WHAT WE DO IS SECRET - Page 96

Germs

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New Yorkers have been complaining about gentrification forever, but the pace of change during the past several years in downtown, especially on the West Side, has been startling… well, to be honest, it’s almost deplorable. The saddest thing to see is the way the meatpacking district has changed in the past few years. It’s easier to spot celebrities than a rat these days, and it’s been a while since we have lost sight of transsexual hookers on Washington Street.

My best friend T used to say “You got to have germs to make art.” The city, like underdeveloped countries, is still filled with all kinds of infectious germs, but the species that T used to mention, the kinds that nourished art, are almost extinct. I miss the days when artists, hookers and drug dealers were all under the same roof. It was thrilling, and art was much more powerful back then.

It’s ironic to think something positive about this change when it’s making me feel like a fish trapped in a drying pond, but if there is one good thing that has come out of this horrendous gentrification, it is that the city has become a nice place for kids to grow up in. My biggest dilemma these days … I want germs for myself, but not for my kids. Having a family is not simple.

(Here is another irony. T, who was homeless and couldn’t tell the difference between a shooting gallery and an art gallery when we used to hang out together, is now a professor at one of the ivys, and his two kids go to one of the best private schools in the city.)
 

Sophia ’93

“Perfumers have signatures,” Mrs. Grojsman said. “You can pick up a fragrance and know who the perfumer is by the way certain ingredients are put together. I’m known for floral accords, bottoms and cleavage.” Noses talk that way. Translation: the bottom note is the scent on the skin several hours after application. There is, however, no bottom without a top — a note that lasts a couple of minutes after perfume is put on — and a middle. Without this layering, heaven forbid, a scent could turn out to be what Mrs. Grojsman called “a bottomless pit of infinity or nondescript.” Cleavage is the “sensual” part of the fragrance.

From a New York Times article in February 1993

I’m in an oddly sentimental mood.

Speaking of Bijin-Hakumei, perhaps none fits the bill better than this one.

She was phenomenal. Kanebo’s ad campaign in 1977 turned Masako Natusme (夏目雅子) into an instant household name in Japan, and many of us realized that a torso of a Japanese woman could be sexy and beautiful (most models in Japanese ads were Caucasians). She was possessed of a healthy charm. Her beauty was a blend of traditional and new. If the human being is a creature of age, Masako Natsume was the perfect icon of Japanese women during the height of the nation’s economic growth. So it came as a huge shock to most Japanese when she suddenly passed away in 1985 due to acute leukemia at the age of 27.

Yellow Boots

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The image on the left was probably taken more than two decades ago. The one on the right was taken a few years ago.

Who is she?
– Her name is Sayoko Yamaguchi (山口小夜子).
– Sayoko was the first and maybe the only supermodel from Japan. Newsweek magazine named her one of the world’s top six fashion models in 1977.
– Sayoko Mannequin manufactured in ’77 by a British company was displayed all over the world through the ’80s. Fashion designer Anna Sui still owns two of these vintage mannequins and uses them in her shop.
– According to Yoshiharu Fukuhara, Shiseido’s Honorary Chairman and the grandson of the company’s founder, Sayoko was Shiseido’s liaison with Serge Lutens who often had done makeup for Sayoko.
– Sayoko was the face of Shiseido for many years. She had a very Japanese-looking face, but her physique was not (ie. tall height, long legs). She didn’t really make a great model for a kimono because of her not-so-Japanese-looking body, but here is Sayoko in a kimono in one of Shiseido’s commercials.

bijinhakumei.jpgThe word “bi-jin” literally means a beautiful person and mostly used for women. “Haku-mei” denotes ‘thin life’ which translates to short life. It illustrates the Japanese worldview of beautiful things being frail and grieving such frailness. Sayoko Yamaguchi died two months ago at age of 57. Sayoko’s life was almost 30 years short of reaching the average lifespan of Japanese women today. Her life exemplified this idiom.

Her death brought back to me an almost forgotten memory. One fall afternoon, when I was about 17, I was waiting for a local train at Yokohama station to go to Tokyo. When I looked over at the platform for the express trains to Tokyo on the other side of the track, I saw a pair of long legs in yellow boots stretched out below a short skirt moving in elegant strides. They belonged to a very tall young woman with long black hair whom I recognized from glossy fashion magazines. No sooner had I realized it was Sayoko Yamaguchi than I dashed up the stairs of an overpass to get to the other platform where she was. An express train came in before I could get close to her. I kept my eyes on Sayoko Yamaguchi in the distance to remember the car she was getting aboard till I got on the rear car of the train. I walked through the aisles towards Green Cars (the first-class coaches in Japan) as the train headed to Tokyo. When I reached one of the Green Cars I felt so lucky to find her alone, there was nobody else in the car. I probably felt as I was going up to Heaven. I don’t remember how I introduced myself or how I left the car half an hour later. I only remember that I stayed in the car sitting next to her until I got off the train at one of the stops in Tokyo. We chatted about fashion in general, about Issey and Kenzo.

Although she must have been at the height of her modeling career then, the tall, striking woman I met on that cloudy autumn day was extremely gentle and pleasant… far from what we imagine today’s supermodels to be.

The Wind

I had been skeptical about Dyson. But I ordered one anyway. I thought I made a mistake when I opened the box and saw the design right in front of me. I still don’t appreciate the way my Dyson looks but like the power and the ease of getting rid of the dust inside. What I like most about Dyson (no matter how much I dislike the design) is the fact that I can feel one man’s obsession and ego in a consumer product like a vacuum cleaner. It’s just a vacuum cleaner, for God’s sake, but it is compelling !

Dai Fujiwara, the creative director of Issey Miyake, must have been interested in Dyson’s vacuum cleaners for a similar reason, and thus ended up contacting the creator to collaborate. James Dyson created a whirlwind display for the runway of Issey Miyake’s Spring-Summer 2008 ready to wear collection in Paris last Tuesday. Here is an interview with James Dyson on this esoteric collaboration.

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Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does!

Probably you have seen this already. No photo will be used in an ad without being digitally retouched today. I thought it was kind of whack when a friend of mine first showed me how he retouched a photo with his Macs for the cover of Vogue Italia some 15 years ago. Most of us won’t care anymore if an image we see is truthful or not.

The campaign for real beauty from Dove delivers another critical commercial called Onslaught. You have to see this one, too.