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Skip Shopbop and Shop Esther’s Winning Collection

Esther Perbandt, Making the Cut runner-up and Berlin-based designer

We don’t know about you, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal tore through Amazon’s reality fashion series Making the Cut, eagerly awaiting the weekly Friday drop of two new episodes until, alas, the premiere season came to close.

For the uninitiated, think Project Runway with a million dollar prize and a fresh spin on the moving parts, from the multiple locations (New York, Paris, Tokyo) to the esteemed panel of judges (including the outspoken Naomi Campbell, never one to sugarcoat her feelings, and early on, French editor and icon, Carine Roitfeld) to the 12 designers (a global array of mostly experienced talent). Hosted, of course, by Project Runway veterans, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. The premise: to find the next major fashion brand (as opposed to the next big fashion designer).

The season ended with (spoiler alert) LA entrepreneur Jonny Cota winning the grand prize, and our favorite contestant, Berlin designer, Esther Perbandt, an ardent fan of the color black, winning second place. Bummer. In our book, Esther was the winner. In fact, she had it all: Talent, vision, a calm sense of self-assurance and a viable marketing plan (one of the storylines in a late-season episode). Oh, and a super-cool take on black clothing, from her fabrics and silhouettes to her distinctive aesthetic.

So why aren’t we knocked out by Perbandt’s new Amazon collection, now available at Shopbop, Amazon’s fashion offshoot?

Nearly every week, the MTC judges would remark on the salability of black clothing, remarking that black pieces just didn’t present well online. Could that be the reason why this collection seems to lack oomph? Um, no. Could it be the high price tags, rather aspirational for a local Berlin designer? Um, no again. From the Brooklyn Gal‘s perspective, Perbandt’s Shopbop pieces are just not unique enough to warrant an outlay of hundreds of dollars, no matter how deep your pockets. Dare we say, her design prowess has been dumbed down?

That, of course, was not the case on Making the Cut. Every week, Perbandt delivered something interesting, something modern, something we wanted to wear out in the world (one day, anyway). But not these Shopbop pieces. They seem to belong to another designer entirely.

Fortunately, all is not lost. We recently discovered Esther Perbandt’s online shop, the one where she sells her distinctive designs, not the Amazon-ified line available to the masses. Now we just need to pony up the bucks, oh, and the place (!) to wear her amazing creations.

 

Kiss that Wish List Goodbye

Give it up for this fluid crepe midi skirt from Ganni.

Every season, we here at the Brooklyn Gal curate wish lists comprised of our favorite new fashions. It’s our way of keeping tabs on all of the standout pieces that take our breath away. True, we’ll never own most of these treasured items, nevertheless, we continue to browse YOOX and Net-a-Porter and Italist, among other online shopping destinations, shaping and honing our lists as winter turns to spring, and spring to summer. And sometimes we actually buy one of those coveted items, more often than not wearing it for an eternity!

Given the current pandemic, our wish list habit has almost come to a screeching halt. Sure. we continue to browse, but earmarking those must-haves for wish lists? Well, it seems a bit pointless. Yes, strange as it may sound, we can live without those to-die-for pieces. After all, where would we wear, say, our new jumpsuit or our summer-perfect poplin sundress? To the park, for our daily stroll? To the grocery store, where we swoop in and out as fast as we can, hoping to avoid anyone and everyone? Sigh.

It may sound petty and frivolous, but we long for a world where we can not only build our wish lists, but actually click and purchase, if so desired. Even that familiar act has become fraught given the closures of warehouses and nonessential businesses. Oh, and the guilt (how could we treat ourselves now?)

One day soon, this will be but a bad dream. We’ll go online, peruse our wish lists, find that perfect outfit, and actually wear it out to dinner, preferably to one of our treasured restaurants, say, Via Carota or Rucola.

But that day is still far off in the future. So for the duration, we’ll slip into our jeans and our workout clothes, lace up our well-worn sneakers, and get on with it.

 

Bye Bye Bird-ie

Local boutique closes shop

With the world turned upside down right now, retail is obviously having a tough time, especially the indie boutiques where we here at the Brooklyn Gal draw much of our style inspiration.

