signature move ever since my dinner with the stockbroker at the queenshead bar -- and one thing lead to another with one more drink getting bought for me and a drunken stroll down second avenue until we got to the wall streeter's building. the motherfuckin' brompton. yes, the very brompton that i saw on "selling new york" and we had one of those nights that remained both unforgettable and entirely so. i slept in the marriage bed and i took my morning piss in one of the children's bathrooms. the apartment literally spanned the corner of the building with northern and southern exposure. i left my banana republic socks behind since i stepped in the dog poop of the toy dog left behind by the vacationing spouse.

the next morning, i raced back to jen's apartment as she had no idea where i was and saw her off just in time to crash for a bit before heading downtown for the new museum. i had yet another adventure since i saw the profound george condo exhibit and went to buy his book only to have my card declined. i immediately had thoughts of identity theft and raced home with butterflies in my stomach to find out that i had plenty of money. so i had to decide what i wanted to do after that so i embarked to the village for afternoon shopping and drinking but this turned to night very quickly -- i do tend to kill quite a bit of time at all of the marc jacobs stores and reiss and looking at all those lovely west village townhomes -- and i had to wrestle my way by hook (as i don't know the subway system enough to do that) and crook (as gypsy cabs sometime just make sense to me) back to the upper east side for a proper st. patrick's day drink off. i met my friend jen at "the stumble inn" and we drank for a while before we went to MXco to celebrate her friend's birthday (also a buckeye although i didn't know her at school though a friend of mine did). i made a scene when the wait for the bathroom forced my old man bladder/old man prostate to take a leak in the employee break room. yeah, embarassing. the next day, i got up to go shopping and museum shopping with my friend sara. we started the day on madison avenue with the whitney and tom ford and then went downtown for uniqlo, h+m, club monaco, and some lower east side boutiques finally stopping for sushi and some post sushi sweets at billy's cupcakes. i left sara at penn station and went to two other club monacos in the name of raiding their sales racks and then stopped by a borders going out of business sale since i figured they'd have crazy selection at the park avenue location. and i was right. that night, jen had planned a dinner party for the old ohio state gang and we had quite an edward albee evening that circled around four or five bottles of wine, great homemade fare, and the hunt for some more illicit fun. by the stroke of midnight, we found ourselves high on life piling into cabs headed to brooklyn to have a lowkey night out that wound up being anything but. so. we went to sweet revenge, after fueling up on the street (gotta love brooklyn), and it stood as one of the most surreal nights as the bar turned out EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what we all assumed. we met foreigners. we met women. we met locals. but my friend jen had much better luck with the patrons than i ever could. the night flew by and we somehow wound up at one of our brooklyn friend's homes drinking tequila out of a measuring cup and finishing off our illicitness and chatting the wee hours away as the sun rose over bed-stuy. we cabbed it back to manhattan with jen's french jude law lookalike and we spent the day detoxing with takeout sushi and bad television. i jumped the e train to jfk -- where i witnessed all manner of chanel and goyard bag surprisingly -- and came home in wonderful spirits if not entirely tired.

