Monday, April 27, 2015
My hair guru Keith Carpenter and his partner Olivier had a dinner party on Saturday at their beautiful apartment in Brooklyn.
Cinzia Brandi, a gorgeous stylist friend of Keith’s, took a cool-looking photo of one of my newest designs: the barbed-wire, full-finger, hinged ring in 18K yellow gold.
I haven’t gotten the professional photos taken of this and other new designs yet, but you can see an iPhone snap of the hinged ring in its full glory on my company Instagram. By the way, if you don’t follow my business Instagram, you should, because that’s where I give sneak peeks of new designs and alert followers to sales.
Keith’s dinner was actually our second party that night. First, “Aunt” Stacy Lomman and I celebrated Purrkoy the kitten‘s first birthday in his favorite location: the bathroom.
Purrkoy didn’t get to eat the cat-decorated cupcake, but he enjoyed nibbling the candles.
For a gift, I got him his own phone: the iBanana 6, fully loaded with catnip.
You know how at every party there’s one shy guest who hides behind the toilet? At PK’s party, that was his older brother FitzRoy.
Wallflower level: Expert.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
At the end of Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner*, Sawyer referred to one of Jenner’s post-Olympian books, in which he wrote that everyone should have a one-sentence mission statement. Sawyer said Bruce defined his mission statement now as “to provide understanding and tolerance toward people.”
Well, Bruce can pat himself on the back because he did an amazing job of increasing tolerance with tonight’s good-humored, two-hour interview about his transition from male to female.
ABC Breaking US News | US News Videos
I was keeping an eye on Twitter and, of course, there was plenty of the knee-jerk negativity that’s aimed at transgender people. But I was impressed by the number of viewers who said that they were moved to tears by the obvious emotional pain Bruce had suffered, even if they couldn’t relate to his experience. (“I’ve done nothing but apologize for my entire life,” he said at one point.) A lot of those commenters didn’t seem like existing LGBTQ allies, but like people who were feeling a new empathy — developing “an open mind and an open heart,” to use Bruce’s words.
I got choked up at the recorded message from Bruce’s 89-year-old mother, Esther. Esther said she used to think that she couldn’t be any prouder of Bruce than she was in Montreal in 1976, when he won the Olympic gold medal for the decathlon … but now she is even prouder.
I was also moved by the video of that athletic triumph. It showed two of Bruce’s opponents on the ground, writhing in pain from their exertions, while Bruce didn’t just stay on his feet — he ran a damn victory lap. I hope that he feels that fleet and free again, now that he is unburdened of his lifelong secret.
*ABC said that Bruce did ask to be referred to as Bruce and “he” and “him” for this, his last television interview as a man. He didn’t announce what female name he will use.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Just for Throwback Thursday fun, here are three outfits that I wore five years ago this month.
My friend Tina took this photo on a casual night when I bought a pair of crazy vintage sunglasses.
I wore the sunglasses to lunch the next month.
On another April night, I wore a gown by Zang Toi to a party celebrating the first lady of Malaysia, aka Rosmah. On this blog, I described the event, which was hosted by actor Jamie Foxx, as “like a wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, Sweet 16 and quinceanera all rolled up into one.” Little did I know at the time that even more excitement would come in July when a blogger critical of Malaysian politicians and their associates linked to me in a post called “Extended Tales of Debauchery: Jho, Rosmah, Najib.” I was LMAO when I read writer Nathaniel Tan’s disclaimer: “Wendy Brandes is not your typical blogger on Malaysian affairs. I think ‘complete outsider’ would perhaps be apt. I have no way of verifying the veracity of her eyewitness account, but some time researching the internet suggests she is not some fake teller of tales.” How did I find out about Tan’s link to me? When I started getting THOUSANDS of hits from Malaysia.
Finally, to go to an April anniversary party, I wore a lace coat that used to belong to Trudie Styler. Everyone kept trying to take my coat all night, but it was part of my outfit! I wore the same coat to a lunch earlier in the dress, with a different dress, shoes and purse.
