Thursday, October 29, 2015

Torturous Beauty

Shoes - Toerless Muse - Christian Louboutin
Christian Louboutin (Sold out!)
We've seen them in high-end department stores like Barneys, Bergdorfs, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, along with knock-offs in DSW and Off Broadway Shoes. But mostly, we've seen them in Vogue and Elle on young models, on entertainers like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, or celebrities like .....hold your breath, here it comes! .....the Kardashians.

I must admit, though, that these incredible shoes fascinate me the way classic horror movies fascinated me as a child. I knew what was coming (mummies, werewolves and screams in the night!), but I continued watching anyway.

Shoes - Highness Strass - Christian Louboutin
Christian Louboutin, $6,395.00. (Still available; hurry while supplies last!)

Several things about these outlandish shoes fascinate me. One of them, of course, is practical: How does a woman walk in them without spraining an ankle, slipping and breaking her neck, or necessitating visits to a chiropractor or podiatrist once a week?

Sophia Webster - Parisa Metal-Trim Suede Sandals
Sophia Webster, $750.00

Manolo Blahnik - Bellanto Suede Lace-Back Open-Toe Ankle Boots
Manolo Blahnik, $1,145.

The second thing is cost: Who pays $1,500 to $6,000+ for a pair of shoes? And what woman only owns one pair?

Not Sarah Jessica Parker.

Not fashion muse Daphne Guinness. She owns 450 pairs of shoes....and counting.

Guinness in a pair of shoes by the late Alexander McQueen

And that brings me to the incredible footwear created by the late fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.

Fantasy fashion: Last September McQueen sent models down the catwalk in towering 12-inch boots for an ethereal show inspired by Charles Darwin's The Origin Of The Species
Models on the runway of a McQueen fashion show.

The Armadillo Shoe by Alexander McQueen

 Alas, the "Armadillo Shoe" is not available to mere mortals like us. They only exist in fashion archives and Lady Gaga's closet. Her fiance, Taylor Kinney, bought her $295,000 worth of Alexander McQueen shoes.

Alexander McQueen

Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen.

Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen shoes (minus heels)

I have spent more time than I care to admit wondering how someone walks in shoes without heels? A close friend of  Daphne Guinness said that she will either rock back onto her own heels, the front of the shoes pointing into the air.... or lift one leg in the air, like a stork, and then switch to the other leg. It certainly takes the expression, "No pain, no gain" to a whole other dimension.

Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen

Poets say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It must be so because many people found McQueen's work extraordinary. That includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC who mounted an exhibition of McQueen's work in 2011, a year after his death. Called "Savage Beauty", I think the title says it all.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ichiyo: Ikebana's Contemporary Style

Yoshiko Nakamura.

The word Ikebana is derived from the Japanese word "ikeru" which means "to keep alive" and hana which means "flower". Thus Ikebana: Giving life to flowers. 

 Traditional Shouka.

The precise origin of Ikebana is unknown. The offering of flowers on the altar in honor of Buddha was part of worship, and Ikebana no doubt evolved from the practice of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead. 

The first classical styles of Ikebana started in the middle of the Muromachi period. Patterns and styles evolved and by the late 15th century, arrangements were common enough that they were appreciated by ordinary people, not just the imperial family and their retainers. 

  Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta

The first students and teachers of Ikebana were Buddhist priests and members. As time passed, other schools emerged, styles changed, and Ikebana became a custom throughout Japanese society and remains so to this day.

 Free style arrangement

Like all things artistic and creative, Ikebana has evolved. But the "7 Principles of Ikebana" remain constant. They are:

1. Silence
2. Minimalism
3. Shape and Line
4. Form
5. Humanity
6. Aesthetics
7. Structure

Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta

1. Silence - a time for contemplation; to quietly observe nature.
2. Minimalism - a Buddhist concept: Less is desirable.
3. Shape and Line - minimal and natural; lines are graceful.
4. Form - found rather than planned. You find what is already there in yourself and in nature.
5. Humanity -  a reflection of your feelings.
6. Aesthetics - subdued, austere beauty; refined style.
7. Structure - scalene triangle (three unequal sides) delineated by three main points. These are often formed with twigs. The three points of Ikebana represent heaven, earth and humanity.

