Log in     

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I’ve dressed like a dollar bill.

Click for original post.

Click for original post.

I’ve dressed like a brick wall.


With snake-y Monica of iDazzle in Vegas.

But I never dreamed of dressing like a quilt until I saw this vintage Dior dress while window-shopping on Shrimpton Couture’s website.


Click to purchase from Shrimpton Couture.

If I had this dress, I’d need someone to change Family Guy’s “Guiltyyyyyyy” soundbite to “Quiltyyyyyyy.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

A big congratulations to MrB’s nonprofit investigative reporting organization, ProPublica, on its third Pulitzer Prize! The article was a collaboration with another nonprofit, The Marshall Project, which specializes in covering criminal justice.

T. Christian Miller, a senior reporter for ProPublica, and Ken Armstrong, a writer for The Marshall Project, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” This is a must-read story, especially if you’ve ever said (or even thought), “Why didn’t she go to the police right away?” about a rape victim.

Eighteen-year-old Marie suffered what some people think of as the only kind of “real” rape, meaning it wasn’t perpetrated by an acquaintance; she hadn’t been drinking; and she hadn’t accepted pills from a famous comedian. She was sleeping alone in her own bed in her own apartment when she was awakened by a stranger with a knife, who tied her up, blindfolded her, gagged her and then raped her. No way you could blame the victim, right? Wrong.

The problem was that Marie — who’d already endured an abusive childhood and multiple moves within the foster-care system — was detached, rather than hysterical, in the wake of the attack. The people closest to her doubted her story based solely on her affect, then passed those doubts to the police. That was enough for the police to start picking through her statements for inconsistencies and treating her as a suspect. Under pressure, she said she’d made up the story. When she tried to recant her recantation, she wasn’t allowed to. She was charged with making a false report and threatened with a year in jail.

Meanwhile, a serial rapist really was on the loose — one who continued to rape after Marie’s attack. To learn about the extent of his crime spree and how he was finally caught, read the whole story yourself. You’ll also find out what kind of behaviors to expect from rape victims. (Hint: Victims don’t have to live up to whatever expectations you’ve developed from watching crime shows on television.)


There are related, eye-opening stories to read that dispel other myths about rape and criminal justice:

Finally, much respect to Marie for sharing her story. I hope it changes some minds and lives.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog this week.

On Instagram this week, I featured some of my engagement ring redesigns, including the one that just got second-place in the JCK Jewelers’ Choice Awards. I  love working on engagement rings, so whether you want a custom ring created from scratch or are ready to update the look of your old ring, holla at me at hello@wendybrandes.com.

Going back to the previous week, I want to mention my post about consignment in the fine-jewelry business again. Consignment is one of the reasons why I think fine-jewelry retailing as it has existed for years will collapse in the very near future. Peter Smith’s story for National Jeweler, which ran on Tuesday, lists many of the other reasons. Here’s what he saw in one Midwestern store:

“Despite having some well-known brands, the energy of the team was non-existent, the lighting was atrocious, the cases were overstuffed and packed with irrelevant products and the glass seemed to be collecting fingerprints like there was a prize for it.”

Don’t worry, retailers! Smith has some good ideas on how to turn your business around.

Previously, National Jeweler ran this piece about consignment by designer Jacqueline Stone.

Friday, April 15, 2016

George Michael’s quote in yesterday’s post about “the years when HIV was a killer” reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Last Men Standing” project.

The Chronicle described its package of print and digital stories and film this way:

“They outlived an epidemic, but San Francisco’s AIDS survivors are still fighting for their lives. And the city that once helped save them is ill-prepared to serve them now.”

The men profiled had every reason to expect to die decades ago. Somehow, they didn’t, while more than 21,000 other people in San Francisco did. One of the survivors, Peter Greene, tested positive in 1985 and, as Chronicle reporter Erin Allday wrote, “Since then, he’d lost not just his lover and his friends, but his livelihood, his community, his home.” Greene said, “I’m the luckiest unlucky person in the world … No one wants to be the last man standing.”

This is heartbreaking but important reading about an era that too often seems to get swept under the rug. I encourage you to take the time.


The related feature-length documentary, also called Last Men Standing and the Chronicle’s first such project, premiered last week in San Francisco. I hope to get to see it soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I saw this tweet from Harper’s Bazaar over the weekend. All my favorite models were pictured in it, so I clicked through.