This May’s outfit goal: I’ve got to wear that lace coat again!
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
If you’ve read my blog for a long time, you might be familiar with my Sex-ay Pilgrim Dress, but did you know I also have a Sex-ay Military Nurse Dress? The latter is khaki and past knee-length, but with a plunging neckline. I wore it to a dinner party on Saturday.
I got this dress at one of my favorite stores, Bergdorf Goodman. I remember feeling doubtful when I tried it on because it’s not “my” color and it wrinkles with a vengeance, but the more I looked at it in the dressing room, the more I liked it, due to the fit. And MrB liked it a LOT. Due to the fit. But the best thing about this dress is that I wore it when I humiliated myself in front of veteran newscaster Tom Brokaw in 2010 … for a second time.
How lucky am I? Most people don’t get to embarrass themselves in front of Tom Brokaw once!
I suspect the shoes I wore on Saturday are from Prada’s spring 2012 automobile-inspired collection because they have a sort of tail fin in the back. I feel like I’ve had them longer, but until I find photographic evidence, I’m going with the car collection. The ankle straps are attached to the shoes by little leather loops and somehow, before I even got to the restaurant, both the loops snapped! The shoes turned themselves into slides with leather ankle bracelets. Fortunately, they still looked fine and I’m all about the ankle bracelet lately. In fact, I gave my former publicist Eryn the first of my barbed-wire ankle bracelets as a going-away present when she started a new job last month.
Keep an eye on this blog and I’ll tell you when the barbed-wire ankle bracelets (or anklets, if you prefer) are available on my website. I’ll also be introducing my new publicist and right-hand woman, Megan, shortly!
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
I can’t believe that I wrote about Ariana Grande’s signature cat-ear headbands AND her breakup with rapper boyfriend Big Sean yesterday without mentioning Sean’s song “Stay Down.” I was so engrossed in using my stud letter earrings to spell the abbreviation for “I Don’t Fuck With You” — Sean’s hostile ode to a previous ex — that I neglected to point out the way “Stay Down” sings Ariana’s praises:
“I ain’t even gonna lie, I got a million dollar chick
With a billion dollar pussy”
He’s talking about the way she dresses like a kitten all the time, right? RIGHT??!?! Okay, he’s not, but at least a billion dollars is a respectable sum. Ariana and Sean avoided an awkward Dr. Evil underpayment moment there.
Speaking of pussycats and money, my new favorite commercial is the Geico ad where a guy sinking in quicksand begs a cat to fetch help, to no avail.
It looks to me like the cat in question is an Exotic Shorthair like FitzRoy and Purrkoy. Why didn’t one of my kittehs get the call for that job? I don’t need a billion-dollar pussy; I would settle for one worth a hundred grand or something.
If you’d like a $3,800 pussy, check out the 18K-gold FitzRoy earring-jacket-and-stud combo that just went up on my website.
This time, the jackets are shown with emerald cabochon studs, which total two carats. Emerald is May’s birthstone so act fast: I only have one pair in stock!
Monday, April 20, 2015
Petite pop star Ariana Grande and her rapper beau, Big Sean, have split after eight months of dating. In a statement to US Magazine, they said they “remain close friends,” which hopefully means that Sean won’t make Ariana the target of an angry song like his 2014 “I Don’t Fuck With You,” which may — or may not — have been inspired by Sean’s previous gal pal, Glee actress Naya Rivera.
If the Ariana-Sean breakup isn’t really amicable and results in a spiteful song, Ariana might cry and, let me tell you, that’s hard to take. When Ariana cries, it’s like seeing a kitten cry. Like a kitten, she’s tiny and cute … and her enviably perfect cat-eye eyeliner and cat-ear headbands add to the experience.
