Lemon’s Rooftop Brings Breezy, Mediterranean Style to Brooklyn

 

 

When life gives you Lemon’s, order the Capri Son.

Indeed, the play-on-words refresher is just one of the irresistible new cocktails on offer at arguably this summer’s most buzzy NYC rooftop opening, this one atop Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel.

With, naturally, breathtaking views of Manhattan and across the ‘Burg, Lemon’s is the result of an inspired collaboration between some of New York’s hippest hospitality heavyweights. To be sure, the warm-weather haunt is the brainchild of dream team Jon Neidich (Acme, The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley), chefs Aidan O’Neal & Jake Leiber (Chez Ma Tante), and beverage team Jim Kearns (Acme, The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley) and Christine Kang (Soho House).

It’s also meticulously styled, with an easy-breezy-beautiful branding identity conjured by Swedish design duo Andrea Johansson and Claudine Eriksson. It’s their second collaboration, as they all previously worked together on Neidich’s Financial District hotspot Recreation, at the Moxy NYC Downtown Hotel.

Finding inspiration in Mediterranean filming locations (think: The Talented Mr. Ripley), the duo have cooly and elegantly brought to life a 1960s Italian Riviera vibe. The Lemon’s logo and illustrations – pencil and watercolors featuring sun umbrellas, crabs, figs, rosemary – were all hand drawn. A delightful touch in this coldly digital age.

Even the typography chosen by the team borrowed from retro storefront signage and the classic Italian soda Limonata. The collateral has all been printed on “soft, cream-yellow uncoated, textured paper for a sense of sun-bleached nostalgia,” as they tell us. And not to miss any detail, the check at Lemon’s comes with a gorgeous postcard, meant to be a sent on from your all-too-brief Williamsburg staycation.

With its channeling of a “sun-kissed-on-the-Italian shore” feel, Lemon’s conceptually plays homage to a fictional character named Senora Lemon. We learned she was an Italian widow who carried on her husband’s tradition of mixing cocktails and socializing at her house in 1960s Emilia Romagna (the Italian region just above Tuscany). Suffice it to say, her day long lunches-turned-parties were the stuff of legend, a spirit Lemon’s perfectly captures.

The music is curated by local favorites Chances with Wolves, and you’ll want to bop along as you sip on spiked lemonade and other signature house cocktails. The aforementioned Capri Son, for instance, is made with tequila, grapefruit, calamansi and honey, topped with sparkling wine. There’s also aperol spritz on tap – divine!

The Italian influence really comes through in the “aperitivo” vibe of “casually imbibing while enjoying light bites,” as Neidich puts it.

Savory snacks like salumi, raw oysters, and stracciatella with olive oil and bread will look familiar to anyone who has lazed away a summer afternoon in the caffes of Roma or Milano. Grilled calamari, sugar snap peas and tuna carpaccio on cracker crisps all play to the light-eating coastal vibe, while a selection of Italian-style toasted sandwiches will satisfy those craving heartier nibbles.

And given the rash of trendy rooftop openings, Lemon’s commendably isn’t into taking itself too seriously. They imaginatively offer guests a “picnic” option, where everything comes in lemon yellow with vintage coolers and accompanied by a snack trio. It just screams sophisticated summer fun.

But most of all, be sure not to leave without sampling their boozy popsicles, in thematic flavors like cantaloupe, limoncello and Italian citrus. And because Lemon’s aims to keep things communal, there’s plenty of thoughtfully designed seating and comfy cushions on which to kick back, get social and enjoy an NYC sunset.

Saluti!

 

Ideological Iceland: A Weekend of Forward-Thinking Food, Politics and Empowered Women in the Scandinavian Mini-Utopia

Above image by Robyn Dutra

 

 

If the draconian attempts by the current administration to curtail women’s reproductive rights has got you down, may we suggest a quick escape to Iceland? After all, this is the country intent on closing the gender pay gap, having passed the Iceland Equal Pay Certification law early last year. They also elected the world’s first female president back in 1980, and have yet another bold female environmentalist serving as Prime Minister today.

We did precisely that, hopping an Icelandair flight as soon as possible, for an empowering tour of women-owned businesses. And taking advantage of the airline’s ingenious Stopover program, we made a quick detour to Copenhagen just afterwards. (Story to follow.)