The photo gallery was titled “Supermodels Relive Filming The George Michael Freedom! ’90 Video,” and subtitled “Here’s what they have to say 25 years later.” I thought, “HOLY SHIT! I can’t BELIEVE it’s been 25 years since that video.” Then I thought, “Wait, the song was ‘Freedom! ’90’ and it’s 2016. That’s 26 years.” I looked again and saw that the story had originally been posted on Oct. 30, 2015. I’m kinda mad! Harper’s Bazaar, Y U No make it clear you’re retweeting random old stuff? Also now I feel even older than I did when I thought a mere 25 years had passed! Thanks a lot!


Still, I wanted to share this video because it truly is one of the best videos of all time. Just nonstop, runway-worthy beauty, ESPECIALLY from my No. 1 fave, Linda Evangelista.

George Michael didn’t publicly reveal that he was gay until 1998, after he was arrested for “lewd conduct” in a restroom, but “Freedom! ’90” pretty much outed him. A straight dude would have had all the models draped all over him in the video, but George didn’t appear in the video at all! It was high-fashion, not Hooters.

George’s 1992 “Too Funky” video was even more high-fashion. Linda was back from “Freedom! ’90.” This time she was strutting down a runway with a new crop of models, all wearing Thierry Mugler’s outrageous designs. (Mugler directed too.) Sharing screen time with the models were actress Rossy de Palma, with her one-of-a-kind profile, and drag artists Joey Arias and Lypsinka. (You know who else worked with Joey Arias? David Bowie.) George donated “Too Funky” and two other songs to the album Red Hot + Dance, which raised money for AIDS awareness.

I’ve always felt bad that George was forced to hide a big part of his life, but in 2014, he told People magazine that he had no regrets about not being open sooner. He said:

“In the years when HIV was a killer, any parent of an openly gay person was terrified. I knew my mother well enough that she would spend everyday praying that I didn’t come across that virus. She’d have worried like that.”

The AIDS stigma was very real. In 1987, Princess Diana shocked people just by shaking hands with AIDS doctors and patients. But long after AIDS became a survivable, chronic disease, it still wasn’t and isn’t easy for many people in the entertainment industry to come out. Ricky Martin was constantly asked about his personal life after “Livin’ la Vida Loca” hit big in 1999; it took him till 2010 to feel comfortable telling the truth. By the way, I still love that song and video! It’s so sex-ay … I can dream, can’t I?!

Even though society has become much more open (thankfully), there are still people in show business who feel they have to hide to protect their careers. Actress Ellen Page, who came out in 2014, said earlier this year:

“There’s still that double standard. I look at all the things I’ve done in movies: I’ve drugged a guy, tortured someone, become a roller-derby star overnight. But now I’m gay, I can’t play a straight person?”

SMH! It’s a damn shame that anyone has to feel that kind of pressure 25 years — NO! 26 YEARS! — after George Michael followed up the “Freedom! ’90” lyric, “I was every little hungry schoolgirl’s pride and joy” with:

“I think there’s something you should know/I think it’s time I told you so/There’s something deep inside of me/There’s someone else I’ve got to be.”

Back to the video and the fashion: Last year, for the anniversary, Allure ran an in-depth story on the making of the “Freedom! ’90” video and what made it so special. Even I didn’t know Linda dyed her hair platinum the night before the shoot! Check it out here.

And you must see how the “Freedom! ’90” models and song made a splash on Versace’s Fall 1991 runway.

I get chills! Definitely one of the greatest runway moments OF ALL TIME.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When I worked at CNN in the mid-1990s, a colleague liked to serenade me with “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by The Smashing Pumpkins. That’s the one with the lyrics that go, “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.” I guess that tells you all you have to know about working for Lou Dobbs.

This came to mind while I was browsing through the vintage fashion on 1stdibs and found one example of cage-themed pieces after another.

Jean Paul Gaultier was famous for his cage looks. The seller says this Gaultier cage dress is from his Spring 1989 collection.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

This cage-sleeved Gaultier jacket is also from around the same time.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

The Junior Gaultier line had its own cages.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

Gaultier isn’t the only designer to do the cage look, though he’s probably the only one who made it a signature style. This vintage ’90s Moschino dress has cage sleeves.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

There’s a Sophie Sitbon dress that’s quite similar. I don’t know which came first but you know how it is: fashion repeats itself.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

The listing for these Dolce & Gabbana shoes refers to them as a piece of art, and I’m inclined to agree!