I saw Ariana cry more than once last month, when I caught her Honeymoon Tour at Madison Square Garden. My gorgeous friend Alyssa had won four tickets from her cable provider, Time Warner, and I don’t say no to a free concert. (Hey, Verizon Fios, what have you done for me lately?!?) I’ve seen performers get very emotional about playing the Garden, especially the first time they are there, but Ariana seemed especially overwhelmed. It was quite touching, though it would have been more so if she had addressed the crowd with some more eloquent term than “you guys.” But Ariana is only 21 and Madison Square Garden IS imposing, so I gave her a pass. I’m sure her 5-to-15-year-old fans weren’t judging at all. That crowd seemed, on average, even younger than the one I experienced at Katy Perry’s Barclays Center show last year, but my friends and I didn’t feel out of place among the teeny-weeny Arianators. We were the same age as all of the mommies!
But forget the baby audience and Ariana’s weeping: My main focus at the concert was the aforementioned cat ears. Ariana has gotten very well known for those cat ears. When she wore them last September for an appearance on Saturday Night Live (Caturday Night Live?), I was entertained by the number of people taking to Twitter to complain about the ears.
It reminded me of the folks complaining during the 2010 Grammys that Lady Gaga dressed too outlandishly. Apparently, celebrity branding is tough to comprehend. I had already felt compelled to address the Gaga costume issue the previous year:
“I noticed a lot of people asking, ‘Why can’t Lady Gaga just dress normally?’ Is that a serious question? I’ll answer it, just in case: Because then she wouldn’t be Lady Gaga. She’d be a schmuck like us, sitting at home dribbling Cheeto dust (or, in my case, Cadbury crumbs) onto our keyboards while posting poorly spelled fashion critiques about more adventurous people who have launched themselves into superstardom.”
“…for music artists, from Freddie Mercury to Madonna, fashion is key to creating an identity and rising to the top in a field that is now, in the Internet Age, even more crowded.”
I’ve observed that in the music industry, when the world at large starts getting irritated or bored by the consistency of a performer’s image … that’s exactly when the performer has won. The brand image has been now been formalized. Fans have an easy way to telegraph their allegiance to their favorite and even non-fans can be forced to acknowledge the person in the costume. You don’t have to be pop-culture obsessed to be familiar with Gaga’s 2010 MTV Video Music Awards meat dress. Hell, it was all over the news. And this was nothing new. Disapproving parents who never listened to Madonna in the 1980s were outraged by her “Boy Toy” belt buckle.
Before Madonna, it was the Beatles and their shockingly long hair. After Madonna (and like her), there was Britney Spears and her abs. It doesn’t matter if the musician or musicians move on to new styles. You can still reference Ziggy Stardust and people will get it, even though David Bowie retired his most memorable persona over 40 years ago.
Obviously, Ariana Grande’s little cat ears haven’t impacted popular culture like anything done by the Beatles, Madonna or Bowie, but they’re doing their job, which is helping her make bank. Not simply by making her recognizable, but by being merchandisable. As soon as I walked into the Garden, I clocked lots of Arianators wearing light-up plastic cat ears, all changing colors simultaneously. I was already thinking, “You see? THAT’S why she keeps wearing the ears” …
… then the show started and I saw the ears blinked in time with the music. Brilliant! Merch that really makes the audience part of the show! As the New York Times reported:
“…throughout the night, the cat ears worn by thousands of girls in the audience — $40 a pop — lit up in time with the music.”
Based on my manufacturing experience, I’m going to guess that the ears cost no more than $5 per unit to make in quantity in Asia. Ariana & Co. might be making as much as $20 on each sale.Thousands of sales at each show, with nearly 80 shows scheduled. Thanks in part to those cat ears, if Big Sean comes up with a new “IDFWU” song, Ariana can — to borrow a line from comedian Ray Romano — “go cry on a bag of money.” Not that money heals a broken heart, of course, but it can pay for a lot of retail therapy while you’re in recovery!
Sunday, April 19, 2015
In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog over the past several weeks.