the next weekend i met the could-be future someone (right after i had met this completely horrible older wierdo at "the queen and i" where my car broke down en route) and then the next week, i met the boys in boston. if one were to ask me last spring if a bifurcated fall and spring trip with my boys would make up for a less-than-grand new years trip, i might have said, "no," but after boston, that proves quite wrong: as alex commented pretty early on into the trip, with each year that passes, we tend to up the ante of the trip, i mean, who would've thunk it, three broke college students crashing in a dive hotel off the strip in vegas would one day stay at the w boston for a carefree long weekend away from home. i touched down alone after a nearly serene jetblue flight and met the two of them at baggage claim. we cabbed it to the w and i felt the type of excitement i haven't felt in a while as i haven't been to a "new" city in quite some time. also, i loved being the one who actually paid for the hotel even though it came on a shoe string. we retired to our room and then made immediate plans for drinks in the oh-too-trendy lobby where alex and i became deeply infatuated with the delectable grapefruit gimlet. we launched off to cambridge for our first night out -- i in my shabby giorgio sant angelo jacket, ysl jeans, and lanvin knit tie -- and we had a quite bite at noir where we found ourselves considerably underwhelmed by the clientel, decor, but in love with our "precious" waitress who recommended my very favorite bar in all of the greater boston area, middlesex. we went to middlesex and despite the snowiness and eclectic crowd, i found myself bowled over by the music and would've spent the entire weekend there if it were my choice. after all, of us three, i'm the most deprived of music that good. we then cabbed it back across the bridge to club cafe which our concierge recommended and everyone in the hotel recommended which absolutely unequivocally sucked with the most action coming from an engaged -- as in had a fiancé at home -- coming up to hit on alex. with that, we closed out pretty quickly and headed to the estate where we had one of the most epic nights as we sweated out all of our clothes, saw some girl from rupaul's drag race perform, and met this odd group who we invited back to our hotel for after hours. yeah, it's been a running almost mary tyler moore esque joke among us that we always want to have a "good after hours" on our trips. we've never actually had one. ever. during vegas, we made it back to the hotel with some random guy but ditched him after we retrieved our stoli to go hang with our new york girls. in vegas the second time, we bought a cd and candle so that we could have people back but the boy band we met wasn't up to hanging with us after the cat house. in mexico city, we did convince one stranger back to our room -- while i did all sorts of nefarious things in full view -- but that fell flat as rob tried to close the deal unsuccessfully. well, in boston, we did finally have more than one person back to our room and though i found myself most attracted to this twenty one year old child, somehow i wound up spending the night with this someone who i don't even remember how we started kissing. but yeah. eager guy. so eager that i'm pretty sure i got a handjob in my sleep. i'm just saying. the next day, rob reacted like a dead man, and alex and i went to brunch on beacon hill and then shopping on newbury street. i got boots from marc jacobs and a scarf from french connection (for a song) and then alex and i walked all the way to this mall that had the standard array of near luxury shops like neiman, etc. we then headed back to retrieve rob and had a drink/lunch at market. that night, we started off with drinks at market -- i got so buzzed on grapefruit gimlets i could've sat there all night -- and then proceeded to cure which definitely fit the bill for our second night venture as it was new, new, new and we were on the list and the music was apparently cute enough for me to dance although i remember none of it at all. in fact, i don't even remember how we got home. the next day, we became tourists and we did the entire freedom trail which re-convinced us of just HOW SMALL boston remains. seriously, a village. but a lovely village i'd love to live in. after we took pictures and walked as far as we possibly could within reason, we caught a cab back to the hotel and almost crashed out. we had a quiet night at a sushi place across the street from the hotel. we landed back at market in our hotel -- after a slight altercation with this host from hell -- and rob had the drunkenly grand idea of heading to salem, massachusetts, but the manager of the restaurant came to assure us of the lunacy of that idea. the next morning, we packed up and headed out.

once back in town, with my relationship unraveling with my possibly maybe, i re-started things with my exsomeone, spending quite a lot of time, as is our pattern, just hanging out watching tv, taking showers, having sex, taking showers, lying in bed, ordering food in, having sex, talking, you get the point. i also had a couple of uneventful nights out with the p.r. girl. one happy hour at st. pete brasserie just to catch up. another time we went to cassis which i haven't been to IN SO LONG -- and where i had four martinis -- and then to the garden which had spectacular music and then to the independent where i saw bartenders i've seen trolling on online hookup sites. no judgement. fun night, but i got so drunk i had to vomit in my kitchen sink. fun. a couple weeks later, after having a long wet lunch with my old coworker who now lives in miami at brio at baystreet -- where i coined my new favorite phrase regarding ordering bottles in restaurants, "i'm not ordering the bottle to be sociable, i'm getting the second glass to be sociable" -- i headed back home to attend first friday and had a drink at "a taste of wine" and then dinner and beer bucket for the p.r. girl and her makeup artist friend and too much malbec for me at the garden which had FANTASTIC crab cakes. after that, we, of course, decided to go to the only bar in town, but the makeup artist had to ride the bike home and get the car and the p.r. girl and i raced to her apartment to scarf down an entire bottle of malbec before heading to the bar where, surprise surpsise, i got too drunk and went home early (i had worked the night before; do the math). but i did have fun since it was such a grand reunion where i saw old coworkers and friends from years back. craziness. funny thing happened though: the makeup artist gave me a ride home and then the next day called to go to the movies with me. so we went to see thor, but i found myself so broke that i had to beg off going to lunch.

