Last Monday, I worked on the photoshoot for this week's Style Issue. By help, I mean I held the photo reflector for a few hours with photog Neal Santos, Shopping Spree goddess Felicia D'Ambrosio, and art department head Reseca Glasser. It was interesting to see what goes into a City Paper photoshoot. You can see outtakes from their work above.
But I didn't really understand the goal of the shoot, what Felicia who also worked on last year's style issue was trying to achieve. I caught up with Felicia this week to get some background on the shoot and Philadelphia's fashion scene.
City Paper: What's the inspiration for the models and the shoot?
Felicia D'Ambrosio: Carrie Collins comes from Philadelphia's bike culture. She dressed Brown [aka Jeff Cuellar], who's very independent-minded, but he works for Urban, so there's an interesting juxtaposition there. Donja Love and Keisha Kay Donja is a little harder, his influences are very diverse; he pulls from high fashion, street style, from hip-hop, from films and television. He's sort of an assimilator of styles. He dressed rapper Ethel Cee for our style issue last year, and I was so impressed by his personal style that I wanted to feature him and have him photographed, because he's just very original. The Topstitch girls [Linda Smyth and Tina Nguyen] are designers, and they have their own stories.
CP: How did you guys come up with the location?
FD'A: Our original idea was to put the seamless backdrop out on the street in the Italian Market. W wanted to make the clothes pop against a white background so they'd be really clear, but we wanted to capture a little of Philadelphia, too. The weather was pretty rough out there, so at the last minute, the weekend before the shoot, Reseca went out and scouted some locations that were indoors but still gave off that Philadelphia feeling. The boxes of produce added a kind of authenticity there.
CP: How would you characterize fashion in Philadelphia?
FD'A: Philadelphia doesn't really have an institutionalized fashion industry like, for example, New York. Our fashion comes from the fact that this is an art school town. We have lots of fashion design programs, we have lots of artists and people that are printers, people who are always kind of making things. So a lot of the style comes up from the street rather than down from the designers. When we do have designers, they tend to be smaller and more independent.
You have lots of people who work for Urban Outfitters, so you have that influence too, where people are working in style but it's a much more organic style than New York. So there's no real authority on fashion in Philly. Vintage has its own trend trajectory, freestyle has its own trajectory and then you have other people who are interpreting high fashion in their own way.
For 25 years, behind an Isaiah Zagar mosaic in the Italian Market, there were cats, towering shelves, piles of books and a place with charm called Molly's Bookstore. In 2008, Molly's closed to make way for a home-schooling center. After this brief foray failed to materialize, the space blossomed into Bella Vista Natural Foods, selling fresh produce, herbs, and tofutti. But, with the organic coconut milk flowing like water, South Philadelphia's cup runneth over; the grocery has gone the way of the home-school, the cats are back, and Molly's Bookstore has returned.
"It was a long, slow process, going out of business the first time" says Molly Russakoff, the building's proprietor. "The internet really changed the whole nature of book sellers, there's over a million on Amazon.com. It's convenient, cheap, and you can get what you want. But, I think that you lose a lot just shopping online. People used to love to come to the store for the atmosphere but would go home to buy their books online, I just couldn't weather it, so this time I'm really trying to give them a reason to invest here."
Molly's plan to make her spot "a real browser's store" is by expanding her hours into the early evening, opening on Tuesdays and utilizing the space differently. "If I do say, it's much nicer now than it had been," Molly says, "it's a better place to shop; having records, movies, a listening station and free coffee. Having variety and not feeling like I have to fill the entire space with books I can really cherry pick. I'm getting out finding more stuff and carefully considering everything that comes in without making things too expensive."
To help out, Molly is holding several readings and fundraisers, like tomorrow's New Philadelphia Poets presentation of readings by Joe Roarty and Luis Valadez. This wouldn't be the first: Molly groaned about, "the worst potluck ever" where "everybody brought crackers, cookies and cups." This time, Molly's got the grub covered. "I'm going to cook, and we're having a cover for the renovation of our back room, which we hope to be able to make into a small gallery space and workshop," she says. "We have two featured readers and open mic reading, we're hoping to make it a party."
For tomorrow's event, leave the chips at home, B Y own B's instead and enjoy the reemergence of Molly's Books. "There are four cats that take turns coming down," Molly says. "They never left the building, but they're very happy to be back with the public."
New Philadelphia Poets present: Joe Roarty & Luis Valadez, Fri., March 26, 7-11 p.m., $10, Molly's Bookstore, 1010 S. 9th St., 215-923-3367.
