Monday, March 3, 2014
I have done five Oscar-related posts since Friday. In case you missed anything, here’s a list, from oldest to newest.
- Friday: Big companies pay to put jewelry on the red carpet.
- Saturday: Dressing like a mermaid for the Weinstein Co.’s pre-Oscar party.
- Sunday: My choices for best dressed at the Oscars. Plus, Grammy-nominated singer Skylar Grey wears my latest Maneater ring to Elton John’s party (and, no, I didn’t pay her!).
- Monday: What I wore to the Vanity Fair party: Zang Toi for Fall 2013.
UPDATED TO ADD: I have JUST realized that my almost-husband Paul McCartney was at the Vanity Fair party last night and I DID NOT SEE HIM. I can’t cope. Calgon, take me away!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Every year, the Vanity Fair Oscar party is the Best!Party!Ever! Last night was no exception. We walked in right behind Paula Patton, who is quite tall and looked RADIANT without that up-to-no-good Robin Thicke by her side. I couldn’t get over her perfect skin.
Paula, Glenn Close, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck all had their turn in front of the cameras after Lady Gaga finished striking dramatic poses for the screaming photographers. (When it was Paula’s moment, I was standing immediately to the right of the person who took this picture.) I swear, I don’t know how the celebrities deal with all the flashing and yelling. I was nervous just standing there! I’m much more comfortable in a photo booth. MrB and I spotted one as soon as we got in the door and hopped right in.
After the photo booth, MrB went to fetch us Champagne. Standing alone for a moment, I heard a strangely familiar laugh and turned my head to see a jolly Kelsey Grammer greeting two men. Thanks to all those middle-of-the-night viewings of Frasier reruns, Kelsey’s voice was as recognizable to me as a relative’s would be. MrB came back with the drinks in time for me to mutter to him, “That’s Kerry Washington behind me.” She’s so petite! Somehow, I always thought she was tall but she looked to be about my height — 5’4″. She declined an offer of food from someone, exclaiming, “I had so much pizza!”
We meandered into another room to thank Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter for inviting us. After hand shakes and kisses were exchanged, I realized we were “THISCLOSE” to Gaga. She was chatting with a couple of people, but there was no crowd around her, so we waited for her to wrap up her conversation. I was preparing to tell her how much I liked her concerts when her new BFF Donatella Versace swooped in and led Gaga away by the hand. Alas! To console myself, I gawked at musician David Grohl and his gorgeous pregnant wife greeting Pink, while MrB pointed out Neil Patrick Harris to me by saying, “Look! David Spade.” One of my favorite ’90s models, Helena Christensen, was there, as were Adrien Brody and Larry David. For a while, we watched Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips shake hands with a parade of well-wishers while he was trying to have a smoke outside. I don’t know if he was smoking these Vanity Fair cigarettes or his own.
Tiny Kristin Chenoweth — at 4’11, she makes me and Kerry Washington look like giants — danced enthusiastically to “Le Freak” during the DJ’s extensive disco set. Spike Lee and Samuel Jackson were there. So was producer Harvey Weinstein, whom we thanked again for the previous night’s party. I desperately tried to direct MrB’s attention to Stevie Nicks, who was in conversation with Bette Midler. Bill Murray danced by on his way to the bar and by the time he passed, Stevie was posing for photos with Jared Leto, his Oscar and his family. (MrB, finally noticing Stevie, said, “Well, she’s not talking to Bette Midler.” I was like, “No, that was five minutes and one Bill Murray ago!”) After Bill Murray danced back from the bar, we strolled to the other side of the room, where we spotted Jonah Hill orbiting Leonardo DiCaprio. Back in 1994, when I used to hang out in clubs with my DJ friend, Leonardo was a skinny 19-year-old who would dance while watching his reflection in the one-way glass of the DJ booth. Whenever I see grown-up Leo, I still envision that kid.
Amy Poehler took a turn schmoozing Bette Midler for a bit, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler clowned with two medal-wearing Sochi Olympians, and Bono strolled by in his trademark shades. Rosario Dawson asked for a photo with the husband-and-wife duo who won Best Original Song for “Let It Go.” We somehow missed Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey and Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett, but we did get to be up-close-and-personal with the awardee I was most interested in: Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o, who looks even more gorgeous — and much more delicate — in real life. MrB congratulated her on her win, and floated up to cloud 9 after she thanked him and beamed a smile in his direction.
