Thursday, April 27, 2006

Gwen Stefani, You Like-uh Me!

Okay. I loved her catchy dance album for about three months. Three months of drunken-dance party-debauchery. Three months of Gwen singing about how crazy her bananas were and how much she wanted Johnny to "drive into me" at the "drive in movie."

I thought her collaboration with LeSportsac was too umm...I don't know, "I wish I was Takashi Murakami" but still pretty cool, and I even forgave her all over the place LAMB collection actually designed by Zaldy that was terribly unfocused and shakily executed. (It looked like three fashion shows at once. Not one, not two, but THREE fashion shows.)

And then I started to see through the cuteness of bright, jumbled colors and dancing Asian girls to realize that somewhere along the line...The Pregnant Blonde had gone too far. The wheels of distaste started to turn when I read up on her latest accessories venture, "Harajuku Lovers." Again, more Imitation-Japanese cutesy artwork, with blatant references to her only solo album. Nothing new, but definitely tackier, which is what bothered me. I decided to do a little investigative reporting to see if there was a legit explanation for the success of her bad taste.

The real Harajuku girls loathe Stefani and her stylploitation of their image. Numerous reports in the actual Harajuku shopping district in Japan bring back the same results. The Fruitsy dressers hate what she is commercializing, and scoff at her attempts to built a fan base in Japan, which has so far proven embarrassingly unsuccessful.

And then I read up on her actual Harajuku Girls. You know who they are, the sweetfaced Asians who work out, mop the deck, and bow, yes BOW to La Stefani in her funkytronic pop videos. Apparently, none of the girls are ACTUALLY JAPANESE. They are American born Chinese...and I think one of them might be an American born Korean. And unsurprisingly, each are under a CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT to keep their English speaking mouths closed at public events. Enough unsaid.

And as much as I want to hate on Gwen for this, and selling her body, soul, and image to the world, I can't. Because if the Faux Harajuku girls all picked up camp and moved on, who would replace them? More white girls? Or worse, Faux Blatinas?

In the end, the customer decides. And as much as Gwen is photographed in her own line, toting her obnoxious accessories around the world, you know she does all her shopping at Vivienne Westwood in Paris, where she can stop at Christian Dior's boutique around the arrondissement; A world away from the real Harajuku....

Martha Kurihara

Often referred to as "Japan's Martha Stewart", Harumi Kurihara is Japan's most famous housewife. She has authored over 40 cookbooks and sold a total of about 15 million copies. Aside from her own brand of kitchenware and linens, there are actually four restaurants in Japan that cook her food exclusively.

And her recipe for success? Simple, natural, traditional and not so traditional gourmet cooking. She makes high-end and homestyle cuisine available to the wannabe chef who wants to stay as far away from a microwave as possible, and not suffer from endless ingredient searches and hours over a stove.

Here's a recipe/excerpt from her Celebration of Contemporary Cuisine.
If you try it, you just might like it.

Recipe: Soy Egg Appetizers (Shoyu Tamago no Zensai)

"I love appetizers and party food. As well as enjoying choosing the tastes and colours of the food itself, I take great delight in deciding on which plates to display it. These eggs are just so simple to prepare but are stunning to look at, with different coloured toppings. You can experiment with other ideas, such as pickles, olives and cress. I happen to love any kind of egg cooking, but this is one of my favourites."

(Serves 4)

6-8 small hard-boiled eggs
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar

Suggested toppings:
salmon roe
cream cheese

1. Shell the eggs. Mix the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar together, making sure the sugar dissolves. Put the eggs with the marinade into a large plastic bag. Leave to marinate for 2-3 hours, moving the eggs around in the bag from time to time to ensure an even colour.

2. Remove the eggs from the bag and cut them in half lengthways. Place on a serving dish and decorate the yolk with a teaspoon of salmon roe, cream cheese or any other topping you choose. Serve as finger food or with salad leaves as a starter.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Paging Ms. Nagi

What does it mean to be a celebrity in the 21st century?

For Hollywood, as the bubble of fame gets bigger, so does the talent quota. You have to make a movie, record an album, learn a choreographed dance for your music video, lose weight for high fashion photo spreads, and sign your name over to hundreds of different licensing companies for their use in fragrances, accessories, and apparel. All at the same time, all while you're getting younger and younger.

The bar is also being raised for artists. 32 year old Nagi Noda of Tokyo Japan started out as an art director and designer for indie CD labels and small print advertising firms. By taking inspiration from every day life and infusing it with her own twisted perspective, she has gained critical and commercial acclaim in a variety of industries including film, television, fashion, toy design, and advertising.

Her grotesque television spots and print ads for La Foret Harajuku are all the buzz on the streets of Tokyo, along with her adorable Hanpandas; stuffed panda animals that are half-mutated with other creatures. See the cuteness @

Her short film, Ex-Fat Girl, is both hilarious and contraversial.

Check it out here:

Friday, April 14, 2006

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

Every major designer from Ralph Lauren to Heatherette is jumping on a ship to Japan. Karl Lagerfeld has been promoting Chanel on the islands since he was fat, and Gwen Stefani has been exploiting Harajuku girls since she went solo with her design and singing career.

But the Japanese phenom is nothing new, anime has been around since the seventies, kung fu movies have been influencing western cinema for even longer; it's only just now that luxury retailers (excluding Louis Vuitton) are waking up to the wide range of middle class that saves their yen for a purse that white folks wouldn't touch out of expensive fear.

The next few entries will cover a few different topics surrounding Japan's place in the international mainstream, starting with the 'underground' multi talented artist Nagi Noda, music video director, installation artist, fashion photographer, and toy maker. She's been one of the most influential women in Japan's art scene over the last five years, but is only just beginning to expand her international career, most recently with a debut of some of her work at Collette in Paris. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Project Karl

Everyone better be tuning in to the Sundance Channel this fall. As reported in The Fashion Week Daily, "Signé Chanel", a five part series to begin airing in September '06 will follow Captain Lagerfeld and Team Chanel's Fall/Winter 2004-2005 Haute Couture collection from concept to creation.

Karl Lagerfeld has never stopped grabbing headlines in his 40+ years in fashion, always designing, losing weight and setting trends leapyears ahead of his competitors in the industry. And sometimes, to his advantage, he jumps on a trend while it's already on the rise, adding HIS attention to a moment, making a smoldering trend on fire.

He famously lost over two hundred pounds to wear Dior Homme seconds before Msr. Slimane's skinny suits were all the rage. When hi-low fashion was threatening to burst like a dollar store bubble with Mizrahi's Target-Couture, Karl redesigned his wardrobe for H&M and watched as dozens of fashion crazies raided the place. (I have the women's sequin tux jacket--all occasion--fucking gorgeous.) He podcasts the Chanel show, and at the after party for Lagerfeld Collection here in New York, he gives away forty iPods to his exclusive guests; he owns the 40 ipod, with a 400,000$ price tag and max of 1.5 TB(?) of music. And he just auctioned off several million dollars worth of furnishings and properties, trading his baroque antiques for slick, modern, couture priced chrome chairs and coffee tables.

A friend recently asked me what would happen if Karl Lagerfeld kicked the bucket. What would happen to Chanel? Fendi? Fashion? I couldn't think of a valid response, other than, he probably will not ever die. KARL FOREVER!