For Façon

When I was asked to contribute to Façon, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was Hugh and Crye, a small shirting retailer in Georgetown. After an informal rendezvous at a local restaurant, and a constant exchange of e-mails, I met with Pranav and Phil in their own turf. The screenshot above attests to my experience at the shop. Now go read (Page 36-37). 


RAW At Asia

It's a pretty mild, clear sky night, inhabited by nocturnal denizens and surrounded by the usual white noise emitted by passing vehicles in Obama's backyard. It's a perfect night for a festive gathering, a late night tryst with a lover, or as in my case, an opportunity to indulge in art forms. A generous half-a-block line is forming on I Street outside Cafe Asia in downtown D.C. A collective of young individuals are gathering inside the premises of a local pub to celebrate, explore and share the rising latents expressed in forms of visual art, photography, music, fashion, etc. Stimulus (not to be confused with governmental affairs) was the tittle of the night, conjured up by RAW: natural born artists, an arts organization that selects local artists to showcase their work. According to their website, their mission is to "provide up-and-coming artists of all creative realms with the tools, resources, and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity". After experiencing the shindig, a much need reassessment must be apply to such statement. 

  It was by a familial liaison--supported by chance--that I learned about the RAW event taking place just days away. The art and fashion enthusiast in me couldn't reject such proposition. It wasn't necessarily a desire to see more art, or more fashion, but a genuine, insatiable urge to explore the new. What's out there that I haven't seen? This question takes a different angle in a city like Washington, where there seems to be an efflorescence of fashion businesses, but lack of talent. Although I didn't see anything new, I found a spark of hope amid the chaos. 

As soon as you stepped inside Cafe Asia, you get a sense you're not in a traditional Japanese sushi place, but a suburban hip little joint where the young come to gather. The tables have been put away, and a live band set is placed in lieu. A giant screen hanged on the background displayed images of the participants, none of whom sounded remotely familiar. As I enter the main room, I feel an impetus to shift to the left and scrutinize what is unfolding in my vicinity. It was more of an architectural nuance, the center of a white wall bares a rectangular shaped cut-out, and inside there is layer of organic green vegetation that ramifies to all corners, taking over the entire space, creating a sense of depth. Beautiful. This was partly covered by streaked street signs, as if the venue has been vandalized the day before. It certainly was vandalized, or rather modified, by artist Marc William Bryant. He's calmly sitting by his work, writing last minute makeshift business cards, wearing a herringbone sportcoat, button-down shirt and a modicum of facial hair that suggests he prefers the scruffy-chic look. After being greeted by his pieces of painted metal at my entrance, it doesn't take long to infer which artist clearly and heavily influences his work. "He's one of my favorite artists", Marc concedes matter-of-factly, when I bring up Michael Basquiat. His series is titled, "Street Expressionism", which constitutes for around a dozens pieces of traffic signs that depict a perverse humanism through abstract strokes via graffiti-like techniques. "I really like to tell a story with my art", he says, "I like to depict a lot of drug use, a lot of gritty, hideous shit." This sort of morbid, yet exquisitely executed, approach to his work is perhaps best expressed in a piece dubbed, "Riding The Love Boat", an outline that appears to be a man in a schizophrenic state of mind, the red paint oozing from his head suggest blood, and the play with texture can be interpreted as a skin condition, "one of my ex-girlfrined's cousins used to do PCP, so I wanted to depict severe brain damage, like you're crying blood and shit", he explains. The amount of Marc's art displayed around the venue suggests he's the star of the night. His work comprises almost the entire first floor, and a quarter of the second level, "I always love the feeling of looking at my artwork", he says proudly. He tells me he is planning to move to Manhattan to attend Cooper Union on a full scholarship, and deservingly so. His work that night simply attests why. 

It would be convenient if I said the event was outstanding, but that would be intellectually dishonest. For one to get a grasp of the conditions at this small event, gander at the photo below, which depicts the left wing of the second floor teeming with people jostling to get from one end to the other. When one attends a gallery exhibition, it's customary to spend a few minutes delighting your eyes with what's being shown. And while doing so, if possible, exchange a few words with the artist. This seemingly feasible feast, was provided difficult with the narrow passage of walking space and the rather raucous music emanating from the loud speakers. It was KISS at MoMa--not happening! It seemed to me an obvious mistake had been made. It was either the amount of tickets were purposely oversold, thus overpopulating the place, or the funds were not sufficient enough, which did not allow a rental of a more accommodating venue. I'm not sure what really took place that night. 