- Monday, March 30: Somebody please buy me this pink tulle skirt.
- Tuesday, March 31: Karl Lagerfeld, his cat and his mom.
- Wednesday, April 1: RIP, Cynthia Lennon.
- Thursday, April 2: That’s the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it.
- Friday, April 3: A last winter outfit (I hope) with Moschino and McQueen.
- Monday, April 6: Mad Men and gladiator sandals.
- Tuesday, April 7: I love moccasins …
- Thursday, April 9: … and mullets.
- Friday, April 10: My new line of cat jewelry is featured by JCK.
- Sunday, April 12: A dragon ring for Game of Thrones fans.
- Monday, April 13: White hot pantsuits.
- Tuesday, April 14: Same Versace outfit over 11 years.
- Thursday, April 16: All about Papa Kwalwasser.
- Friday, April 17: Boleyn necklaces for Wolf Hall fans.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Are all of you Anne Boleyn/Tudor history fans watching Wolf Hall on Masterpiece on PBS? I saw the excellent theatrical adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, in London last summer. The books and adaptations are about the rise of Thomas Cromwell, who rose from poverty to become adviser to England’s Henry VIII. A planned third book, The Mirror and the Light, will tell of Cromwell’s fall and eventual execution by beheading. I’m #sorrynotsorry I didn’t scream SPOILER ALERT about Cromwell’s death, but Wolf Hall and its sequels are all based on actual events that occurred in the 1500s, so you’ve had centuries to catch up on this ish.
Cromwell engineered Henry’s divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and the king’s marriage to his second wife, Anne Boleyn (Wolf Hall). He then arranged Anne’s removal and execution when Henry fell in love with third-wife-to-be, Jane Seymour (Bring Up the Bodies). The ghost of Anne Boleyn probably had a good laugh when Thomas followed her to the executioner’s block. Adding to her ghostly amusement would be the fact that Cromwell fell out of favor when — after the childbirth-related death of Jane Seymour — he arranged Henry’s politically astute fourth marriage, to Anne of Cleves. When it came to marriage, however, Henry was not a king of his time. He was all about love, not politics, and when Henry decided the new Anne was soooo not hawt and that he needed an annulment, Cromwell paid the price. The king quickly regretted Cromwell’s death, but that was of no help to Cromwell whatsoever. Too bad. Cromwell might have prevented Henry’s disastrous fifth marriage to Katherine Howard, who, like her cousin Anne Boleyn and Cromwell, ultimately lost her head over Henry. (Henry’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr, foolishly caused Henry some real aggravation over her ideas about religion, but lucked out when he died before he could do anything about her.)
I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn and Henry since I was about eight or nine and saw this famous portrait of her with her signature “B” necklace.
One of the earliest designs I did — back in 2006 — was my interpretation of the Boleyn necklace in 18K yellow and rose gold with diamonds.
It’s a big piece — the pendant is 2″ long — so people often comment on it. One question I often get is, “Why are you wearing a ‘B’ when your name is Wendy?”
I’m always like, “WAT?!” In case you’re still wondering, please refer to my last name, which can be seen at the top of this blog. B for Boleyn. B for Brandes. Another amusing question I get is, “Do you do all the letters?” That makes me want to respond like Oprah: “No! You get a B! And you get a B! And YOU get a B! Everyone gets a B!” But I just smile and say, “Of course, I do all the letters!”
A more reasonable question is, “Why isn’t your necklace exactly like the one in the portrait?” The answer is that I like to do my own interpretation of historically inspired pieces. I feel that exact copies are best for museum gift shops. Also, I think the necklace in the portrait is kind of clumsy. We’ve developed a lot of new jewelry-making techniques since Anne’s time, and I took advantage of those to make a more refined design.
The 2″ long, 18K-gold-and-diamond necklace on a heavy chain is obviously an investment piece, retailing at over $10,000. But I couldn’t bear for any Boleynites to be deprived of a necklace (“You get a Boleyn necklace! And you get a Boleyn necklace!”) so, in 2008, I introduced a silver version without diamonds, priced these days at $660.
