Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If Harlem looks back he can dress forward…

It’s the 1950s and the location is Harlem NY where the combination of the Great Migration and white flight has left the population almost entirely black. The Black population in Harlem was at its peak during the 1950s. The numbers game is big business for various bosses. It was estimated that by the 1950s billions of dollars were circulating in “black policy banks” which housed the illegal lottery system. At that time, Madame Stephanie St Clair (aka Queenie) was one of the most powerful numbers bosses. Heroin had just hit the scene and the popularity of injecting the drug would rise throughout the decade before leveling off by the end of the 60s. If you were one of the many tenants living in poor housing conditions, you would of participated in the rent strikes, demanding buildings be brought up to proper housing codes including providing heat during the winter and protection against the rodents. 1950s Harlem was also a core location for the Civil Rights Movement. Home to Nation of Islam’s Temple Number Seven, which was run by the illustrious Malcolm X starting in 1952.  

Seeming like the center of the fashion universe during the 1950’s, Harlem residence took great proud in their daily attire. Men regularly wore suits with fedoras. Women adored themselves in well-pressed swing dresses, full circle skirts, and pencil skirts coupled with blouses. Even though times were hard for most, there was a sharpness and confidence in almost every outfit. Women wore heels practically all the time. Even casual wear was a simple dress. One couldn’t help but admire the exuberance of it all, sensing the strength and determination in each individual. No wonder this was the stage of the Civil Rights Movement. Today designers have drawn inspiration from the fashion trends of the 1950s including Louis Vuittons fall 2010 collection which features full skirts and wasp waist dresses.

Today in Harlem, for the first time in decades, blacks are not the predominant ethnic group due to a white recrudescence to the area. Gentrification is in full effect in Harlem. 125th street is now home to major commercial chains like H&M and Target. The debate about the public school system is a hot topic. Harlem is a pioneer for charter schools in Manhattan with 18 of the city’s 25 schools located there.  In the spirit of Prohibition, many residences of Harlem are reacting to the recession by selling illegal alcohol outside of their apartments; the most popular drink being “nutcrackers.” Harlem’s famous Apollo Theatre founded in 1913 has solidified its iconic symbol by adding a walk of fame to 125th street.  Another symbol of Harlem’s past and present, is congressman Charles Rangal who has represented the district since 1970 after defeating historical figure, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.   Currently engulfed in a political scandal, if Rangal wins this November’s election, he will make history by being the first congressman to serve 21 straight terms; not everything in Harlem has changed.

Now jump 60 years later to present day Harlem and one word represents Harlem’s current fashion style: casual. In general people are a lot more laid back in their dress in comparison to 1950s. Jeans are a signature item on both men and women. Comfort, understandably, is a priority for women who in most cases commute on foot; heels are not the daily norm.  Thankfully, the hip-hop’s gangsta style of oversized baggy clothes from the early 90s has finally subsided to somewhat fitted pants and shirts. Adding some ethnic roots a small minority of residences of the district follow current fashion trends wearing animal and African prints.

Unfortunately, fashion styles in 2000’s Harlem are not as elegant or debonair as the 1950s. Trends from the 50s continue to influence current fashions and will more than likely reappear in Harlem 2070 because the styles were classical. Women dressed feminine and men in tailored masculinity. Though, in the defense of current male fashion trends, men have a lot more options and the ability to be creatively colorful. In the 1950s, men wore mainly black, gray or blue pants suits; there were not very many variations. Today a man can wear a lavender t-shirt with khaki shorts and be even jauntier.

My remedy for the stylistically uninspired individuals of Harlem would be to take time and pride in your daily attire. Even if you are casually dressing in jeans and a t-shirt, proportions and size are imperative; look to your great grandparents for inspiration. Harlem was and still is the epicenter of African American culture and style and the current residence of Harlem should strive to embrace this fact as the trendsetters of the 1950’ did, with elegance, class and pride.

Friday, September 24, 2010

President Obama's Swag...

Check the photo below of President Obama at the White House looking so sophisticated and dignified. Cheers to our 1st black President for having the strength and confidence to lead our country while still being a dapper gentleman

Polish Bar Brooklyn

Last night, Polish Bar of Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights store celebrated the latest fall collection by some of the best nail polish brands including Essie, OPI and Zoya. If you’re not familiar with Polish Bar, it is a very chic nail salon with twin stores in Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights. The event included drinks for relaxation, sweets for your soul and free mini manicures to pamper your hands. Guest were prive to choose manicure colors from the new fall collection.