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

The bird in this cage brooch by Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t sing but it does swing.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

I’m glad I decided to check the furniture section of 1stdibs for cages, because I discovered this wonderful windmill-style hamster cage from the 19th century.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

Here’s another hamster cage from France. I LOVE this! When the hamster runs on the wheel, the roof of the little house turns and a music box plays!

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

And look at this mansion-inspired bird cage, also from 19th-century France.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

This is why it’s good to study history. A lot of people think people just began spoiling our pets in recent years. Maybe not! It appears that at least two hamsters led a life of luxury in the 1800s. Maybe they still felt like rageful rats in cages … or maybe they were proud property owners. I wish I knew!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Thanks to a friend’s last-minute invitation, I wound up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s 2016 induction ceremony at Barclays Center last Friday. It was an incredibly entertaining night in a batshit-crazy kind of way.

First of all, an awards show where presenters and honorees can swear as much as they like and speak at length is better than any other kind of awards show. People sound so much more genuine when they don’t have to deal with an orchestra playing them off! All the performances were great too, starting with the David Bowie tribute that opened the show: David Byrne, Kimbra and the Roots doing “Fame.”

I got a special kick out of seeing Deep Purple.

The last time I saw them was in March 1985 at what was then called the Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey’s Meadowlands.

Check out my Deep Purple t-shirt in this 1980s photo. Click for original post.

Check out my Deep Purple t-shirt in this 1980s photo. Click for original post.

Most of inductees were, like Deep Purple, all-white, all-male guitar bands, none of whom I’d ever seen live before: Steve Miller, Chicago, and Cheap Trick.

Steve Miller turned out to be much more interesting than I expected. I didn’t know electric-guitar pioneer Les Paul was his godfather and guitar teacher, or that Steve had formed his first band with Boz Scaggs at age 12. Sixty years later, he’s getting ready for a summer tour. “If you’re lucky enough to have a gift, use it, use it your whole life,” he said.

But what I really liked was that during Miller’s acceptance speech, he called for the Hall of Fame to include more women. (The only women who performed that night besides Kimbra were Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter, doing a tribute to the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles.) Little did I know he was going to get even fiercer in his backstage interview, during which he continued his criticism of the lack of inclusiveness, slammed the organizers for disrespecting the artists and said he only showed up for the sake of the fans. “This is how close this show came to not happening, because of the way the artists are being treated right now,” he said when a press officer tried to get him to wrap up. And then he topped THAT in an interview with Rolling Stone, in which he went after his own record label in addition to the Hall of Fame. You’ve GOT to read the whole thing, but this is a highlight:

“This whole industry fucking sucks and this little get-together you guys have here is like a private boys’ club and it’s a bunch of jackasses and jerks and fucking gangsters and crooks who’ve fucking stolen everything from a fucking artist. Telling the artist to come out here and tap dance.”

Oh Em Gee! I had no idea that Steve Miller was so punk rock when I used to watch his “Abracadabra” video on MTV in 1982.

Steve’s comments to Rolling Stone about the Hall of Fame ceremony being an “amateur production” involving “a hundred thousand phone calls” that is not at all artist-friendly helped me understand why rap group N.W.A — the only black musicians inducted this year — didn’t perform. N.W.A member Ice Cube had told the New York Times before the show that the group wasn’t performing because “I guess we really didn’t feel like we were supported enough to do the best show we could put on.” A first, I couldn’t comprehend why the organizers of the event wouldn’t support their own honorees. It seems self-defeating, no? But Steve Miller has clarified that for me. Now I know it’s a miracle that anyone performed at all!

Ice Cube and the other N.W.A inductees laughed it up on stage (Dr. Dre was there, just not in this photo.)

Ice Cube and the other N.W.A inductees laughed it up on stage (Dr. Dre was there, just not in this photo.)

Speaking of disrespect, N.W.A’s Ice Cube had some words for assholian Gene Simmons of Kiss, who recently told Rolling Stone, “I’m looking forward to the death of rap,” and had previously said that rappers don’t belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Beastie Boys are among the rappers already in the Hall of Fame.) “Hip-hop is here forever,” Ice Cube said. He also said, “You’re goddamn right we’re rock n roll … It’s a spirit it’s been going since the blues!” and “Rock and roll is not conforming to the people who came before you … That is us!

(Gene Simmons might also want to think about the fact that country star Hank Williams, folk singer Woody Guthrie, blues icon Robert Johnson and “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey are all Hall of Famers, credited as early influencers of rock. It ain’t all Gene’s limited concept of rock!)