FASHION ISSUE: Jay McCarroll runs his mouth about assless skirts, South Philly living and Bobby Brown's farts
Recently we had drinks with a newly svelte Jay McCarroll, Philly celeb and winner of the first season of Project Runway, at Ray's Happy Birthday Bar in South Philly to get some insight for our Spring Fashion Issue. While we were at it we also gabbed about his personal life, his stint on Celebrity Fit Club and that twat of fierceness, Christian Siriano.
On what's ahead for fashion:
Every skirts been done from the crotch to below the ankle, so I don't know what you do beyond that. I'd say maybe assless skirts, which is just like a skirt in the front and your ass hangs out in the back. I was talking to a trend forecaster of mine and she says people will be wearing paper bags over their heads if you've got a butterface.
I'm sick of looking at nerdy people. It's not sexy. Men look terrible right now. The hipsters are so gross; they just look dirty. Philly is a big hipster town, but there's a fine line because a lot of them are tattoo-y rough, which I think is sexy. But then there's this nerdy [look], like the guys who look like they would get the shit kicked out of them in high school... like a brown, ugly polyester pant, greasy hair and a big ugly glass. I'm just not into it.
I think body bags are going to be huge this spring, like being in a body bag (insert burp).
On timeless fashion rules:
Don't wear crop tops if you're fat and I hate Ugg boots: A). Because they're ugly and sloppy and lazy and B.) because they take a fucking whole sheep to make. They use the whole sheepskin and its fur. And when [girls] wear them with a ruffle-y mini skirt that makes me want to kill myself. I also hate when girls wear boys basketball shorts. Those look great on guys because you can see their dicks bouncing around but when teen girls wear them I hate it.The little black dress is stupid. That's like a Tim Gunn [tip], not my tip. Wear what you want â always. Know how to dress your body shape. Sometimes I dress like Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show and if someone says, "You're a 35 year old man, you shouldn't be dressing like a 50 year old African Woman," I'd say, "Go fuck yourself." Wear what you want to wear. There are no rules.
CP: Will you take us thrift shopping one day and pick some stuff out for us?
JM: How much does that pay?
On music and fashion:
Music determines what tone is being set. Pete Wentz â no. You look at it now and it's just like, ew, that's so dated. In real life no one was dressing like Culture Club, but they were dressing like Madonna because they could go to the thrift store and get it. But no one can go to the thrift store and get an Alexander McQueen, reptile, rhinestone lace faced, fucking hoof shoe like Lady Gaga's trying to rock.
I've never picked up what [Rihanna] was laying down. I've always thought she was a shit face. I've heard from insiders that she's a real fucking bitch. I don't think she has any inherent style herself. Her music sucks too. Hopefully with the Lady Gaga situation, the message is to express yourself and be a freak. No one's ever said that before. Her music sucks but she's intelligent and can play an instrument and sing great, but her subject matter is shitty.
On living in South Philly:
I like Philadelphia because I'm removed. New York was awful. It's too big, too many people, and too many people looking at me at the grocery store. I hated it. Here I can be anonymous. I love Philly. It has everything a city should have but it's manageable.
South Philly is affordable. I like how rough and raw it is. I like the grittiness of it. There are great places around and it's so easy to get to South Street or the Gayborhood or Passyunk. The vibe [in South Philly] is good with the people, whether you're at the POPE, Rays Birthday Bar or the coffee shops. It's just good.
CP: Do you regret not taking the prize money when you won Project Runway?
JM: Never. I'll never, ever in a million years to the day I die regret that decision ever. Never, never, never.
On Project Runway stars:
(Burp). That's what I think about them. No, Nina [Garcia] is really nice. She's the only one that treated me like a human being. She told me to take my time and do it on my own terms. It's a vehicle for [Michael Kors], so he has his own agenda. It's great publicity for him. [Heidi Klum] is a product. She hocks everything from Light and Fit yogurt to McDonalds in Germany and hosts [Germany's] Next Top Model to Coca Cola to milk. She'll do whatever. She was nice on the show, but whatever. And Tim Gunn, I just don't get. I think if you play the game he'll really respond to you and I didn't play the game. I'm an odd ball and he's really tightly wound, so someone like me is like the antithesis of someone he can relate to. They all have agendas. They're not on TV to really help people and care and follow through.
