Jewelry designer Sandy Leong has lived in Manhattan for nearly two decades, but she still exudes the fit, outdoorsy vibe of her native Pacific Coast (Portland to Anchorage to San Francisco as a child). So it's not surprising that she brings a combination of urban refinement and subtly organic shapes to her line of jewelry--a business that grew from a hobby she developed while looking for a creative outlet once her kids were in school. Now her designs are turning up on such stylish celebrities as Fergie and Gabrielle Union and in the pages of magazines including O, Lucky, and People. (Having followed Sandy's business, I was excited when, during an American Airlines upgrade, I spotted some of her teardrop earrings in the pages of Celebrated Living, American's magazine for its first-class cabin.) Sandy shared her thoughts on the glamour of jewelry, building a luxury business in tough times, and why she believes in gold.
DG: What's the appeal of jewelry?
Sandy Leong: “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” My favorite line from Steel Magnolias. And I think that really applies to the appeal of jewelry. Along with shoes, it really has the biggest impact on your outfit.
DG: How did you get interested in designing jewelry? How did you learn jewelry design?
SL: When both my children were in school full time, I found myself wondering what I used to do before I had kids? A girlfriend and I both received the 92 Street Y catalog and decided to pick a class that we could both take together. It turned out to be Jewelry for Beginners. That was nine years ago and from the first time I held a soldering torch, I was hooked. I’ve been taking classes there continuously and have also taken classes at the Jewelry Arts Institute in NYC.
DG: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
SL: It’s easy, simple, modern, and timeless. You can wear my pieces during the day to pick up the kids from school, go grocery shopping and not feel overdressed, but can also wear it out to dinner and evening functions and it adds just the right of amount sparkle and pizzazz. It’s all made here in the U.S. with recycled 18k gold, too!
Although most pieces have a very organic feel in nature, I am also extremely influenced by the cut of my stones and the architectural style that surrounds the stone.
DG: Why do you work in gold as opposed, say, to both gold and silver?
SL: Gold has a very luxurious feel to it. I wanted my jewelry to be timeless investment pieces that would hold their value over time, whether sentimentally or financially. When using 18k gold, the finish doesn’t tarnish and with care, will look and feel exactly like the day you bought it.
DG: Who is your customer?
SL: My customer is a successful woman who has her own money and is not afraid to spend it. She knows quality, is a trend setter, rather than a follower, and loves luxury and beautiful pieces. She’s active, athletic and can’t be bothered to change her jewelry for every event throughout her busy day. She wears her jewelry, but the jewelry doesn’t wear her.
Gabrielle Union in an architectural square-cut ring
DG: What's the most difficult challenge you've faced as a new jewelry designer?
SL: The economy is a huge challenge! I launched my line in 2008 when conspicuous consumption was out of fashion. However, my customer is back and more cautious about making wise investments instead of trendy fads that come and go with the season. Also, most major department stores are consignment based and the financial outlay is tremendous for a jewelry designer trying to make retail presence and with limited resources.
DG: Jewelry seems like a very competitive industry. How do you stand out?
SL: Perseverance. So many times it seems it would be so much easier to just throw in the towel, but I have a point of view and the response has been so positive. I design each and every piece for myself. If I wear it, I know I have a customer that will too. I have a growing and rabid following, who swear they wear their Sandy Leong earrings, rings, necklaces, etc. every day. That is exactly how I intended my jewelry to be worn. I have a necklace that is a little 18k dewdrop on a very delicate chain that I wear every day, with everything. And I never leave the house without an easy pair of earrings like these.
DG: Aside from your own designs, what are some of your favorite pieces of jewelry, either ones that you own yourself or ones that you've seen?
SL: I’m currently obsessed with my husband’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date. I had links taken out of so it fit my wrist. It’s a nice complement to my more feminine pieces.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour? Glamour begins with self-confidence. It’s an effortless way of being. Whether you’re wearing jeans and a t-shirt or a fabulous ball gown, it’s all about your attitude.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? Elizabeth Taylor, the early years, and Kate Middleton
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity? Glamour is a necessity. It’s the allure of the excitement and adventure that makes life worth living.
4) Favorite glamorous movie? Breakfast at Tiffany’s
6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)? Right now? My black Hermes Birkin bag! I feel glamorous just holding it.
7) Most glamorous place? Capri, Italy
8) Most glamorous job? 1960s American Airlines Flight Attendant
[9 and 10 skipped]
11) Can glamour survive? Of course it will. Where would we be without it? Everyone can use a little bit a glamour and magic in their life.
12) Is glamour something you're born with? I would say no, but my daughter who is 15 was born with it. She has an amazing sense of style and has so much self confidence that she’s been turning heads since she was a baby. She can command a room and I don’t know how I could teach that.
1) Paris or Venice? Venice
2) New York or Los Angeles? New York
3 Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Princess Grace
4) Tokyo or Kyoto? Tokyo
5) Boots or stilettos? Stiletto Boots!!
6) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Art Deco
7) Jaguar or Astin Martin? Jaguar
8) Armani or Versace? Armani
9) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Anna Wintour
10) Champagne or single malt? Champagne
11) 1960s or 1980s? 1960s
12) Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds, duh!
13) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Kate Moss
14) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? Sean Connery
[Photos courtesy Sandy Leong.]
Posted by Virginia Postrel on October 31, 2011 in
I've been enjoying Christian Esquevin's Silver Screen Modiste blog, which he started in December 2010, for the past six months or so and, thanks to a Google search, knew that he lives in Southern California (he's director of library services for the city of Coranado). So when I went to the Debbie Reynolds auction, I made a point of looking for him in line. Sure enough, Christian arrived not long after I did. In our conversation there and in his subsequent blogposts on the auction, he provided valuable insight for my Bloomberg View column. I also learned that he has a large collection of costume design sketches, which are a beautiful art in themselves. Christian kindly agreed to share a few sketches (don't even think of reusing them without permission), as well as some thoughts on the art and history of movie costumes.
DG: How did you get interested in Hollywood costumes?
Christian Esquevin: My interest came relatively late. My great-aunt had been the head cutter-fitter at the RKO studio during the 1930s. Although I had heard some of her stories growing up, it was not until she bequeathed me many of her photos and costume sketches that I became interested. This interest grew into a passion as I researched many of the unknowns about these beautiful items.