It should be noted that Icelandair boasts nearly double the average of female pilots than any other commercial airline. Making up 12.9% of the team, the airline has also implemented the equal pay gap within the company. With a commitment to gender equality across the business Icelandair champions women in the boardroom. 41% of executive and director level roles are filled by women. So any feminist looking to mindfully travel across the Atlantic, should seriously consider VIA Equality with Icelandair.

Once on the ground, we settled into the fun and funky Reykjavik Marina Hotel, centrally located so you need not wander far to enjoy some of the city’s best female-run and LGBTQ-friendly establishments. First was the Coocoo’s Nest – just a 5-minute walk from the hotel – a family-owned restaurant where owners Iris Ann Siguroardottir and her husband, chef and artist Lucas Keller, serve deliciously healthy meals to a supportive clientele.

Lady Brewery

 

Keller is known for his outstanding baked bread (we can attest, after eating our way through almost an entire heavenly loaf), and the Coocoo’s Nest donates leftover sourdough scraps to a local chicken farmer. Sharing an ethos of environmental sustainability (common in Iceland), Julius Mar then provides the restaurant with their very fresh eggs. He’s dedicated his life to preserving the foundation of Icelandic settlement chickens, which fascinating story can be read here.

The pair had more recently opened Luna Florens, a “holistic gypsy bar, cafe and boutique,” a welcoming spot for all stripes, full of plants and crystals in all their witchy goodness. There’s also a selection of craft beers on offer from Lady Brewery, a one-of-a-kind, all-female run micro brewery.

Founded by Þórey Björk Halldórsdóttir, she’s revolutionizing the male-dominated brewing industry in Iceland one beautifully branded bottle at a time. A designer by background, Þórey and her husband, Baldur Bjornsson, an artist and electronic musician, also run a creative studio in Reykjavik called And Anti Matter (&AM).

Coocoo’s Nest

 

Iris, also a photographer and visual artist, even recommended her tattoo artist, after we admired her many, weirdly wonderful tats. Audur Yr Elísabetardóttir is an Icelandic illustrator and tattoo apprentice. Also living in burgeoning downtown Reykjavik, her style is simple and delicate. A must visit if you’re looking to add to your existing body art.

We were especially taken with the Women’s Book Lounge, just a short, very scenic drive from Reykjavik. Established in April of 2013, the educational museum is dedicated to Icelandic female writers, with it’s objective to preserve their written works at home and abroad, making the texts and information about the authors available to the public. A noble endeavor, indeed.

In fact, you’ll find all 26 of the beloved and widely read author Gudrun fra Lundi (1887-1975), alongside copies of the first women’s magazine in Iceland, Kvennablaoio (1895-1919). It’s a friendly, drop-in kind of space, where we enjoyed a hot cup of strong coffee on the rainy day we were there, and even more, the conversation with librarian and founder Anna Jonsdottir and author Sella Pals.

Women’s Book Lounge

Pals, a native Icelander, spent 40 years in the states. Arriving at the tender age of 17, she earned her B.S. at the University of Utah, going on to become an off-Broadway producer of Forbidden Broadway in New York and Boston. Her first novel, Pitching Diamonds, was published in 2012. Sella’s passion for writing is just one vocation among many, including restaurant owner (on Manhattan’s Upper West Side), documentary filmmaker, e-commerce entrepreneur, substance abuse counselor, interior designer, rancher and mother. Did we mention, Icelandic women are totally badass? (Check out her latest work, Girndarráð).

As nearly half of Iceland’s Parliament are women, we were excited to share a meal at Fish Market with Helga Vala Helgadottir of the Social Democratic Alliance. Over lobster soup, the house speciality composed of langoustine tails, prepared in coconut milk with mandarin oranges, we discussed politics there and here (in the U.S.).

Proprietor Hrefna Rosa Saetran is one of the city’s brightest chefs, creating upscale Icelandic-Asian fusion on Adalstraeti near the waterfront. The Fish Market has been turning out creative fare since 2008, and remains a hot table. There’s puffin on the menu, which was a bit disconcerting since one can take a boat tour to see the lovable little birds up close; but our waiter promised it was harvested locally. There’s also minke whale, served in thin slices with an airy wasabi. We recommend the tasting menu for first timers, saving room for the excellent desserts including a unique licorice and praline lava mousse.