To my delight, most attendees where dressed to impress. Some of my favorite fashionistas including the “Lady in Purple” who sported a chic eggplant colored Rachel Roy jacket over a periwinkle H&M dress. Crafty purple lipstick was a combination of Dior’s #680 over purple eyeliner. The hipster dual was also stylishly attired in laid back harem pants with red lip stick and a black blazer over my “recession proof” cut off jean shorts with readers.

The décor at the Prospect Heights PBB salon was equally fabulous. Be sure to pop into one of the Polish Bar of Brooklyn locations. I recommend the brown sugar pedicure treatment on the comfortable pink velvet chairs. To commemorate their 4th year anniversary, PBB is offering 20% off all services.  Please note: services must be booked online to receive discount. Check out Polish Bar of Brooklyn’s website for more information:   

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reopening of GoldBar Fall 2010

Tonight was the grand reopening of Nolita’s Gold Bar which is known for pretentious parties for all of NYC’s many ethnic groups. Gold bar has a great décor. Compliments to the club designer Robert McKinley for the gothic gold assets including the gold skull walls and gold chain curtains. I am always transfixed by the haunting and surreal artwork on the wall.

The opening was pretty tamed and quiet compared to the usual scene of last season. The crowd, keeping with the Fashion Week trend was fashionable. As far as style, no one really stood out besides a few well-dressed men including a swanky dressed male in a red rain jacket and tastefully combined scarf. He was unfortunately not a New York native but actually a Miamian (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’m just bias). The open vodka bar was well appreciated by patrons (well those who actually knew that the bar was open). The crowd thickened as the night progressed. I’m positive that come late fall and winter, Gold bar will be back to its usual tight door policy with all the beautiful people inside hobnobbing. As far as the grand reopening, it fizzled. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

GPS Tracking Devices and Privacy

In an unusual ruling, implemented by nine western states including California, government officials can now creep into your private home and implant GPS devices on your vehicle. The legal ruling allows agents to invade your habitats minus any judiciary reasoning. Any unfenced or gated properties are subject to tracking device implantation, which follow your movements for an indefinite amount of time. In these states, if you can’t afford to gate your residence, expect your privacy rights to be violated by law enforcers for whatever reason found fit, furthering the gap between the have and have not’s.

Some of you might already be providing this information to individuals if you have the popular retail GPS systems or On*Star devices on your vehicle, which tracks and stores your daily whereabouts. Do you really want your ever moves tracked and recorded? More importantly, is this not a violation of our 4th amendment? Should the government be allowed to trespass on private property minus any reasonable cause or warrant? At what point is this seen as a form of totalitarianism? When is bigger government seen as too much governing? Anticipate two things in the near future: the expansion of the ruling in other states and a hopeful appeal against the clearly breach of reasonable search and seizure laws.   

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taylor Swift...Huh?!? Kanye West's self proclaimed Asshole...Really?!?

Seriously, I can't take anymore of this. Its been a year since the whole Kanye West "I've been drinking too much Hennessy at the VMAs and how the hell is Taylor Swift gonna win best female video over Beyonce. I'm just gonna go on stage and let the world know she don't desire it!" I personally was quiet entertained and we all know that it catapulted Taylor Swift into real stardom. No one outside of country music knew or cared about her but after Kanye West, Americans couldn't stop talking about sweet innocent Taylor Swift and that angry black man Kanye West. Taylor's 2010 VMA answer performance to Kanye West was...hold on a second I'm yawning...boring! What was she talking about? I had to put on the closed caption to read the word. "You're an innocent; you're still growing at 32; we can be friends" yadda yadda. Was she talking about Kanye being an innocent as in he's a child or was she talking about herself "I'm America's sweetheart Taylor Swift; I'm an innocent" Either way, I don't care and I'm completely over this celebrity stunt.

Moving on to Kanye West's debut performance which was equally a bore. I enjoyed the song much better than Taylor's and his red suit with long gold chains against the white stage was appealing to my eyes. Kanye toasted to himself "the asshole," to "the douchebag"...great stuff; at least he knows. Pusha T of the Clipse graced the stage w/ a few bars (sidebar I liked the pink blazer w/ pink t-shirt). Kanye lost me once the auto tones came in...booooo! Can we finally once and for all stop the auto tone mania, its painful. At least Kanye has a better PR team than that sad case Chris Brown.