speaking of brokeness, i've also spent some i'm-so-broke-i-have-no-choice time with my sister: we went to see "something borrowed" a couple of weeks ago with a couple of post-movie i-can't-believe-i-cried-over-that-movie drinks at hiro's which was just sad now. vue 19 really is the new cheesy sushi place du jour. and another night my sister and i went shopping -- where i literally bought the entire mall it had been so long since i had any retail therapy -- and then we watched one of the hockey playoff games at winghouse -- her choice -- which i didn't mind for all of the great scenery namely riled up sports fans. i kept imitating samantha in that sports' bar episode.

i think that's it. oh yeah, i'm definitely getting the etro shoes as the guy at the merrick park store says their buyer said that stores set to get them. also, i might have to hop down to miami for the fourth since it's not freaknik part two. what else? my apartment's going condo so i'll probably have to move without parental intervention. i'm going to see sade in st. louis although i don't know if i'll also get to see my friend charlie. oh, and the boys and i will head to columbus for our next adventure. can you believe it? it's been ten years since we've all known each other. i have a seriously un-shaking crush on yet another coworker who reminds me so much -- physically -- of the exsomeone that i'm embarrassingly flirtatious. well, for me, which means, not at all to the common person. well, now i have to take a nap since i'm due for dinner with the parents this afternoon and i've stayed up all night watching true blood season three.

A Spiritual Blossoming

Since this week begins with an idealistic pairing of Jupiter's sextile to Neptune on June 8, you'll feel like anything is possible -- and it is! Take advantage of Venus's transit into Gemini on June 9, when conversation and new social experiences bring excitement into your life! You may need a reality check, though, as Venus squares Neptune on June 10. Saturn finally turns direct on June 12, when you'll gain traction with all your great plans!

Japanese earthquake could be most expensive ever

The cost of damage from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

By Chris Isidore, senior writerMarch 13, 2011: 7:21 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- While the full extent of the disaster's aftermath is not yet clear, the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan could be the most expensive quake in history.

Its toll on Japan -- its people and its institutions -- is already staggering.

By official counts, more than 1,500 people have perished and about as many have been reported missing. There are fears that the death count could go much higher as rescuers get to towns that were washed away by powerful flooding.

Damage to power reactors has sparked fears of nuclear meltdown and radiation contamination. As of Sunday morning, nearly 5 million homes were without power. (Bank of Japan to help banks)

And the financial cost to the Japanese government, businesses and individuals is expected to be big. Cautioning that their estimates are preliminary, several experts made early calculations of the quake's financial cost on Sunday.

Full CNN coverage of quake and its aftermath
Losses from the quake, tsunami and fires will total at least $100 billion, including $20 billion in damage to residences and $40 billion in damage to infrastructure such as roads, rail and port facilities, catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat estimated.

Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated that losses covered by insurance could reach between $15 billion and $35 billion from the earthquake alone. It did not estimate losses from the tsunami or the damage to the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan.

According to AIR, the number of Japanese businesses and homeowners with earthquake insurance is relatively low, ranging between 14% to 17%. As a result, the total financial toll for the catastrophe could be considerably higher than the estimate of insured losses.

In the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, the most expensive in history, total losses were $100 billion but insured losses only $3 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

By comparison, the 1994 quake in Northridge, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles, had the highest tally of insured losses ever -- $15.3 billion. In today's dollars, adjusted for inflation, that comes to insured losses of $22.7 billion.

The Insurance Information Institute said it believes the losses from Friday's disaster will prove to be the most expensive earthquake in history, although it did not give any dollar estimate of the costs.


Shutdown 2011
Budget deal averts shutdown

"I am pleased to announce that the ... entire federal government will be open for business," President Obama said.

By Charles Riley, staff reporterApril 9, 2011: 2:14 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Lawmakers pushed through a last-minute spending bill Friday night to avert a shutdown and keep the federal government open for business.

