Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adios to the Chelsea Garage Antique Flea Market

When we read in The New York Times' Style Section on Thursday that the Chelsea Antique Garage Flea Market was closing this weekend, we were devastated. For more than two decades,  vendors on two floors of a parking garage had provided a treasure trove of antique and vintage clothing, jewelry, art and furniture. We had to go to mark the end of an era.

According to Crain's, a hotel developer purchased the space for $67.5 million and intends to spend an additional $300 million to erect a 270,000 square foot hotel tower.  (Don't get us started on the topic of developers!)

Besides being a prime shopping and great people-watching locale, the garage was at its best when it was unpredictable, affording unique opportunities to view all matter of odd and arcane collectibles. Case in point -- this clown suitcase and pair of polka dot shoes from Tigris Clowns in Syracuse, New York. You just know there is a story behind them.

We made it a point to go together on Saturday to say goodbye to our favorite vendors.  All is not lost - there are two other venues: one quite nearby, the other in the colorfully named Hell's Kitchen (now also called Clinton, post-gentrification).  But some dealers may not come back, and named options outside the city.  Will there be free buses, the way there are to Atlantic City casinos?

Many other collectors in New York City had the same idea as we did. Among many others, we ran into Zondra Foxx minus her usual Andrews Sisters wig and 1940s dress and gloves but wearing a red cherry necklace of her own design.

Lulu is a vendor who is always hard to miss. Her outfits are always a treat. She always has a booth at the big antique shows at The Pier and The Metropolitan Pavilion but also had a booth at the garage. Like many of the other vendors, she is moving one block east of Sixth Avenue on W. 25th Street to an outdoor parking lot.  The hat went home with Jean.

At one point, we stopped for a bite at a local deli and flagged down our friend Mika who happened to be walking by, heading to work at a local vintage clothing store. We couldn't resist taking a shot of her armload of green and yellow bakelite bangles.

Ziggy is one of the more interesting vendors, mixing his line of "Respect" tee shirts and jackets with vintage 1980s Thierry Mugler suits and everything you can possibly imagine in between. The name of his clothing line, which features his bearded visage, is derived from one of his many red-ink tatoos. One of his longer tats up one arm reads "Like a Rolling Stone".

Valerie found this fabulous newsprint jacket with drawstring collar, and Jean located the matching skirt nearby. The result is sure to make headlines!  It did not work with the hat, thus the naked head. This one went home with Valerie, who has inexplicably had her heart set on a newprint outfit for over a year.  And no, for those of you asking, she will not be wearing the striped dress under it.

As Saturday afternoon wore on, the temperature in the garage began to rise.  Many of the shoppers were mopping their brows, and many of the vendors had brought their own portable fans. When we ran into Julius at the southern end of the garage, he was looking fresh as a daisy and dressed to the nines!  How many men will dare to wear salmon colored pants?  And how many of those will look just great in them?

It was also great fun to run into Julie Dale, whose actor/singer/ dancer/comedian/acrobat husband is currently starring in his one-man show "Just Jim Dale" off-Broadway, till August 10. It is on our must-see list! Click here for Variety's review of the show.  And Julie, you will remember, ran our beloved Julie Artisans Gallery for many years.

Among Jean's big $5 purchases were two pairs of earrings -- one round black and white striped and one white egg-shaped. She also picked up five red and white dominos in the hopes of turning them into jewelry. She found five of the six' double tiles (the double-three was missing in action) in a jumble box.

Last week, Valerie bought two huge buttons and spray-painted them fire-engine red for us to wear to the Patrick Kelly show in Philadelphia. Jean couldn't resist these two carved Bakelite buttons for the bargain basement price of two for $7. The smaller one, with an almost pearlized tortoise tint, is larger than a quarter and the larger solid black one is bigger than a silver dollar. Who knows where they will end up next?

This resin upside-down ice cream cone-shaped pendant was another irresistible find. The orb is the size of a ping-pong ball and, luckily, is not as heavy as it looks.  (And so what if it was?  It would be well worth the sacrifice.)

