Saturday, January 31, 2009

Straight Trippin': BRB, I'm Heading to HKG

It's hard to believe that it's almost been one year since my last trek overseas to Asia. That time, I spent over two weeks getting acquainted with the cities of Seoul and Shanghai, whose awesome urban heartbeats have kept me daydreaming since. So - I've all of sudden randomly decided to hop back. The difference is that this time I'm heading to Hong Kong and Macau for slightly more than a week and attempting to envelop myself in the culture. 

If anyone lives in HK or has friends in HK who are down from some dim sum or water crab congee with a stranger, then absolutely hit me up. Until I return for Fashion Week (if only I didn't have to return), you can always catch my updates from the Orient here and here

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What New York Needs Is a Freelancer Salon

This city does not have the infrastructure to support the recent glut of mobile freelancers. There are simply too few coffeeshops with free wifi, too few solo tabletops, and way too few outlets around New York City. At 2pm on a Wednesday, I found myself having to skip from cafe to cafe, desperately searching for a nook where I could file some posts. 

I understand that, like myself, much of the city's creative underclass has turned to freelance and left their heat off in their apartments this winter, but there is no reason that one should have to spend precious time trekking to five or more coffeeshops before giving in to a wifi McDonald's. We need a place; a place that is not Starbucks or Think. Somewhere that is calm, comfortable and inspirational; we need a salon.
It would take the focused atmosphere of an Ivy League library and combine it with the furnishings of a Hungarian confectionary and the refreshments of a Mediterranean passenger ferry. Oh yes, we're talking liquor license and arancini; I am so sick of yogurt parfaits. 

Settling into the clean banquettes could be New York's young and expansive minds. Far too often, they are the ones living in hovels in Bed-Stuy, spending their days editing and twittering from the last available chair (the one right next to the bathroom) at a mega-Starbucks. The salon would hold select events, but very few and none musical; it's not the local college coffee roaster's amateur hour.

Inevitably, the salon would be something of a secret in order to keep the tourist families (the ones who drag tables together at coffeeshops as they rest from their Century 21 spree) and bums out. It should have a password (emailed monthly to members) entry and outlets galore. Patrons can fill out a simple application online and pay a monthly fee (like $20 to cover costs) and never feel harassed for staying and working six consecutive hours.

But how will it make money? By not trying to. Sadly, the world has no more Peggy Guggenheims, but a philanthropist's support would be essential for the space. A successful salon would function almost on its own; refreshments need not be expensive because so many would sell anyways, and a grateful member base could generate beneficial projects and hopefully remember the salon after achieving their goals. 

The Think Coffee on Mercer by Washington Square Park comes closest to this ideal, except that it plays really loud music and the place is always packed with NYU journalism majors who could just as easily be in the NYU library. If only Mercury Dime wasn't so diminutive. 

Starbucks' concept of being a "third place," something between work and home, doesn't work for freelancers. New York needs to foment the idea of a "free place," somewhere between home and play, where people can develop their unconventional careers and connect in person with others whom they already follow on social networks. I know I need this, and I'm pretty sure the legions of furious typists I see cowering in coffeeshop corners do too. Create the space and the creatives will come.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What I Have Against Louis Vuitton

(Screengrab via NOTCOT)
After this last week full of  stalking mentions of LV's new Stephen Sprouse collection, I was left wondering why I felt so detached from and unattracted to the line despite my neon and street art leanings. While what seemed like everyone else and their moms were screeching their desire for the bags covered in faux graffiti, how was it that I didn't give a flying fuck beyond the curiosity I have for collaborations? You see, I've never bought into the Louis Vuitton brand because I've bought into it, ya dig?

I was born lacking the gene that makes one crave "It" bags, but one day in October of 2006, I fell for a wallet. It couldn't be just any wallet, of course; it had to be the $275 coin purse from Louis Vuitton's limited "Groom" collection, hearkening back to the days of the Grand Tour and commemorating LV's old bellboy ad and of the 1920s. The artwork was TinTin-ish, which attracted me, but it was the challenge of the motto which clinched my obsession: "Montre-moi tes bagages, je te dirai qui tu es," which translates to "Show me your luggage and I'll tell you who you are."

Successfully seduced by the vintage, first-class appeal of the piece, I headed straight into Louis Vuitton on Michigan Ave in Chicago and plonked down $275 + 9.25% tax for something which didn't even fit paper money (I tried, it always got stuck in the zipper).

I stared at the disk of my undoing for 13 days, and on the 14th day I took advantage of LV's 2-week return policy and returned that shit. Not quite. I exchanged it for the $200 yellow credit-card holder of the same collection, even though the orange of the coin purse held more appeal. At least, however, I could use this one.

So I proceeded to use it as normal, like a wallet. It only took a few jealous and inquisitive cashiers and some refilling of my transit card to make me extremely conscious of the attention this wallet warranted. I had meant it as a purchase for myself, a kind of secret indulgence, but then a friend bought the same one and mine continued to attract unwanted attention. 

A hate for the blatant LV logo, which had previously to the wallet purchase been only apathy, really took hold when I went to Shanghai and visited those dens of iniquity, the underground fake shops. More than a year and a half after the Groom collection had sold out of stores, there they were. Naively, I had thought the Groom collection's small range and extremely limited release time would keep it under wraps. The embarrassment and shame of my first coin purse purchase returned with avengeance, and spoiled me forever from liking logo-covered products. (Thank God) I reserve the ability to respect some luxury brands who yield to the popularity of be-logoed items, but LVMH will always be outside of it. 

Now, you ask, how do you get through Fashion Week and other events without a big, honking leather bag in your grasp? I still buy the occasional luxury item, but they are completely under the radar. A purse from 10 Corso Como, for example. Its provenance and cost will always remain my little secret, and it doesn't set me up as a target for mugging. 

There is a major advantage in investing in classic bags such as this: they resist being dated to a certain season. Walking down the street, I know how long ago people bought their Fendi Spy or the perforated LV Speedy. It's not fun for me and I assume it's no fun for them, trying to maintain their rich appearance with a Murakami multicolore which was marketed at 16 year olds with high school graduation money in 2003. I'll stop now before I hurt someone's feelings.