Fish Market 

 

Helgadottir leads one of eight parties (there’s even a Pirate Party in Iceland – think, skull-and-crossbones flag), and graciously gave us a Saturday morning tour of the modest yet no less impressive Parliament – where the original building is joined by a new, Nordic-modern wing. There’s a life-size bronze statue out front, memorializing Icelandic suffragist, politician, school teacher and gymnast, Ingibjorg H Bjarnason. Take a selfie with the first woman to become a member of Althing, which is what the country’s parliament is called.

We well knew Iceland elected the world’s first female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who served in that position from 1980 to 1996. Arriving hot on the heels of the 1975 Iceland Women’s Strike in Reykjavik’s main square, Finnbogadottir remains the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country to date. (Take that, America.)

Notably, Iceland also appointed Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir as the first female Prime Minister and the world’s first openly lesbian head of government in 2009; while the country’s second female Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has held the office since 2017. Voted “Iceland’s Most Trusted Politician”, after the corruption scandals that saw the country jail its bankers, the 41-year old is a staunch environmentalist. The mother of three sons leads Iceland’s Left-Green Movement, and is intent on making the island carbon-neutral by 2040.

Iceland Parliament

 

A stop at the offices of Pink Iceland is also a must. The LGBT travel and wedding company hosts a “pop up Hygge” every Friday night, with a rotating lineup of performers and free libations. Hannes Pall, owner and operator, has planned and executed over 500 weddings over the past seven years in Iceland.

With the country having legalized gay marriage in 2010, business has been booming. From hosting your nuptials in a glacier to other otherworldly locations, this gay-owned and uber-inclusive agency also tailors tours, and is amazing at getting you on or off the beaten path, curating experiences for the luxury to the laid back traveler.

Absorbing all that progressivism made us a bit peckish, so we made for the one of Iceland’s most unique man-made attractions, the Fridheimar tomato farm. Family-owned and operated since 1995, midlife matriarch Helena Hermundardottir gave us a guided tour followed by a tomato-fueled lunch at the farm’s on-site restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered how Icelanders get their fresh produce, this is it.

 

Fridhaimer

Growing the most flavorful tomatoes we’ve ever tasted, the farm’s greenhouses welcome visitors every day. One can soak up the ‘sun’ under the artificial lighting year round; the farm’s impressive atrium is especially inviting during Iceland’s long, dark winters. The family also breeds Icelandic horses, the only kind you’ll find on the island and coveted the world over.

It was typical, of course, of everything we encountered on this particularly ideological visit to the eye-openingly progressive Scandinavian nation. Western principalities can take a lesson in how acting decisively locally, can indeed ideologically counter what is so troublingly happening globally.

 

Top: Reykjavik Marina Hotel; Bottom two: Downtown Reykjavik, by Robyn Dutra

The New Retro-Glam: Sunken Lounge, Pool Bar + Connie Open at JFK’s New TWA Hotel

 

 

You won’t find NYC’s coolest new cocktail spot in Williamsburg or the West Village this summer. Rather, it’s all the way out in Queens, at the just opened – and most hotly anticipated – TWA Hotel  at JFK International.

Yes indeed, you will find the cognoscenti hanging at the airport this summer, as the stunningly revived Eero Saarinen-designed masterpiece that was his 1962 Trans World Airlines Terminal now houses not one, but three new venues from hospitality hotshots Gerber Group – who forever changed the way we think about and drink at hotel bars starting with The Whiskey at the Paramount back in 1991. But it’s these latest jetsetter jumpoffs that are decisively setting tongues a-wagging.

“Operating The Sunken Lounge, The Pool Deck, and Connie at TWA Hotel is an incredible opportunity, and we’re thrilled to bring each of these unique concepts to life in their own way,” says Scott Gerber, Principal and CEO of Gerber Group. “The millions of guests from around the world, as well as locals who join us, can expect the exceptional service, cocktails and bites we’re known for, infused with a sense of history and discovery.”

Meticulously restored by Beyer Blinder Belle architects, the terminal’s additional two brand new hotel wings boast a total of 512 rooms. So one can imagine there will be no shortage of well-turned-out guests seeking that perfect Bond-style martini, perhaps a Pink Squirrel, or some or other sexy cocktail throwback to the Jet Age.

