Popping In on Pink at FIT

One of the things I love about travel is the surprises it often brings, even when the trip is tightly scheduled, as it was for me on a recent visit to New York City.  In town for both business and personal reasons, I managed to work in some unexpected stops at a couple of places in the city I’d not been previously.

The first came on Tuesday. My day was full of meetings with me running back and forth from Greenwich Village to  the lower West Side on the subway. It started with a lovely lunch meeting at Mary’s Fish Camp in the Village; then I hopped the Number 1 train to my next appointment on 29th and 7th Ave after which I returned to the Village to drop in on a filmmaker at her office in the West Village.

The sign at the top of the stairs leading to the exhibition clearly says it all.

With my day over, I had a couple of hours free before I was to have dinner with my son.  I had learned about an exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology called quite simply: “Pink.” In all the years that I’ve been to New York, I had never gone to this little museum, located  on 7th Avenue and at 27th street on the college’s block long campus. FIT is part of the State University of New York‘s system and focuses on those disciplines related to the fashion industry.

The Ralph Lauren gown worn by actress Gwyneth Paltrow to the 1999 Academy Awards was intended to recall Grace Kelly. It is one of the items displayed in the Pink exhibit at FIT.

The special exhibit, “Pink: The History of a Pretty, Punk, Powerful Color,” explores the changing significance of the color pink in fashion over the past three centuries.  It’s eye-popping displays of mannequins dressed in clothing from the 18th to the mid-20th century are elegant, colorful, curious and brilliant.  Represented in the 80 ensembles is everything from glamorous gowns to hip-hop influenced threads.  Children’s clothing from the past are presented as are contemporary men’s and women’s suits, dresses, pants and lingerie.  From high fashion to the everyday, it’s all included in this special exhibit.

You’ll see designs by such contemporary fashion industry giants as Valentino, Gucci, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. And there are styles by the more avant-garde such as the Japanese designer,  Rei Kawakubo.  It’s quite a treat to see some of these styles up close and so beautifully shown.

Pink was a fashionable color for men in the 18th century as well as for women.

Hot pink, pastel pink, pale pink, bright pink. Every imaginable shade of the color can be found in the exhibit.  “Pink” curator Valerie Steele also places into perspective the color culturally and explores how it came to be so strongly gender associated with women. That was not always the case. In fact, you learn in the exhibit that pink had neither a feminine nor masculine connotation in the 18th century but rather was associated with “elegance, novelty and aristocratic splendor.”  Perhaps one explanation for this is because the dye used to produce the brighter shades of the color popular at the time was newly discovered and came from Brazil, undoubtedly making it an expensive and limited to only those who could afford it.

The idea that pink was for girls didn’t taken hold until the early 1900s and was further reinforced with the highly publicized purchase in the 1920s by railroad tycoon Henry Huntington of artist Thomas Gainsborough‘s renowned paintings, “The Blue Boy” and “Pinkie” by Thomas Lawrence.  In the 1950s, according to the curator’s commentary, that the stereotype solidified.  But the exhibit also explores how other non-Western cultures have embraced and continue to use the color in dressing both sexes.

Not only is outerwear on display but historic pink undergarments, such as this corset, is included.

I spent nearly two hours browsing through and photographing the exhibit. Pink is, after all, one of my favorite colors (as long as it’s a warmer toned pink).  I have had and still have a lot of pink in my wardrobe. When I was a teenager, my bedroom walls were painted a hot pink.  So the FIT show was  an appropriate stop for me to make.

The clothing in FIT’s exhibit is handsomely and tastefully lit against black backgrounds that make the clothing and the color stand out.  If you find yourself headed to New York between now and Jan. 5,  plan to visit the FIT exhibit and museum.  Admission is free, it’s fairly easy to get to by public transit and it’s certainly not an exhibit that you’re likely to find elsewhere.

As for my other ‘surprises’ from this trip, you’ll need to wait for an upcoming blog.

A luxurious pink bodice from one of the gowns displayed embellished with a bouquet of silk flowers.

Making a Case for the iPhone

The new Apple iPhone is out today.   For some people, that meant sleeping in line overnight outside an Apple store in order to be among the first to buy the newest version of this popular phone.  But if you’re not among those who need or, even want, the updated iPhone, you can still give your phone a new look with a product that a local Bellingham woman and graphics designer has introduced.

Brandon agreed to model for his Mom’s new company. He and I first met when I photographed him as a senior. He’s seen here using one of the vintage camera cases, one of my personal favorites.