 Arrangement by Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta.

"The goal of the ikebana artist is to communicate an idea, thought, or feeling through creative form.  This requires a complete understanding of the various characteristics of nature, a sense of imagination, and the technical knowledge to transform these features into artistic form with rhythm, balance and harmony.  The higher the level of artistic expression, the greater the encounter between nature, the flower arranger, and those who view the arrangement.  Thus, ikebana is an art of personal enrichment and an art to be shared and interpreted by others according to their own individual imagination and experience."  (Elaine Jo)

Arrangement by author

This arrangement was quickly put together with flowers and greenery I already had on hand. It's more an arrangement with a 'Zen' attitude rather than serious Ichiyo. But it illustrates what an amatuer can do with no formal training. I intend to continue working with flowers and other natural materials, concentrating on the 7 Principles of Ikebana. No doubt, the first rule...Silence....will prove the hardest!

For anyone in the Atlanta area who wishes to pursue this wonderful art form, here is some information about classes:

Ongoing Ichiyo Ikebana Classes:

Teacher: Elaine Jo, Executive Master
Monday mornings  from  9:30 - 12 Noon    Cost: $220 - 10 lessons .

Wednesday mornings from 9:45-10:00  - 12 Noon     Cost: $220 - 10 lessons .

      For registration/information please call Elaine Jo, 404-233-1846 or e-mail

Teacher: Donna Scott,  Master
Monday afternoons from 12:30    Cost: $220 - 10 lessons .

       For registration/information please call Donna Scott, 404-841-0582 or e-mail

Teacher: Neda Tasson

Thursday afternoons from 2:00   
   Place: Roswell

       For registration/information please contact at  e-mail

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Homage to Iris Apfel

"Some say, take one off. I say, put one on!"
-Iris Apfel

Unless you've been living on Mars for the past decade, you've probably heard of Iris Apfel, especially if you're interested in fashion. She has been the subject of a documentary, a one-woman show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Peabody Museum, the Palm Beach Museum of Art...well, I could go on and on. Magazines around the world from Germany to Hong Kong have devoted articles in their Style Section to Mrs. Apfel's collection of clothes and accessories, and a coffee-table size book has been published illustrating her particular style. There has never been anyone quite like Iris....and it's doubtful there ever will be!
 Iris, wearing her trade-mark round eyeglasses.

Iris Apfel - now in her mid-nineties! - rose to fashion fame in 2005 when the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition featuring her extraordinary collection of couture clothes, along with her off-beat, ethnic jewelry, a large portion of which she purchased from souks in Morocco, India and Egypt during her decades of travel.

But Iris wasn't your average upper-class tourist exploring foreign lands. She was hard at work searching out top-notch weavers for her (and her late-husband, Carl's) business....Old World Weavers. Almost as soon as it was launched, OWW became the source for quality fabrics for interior designers. It remains so to this day, although the Apfels sold it years ago to Stark. 

Below, some photographs from Eric Boman's book, "Rare Bird of Fashion."

  1.  Hat, Indian, late 19th century. Wool, amber, coral, turquoise and silver.
  2.  Neck ornament, Indian, early 20th century. Wool silver, amber, coral, turquoise and wood.
  3. Necklaces on bottom, Chinese, late 19th century. Silver and coral.

  1.  Jumpsuit, Geoffrey Beene, 1992/1993.
  2.  "Scorpion" brooch, Native American, 1980s. Silver and turquoise.
  3. Belt, Native American, 1980s. Silver and turquoise.
  4. Cuff bracelet, Italian, 1970s. Turquoise ceramic and silver plate.

  1. Jacket, Roberto Cavalli, 2002. Blue cotton denim, multicolored embroidery.
  2. Jeans, American, 1990s.
  3. Clip, Unknown, 1930s. 

Called “Rara Avis”, the exhibit at the Met was actually a last-minute show after a planned exhibition had fallen through. There was very little in the way of promotion, mostly word-of-mouth. But “Rara Avis” was a dynamic success. A heavily illustrated book by Eric Bowman with an introduction by Met curator Harold Koda soon followed.