Here’s what to expect.

 

 

The Pool Bar & Observation Deck

It boasts a 63-by-20-foot infinity edge pool (turned heated pool-cuzzi in colder months) with unparalleled views of multiple JFK runways. Must Order: a Mile High Spritz to complement those rooftop pool vibes.

The Sunken Lounge

It decisively reignites the magic of Eero Saarinen’s landmark 1962 TWA Flight Center, restored as a particularly glamorous lobby bar, in dazzling retro red and white. Must Order: the Come Fly With Me, inspired by Frank Sinatra’s 1958 album cover and garnished with a rainbow of swizzle sticks modeled after TWA’s original set.

Connie

One of only four Lockheed Constellation L-1649A’s left in the world, it transports you all the way back to 1958. Step onto the tarmac and aboard her renovated cabin, where vintage-inspired cocktails flow and snacks are served with a sunny smile. Must Order: an Aviation, of course – but between sips don’t forget to stop by the cockpit to check out the original authentic controls.

 

Eating Goth: The New York DARK Food Festival Comes to Williamsburg

 

 

What’s more goth than wearing black? How about eating black?

If the very thought sends a shiver up your spine, you might consider making haste for the grimly fiendish New York DARK Food Festival, which debuts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on May 19, after its tantalizing debut in Budapest (as the Black Food Festival)…with stops in Berlin, Tel Aviv and Helsinki along the way. Hungry darkwavers (and everyone else) will know the existential joy of indulging in everything from black sesame or charcoal ice cream, to black garlic and of course, black chocolate – as well as an array of inventive and innovative dishes that experiment with, naturally, the color black.

Festival founder Regina Boros shares, “I am a food blogger in Budapest, following trends on social media. I noticed people’s crazy reactions to the posts where black cakes, or black hamburgers appear, even in the fine dining scene – like Noma in Copenhagen, or other Michelin-starred restaurants. If someone shares a black dish, people love it more than usual. So it came to my mind: why not create a food festival where every vendor can sell only black, or dark colored food?” And we love that she did.

But black food isn’t just artificially colored; some of the most sought after ingredients, from the finest coffee, luscious black berries, or balsamic vinegar have been cultivated for centuries using traditional methods that render them blackest. “Our passion here at the DARK Food Festival is to discover and share the lesser-known black foods from across the world – whether that’s boudin noir, black macarons, or black garlic – and to explore a new and unique culinary dimension.”

“Black is not just a color for me,” she continues, “it is something creative, beautiful, simple but complex. It can be weird to try a black hamburger or macaron, new types of black vegetables or fruits, black corn, black tomato, or even a completely black rice dish; but it is about experimentation, to step out from your comfort zone.”

There’s even a juried competition, the New York Experimentalists Black/Dark Food Festival Awards. Risk takers, iconoclasts and tenebrous trailblazers all, will be judged by a prestigious panel of gastronomy professionals, on the lookout for the most creative concoctions. Two dark-hearted exhibitors will be awarded in the food and drink categories.

Should you be watching your emaciated goth figure, not only will comestibles and tipples be on offer, but also “black design and fashion, accessories and decoration.”

Boros concludes, “I love dark culture, dark music, black fashion…”

Us too, of course.

(The Dark Food Festival will take place Sunday, May 19th at The Canvas, 132 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tickets are available on EventBrite. Istanbul and London follow in June)

 

New Book ‘Red Lipstick’ Gorgeously Traces the History of Beauty’s Most Indispensable Item

Illustration for the French beauty brand Payot, 1951. © 2018 René Gruau: www.gruaucollection.com

 

Author and journalist Rachel Felder has long had a love affair with red lipstick. And her latest book is evidence of her devotion to, and fascination with that classic, perfect pout.

She reveals, “I’ve been wearing red lipstick every single day for decades, and writing about makeup for many years as well. I felt the subject would resonate deeply with many women, perhaps for different reasons, because of those intense associations.”

Luxuriously wrapped in a matte gold-toned cover, Red Lipstick (released April 9, via Harper Collins) is filled with show-stopping imagery. Packed with a museum’s worth of fine art, including both Man Ray’s photograph of Red Badge of Courage and Chagall’s Les Amoreux. Lush, rarely seen vintage magazine ads from beauty biggies Guerlain and Elizabeth Arden mingle with a gorgeous array of illustrations and paintings by renowned artists including Francesco Clemente, Alex Katz, Maira Kalman, Bill Donovan, Edgar Degas and Wayne Thiebaud.