Valerie went back on Sunday, and ran into Julius again.  As a bonus, she also ran into Sandy Long.  Sandy and Julius did that "don't I know you?" thing that we all do sometimes.  We met both Sandy and Julius several years ago on separate occasions because we were drawn to what they were wearing.

We were both drawn to a pair of art deco period etageres, one of which is shown here.  We considered buying one each, but logistics were against us.  (Getting a taxi, getting them TO the taxi, getting them FROM the taxi, where to put them in the house…  And they were quite heavy, and you know we have no upper body strength...)

Valerie fell in love with this little girl's robe with puppies reading and listening to music, and singing.  You can see at the collar and cuffs that the material is reversible.  Hard to believe this dates back to around 1930-1940, making it at least seventy years old!

Not all of the items were that old, however.  Don't think we didn't consider whether we could make this gigantic Madonna record into a hat.  It must have been close to three feet in diameter.  You can see four separate tracks on it.   Was it a record store prop?  (Only people over 30 know what a record store was.)

If these had been priced for budget-minded ladies, they would have come home with one of us, but they were priced for collectors.  Would have made great earrings, or a great necklace.  Sigh….

We applaud these men for not feeling they had to wear self-effacing shirts.  Bravo, guys!

A fabulous color block purse (from the '80s?) next to (unseen) a selection of three dimensionally decorated swim caps.

And toys!  Love the circa 1960 washing machine (soooo cute, despite being pink, color coded to remind little girls who's supposed to do the laundry), and the mechanical wind-up rotating swing.  (Readers, what is the proper name for this kind of swing, that works on the principle of -- is it centrifugal force???)

Ah, the flea market.  Baby, wasn't it grand?!

What we're wearing:
Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat; H& M tunic; Lilith skirt; vintage Bakelite bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings; black suede platform Korkease sandals; red leather cross-body bag.

Valerie is wearing a Kokin hat, plastic target earrings, JPG Jeans dress, foam rubber bracelets, H&M cotton pocketbook, faceted horn ring, shoes by Nicole.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gerlans on the Side

More Fun at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

When we last left you, we were ooohing and aaahing over Patrick Kelly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Although that was our main objective, we took time out to enjoy some of the Museum's non-fashion-centric locations. (Oh, by the way, we know our opening photo is fuzzy, but it's all we have.  And we didn't take it.)  At the staircase in the main building, Valerie does her own version of Diana the Huntress.  We both agreed it was better for everyone NOT to give her a bow and arrow.

Jean got into the act by imitating the model in the photograph wearing Gerlan Marcel's cigarette butt dress.  Gerlan had a whole room dedicated to her designs off to the side, and that's where we went next.

The exhibition opens with this knit wool dress, which sets the mood for the rest of the show.  Gerlan extends the cigarette butt joke from the bodice to the sleeves - the filters are at the shoulders, the arms are the cigarettes and the red wrists are the lighted ends.  Don't forget to look at the vibrant red socks in the strappy spiky sandals with the GERLAN name spiraling around them.  This dress, called the Paloma (after Picasso), comes from the "Eccentric Lady" collection.  Gerlan names Picasso, Diana Vreeland, Patricia Field and Anna Piaggi (all smokers) as muses.

The designer's "Monster Couture" pom-pom jacket and "Monster Chic" Pom-Pom dress from the Fall/Winter 2010 collection was very evocative of Patrick Kelly's work in the fabric (cotton and lycra knit and wool and acrylic pom-poms), color combinations, cartoonish silhouette and coordinated shoes.

The headdress from Marcel's No Monster Left Behind Collection.

This "Palm Down" resort gown in "Breaking Bricks" print from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection featured "Worry Doll" necklace and earrings of nylon and pleated brass.

Jean loved the "Queen Patra" head wrap in the same "breaking brick" pattern.

This cotton duster jacket has a great print.  Think they're flowers?  Oh, no.  Check out the close up below.  But first have a look at the clear jelly boots with the white laces and the slight tint at the sole.  And at the sunglasses with the GERLAN name across the brow.