I wore the purple velvet trench gown from my designing friend Zang Toi’s Fall 2013 collection.
What Wendy Wore
Dress: Zang Toi (2014)
Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti (MrB picked these out for me this weekend!)
Hair and makeup: Stephanie Daniel
Of course, I wore my own jewelry designs: three earrings, three necklaces, four rings and twelve bracelets.
MrB didn’t go wild with his tux like some actors did last night, but he did wear his gold bow tie.
That happy smile faded from my face right before bed, when I took everything out of my purse and realized I’d lost my driver’s license at the party. Luckily, pet-sitting friend Stacy Lomman is FedEx-ing my passport so I can get on a plane home tomorrow. I probably wasn’t in as bad a mood as the unknown person who lost a little something in 2012. As I wrote here, we went for a last drink after the Vanity Fair party and, while I was talking animatedly to MrB, a little white OB tampon flew out of my clutch (really, I normally don’t have so much trouble with clutches!). I pounced on it … then I saw another and pounced on that one too. The second tampon turned out not to be a tampon at all, and it certainly wasn’t mine. I found this little baggie snuggled up next to my lipstick the next morning.
I innocently asked MrB,”What do you think this is?” … and ran to flush it down the toilet when he confirmed my suspicions. What can I say? I’d only seen things like this in the movies!
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I’ve been keeping the newest design from my signature Wendy Brandes luxury line under wraps for a long time, but, now that it’s romping around Elton John’s Oscar party, it’s time for y’all to have a look. Actress Leven Rambin Instagrammed this photo of my bull and bullfighter Maneater ring.
Leven spotted the ring on the hand of gorgeous singer Skylar Grey (whose song, “Coming Home,” is the one you were hearing in all those ads for Resurrection during the Oscar broadcast). Skylar wore the black-diamond ring with a stunning black gown by Galia Lahav. See her full outfit on the Skylar Grey News site.
More and higher-res photos of the bull and bullfighter ring will be coming soon. In the meantime, you can read about the concept behind my Maneater ring series in this 2013 (pre-bull-ring) blog post by JCK’s senior editor Jennifer Heebner.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
The men are killing it again! At the Grammys, the dudes outdid the ladies when it came to adventurous fashion, and they repeated their achievement at tonight’s Oscars. Tuxedos are getting lively! I liked the blue tuxes worn by Kevin Spacey and Jason Sudeikis, and the burgundy one worn by Michael Strahan. E! red carpet host Ryan Seacrest wore a white tux jacket, as did Best Supporting Actor winner Jared Leto and nominee (at the time I’m writing this, he’s still a nominee) Matthew McConaughey. Outrageous former figure skater Johnny Weir wore head-to-toe white — are those jeggings? — with sparkling silver shoes.
But the winner of my prestigious Best Dressed/Wear What You Want combo award is Pharrell, making him a two-time winner. His Vivienne Westwood hat stole the show at the Grammys, and tonight his tuxedo shorts made the kind of controversial fashion statement that earns my approval.
Runner-up is Jared Leto, who stood out from the other white-jacketed fellows with his red tie and flowing hair.
My more traditional best-dressed pick — without the “wear what you want” touch of crazy required for my combo award — is lovely Lupita Nyong’o, aka Jared Leto’s future ex-wife. Her light-blue Prada gown was beautiful and I liked her nontraditional jewelry, including her gold-and-diamond headband.
She was so poised during her red-carpet interview. I am hoping she wins her category; I’m sure she’ll give a great acceptance speech.
Less poised on the red carpet was Jennifer Lawrence, who tripped over a cone. I swear, if that girl falls one more time, I’m going to insist that she get screened for a neurological problem!
For lots of Oscar looks in one mega post, check out Mashable.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
The last time I wore the mermaid outfit by my designing friend Zang Toi, the weather in New York City was monsoon-like. Now, in Los Angeles, the weather is … monsoon-like.
MrB said cheerfully, “At least you’re dressed to swim home!” Indeed I am!
I just have to hope the water isn’t too cold because I don’t have a lot of coverage.
And now we’re off to see the Weinsteins!
UPDATED TO ADD: Here are three of the five rings I wore …
… and here I am with MrB.
