It was in the mid 70s when I saw these wooden Dutch shoes. My older siblings had taken me to the Folk Fair in downtown Milwaukee, a kind of ethnic bazaar that continues today. Of course I had to have them. They came unfinished, so my brother Tom added the colorful designs. The heydayof maxi dresses, I remember wearing them to a cousin's wedding with a long cream dress. I wore them to school too, loving the sound they made when jumping rope on the cracked asphalt playground at St. John's. Preferring to look different from everyone else even back then, I don't believe I ever saw another kid wearing such footwear. Now my girls traipse around in them and fill them with little toys. Maybe when they're older, they'll want to wear them out in public too. If so, I'll happily let them.
We won't be going anywhere this upcoming week in April when the girls are out of school. Last year this time we hit Disneyland, which imprinted on their memories an annual entitlement--that or Hawaii, they say to us, with the practiced wiles of fox kittens.
But why would we want to go anywhere when we can't travel like people used to? When travel used to be stylish.
Traveling is an occassion, which deserves some effort and style. When I go away, I dress for comfort as much as individuality, which does not mean sweats or hoodies. Style is not about ease, it is an attitude. It's a way to approach the world on my terms, whether in the dreaded, bullying TSA line at the Phoenix airport or amongst the lackluster, cheaply adorned passengers sitting at the Oxygen Bar in Las Vegas. No matter under what duress, and these days it's nonstop, at least I have my Tod's moccassins to doff when in my coveted aisle seat.
I also like to travel with well-structured, high quality luggage that can hold a choice of ensembles, jewelry and necessary potions, ie those skin creams which are simply unavailable in flyover states and places. Sadly, this luggage gets ruined by airlines. I do not pack light, which is a luxury indeed.
I miss the age of travel from before I was born. When wearing a plaid scarf top from APC did not make you look suspicious, forcing a body patdown. I wish that trains and boats would come back in full force in answer to all the gas-hijacked airline woes. Maybe then I would wear a pair of smart heels and my hand-me-down fur stole with two minx heads when venturing somewhere distant.
Zelda Kaplan exited this world much as she had lived in it for the last four decades or so of her 95 years — as an inimitable fixture on fashion’s front lines and an inveterate clubgoer in Manhattan.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Joanna Mastroianni
Zelda Kaplan at a Fashion Week show on Wednesday, shortly before she collapsed and died.
In June, she danced the night away ather 95th-birthday party at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Last month she was photographed at the reopening of the XL club, surrounded by people a third her age. And only Wednesday she took her customary front-row seat at the fashion show of her friend, the designer Joanna Mastroianni, at Lincoln Center, part ofNew York Fashion Week.
As the show was under way, she collapsed and was carried from the room by security guards. She was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center shortly afterward.
Ms. Kaplan held a colorful place in a layer of New York society made up of flamboyant, surprising and self-invented people — she had been a suburban housewife in another life — who are largely known for being seen. Well into her 90s she was a strikingly dressed regular at nightclubs, fashion shows and parties in Manhattan while living there in a rent-controlled studio apartment.
“When Zelda was in the room, you knew it was an occasion,” said Patrick McDonald, a fellow style-world habitué. “Her lust for life was unbelievable.”
Ms. Kaplan could be readily picked out in a roomful of glitterati. She was the one wearing a giddy composite of oversize glasses, bold African prints and a toque that matched her outfit.
Still, she might have remained largely unknown, a footnote in the story of New York nightlife, but for the release of “Her Name Is Zelda,” a 2003 documentary that introduced her to a national audience on HBO, generated a raft of profiles in newspapers and magazines, and elevated her to a celebrity, if a minor one.
The film, by Nicole Sampogna and Mona Eldaief, charted her transformation from homemaker to social gadabout flitting from party to party, sometimes alone, sometimes with art and fashion world friends like Grace Edwards, a designer who once asked Ms. Kaplan to model in a runway show. The artist Andres Serrano captured her seductively in a photograph.