The short-term spending measure -- the seventh in the past six months -- cut $2 billion and allows agencies to spend money through next Friday. The White House said Saturday afternoon that President Barack Obama signed the short- term measure into law.



Meanwhile, lawmakers will try to put the finishing touches on a broader bill that will set funding levels for the remaining six months of the fiscal year at $38.5 billion lower than last year.

"I do believe that we will have, what we'll call, a bridge continuing resolution passed tonight to ensure the government's open," House Speaker John Boehner announced just before 11 p.m.

The House is scheduled to vote on the deal Wednesday, and the Senate vote is likely to come after that.

Minutes after Boehner announced that a deal had been reached, Obama said at the White House that the government will be open for business on Saturday.

"Tomorrow, I am pleased to announce that the ... entire federal government will be open for business," Obama said.

Added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "We didn't do it at this later hour for drama, we did it because it's been very hard to arrive at this point."

Within seconds of Reid finishing his floor speech, the Senate passed the short-term bill and moved it to the House, where it passed after midnight.

It appeared that the broad outlines of a longer-term deal were in place late Friday, but legislators were forced to resort to passing the simpler, short-term bill because the final legislation on the six-month deal is still a work in progress.

Republicans hoped to make the majority of the long-term cuts from a small part of the budget -- a section called non-security discretionary spending.

That section of the budget makes up roughly 12% of all federal spending, and Democrats had sought to spread the cuts to other parts of the budget to alleviate pain on some of their favorite programs.

Obama and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle had expressed a reluctance to pass yet another short-term bill that would last just a few days. But the alternative -- a government shutdown -- forced them to act.

For federal workers and the agencies that employ them, the stopgap measure means a reprieve from the consequences of a government shutdown.

If the two sides had failed to find common ground, the resulting shutdown would have meant millions of federal workers would not have gotten a paycheck and many of the services that Americans depend on would have abruptly stopped.

The fight just gets dumber
For days, Democrats and Republicans have argued over just a few billion dollars in spending cuts. Obama joined the debate, but the two sides remained at odds over the level of cuts and a set of controversial social policy measures pushed by Republicans.

Those negotiations stalled earlier Friday, despite assurances from the leadership of both parties that progress was being made and meetings had been productive.

But a Republican push to cut $317 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood failed. Democrats also thwarted attempts to get federal dollars currently set aside for family planning and women's health turned into block grants for states.

However, sources told CNN that leaders of Senate agreed to hold separate votes on both measures, as well as on an initiative to repeal Obama's health care overhaul.

Usually, lawmakers make some effort to pass a real, 365-day budget. Not this year. Instead, lawmakers have passed seven short-term spending bills to make it this far.

That stop-and-go funding pattern left agencies struggling to implement new legislation like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill. And other agencies delayed awarding big contracts. The Department of Defense even put the construction of a Virginia-class attack submarine on hold.

-CNN's Dana Bash, John King, Ted Barrett, Alan Silverleib and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Chanel Resort 2012 RTW review
By Sarah Mower

Once in a while, out of the regular ready-to-wear cycle, Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel lead the fashion pack to a place of fantasia, a total-immersion experience where the meaning of "croisière'" is at its most glamorous.

"This is one of the most beautiful places in the world, no?" Lagerfeld said, sitting on a deck overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden Roc in Antibes, the playground of the rich since the 1920s, and the setting he chose to place "resort" back in one of its original settings on the French Riviera. "This hotel is flawlessly kept, and there is a different dress code here. One has to dress to match the yachts. It cannot be sloppy," he remarked. "But I didn't want to do anything retro. People have never had as much money here as they do at the moment, and this is about how to spend your money but spend it in style."

As he spoke, the sun was setting, shedding a pink light over a pale-blue sea. "This is the time of day when you can tell real diamonds from fake," Lagerfeld observed. "And here, they are real."

The Chanel diamonds to which he was referring—shooting stars, feathers, and pins from the fine jewelry collection—were pinned liberally to the shoulders and necklines of narrow mimosa-yellow and lavender tweed suits, the vivid colors reminiscent of the early-blooming flowers to be seen in the South of France.