Friday, February 28, 2014
In my paean to Elizabeth Taylor’s relationship with jewelry, written after the star’s death in 2011, I mentioned that celebrities today are sometimes paid to wear jewelry, unlike Dame Elizabeth, who owned her own diamonds.
March’s Vanity Fair — the Hollywood issue — has more information on the price of red-carpet representation. Here is a passage from the Vanessa Grigoriadis story on stylists called “Slaves of the Red Carpet”:
In other words, don’t expect to see any Wendy Brandes jewelry right outside the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) before the Oscars this Sunday night!
After that, it was reassuring to read in the New York Times yesterday that jewelry designers who are smaller but relatively high-profile also see themselves at a disadvantage compared to establishment jewelers such as Cartier, Bulgari, and Van Cleef & Arpels. In any business, it’s always tempting to look at what someone else has and think, “They have it made.” In reality, that person — who could be the client of a top-notch publicist, or the winner of a CFDA award (fashion’s Oscars), or heavily promoted by Barneys for a decade — still can’t write the fat check that would guarantee visibility. Even designer Jennifer Meyer, the daughter of NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer and wife of actor Tobey Maguire, can’t compete that way. The Times quoted her:
“I’m a small company,” Ms. Meyer said. “I can’t pay someone to wear my jewelry, or pay $10,000 to their favorite charity.”
Without the ability to commit a philanthropic act in order to convince an actress to wear a necklace or earrings (does that kind of demand seem to fly in the face of the concept of charity, or what?), Meyer “takes a more circuitous route, forging ‘girlfriend’ relationships with a handful of power stylists,” the Times said.
Of course, some girlfriends are better than others. Designer Irene Neuwirth said that one top stylist recently asked to be given a $40,000 piece of jewelry. I don’t know what’s funnier: the stylist asking for something that extravagant from Neuwirth, or the B-list celebrity who asked me for a piece worth a mere — comparatively speaking! — $750. One was aiming for the moon, the other was saying, “I’m not opening my wallet for anything.” The latter reminded me of my friend, “Mrs. Moneybanks,” whom I wrote about here:
“Years ago, my wealthy American friend — let’s call her Mrs. Moneybanks — suggested a tricky way I could save money on a purchase and, to encourage me, said, ‘That’s what I would do!’ I said, ‘But Mrs. Moneybanks! You wouldn’t have to do that. You’re rich!’ She retorted, ‘How do you think I got so rich?’”
You can read the whole New York Times story here. If the direct link doesn’t work for you because you don’t have a subscription, try getting in the “side door” by searching for “boldface gems for oscar night.”
Thursday, February 27, 2014
I wrote about Eurythmics member Dave Stewart in 2007, mentioning that I’d interviewed him in the mid-’90s. During the photo shoot for the story, we — Dave, me, the crew — got thrown out of a hotel ladies’ room. This week, I stumbled across the Daily News item that ran after the bathroom “scandal.”
Next to the Newsday clip, I found a pass from Feb. 15, 1995, concert by Courtney Love’s band Hole, which apparently took place at Roseland.
I know that I saw Courtney at Roseland four years later, in 1999, as I mentioned in this 2010 post. I was working at People.com then, and a bunch of us had gotten tickets to David Letterman’s show, thanks to a last-minute call from a Letterman employee looking to fill some empty seats. At the show, Letterman announced Courtney Love was performing the next day and I was soooo disappointed we were there one day early. Roseland was right across the street from Letterman’s studio and, when we walked out of the taping, I saw the lines and realized Courtney was playing there that night. Being from People magazine, I managed to talk myself in at the press check-in and had an amazing time. As I recall, I was supposed to meet MrB that night. (He wasn’t MrB then, just a boyfriend.) Neither of us had cell phones and I tried calling him from a payphone, but eventually decided, “Fuck it, he’s just going to have to wonder where I am.” I was too thrilled to be unexpectedly going to a concert to worry about him.
I have no memory at all of seeing Hole in 1995. NONE. If anyone reading this went with me to that one, let me know if we had a good time!
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Good news for the alert customers/readers who recently tipped me off to some knockoffs of my swear rings! The peeps at e-commerce retailer Nasty Gal have followed in the footsteps of Patricia Field and pulled a copy of my swear rings from their website. It seemed to be the same product Patricia Field got from from a Los Angeles-based vendor and, of course, I’m trying to get to the vendor to try to cut it off at the source.