Mrs. Apfel continues to find joy in self-presentation. Her ceaseless delight is captured in the documentary “Iris” by the late film maker, Albert Maysles (rhymes with hazels), which is now available for viewing on Netflix. The documentary follows Iris as she does what she enjoys doing, talking with people, and dressing up to go out for the evening.  

She doesn't think of herself as a 'style icon'. As she points out, "Every morning we all have to get up, get dressed and face the world. Why not put some effort into it and have fun!"

After 60 years as a working woman, I think Iris Apfel has earned her days of fun. I just hope I'll have that kind of energy when I'm in my 90s - should I be fortunate to live that long.

  1. Jacket, European flea market find.
  2. Trousers, burgundy and brown leather, hand-stained by Karl Springer.
  3. Necklace, Chinese Minority, late 19th century.
  4. Belt, Central Asian, late 19th century. Metal.
  5. Cuff  bracelets, India late 19th century. Silver.

  1. Jacket, Lanvin haute couture, circa 1989.
  2. Necklaces, Publo and Navajo, 1930s-1950s. Silver and turquoise.
  3. Cuff bracelets, Native American, early 1970s. Silver, turquoise, leather.
  4. Belt, Navajo, 1940s. Silver, turquoise, leather.

  1. Bangles, American, 1920s-1940s. Bakelite.
  2. Necklace, American, 1930s. "Marblette" Bakelite sample chips.

  1. Jacket, Bill Blass, 1984. White, red, green and navy wool.
  2. Skirt, Hopi, circa 2000. White cotton canvas and red suede.
  3. Neck scarf, American 1990s. Black Tibetan lamb.
  4. Necklace, American, 1930s. Black and red Bakelite beads.

  1. Tunic, Gianfranco Ferre, 1994. Brown nutria and wool knit.
  2. Necklaces, European, late 1970s. Baltic amber and silver.
  3. Bangles, Various, 20th century. Wood, amber and acrylic.
  4. Ring, European, 1990. Baltic amber and wood.  


  1. Coat, Nina Ricci haute couture, 1984. Gray, black and white mohair.
  2. Necklaces and bracelet, Angela Caputi Giugiu, 1990s. Black and gray acrylic.

I'm a minimalist in most things, from the way I've styled my home to the way I dress, always preferring simple, stream-lined clothes more suited to my stature and physical shape. Adding one great-looking statement piece is the way I ramp up the outfit. Layers of necklaces and bracelets up to my elbows was something I had never tried. 

Until now!

After watching the film, "Iris" and pouring over "Rare Bird of Fashion...", I thought, "Oh heck, why not have some fun? Break out of the rut and try something different."

So, after pawing through my closet and rummaging through dresser drawers, here's my homage to Iris.
(The photos below feature "Audrey Designs", my line of Irish linen jackets and one-of-a-kind necklaces.)

  1. Jacket, Audrey Designs. Turquoise Irish linen.
  2. Long drop necklace, Audrey Designs. Black and white agate.
  3. Mixed necklace, 2010. Black and white ceramic beads.
  4. Long necklace, 2010. Black silk wrapped around wood beads. 
  5. Bangle, 2013. Black and white zebra design on metal.

  1. Top necklace, Audrey Designs. 2015. Light-blue Amazonite, carved bone, golden amber.
  2. Long necklace, Audrey Designs. 2015. Light-blue Amazonite, patinated copper, sterling silver chain.
  3. Carved gourd shoulder bag. 2001. American. Designer unknown.

  1. Jacket, Black Irish linen. 2015. AUDREY Designs.
  2. Brooch, Silver Maltese cross. Unknown. Personal collection.
  3. Necklace, Faux turquoise and silver necklace, Morocco. AUDREY Designs.
  4. Necklace, Hand-wrought silver links, Guatamala. 1982. Personal collection.
  5. Necklace, Turquoise beads, China. 1995. Personal collection.
  6. Bracelet, Aluminum, 2015. India. Personal collection.
  1. Jacket, Black Irish linen. 2015. AUDREY Designs. 
  2. Necklace, Amber and silver. Morocco, AUDREY Designs.
  3. Necklace, Amber, agate and silver. Morocco. AUDREY Designs.
  4. Necklace, Amber and silver, Late-19th century. India. Personal collections.