Musings on the culture of keeping up appearances

All the Rage

Category: Sophia Kercher

Mom and Dad as style icons? Yes!

Our analog society is increasingly becoming a distant memory. But two recently published books are nudging us to celebrate a time when photographs were arguably more candid and pants were considerably higher-waisted.

The photo-driven “My Mom, the Style Icon” and the collection of essays  “My Parents Were Awesome” invite us to draw sartorial inspiration from an unexpected source — our parents. Or grandparents.

ViviennedavisThe two books feature images of fabulous beehives, covetable Buddy Holly frames and gloriously untamed tresses. They tell tales of admirable style and parental devotion that come from individuals with whom, as teenagers, let’s be honest, we wanted nothing to do. The books first took life as vintage-tinged blogs, and the websites are still active, providing a warm fuzziness in an often snarky blogosphere.

Piper Weiss, 32, created “My Mom, the Style Icon”   after rifling through her mother's closet and discovering rapturous vintage items. Since last year, the website has continued to swell with stories of stylish mothers and grandmothers with submissions from all over the world. The book expands on those stories with sections that feature weddings, mom rebellions and traveling with pantsuits. There’s also a tribute to lucky dads, who look on dotingly at their stylish ladies.  Celebrity mothers are sprinkled in the book, including the demure mother of singer Karen O and Chloë Sevigny’s mother in wedding white.

“The 200 women in this book have become kind of famous to me," Weiss says. “You know, I haven’t met most of them, and I probably will never meet them. But they have become these people that when I see an item of clothing or hairstyle, I think of them like they were Audrey Hepburn.”

The editor of “My Parents Were Awesome,” Eliot Glazer, 27, cobbled together his website in 2009 with a similar positive aim. He considers the blog and his book as a way to honor a time when your parents were hip, and photos were more organic instead of hand-selected for Facebook.

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Design Runway Show presented by Pasadena's Art Center

No one could call the Los Angeles fashion scene monolithic. But with the dominance of Hollywood costume design and New York reigning as the nation’s fashion capital, it’s easy to overlook innovative design happening right in our own backyard.

Sophia2-2On Friday night the Pasadena's Art Center College of Design presents Design Runway, a showcase 0f cutting-edge apparel and accessories stitched together by local design students.

The second inaugural free show is open to the public and it marks a shift for the Art Center. Traditionally, the design school does not teach courses in apparel design. According to instructor Justine Limpus Parish, a fashion designer and illustrator, the Design Runway Show is exciting because it represents the Art Center’s first foray into building an apparel design program.

But don’t expect a traditional fashion show.

“Really what makes it so interesting is the various foundations that these students come from,” Limpus Parish says.

Students from backgrounds in environmental design, product design, illustration, graphic design and motion graphics have collaborated to create an eclectic performance. The show flows from dramatic evening wear to Art Deco-inspired menswear to heavy metal motorcycle fashion. In keeping with the Art Center’s multimedia roots, a film accompanies each collection.

“Each one of them has a strong vision,” Limpus Parish says. She explains that one student, Deja Morlan, drew inspiration from an art installation piece by Erick Swenson, while student Minh Nguyen played with his background in environmental design.

Jesse Genet, a product design student, is featuring a collection of wool suits and silk blouses inspired by bodysuits worn by the strongmen of 1920s France. She's found that working with students of other discplines has taken her out of her general routine and into a new direction of design.

“Art Center traditionally has no fashion design training. I think they are finding with this show that they can explore fashion without encroaching on being a traditional design school,” Genet says.

Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design presents the Design Runway Show from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at Hillside Campus, Ahmanson Auditorium 1700 Lida St., Pasadena.

-- Sophia Kercher

Photo: Film still by M & B Studio featuring Art Center College of Design student Jesse Genet's designs inspired by the 1920s strongmen of France.

Q&A: How to get a nod from 'Project Runway's' Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn? Casting director Alissa Haight Carlton tells us


What does it take to make it onto "Project Runway?" The lucky folks shown above with hosts Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum made it on last season, the eighth for the popular series.

April 15 marks the deadline for the show's casting call for Season 9. All The Rage sat down with the Lifetime show’s casting director, Alissa Haight Carlton, to get the scoop on what it takes to recieve an eyelash bat from Klum or raised brow from Gunn — and compete with fellow designer hopefuls as America watches, of course.

All The Rage: What are some of the key things that you look for when casting for 'Project Runway?'

Haight Carlton: For this show we just really need talent, because we are looking for such a specific skill set. Especially because there’s a lot of fashion designers who just don’t sew.… We look for designers with a point of view that can sew like crazy.

Are you only looking for exceptional designers or is the show open to someone who has raw talent but needs to learn more?

Absolutely. If you look at Season 7, Anna Marie Lynett had a point of view and something to say with her clothing even though she had only been designing for something like six months.…We are also getting a lot of people right out of design school like Christian Siriano.

Generally, how many applicants are there?

Not as many as you would think, because there is such a specific skill set required unlike a show like "The Real World." I would say there’s below 1,000. Every year the applicant pool has gotten bigger.

While casting do you ever think, “this is going to be the villain” or “this is going to be the sweetheart”?

We don’t go into it thinking we want to find X, Y and Z. What we do is really narrow down the talent. But it is a TV show and we don’t want to cast 14 wallflowers and we want to make sure there’s personality there.

Is there anyone from Season 8 who surprised you?