Continuing my disquieted exploration around the premises in search for creative nirvana, I was able to descry a few talented individuals from the pack. It was a rather festive group of canvases at my ascendence to the upper level that caught my eye. One of which reminded me of Ernie Barnes' Sugar Shack, a social gathering perhaps taking place in Latin America, where a few beverages and feel-good music is enough to start a party. Nearby, there is a Warholian-esque postcard-size vignette of B.I.G laying on a table and an open-mouth portraiture of a woman in acrylic, while a disco ball seems to rotate within the frame, rests causally against the wall. Dona Summer? or, Diana Ross? or it could have been a vague expression of music blissfullness. It was a shame the artist shone by her absence. 

Expect the unexpected, it's what they say. I find it rather odd at times to catch yourself in a moment that was seemed completely unbecoming just minutes ago. I take a few short steps and I find this woman behind standing behind a table, who look like a lost member of Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls. It occurred to me, the woman was not attempting to make a fashion statement, but a statement on how she dresses on a daily basis. Her rather ostentatious garbs did not necessarily captured my attention, but a long  wooden door resting against a wall, adjacent to her did. It was a kitschy kitty allotted betwixt a thick-letttered "I" and "DC". Although I found her message banal, the decaying effect she achieved was quite interesting, the dripping black paint balances the super saturated sweetness of the image. 


A Resurgence Of Rubén Blades

A few days ago, last Saturday to be exact, I found myself seated in a quite dark room in a populated area in downtown D.C. It was a rekindle of sorts, or perhaps a fastidious lingering to stimulate my senses with a stream of visuals projected in a gargantuan screen. Daniel Espinosa's "Safe House" jumped out in the glare of my iPhone while swiftly scrolling through Fandango. Once I glanced at the characters' list, Denzel Washington seemed to be a valid enough reason to consider the film. Also, the story synopsis seemed appealing. The deadpan silence momentarily existing at the film's commencement was obstructed with a hoodrat' skirmish on the last row over apparently a mere seat. Luckily, she was escorted out, along with the other suspect of Hispanic origin, by a bevy of burly men clad in navy blue uniforms and black bullet-proof vests, bearing the name "Police" in yellow letters festooned on their backs. The fixation of my eyes to what was unfolding on screen never lost its focus. 

It wasn't even Ryan Reynold's toned specs of flesh passing through my eyes, when I casually lower my vision to the bottom of the screen and I mentally read "Rubén Blades" as the credits were passing by. Those two words inadvertently preoccupied my mind with childhood memories as Reynolds was divesting of his shirt and stepping into a running shower. What an inhibited moment of puerile infancy retrospect met with suggestive homoerotic imagery. I was really there for Denzel, but Blades made a pleasant, unexpected appearance. 

I was able to comprehend the fist-fighting, action-condensed story line of my first Espinosa film, and marvel at the typical, hat-tipping performance of a Hollywood Royalty constituent, but after the movie came to an end, I started to ponder upon the intrinsically familiar, yet apparent long-muted name Rubén Blades. I was bemused for a moment. It was unbeknownst to me the man could act, let alone display, albeit brief, a decent, bonafide, believable portrayal of a document forger residing in Cape Town named Carlos Villar (drawing similarities with Adolfo Kaminsky), and trade lines with someone the caliber of Washington and Reynolds. I will later learn, belatedly, the man has been part of hefty blockbusters including Stephen Hopkins' "Predator 2" and Robert Rodriguez's "Once Upon A Time in Mexico", and one of the ultimate TV series, The X Files. So then, when one considers this man's accomplishments; Minister of Tourism of Panama from 2004-2009, Harvard graduate, Grammy-award recipient, and legit Hollywood actor -- it's befittingly apropos to catalogued him as one of great Latin America's multifaceted performers. 

Growing up in Lima, Rubén Blades was constantly being played in my living room. The windows, wide open, letting out the distinctively cooing voice of Blades, accompanied with slow thuds of conga drums loudly emanating from the black stereo constructing a lively background to any salsa party. The man was being equally praised, if not as much as Héctor Lavoe and Willie Colon, and his ballads, laden with social and political messages established a connection with the peruvian public. I vividly remember chanting to Amor y Control with cousins, and I even knew, albeit no longer, every single lyric from Plastico ("ella era una chica plastica..."). One that carved a hole in my psyche was Pedro Navaja, a narrative that tells the story of the life and presumed death of a panderer of the same name (navaja means knife or razor in Spanish) in New York City. It was his rendering of Pedro Navaja (video above), performed in a fully realized, beautifully decorated stage that might've imbue Diego Rivera, in which he brilliantly fuses his hip-swinging inducing sounds, the art of story telling, live performance with the theatricality of a play that takes his work, and the salsa genre, to a different level. I mean, the man has senior citizens showing off on stage! (Betty White not included).  