The other day, while out taking a mental health walk, we noticed that the Park Slope branch of longtime trendsetter Bird was all papered up, with a lovely good-bye note plastered on the window. Luckily, this offshoot is the only casualty; Bird’s other shops in Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Williamsburg are poised to reopen (at least to our knowledge) post-Corona, while the online store is still humming along.

In some ways, it’s the end of an era. But isn’t everything these days?

We must admit that Bird’s closing makes us a bit nostalgic. Many years ago, when its first branch opened in its former location, on Seventh Avenue, in the South Slope, Bird was truly a revelation. At last, a Brooklyn boutique stocked with indie designers, cool clothes that you weren’t likely to see anywhere, especially department stores. The vibe was friendly yet hip, the staff super helpful. And the selection made our hearts go pitter-pat—this, we realized, was what fashion dreams were made of. Even then, the prices were aspirational, meaning that we lusted more than purchased, but never mind: Bird, way back when, raised the style bar, especially for the neighborhood.

Lately, we’ve looked to Bird for that fashion shot in the arm, but it hasn’t totally delivered. While the selection doesn’t always wow, with many of the items too boxy (looking at you, Black Crane), pricey or just not us, we still remain loyal to this Brooklyn outfit. After all, one of these days, when the Brooklyn Gal can actually walk through the doors, we know that we’ll be swept off our feet by some must-have dress or jumpsuit from Alex Mill, Ganni, Mara Hoffman, Rachel Comey, or some amazing new designer we’ve never, ever heard of.

It’s in the cards, just like spring.

 

Wardrobe Wonders

You never know where that perfect wardrobe addition may be hiding!

Most people probably don’t obsess over nearly every clothing purchase, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal have been known to over-think even the most off-the-cuff pick-me-ups.

Sure, once in a blue moon we give in to the Yoox urge or snap up a must-have or two at cheapy cheap joints like H&M, but we don’t buy on the fly or on impulse as readily as others seem to. Still, with a new season around the corner and our inbox overstuffed with sale notices and bargain offers, it’s hard to resist what seems so natural: buy a shirt there, boots here, all for a song, end of fashion story.

And yet, we hesitate, largely because we are wary of winding up with a closet full of nothing. The goal, after all, is build a working wardrobe, not to just accumulate random pieces.

A stack of clothes, whether bargain-priced or investment-worthy, gets women nowhere, but a wardrobe, well, it kind of makes us feel like we’re in control of our style destinies, like we’re dressing our aspirational selves.

All of this talk about fabulous wardrobes makes us wax nostalgic about one of our favorite dream boutiques in Brooklyn, which sad to say, closed shop several years ago. Back in the early aughts (hate this word!) when it was known as Butter, we used to slip in for a dose of cool, rarely buying, unless it was sale time. Most of the merch was geared towards that discriminating trendsetter with limitless funds, but every once in while we managed to score a gem or two.

One day our inner demons put the kibosh on a dress we really wanted. It was perfect but we had no real need for it. As we stood before the mirror, the owner told us that when you fall in love with a special item you need to buy it, because it won’t come back around again. It could have been her standard sales pitch, but we’ve come to realize that she was totally right. Sometimes when we’re on the fence about a special find, an item sure to be a bonafide wardrobe-changer, we can still hear her preaching those wise words of retail wisdom.

Would that black beauty of a dress still be a workhorse in our wardrobe today, more than a decade later? Chances are good, but alas, we’ll never know.

 

Let it Snow

For years and years we here at the Brooklyn Gal have always considered Vogue to be the fashion victor, far surpassing its glossy competitor Harper’s Bazaar in every way. But now that we’ve read A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters, Penelope Rowlands’ 2005 biography of the legendary editor, we see Hearst’s style bible in an entirely different light. During Snow‘s reign at HB, from 1934 to 1958, it seems that every chic woman of intellect actually turned to Bazaar, hungry for the scoop on the Paris collections and the latest fiction of the day, written by literary lions like Truman Capote. A powerhouse and prognosticator, Snow was the editrix who delivered all of this and so much more. Blessed with sheer talent and uncanny instincts, she was unstoppable, setting her trained eye on a target and never saying no until she got what she wanted.