In honor of Wolf Hall, my 2008 Boleyn necklace in silver is the April 2015 Jewel of the Month.
A customer once ordered her Boleyn necklace for her wedding day. That’s some interesting symbolism!
If you just want to read about Anne Boleyn and the other first four wives of Henry VIII, I’ve got that too. (I swear, someday I’ll get to the last two. It’s just taking me … years.)
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007)
- Katherine of Aragon (2007)
- Introduction to Anne Boleyn (2007)
- Anne Boleyn Continued (2007)
- More Anne Boleyn (2007)
- Jane Seymour (2007)
- Proving Anne of Cleves was a damn genius (2007)
You can also see how I’ve dressed as Anne Boleyn — post-beheading. I’ve been painted as Anne Boleyn. I’ve visited her childhood home. The late, great Henry the dog was named after Henry VIII. FitzRoy the cat is named after Henry FitzRoy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. Purrkoy the cat is named after Anne Boleyn’s dog, Purkoy (the pooch features in the first episode of Wolf Hall.) Basically, if Anne Boleyn were still around, she’d be getting a restraining order against my ass. I “Stan” for Anne Boleyn!
Thursday, April 16, 2015
My mother’s father’s name was Sam Kay, but his three grandchildren knew him as Papa. During World War II — decades before he became Papa — he was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Texas. These photos were taken in 1942 or ’43.
He’d married my grandmother Ruth — aka Nan — not long before the draft.
Nan was able to visit Papa at Camp Hulen, formerly known as Camp Palacios, in Texas. Papa was armed and not-too-dangerous-looking. He had a killer smile, though!
Apparently, it wasn’t all war games at Camp Hulen.
My grandmother, who died last year, was always quick to tell you what she thought. She never held back, as you can tell from her caption on this next army photo. It says, “Fatso, no?”
Luckily, he was never sent overseas.
Papa was born on May 18, 1919, in New York City. His original last name was Kwalwasser. He changed it to Kay in the late 1940s when his first daughter — my gorgeous mother, BarbaraB – started kindergarten and kids made fun of her last name. “People didn’t want to have Jewish/foreign names,” BarbaraB says. They wanted to fit in. To help his daughter fit in, Papa got her a new last name. (Meanwhile, when I wanted a cheap-ass Swatch watch to fit in when I was in school, did anyone buy me one?! I’m JUST SAYING, BarbaraB!) Papa would be amazed at the first names a lot of kids have these days. We’ve got everything from Apple to Zelig. Humph! Now I wish I had a kid just so I could have named him/her Kwalwasser Brandes.
Papa was a cigar smoker who had his first heart attack in the 1970s. He had another one in 1983. He was in the hospital for treatment when an aneurysm in the wall of his heart burst. He died from the aneurysm (rather than the heart attack as I previously said here) on Dec. 2, 1983, aged 64. It was three weeks before my 16th birthday on December 23. As I’ve written before, he insisted on giving me my birthday gift — a gold bangle — early. BarbaraB believes Papa did that because he had a feeling that he wouldn’t make it home.
You can’t see it in the photo above, but the bangle is engraved with the date on which he originally planned to give it to me: 12/23/83. I don’t think I’d had the bracelet very long when I dented it by hitting it against the corner of a desk in my high-school science class. I was devastated.
Now I like the dent. It’s part of the history of the bracelet. I often stack my Sweet-16 bracelet with the diamond bangles I designed myself and a Tiffany bracelet MrB gave me before I became a jewelry designer.
Every time I wear this bracelet, I think of Papa giving me that early birthday gift.
By the way, because I mentioned that Papa smoked cigars that likely contributed to his heart problems, I feel I should note that Nan smoked cigarettes for decades but lived to be 95 years old. She always was an exceptional lady!