To my world-citizens, non-latin fellow music enthusiasts, you're welcome. 


Screw It

Images by Ambush Design

"Fasten, Operate, Distort, Loosen, Adjust, and Tighten!" is the motto behind new Japanese-based accessories brand Ambush. I usually don't post collections in their immediacy, since there are other sources who do so more efficiently, but Yoon and Verbal's new offerings entice a sense of curiosity that merits a well deserved observation. "Screw It", is the title of their new collection, expectedly, translates to silver and golden screws and bolts fasten onto S&M black leather hats, rings, pins (shown above affixed to a black blazer), cufflinks, and chokers that could be easily worn by your Rottweiler. Taking a more friendly approach, the screws dyed in blue and red, come affixed around a leather belt, cuff, and chain necklaces, that vaguely brings back memories of yore, when one was manipulating legos. 

Similarly to previous collections, often depicting a cartoonish vibe, these baubles almost feel like an indicator of a new possible route Ambush might be heading to. These accessories feel erotic, almost fetishistic. The photographs, taken by Sam Butts, lend an approachable sensibility counterbalancing the hardness some of the pieces give off. I'm personally tantalized by the rings, that would sure provide difficulty when you find yourself in front of a sink, but style blissfulness triumphs over nuisances any day. Applause all around for Tokyo's finest. 


Miss Little Havana

The Queen of Latin Pop, as we know her, is reclaiming her throne. Gloria Stefan is someone of a Donna Summer or Madonna to the Latin community (or at least in Miami). She has been part of a movement, along with luminaries as Tito Puentes, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana, and Hector Lavoe, of spreading, celebrating, and educating the world of the rich diversity in Latin music. Gloria, especially, has been a key leader of the Cuban American migrants in Florida, and advocate for immigration rights, and event performed duties of hostess when president Obama visited her in Miami. Although her political views do not conflict with the message or merits of her artistry, it's pleasant to find artists who stand for what they believe in.

Miss Little Havana is her 26th album (astonishing accomplishment is an understatement), and her first English-speaking album since 2003. This Pharrell-produced album is filled with the familiar Estefanism; conga-infused, hip-swinging latin sounds, and melodramatic ballads, yet it places Estefan in a niche, as a few relevant latin artist in today's market. As you might have heard before, "WEPA" is her contagious single being played in your television screen and radio emissions as you read this. It's slowly becoming a latin anthem. How can those merengue-pop ("like merengue in the streets"!) sounds not entice a sudden movement of hips or feet? Maybe I'm being biased because I'm latin. 

I'm throughly mesmerized by the Miami-based artist LEBO's album artwork. It sort of looks like an explosion of melted popsicles metastasizing into abstract figures of exotics birds. The small conga drums add a sense of  a humorous symbolization of Estefan's beloved Havana. I'm equally please to see her in a frizzy fro a la Diana Ross. The whole image brings nostalgic memories of 80's Estefan, yet it's also pragmatic, vivid and full of life. 

Gloria Estefan, a woman of a certain age, has been making the round of national televised shows in looks that are age appropriate, without appearing to grasp with Menopause. She showed up at The View, in a gorgeous deep purple silk shift and matching stilettos (possible Oscar de la Renta), she performed live at The ALMA Awards in a demure black ensemble with beaded lace bolero, and a olive green number at The Rachel Ray Show. She seems to know what silhouette works for her, knee-lenght shifts with a soupçon of décolleté. And it's paying off. There is nothing more desperate than women, of a certain age, trying to compete with 15-year-olds. 

Now, get on the treadmill, and press play. 


What The Hell Is Going On Here?

Picture this (metaphorically): Karl invites you for a weekend in Saint-Tropez (!!!), and of course, you consent. (You can't say no to Karl). There are, as usual, the hot, illustrious, sleep-for-money crowd partying. And Karl decides to conjure up his entire Cruise '11 show there (for Coco reasons, of course). Not to be mistaken with the collection presented in Hotel du Cap in Antibes on the French Riviera a year later. If his Remember Now short film bestows any indication of what that voyage might look like, then I'm fetching my Goyards. Mr. Lagerfeld summoned folks like Pascal Gregory, Elisa Sednaoui, Heidi Mount and Baptise Gabiconi to act the part, which consists of reciting of couple of lines, move frantically inside some tony club, wear Chanel accouterments and drive expensive vehicles. The Karl Experience. 

