Monday, August 31, 2015
The last time I gave out one of my coveted awards was in May for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala. Before that, I had declared that the Best Dressed/Wear What You Want honor would go to an event attendee who was dressed beautifully and interestingly, but, at the time of the Met gala, it dawned on me that conventional attractiveness in dress wasn’t mandatory. “It’s more important to be eye-catching,” I wrote.
Typical awards shows are too staid for my taste, but there is always a lot of “eye-catching” at the VMAs. This year’s red carpet was particularly lively. The tweet that best summed up the fashion vibe was this.
I mean, there was a lot of craziness going on, starting with every single thing that show host Miley Cyrus wore.
But Miley’s most striking look was her expression of shock when Nicki Minaj ended an acceptance speech for the Best Hip Hop Video award by calling out Miley for her recent whitesplaining in the New York Times. “Back to this bitch, that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” said Nicki, with a look that nearly turned home viewers to stone. Miley wasn’t expecting that (MTV says this was not scripted).
That’s something one doesn’t see often enough at award shows! Later, Kanye West tried to win back his VMA STUNT QUEEN crown (to borrow a term from the highlarious Michael K of Dlisted) by saying he’d run for president in 2020 but … sorry, Kanye. That was no “Imma let you finish” moment. The ladies beat you this time in the newsworthiness department. Oh, and Nicki was totally right to do it too.
I’m always a big fan of the mullet dress (and hairstyle) and this is the ultimate mullet. (It’s also the inverse of Jennifer Lopez’s famous 2000 Grammys bodysuit/gown by Versace, with the bare skin at the bottom rather than the top.) Gigi’s deep tan and tawny hair reinforce the mustard color of the gown. I just want to slap her on a hot dog and eat her up, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Runner-up is FKA twigs. She knows how to work a strappy look and this sheer number is quintessential Versace.
I must admit that it was a challenge for me to focus on the Best Dressed element of my selection process when I was so intrigued by the literal statement outfits worn by friends Amber Rose and Blac Chyna, designed to to fire back at haters and slut-shamers.
The women became known through their relationships with rappers. Amber Rose dated Kanye West from 2008 to 2010, and married Wiz Khalifa in 2013. (They have a son; they’ve also filed for divorce.) Blac Chyna has a son with rapper Tyga, who had a hit with “Rack City” in 2012, but whose bigger claim to fame is that he left Chyna for the then-underage Kylie Jenner.
Both Amber and Blac Chyna have gotten a lot of abuse for working as strippers, so, Chyna explained, “We basically wanted to paint a picture of what everybody already says about us.” Talking to Kelly Osbourne on the red carpet, Amber added, “”They call us sluts and whores all the time, so we just embrace it.”
This gave me a flashback to the 1990s, when Courtney Love wrote on her body with lipstick.
I loved Courtney’s whole “kinderwhore” style.
Once I started looking for Courtney photos, I couldn’t stop. I was literally up till dawn scrolling through pictures of Courtney and rereading her interviews. Even though I find some of Courtney’s behavior intolerable, there’s no denying her talent as a musician. I still think 1994’s Live Through This, by her group Hole, is a perfect album. Not one bad song on it.
Like Amber Rose, Blac Chyna and someone I know personally (ahem! me), Courtney has often been viewed as an appendage to a man — in this case, Courtney’s late husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. People have gone as far as suggesting that Kurt wrote the very female-centric songs on Live Through This. To me, that makes as much sense as saying this.
For me, no other musical performer has embodied female anger and power on stage, with a guitar, quite like Courtney Love. When someone called her the “female Jim Morrison,” she declared she wasn’t the female version of anything: She was her own breed of rock star. I agree.
Offstage, Courtney knows all about creating a good VMAs moment. Basically, if you feel an overwhelming urge to throw your makeup at Madonna .. go with it, girl.
In Madonna’s 1991 Truth or Dare documentary, her then-boyfriend Warren Beatty said, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk. There’s nothing to say off-camera. Why would you say something if it’s off-camera? What point is there existing?” Four years later, Courtney Love succeeded in driving Madonna away from the camera. Behold, the power and craziness of Courtney Love!
Friday, August 28, 2015
MrB and I went to a wedding at Saybrook Point Inn and Spa in Connecticut last weekend. The ceremony was outside on the marina.
I was amused to see that people on a neighboring boat couldn’t take their eyes off the scene. They even got an early glimpse of the bride.