A promotional photograph of Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s. She’s wearing a fur stole that was typical of the period and, of course, red lipstick. Everett Collection. 

With fascinating insights into the uses and cultural history of lipstick, Felder makes an astute case for the “one item most women can’t live without.”

“Every woman has a relationship with red lipstick,” she insists. “For some, it’s associated with a relative – like, say, the aunt who always wore it, perfectly applied. Others think about it for special occasions, whether they’re nights out in black tie or important meetings at the office. And then there are those who say ‘I can’t wear red lipstick,’ which I believe simply isn’t true: everyone can wear red lipstick, it’s just about finding the right one.”

Power and beauty factor heavily into Felder’s exploration, as she excavates the origins and history of red lipstick. Illuminating its association with movie stars, aristocracy, sex appeal, illicit sexuality, rebellion, glamour and fame, she never loses sight of the woman herself.

Bil Donovan, Dotty Girl (watercolor and ink), 2007 © Bil Donovan / Illustration Division.

 

She enthuses, “Women love red lipstick because it’s simultaneously polished and bold, and both classic and cutting-edge modern. I love it for those reasons and also because, after wearing only red lipstick for so many years, it makes me ‘myself.’  It’s the ultimate finishing touch to face the outside world, and makes you look made up even if it’s the only beauty item on your face.”

Granted unprecedented access to experts and the archives of revered brands like Chanel and Dior, there’s lots of juicy tidbits within the pages of Red Lipstick. Little known fun facts, quotes and anecdotes, and a striking 100 plus images. Felder’s expert curation – which we’ve come to expect from the Insider London and Insider Brooklyn writer – make her musings even richer. She also spotlights a fascinating array of women who’ve worn red lipstick through the ages: think, suffragettes (yes, even those early feminists wore it), monarchs, flappers, geishas, Hollywood sirens, rockstars, working women during World War II, politicians…we could go on.

It’s an irresistible little (in size not stature) book, a must-have for any fashionista or fan of beauty’s cultural history. As Ms. Felder puts it, “When I wear red lipstick I feel stronger, more confident, and ultimately, more beautiful. It makes me feel like I can conquer anything the day brings my way.”

Catwoman represents a different type of powerful woman: one that uses sensuality as one of her weapons. Here, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the part in Batman Returns (1992). © Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection. 

Dune Bashing, Persian Carpets and a Spectacular Outpost of The Louvre: A Weekend in Abu Dhabi, Part II

 

(Continuing on from Part I of our Abu Dhabi story…)

 

Peckish from sightseeing, we headed back to The Grand Hyatt where we lunched at Verso, a stylish Italian trattoria, that serves outstanding pizzas, pastas like pappardelle ai gamberi, and squid ink risotto – and as New Yorkers, we’re not easily impressed with Italian food. The property will actually boast a total of six international dining options (just two were open when we were there), so you’ll never go hungry. Sahha, an “adventurous market,” is the spot for made-to-order and buffet breakfast and dinner options – don’t miss the big-as-your-head pastel-colored meringues at the dessert station. Pearl Lounge in the lobby provided a sophisticated little stop off when we were feeling parched, as our minibar seemed to be a work in progress (um, empty).

And for those feeling a little more motivated than were we, there was a Dynamic TechnoGym fitness center open 24-hours, with a steam room and sauna to sweat out the night-before’s partying on the hip and happening Yas Island. (N.B., you can drink openly at hotels and nightclubs in Abu Dhabi, but public drunkenness is of course very much frowned upon.)

Never hearing of dune bashing before we visited Abu Dhabi, the daytime sport courtesy of Land Cruisers and their agile drivers, provided some raucous fun. We were told to buckle up, because off-roading amongst the sand dunes gets hair-raisingly bumpy. If you book a tour with Abu Dhabi Desert Safari you’ll also get up close and personal with a herd of very cuddly camels, available for short rides and lots of petting. As part of our excursion, we got to partake in sand skiing, a Bedouin-style BBQ dinner, belly dancing and Tanoura (traditional folkloric dance) performances, henna painting, and even the chance to hold a falcon for the ultimate photo op.