If the Devil wore Prada, well, the Irish Snow wore Mainbocher, before bridging into Balenciaga with wardrobe changes to Chanel in between. Diana Vreeland’s quirky style, quotable quotes and indelible imprint may be far better known by fashion worshippers today, but in her time Snow, Bazaar‘s  tough, highly influential and oftentimes pickled editor, ruled the roost. Her list of discoveries — yes, Vreeland, along with Avedon, Balenciaga and Pucci — reads like a who’s who of fashion hitmakers, while her work ethic, career first, family second, was more akin to today’s world than hers and not especially laudable in those days.  She had her flaws, for sure, but she also had a vision.

Books, plays and museum exhibits have all placed D.V. on a pedestal and she will never be forgotten. Perhaps there’s room for another mover and shaker on your e-reader. We think the time has come for a Snow revival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Side of Coco

As every style-obsessed woman knows, 2011 was the year of the Chanel biography. Having seen the fashion films Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou as the adorable singer/hatmaker/couturière on the rise, we here at the Brooklyn Gal couldn’t resist jumping on the Coco bandwagon yet again.


At the moment we’re about halfway through Lisa Chaney’s Coco Chanel, An Intimate Life, which seems to grow more intriguing by the chapter. Should we still find ourselves curious about the designer’s dark side, including her alleged Nazi sympathies (quelle horreur how could it be so?), we may even dip our toe into Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie or Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan.

Or perhaps we will just revisit yet another Chanel homage, a lovely novel by Gioia Diliberto
called The Collection about Isabelle Varlet, a wide-eyed seamstress from a tiny town in France who moves to Paris and takes a job in the atelier of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

Blending historical facts with a compelling story, much as she did with her page-turner I Am Madame X, Diliberto takes us on a ride back to the world of high fashion after World War I.  Weaving together characters both real and imagined, she paints a portrait of Mademoiselle Coco that’s ultimately flattering and one of Jean Patou, that’s far less so.  Though a work of fiction, we happen to think it’s essential reading for any fan of fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Iris

There are countless reasons why we here at the Brooklyn Gal adore the European e-commerce site YOOX. For starters, the merchandise mix is unlike that of any other online store, ranging from cult Japanese labels to luxe, ever-unobtainable Italian goods with stratospheric prices. The sweet spot, of course, is the staggering selection of discounted goods, particularly the footwear from boldface and little-known labels, most of which hail from fashion lands abroad. (We have been known to troll the site on many a night in hot pursuit of that killer pair of top-quality, infinitely stylish, well-priced boots sure to work with every item of clothing in our closets. Should such a miracle occur, you may be the first to know…)

But, we digress. The new reason why we love this site is its current editorial and e-commerce homage to interior designer and self-professed clotheshorse Iris Apfel, aptly titled called An Iris Lovefest. Fashionistas have put this wealthy, wildly attired octogenarian on a pedestal for years, and no wonder: all hail the expressive, snowy-haired New Yorker as a style icon unlike any other, a glamorously-garbed wisp renowned for her super-sized specs, more-is-more fashion philosophy and irrepressible joie de vivre. Whatever it is that Iris is drinking, we want a sip; her eye for color and willingness to experiment not only keeps her forever young, it gives rise to creative inspiration for women of all ages.

And so, YOOX gives Iris her due in its New YOOXER magazine, with a photo tribute by Bruce Weber and bon mots from a select group of designers, filmmakers, bloggers and fashion personalities attesting to her fabulous flair and influence. There’s a commercial component, too, of course: an irreverent mélange of merch ready to purchase, ranging from Iris’s own wardrobe selections to items that celebrate her singular vision, including colorful, zany jewelry and imited-edition keepers made with rare and vintage materials.

The YOOX sale may be short-lived, but there is no doubt in our minds that Iris Apfel’s spirit will live on for generations to come.

 

 

Fashion on Fifth

For the past few weeks we’ve made detours to Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets just to peer in the window of Cozbi and check on its progress. To date all we saw were the vague signs of a Park Slope boutique unfolding, namely, a papered-up glass window and the moniker Cozbi stenciled on the front, with the alluring promise of ‘homemade goodness.’