That was just for starters, though, for as the show progressed, it became one of Lagerfeld's narratives, with girls seeming to be making their way up from the beach in swimsuits, covered up with Chanel jackets or black and white cashmere wraps, and moving along a garden runway. Kristen McMenamy was among the models—storming along and surrounded by men—in a kind of live trailer for the movie Lagerfeld was about to screen for more 300 guests at a party come nightfall.

And that's where the serious reveling began. The film (starring McMenamy, Amanda Harlech, Anna Mouglalis, and a cast of Chanel friends) was a drama about inheritances, sparring ex-wives, house parties, casinos, and a soupçon of lesbianism. After that, the party continued with a set from Bryan Ferry, followed by dancing until sunrise among a crowd highly reluctant to wend its way back to reality.

Chanel Resort 2012 Ready-to-wear

ANTIBES, FRANCE, May 9, 2011
By Tim Blanks

"Billion-dollar babes." Karl-ette Caroline Sieber nailed the essence of the Cruise collection that Lagerfeld showed for Chanel tonight. The venue—the Hotel du Cap, in Antibes on the French Riviera—is, as the designer himself pointed out, possibly the most expensive hotel in the world, and he booked out the whole joint a year ago for however many days it took to get this show on the runway. Plus, he'd flown in a cast of top models and glamorous front-row horseflesh. Plus plus, he accessorized his looks with real jewels, diamonds, and pearls, like the comet of sparklers that traced the armhole on Karolina Kurkova's top. "Too much may not be enough," Lagerfeld mused at show's end.

He was reflecting on the world of difference between Saint-Tropez, where he showed his last Cruise collection a year ago, and Antibes, which is a few hours down the coast. "This is the other side of paradise," he said, meaning that the Hotel du Cap defines a degree of extravagance that former fishing village Saint-Tropez doesn't aspire to. But, diamonds aside, quite how the notion of a schism of excess crossed over to the clothes Karl showed wasn't as clear. He claimed he was inspired by Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan, former hot-blooded habitués of the Hotel du Cap, but the lean silhouette he opted for was more cerebral than sensual, even if the opening hits of broom yellow and lilac did suggest local summer flora and the soundtrack was pumping red-hot Prince. Jackets were seamed close to the body, skirts ended below the knee in a kick pleat. Then the collection expanded into an almost-infinity of options. "I saw everything from a day at the beach to a wedding," said the actress Rachel Bilson.

Which meant that this collection lacked the focus that made Fall's ready-to-wear, for instance, such a dystopian tour de force. Kristen McMenamy in a bathing suit and dramatic black and white wrap shared runway space with Stella Tennant in a pleated mid-calf dress in navy crepe that was topped by a long, sleeveless vest. Such variables are a smart commercial move, given that Chanel's Cruise collection stays in stores longer than any other of the collections that Lagerfeld designs each year for the label. Judged as a series of stand-alone items, it was easy to extract some immediate winners: the full trousers slashed up the calf, the floaty three-quarter-length dresses with the shirred midriffs, Natasha Poly's white beaded sheath. Elsewhere, Lagerfeld's claim that it is his "job to challenge" produced a hard-to-get-around oddity like the hybrid thong-boot footwear. Perhaps that could be rationalized as the shoe for someone who has everything else her heart could possibly desire, in keeping with what the designer saw as the spirit of the locale. But there are some desires that are clearly better left unsatisfied.

March 4, 2011
Golden Girl

LAST Wednesday evening, Blake Lively, the star of “Gossip Girl,” arrived at La Grenouille in Midtown, where Chanel had organized a dinner to introduce her as the new face of the French fashion house’s Mademoiselle handbag ad campaign. Wearing a white Chanel minidress that contained — at least, to a degree — her famously curvaceous torso while still showing off her long, perpetually tanned legs, the 23-year-old Ms. Lively seemed, at times, to have trouble believing that she was the focal point of the room.

After greeting the designer Tory Burch and Vogue’s event director, Sylvana Soto-Ward, and hopping up and down in wobbly heels upon seeing John Galantic, the president of Chanel, Ms. Lively eventually made her way to a table. “I was just having a conversation and I looked down and saw ‘Chanel: Dinner in Honor of Blake Lively’ ” she said, pointing to her menu. “It’s crazy.”