Jennifer Harrington has come up with some clever and very cool snap-on covers to individualize and “fashion-ize” your otherwise generic-looking iPhone.  Her company, On Your Case, offers a variety of designs, from the simple, to vintage, to retro and to even holiday-themes.   My personal favorites are the ones with the Eiffel Tower, the vintage cameras and the bright red “Keep Calm and Call Your Mom”,  a take-off of the British slogan used during World War II,  “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Jennifer called me on her cell phone recently to set up a photo session to show off her product.  I had taken senior portraits for her son, Brandon, a Bellingham High grad, a few years ago.  He had agreed to be one of her models for the session, along with his girlfriend, Stephanie, and Jennifer’s assistant, Andrea.”  Jennifer had a ‘look’ in mind that she wanted to get.   She came up with the basic concept and together we put together a session to create her images.

Stephanie and Brandon go nose to nose with their iPhone cases. His is another camera from the Vintage collection; hers is one of the Pattern designs.

She wanted to use the images from the shoot to illustrate how much fun and how personalized her cases could make your phone by including them on her company’s Facebook page and on the website now under construction.  She’s also got the individual cases posted on her “Etsy” store page  at http://etsy.me/OgQmqd. There you can look through seven pages of different cases in order to find the one just right for you.  And the great thing about these little cases is that they are so reasonably priced that you can buy three or four in order to customize your iPhone for every occasion.  How cool is that!

She’s also got a more limited selection that will fit the Samsung smart phones and is soon going to introduce covers for the iPad.  Finally, someone is getting stylish with these devices!

Andrea’s totally cool with the Teal Chevron case from the On Your Case pattern collection.

I’m not an iPhone user myself so I’m hoping that Jennifer will eventually come up with cases that will fit other types of popular smart phones because I really love what’s she’s done!  Almost makes me want to wait in line to buy the new iPhone.  Almost.

Fall into Fashion Week

It’s Fashion Week in New York and while most of us won’t be going, you can get a glimpse of what goes on and how it works in a piece that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday.  http://nyti.ms/Qv4EDS

My friend, Barb Lupo, who owns Gary’s Men’s and Women’s Wear in downtown Bellingham, usually attends to check out the new designs and order her inventory for the next season.  And although all the shows and parties sound pretty exciting, I know from her own experience that’s it also very exhausting.  (Gary’s stages its own fashion show in October. Details can be found here:  http://bit.ly/OBG3bR

Although many have asked if Tessa is a professional model, she’s not. But she was easy to work with, comfortable with taking direction and open to trying out different ideas during her senior portrait session last fall.

For everyone in the industry, it’s a hectic time, particularly for the runway and showroom models who hop from show to show with little time to spare.  Throw in a traffic jam or two along with all those in town for the big event and tensions run as high as the excitement as everyone tries to get to where they are supposed to be on schedule.While a career  in fashion modeling certainly has it share of  glamour, it’s a lot of hard work, long hours and requires considerable luck just to “break in.”  But you don’t have to be a professional model to look like one in photographs, if you have a skilled and talented photographer behind the camera.

Besides knowing the technical aspects that will make you look your best in the lens, there are also “trade” tricks that will bring out your best features.  When photographing my clients,  I’m constantly giving instructions and directions about how to position the feet, the hands and the head.   This is what professional models learn to do.

A simple change of clothing and placement on location produced an entirely different ‘look’ for her senior portrait.

Take Tessa, for instance, who came to me for her senior portrait  last year.  I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if she is a model.  She’s not.  Yet her images have that quality of a “fashion shoot” because we planned it together ahead of time.   During her one-hour session,  we managed to capture several different “looks” that conveyed her different moods.  And she took instruction well from me when I asked her move one way or another,  tip her head a certain way or cast her eyes in a particular direction.

A simple bend of the knee, for instance, makes a huge difference in the look for a woman.  The tilt of a shoulder can change the way a guy comes across visually.  These are little,  but important, things that professional photographers must know to produce top quality images,  whether for the fashion industry or for your home.

Yet another clothing change, the addition of the instrument, a slight change in location and dramatic lighting created a completely different feel to her senior portrait.

Like fashion photographers, my intention is to create a mood indicative my client’s unique personality. Unlike fashion photographers, the emphasis is not on the clothing but on the individual.  Whereas the job of fashion photographers is to convey a message about the clothing–romantic, exciting, trendy, classy–as a portrait photographer,  I want my portrait to say something about you.

Tessa has moved on, not to New York, but to Washington State University, where she’s studying microbiology.  But she and her parents will forever have  those images to remember when she had her own “fashion” session as a high school senior.