There were other forms of craziness typical of the Hall of Fame. There are always issues with band members not being invited or not showing up due to longtime feuds. Deep Purple co-founder Ritchie Blackmore didn’t show, saying the band’s current line-up was unwilling to perform with him, though David Coverdale, Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes all said they’d reached out to him. Despite his absence, all of the band members praised Blackmore during their speeches.

Similarly, original Chicago singer Peter Cetera skipped the ceremony, having written on his website, “Every idea or suggestion I offered about how it could work musically was either rejected or changed by the show’s producers.” His former bandmates weren’t supportive either, he said. They did enthusiastically sing his praises, so to speak, during their acceptance speeches, and original drummer Danny Seraphine performed with Chicago for the first time in about 25 years.

With the good will expressed onstage for former band members, I became hopeful that N.W.A would mention founding member Arabian Prince, whom I interviewed for the Huffington Post last year after I noticed his absence from the N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton.


Unfortunately, no one said a word about Arabian.

So I’m giving him a shout-out again now!

Me and MrB met Arabian earlier this year.

Me and MrB met Arabian earlier this year.

I wanted to wear something rock and roll to the event, and the late Stephen Sprouse was THE rock-and-roll designer. In fact, in the 1990s, Sprouse was the costume curator for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

halloffame2resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Sweater: Dsquared (2012. Often worn with the Sprouse skirt.)
Skirt: Vintage Stephen Sprouse (from 1988, but probably purchased around 2006)
Boots: Jil Sander (probably 2004/2005)
Earrings: My own arrowhead thread designs

Shearling coat: Larissa (1998. Seriously)
Pigeon-toed stance: I need to stick to what I know best

I normally wouldn’t keep my coat on for an outfit picture, but that shearling is a very rock and roll coat. The designer, Larissa (one name only, please!), used to hang out with Andy Warhol and David Bowie, and sold coats to customers including Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix (both now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). I got it at a sample sale in 1998 and I remember being so worried about how much it cost. Eighteen years later, it’s safe to say it was a good investment! It’s got some stubborn stains and has undergone a number of repairs, but I have no plans to part with it.

The only rock and roll fashion statement I forgot was my own “sign of the horns” stud earring.

Don't make the mistake I made! Click to buy one right away!

Don’t make the mistake I made! Click to buy one right away!

I’ll have to try to wrangle an invitation again next year to fix that jewelry oversight … assuming the Hall of Fame is still around after Steve Miller gets through with it!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Frankly, my dears, the MTV Movie Awards show didn’t generate fashion worthy of one of my prestigious Best Dressed/Wear What You Want combo awards. However, I do want to give a tip of the hat to model/actress Cara Delevingne for her black-and-sheer, slim-cut jumpsuit by Balmain, which she wore with black heels.

What I really like about this look is that it seems to be a kind of special-occasion uniform for Cara. She wore a cut-out black top and skinny white pants by Stella McCartney — with black, white-soled heels — to the 2014 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala.

At last year’s Met Gala, she again wore a cut-out black, slim black pants look by Stella McCartney, accessorized by gorgeous temporary tattoos and black heels.

Often, when women talk about a chic personal “uniform,” it involves a turtleneck/button-front shirt and flats/cowboy boots. As fabulous as that looks on other people, it’s never held any appeal for me. Cara’s look is a different story. I’d be okay with a closet full of skinny pants, cut-out black tops and heels! Good job, Cara.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog this week.

Over on Instagram, I offered an in-depth look at the diamond and platinum micro studs that are April’s Jewel of the Month.


Speaking of those studs, and diamonds in general, I met with a new New York-based manufacturer this week. It looks like they’ll be able to do some cool things for me. I liked the other work they showed me, but after looking at it, I said I’d be providing my own diamonds. “What quality do you use?” they asked.  “F color, VS clarity for pavé and small pieces,” I said.  They were like, “YOU USE THAT HIGH QUALITY ALL THE TIME?!” What can I say? My gorgeous clients deserve great things.


I took a photo of this sign in another jeweler’s workroom years ago.


Friday, April 8, 2016

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Consignment is the biggest business challenge for fine-jewelry designers. I’m not sure if there’s any other business where a retailer with annual revenues in the billions of dollars will “order” from $1,000 to $250,000 of high-value product from a one-person company and not pay one cent in return for an indefinite period of time.