She almost invariably designed her own wardrobe, buying cloth from local weavers during her frequent humanitarian trips to Africa and Southeast Asia and having it cut to her frame by a New York dressmaker.
“So many Americans want to look like everybody else,” she once said. “I don’t think people should be happy to be a clone.”
On Wednesday, for Ms. Mastroianni’s fashion show, she wore a red-and-black banded version of her habitual toque matched to a dress cut and stitched from a rhythmically striped length of tribal cloth.
“Her life was like an ongoing photo shoot,” the fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone said.
Zelda Berkowitz was born on June 20, 1916, in Flemington, N.J., where her mother had a horse farm. Little more is known about her early years. “I don’t like to talk about my past,” she once said, “because I was so conventional and middle-class. It was boring.”
She married three times, once for 11 months. Her second husband, Samuel Kaplan, a doctor, persuaded her to move to Miami, which she grew to disdain as a cultural desert. Though she had attended (but did not graduate from) South Jersey Law School (now part of Rutgers University), she did not work outside the home, in deference to her husband, she said.
Her survivors include two sisters, Shirley Dworkin and Ruth Berkowitz.
It was not until she and Mr. Kaplan divorced in the late 1960s that Ms. Kaplan moved to New York, finding work as a ballroom dance instructor and as a framer in an art gallery. At parties she would demonstrate the fox trot and other dance standards. “To me the dancing that young people do in the clubs is exercise,” Ms. Kaplan said.
Living largely off her inheritance from the sale of the family horse farm and the proceeds from investments, she developed a passion for indigenous cultures and began traveling to countries like Mali, Ghana and Ethiopia in search of the woodcarvings and fabrics from which she made her designs. She made many trips on behalf of the World Culture Society, an organization she founded and financed.
On her foreign jaunts she would hire a driver to take her from village to village to speak to tribes about the perils of female genital cutting and to lobby for a woman’s right of inheritance. Like her tireless partying, her humanitarian efforts attested in part to an appetite for novelty and adventure.
“I’m a curious person,” she once said. “I want to keep learning until it’s over. And when it’s over, it’s over.”
Lillian Bassman, a magazine art director and fashion photographer who achieved renown in the 1940s and ’50s with high-contrast, dreamy portraits of sylphlike models, then re-emerged in the ’90s as a fine-art photographer after a cache of lost negatives resurfaced, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 94.
Lillian Bassman's “Dovima, New York” (1954, reinterpreted in 1994), from “Lillian Bassman: Women” (Abrams).More Photos »
Her son, Eric Himmel, confirmed the death.
Ms. Bassman entered the world of magazine editing and fashion photography as a protégé of Alexey Brodovitch, the renowned art director of Harper’s Bazaar. In late 1945, when the magazine generated a spinoff called Junior Bazaar, aimed at teenage girls, she was asked to be its art director, a title she shared with Mr. Brodovitch, at his insistence.
In addition to providing innovative graphic design, Ms. Bassman gave prominent display to future photographic stars like Richard Avedon, Robert Frank and Louis Faurer, whose work whetted her appetite to become a photographer herself.
Already, at Harper’s Bazaar, she had begun frequenting the darkroom on her lunch hours to develop images by the great fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, using tissues and gauzes to bring selected areas of a picture into focus and applying bleach to manipulate tone.
“I was interested in developing a method of printing on my own, even before I took photographs,” Ms. Bassman told B&W magazine in 1994. “I wanted everything soft edges and cropped.” She was interested, she said, in “creating a new kind of vision aside from what the camera saw.”
When Avedon went off to photograph fashion collections in Paris in 1947, he lent her his studio and an assistant. She continued her self-education and in short order landed an important account with a lingerie company. In its last issue, in May 1948, Junior Bazaar ran a seven-page portfolio of wedding photographs she had taken, titled “Happily Ever After.”