[Christian Siriano] is the worst. Period. People come up to me and say, "Thank God you're not him." He's the opposite of me. He's a little cunt. We had much, much, much, much different experiences with [Project Runway]. We were like the guinea pigs. By the time they figured it out it was season 4 and he happened to be in the right place at the right time and then he won and you really had to step back and think. They were really positioning him to be a personality and to take that role. I just saw his collection in New York fashion week not in person but online and it's not the vision that everyone wants it to be. Tim Gunn even goes as far as saying that he's the next Marc Jacobs. And Marc Jacobs is fabulous, like a real visionary, a true visionary. And I don't think Christian is. That comes across as jealousy. But I've been looking at fashion for 20 years. I critique classes at Philadelphia University. It's a really big statement to say that Christian Siriano is the next Marc Jacobs. If anything he should just say that he's the next Christian Siriano. But, whatever. I don't like it because people come back to me and say that he's hard to work with, he's a little cunt, he's nasty and he demands a lot of money. And I just feel that it's so not the way that I am.
CP: How much weight did you lose on Celebrity Fit Club?
JM: It's a secret, but I'll tell you. I lost 800 pounds.
On Celebrity Fit Club:
They asked me five days before I had to be there and I went out to LA and got paid to lose weight while living in a fancy ass place in Hollywood. We filmed two days a week, so I had five days a week off. I just hung out and went swimming. It was nice. I got paid handsomely to do so.
I didn't have one French fry in three months, nothing; I was so good because I wanted to do it to see how far I would push myself. It was a good process. It's not ideally in my fashion career what I thought I'd be doing five years after Project Runway, but it was a good opportunity. My father got diabetes when he turned 35 and I was turning 35 on the show and I don't want to have the same fate as him.
There were only eight of us, so we bonded because we were being thrown through horseshit, literally horseshit. It was a surreal experience. I was sleeping in a room with one guy who put his dick in Whitney Houston and one guy who put his dick in Britney Spears. [Bobby Brown] was a snorer and a farter. But everybody farts, what's the difference?
CP: We've heard that you can be difficult to work with...
JM: Yeah, I'm mouthy and I'm obnoxious, and I say it like it is and if you can't handle it... Oh I hear all this information all the time. But chances are those people have never met me. Go fuck yourself, asshole [laughs].
Yeah, yeah, complaining about the authenticity of Philly-based cultural copycats Urban Outfitters is a lost cause, but goddamn if we don't love this rant by Decibel Magazine about their "Classic Rock Boyfriend T-shirt" (pictured at right).
Take it away Jeanne Fury (bolds are ours):
Classifying a piece of clothing as "boyfriend" is apparently common as of late. It's clothing for females cut with a less figure-defining silhouette. We're all familiar with the hideous girly t-shirts (a.k.a. Look At My Tits t-shirts). Throw them in the dryer once and they shrink to Olson Twin size. There goes $25. Stick to a regular goddamn t-shirt and you won't have that problem. Apparently, when we don't feel like squeezing into adorable itty-bitty shirts and further compressing our tits, we're identifying with dudes and thus require "boyfriend" attire. But when Hollywood bad-ass Katharine Hepburn famously wore tailored pants, did people say "Katharine Hepburn wears man pants"? No. Katharine Hepburn wore pants. Tagging band t-shirts with the "boyfriend" label is doubly offensive. The slightest notion that a girl can't have her own Iron Maiden t-shirt is ridiculous. It's 2010. Chicks listen to metal. Like, actually listen to metal. Not because their boyfriends or brothers are into it, but because they love metal. Seriously, how long is this ignorant and annoying misconception gonna go on? Looping back to the original argument, clothesband t-shirts especiallyhave no gender. Unless this Maiden shirt comes equipped with a penis and testicles, it's just a fucking t-shirt.
In honor of Fury, and because my BFF went through a period of forcing me to listen to marathon Maiden sessions:
Neighborhood Watch finds fashionable folk all across the city. This week: Scouting during the happiest of hours aka, the drunk one.
We love the flowy construction of the sweater worn by Arielle C. (21) but we have to admit the outfit would look dumpy without those boots. Made by Jeffrey Campbell, the suede sexy steppers were so unique that they drew our attention from the other side of the street. They elongate her legs and rev up the neutral color palette of the entire get-up. She bought them up at her place of employment, J. Karma Boutique (62 N. 3rd St., 215-627-9625), where she works with another of our picks this week.
|PHOTOS | Julia West and Josh Middleton|
Megan C. (24) doesn't need a wild pair of shoes to spruce up her Friday best. She's the inverse of her colleague Arielle, adding more snaz on the top, while leaving the subtleties for the bottom. She has a definite rocker chick edge but she's just classy enough to let Brett Michael's Rock of Love tour bus pass right on by. This pairing aficionado combines head banger chic accessories without going too far and garments from a variety of stores, such as H&M (shirt), Target (skirt) and her own J. Karma Boutique (corset belt and chain).