In 2013, I explained that consignment translates to “Give us all your jewelry and we’ll pay you when this sells … if it sells.” (I should have added this retailer postscript: “Oh BTW we don’t guarantee we will even display the free jewelry in the store while we hold onto it ha ha ha ha ha.”)

Last year, the Financial Times more soberly described consignment as “where the retailer pays the wholesale price after the sale, returning any unsold pieces.” And there will definitely be unsold pieces. As designer Melanie Georgacopoulos told the FT: “… if the stores aren’t buying, they simply don’t put that much effort into selling.”

Sure, some apparel designers start by placing a few pieces on consignment, but that’s something that they usually grow out of. Retailers might not pay clothing companies fairly or in a timely way, but there is an understanding that the clothes need to be paid for eventually. Based on the promised payments, a clothing designer can borrow money from factors in order to have enough cash flow to produce a collection.

Independent fine-jewelry designers are on their own, financially. Because the retailers haven’t committed to paying anything, there are no future sales against which the company can borrow.

Click for original post.

Click for original post.

Many of us have gone along with consignment anyway in return for “exposure.” However, as I’ve written before, people can die from exposure in more ways than one. You can’t pay your mortgage with press clips (not that any store has gotten me any meaningful press) or buy the gold you need for your work with a story about how you’re in a hot little boutique that’s popular with discount-seeking celebrities. It’s not just newer designers that are affected. The jeweler Henry Dunay founded his design house in 1953; when the company sought bankruptcy protection in 2011, the filing noted that the majority of Dunay’s assets were held “on consignment with Neiman Marcus Group.”

Luckily, the growth of social media — from blogging to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and so on — has enabled many of us designers to reach our gorgeous customers directly. Traditional retailers aren’t the only way to find designers anymore and not only can clients find us, they can talk to us! I’m always happy to answer questions about my designs. Hell, I’ll answer emails in the middle of the night. Find me a sales associate who is going to take a picture of the back of a necklace for you after store hours!

Retailers should be studying what technology did to the music business, especially to record labels. I need to give a lot of credit to retail-industry publication JCK, which has been bold about pointing out the changes afoot in the industry, including this piece that Jennifer Heebner wrote in December. Jennifer’s story starts with her anti-consignment advice to jewelry designer Marla Aaron. I met Marla this January at Jewelers of America’s GEM Awards.

The reason consignment is on my mind is because of Marla Aaron. She recently messaged me asking me to take a look at some text she’d added to her website’s contact page. She said, “I think you will get a kick out of it or think I’ve just lost my mind.”

Guess what? I got a BIG kick out of this:

“A Special Note to Retailers: If you are a store and would like to come visit us and see the collection, please call Rebecca at (646) 799-1434. We would love to show you everything. And feed you cake — because we do that too. While we would love to be in every store in the world, we can only be in the ones that pay us. Which means that we can’t do consignment.”

Imagine, someone in my business saying she wants to be paid for her work! I was so thrilled that I said I’d join Marla in stating this policy clearly on my own contact page. (I had to omit the cake part, because I don’t bake, but I don’t mind running out to get some Dunkin’ Donuts.)

I did want to know what prompted Marla to make such a firm statement at this particular time, seeing as she had already been moving away from consignment, and she emailed me:

“The genesis of my doing this came after a ‘hot’ store made an appointment, came here, spent over 2 hours. I was clear that I don’t do consignment and she said she bought and took lots of pictures and I created an estimate (​all this stuff takes time)  And then they tell me that they would be happy to have the work if it were consignment. So I realized at that point that I should just be even clearer about this.”

Now Marla is focusing on retailers that invest in product, like the one whose owner told Marla: “If I don’t own it, I won’t sell it.”

I’ve been poking around trying to figure out how the fine-jewelry consignment situation got so out of control. I haven’t found a history of it yet, but I did stumble across a great Arts Business Institute post from 2011 that explained why artists shouldn’t do consignment in a way that applies to fine jewelry (and probably pretty much anything else you’d like to sell). I especially appreciated the suggestions for partnering with retailers in a more constructive and fair way.


I’d happily try some of those options. But 100% consignment? I’ve regretted it 100% of the time. Even worse, I’ve lost money on it 100% of the time. No more! Here’s my policy.

Retailers: Wendy welcomes the opportunity to partner with you. However, she will no longer work on a consignment-only basis. If you’re a retailer who is ready to invest in Wendy the way she will invest in you, let’s talk beautiful jewelry! Contact info@wendybrandes.com for linesheets and other information.

Related Posts with Thumbnails