Wedding at a marina… People from a neighboring boat get an early glimpse of the bride #waterfront #wedding #ct #boats #blueskies #pretty #peekaboo A photo posted by Wendy Brandes (@wendybrandes) on
I never got around to taking an outfit photo against the beautiful scenery. When we got back to our room, I couldn’t find a good background. I also didn’t want to drag myself back outside. So I took inspiration from Carol Burnett’s parody of Gone With the Wind. Obviously, I didn’t whip up a curtain dress on the spot, but, like Carol said, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it.”
I think this is one of my better poses.
If only Harvey Korman had been there to see me!
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Has anyone been experiencing blog problems after updating to WordPress 4.3? I have, plus — adding insult to injury — I often get an error page instead of the READ THIS FIRST WordPress 4.3 Master List for troubleshooting. If you do manage to get to that page successfully, take screenshots for yourself, because it might not be accessible five minutes later.
Right after updating WordPress last week, I saw the White Screen of Death instead of my blog. I was completely out of my mind for the 20 minutes it took me to realize that there was a way to disable troublesome plug-ins even when one can’t access the normal admin page. Now I’m suddenly having trouble with photos. They keep aligning left instead of staying centered, and the photo captions seem to be in business for themselves, showing up willy-nilly, if they bother to show up at all. Let me know if you have experienced the same thing or know of any solutions.
Because wrestling with photos has worn me out and it is designer Tom Ford’s 54th birthday today, I’m going to do an easy Throwback Thursday and direct you to a 2009 post I did about insomnia, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, good and bad nudity, and a real call I made to 911. As I said on Facebook, this might have been my best post ever. Perhaps I should have called it quits after this one and gone out in a blaze of glory. At least, if I had retired then, I would never have encountered WordPress 4.3!
Happy birthday, Tom Ford!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Here’s a tweet for history buffs. I keep looking at it to have a laugh. Click the image to go to the source and see the funny illustrations.
I’m really upset that I’ve never visited the cat bakery before!
I’ve also found a replacement for the many now-defunct “royal” Twitter accounts I followed in 2010. Henry VIII himself is sharing his thoughts on making heirs and eating cake here. Judging from this to-do list, it’s good to be king.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Sometimes, you look at a magazine cover and just think …
That’s how a number of people reacted when they saw the September cover of the new Spanish Vogue, featuring Penelope Cruz. Seriously, the magazine didn’t do her justice.
But I’ve been pondering the matter of the totally inexplicable magazine cover since last month when I was discussing the Doors with a friend at dinner. I was reminiscing about the huge resurgence in interest in the late Jim Morrison triggered by the 1980 biography No One Here Gets Out Alive and its super-attractive cover photo.
My friend and I recited the famous cover line from the September 1981 issue of Rolling Stone: “He’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead.” Then I was like, “Wait a minute! Did we get that right? I better check.” I looked it up on my phone and we had, indeed, gotten the line right.
But, as my friend pointed out, what’s up with the photo the magazine used? Compared to the book cover, the magazine’s choice looks more like a driver’s license photo. Jim still looks good but a little more oomph would have gone well with the “hot, sexy, dead” line, right?
I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS!!
SOMEONE TELL ME HOW THIS HAPPENED!!!
By the way, the most frequently visited post on my blog is related to the Doors. I wrote it because of the 2014 death of the mother of Jim’s late girlfriend Pamela Courson. I’ve never been able to track the source of the surprising amount of traffic, which comes from all over the world, every day. My dinner companion suggested that a link to it wound up on a forum somewhere. That seems possible. Anyway, if you’re visiting because of that post, please tell me how you found it. I’m dying to know!
Monday, August 24, 2015
I spent 10 years in business journalism, and the gyrations of the stock market are more than enough to bring back the memories, thank you very much. I wouldn’t normally seek out a movie related to the post-housing-bubble foreclosure crisis, but I’m glad MrB and I caught a screening of 99 Homes last week. I was on the edge of my seat!
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) plays Dennis Nash, a construction worker living with his mother (Laura Dern) and his young son. Of course, when the housing market collapsed, so did the construction business. Out of work and out of money, Nash and his family are evicted from their home by men from the local sheriff’s office, who are supervised by gun-toting real-estate agent Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). Carver is a great villain, making bank off ordinary folks’ misery — buying and selling foreclosed homes as well as running various scams on government agencies — while sucking violently on e-cigarettes. (In Shannon’s hands, the e-cigs look nearly as threatening as the cattle gun wielded by hitman Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.) Desperate, Nash winds up going to work for Carver and getting sucked into his “steal or be stolen from” lifestyle. The movie ends on an intriguingly ambiguous note and, in a Q&A session after the movie, director Ramin Bahrani said he wasn’t going to clarify the final scene for us. He said he wanted us to debate it, and we all had a great time doing that on our way to a post-screening dinner.