While the rest of our peeps openly welcome the sunshine, Reverie Vintage's (205 W. Girard Ave., 215-769-2302) Christa C. (40) seems to be approaching it more cautiously. As of yet, she isn't ready to incorporate Easter colors in her wardrobe and she's clutching her convertible Japanese shrug scarf just in case the sun decides to take a leave of absence. But don't misjudge this silver fox; she's not afraid of commitment. It took her months to transition from dyed over gray to the au naturale that we find just as stunning as her amazing, paneled boots. Sorry, Arielle, but Christa gets the Raddest Shoes of the Week award.
We're just going to be blunt, Scott C. (25) has a bulge that almost knocked us off the sidewalk, but thankfully he has a few other things going on that kept us focused on the clothes. Let's start with colorfully speckled shades, the cute striped tanky with the off-centered zipper and the medallion that gave us childhood flashbacks. He says he bought the Neverending Story amulet in Germany. We were impressed to learn it was cut from the same cast as the emblem you see in the movie.
Collectors of pretty things, take note: Every Friday Monday, we're rounding up a what's-what of what we [heart], culled from the scores of design blogs, artist sites and Etsy treasuries we can't help but stalk on the regular.
Owls are so 2009, are we right? Spring got all official on us Saturday, and even though today's forecast calls for rain, we're living for tomorrow. And tomorrow, there are bunnies. We're seeing the little guys everywhere (Easter may have something to do with it), and we think it's high time Peter Cottontail and his cohorts bounce into the spotlight.
Where do we start? There are seriously a million bunnies to talk about today, so let's begin with Poppytalk Handmade's Celebrate Spring and Everything Hippity Hop (yes, that's what it's called) collection. We found four items that particularly sum up how we're feeling about spring: hoppy! (Sorry.) The images speak for themselves, and all images are linked right to the sites we found 'em. From left to right: Rabbit gift bag (set of 10), $8, Humunuku via etsy.com. Pink Fabric-Eared Bunny print, $20, Kiki and Polly via etsy.com. Peter Cottontail card, $4, Inkadinkadoodle via etsy.com. Corn Bandit mixed-media assemblage, $40, Amy Rice via artstreamstudios.com. All spied first at poppytalkhandmade.com.
Next up: The Storque, Etsy's handmade-goodies blog, is shouting out all things European this week, and nestled in a long list of transatlantic crafts we found this precious-slash-ghostly bunny sculpture from Belgium-based Art Mind. It's a bit pricey especially when you add $14.50 to have it shipped to the U.S. but it totally beats out every lame Easter decoration I've seen. Especially if you display it backside-front. $75, etsy.com/shop/ArtMind. Spied first at The Storque.
Need a brighter bunny? Understandable. For a complete 180 from pallid bunny butts, check out SoCal designer Em and Sprout's line of sugar-sweet mary-janes. They're the same arch-support-less kind you could swipe from a bucket at Free People (do those still exist?), but way, way cuter with sweet, pastel embellishments. These yellow numbers, called Pink Lemonade, come in various sizes, and could totally work as summer slippers if you're not brave enough to bring them outside. $24, etsy.com/shop/emandsprout. Spied first at Mighty Goods.
Speaking of sweet: Australian artist MOZI has come out with a line of Girls Can Tell-reminiscent tea towels and we'd be remiss not to include the Hot Cross Buns edition, complete with bunny drawings and complete, detailed recipe. Also on MOZI's agenda: Orange and Poppyseed Cake (orange) and Breakfast in Bed (pink). $19.95, mozi.com/au. Spied first at Poppytalk.
PREVIOUSLY >> COVETED: That's a wrap
Two of my favorite design blogs, Design*Sponge and DesignWorkLife, pleasantly surprised me this morning with their (unrelated) posts on Pennsylvania designers whose work serves as an ode to Philly (and Lancaster, respectively).
First up is Design*Sponge's feature on Philly-based artist Dustin Summers, who's just released an eight-city series of travel posters called The Heads of State. All the usual suspects NYC, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle are there, but Summers would've been remiss not to include his own City of Brotherly Love, here represented by the requisite Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Think fast if you want one it's a limited-edition run of 100 prints ($30 a pop), so hustle over to theheadsofstate.myshopify.com.
Farther afield, Lancaster designer Daniel Kent got a shout-out on DesignWorkLife for his work in general, and his Love Lancaster series in particular. He's created everything from coasters and journals to love notes and rubber stamps, all of which serve to "unite the community of Lancaster." You'll have to go to Fig Central in downtown Lancaster to hook yourself up, but wouldn't this gorgeous weekend be the perfect time to head west?