For anyone who might be wondering where Whistler’s Mother is currently on view, it was right there at the spectacular, Saadayit Island located Louvre Abu Dhabi. The name is on loan from its Paris counterpart, which was incidentally paid $525 million to license the name for 30 years. Here, the Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Jean Nouvel has again outdone himself – the sprawling design is actually comprised of 55 detached buildings.

With a giant overhead canopy ‘woven’ out of 7850 metal ‘stars,’ the structure ingeniously anchors sand and sea. Waterfront views from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s many terraces are breathtaking, while visiting day or night promises dazzling light shows under the dome. And the art? We especially loved the cosmography room and the well-curated collection of artifacts from early civilizations. Currently showing is Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia, through the end of February.

Of course, when they go big in the U.A.E., they always go really big. And the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was no exception. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdekly, the glistening white-marble stunner is one of the world’s largest. A massive undertaking at over 20 years to build (2007 saw the completion), a collective of highly skilled artisans using only the finest materials were enlisted from around the globe, coming from India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia…the list goes on.

It should be noted that visitors are required to respect the dress code, traditional Abaya dress for women, or Kandura for men. For us ladies, this meant loose pants (so please do leave your athleisure at the hotel), loose tops covering arms and chest, and head scarf with no hair showing. Our Isabel Marant tunic was deemed too sheer by staff, so we were loaned a hooded, pinkish-colored Abaya, which are available before entering the mosque. And after all, who doesn’t look good in mauve?

Resplendent with the world’s largest Persian carpet (woven by women, we were told by our lively guide, with 2,268,000,000 knots) and the third largest, brilliantly colored crystal-encrusted chandelier in existence, the humbling, grandiose main hall can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Its benefactor, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, wanted to establish a structure uniting the cultural diversity of the Islamic world, and its historical and modern values of architecture and art. His Highness’ final resting place is actually located on the grounds beside the mosque.

Before we departed from Abu Dhabi, we were determined to visit one of its beaches (and not one of the many man-made ones). Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, on the shores of Saadiyat, boasted an invitingly pristine, natural beachfront, where gentle waves beckoned us in. A quick dip provided perfect refreshment before winding down and washing up before dinner. The sleek, minimalist rooms here offer our favorite Le Labo products, which will soon become standard across all of the Hyatt properties, we were told.

Reserving a table under the stars at the award-winning Park Bar & Grill, we were thankful for the simplicity of a menu of charcoal-grilled seafood and fine steaks. Dining al fresco on a clear, we took in one last magnificent view, before normal life would take us back to Gotham.

(N.B. ideal travel times to the UAE are December through March, before it gets too hot and humid.)

BlackBook Interview: Yigal Azrouël on His Architecturally Inspired Fall 2019 Collection

Images by Robyn Dutra

 

We couldn’t have dreamed up a more inspired creative union than that between womenswear designer Yigal Azrouël and the late starchitect Zaha Hadid. And indeed, during this most recent New York Fashion Week, the former previewed his latest collection for Fall Winter 19 in Hadid’s striking new West Chelsea residential building. Located in Manhattan’s once-gritty-gone-glam neighborhood, abutting the Highline, its organic forms and graceful curves provided the perfect backdrop for Azrouël’s architecturally inspired collection.

The Israeli-American designer chose to showcase his work in a gallery setting, a stripped down presentation with no runway and no live models. Uniform racks of gorgeously modern clothes were accompanied by still photography (“…taken behind the scenes in my studio,” Azrouël reveals, when we catch up with him for a recent interview) and video projections that were shot during castings and fittings.

“I always like to take pictures, why not show the process, as part of the inspiration?,” he says of the films, adding that they are about “watching her movement, going from one frame to another, creating a vision. Not about showing a lot, but purely about the minimalism in the collection.”

This refreshingly laid back approach lent an air of timelessness to both the surroundings and the clothes at his NYFW show.

And to be sure, citing “the process” as his guide, Azrouël’s own organic tendencies – like Hadid’s – have guided his design work over a remarkable twenty-year career. “I’m not sure what I like, what I don’t like,” he confesses.

Judging from the receptivity of the crowd that gathered on a very cold, windswept evening, they too were letting the emotion of the clothes, paired with the intimate presentation, envelop them in a fantastical fashionable embrace.