I guess I would say Mondo. He really became beloved by all of America that was in a way surprising. He has really become an active spokesperson for HIV, and we never expected that.

What are some mistakes people make when applying to the show?

A mistake some people make is sometimes they think they can put on a fake personality. Really, we just want them to be their selves.

Casting is always a puzzle. Oftentimes there’s really great candidates who don’t get on because there’s someone too much like them, or they just aren’t ready yet. Often they come back during casting for the next season. For example, Mondo was at the casting for Season 7 and ended up on Season 8.… A lot can happen in a year.

If your designs are destined for the catwalk and you’re at least 21 years old, it’s not too late to fill out an application here.

-- Sophia Kercher

Photo: The season 8 cast of "Project Runway" (from left, top row) Christopher Collins, Kristin Haskins-Simms, April Johnston, Andy South, Nicholas D'Aurizio, Peach Carr, Mondo Guerra (Bottom Row) Casanova, Ivy Higa, Gretchen Jones, A.J. Thouvenot, Valerie Mayen, Jason Troisi, Michael Costello, Sarah Trost, McKell Maddox and Michael Drummond. (Foreground) Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum. Credit: Lifetime.

Come, all ye goths, and get a whiff of the darkest of scents

Miss Elizabeth two The moon rose high above Burbank on Friday and, like obedient werewolves, devotees of esoteric perfume house Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab came out to play.

Costumed as sinister witches or swashbuckling pirates, customers from all over Los Angeles gathered at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, or BPAL, to indulge and sample the hundreds of scents that are available only online except on nights of the full moon.

Once a month, BPAL's chief alchemist, Elizabeth Barrial, and her fellow potion peddlers offer their hand-crafted blends and brews at the horror shop Dark Delicacies. At this month's event, the store swelled with darkly-clad BPAL customers stirring with Halloween-season excitement and ready for the olfactory experience before them.

Amy Ratcliffe, 29, was first drawn to BPAL for its Shakespeare line and has been coming to the full moon will-calls for four years.

"I'm addicted," Ratcliffe said. "I've seen people quadrant off their arms and write all the scents they've tried. It gets very serious."

But there's plenty of whimsy. A long-locked Frankenstein shoved scented bath powder in front of noses.

"Doesn't this smell like feet?" he laughed. The Frankenstein was Ted Barrial, Elizabeth's husband and head of BPAL's Trading Post, which has a collection of items that pay homage to the lab.

"I kind of like it," said the assaulted customer, Bailey Dukes, 26.

The general sentiment of BPAL's creators and followers is that it's less about smelling divine than it is about a sniff of perfume transforming who you are. Experimentation reigns. Several full moon event-goers searched the steel-crafted showcase stacked with hundreds of vials for a scent to match their Halloween characters.

The black-lipsticked Elizabeth Barrial was up to the task, bobbing up and down the store and pulling out scented products grotesque or lovely. Her own Halloween memories are bottled and named after the cities where she spent them. As she sends customers away with a signature Halloween scent, they're also leaving with memories that can be conjured up again and again.

The next full moon Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab will-call event is scheduled for Nov. 21 at Dark Delicacies, 3512 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank.

-- Sophia Kercher

Photo: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's chief potion-maker Elizabeth Barrial helps find a possibly magical scent for a customer. Credit: Sophia Kercher

Showdown L.A.: Jerkin' crews duke it out

Kream Kidz jerking
On Saturday the Los Angeles Convention Center will swell with teenagers clad in skinny jeans and neon T-shirts ready to battle. This is not your typical uniform for a fight, and the “battle” doesn't involve fists but rather the fancy footwork of jerkin' crews flaunting their skills and fresh street style.

Forty dance crews will be competing for the title of NJA (National Jerkin’ Assn.) L.A. Champion.

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Jared Gold's 'Alice in Wonderland'-themed Royal/T pop-up party

Alice royal t Culver City's Royal/T cafe and art space has a reputation for bringing a world of whimsy to Los Angeles. Not only for the space’s signature Japanese tearoom with servers dressed as fetish-ized maids, but for its bizzaro pop culture-infused art and fashion events.

Thursday night was no different as gallery-goers were invited to “fall down the rabbit hole” and peruse Susan Hancock’s lowbrow art collection and a pop-up shop curated by local designer Jared Gold. A hodgepodge of top hats and petty coats nibbled on “Eat Me” cupcakes and sipped absinthe-infused spirits in the "Alice in Wonderland"-themed affair.

We stepped into the fairytale setting of Royal/T's pop-up shop, and from the collection of teapots and mushrooms, up sprang designer Jared Gold. In a bow tie and paisley shirt, Gold looked like he just stepped out of the pages of a storybook.

The shop featured Wonderland-esque hand bags, dark sheaths, leggings trimmed with fringe and charming miniature gardens, among other items. Arguably the most exciting of Gold’s featured designs were his fanciful accessories.

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Piper Weiss' fascination with mom's stylish heydays lands her a book deal

Mom style book
The founder of My Mom, the Style Icon, a blog that’s dedicated to retro fashions and the everyday women wearing them, recently signed on with Chronicle Books. The book is slated to be published in 2011.
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A look at blog Hipster Is the New Homeless

Hipster homeless

Aaron Small and Jessica Rosenberg, collaborators on the eyebrow-raising, describe themselves as "cultural anthropologists with an eye for plaid." The website recently went live, and is quickly garnering reactions like "Totes epic" and "Quit your day job,"  from a growing band of followers.

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