Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Fashion Icon Uncovered

Ann Bonfoey Taylor was a gifted sportswoman and had a discriminating eye when it came to fashion. She graced the pages of Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue throughout the 1950s and '60s. Nicknamed "Nose Dive Annie," she was an alternate on the Women's Olympic ski team, a flight instructor for the Navy in WWII and an accomplished equestrian and tennis player. Ms. Bonfoey Taylor, who died in 2007 at age 96, also possessed an amazingly focused collection of couture clothing that she wore between her estate in Denver, chalet in Vail and ranch in Montana. After reading about an exhibition on her at the Phoenix Museum, I wondered how Ms. Bonfoey Taylor's name could be absent in the lineup of constantly referenced 20th-century style icons. Intent on learning more about this elegant and athletic woman, I flew to Arizona to tour the show. "Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor," which closes this Sunday, includes couture from Balenciaga, Givenchy and Charles James along with Ms. Bonfoey Taylor's own skiwear designs. Here are some snapshots that pull back the curtain on a life well lived.
Ms. Moss is an author and interior designer in New York.
[TAYLOR]Courtesy of Library of Congress, Toni Frissell Collection
Belle of the Ball
Belle of the Ball
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor's son, Vernon III, remembers coming home from school to find his mother all dressed up simply because she felt like it. Wearing a chinchilla-trimmed silk-satin dress by Madame Grès, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor pauses in the hallway of her Denver home in 1967. Green was her favored palette for evening. The paint colors she selected for her house are reflected on the walls of the museum's exhibition, including an ash violet and obi lilac lifted from her ballroom.
[TAYLOR]Courtesy the Taylor Family/Toni Frissell
Natural Woman
Natural Woman
Near the exhibition's entrance awaits an enormous photo of Ms. Bonfoey Taylor dressed in a Balenciaga evening coat and dress that was already 10 years old when the photo was taken by Toni Frissell. The look is classic, poised and confident—just like the woman herself.
[TAYLOR]Courtesy of Library of Congress, Toni Frissell Collection
Ski Bunny
Ski Bunny
The stylish sporting life was the only one Ms. Bonfoey Taylor knew. Here, at Vail in the '60s, she accessorized her skiwear with Courrèges-like sunglasses and a coordinating fur hat and mittens. She preferred to wear black and white on the mountain because of the beautiful contrast it created—so modern, then and now.
[TAYLOR]Courtesy of Library of Congress, Toni Frissell Collection
Style Soldier
Style Soldier
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor in a custom Brooks-Van Horn military costume. She skied in uniforms from the Civil War (from both sides) as well as in her own tailor-made creations, including a matador cape and hat.
Annie Get Your Gun
[TAYLOR]Courtesy of Library of Congress, Toni Frissell Collection
Annie Get Your Gun
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor was a skilled hunter. Here, she wears an Hermès ensemble with a Gucci satchel in Denver, 1967.
[TAYLOR]Courtesy of Library of Congress, Toni Frissell Collection
Hostess with the Most
Hostess with the Most
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor was an enthusiastic and flawless hostess. Before throwing a dinner party, she would read up on her guests' interests. For china, she used a range of styles, from Royal Copenhagen's classic blue-and-white pattern to Dodie Thayer's iconic leaf ware—also a favorite of the Duchess of Windsor and C.Z. Guest. For her arrangements, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor favored yellow and white flowers. She also had an entire room dedicated to arranging, and almost exclusively preferred simple blooms like geraniums, marigolds and Colorado carnations.
[TAYLOR]Courtesy the Taylor Family/Toni Frissell
Saddle Up!
Saddle Up!
Wherever Ms. Bonfoey Taylor traveled, sports were part of her daily routine. Pictured here at Box Elder Ranch, the Taylors's Montana spread, she adopted classic Western attire for riding. She was authentic, original and she always dressed to suit her lifestyle. One of her guiding principles, as her granddaughter Ashley recalls: "Your look isn't complete unless your hair is done."
[TAYLOR]Courtesy of Library of Congress, Toni Frissell Collection
Foxy Lady
Foxy Lady
Photographed here by Toni Frissell for Vogue in 1967, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor enjoys a post-fox-hunt drink in the library of her Denver home. A Marc Chagall painting hangs over the mantel in a room lined with 18th-century pine panelling from a country house in England. The wing chair is upholstered in yellow damask and trimmed with moss fringe. A pair of white porcelain ducks bracket the mantel edges and an English peat bucket holds extra logs—charming details she painstakingly attended to.

Monday, May 30, 2011

For Your Safety

Associated Press
Some salon workers report difficulty breathing, headaches, stinging eyes and sore throats after working with chemical hair-straighters, which involve flat-ironing hair to make it smooth.