You might find this seasons old, but how can we ever diminish A Karl Moment? Especially those instances where he's found outside a Chanel atelier or stepping out of a Zaha Hadid spectacular monument (such the ambiance of the S/S 2012 show). At the hotel, whilst everyone is in a semi-state of unconsciousness due to last night's heavy alcohol consumption, you hear "Allez Donc Vous Faire Bronzer" by Sacha Distel. Only for the cartoonish-like sounds of Distel to be contrasted with a murmur of thick french, "Quel silence" appropriated by none other than Karl. He's wearing a blindingly white, Tom Ford or Dior Homme suit, walks in to find a drunken mess, he seems infuriated because there is a lunch at 1 p.m. and people are not dressed. His passive-aggrive disposition seems to evaporate when someone utters, "But this is Saint-Tropez!", he replies, "I see". Over lunch we converse on topics ranging from who looks démodé to who is not coming back next season. You must see (if you haven't) the man in all his Largerfeldian white gloriousness here (fast forward to minute 3:38). 


Photo Diary: Yellow Diamonds In The Light

(1) As I step out of Old Glory on M Street in Georgetown, I caught the beautiful sunset on the horizon. I was mesmerized at how the pavement looks in the picture. As Mario Testino would say, very cinematic. 

(2)(3) I went for lunch at Last Canteras, a Peruvian restaurant that caught my attention once I was in Adams Morgan. The local restaurant is nestled within the former row houses that compose 18th Street. The 4-story building bares this pastel violet colour, and white window accents, suggesting it was some type of retirement home. The interior however depicts a different picture. Crisp white table cloths, comfy chairs and enough displayed artifacts for a quick lesson in Peruvian history. I ordered an Arroz con Pollo, which consists of two drumsticks of fried poultry, a bed of cilantro infused rice, all accompanied by peas, tiny carrots, fresh sliced onions and a leaf of lettuce. The beer, Cusqueña, would not be found at your local AVC. The whole experience reminded of my childhood and exemplified how richly diverse our cuisine really is. 

(4) The justly demise of the most suppressing homophobic federal policy America has been seen, Don't Ask, Don't tell, on the cover of Express. And the mustard cable knit sweater from Diesel in Details. Every color!

(5) John Legend at The Fillmore.

(6) Macbook moment. 

(7) The mysteriously-lit bar in Alero. I just recently learned there is actually a beverage called Galliano. But we all know Galliano (the man) and Alcohol don't mix well. 

(8) The architecture of the St Regis hotel (14th and K Street) is always fascinating. What's even more fascinating it's the interior. If you ever find yourself in the nation's capital, consider this one. You would be literally sleeping two blocks from The Obamas. 

(9) Porsche and Cranberry Juice at Number 9

(10) Debbie Harry at JR's.

(11) Karl Lagerfeld for Impulse at Macy's on the cover of The Examiner. I still can't get enough of Coco Rocha.


Ferrari And Ralph Lauren

About two months ago, on our way to lunch in Georgetown, I found myself sitting on the passenger seat of a friend's car. We're stopped by a flashing red light on N Lynn Street, just steps away from Key Bridge, D.C.'s version of Pont Neuf. In my vicinity, there is a piece of art stationed right outside a local CVS (out of all places). The automobile, idly parked, bears a red candy apple colour, the top is down, and an inconspicuous Ferrari logo is deflecting the sun's rays. I was dead stopped in my tracks. The red light, high above us, is still beaming brightly, luckily. Not long after I visually scanned the sumptuous monster, a man steps out of the aforementioned store. He's looking sharp, and I immediately categorize him as European. But considering the seemingly miraculous achievements of plastic surgery and well fitting clothes, anybody can appear "European". The jury is still out. He walks to the drive's seat, pulls out the keys and hops in. And the following scenario ensues: 

Me: "Hey Daddy!"

Him: *looks back* and replies, "Hey"

Me: "I love your car!"

Him: *Smiles*

Never mind my unapologetic, shameless flirting, I'm hollering halfway across the street. I still don't know what took over me. I pulled out my iPhone and snap! The light changes and we drive off. (I don't know if the man was the owner of the automobile, nor the fact that he dominates the English language, but it was certainly a hilarious bit). 