As I said before, this episode has gone on for entirely too long. Kanye West is a talented asshole and Taylor Swift is a gifted pester. I wish them both the best. Now let's move on to the next celebrity disaster...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Downtown NYC Fashion Night Out

Fashion Night Out 2010 was a global celebration of fashion that took place from London to New York City to Brazil. It was the biggest most extravagant fashion party ever to take place. I decided to cover the downtown NYC section of FNO. I started out at Sephora’s Union Square store, which featured Madonna’s make-up artist Gina Brooke who “performed” at the store, representing Art Avant-Gared. There was a stage in the front of the 17th street entrance so Gina could execute her magic for the enthusiastic audience. Sephora’s Union Square FNO was pretty lame. No cocktail or gift bags for patrons but the DJ was spinning some alluring tones.
After a short stop there, I heading west to the meatpacking district to check out the many festivities there. Upon arrival, you could instantly feel the difference in the atmosphere. There were high and low end street vendor; some with DJs and enthralling activities, others with more subtle appealing attractions but nonetheless all with the same purpose to buy their products. Votre Vu offered organic mango drinks and chocolate infused with raspberries as you listened to advice from skin experts and took pictures with their Joan Rivers impersonator. The France pastry was delicious and the skin moistures hydrated and smelled divine without the strong over stench of artificial fragrance.

I briefly walked by the Maybelline stand, which offered free gift bags along with a free facial; I declined. While heading to Carlos Miele, I made a quick stop by Yigal Azrouel. The event was understated; the clothes edgy urban wear. They served a pleasant Pino Grigio, which I found quite enjoyable. From there, I headed to Carlos Miele, which instantly became my favorite event (at that point). The apparel was colorful and young. The Brazilian designer definitely incorporated his native upbring into the clothes. One side of the store was lined with bright colored and embolished red carpet dresses. The FNO inspired decore was a bite chessy especially the table of Vito Coco waters splashed over fake palm tree leaves. But the amazing authentic caipirinhas were to die for and kept me in the store well over my planned 30mins. Favorite pieces in the store was the beige silk handmade flower skirt, the gray cocktail dress with black and silver sequins and finally the bright multi color short red carpet ready dress; all adorable flirty wearable pieces.

I made a very quick pitstop at Rubin Chappelle's store. Unfortunately, Rubin offered “two buck chucks” to go with their $500 plus wardrobe, not classic. Moving on to the highlights of the night: Alexander McQueen store was packed like the hottest nightclub in the meatpacking district. Serving champagne out of the bottle, guests had a chance to win a Union Jack clutch and were encourage to shop, shop shop! I saw the most interestingly dressed shoppers at McQueens shop. Every inch of the store was lined with consumers. At one point, I was concerned for the safety of the merchandise. Thankfully, no incidents were reported. Next to Stella McCartney where the list at the door was so tight you would think it was a Diddy party. They served vegan hot dogs and Veuve Clicquot champagne. A bebop brand serenaded customers while they comingled with each other. Jean Shop featured Tequila tasting, live performances and free leather bracelets from Poor Cat. The store smelled of high quality leather and industrial style jeans. After fighting my way into Jeffrey’s, I was handed a glass of Moet and saw this fall’s most have shoe pick: Christian Louboutin’s spiked velvet flats on a very stylist shopper.

As the night progressed, the crowds became bigger and more animated. Diane von Furstenberg’s shop was a zoo. They were completely out of alcoholic beverages by the time I entered. I did have the great opportunity to meet the designer herself along with Olivia Palermo. It was too busy in the store to actually do any shopping. Last stop of the night was Scoop’s on Washington Street, which was officially my favorite FNO event of the night. Jaleel Bunton from TV on the Radio spun in store while South African brand BLK JKS performed out-front. BLK JKS performance was amazing. I spotted Melvin Van Peebles watching BLK JKS along side other onlookers. Lucky guest received free guest bags full of goodies. Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck served free “scoops” of ice cream and Belvedere kept the party popping.

Fashion Night Out was the ultimate night for shopping, dancing, drinking and entertainment. FNO completely took over the entire city. No matter where you were you know something big was happening. By nights end, I was exhausted and inspired. The entertainment continues next week with Spring 2011 collection fashion shows from the same designers and more.