Members of Congress are asking the Food and Drug Administration to issue a voluntary recall of two hair-straightening treatments sold in salons under the brand name Brazilian Blowout, citing concerns about unacceptably high levels of formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen.
Some tests have found formaldehyde levels of 8% or more in samples of Brazilian Blowout products.
Brazilian Blowout
Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution
Brazilian Blowout
Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution
Congressional representatives including Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) and Ed Markey (D., Mass.) earlier this month wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg calling for a voluntary recall of the Brazilian Blowout treatments. The letter cites a 2010 study by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division that found formaldehyde—considered a probable human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency—in the Brazilian Blowout Solution and Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution.
The Oregon OSHA study measured samples of the two products and found they contained average formaldehyde levels of 8% for Brazilian Blowout Solution and 8.8% for Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, a product labeled "formaldehyde free." Oregon OSHA's threshold for disclosure of formaldehyde is 0.1%.
"These dangerous products are still available and used on a daily basis in salons across the United States," the representatives wrote to the FDA. The lawmakers want the FDA to test chemical hair straighteners and recall those with high levels of formaldehyde.
The Los Angeles marketer of Brazilian Blowout says its products are safe. Mike Brady, chief executive of Brazilian Blowout, says the line is "a perfectly safe product that gives people the hair of a lifetime and generates money for the economy." As for the letter to FDA, he says, "it's not based on any fact. It's just based on emotion."
The FDA encourages consumers to report complaints related to the products on its website. "We're still evaluating the data on these straighteners," says Stephanie Yao, an FDA spokeswoman.
Congressional representatives also want the FDA to require warning labels for products with formaldehyde. There are a number of hair-straightening salon treatments besides Brazilian Blowout on the market, some of which are called "keratin treatments" and "Brazilian treatments."
At a Congressional staff briefing Wednesday, salon workers and technicians are scheduled to describe adverse health symptoms following their use of Brazilian Blowout products. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and advocacy groups Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance are hosting the briefing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with several state occupational safety agencies, has been investigating complaints about formaldehyde exposure. In one salon using Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, the agency's air tests found formaldehyde at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits. Last month OSHA issued a hazard alert to salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure resulting from hair-smoothing treatments.
Jennifer Goeres-Arce, a 37-year-old California hair stylist, says she purchased the Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution in September after clients at the salon where she worked at the time requested the treatment. Working with her sister, Gina Griffin, also a hair stylist, Ms. Goeres-Arce tested the treatment on herself, applying the product to the hair, blow-drying it and then applying a heated flat iron. "Within ten minutes, our eyes started to sting," Ms. Goeres-Arce says. "Our throats were getting sore. The worst part of everything was difficulty breathing and headache."
Ms. Goeres-Arce, who is now a stylist at Elements Salon in Escondido, provided evidence for California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris's updated complaint filed earlier this year. Ms. Goeres-Arce says she experienced symptoms for two months after using the product. "I went to the doctor and was put on an inhaler," she says.
Rep. Schakowsky and Rep. Markey were among the sponsors the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, which aims to give the FDA regulatory authority over cosmetics and personal care products and labeling. Rep. Schakowsky plans to re-introduce the bill this year.
Besides calls for more regulation, the company also faces private-party legal complaints and a suit filed by the state of California. In April, the California attorney general filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to stop GIB LLC, the entity doing business as Brazilian Blowout, from selling the treatment line. The cases are being heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In an earlier interview, Mr. Brady said Brazilian Blowout products contain methylene glycol, produced when formaldehyde reacts with water, not formaldehyde per se.
Mr. Brady said the Oregon OSHA study measured formaldehyde not just in the products but also in the air in seven salons while Brazilian Blowout Acai Solution was in use and found levels below the permissible exposure limit.
Still, the company has released Brazilian Blowout Zero, a treatment it says is free of formaldehyde and methylene glycol. "Adversity is a fact of life," its website says. "It can't be controlled. What we can control is how we react to it. We reacted." - WSJ 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Watches: The Rebirth Of A Classic

Officine Panerai's Radiomir 3 Days Platino.