During the short walk to dinner, we bumped into another screening guest who was MrB’s neighbor back in the day: gorgeous actress Tovah Feldshuh. MrB told Tovah that she has been a fixture in our living room lately, because we’ve seen a number of episodes of the original Law & Order in which she played defense attorney Danielle Melnick. He added that she was a great sparring partner for the character of ADA Jack McCoy, played by my beloved Sam Waterston.
Tovah said, “Oh, like when I say, ‘REALLY, JACK?!’” I screamed to MrB, “Oh my God! We just heard her say it LIVE!!”
I had to ask Tovah for a photo to go with my Sam Waterston photo.
Tovah is now on The Walking Dead, playing Deanna Monroe, the pre-apocalypse Congresswoman/post-apocalypse Leader of the Alexandria Safe-Zone. I’ve never really gotten into The Walking Dead, but I need to make it my new favorite show stat, now that I’ve been impressed by all the weapons training Tovah has had for her role.
I was feeling under the weather that night and almost didn’t go out. I’m so glad I made it! Here’s what I wore.
My sequinned t-shirt got a lot of compliments that night. It’s by the same manufacturer as the faulty feathered top that I also got from Patricia Field in July, but it seems to be better made. So far, I haven’t collected an envelope full of sequins to go with my envelope full of feathers.
Friday, August 21, 2015
I’ve been meaning to recommend the story of Clemantine Wamariya for a long time. “Everything Is Yours, Everything Is Not Yours,” written by Clemantine with Elizabeth Weil, is best described by its own introduction:
“At age six, I ran away with my sister to escape the Rwandan massacre. We spent seven years as refugees. What do you want me to do about it? Cry?”
The sister, Claire, is only nine years older than Clemantine. What she did to enable them to survive is extraordinary. I was particularly struck by her reaction to one of better refugee camps they sheltered in: “… Claire felt staying in a good camp was even worse than staying in a bad one — what if we started to think this life was okay?”
Thursday, August 20, 2015
I feel like the big jewelry trade shows in Las Vegas were just yesterday, but they were the end of May/beginning of June. I always have a great time with my Vegas Gems — a group of female jewelry professionals who bonded through social media. Gorgeous jewelry designer/blogger Shamila Jiwa is our organizer, and gorgeous Barbara Palumbo of Adornmentality is our most thorough chronicler.
Barbara has been writing an epic series of blog posts about Vegas, and the newly published Part Five covers the Gems’ dinner. She described our entire cast of characters in her typically hilarious way. Read my bio as written by Barbara, and you’ll want to read everything else she’s written too. The emphasis here is mine:
“Writer turned designer (yet still a writer) turned duckface maker, Wendy Brandes, adds a unique layer of fabulousness to our group gatherings. Always dressed in something remarkable, up to and including her beautiful jewels, Wendy’s stories of rap concerts, famous people, kinky couples, and Paul McCartney have us transfixed in amazement and green with envy. When she gets going, it’s as if someone mentioned ‘bomb’ on an airplane, as in, no one makes a sound, clenching their butt cheeks, waiting for the bass to drop. I adore you, WB. May we never not duckface together ever.”
OMG! Barbara! You’re too much. I’m still trying to think of which famous people and kinky couples I know, but whatever/whoever I was talking about in Vegas stayed in Vegas! At least I remember that I’ve been to rap concerts and have an imaginary relationship with Paul McCartney, so I’m not totally senile. For more funny writing about the jewelry industry, click here for Barbara’s post. I’m off to put “duckface maker” on my business card.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
I’m always thinking that I’ve got to clear out my thousands of old emails, but they came in handy today when Rob called me to find out how my 2013 experience with Amazon went. Obviously, I knew off the top of my head that it was a minor disaster, but it was strangely entertaining to see exactly how it went down, starting with the “cold-call” type of email; an explanation of the advantages; the rush to get online before they “closed the opportunity to new jewelry sellers”; and the “Professional Merchant account,” which was “only $39.99 a month.” If an item sold, Amazon would take a referral fee.
The Amazon rep said my jewelry would be presented to its “nearly 200 million active customers” in a way that would show off my brand:
“… you will get an about us page as well where people can see your logo, and learn more about the designer. You also are able to control your own storefront from images to messaging.”