Nobody can blame me for being turn on by these type of cars (especially Porsches). It's a natural reaction. Growing up in Lima, I could only appreciate these type of beauties through a television screen. It was a "Hollywood" thing. A life so far from mines, yet I felt a intrinsic connection. I was never an ardent automobile aficionado, but I appreciate good design in any form. Mind you, I still don't know how to change a tire or handle any type of oil leaking problems, but there is always a mechanic in reach. Allow me to make a quick parenthetical here. Why are men subjugated to hard labor and wield types of metal and women to kitchens and domestic matters? This iron age type of thinking (or lack there of) must be eradicated from minds living in today's world. Now back to regular programing. 

We arrive in Georgetown a few minutes later and found precious parking space at some alley (sometimes parking in D.C. can turn into a nightmare, that's why folks choose the underground form of transportation.) As we walk around M Street, discussing where to eat, my eyes start to meander the buzzing milieu. The climate was in our favor, mild, and I guess that enticed the privileged to take their whips out for a nice ride. I spotted a couple of Porches, one who pretty much includes similar characteristics to my dream car. It was killer red, convertible and super shiny. You could've though a Hilton was cushioned in there. I later descry a Big Birdie Mazda, that could've easily played double on Transformers. And what topped the day was this caravan of canoe-like capsules of vehicles pedaling down M Street. I thought this could've been an actual competitive sport in the Olympics during the 1930's. You could only see the top of the drivers' head. Their bodies, I suppose, were positioned mummy style. It was a rather interesting twenty seconds. 

As the day goes on, sitting in the restaurant, I start thinking about Ralph Lauren and his ridiculously luxurious collection of vintage cars. Then, the cover of the 2007 October issue of the now defunct Men's Vogue came to mind. In the Bruce Weber photograph, he's wearing an army green tee and bares a half grin (have you ever seen Mr. Lauren smile?), gripping the steering wheel of his 1965 Jaguar XKD, which constitutes, as the magazine calls it, "the world's greatest car collection". The cover line reads, "American Visionaries". A very apropos title in every sense of the word, if you ask me. In the brilliantly written piece titled "King of The Road", Hudson Morgan spends the day with Mr. Lauren at his Bedford, New York, estate. And is introduced to a more intimate side of his life, away from the runway. After riding with Mr. Lauren on Old Montauk Highway in his 2007 Ferrari F430 at ridiculously fast speed records, Morgan reacts with, "shock, awe and perhaps longing" after he's shown nine red vintage Ferraris ("Roman legion of mighty engineering') by the man himself. The proof is in the pudding. Although I had to cut out a quarter of a sheet for a fashion project years ago, I can still witness, clearly, Mr. Lauren ostensively sybaritic display of wealth. There is a lipstick red Ferrari 250 GTO from 1962, a silver 1995 Mercedez-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe, a Batman-worthy 2006 Bugatti Veyron (can you picture Mr. Lauren in the Bugatti Boyz vid with Diddy & Rick Ross? Major) and an bevy of other vehicles strategically positioned fittingly for an art gallery presentation. 

"Maybe it's stupid of me to drive them all. But they're not precious. When I was younger it was, 'Look how fast I can go." Now it's, 'Look how well I can handle this car.'" - Ralph Lauren (image by ralphlauren.com)

As much as you might think of Mr. Lauren as an icon or having a god-like complexion, he remains grounded, humble, recognizing his gaffes. "I feel that's a failure. A failure!", he admits to Morgan, in regards to Derrick Miller of Barker Black and Alex Carlenton of Rogues Gallery, former key Polo designers. "I shouldn't have lost those guys", he adds, "Losing someone means he felt he can't grow in your company, can't make it". Although Mr. Lauren and his 11 billion company are not exempt from loosing creative types, the article portrays the man not only as a vintage car collector, or fashion tycoon, but as an American archetype. His ambitious is uncanny, "In the next 20 years, the company will have another dimension. It could be a multimedia, it could be hotels, it could be spas. It's like, what makes you? What's your home look like? What's your car?", he adds, "What can I say about myself that's not been said" How will I be perceived when I walk into that party? I have all this money--how am I gonna make myself look cool?" If being "cool" is what Mr. Lauren is concern about, then I think he has already accomplished that. On the second page, there is a black and white picture of Mr. Lauren with his two sons, David and Andrew, wearing (expectedly RL) tuxedos and they all look quite radiant (all was missing were Tom Cruise-worthy aviators). Now I'm left wondering if his wife, Ricky, calls him Ralphy.