DG: You've written a book about Adrian, who with Edith Head is probably the most famous Hollywood costume designer. What makes his work particularly significant?
CE: There were, and are still, many great costume designers for films. Adrian, I believe, was a genius. He combined his artistic and fashion abilities with the needs of the movie character and the actor playing the part to make indelible images. I truly believe that along with costume designer Travis Banton he created the modern look of glamour.
You can actually look at a photo of some of their creations and say that there was no precedent for such a look – that’s where modern glamour started. Take any of several photos of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, or Carole Lombard for example. The look of knock-your-eyes-out glamour is there, and it’s still the look today. And with Adrian, you can look at fashion at the time (late 1920s and 1930s) and draw the connection between his costume designs for the stars on film and what women wanted to wear around the world. His looks have been knocked-off for so long that people nowadays can no longer make that connection. Yves St. Laurent was heavily influenced by Adrian in the 1960s, but it’s YSL that gets the mentions.
Los Angeles is always being compared unfavorably with other cities in fashion creation and influence. But in the 1930s and early 1940s, Los Angeles and Hollywood were where fashion trends were started, and that was due to the influence of costume designers like Adrian.
DG: You're now writing a book on Irene, Walter Plunkett, and Helen Rose. What should people know about them?
CE: These three costume and fashion designers were as influential and accomplished in their day as Dior or Schiaparelli. They all led fascinating creative lives designing the looks of movie-star icons, yet who hears of them today?
If your resume stated that you created the costume designs for Gone with the Wind, Singing in the Rain, and King Kong among many others, as it would for Walter Plunkett, people would be impressed. Or that you designed Grace Kelly’s wedding gown, much of Elizabeth Taylor’s early wardrobe, and for such stars as Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Cyd Charisse, Doris Day, Esther Williams, Debbie Reynolds, and many others, people would take notice.
As for Irene Lentz Gibbons, known simply as Irene, it was said at the time that she dressed everyone in Hollywood. [The sketch to the left is one of Irene's designs for Easter Parade.--vp] Since she worked both as a costume designer and a fashion designer with her own boutique and then her own fashion business, she really did work with many leading ladies. Her customers and stars included Marlene Dietrich, Loretta Young, Carole Lombard, Dolores Del Rio, Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, and many others. When you look at her gowns and suits you’ll quickly see why she was so admired. They are impeccable and drop-dead gorgeous. While each of these designers is fascinating in their own right, they all worked at MGM at the same time for a period. What a combination – a unique time and place in history that will never be repeated. I just couldn’t leave that story alone.
DG: You collect costume design sketches. How do the clothes change from sketch to actual garment to what we see on film? What's the difference from medium to medium?
CE: I’ll talk about the process during the classic, “studio system,” which is what I’m most familiar with. At that time the studios employed virtually all the talent they needed on a long-term basis. In the wardrobe department this was a vertical integration, so that a designer had one or more “cutter-fitters” they worked with, and seamstresses working under them. These skilled cutter-fitters made muslin patterns based on the costume sketch a designer created. And consider that the costumes fabricated could be Elizabethan, classic Roman, or satin glamour gowns.
The costume sketch itself could be rendered by a sketch artist that had the artistic ability to paint figures and costumes. In these cases the sketch artist had to develop a close working relationship with the designer. Some designers wanted to do the sketch themselves. Adrian, for example, did not want anyone else “interpreting” his designs.
After the cutter-fitter used the sketch to devise patterns, the seamstresses would sew the final fabric based on the individual pattern pieces and then sew them for the fitting. Beaders and embroiderers would also base their work on the sketch.
Still, changes came about in the movie-making process. So some costumes were later modified from the original sketch for the movie. Edith Head liked to change her costume designs as she went along. Adrian wanted his costumes to look just like his sketch.
What is particularly fascinating about having an original production-made costume sketch is that this is an artifact that was handled by the stars, the director, often the producer, and the artisans that made the costume itself, as well as the designer. These pieces often have approval initials from these individuals, as well as budget information on the back. They are unique pieces of Hollywood film history.
DG: Can you share a few of your favorite sketches with our readers and tell us a bit about them?
CE: I have many sketches, and each is special in its own way. Although they have traditionally been called “costume sketches,” they are really water-color paintings, with more attention taken than would a pencil sketch. They were nonetheless working tools, and equally important, they represented the costume designer’s original design. I emphasize this because there are also pieces floating around that were often done many years after a film had been made. These were often done by the designers themselves as commemorative illustrations, or because they did not possess the original sketches, and were made for some of their fashion shows. Since these were done as show pieces, they are typically exact reproductions of how the costume looked on film. But even as working tools, the sketches are usually beautiful – they had to “sell” the director and star on that look.
I have picked a few that I like and I think will be of interest to the viewers, or that illustrate a point I want to make about costume designing and sketches. One of the icons of the movies is Sunset Blvd. with Gloria Swanson. The costumes were designed by Edith Head. This is the costume sketch for Gloria Swanson’s opening scene in the film. It’s interesting because it’s not a regular dress but rather what was then called a hostess gown or hostess dress which was worn over pants. You only notice that when she descends the stairs in the movie. As with many of Edith’s designs, the final costume was changed in that the interior lining was no longer a plaid but rather a leopard print.
Here is another Edith Head costume sketch, done for Betty Hutton in Preston Sturges’s The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek in 1942 (left). Edith Head sketches are pretty rare from the early 40s. Over her long career her sketches look quite different. That’s because she used different sketch artists over time and each had their own artistic style. Also, many costume sketches are never signed. When it was a real production sketch, everyone knew who the designer was, so it was not necessary to sign the piece. Sometimes that makes identifying a particular sketch difficult. The next sketch is also by Edith Head from this period, but there is nothing to identify who it was for or for what film.
The next two are costume sketches designed by and rendered by Oscar winning costume designer Mary Wills. The first was done for Joan Collins in The Virgin Queen in 1955. Joan played Beth Throgmorton in the film. A fabric swatch is attached. This costume was one sold at the Debbie Reynolds auction. The next one was also from Mary Wills and was done for “extras” in the outdoor market scene in Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. This is one of many sketches Mary Wills did for a variety of outdoor vendors that made the scene really come to life. The sketch looks more like it was painted on an easel at the actual Copenhagen market than a costume sketch in a studio.
