Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrity Corner

I’m creating more celebrity suits than I’d like. There is something not quite couture about a celebrity assignment; it feels more like an exercise in publicity than a true expression of the sartorial arts. Not that I mind celebrities. They have fascinating stories, unique personalities, and are great for getting reservations at popular restaurants—it just that they tend to be more insecure about their own physical armature than a traditional couture client.

Also, in general, they seem more interested in how a piece will photograph than how it looks to the naked eye. The details of couture are hard to see in a tiny digital photo posted on someone’s best dressed for the beach list. Sometimes a celebrity client (or their publicist) will push for something that will show up in a photograph, rather than what makes the most sense for the piece itself. This is why logos have grown larger in the camera phone/internet era.

In person, my suits are remarkable for the fact that you can’t actually see any stitches, unless of course I specifically foreground them as visual details. Hidden pick-stitches and locked under-tucks are never going to show up on a camera phone. In the flesh, however, there is something arresting about that fact that with a Serg Riva suit, the fabric just stops. No hem or seam is visible. The result is both seductive and unsettling. It is like seeing a person with perfect skin in full sunlight or a ski run with completely virgin snow; the plentitude is astounding.

All couture is like this. I just happen to do it for swimwear.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thought Music

I found a Walkman, not an ipod, or iphone, but an old-fashioned Walkman from the late 80s. It was a yellow “sports” Walkman, with waterproof seals and dark grey plugs for all of the holes. Inside there was a cassette. Contained on the tape was a composition labeled THOUGHT-MUSIC. No mention of the composer.

It caught me by surprise; what was the Walkman doing on my little section of beach, at the head of the trail right near my back door?

It was wrapped in banana leaves and resting on a little pedestal made from carved coconuts. It was as if some impish cat had caught a mouse and proudly offered it to her owner by leaving the carcass on the doormat—but instead this was some gift for me (I suppose?) possibly to be inspiration for one of my shows for a new mood or a new direction. I normally listen to the most difficult, unpleasant styles of classical music: the kind of music that feels like mathematics rendered through a rainstorm that occasionally breaks into a melodic phrase of clarity that feels so refreshing that the entire struggle seems worth it. I had studied composition in my youth, and ever since listening to difficult music has remained an indulgence.

This cassette was indeed classical music, but of a different kind. It was a special type of intellectual statement—less about the bombastic tinkering of a shouting poet and more about the clarity of thought that comes from having something to say. Parts of it were dark, but other parts were lighthearted and even funny—when the music seemed to drop away all concerns and pretense and began to display a sense of humor—not silly humor, but more like the droll humor of a great wit—before turning its attention to shapes and thoughts of intense beauty.

The line was melodic, but also structural, without being too pedantic or literal. Sometimes several phrases would play at once—like a thoroughly entertaining cocktail party, where you overhear conversations that lay atop of one another— the resulting tonal lines (sometimes even simultaneously in different keys!) were complimentary and unique, as if to say although we are all having different conversations, we are all at the same party. It reminded me of the type of music I would have like to have written had I gone on with composition instead of switching to fashion when I found the musical world too remote.

I showed the Walkman to Tako, and she just smiled and said Happy Anniversary. I asked her who the composer was, and she told me to go look in the mirror. The music, she claimed, came from a pile of scores she had found in a box at my mother’s house. She had sent the score to some friends of hers at Julliard, who had cleaned it up a bit (but not too much she promised), recorded it and sent it back as a CD. She had dubbed it to cassette and left it for me to find.

Tako gives the best gifts. She gave me a piece of my old self. Do you see now why I love this woman so?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

finestra aperta

I can see a single palm tree from my window. I cannot estimate its age, but it seems old enough to know better.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Quick Change

Running along the beach I was not wearing shorts, but instead was wearing rolled up seersucker trousers and an untucked Charvet shirt. The shirt was trim enough that I did not look like a clown, but instead gave the impression of an athletic, roguish croquet player running to meet for a secret tryst on the other side of the sea cliff.

Or so I thought. We can only see ourselves through our own imagination, even when there is a mirror. How else can you explain the outfits some people wear? I am no exception. Sometimes I will attach a fantasy to an outfit I am wearing that doesn’t match the imagination of others. The mismatch can be frightening. In this case, my reality check came in the form of a dog; a gorgeous blue heeler mistook me for either cattle or sheep.

I did not see the dog approach, but I did feel it bite. Keeping perfect pace with my stride, the dog placed its mouth around my ankle and closed its jaw just enough for me to feel pressure but not enough for its teeth to break the skin. I veered into the waves and the dog circled back, but stayed close.

The dog's owner whistled from farther up the beach and the animal turned and ran away.

Soaked from the splashing, and knee-deep in the surf, my outfit no longer felt impossibly light and optimistic, but instead felt like I was wearing yesterday’s wet blanket. It had transformed from an inspiration into a costume. I started to walk towards the shore and after just a few steps I stopped. My shadow was hunched over with the rolled shoulders of a defeated lump. I am not so easily beaten. I am not such a coward or a push over. If my outfit is no longer working, that doesn’t mean I’m out of luck.

I stripped to my underwear, tossed my clothes into the surf, adjusted my posture, and walked back up the beach—proud, confident, and completely at peace. Sometimes no clothes are better than the wrong ones.