We ran our fingers across creamy, chunky knits and geometric wool plaid (our personal favorite), deconstructed black leather and electric blue oversized corduroy. Unique palettes and the mixing of masculine and feminine design elements (much of it handmade) were all trademark Azrouël.

Unexpected combinations – think: tops and bottoms meant to be worn together or separate – all highlighted his talent for precision tailoring, sophisticated use of luxurious fabrics and excellent draping, making for a compelling presentation. One particularly exquisite jacket was constructed of leather with a sweater backing, allowing the shape of the bonded knit to show through, and creating a subtle reptilian effect. Overall the collection is entirely wearable, while enduringly elegant. Yigal Azrouël has again achieved such a fine balance that is sure to make well shod women swoon.

“By releasing control, trusting the energy,” he insists, “it feels much more real to me, more emotional.”

We couldn’t agree more.

The S/S 19 Virgil Abloh Campaign for Louis Vuitton Instills Youth With a Visionary Idea of Beauty

 

Leave it to Virgil Abloh to reimagine the very possibilities of fashion advertising. In his first multi-media campaign as Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, the Off-White designer created three chapters that investigate “ideas of individual perception and evolvement through lenses of inclusivity.” A heady mission indeed.

The campaign launched this month with “Infancy, Childhood and Adolescence.” Shot by exalted Dutch fashion photogs Inez & Vinoodh, key pieces from Spring-Summer 2019 are worn by boys of various ages and ethnicities. We love the weirdly wonderful, colorful tableaux, bathed in poppy and rainbow motifs central to The Wizard of Oz allegories.

The still and moving imagery invites viewers to experience infancy, pre-teen-hood and teenage life set against abstract and dreamlike landscapes. Challenging our perceptions of the expected is something Abloh is certainly known for, while revealing essential human truths. It’s all pretty trippy, in in the best possible way.

Phase two of the campaign (images have not yet been released for two and three), “The Painter’s Studio”, releasing February 1, was shot by Mohamed Bourouissa, using photography to cleverly recast the 1855 oil-on-canvas work by French realist Gustave Courbet. Notably painted the year after Louis Vuitton established his House, the original depicts Courbet working on a painting, flanked to his left by people from all levels of French society, and to his right by members of high society. The campaign imagery’s contemporary spin shows Abloh fitting a look from Spring-Summer 2019 surrounded by members of his team, social circle, and models, each clad in the collection.

Where Courbet’s painting interpreted the different stratas of French society for the eyes of the cultural elite, Virgil Abloh portrays an all-encompassing exchange that defines his vision for Louis Vuitton: diversity, inclusivity, and unity.

The third and final phase of Abloh’s imaginative campaign, “School Teens,” releases March 22nd. Shot by Raimond Wouda, it depicts the formative communication between teenagers in group situations, nodding to the evolution of boys into men. Students dressed in block-color t-shirts evoke the Spring-Summer 2019 Louis Vuitton show, for which Abloh invited 1500 teens wearing similar garments to form the color spectrum of a rainbow.

A modern take on the schuttersstukken of the Dutch Baroque, the images were photographed around schools in Los Angeles, capturing the nuanced interactions between teenagers. There’s the desire to belong, contrasted by the need for individuality. In this third phase, Abloh’s own brand of constant evolution is front and center. The images work to highlight the tensions between uniformity and diversity, identity and wardrobe, that all at that age experience in the schoolyard, and within the larger culture.

To say Abloh’s first Louis Vuitton campaign is intelligent isn’t doing it justice. Rather, it evokes the most visceral essence of growing up, offering an enlightening look back into what it meant, and still means, to be young in this contemporary world.

 

Plush Palaces, Maseratis & Women’s Handicrafts: A Weekend in Abu Dhabi, Part I

Images by Robyn Dutra

 

Few places have held so fast in our cultural imagination as Abu Dhabi. So when New York winter temps quickly plunged, we booked the first plush Etihad flight to the sunny, exotic – and just 47 years young – capital of the United Arab Emirates, to at last satisfy our curiosity.

Sitting pretty off the mainland on an island in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, Abu Dhabi has decisively eclipsed neighboring Dubai as the current hottest travel destination in the Middle East. And our visit neatly coincided with the year-long celebration of the father of the U.A.E., Sheikh Zayed, which gave the whole place a palpably festive vibe.