Gerlan called this dynamic, edgy print "soul rebel".  We should mention that Gerlan is yet another graduate of Central Saint Martins University of the Arts, just some of whose alumni include Hussein Chalayan, John Galliano, Mary Katrantzou (best known for her prints), Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen, Gareth Pugh and Riccardo Tisci.  CSM is clearly doing something right.

What is it about our culture that just adores green slime?  We remember when it was a kid's toy you could buy in a container way back in the '70s.  (It was just called Slime then, but boy, was it green.)  Gerlan was inspired to make this "Slimelight bustier dress" by the 1990s Nickelodeon show You Can't Do That on Television, and we're betting Nickelodeon was inspired the original '70s product (which was probably inspired by The Creature from the Black Lagoon).  Gerlan upholds the "matchy matchy" principle.  Note the sunglasses and shoes.  We wish we could have seen the back of the dress.  Is there a zipper?  Buttons?  Or does one simply slither into it?

It really is what you think it is.  Here's a close-up.

Both the Patrick Kelly exhibition and the Gerlan Marcel exhibition can be seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelman Building through November 30, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love

Road trip! On Saturday, we headed south to the City of Brotherly Love to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see Runway of Love, a couture exhibition featuring the work of the late Patrick Kelly.

Kelly, an African-American fashion designer whose career followed a comet-like trajectory, was born and raised in Mississippi and moved to Paris in late 1979. Although he said: "I want my clothes to make you smile", his work, which pushed racial and cultural boundaries with golliwog logos, Aunt Jemima bandana dresses and black baby doll brooches, often elicited quite different reactions. Kelly's aesthetic developed out of his African-American and Southern roots, his knowledge of fashion and art history, and from the club and gay cultural scenes in New York and Paris.

Selections from his personal collection of black memorabilia which open the show include various representations of the Golliwog, described by the Museum as an "ugly yet friendly" black character first described in an 1895 English children's book, which became an extremely popular children's doll. Rooted in the American blackface minstrel tradition, by the mid-1990s, it had become a symbol of racial stereotyping. Kelly turned that concept on its head by adopting the image as the logo for his brand Patrick Kelly Paris. U.S. stores did not use it, considering it too controversial. His Spring/Summer 1986 collection included fabrics printed with the Golliwog character. Kelly re-appropriated such images for his designs and brand. Although criticized at the time for using such charged imagery, Kelly was unapologetic, believing it was necessary to know one's history to move forward.

Kelly's outfits present a complete, coordinated vision. Case in point: the Golliwog dress has matching gloves, shoes and fan.  The longer sweater dresses in the background mirror the face in buttons on their fronts and backs.

No less a designer than French shoemaker Maud Frizon was responsible for creating matching Golliwog slip-on wedges.

Kelly's early signature collections featured skinny, body-conscious dresses with colorful buttons, featured in Elle Magazine in 1986 and 1988. He became the first American and the first black designer to be voted into the prestigious Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter des Couturiers et des Creatures de Mode, the French fashion industry and standards association.

Because his work incorporated such cartoonish images, it was no surprise that his 1989-1990 Fall/Winter collection had a "Lips of Jessica Rabbit" evening gown fashioned after the costume of the cartoon movie character. The exhibition includes large screens showing videos of Kelly's runway shows, so you can see the clothes on the mannequins and as they appeared on models in the flesh.

It was particularly poignant to see the late L'Wren Scott in the runway video looking amazingly tall and sexy, wearing the Jessica Rabbit dress and long, flowing red wig.

We were bowled over by the Eiffel Tower suits and accessories from the Fall/Winter 1989-1990 collection.

The Eiffel tower hats by Maison Michel and the mini-Eiffel Towers used as earrings and zipper-pulls attest to his attention to detail. For buttery soft leather, he used the same distributor as Azzedine Alaia, another designer who came to international attention in the 1980s, and was also known for his body-conscious designs. Another similarity between the two men? Singer/model/performer Grace Jones wore both designers' clothes and appeared on their runways and in their ad campaigns.

Aren't Maud Frizon's Eiffel Tower shoes the cat's meow?