Ms. Bassman became highly sought after for her expressive portraits of slender, long-necked models advertising lingerie, cosmetics and fabrics. Her lingerie work in particular brought lightness and glamour to an arena previously known for heavy, middle-aged women posing in industrial-strength corsets.
“I had a terrific commercial life,” Ms. Bassman told The New York Times in 1997. “I did everything that could be photographed: children, food, liquor, cigarettes, lingerie, beauty products.”
Lillian Violet Bassman was born on June 15, 1917, in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx. Her parents, Jewish émigrés from Russia, allowed her a bohemian style of life, even letting her move in, at 15, with the man she would later marry, the documentary photographer Paul Himmel.
Ms. Bassman studied fabric design at Textile High School, a vocational school in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. After modeling for artists employed by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project and working as a muralist’s assistant, she took a night course in fashion illustration at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
She soon showed her work to Brodovitch, who was impressed. Waiving tuition, he accepted her into his Design Laboratory at the New School for Social Research, where she changed her emphasis from fashion illustration to graphic design.
Brodovitch took her on as his unpaid apprentice at Harper’s Bazaar in 1941, but desperate to earn money she left to become an assistant to the art director at Elizabeth Arden, whereupon Brodovitch anointed her his first paid assistant. Like her mentor, she was artistically daring. At Junior Bazaar, she experimented with abandon, treating fashion in a bold, graphic style and floating images in space.
“One week we decided that we were going to do all green vegetables, so we had the designers make all green clothing, green lipstick, green hair, green everything,” she told Print magazine in 2006.
Her nonadvertising work appeared frequently in Harper’s Bazaar, and she developed close relationships with a long list of the era’s top models, including Barbara Mullen (her muse), Dovima and Suzy Parker.
The stylistic changes of the 1960s, however, left her cold. The models, too. “I got sick of them,” she told The Times in 2009. “They were becoming superstars. They were not my kind of models. They were dictating rather than taking direction.”
In 1969, disappointed with the photographic profession and her prospects, she destroyed most of her commercial negatives. She put more than 100 editorial negatives in trash bags, putting them aside in her converted carriage house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She soon forgot all about them.
By the mid-1970s, she was out of the fashion world entirely and had begun focusing on her own work, taking large-format Cibachrome photographs of glistening fruits, vegetables and flowers, pictures of cracks in the city streets and distorted male torsos based on photographs in bodybuilding magazines.
It was not until the early 1990s that Martin Harrison, a fashion curator and historian who was staying at her house, found the long-forgotten negatives. He encouraged her to revisit them.
Ms. Bassman took a fresh look at the earlier work. She began reprinting the negatives, applying some of the bleaching techniques and other toning agents with which she had first experimented in the 1940s, creating more abstract, mysterious prints.
“In looking at them I got a little intrigued, and I took them into the darkroom, and I started to do my own thing on them,” she told The Times. “I was able to make my own choices, other than what Brodovitch or the editors had made.”
Her reinterpretations, as she called them, found a new generation of admirers. A full-fledged revival of her career ensued, with gallery shows and international exhibitions, including a joint retrospective at the Deichtorhallen museum in Hamburg with her husband and a series of monographs devoted to her photography.
A one-woman show at the Hamiltons Gallery in London, organized by Mr. Harrison in 1993, was followed by exhibitions at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris and an assignment from The New York Times Magazine to cover the haute couture collections in Paris in 1996. She completed her last fashion assignment for German Vogue in 2004.
Mr. Himmel died in 2009, having abandoned photography in his late 50s to become a psychiatric caregiver in the city’s hospitals and later a psychiatrist in private practice. Besides her son, the editor in chief of Abrams Books, she is survived by a daughter, Liza Himmel, known as Lizzie; two grandchildren; and a step-grandchild.
Ms. Bassman’s work has been published in “Lillian Bassman” (1997) and “Lillian Bassman: Women” (2009). A new book, “Lillian Bassman: Lingerie,” is to be published by Abrams on April 1.