And yet there is nothing haphazard about Ms. Lively’s current perch atop fashion’s hierarchy. “I had other opportunities and I would say, ‘Thank you so much, but I am holding out for Chanel,’ ” she said. “That’s who I want to be the face of. And people would say, ‘Well, that’s unrealistic, they only hire Europeans,’ and I said: ‘Well, how great. I’ll be the first then.’ ”

Since relocating to New York a few years ago, Ms. Lively has befriended designers; has been featured on three of Vogue’s covers, including the best-dressed special edition in January; and now she has been hand-picked for the Chanel campaign by the house’s designer, Karl Lagerfeld. At Paris Fashion Week, Ms. Lively and Mr. Lagerfeld would replicate the New York dinner at Coco Chanel’s former home on the Rue Cambon.

It’s been a quick ascent for a teenage soap actress on network TV, whose wardrobe, as photographic evidence shows, used to be largely made up of tank tops and jeans.

Almost immediately eclipsing her brunet co-star Leighton Meester — who also sat front-row at Chanel couture in July, but was then chosen for the lower-key Vera Wang and Missoni campaigns — Ms. Lively, perhaps, offered something reassuringly commercial to recession-scarred designers and editors: a healthy, perky, all-American surfer girl who giggles and squeals when presented with something sparkly. Ms. Lively, as her cheerful name suggests, displays no self-conscious edge (though her role as a junkie in “The Town” showed she could if she wanted to), no dark eyeliner or damning gossip items pointing to an identity crisis; she is Betty to Ms. Meester’s Veronica. Internet chatter about the authenticity of her upper body or rumors of a possible romance with Ryan Gosling following her breakup with Penn Badgley is about as bad as her P.R. gets.

Unlike other young women who chase a specific look that begins to feel so inherently theirs that they are more often asked to design clothes rather than model them (like Chloë Sevigny or Alexa Chung), Ms. Lively, who does not employ a stylist and seems to choose garments based on the simple premise of what best shows off her figure, is an appealing blank slate.

“If someone else dressed me, it’s them interpreting me, but the truth is, people don’t know me,” said Ms. Lively.

The youngest of five children, Ms. Lively was raised in Burbank, Calif., and was a cheerleader at her high school. She arrived on the set of “Gossip Girl” in 2007, in “sweatpants and Uggs,” as she told a Vogue writer.

“Fashion was always part of her life because we were a family of shopaholics,” said her mother, Elaine, a former model from Savannah, Ga., turned acting coach and talent manager, at the Chanel dinner. “In junior high, she wanted to go shopping all the time at Forever 21. It was a big deal to go to Bebe and Guess.”

It was not Ms. Lively who initially charmed the fashion industry, but her character on “Gossip Girl” — the Maison Martin Margiela-clad, martini-drinking Serena van der Woodsen.

“Blake’s the triple S: sporty, sexy, sophisticated,” said the designer Michael Kors, an immediate fan of the show, in a phone interview. “You can say she’s a California blonde, but she is very sophisticated and that’s a rare combo. It’s Lauren Hutton. It’s Farrah Fawcett. They don’t come along that often.”

Shortly after the show was first broadcast, Mr. Kors invited Ms. Lively to join him at the Seventh on Sale dinner benefit in New York, and dressed her in a cupcake-yellow floor-length gown.

“You look at her skin and her hair — she’s healthy,” Mr. Kors said. “It’s the anti-bored, too-cool-for-school, locked in a club for months on end look that you see a lot of young actresses going for. There’s something very optimistic about her. I think she’s the anti-downer, anti-sad.”

Ms. Lively credited that night with a series of successes that followed. “Michael Kors took me to my first big fashion event,” she said, “and because of that yellow dress I got Anna’s attention, and through Anna I met Karl.”

Alexandra Kotur, the style director of Vogue, traced the magazine’s affection for the actress to when Ms. Lively arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the annual Costume Institute ball two years ago in a teal Versace gown. Defying the basic dictum of fashion (legs or cleavage, not both), the dress was a chaos of peekaboo cuts and slits that traveled up the thigh, down the neckline and, in what seemed like a tailoring mishap, had only one long sleeve.