In a world where watches continue to grow in size and become more cunning in the way they display time, and the boundaries between jewelry and timepieces are increasingly blurred, one sector is beating on against the current: relaunched classics. These are watches with clean, simple lines, enduring style and lasting prestige—catering to the needs of a gimmick-weary market.
This July, the watch world will see two relaunches. The sleek and simple Omega Seamaster 1948 London 2012, previewed at Basel this year, will be released in late July as a pre-Olympic tie-in. The model features the same dial as the original—which was developed specifically for deep dives—and is a streamlined 38 millimeters, just a bit larger than the 1940s model, with an updated caliber. The company will sell 1,948 pieces, retailing at around $6,800. The only downside to the new model is a rather gaudy Olympic slogan—which is thankfully hidden from view on the back.
Another classic relaunching this July is TAG Heuer's Monza. The limited-edition Calibre 36 Chronograph harks back to the manual-wind chronographs and stopwatches of the early 20th century, specifically the TAG Heuer 1933 chronograph, which was inspired by the Italian racing track. The watch will have a run of 1,911—the year Edouard Heuer patented the world's first dashboard chronograph—and retail for around 8,000 Swiss francs (€6,400).
"The likely target market for the new Monza is a fairly young population of watch enthusiasts who are probably not old enough to have seen the model in the 1960s and 1970s, but who have built up a great knowledge of the brand and what it represents," says Justin Koullapis, of the Watch Club in London, which deals in second-hand classic watches for collectors. "Watch models with strong associations to their historical predecessors have proved themselves without question to be the ones collectors will always reach for first," adds Mr. Koullapis. "In my opinion, the TAG Heuer Monza Calibre 36 perfectly fulfills what collectors want in a watch: a proven model whose style is solidly rooted in its legitimate ancestry."
Classic watches—such as the Rolex Explorer II worn by Steve McQueen in the 1970s and relaunched this year (£5,180)—are appealing on multiple levels. "Now that art and classic cars have gone oligarchic, fine watches are an economic entry to collecting culture," says British cultural commentator Stephen Bayley.
One watch that is sure to attract collectors' attention is the Officine Panerai Radiomir 3 Days Platino. The new model from Panerai, an Italian watchmaker that has provided timepieces for the country's navy since 1867 and was known for its luminescent face that glowed in pitch black, pays homage to a rare version of the original Radiomir, which was launched in the mid-1930s; only two models have ever been found. The 2011 watch has a limited edition of 199 numbered pieces, costing £26,000 each. Panerai has also relaunched the Luminor 1950 3 Days, which, while staying true to the original, has updated features such as a more rounded case and a plexiglass face, rather than sapphire.
With Omega and Panerai referencing their seafaring histories and TAG Heuer replaying its association with motor racing, it only seems appropriate that Brietling would hark back to another era of adventure—aviation. The Swiss watchmaker has relaunched the Transocean, which was originally designed as a tribute to the Boeing 707s and DC-8s that began commercial flights in the late 1950s, when the watch was launched. The brand's link to the aviation industry was bolstered as it supplied chronographs for propeller planes and later jet planes. The relaunched watch is close to the original, but has been upgraded with the latest technology, including Breitling's Caliber 01 in-house self-winding movement, and a sapphire case at the back and front, and is water-resistant to 100 meters.
"Avant-garde design and technology will always be around," says Breitling Vice President Jean-Paul Girardin. "The market is increasingly segmented and the classic sector is just a part of this."
Jaeger-LeCoultre's 1931 Reverso, created in response to a challenge set by British officers stationed in India who wanted a watch capable of surviving a polo match, was worn by the likes of the Prince Aage of Denmark, King Edward VIII of England and Amelia Earhart. The company's new Grande Reverso Ultra Thin is slightly larger than the original in diameter—although, as the name suggests, it is also thinner. The dial is identical to the 1931 version, down to the color of the Super-Luminova indexes and form of the hands.
Stéphane Belmont, marketing director of Jaeger-LeCoultre, thinks that part of the appeal of classic relaunches is a response to the straitened economic times. "After the financial downturn, clients need to be reassured, and they look for timeless objects that represent a style that will last and watchmaking expertise, and consequently such models will represent a good investment. The clients look for brands with history, offering classical and iconic pieces," he says.
It is also about enduring appeal, adds Michael Czerwinski, public-program coordinator at the Design Museum in London, who delivers lectures on design-related topics. "If good design works, it has longevity. Classic wristwatches, which date back to the beginning of the 20th century, hit such a correct note, and an object such as this doesn't need to change or evolve," he says. "There is something very powerful about wanting a watch like one's father. It is about discerning taste—expressing a strength, with pared-down dynamics. It is an easy vehicle through which you can express yourself."
Mr. Czerwinski says that, in the past, we tended to get seduced by evolving technology—for example, the digital watch became a statement about being a modern person. "However, now our attitude toward technology is different and we no longer need to promote our status in that way," he says. "A watch is no longer saying what status is in terms of modernity; these classic watches allow it to be what it is. It can be purist. You don't need it to be tricksy or expressive of modern design—it just needs to tell the time." - WSJ

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jewelry Designer Temple St. Clair