Checking into the Andaz Capital Gate (notably the brand’s first hotel in the region) made for the perfect grand entrance. The design-focused Hyatt property is actually a Guinness World Records certified structure, and inclines an unparalleled 18 degrees – a dizzying sight! Equipped with expansive Gulf views, our very modern suite (one of 22, along with another 189 guest rooms) was so chic and spacious, we had to work to convince ourselves to get up and get out.

Andaz’ notably gracious staff steered us post-haste to the complimentary Arabian coffee (which is more like tea to us Westerners) and fresh dates at reception to stave off the usual jet lag; and it was just those kinds of little touches that make the hotel so singularly special. To wit, we lingered in the lobby at an art exhibition dedicated to the aforementioned Sheikh Zayed, the founder of Abu Dhabi and a widely revered humanitarian; his legacy was interpreted in all manner of painting styles, adding an homage-like feel to the cool ground floor design.

Also, we couldn’t say enough about the sumptuous breakfast buffet, where scrumptious Middle Eastern (like, the best labna ever) made nice with more Western fare, fueling us up for a day of sightseeing. (And later, a treatment at the property’s heavenly Rayana Spa, as well as a spot of lounging by the gorgeous infinity pool.)

Speaking of filling up, we noticed every other car on the road in Abu Dhabi seemed to be a Range Rover or Maserati. So it’s certainly no secret how this cosmopolitan city-state enjoys such unbroken prosperity – no surprise, it’s those steady oil exports, especially those of an Occidental nature.

We rolled up to the ultra lavish Emirates Palace in the West Corniche district for a midday coffee fix. The landmark five-star property overlooks its own private natural bay – but is also well known for its 24k gold-flecked cappuccinos, served up regularly to its power-broker-and-royal clientele. With a sweet, metallic mustache on our lips, we then got a chance to peep a few of the 92 opulent suites. Rivaling any seven-figure New York City penthouse, bottles of gold-flecked water flowed freely and, of course, the views stretched far and wide before us.

Since Emirati Dirham, the local currency, is preferred for tipping, we then made use of the gilded ATM machines in the hotel’s very posh lobby. Though late lunch at the exceptional Mezlai Emirati restaurant was suggested, we politely demurred on the menu’s offering fresh camel meat and milk.

Being restless traveler types, we switched mid-visit over to the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl (yes, that’s a really long name). With 428 rooms, and 36 luxury suites (naturally, including the Presidential and the Royal), this very grand property was only a short walk to the sprawling, breath-stopping Presidential Palace, and the Founder’s Memorial celebrating the life and legacy of Zayed.

We do highly recommend familiarizing yourself with a little Abu Dhabi history (hey, the city-state might be younger than you) at the visitor’s center before strolling through the Heritage and Sanctuary Gardens. Leading to the site’s epic centerpiece, we were mesmerized by “The Constellation” by artist Ralph Helmick, housed in a massive cubic pavilion. When illuminated at night, a collection of 1,327 geometric shapes suspended on 1,100 cables becomes a three-dimensional silhouette of Zayed’s reassuring countenance.

Back at the Grand Hyatt, we were absolutely smitten with our water-facing room, sending us into an Instagram frenzy before it was time to head to the Women’s Handicraft Centre. A creative initiative run by the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association, traditional crafting here is largely dominated by women, who have passed on their skills from generation to generation. It was a far better choice for picking up authentic souvenirs than the slightly gaudy Heritage Mall (a fake souq-type set up), where most tourists frequent.

As part of the General Women’s Union dedicated to promoting the status and position of women in the U.A.E., it was fascinating to observe the creators together in small groups, practicing the arts of textile and palm tree frond weaving, embroidery, sewing and tailoring, basketry and sado (weaving cotton and wool into elaborately designed patterns used to make Bedouin tents, much like we suppered in during our desert excursion).

Marveling at the elaborate embroidery adorning the sleeves and collars of women’s robes, ‘teli’ is woven from gold, silver and colorful string, on a wooden block. It’s an impressive sight, the robes only worn on special occasions and ceremonies. To remember, as Abu Dhabi is an Islamic state, you should ask permission from the ladies before you start shooting away on your iPhone. And of course, leave your shoes at the door the Centre’s bungalows.

Read on to Part II