“We all just kind of jumped on her,” Ms. Kotur said. “When she came to the Met in that Versace we thought: ‘Who? What? Who’s this?’ She walked up those steps and she had confidence and she wore that dress like nobody else. That was when it all started.”

“She has this East Coast-West Coast way of combining things that is very original,” Ms. Kotur added. “She’s a Malibu girl who can wear Chanel, and that’s where it’s really that bi-coastal chic that no one else has in America right now. She shows cleavage, she’ll show some leg. And it’s sexy.”

The next morning, Ms. Lively’s photo was disseminated across the fashion blogs and the actress, suddenly aware that what she wears could be an integral part of her career, began studying.

“She would go home and research for hours on Style.com and come back and say, ‘I just found these great jeans or this great Chloé bag,’ ” said Eric Daman, the costume designer for “Gossip Girl,” who conceptualized the Serena look. As the show entered its second season, the styling of Ms. Lively’s character became more collaborative. “It’s a very different process I have with Blake than I have with Leighton,” Mr. Daman said. “Blake likes to come in and we play around and we try things on and do more of a stylist fitting. With Leighton it’s much more predetermined.”

When Ms. Lively wanted to adapt elements of Serena’s wardrobe into her own, she turned to designers who sent dresses to the show, such as Christian Cota, who started his label around the time “Gossip Girl” premiered, and soon became the beneficiary of its star’s escalating profile.

“I got a call from her publicist one day,” Mr. Cota said in a telephone interview, “asking if I can rush to Blake’s apartment at 7 in the morning to have a fitting with some of the dresses I sent because she was going on David Letterman that day.” Ms. Lively selected a blue pleated silk frock for her appearance. “It really put me on the map with a lot of people,” Mr. Cota said.

Around the same time, Ms. Lively had dinner with the film producer Harvey Weinstein at the Waverly Inn and subsequently befriended his wife, Georgina Chapman of Marchesa. On her way to the Golden Globes this year, Ms. Chapman was on a Los Angeles-bound flight with Ms. Lively, discussing how she is the rare successful actress who chooses her own clothes. “I said: ‘Oh my gosh, Blake, that’s a lot of work. How do you find the time?’ ” Ms. Chapman said. “But she said she enjoys it.”

By 2009, monthly glossies had welcomed Ms. Lively as a cover girl. Last October, Ms. Lively’s second Allure cover was the magazine’s best-selling issue. (Her June Vogue and last January’s Esquire covers, however, were reportedly among the worst-sellers.)

“She’s a living, breathing human being who smiles,” said Allure’s editor, Linda Wells. “And you think, why would that be so hard? Who knew the non-rebel would suddenly feel rebellious? Then you add that to the fact that she’s not going to get arrested and she’s not going to shave her head or end up in rehab, but she goes out enough to be visible. It’s kind of a perfect situation for designers and editors. She’s a safe bet.”

The announcement that the golden-haired Ms. Lively — a physical departure from past Chanel waifs like Keira Knightley, Kate Moss and Vanessa Paradis — would be featured in Chanel’s spring campaign seemed to be the final step of her initiation into fashion’s upper echelons, and for those who know her only as the princess of the CW network, it provoked some resentful eye rolls.

But Mr. Kors rejected the idea that Ms. Lively was an unlikely choice for the storied fashion house. “If you say, ‘Oh she’s all-American,’ I don’t know that she’s all-American,” he said. “I think she’s what a lot of stylish women around the world want to look like. You don’t even have to know her to know she has fashion cred.”

Chanel Fall 2011 RTW review
by Hamish Bowles

Steam heat rose from the sultry volcanic lava rocks bounded by the Chanel boardwalk and it was obvious, even before the twin drawbridges at either end of the runway slammed open to reveal two Amazonian armies, that we were very far from the romantic French garden imagined by Karl Lagerfeld last season.

By contrast, this collection (set to a sound track of The Cure’s aching eighties ballads) was bathed in dark, brooding shadows, from a raven-haired Stella Tennant in a short knitted cape that sparkled like volcanic dust, beaten-up pants as lean as leggings, and mannish biker boots, to the Rue Cambon version of a battered all-in-one flying suit worn by Lagerfeld muse Baptiste Giabiconi to close the show.