His larger than life hats were the perfect foil for his body hugging designs. Love this yellow and black flowered number. Wish we could show you everything we saw. Please click the link to PMA's website to check out more of his clothes and accoutrements.

Although the exhibition focuses on his wilder, more colorful pieces, these two wonderful coats near the entrance show that he was more than capable of getting maximum effects out of minimalist designs.  The Museum's signage says that the coat on the left is made with a single seam, and mentions the influence of both Balenciaga and Issey Miyake.  The grey outfit on the right evokes the style of Norma Kamali.

There was a period when it seemed like everything was made of knit, and designers had great fun treating it in novel ways.  (We remember - we were there, and we were buying.)  The body of the knit on the left is straight up and down, but the skirt is on the bias, which allows it to drape the way it does, and the assymetrical placement of the tie adds a bit of extra tension.

Here's another knit dress.  The bright colors and patterns are also characteristic of the period, but the matching gloves seem to have been a Kelly specialty.  Note the ruching on the sides of the dress for extra interest and controlled volume.

This assortment of dresses has a broad variety of styles.  At the extreme left, a very conservative two piece suit; at the right, a combination of stark black and yellow, with a hood attached to a square cut top; in the back left, a tulle miniskirt flowing into a long train at the back; in front of that, two dresses with Kelly add-ons: pearls on the left and huge buttons on the right, and finally two demure dresses - pink with ruching and tieds and black and white with a crisscross front.

But wait! There's more here than meets the eye.

If the dresses don't knock 'em dead, then the matching gauntlets will.

The text for the dress below says that the materials are polyester and spandex, and that Kelly made a point of demonstrating that fashion need not be expensive.  Still, the dress looks like the proverbial million bucks.  The gathered shoulders, tulle skirt, rose pattern and lengthy deep pink bow move away from his characteristic active/sporty style and emphasize femininity.  The print, material and peplum reminded both of us of Betsey Johnson. Don't forget to look at the Jetson-style futuristic bubble headdresses in the back, which also appear in one of the runway videos.

Las Vegas inspired this dress with dice sewn onto the bodice in the shape of a heart.  A matching fascinator adds extra effect.  The white dots on the dice are made with trademark Kelly buttons, sewn down with large black cord.

Among the several videos throughout the room, there was one that showed a fabulous variation on the theme, with a dice print on the suit.  If someone sent us that fascinator in the mail, the two of us would definitely have to fight over it, or agree to joint custody.

In another video, the ever-fabulous Grace Jones (far right) sashays down the runway in a saucy scarf dress while the designer himself seems overwhelmed simultaneously with glee and shyness.  Wearing short overalls in this video, the designer often clad male models in long overalls.

Here are Jones's actual dress and hat, minus the pastel-colored bangs she wore in the video.

Many Kelly dresses feature hearts, or red lips.  This dress is decorated with brooches of detachable lips, but the piece de resistance is the hat, made by Maison Michel, as were many other hats in the exhibition.  There are echoes here of both Salvador Dali, Elsa Schiaparelli, Man Ray and the surrealist movement.

And pleeeeeeeeze can we show you another Maison Michel hat made in the shape of a G clef?  It comes with a black dress with a print of white musical notes.

(And you did check out the little piano earrings, right?  The Museum made them for the show from Patrick Kelly buttons.)

And speaking of hats and buttons, here's another Patrick Kelly dress, with buttons all over, but concentrated at the - ahem - derriere (we're saying derriere because he worked in Paris) in the shape of a heart.

Showing you the dress is a great excuse for giving you a close up of the hat and the earring.  Did you notice the great big red buttons we're both wearing in the opening photo as our personal homage to the designer?

Our final image is of his long black wool and spandex dress that opened the 1988-1989 Heart Strings touring fundraiser for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).  During the 1980s, AIDS decimated the design and fashion community and Kelly himself was diagnosed with the illness in July 1987, just shortly after signing with Warnaco to produce his ready-to-wear collections.  He died in 1990, but left behind a marvelous legacy that still inspires and dazzles today.