This sketch by Donfeld (Don Feld) was done for Angelica Huston in Prizzi’s Honor. Donfeld’s sketching style was very distinctive, with exaggerated long limbs. This sketch was probably done later than the actual film production sketch.
Here is a costume sketch designed by Helen Rose for Edie Adams in Made in Paris in 1966. The sketch was actually rendered by Donna Peterson, Rose’s long-time sketch artist. Some sketches actually showed two views of the costume, or with and without a jacket or coat.
This sketch was done by William (Billy) Travilla for Sharon Tate in Valley of the Dolls in 1967. Travilla is famous for his costume designs for Marilyn Monroe, a couple of which sold for several millions at the Debbie auction.
DG: Are there any contemporary films whose costumes you particularly admire?
I really liked the costumes designed by Coleen Atwood for Alice in Wonderland last year. This was a challenge because of the fantastical nature of the story and the well established look of most of the characters, but she did a great job. Another “fantasy” type movie was The Tempest, with costumes designed by Sandy Powell for Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, and the other cast members. Powell really created the fantastical look of these characters based on the Shakespeare play.
For more contemporary costume I liked A Single Man, with costumes by Arianne Phillips and directed by Tom Ford. You’d expect the best costumes to come with a Tom Ford movie, and these did not disappoint both for the men’s and women’s wardrobe. And for those period costumes that are close to the “Mad Men” rage, there’s Revolutionary Road, designed by veteran costume designer Albert Wolsky for Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The one dress that has made the biggest splash over the last several years is Keira Knightly’s green satin, backless gown from Atonement, designed by Jacqueline Durran. The movie was set in the 30s and 1940s, and this gown is really right out of the classic movies of that era.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour?
The original meaning of glamour was “to enchant” and that’s what it’s still all about. The person or the dress of glamour is one that captures attention and holds it in a mesmerizing and basically pleasurable way. It is strictly visual, so you know it when you see it without being able to describe it. That’s one reason why new looks in fashion or glamour occur.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?
There are several, including classic icons such as Jean Harlow, Loretta Young, Marlene Dietrich, Gene Tierney, and Catherine Deneuve, and more contemporary ones like Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, and Marion Cotillard.
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?
It is a luxury, but also a necessity in that it’s a human need that many people pursue.
4) Favorite glamorous movie?
There are many, but I’ll mention Dinner at Eight, The Women, Shanghai Express, To Catch a Thief, and The Thomas Crowne Affair (with McQueen & Dunaway).
[Questions 5, 6, and 7 omitted.]
8) Most glamorous job?
I think that even creating art, music, beauty, or fashion involves toil. Creating glamour is work, and displaying glamour oneself becomes a role. The most fun is being the person watching glamour.
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't
Parties. I would make an exception for the “masked ball” parties that were held in France by such bon-vivants as Carlos de Beistegui during the first half of the last century, for which I was regrettably not around.
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized
Formal dining outdoors for lunch.
11) Can glamour survive?
It will, but it’s always in short supply.
12) Is glamour something you're born with?
No. But It helps if you’re born in the right milieu. Mostly you acquire glamour through cultivation. Some people acquire it through the expertise of others. Garbo was glamorous on the screen, but it was Adrian that created that glamour for her.
[Sketches are owned by Christian Esquevin and used with permission. Do not even think of republishing them without permission. Tumblr counts as publishing.]
DG: How is styling interiors different from being an interior designer?
Adam Fortner: An interior designer creates spaces that are functional, and we show them off. The main difference is in the format our work takes. An interior designer creates a space that is meant to be experienced in three dimensions. The photographer and stylist’s job is to take that three-dimensional, fluid space and present it in a two-dimensional static photograph within a limited frame. Everything we do serves the photo, which can mean eliminating or moving things so they look best on camera, not necessarily so they function in the space. I tell people you can’t live in a styled room: the chairs are all at odd angles and the coffee table might be three inches from the couch; but look at the photograph and it’s magically transformed from what you see around you.
DG: How is a room different when it's been styled for a magazine photo shoot compared to the way it might look if the owner had cleaned it up for visitors?
AF: For the most part we try to leave the room as we found it, but once we’ve found the angle and framing of the final photograph, adjustments have to be made. At that point a stylist’s job becomes editing. It might be a simple tweak to accommodate the perspective of the camera and show off one detail or another, or filling spaces that might have become visual voids in the frame, or even removing or adjusting things to avoid overlaps or add the appearance of depth. In some cases the accessories or pieces that the designer or client chose just won’t work for a photo and you have to change it. A dark, rich duvet cover may look and feel luxurious in person, but it may fall flat in camera. I am careful to reassure homeowners or clients that it’s not about their personal taste, it’s about the composition and quality of the photo.
My favorite exchange about styling comes from a short-lived sitcom and goes like this:
– Who wants their room photographed anyway so everyone knows what their stuff looks like? – They don’t photograph your stuff; they bring in their own stuff. – Well why don’t we just have them come in and finish the room? – Because if your stuff doesn’t look fabulous in the first place then they don’t want to come in and change it!
DG: What's the purpose of styling a room for a magazine photo? What's the effect you're trying to achieve?
AF: Styling is often called the “hidden profession.” A lot of people don’t know it is even a career, and in fact, to be good at it, that’s the whole point: not to be noticed. So you have to find a balance of studied naturalness. A lot of it is also about aspiration. You want to create a space that people want to be in, one that exemplifies the way people want to live, not necessarily the way they actually live. Honestly, how many people wake up to a vase of flowers, a cup of tea and The New York Times perfectly folded on their nightstand?
DG: How does styling for architects differ from styling for interiors magazines or advertising?
AF: The architect is creating or defining a space, so showing off their work takes a different form. Architects understand and experience spaces in a different way. For them, an open and unadorned space is beautiful in and of itself. They appreciate the clean lines, textures, and light in a room. When styling a space for an architect, you often only need minimal adornments, and what you do use really needs to highlight the architecture. That doesn’t always sell the public, though. Empty spaces can look cold and uninviting at first glance, and it takes a little more time and effort to see the details. A magazine or advertisement doesn’t have that luxury; it needs to grab a viewers’ attention in a split-second. I try to recommend this approach to architects. By creating images that capture people’s attention, they then have the opportunity to guide clients deeper into the details, and have a better chance of communicating their thoughts and ideas.
DG: You've recently done some styling work for shoots done in photo studios rather than real interiors. How is styling different when you build from scratch? What does it teach you about styling in the “real world”?