I think Nasty Gal has gotten more sensitive to the issue of carrying knockoffs of small designers’ work after some recent experiences. The rings were removed quite quickly after my intrepid employee Eryn found the right person to speak to in the legal department. That took a little doing, however. A note was sent to a general email address, then there was a call to the customer-service center, and eventually Eryn got to legal, at which point there was a little back and forth about the right solution. The ability to purchase the rings was disabled immediately and there was no way to navigate to or search for the product on the site but a direct link to the page was still live. Once the page itself was taken down, I was totally happy.
In other words, it does take persistence, so if you’re a designer, don’t give up. Admittedly, there is a cost to that. Another, smaller retailer required six phone calls (including voicemails left) after an initial email. There were a lot of things Eryn could be doing instead of spending so much time following up on this one issue. Time is money.
Speaking of money, if you enlarge the screenshots above, you can see the price difference between Nasty Gal and the other boutique: $7. That’s huge! Consumers think luxury goods have crazy-ass markups, but that’s not always the case. My prices, for instance, reflect a keystone markup at best — considered the minimum amount you need to stay in business. (I also have loss leaders.) But when I saw the accounting for a company that was selling a knockoff of one of my necklaces, it turned out that the necklace being sold for a bargain $30 was being made for a mere 30 cents. I’d say 100 times cost is a crazy-ass markup. Having seen that and considering the lowest retail price for this knockoff ring set, I’d guess that the cost of manufacturing all four rings seen in the screenshots above is less than I would pay, overseas, for a single ring in the same material. That would be due to the low quantity minimum production order I’d be placing if I bought for my own inventory. I’d have to place a Walmart-level order to be competitive price-wise. (An example of a “small” Walmart order from a 2005 story in the Wall Street Journal is 48,000 units. My biggest production ever has been 100 units in silver. My minimum production for brass, like the knockoff rings, would be 280 units.) And when I make a single sterling-silver letter here in New York, the cost for that ONE ring is a multiple of the retail price for all four costume jewelry rings here. Lower quantity = higher cost, always.
As I’ve said before, I don’t own the concepts of word or letter jewelry, or the concept of censored swear words, so I wouldn’t have a complaint if the companies manufacturing these weren’t using a font I created specifically for my letter jewelry. Get your own damn font! There are hundreds to choose from. Jebus, y’all are lazy! Another issue that sticks in my mind is that I spent years pitching my swear rings to retailers, starting in 2008. I was angling either for a big order or a collaboration that could bring the price down. Everyone who took a look — and not many were willing to look — thought the design was too edgy. Years later, the same look is “way cool.” Maybe I was just too early. You know, being too early can be as bad or worse than being late in fashion. I’ve said this before, but I always envision a train station. It doesn’t matter if you’re two hours early or five minutes late — either way, the train ain’t there! So that could be it. (Seriously, try not to be first in business. It’s better to be third or fourth. Refine what other people are doing, so consumers will be comfortable with the concept by the time you come along with a superior version. Unless your last name is Prada. In that case, do whatever the hell you want.) Another possibility is that something that seems scary when a lone designer comes to you with one sample is no longer frightening when a vendor you’ve bought from before has already invested in making thousands, or tens of thousands, of the design. If the vendor felt confident enough to invest that money, it must be guaranteed to sell, right? So you buy it. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Anyway, props to Nasty Gal and the other boutique for doing the right thing. Readers, feel free to let me know if you see this or another knockoff using my font anywhere else, because I’m willing to go after all of them. It’s a Sisyphean task, but it’s worth doing.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Did any of you watch Seth Meyers’ Late Night debut last night?
I didn’t, but every time I read about or see something about Meyers and his fellow Saturday Night Live alum Jimmy Fallon’s takeover of The Tonight Show, I think, “Thank Xenu that NBC’s late-night shows are safely in the hands of white guys in suits! Otherwise those might become an endangered species.”
Of course, Meyers and Fallon are both funny and smart, but it’s getting hard to tell all these late-night guys apart. A few years ago, I watched Chelsea Handler’s show on E! a lot, and had pie-in-the-sky hopes that she would be a candidate for The Tonight Show. Then I came to my senses and realized she was waaaaay too edgy and wild for that show. She had that edge that David Letterman had when he went on the air with his groundbreaking late-night show in 1982. But you need to be a white guy in a suit to take that kind of act to a network!