The rep elaborated:
“We also do everything we can to enhance your visibility and brand image. As I mentioned before, we give you the about us page to tell all of our Amazon customers who you are. We allow just about everything besides a direct link to your website. Images, about the designer, why your Jewelry is so great, etc. We want to increase your visibility as much as possible along with your sales.”
I would also be a part of a larger effort to make Amazon stylish. As my publicist later emailed me:
“The entire premise of getting on Amazon was to be on Amazon Fashion. He even demo’d the site with us on the phone …”
Here’s the type of thing that we expected to be a (small) part of: The Amazon Fashion promotion that I see right now on Amazon’s homepage.
I still procrastinated when I saw the paperwork that needed to be done to become a seller, but I finally decided to give it a shot with my emoji jewelry line. Those designs are moderately priced compared to my one-of-a-kind wearable-art pieces, and if I could sell a larger quantity of the emojis, I could move their manufacture overseas and get my costs — and prices — down further. But after I paid Amazon and uploaded the jewelry via a ginormous spreadsheet, my publicist and I were confused about how to access and create the “About Us” page or “Storefront,” as it was once called. I emailed my poor publicist:
“Okay, with Amazon, I still can’t understand where my ‘storefront’ is…where does my About info appear? I added my profile more than 24 hours ago and when I click on my name, I just go to a boring list of my products. I guess my minuscule logo will appear on that page shortly. So I need an explanation of how anyone browsing jewelry or searching directly for emoji, say, would find out anything about my brand. I’ve searched for it all different ways — for other designers too — and I can’t find anything, which says to me it’s not obvious.”
Ultimately, we discovered there wasn’t going to be a beautiful “About” page or storefront, nor would I be involved in Amazon Fashion. The customers – if they found my products — would see a list of search results same as they would if shopping for books, gym shorts or — as I mentioned to Rob of JCK — cat food. I asked around and found another small jewelry company, like mine, that had tried Amazon, to see if I was doing anything wrong. I admitted, “I’ve only had five sales in a couple of months,” and the designer was impressed because he had had none.
My publicist bugged the Amazon rep, who replied:
“The Jewelry Category manager is who we need to speak with here. However, it seems like a great solution to all of her problems below would be something called Fulfillment by Amazon. Amazon houses these Items for her, ships them, gives the customers free two day shipping, and would have Wendy showing up MUCH higher in all search results. Prime would be fantastic for her, and also start to prove she is a great seller for our category manager. This is also beneficial because it shows Wendy as the seller, and Amazon as the company who is shipping it. The pricing is very comparable as well. Does that make sense?
Regarding the category manager, I do know where you and Wendy would like to be. And I also would love to see you there next to all of the featured brands. Everything we are doing right now are steps to get there, and steps to have an argument to support you guys. Your website is highly ranked, her Jewelry is popular, and if you guys are getting sales and using Amazon Prime/FBA then I would have a great argument!”
“Fulfillment by Amazon” sounded a lot like “consignment” to us. The inventory would be out of my hands and I’d be paid if it sold. As for being a part of the featured brands, my publicist interpreted it as, “… he’s saying that to become ‘attractive’ to the the Amazon Fashion team you have to sell more and the only way THEY promote you is through their search terms and algorithms. It’s a big catch-22/BS deal that I don’t think is worth exploring for much longer …”
I got the pitch in April and was out by August! There was too much labor; too few sales; it was too difficult to get in touch with with a rep; and, most of all, my publicist and I both felt there had been a bait-and-switch about how my brand would be represented. (Big props to my diligent former publicist for putting many of the emails into one big reference document; I’m not naming her in case she has to work with these folks again!)
Now, however, I feel like I didn’t express myself quite right today when I told Rob of JCK, “Who wants to buy jewelry in the place where you buy your cat food?” JCK is for the trade, describing itself on its website as “a one-stop resource for everything retailers, manufacturers, designers, and other industry insiders need to know about the fine jewelry business now.” When I speak to JCK, I’m always speaking to other people in the business, not customers, so I really should have said, “Who wants to sell jewelry in the place where you buy your cat food?” That’s a question that a small, prestige brand like mine needs to consider before doing anything like this. It’s totally cool for you customers to buy jewelry wherever you like if you’re looking for low prices! I’ve personally sent people to Walmart for cheap diamond studs. And if you happen to go to Walmart to pick up some earrings because of my recommendation, will you let me know if they carry Science Diet dry food for adult indoor cats? I’m shopping around for the best price on the 17.5-lb bag.