AF: I think of styling as storytelling. When you work in someone’s home, the story is already there. They’ve created their own world with their own tastes: their books, their art, their furniture; we’re mainly there to enhance and document it. When working in a studio, you’re starting with a blank slate. You have to create the entire story–start to finish–and the sky’s the limit so that allows you a lot more freedom. I’ve been working with an excellent production designer who has taught me so much about that. I’ve taken those lessons back to the houses I work on give myself a little more room to create atmosphere, especially when faced with more challenging, less engaging spaces.
DG: When you see a photo of a room in a catalog or interiors magazine, do you think about how it’s been styled? What do you notice that a layperson wouldn’t?
AF: I can’t look at magazines or catalogs without noticing how they’re styled. I hardly look at the products in catalogs. In fact, I’m usually looking at the objects that aren’t for sale. Similarly, in magazines, I’m looking for those small touches that give the space personality. I also look at not only what is in the photo, but also how it’s placed, and why that composition works.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour?
Glamour is a magic combination of confidence, beauty, and ease that create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The word always conjures a flash of light in my mind’s eye… whether it be flashbulbs, the sparkle of a diamond, the sheen of beautiful fabric, or just that glint in the eye of someone at ease with themselves. But I also think that glamour is something ascribed, not inherent. Things are only glamorous because someone else thinks they are.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?
Alexander McQueen. A very good friend of mine gave me a book of his work for my birthday, and while I knew of him and some of his work, I was impressed/amazed by the range and drama and sophistication of what I saw from start to finish.
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?
For basic survival glamour is a luxury, but like the fine arts, it’s an unknown quantity that can’t be measured or explained, yet somehow makes life more enjoyable.
4) Favorite glamorous movie?
Auntie Mame. The interiors of her apartment are just amazing. In fact, it was those sets that got me interested in interior design. If I could pick just a scene from a movie, it would be the “Ascot Gavotte” scene from My Fair Lady. The amazing black-and-white dresses and hats against the simple, white, paper-like buildings (all dreamed up by Cecil Beaton) along with the stilted movements and poses are just brilliant.
5) What was your most glamorous moment?
When I was working for a magazine in Los Angeles we hosted a tour of the Case Study houses in Pacific Palisades, which was amazing enough, but in the evening they opened up the Eames house and lit up the lawn with strings of lights. I stood there taking in the crisp night air coming in off the ocean and thinking that I never could have dreamed I’d be there, yet there I was.
Not any one specifically, but an old house filled with lots of history.
8) Most glamorous job?
Is there a glamorous job? I think there are a lot of jobs that seem glamorous, but that’s because we don’t do them. If something looks easy and glamorous, it’s probably because there’s a lot of hard work behind it.
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't
Working in the publishing industry. Like before, it often gets glorified in movies and on TV, and really it’s mostly hard work. Yes, there are moments of fun and excitement—that happens anywhere when you love what you’re doing—but there’s also the other 90 percent of the time that you are working and planning and coordinating to make that moment happen. But even I forget that sometimes.
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized.
Space. Not the final frontier, but the absence of stuff. Space to do whatever you want: an empty room, an open field. It can be anything and everything.
11) Can glamour survive?
I didn’t know it was in danger! I think the world needs glamour, whether to embrace or rail against, depending on the mood, so it will be around for quite some time.
12) Is glamour something you're born with?
I don’t think so. It’s something that you achieve, intentionally or otherwise.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Cate Blanchett, no question. 2) Paris or Venice? Paris 3) New York or Los Angeles? New York (but LA for the lifestyle) 4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Princes Grace 5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Kyoto 6) Boots or stilettos? Stilettos 7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Art Deco 8) Jaguar or Aston Martin? Aston Martin 9) Armani or Versace? Armani 10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Diana Vreeland 11) Champagne or single malt? Champagne, it makes anything a celebration 12) 1960s or 1980s? 60s 13) Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds. Can’t beat the sparkle. 14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Neither 15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? Sean Connery
When I went to the 2009 Anime Expo to talk to cosplayers about the appeal of dressing up as anime and manga characters, I was struck by how important posing for photographs is to that appeal. Yet most of the picture-taking at anime conventions happens with lousy lighting and lots of fans in the way—hardly the ideal way to record the costumes on which players lavish so much time and ingenuity.
Fortunately, L.A. photographer Ejen Chuang, whom I met at that same convention, has now given American cosplayers a worthy visual record: a beautifully produced 272-page book called Cosplay in America. The product of a year spent traveling to conventions around the country (and a maxed-out credit card), plus countless hours of selecting and retouching photos, the book features 270 cosplayers.
Naming it the Best Art Book of 2010, Deb Aoki, About.com’s Manga expert, declared that Cosplay in Ameria “captures the spirit of fun, camaraderie and creativity of the North American cosplay community.” Liz Ohanesian of the LA Weekly praised the “slick and beautiful tome,” which “showcases the diversity and creativity within the anime fandom,” later declaring on BoingBoing that “Chuang did what I hope more people will do in the future, portrayed cosplay as art.”
Ejen is still on the convention circuit, selling his book and giving cosplayers a chance to have their latest handiwork immortalized with professional polish. He’ll next be at Anime Los Angeles January 7-9. In between cons—and his regular work as a production stills photographer—he was kind enough to answer some questions about what he's learned from his experience photographing cosplayers. (To see more of his photos, including new shots and web exclusives, check out the CosplayinAmerica Flickr stream.)
See the end of the interview for information on how you can enter our Cosplay in America giveaway and have a chance to win a free copy of Ejen's book.
DG: Your book is called Cosplay in America. What is cosplay and how is it different in America?
EC: Cosplay is short for “costume-play” which is basically dressing up as characters based off anime, manga, and video games, though the term has become mainstream in the past few years and now applies to any source such as films, American cartoons, music icons, even products—I’ve seen a few Nintendo Wiis running around conventions.
From what I gathered (as I’ve never been to an event in Japan), Americans have a very do-it-yourself attitude. While there are shops in Japan to purchase cosplays, that necessarily isn't so here in the States. You almost have to be MacGyver to pull together many disciplines from sewing to prop making. Some make it from scratch, others purchase parts and put it together. It is the process of creating the outfit that is part of the fun and not necessarily just wearing the outfit.
DG: What inspired you to do a book of cosplayer portraits?