Temporary tattoos from Tattly by the artists (from left) Jessica Hische, Jessi Arrington and Josh Smith.
Have you ever had the desire to get the word “mother” tattooed on your forearm, but were more concerned about it being properly kerned in Helvetica than about how it would make your mother totally freak? Tattly, a new e-shop, features ultra-designy temporary tattoos created by graphic designers and illustrators like Jason Santa Maria, James Victore, Frank Chimero and Jessica Hische.
Tattly was started by Tina Roth Eisenberg (the voice behind the noted design blog SwissMiss), who set out to change the landscape of temporary tattoos after she found herself applying yet another “hideous” clip-art design to her daughter’s arm. “I have this personal rule that when I catch myself complaining about something over and over, I need to either do something about it or let it go,” Eisenberg says. “So I got to work.”
Eisenberg sifted through her Rolodex of favorite creatives, including several from her collaborative work space StudioMates, gave the artists her directive and “let them run with it.”
From the Pantone-chip-inspired skin mark “Tattone,” to apertures, digital cursors and, yes, “mother” set in Helvetica, the tattoos — there are more than 20 — are often as cheeky as they are well designed. “The response has been amazing!” says Eisenberg, who has already received over 1,700 orders. And of course a selection of kid-oriented tattoos is currently in the works.
When you work at a fashion magazine, proffering shopping advice to friends is expected. Of all the inquiries — “Where can I find swim trunks that aren’t baggy?” or “Who makes a good belt?” (Orlebar Brown and Billykirk, respectively) — there’s one item that it seems everyone’s looking for: pants “that fit.” Which is to say, one that’s slim, but not too skinny; that can be worn to work and on the weekends. It’s a tall order but Levi’s just introduced a new style, the Sta-Prest chinos, that meets all the criteria. Available in four colors (khaki, grey, red and moss green), they’re cut like your favorite jeans with a tapered leg, and a sharp, permanent front crease. After seasons of the ubiquitous distressed chinos (sometimes tea-stained, paint-splattered, ripped and shredded), the Levi’s Sta-Prest is a welcome alternative. Take my word for it.
Kim Gordon, a woman who spent the last 30 years crisscrossing the country in a tour bus as the bassist for Sonic Youth, wanted the capsule collection that she designed with the French brand Surface to Air to do two very specific things — mix and match, and fit in the overhead compartment of a bus. “You can’t pack that much for the road, and I’ve always liked the idea of not dressing up for a performance,” she says. Made of basics that all pair easily with each other, the 12-piece collection features cropped neon-tangerine pants (“that’s a good, bright color to wear on stage,” she says), black, brown and snakeskin boots, a soft leather jacket and T-shirts printed with Gordon’s own illustrations. “I like balancing things. I’m a mom, too, you know, but I don’t always want to look just like that,” she says. “It’s the idea of finding things that work and are comfortable, but in which you can still feel like you have an identity.”
The collaboration began when the Surface to Air crew saw Gordon playing a show in a pair of their boots. “In 1991 I was listening to Sonic Youth and in love with Kim’s voice,” says the Surface to Air founder and C.E.O., Jérémie Rozan. “So how do I feel about collaborating with her in 2012? Lucky.”
Having dabbled in fashion before, most famously in the early 1990s with a skate-inspired line called X-Girl (modeled by a young Chloë Sevigny and Sofia Coppola), Gordon knew the drill and started by sending the Paris design team little sketches and photographs of her personal style icons: the French pop singers Catherine Ribeiro and Françoise Hardy. “I’m a sucker for French culture,” she says. Her favorite piece in the collection is a silk tank dress with a digital shattered-glass print. “It’s open with slits down the sides,” she says. “It’s a little narrow and sexy, but you can move your arms around, do what you need to do. Girls are going to like that.” We have no doubt.
Surface to Air x Kim Gordon will be available in all three Surface to Air stores (Paris, New York, São Paulo), as well as at select retailers worldwide this month. Go tosurfacetoair.com.