In keeping with the industrial look of the new Chanel bag—on a thick, thick chain with a clasp like the lock on an Art Deco safe—this was Chanel with edge; many of these stealth chic looks would have passed unnoticed on a rainy day in Camden Town, or while vintage shopping in Williamsburg. Pants were tucked into thick ankle-warmers that gave them the effect of sweats, or rolled up, urchin style, over bare ankles and chunky flat boots—or a perverse take on the classic sixties Chanel pump with a low heel that suddenly looked frumpy-fabulous. The colors were as somber as an Ibsen drama—every tone of black, every shade of gray, and for light relief the deep green of a darkling forest, or elk’s-blood red.

Lagerfeld’s trompe l’oeil “layered” jackets married a shrunken version of the classic Chanel tweedy cardigan over a boyfriend jacket. His shearling versions of that Coco classic looked cozy enough for a dog sled ride across the freezing tundra—or another Manhattan winter.

A brace of thickly knitted Scandinavian evening dresses had backs carved out like twenties swimsuits, and some short Baby Doll dresses and windswept gowns in textural mixes that evoked a thunderous sky looked like the sort of things that doomed children or heroines in an especially Grimm fairy tale might wear, but Lagerfeld’s most relentless evening message was the all-in-one jumpsuit. Gleaming in ebony sequins like those lava rocks, fragile in gleaming Lurex lace, and tough in glossy black nylon quilted like the classic Chanel purse, these powerful looks are not for the faint of heart.

Chanel Fall 2011 Ready-to-Wear

PARIS, March 8, 2011
By Tim Blanks

"The world is a dark place," acknowledged Karl Lagerfeld after the latest Chanel spectacle, which took place amid a fog-shrouded forest on a bed of still-smoldering scorched earth. There was some of the apocalyptic grandeur of German artists Caspar David Friedrich and Anselm Kiefer, and a bit more of the post-apocalyptic grit of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but, as Lagerfeld himself noted, the models walked into and out of huge glowing squares of white light at each end of the catwalk. And isn't going into the light usually the way out of the dark place? At least it was in Poltergeist.

The dramatic setting and Michel Gaubert's thundering orchestral revision of the Cure's seminal goth classic "A Forest" were matched by Lagerfeld's designs. He elaborated on the audacious theme he established for Spring, where jackets and coats looked moth-eaten or tattered. Here, many of the looks had the ashy appearance of clothes that had weathered a natural disaster (a volcanic eruption, perhaps?) because they'd been packed tightly in a trunk. The denim leggings carried over from Couture were distressed. The way Lagerfeld doubled a classic Chanel dogtooth over a substantial double-vented man's jacket (they were actually attached as one piece) or a cropped tweed over what looked like a combat jacket hinted at the hasty expediency of dressing any which way in a hurry when the lava's on the way. It was also one of the most striking instances yet of the boy/girl thing that is a major Fall trend.

The palette stayed shadowy throughout, the proportions slightly man-sized, with rounded shoulders. Even the more overtly "feminine" pieces looked like damaged goods, say a skirt of spectacularly shredded chiffon or a pair of full-length knit sheaths that dissolved into loose strands of wool at the back. The tunics, capes, and tabards added a neo-medieval twist to Lagerfeld's grunge-y fairy tale. Then the whole story took a left turn into gothic with the black lace eveningwear. The jumpsuited models could have been twenty-first-century brides of Dracula. Stella Tennant wore an option that was in keeping with the crepuscular heart of the collection: a sequin-encrusted jacket over a shawl-collared tux. Plus, she was sporting bike boots.

Aside from the mesmerizing scenario, the collection's genius lay in Lagerfeld's supernatural prescience about the way a lot of young women want to dress now, mixing the street with enough high fashion fantasy to make the result seem rich and strange. The proof? After the show, Karl's coterie of bright young things—Lily and Leigh and Jen and Poppy and all the others—couldn't wait to surrender to his dark vision.

Tags: changing earth, decadence, exsomeone, just me, new york, nightlife, sister, the longhorn, the stars, the stockbroker, travels, wardrobe
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