ROCK STAR | Temple St. Clair

Twenty-five years after being discovered by a Barneys buyer in Florence, designer Temple St. Clair's namesake jewelry line has earned legions of admirers among the glamorous bohemians who fetishize her signature rock crystal amulets and showpiece cocktail rings.
Born in Virginia, Ms. St. Clair grew up traveling and adventuring around the world—going on deep-sea expeditions with explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, trekking through Mayan ruins in the Yucatán and studying literature in northern Italy, where she also discovered her professional calling. Today, Ms. St. Clair continues to globe trot, collecting inspiration and talismanic charms in places like Nepal and Patmos, Greece, commemorating her travels with her covetable gems. When she's not stealing away to the Berkshires with her husband and two sons, the avid yogini and marine life advocate spends time at her SoHo studio conceiving her next collection.
A bracelet from her current collection
This season, it's East-meets-West with Buddha as her muse. We caught up with the author of "Alchemy: A Passion for Jewels" (a memoir-cum-scrapbook about her travels and designs), who stresses the importance of keeping your aura clean and believes diamonds are definitely not a girl's best friend.
I never take off my pair of steel and gold bangles. I'm ritualistic that way. You're supposed to keep steel in your aura. The Sikhs call it a Kara. Women wear steel on the left.
If nothing else, I put on a pair of earrings. They light up the face. My mother would always say, "put on your lipstick." But as I mature I think that with makeup, less is more.
Hermès's Cape Cod watch
Three investment pieces every woman should own are a signature jewel (mine's my amulet), a great coat from Loro Piana and a watch from Hermès, Bulgari or Patek Philippe.
I would never wear coral. The Buddhists look at it as a sacred object. The coral reefs are like the rain forests of the sea. It's actually an animal, which many people don't realize. Now the United States is the largest importer of coral for home décor and jewelry.
My favorite gem is a blue moonstone. It's magical and has this great quality called adularescence, which makes a blue flash that is beautiful on the skin. They're just like pearls in the way that they flatter everyone.
The place that inspires me most is Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel in Florence. Even though it looks simple, the way the dome is created is so sophisticated with its rich colors. In my jewelry, I like to take away rather than put too much in.
Sunrise over estate homes in Charleston, S.C.
The best markets are Campo dei Fiori near the Piazza Navona in Rome and Santo Spirito in Florence. There is a trend in Italy called zero-kilometer markets with local, organic and artisanal goods. They're fantastic spots to find great woven wools and obscure lotions and potions. To me, luxury is finding the perfect local honey or simple arrangement of flowers.
My wedding ring is a blue sapphire that my husband bought while traveling with his friend years ago. We went to an antiquary dealer and set it in a band based on a Roman children's ring.
I never forget to pack Sakura Pigma Micron 05 pens, my Holbein sketchbook (I like that it ties with a string), my crystal amulet and my Nikon SLR. I also have a little Canon G11, which my professional photographer friends use as their pocket camera.
[STCLAIR]Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
An inscription to Ms. St. Clair's grandmother from F. Scott Fitzgerald: "For Mary Lou Archer, memories of the Conte Biancamano and of Virginia Beach. From her admirer, F. Scott Fitzgerald."
The best stores are Il Torchio, a fantastic paper shop in Florence where I buy journals for drawing and writing and Nuno, a contemporary textiles shop in Roppongi Hills in Tokyo that has beautiful scarves and shawls.
The most overrated jewels are diamonds. Apart from a few rare collectibles they are plentiful particularly in the smaller commercial sizes. On the other hand, very fine colored gems are painstakingly difficult to source, thus much more precious in my mind.
I never wear my rings in the ocean. My husband's wedding band is in a coral reef somewhere.
When I entertain, I like to make a big Portuguese fish stew. It's really satisfying in the winter. It takes three different kinds of fish, andouille sausage, potatoes, lots of bay leaves and allspice. It's perfect with great crispy bread and good red wine.
I love to visit Charleston, S.C. It has big cosmopolitan flavor for a little town. One of my favorite eating places down there is Gaulart & Maliclet. It's this little chic sit-at-the-counter café place. It's nickname is "Fast and French."
If I had to design using only three materials, they would be 24-karat gold, aquamarine and tourmaline in their crystal state. I love the basic qualities of pure gold and the sensual range of colors literally makes me feel content.
I like having a uniform. I have about seven Prada boots. I add new ones each season.
Interior of the Pazzi Chapel in Florence
It depends where I am, but the best chocolate is from Paris (Angelina is a classic); Florence (Café Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria); and New York, where I keep a stock of MarieBelle Aztec hot chocolate.
I come from a matriarchal Southern familyso I love unlimited refills of sweet iced tea or shrimp and grits. We make them simply as a side dish with salt and pepper. Yes, I make my sons eat grits.
My favorite restaurants are Cave di Maiano in the hills above Florence where "Room with a View" was filmed (they make a black cabbage risotto that I dream of), and a hole in the wall in New York called Minca on East 5th street that has the best ramen outside of Japan.
I treasure my copies of love notes from F. Scott Fitzgerald to my grandmother. They met on a transatlantic cruise in the '20s while she was visiting Egypt for King Tut's tomb opening. He became her admirer and visited her in Virginia Beach. She would never fess up to what went on in the dunes.
—Edited from an interview by Nicole Berrie