EC: I haven’t really seen a book done specifically done about American cosplay and I thought I'll tackle it myself. The culture has been growing for the past 20 years and is definitely getting larger in thanks to conventions and the internet.
DG: What’s the difference between cosplay and dressing up for Halloween?
EC: Cosplay usually refers to a specific character. For example, dressing as Capt. Jack Sparrow is cosplaying. Dressing up as a pirate is just.... dressing up as a pirate! In the broadest sense, you can say that when your father dresses up as Santa during Christmas, he is in fact, cosplaying.
DG: What’s the relationship between photography (whether professional or amateur) and cosplay?
EC: There’s an interesting relationship between the two. Obviously from a photographer’s perspective, the extravaganza of colorful costumes and makeup of the cosplayer is attractive to the lens, while on the cosplayer side, it is a chance to be in the limelight and have their work appreciated.
DG: How do cosplayers decide what characters to portray?
EC: Cosplayers generally portray characters they feel very strongly about. Talking to many, I understand they felt if they were to put that amount of work into a cosplay, they rather pick characters they feel a strong emotional response to. As many cosplayers tend to be in their teens to mid-20s, my thoughts are in addition to having fun, stretch their creative skills and hanging out with friends at cons, cosplay can be a way for them to try out different “personalities” of their source characters wherever if either male or female. Obviously it is easier for women to dress as male characters than males to dress as female characters.
DG: You took more than 1,600 photos. How did you decide on which ones to publish?
EC: In my youth I was into anime but until I embarked on my project, the last convention I visited was Anime Expo in 2000. In the years between then and 2009 when I started the project, I had been out of the scene so perhaps 90 percent of cosplayers I’ve photographed, I don’t know which series they are from. In a way, it is liberating. I have no bias or preconception about any series or character. I could choose based on their personality and pose. I specifically looked for something about that cosplayer that grabs me. From an edited collection of around 1,000 cosplayers, it took six months to narrow it down to the 260 cosplayers in the book.
DG: One of the cosplayers you interviewed called cosplay “a chance to escape that which binds us, holds us down in our everyday lives, and [it] gives us chance to let our imaginary spirits soar high above all that makes us feel weak. We can shed our everyday lives and feel free to express ourselves.” Another one said it’s “just a dorky little hobby where people play dress up.” What would you say is the appeal of cosplay?
EC: For the younger attendees, it is a chance to let loose and have fun, another layer to add to the convention experience. As a teenager, the need to fit in is strong and so in a way, this allows them to join a community.
For those older ones, it is just a release mechanism. Obviously in life we have our jobs, relationships, school and so forth and to take a vacation from that for one weekend is to take a moment out of the worries of bills, and other adult concerns. I spoke to several cosplayers who have graduated college and move to their working life—and use conventions as a chance to meet up with old friends—similar to a reunion.
For others, it is a chance to test out their abilities to create and personalize to their own individual tastes. For example, at one convention in Florida, I noticed a character whose outfit was filled with beads. The original character’s outfit did not include that large amount of beads but because the cosplayer so loved beads, she weaved her passion into it. In the end it still worked—the character is identifiable and the cosplayer has a chance to personalized the work.
DG: You’re still taking photos as you go to conventions to sell your book. Do you have any favorites to share with our readers?
EC: Truthfully, my favorite photos are the ones where I’m interacting with the cosplayer. So many folks have photos of themselves standing next to a cosplayer. For me, I like it if they point their weapon at me, or they are jabbing me, or something of that nature. Here I am at AnimeFest in Texas getting hammered by the gals of Street Fighter.
This was taken at Otakon, the largest anime con on the East Coast where Bender from Futurama chokes me—I didn’t have any beer with me and you know Bender loves beer!
Despite all the work that goes into the book and the tour, it is definitely a life-changing experience! I plan to be at another 20 conventions next year and after that start working on other books related to cosplay but not necessarily about cosplay. Thanks for the interview!
We're happy to offer a free copy of Cosplay in America to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment telling us a character you'd like to dress up as and why. (Don't worry about practical considerations; we won't make you model the costume.) The contest deadline is midnight Pacific Time on January 10, and the winner will be selected using Random.org. Contest open to U.S. residents only.
[All photos copyright Ejen Chuang and used by permission.]
DG: How would you describe PaleoFuture—the site and the concept—to someone who'd never seen it?
Matt Novak: The PaleoFuture blog looks at past visions of the future, primarily focusing on 20th century predictions of the American future. Paleofuturism, or more commonly retrofuturism, looks at the predictions of scientists, advertisers, designers, and average people to see what those predictions say about the time in which they were created and how they may have shaped our current times.
DG: How did PaleoFuture come to be?
MN: In 2007 I was taking a writing class that included starting a blog. While most people in the class started blogs about their personal lives I decided that I wasn't very interesting and would write about something else. I started to explore this idea that I had been thinking about since I was a child: how people of the past imagined the future.
MN: Images of the future are reflections of the time in which they are created. The future was most glamorous at times when this abstract idea of glamour was important to popular culture. The 1950s is considered a golden age of American futurism. The 1950s techno-utopian ideas of progress sometimes appear to be reconciling the shiny plastic future alongside the more traditional ideas of glamour and the American dream.
MN: My favorite images of retrofuturism often come from a Sunday comic that was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune from 1958 until 1963. [More examples here, here, and here.]
DG: You recently wrote on your Twitter feed that "Nostalgia is not a disease, but a symptom of fear." How do you define nostalgia? Do you have to have experienced something yourself to be nostalgic for it?
MN: Nostalgia as a symptom of fear is far too broad of an idea, and frankly I regret saying it so matter of factly. There is an important distinction I feel that we should make between personal nostalgia and societal nostalgia. Personal nostalgia is that smell of your first teddy bear or the feeling of your first kiss. Personal nostalgia is a wonderful part of the human experience. But I feel that personal nostalgia is anecdotal and thus dangerous when used as ammunition to describe this desire to return to a "better time." I find that more often than not, the time and place that society is nostalgic for never existed. Romanticizing the past, while perfectly fine when applied individually, can stifle progress.
DG: Is PaleoFuture a nostalgic site? If not, why not?
MN: I do my best to present PaleoFuture as neutrally as possible, though my personal opinions on society, technology, or progress often bleed through. I think many people who visit my site find it to be nostalgic because they're projecting. People often think that even the future used to be better.