We had heard of Cozbi, of course and knew that the designer behind it, Cozbi A. Cabrera, also ran a cute shop in Carroll Gardens where she sold her Brooklyn-made women’s frocks, children’s clothing and handmade dolls. We always meant to visit her original shop but somehow never made it during business hours.

On a whim we just took another stroll to Fifth and behold: plenty of progress! The window, now unsheathed, features eyelet dress and other summery temptations and beyond, racks of colorful cottony clothing and boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Our guess is that the Slope opening is just days, maybe moments away so we won’t have to travel more than a few blocks to explore Cozbi’s lovely designs firsthand.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

 

 

 

 

 

Brooch, the Subject

Dita Von Teese puts her best foot forward

First things first: we here at the Brooklyn Gal are not necessarily fans of Dita Von Teese, though we do admire her retro moxie, alabaster skin and ink-black tresses. Still, the other day, while we were working out at the gym, we couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of divine Dita on the silent TV screen above.

Ms. DVT sat daintily on the edge of the couch, chatting to her host, Wendy Williams. With the sound turned down, we had no clue what this striptease star was saying, but, never mind, it did not matter one teensy bit because, hello, her gigantic flower-shaped brooch, all glitzy and rhinestone-y (or, dare we say, diamond-encrusted?) radiating against her reddish-pink-clad chest, seemed to do all of the talking.

We happen to own a few pretty pins from way back when, scooped up at flea markets and such, but believe us, we’ve never seen anything quite as head-turning as Dita’s glamorous piece of festoonery.

As it turned out, that little episode was a repeat show from May and Dita, her hair coiffed like a calendar girl from back in the day, her nails and lips painted a rich ruby red, with high-heels to match, was giving Wendy an earful about her love for 1940s lingerie and how she got her start in the va-va-voom business.

We were intrigued. A little bit more research revealed that this vintage vixen does indeed have a penchant for such glittery chestal ornaments from back in the day — her fulsome flower was no fluke. We have to confess, in her own particular way, Ms. DVT is a class act: this girl knows how to turn up the shine factor.

So, do we smell a brooch trend in the air? Well, not exactly. After all, no one else can play pin-up like a true burlesque queen.

 

Vintage Magazine| Troisième Issue| The Eyes Have It: A Purview of Optical Wear by Randi Gollin


A snippet of my eyewear story from the just-published third issue of Vintage Magazine

Serious student, man of mystery — few accessories offer as many possibilities for transformation as that perfect pair of eyeglasses…

Would fans even recognize Woody Allen without his chunky glasses? Would Elvis Costello have made such a new wave splash without those thick black Buddy Holly-esque zyl frames? Would Marcello Mastroianni’s Guido character have been as irresistible to his 8 1/2 harem sans the sunglasses? And what about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? Are any of her other first-lady or Ari-era accoutrements as emulated as those oversized Jackie O. shades?

Eyewear can be such a stamp of the wearer’s personality—famous face or not—that it’s hard to imagine a time when they were more medicinal than fashionable. And yet, during the Industrial Revolution of the mid-1800s, when glasses became less cost-prohibitive, opticians oftentimes took the liberty of filling a patient’s prescription and choosing the patient’s functional frame too—a departure from the 1700s when decorative eyewear was considered yet another form of modish expression.

The early twentieth century brought eye-opening choices aplenty, with long-handled lorgnettes or dainty monocles with silk cords for the style-conscious lady, and gold-framed monocles or tortoise-shell pince-nez styles for sir. Nevertheless, these attempts at nearsighted glamour were oftentimes met with ridicule: staunch traditionalists derided wearers for detracting from their beauty or—heavens!— reveling in their infirmity.

Providentially, some of those iconoclasts who bucked the tide triumphed, including, most famously, silent-film star Harold Lloyd, a comic contemporary of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Lloyd began wearing lens-less horn-rim frames in 1917 as a prop and used them to define his “Glasses” character, one of his most successful screen personas, said to be one of the inspirations for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. And his spectacles even sparked a craze among fans.

To read more, purchase Vintage Magazine! Go to www.vintagezine.com for more details.