Monday, February 24, 2014
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the chairman of the board of alumni trustees of the Columbia Daily Spectator, Columbia University’s student newspaper. Every February, the Spectator has a big awards dinner. We always have high-profile keynote speakers. Recent ones have included Arianna Huffington (Joan Didion presented an award at that dinner as well); Julius Genachowski, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; and Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of the New York Times.
This year’s dinner took place on Friday and our featured guest was Katie Couric, special correspondent for ABC News and global news anchor for Yahoo. Instead of doing a standard, standing-at-a-podium speech, she sat down for a chat with David Westin, former president of ABC News. It was very engaging.
I live-tweeted the conversation. Katie had a lot of good stories about how she started her career by boldly turning up at newsrooms and asking for a tour. Learn to differentiate yourself, she urged students in attendance. Take chances! She went to CNN even though network people looked down their noses as the upstart “Chicken Noodle Network.” That experience helped her get those 10,000 hours of experience that Malcolm Gladwell says you need to become an expert. I particularly enjoyed her anecdote about the time she was offered a co-anchor job at NBC’s “Today” show in 1991, and she insisted on a 50/50 division of labor with host Bryant Gumbel. She didn’t want to be kept away from the big stories and wind up doing only lighter fare like cooking segments. (“I’m a raging feminist and I’m proud of it,” Katie said.) The network honchos replied, “How about 52/48?” And Katie said, “I’ll take it!” It’s such a good example of workplace negotiation: Ask for exactly what you want, but recognize when you’ve won the big battle and can afford to compromise a little.
Before Katie and David went on, former New York Times executive editor and Spec alum Max Frankel presented Dick Wald with Spectator’s lifetime achievement award. (Max received the award himself last year.) Max’s introduction of Dick was more like a highlarious roast, covering Dick’s years as an executive at NBC and then ABC; his teaching career at Columbia; and his 40-year term as Spectator’s chairman. That’s not a typo: Dick really did spend FORTY years as Spec’s chairman. That’s why I wrote new bylaws with term limits when I succeeded Dick, because there’s no way I’m committing to a 40-year job! I wish I taped Max’s speech, which, as far as we in the audience could discern, was given without reference to any notes. I came to my senses as Dick began his acceptance/rebuttal, and captured most of it. Even if you don’t care about journalists or Columbia University, you want to hear the punchline for the anecdote about the lady with the stick. Trust me!
I posed for a picture with Dick after his speech.
This event has changed a lot over the past few years and it just keeps getting better. Our new venue — the New York Athletic Club — was very impressive. I was also awed by the big run-of-show book put together by Spec student publisher Michael Ouimette and his team.
It included all the guest names; what the guests were eating; the seating chart; who on staff was in charge of bringing what supplies; a minute-by-minute timeline of the entire evening; and the photos and names of important people to know. The latter is a very smart thing to do for any big event — it means that everyone behind the scenes will recognize key players and greet them appropriately. Of course, there was no chance of anyone failing to recognize Katie Couric, but plenty of new student participants hadn’t met the trustees or other alumni. I literally LOL’d in the middle of the pre-dinner board meeting when I noticed this page.
Good job, kids!
When I came home, I posed for a full-length outfit photo against an unusual background. I don’t know why this ambulance was parked on the street for the evening — isn’t there some ambulance garage where they sleep at night? — but I figured I should take advantage of it.
What Wendy Wore
Dress: Patrick Kelly (Kelly’s Fall/Winter 1988 collection; acquired in 2009, last seen here.)
Purse: Prada (2007)
Boots: Prada (2008, previously seen here)
Belt: Calvin Klein (2009)
Hair: Julie Matos of Warren-Tricomi
Makeup: By Tennille Nielsen
I styled this dress exactly as I did when I wore it to a Patrick Kelly exhibition preview in October 2013. I don’t worry about changing things up. If it worked well once, it will work well 10 times, as far as I’m concerned.
UPDATED TO ADD: The New York Observer did a write-up of the event and seemed very impressed with how fancy we were. Not as impressed as I was! Note: The timeline in my post is the correct one. Max and Dick were listed in the program as appearing after Katie and David, but we made a last-minute change and they wound up going on before before the keynote.