DG: You often post mysterious requests on your Twitter feed—advice on finding a book on theme park design or an old robot or jet pack in Los Angeles. What do you do when you're not blogging?
MN: I work for a non-traditional marketing company in Minneapolis called Street Factory Media. We do stuff like this (and by "like this" I mean I cast and managed that stunt). I'm moving to Los Angeles in September and will be working for the same company.
DG: What do you think of the upcoming Tron movie?
MN: Haven't seen it obviously but I'm excited to check it out. I'm generally fine with movie remakes, sequels and prequels. I'm much more of a cinelibertarian than most of my other film nerd friends.
DG: Is there anything glamorous about the future nowadays?
MN: Today? Very little. We're certainly at a low point for futurism at the moment given the amount of apocalypse porn that is being produced (see: Collapseand Countdown to Zero). But as the economy improves I think we'll see many more glamorous and optimistic visions of the future.
DG: What images would be on a PaleoFuture site about 2010 in 2050?
MN: This question is the most clever attempt at making me predict the future that I've seen. But, no dice. I don't know the future and the beautiful thing is that no one else does either.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour?
Poise and grace. Confidence is the most essential ingredient to glamor.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?
4) Favorite glamorous movie?
To Catch a Thief. I've always found Grace Kelly to be more glamorous in To Catch a Thief than Rear Window, though I think Rear Window is a far superior movie.
Boston-based artist Ria Brodell doesn’t think of her work as glamorous, but when I happened upon her “Self Portraits” exhibit at the Kopeikin Gallery in West Hollywood, her drawings struck me as perfectly expressing the way glamour works as an imaginative process. Her drawings capture how she projected her ideal self onto slightly mysterious, impossibly graceful figures—in this case, male icons ranging from classic movie stars like Gene Kelly and Cary Grant to Catholic saints and children’s toys. Like her very different “Distant Lands” drawings, which depict strange and whimsical animals, the portraits are at once charming, sweet, and slightly subversive. (This YouTube video shows Ria at work on her Distant Lands creatures.) Her exhibit will be open until March 6.
DG: How did you select the figures you depicted yourself as in “Self-Portraits”? Why these particular men?
Ria Brodell: The figures I chose were all men I connected with in some way as a kid. If I could have grown up to be a man, I would have been a man like them. Sometimes it was their style, the way they dressed, their hair, the way they carried themselves. Sometimes it was their über masculinity. Of course, in regards to the movie stars, all of this came from their depictions in the movies and not necessarily their real selves.
RB: When I began this series I remembered a drawing I made for my First Reconciliation book in second grade (I went to Catholic school). I had drawn a picture of St. Michael that I was very proud of and I showed it to my Grandma. She told me he looked more like He-Man. I remember feeling ashamed for some reason, perhaps knowing I should have shown St. Michael more reverence. I used to draw He-Man all the time, practicing over and over until his muscles looked right. Looking back now, He-Man and St. Michael had a similar appeal to me, strong warriors, fighting for good. As far as what unites movie stars, saints, and toys like G.I. Joe and He-Man, for me they all represented an ideal, whether it was physical aesthetics or moral values. In combining them all for “The Handsome & The Holy” I was hoping to unite my “queer side” with my religious background because they are equally present in my life. DG: Your drawings have been described as “achingly sincere,” “both earnest and humorous,” and “intently self-aware schmaltz.” Their humor is gentle and sweet, not ironic—juxtaposing He-Man and St. Michael is funny, but you are, at the same time, owning up to your desires to be like them. Is it hard for a contemporary artist to portray desire and identification without using irony to maintain your cool? Does glamour risk condemnation as kitsch? RB: I don’t think I’m intentionally trying to be funny in all the drawings. I’m trying to be completely honest, but I think the juxtaposition of some of these subjects is just naturally odd and therefore funny. Sexuality, gender identity, and religion can be very serious, often complicated subjects. I want to create work that deals with these subjects in a simple and not heavy-handed way. Of course there is always a risk of the work having unintended consequences, such as being deemed “kitsch.” With this work there is a bit of background information needed. On the surface they can appear to be just glamorous self-portraits or “dress-up” but my hope is that people look further than that and begin to think about gender identity and sexuality outside of our society’s strict definitions.
DG: One of your drawings is called “A Picnic With Audrey Hepburn.” It shows Audrey from the back, but there is no one with her. A critic described it as “a picture of mythic femininity, here elusive.” But the title suggests the perspective not of Audrey but of her unseen date, inviting viewers to project themselves into the scene. What inspired this drawing? What does Audrey Hepburn mean to you?
RB: As a teenager I became slightly obsessed with Audrey Hepburn after seeing her in “My Fair Lady.” She was not only beautiful and glamorous but also a humanitarian. For me, this drawing represents the complexity of figuring out ones sexuality, especially queer sexuality, the desire and simultaneous shame I felt. How could I possibly desire a woman and not just any woman, but Audrey Hepburn? Feeling unworthy of her, I chicken-out on our date.
5) What was your most glamorous moment? Sipping cocktails in the grand, glass-ceiling lobby of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville December 18, 2009, with our dog Hannah lounging on a Persian carpet. The scene would have made Scott and Zelda proud.
6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)? A pressed linen handkerchief (inside my antique leather handkerchief carrying case).
7) Most glamorous place? Shanghai
8) Most glamorous job? My very brief career as press secretary to the Mayor of San Francisco (it lasted 71 days).
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't. Perfume. Being a foreign correspondent.
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized. Spending a month writing at The MacDowell Colony, the oldest artist’s colony in America. They deliver a gourmet lunch in a picnic basket to your cabin every day.
11) Can glamour survive? Yes, but it’ll take on a different form as we get more and more casual.
12) Is glamour something you're born with? No, but looks are.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Catwoman’s pouty lips still spook me, and Cate’s bony hips and teeny shoulders scare me. Anyone for Maria Bello?
2) Paris or Venice? Paris. Impossible to get away from the legions of lost tourists in the City of Canals.
3) New York or Los Angeles? Definitely New York, although LA’s weather beats New York’s any day.
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Totally Grace.
5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Kobe.
6) Boots or stilettos? Stilettos (What straight guy wouldn’t prefer ’em ?)