New Hampshire-by-way-of Philly resident Robin McDowell has us wrapped around her little finger. First the UPenn fine arts grad popped up at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (which happens to be our favorite First Friday hang) to present her February exhibit, "The Farm" (through March 21, AITA, 116 N. Third St., 215-922-2600, artintheage.com). And now, on her Ornament and Crime blog, there's this:
|You're Gonna Have an Awesome Night.
|Sammi Won't Do the Dishes.
Basically we're stalking her now, because how awesome are these prints? Meal Ticket master/CP Food+Web master/master of The Situation Drew Lazor wants one of these Surf + Turf numbers, like, NOW. Luckily for him they're only $12 on Etsy.
Neighborhood Watch finds fashionable folk all across the city. This week: The glory of spring and winter purgatory.
Don't let Nancy V. (59 and proud, thank you) catch you looking fugly. She's got a fashion police badge and she ain't afraid to flash it unless she's at work where her colleagues have forbidden her to slap a bitch with her fashion fines. She wasn't afraid to lay a little on us, though: 1.) Women over 40 shouldn't wear leggings or white go-go boots, 2.) Men shouldn't wear sandals with suits and 3.) God forbid, never wear socks with sandals. We're apt to heed any advice from Ms. Nancy. She bought that funky, one-of-a-kind jacket (that pretty much speaks for itself) 10 years ago and it will definitely be making a statement for centuries to come.
|PHOTOS | Josh Middleton and Julia West|
We passed Savannah R. (27) in South Philly on a gloriously sunny afternoon. She refers to her frolic-y get-up as, "my official coming of spring outfit," because she was finally able to free her florals that were stuffed in winter storage. This aspiring fashion blogger gets props for expertly blending a combination of winter and spring pieces from a grab bag of different retailers. Her purchases came from eBay (boots), thrift stores (dress), major retailers (jacket, bag) and NYC street vendors (scarf).
These roommates, (L-R) Victoria S. (23), Alaina C. (21) and Kate A. (23), were taking Geoff (7 in doggy years) for a stroll through Bella Vista. They say their hodge podge style is influenced by one another because they're always wearing each other's clothes. We like that they are capable of pulling off individual looks, despite the fact they're working with a mostly shared wardrobe. We see a Cyndi Lauper circa "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," some NYC street fashion and even a little Pippi Longstocking peeking through. Can you guess which is which?
Vincent O. (20) was peddling through Queen Village on a food delivery when we hailed him down for a snapshot. We were smitten by his large brimmed camo hat and the burst of blue in his spring jacket. He says he received everything he was wearing through gifting and friendly hand-me-downs, but he makes everything his own in the way he cuffs those jeans, halfway zips his jacket and represents his Pocono hometown with a local company's logo on the face of his hat.
Back in 2007 when Deidre Wengen was a City Paper Web intern (or "Webtern," as we liked to call her, somewhat uncleverly), she spent her afternoons hunched over a slow-moving Mac, compiling listings and checking facts and formatting blog posts.
Which is why we're glad to see she's up to something more enjoyable these days: Putting her HTML skills to fashionable use, Wengen's launched Hinterland Vintage, a great go-to for romantic dresses, delicate jewelry, shoes and even antique kitchenware.
On her blog, Wengen explains what drew her to the "old and pretty" world of vintage:
When I was a little girl my parents used to drag me to antiques shops and scold me not to touch anything. I went kicking and screaming as a kid, but as I got older, I began to develop an appreciation for items with a history and a story. The clothing came next.
In high school, thrift stores were somewhat of a haven for me. I loved to hunt around in racks and racks of clothes, looking for that perfect piece. I began to shop vintage as a teenager and haven't stopped since.
With her collection of sharp suitjackets, pencil skirts and low pumps (all for sale on her accompanying Etsy shop), it all feels very Mad Men over there especially since Wengen's shopping for women of all sizes, not just extra-extra-small.
But if you happen to fall into that teeny-tiny category, here's an item we're sweating but could never fit into ourselves, as described in her shop:
Beautiful golden yellow party dress ($54) from the 1950s or early 1960s. It has a great cut with a fitted bodice and a full skirt. Lovely bow details on the straps. Pleats and darts give it a nice structred look. No material or maker tags, so it looks like this was handmade. The material is somewhat stiff and has a kind of taffeta-feel to it. Has a nice sheen to the fabric as well. Will best fit a size extra small.
Keep up the good thrifting, Deidre, and let us know when you find a dress like that in a size 8. Thanks.
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