9) Armani or Versace? So très yesterday. Long live the new kings and queens: Narciso Rodriquez, Azzedine Alaia, Naeem Kahn, Thakoon Panichgul, Maria Pinto, Maria Cornejo, Tracy Feith, Peter Soronen, Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Diana for the ages.
11) Champagne or single malt? MacAllan single malt is nectar from the gods. If you can afford the 18-year, go for it. Better: MacAllan 25.
12) 1960s or 1980s? ’80s despite Reagan and Bush I. RIP go-go boots and plastics.
13) Diamonds or pearls? C’mon!
14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell?Project Runway babe Heidi Klum rocks my world. Auf Wiedersehen to the rest.
15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? The one and only.
I met Haideh Hirmand at a dinner party given by the amazing Joan Kron (interviewed here) and was immediately impressed with her elegance and insight. A board-certified plastic surgeon in Manhattan, she is an active researcher as well as a practitioner and has a particular interest some of her field’s most precise and delicate procedures: those surrounding the eyes. (Typical research article titles: “Beyond The Tear Trough: An Anatomic Basis for Aesthetic Rejuvenation of the Peri-orbital Area,” and “Patient Safety in Eyelid Rejuvenation.”) Surgery or injections around the eyes are both medically demanding—there’s little margin for error—and aesthetically challenging, since tiny alterations can change the entire look of a person’s face. Patients come to her for her knowledge and skills, of course, but, observed Julia Reed in a 2006 Vogue profile, “it is Hirmand’s matter-of-factness that her patients prize.” We’re delighted she took the time to answer our questions.
DG: What drew you to plastic surgery as a specialty?
HH: The diversity of procedures, the rapidly evolving technology, the strong aesthetic angle, together with the emphasis on creativity and details at the same time. In addition, the possibilities to encompass international work and most importantly the fact that the psyche and the motivation of the person are just as important as the physical indications in planning and treatment.
DG: What are patients hoping for when they come to you? How realistic are they?
HH: It really depends on the patient. They are hoping to look better but in reality this means that they are hoping to feel better. Part of my job is to identify those who will not feel better even if they look better objectively.
DG: What misperceptions do patients have about plastic surgery? How about non-patients?
HH: The biggest one is that there will be “no scars.” And some think that plastic surgery is a substitute for a good attitude and can make them happy. This is a big misconception and can lead to a lot of disappointment.
“Aging gracefully” means different things to different people. To some it means never doing anything to interfere with nature’s course, and for others it means doing everything to prevent nature from taking its toll so that they age gracefully!
As for non-patients, the biggest misconception I have come across is that plastic surgery somehow preys on people’s desires to be young and beautiful.
DG: In stating your practice’s philosophy, you say, “The objective is to maintain elegance regardless of age.” What makes for elegance?
HH: Good taste, an attitude, a language
DG: What do you think of the ideal of “aging gracefully”?
HH: “Aging gracefully” means different things to different people. To some it means never doing anything to interfere with nature’s course and for others it means doing everything to prevent nature from taking its toll so that they age gracefully! I believe everyone has to find their own definition of “aging gracefully” that she or he feels comfortable with.
DG: Are there any new techniques or technologies you're particularly excited about?
HH: I am excited about the newer liposuction technologies. I am an investigator for the FDA study for a radiofrequency based liposuction device, called BodyTite, and we are evaluating its efficacy for skin tightening. There are also ultrasonic noninvasive body-contouring technologies coming down the pipeline. If we can make them work safely, it will revolutionize the field.
For the breast, we have newer tools like dermal matrices, such as Alloderm and the newer Strattice to help with secondary corrections and reconstruction.
On the eyelid and facial front, where I have always maintained a strong interest and subspecialty, it is amazing to learn more about the process of facial aging and to further evolove the techniques to nonsurgically rejuvenate the lower lid with fillers to get rid of the “sunken look.” There will be novel fillers and topicals that can intercept aging in many new ways. But the most exciting thing for me is practicing in an era where I can combine surgery and noninvasive tools in the right dose, for each person for the best results, something that was just not available to my mother’s generation years ago.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour? Glamour, to me, is a “presence” that is both stunningly attractive and inspirational. A quality that is not limited to physical appearance but encompasses attitude, behavior, and life.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? Grace Kelly
5) What was your most glamorous moment? My wedding day in St. Bart when I walked down the aisle in a flowing chiffon dress. I was in the best shape. I was glowing and extraordinarily happy and excited. The light was magical. And I had all my friends and family there.
6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)? Antique pearl necklace and earring set given to me by my mom.
7) Most glamorous place? Paris
8) Most glamorous job? What I do. It is pretty glamorous.
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don’t. Rolls Royce
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized. An amazing sailboat
11) Can glamour survive? Yes. Glamour makes an impact and an impression that is timeless.
12) Is glamour something you’re born with? I think it is a combination. Some qualities are inherent and some can be adopted.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Cate
2) Paris or Venice? Paris
3) New York or Los Angeles? New York
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Princess Grace
5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Kyoto
6) Boots or stilettos? Stilleto boots
7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Art Deco
8) Jaguar or Astin Martin? Astin Martin
9) Armani or Versace? Armani
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Anna Wintour
11) Champagne or single malt? Champagne but only fine champagne
Karen Karbo: My connections with Hepburn were largely personal. Katharine Hepburn was a household saint; my mother was said to look like her and she introduced me to her movies. I’d known about Chanel because I hail from designers. My grandmother was a couturiere in Los Angeles in the ’40s and ’50s; she designed pieces for the wives of movie moguls. My father was an industrial designer. He designed the hood ornament for the Lincoln Town Car, that iconic cross inside a square. Anyway, I started thinking about Coco and her life when I was writing the Hepburn book and came across Coco, the 1969 musical starring Hepburn. One thing lead to the next.
Despite the fact that one was a classic New England Yankee from a WASPy, relatively wealthy family and the other was a scrappy French peasant born in a poorhouse, the two women had a surprising amount of personality traits in common: both women were confident, hardworking, and fearless, except when it came to people finding out secrets about their past. They both discovered their individual style and talents young, and worked them for their entire lives. They were both bossy. They liked to instruct. They both always thought they were right about everything. And, they demanded that they be comfortable in their clothes!
DG: How would you define “Chanel style”? Does it require Chanel clothes?
KK: Chanel style is a philosophy. In its purest form it holds that luxury is a necessity, and true luxury is about feeling absolutely comfortable in your clothes (and thus, in your skin.) Chanel style means wearing simple pieces that skim the body. There is no unnecessary extra fabric, nor is anything so tight you can’t move. I’m sure ultra low-rise jeans would have driven her mad. Indeed, being able to move through the world easily and with comfort was one of Chanel’s main tenets. I don’t think this requires Chanel clothes, but it requires the wearing of clothes with a Chanelian attitude: only wear what suits you. When Chanel was just starting out, when she was Coco before Chanel, the fussy, overly complicated gowns of the Belle Époque were not simply beyond her reach financially, they looked ridiculous on her. She found what flattered her the most and stuck with it until the end of her days.
DG: You write, “Style has always been about money, and it always will be.” That’s a pretty depressing thought. Do you really believe it? How, aside from making your own Chanel-inspired suit, do you deal with it as a middle-class writer?
KK: I agree a hundred percent: it is a depressing thought. But it’s also a reality. To believe otherwise is to live at the mercy of the fashion industry which, in order to survive, needs women, rich and poor and in between, to buy a lot of clothes at all different price points as frequently as possible. “Style” is synonymous with variety in our culture; to be chic and stylish Carrie Bradshaw required a closet full of Manolos.
I have a friend who’s very rich and his clothes are the epitome of simplicity: he likes to wear jeans, loafers and cashmere sweaters, bespoke shirts and Armani jackets. The fabrics are astonishing in their color, their softness. The cut of everything he slips into is perfect and flawless. So is his style.
There are clothes that give a shout-out to style. They boast the of-the-moment neckline or cuff; they’re made of cheap fabric and slapped together by shockingly underpaid workers in Indonesia and China. That’s another discussion for another time, but the point is, from a Chanelian point-of-view, that style is luxury, and luxury means a garment is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Plus, it has to
fit, and cheap clothes just don’t fit that well, generally speaking.
Both variety and quality cost money. Or, more money than a writer makes. J. Crew has been my reliable go-to catalogue for decades. Which is not to say I don’t own a few stylish pieces. Up the street from me there’s an extraordinary consignment store I visit once a week. I just snagged a Ralph Lauren Black Label top for $18. I wear jeans, boots, and jackets a lot, and I have some great jewelry that belonged to my grandmother. As long as I don’t decide to become a socialite who needs to look fantastic five nights a week, I’m set.
DG: You write that Chanel’s attitude toward her past made her “seem completely modern.” What was her attitude and how did it inform her work and her persona?
KK: Chanel lied about her past, and then rewrote the lies. She created a past for herself that suited her. She was, in a lot of ways, one of the early practitioners of spin. France is a family-centric country, and the French tend to honor their heritage. To invent yourself, to make yourself, the way Chanel did was a 20th-century maneuver. It was an American maneuver. We Americans understood what Chanel was about long before the French did. We loved her message of ease and freedom immediately.
DG: Chanel was a master of self-promotion, yet you also note that she was “shrewd enough to make her unavailable to her customers.” What can she teach contemporary figures about balancing publicity and mystery?
KK: A salesman has no mystique. TMI extinguishes allure. Chanel said, “People should guess you,” and so they should. She understood intuitively that inviting her clients and her public to participate in the creation of her allure was to capture their attention. She put enough out there to create a screen for their projection. She understood that self-promotion was also seduction. She was also extraordinarily lucky; she was able to create a desire for her pieces, for her look and way of life, and then recede into the shadows.
DG: Coco Chanel was elegant and chic, but was she glamorous? If so, to whom?
KK: Chanel’s most glamorous move was to replace the real jewels given her by her lover, the Duke of Westminster, then the richest man in the world, with poured glass. At a time of great prosperity she invented costume jewelry and during the Depression she insisted women wear diamonds they could sell in order to eat. She was a revolutionary disguised as a fashionista. Can it possibly get more glamorous than that?
DG: How would Coco Chanel fare on Project Runway?
KK: I’m sure she would have nothing to do with it. She would find another way to succeed. When the dazzling Elsa Schiaparelli stole Coco’s thunder in the ’30s (as well as some of her best clients), Chanel’s response was to completely ignore her.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour? Chanel said “art is imperfection” and the same can be said of glamour. To be glamorous is be aware of one’s flaws worthy of envy. Barbara Stanwyck comes to mind. A glamorous item is usually a fetish item that few people have but everyone wants. The iPhone was glamorous for about 48 hours, once upon a time.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? I worship Christiane Amanpour. She’s brilliant, chic, and courageous, with that devastatingly fabulous accent and weird, thick fringe of hair.
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?
Absolute necessity. When glamour goes, so does creativity and hope.
4) Favorite glamorous movie? Double Indemnity. Also, Chinatown. Any movie in which people can’t overcome their own worst impulses while wearing sunglasses.
5) What was your most glamorous moment? Sipping Lagavulin single malt scotch aboard the Four Seasons Explorer in the Maldives, after a scuba dive in which I’d encountered a hammerhead shark.
6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)? A black and white cocktail dress designed by my grandmother for the 1948 Oscars. Her client ran off to Mexico with her lover two days before the awards ceremony and never claimed the dress.
8) Most glamorous job? Photojournalist avant digital.
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't. Making a movie. I went to film school at USC and learned pretty quickly that filmmaking is both hard work and deadly dull. The days are long, the egos are huge, and there’s a lot of waiting around. There’s a great saying: the most exciting day of your life is the first day on the set; the most boring day of your life is the second day on the set.
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized. Exercise rider for a great race horse.
11) Can glamour survive? Only if women stop giving press conferences about their preferred method of hair removal.
12) Is glamour something you're born with?
Nope, it’s entirely self-generated. It helps if you have some killer quality that distinguishes you from the pack, like very long legs, a nice head of hair, or a huge fortune.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett?
2) Paris or Venice?
3) New York or Los Angeles?
My heart says LA, my brain says NY.
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace?
5) Tokyo or Kyoto?Lost in Translation
6) Boots or stilettos?
Boots, particularly my own black steel-toed Luccheses.
7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau?
8) Jaguar or Astin Martin?
9) Armani or Versace?
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour?
11) Champagne or single malt?
12) 1960s or 1980s?
Is this a lesser of two evils question?
13) Diamonds or pearls?
14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell?
15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?
["25 shoes" photo by Flickr user bandita, who believes a woman should have as many pairs of shoes as she has years of age, under Creative Commons license.]