What I've Been Watching and Reading

As 2012 draws to a close, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share a handful of the articles, books, shows, conversations and documentaries that informed, inspired and entertained me throughout the year. I hope that a few are also informative, inspiring and entertaining for you.

Elon Musk in Coversation

2012 was a standout year for entrepreneur Elon Musk. After rocky, touch-and-go starts, his three California-based companies--Space X, Tesla, and Solar City--all hit major milestones. If, like I, you are fascinated by him, then this July conversation with Pando Daily founder Sarah Lacy is worthwhile viewing. He's shockingly accomplished--and incredibly understated. A nice combination.

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New York Fashion Week Grows Up

There has been a whole lot of sexy going on in New York this past week. That's normal, for this time of year. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, which began last Thursday, wraps up today. And while the après Labor Day fashion buzz is nothing unusual, what has struck me this go round is that the transition people have anticipated for ages has finally happened: New York Fashion Week has grown up.

Maybe it was the move from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center two years ago. Maybe it was the seasoning of a crop of talented younger designers--ProenzaAlexanderJasonZac--filling in behind the old guard--RalphDonnaCarolinaOscar--creating a solid platform for a new guard--WesReedthe OlsensSophie. Maybe it is the culmination of six years of tending and nurturing of the CFDA by wise, multi-term President, Diane von Furstenberg. Whatever the reason, this was not a hit-or-miss New York Fashion Week. One collection after another was fabulous. Sexy was dialed-up to 10. 

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Considering Alexander McQueen

Yesterday I went to the Met to see the Alexander McQueen retrospective Savage Beauty. I thought I might beat the crowds by going first thing on a Tuesday morning. No such luck. One of the guards on duty told me that it's never not packed, every day from open to close. The exhibit has broken Met attendance records, been extended by a week and surely could go even longer than its currently scheduled run through August 7th. Suffice it to say--there's a reason it's drawing crowds. Just go.

Curated by Andrew Bolton of the Met's Costume Institute and designed in conjunction with long-time McQueen collaborators Joseph Bennett, Sam Gainsbury and John Gosling, the exhibit is exquisite, not just because it offers the opportunity to view McQueen's stunning pieces at a pace, but also because it does so with the same level of craft, care and love that he devoted to his work. It must have cost a bomb to produce--each of the eight rooms is a separately produced high-end showcase, beautifully lit and soundtracked, helping to compensate--as much as humanly possible--for the cheek-to-jowl crowds.

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Patron of the New

Patron of the New is über sexy.

A friend tipped me to the just-opened TriBeCa store last week, so I stopped in last weekend. Oh. My. God. Located on Franklin Street in a stunning, prototypical TriBeCa space--soaring ceilings, concrete floors, columns down the middle, beams across the top--Patron of the New. is an elegant celebration of all that is fabulous in smart, super high-end fashion.

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Master Craftsman

I have a very funny, charming dog, a five year old, white French Bulldog. He catalyzes lots of conversations everywhere I take him in New York. And, this being New York, on occasion those conversations take place with celebrities. My personal rule of thumb for these encounters is to roll with the moment, resist temptation to turn them into anything other than exchanges about my dog.

On Tuesday this week I broke that rule. I was in Ricky's on Broadway in Soho, standing at the cashier. I looked up to find fashion designer Ralph Rucci saying something to the effect of "You have a beautiful dog." This would be the equivalent of Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas or Richard Rogers complimenting an architecture aficionado on her hound. Not a household name celebrity, but to someone in the know--a legend. Time stood still.

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Girl Power

First Natalie Massenet, now Arianna Huffington. In less than twelve months' time, two super fabulous female entrepreneurs have inked high-profile, multimillion dollar deals for the companies they founded, using the internet as their launch pad. Natalie started online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter in London in 2000. Arianna, of course, founded eponymous news aggregator Huffington Post in 2005.

Both women are game changers who began from scratch, trusted instinct in the face of adamant naysayers and have personally netted millions as a result. Natalie pocketed $75 million in April 2010 when Richemont bought out the portion of Net-a-Porter it did not yet own for $530 million. Figures have not been made public in the Aol-Huffington Post transaction, but based on the Company's investor base and reported valuations of earlier rounds, Arianna will likely take home somewhere between $15 and $50 million cash and stock in the $315 million deal. She also is said to have a multi-million dollar annual contract to stay on and run Aol's collected news services.

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Fashion Forward

Late last week Prada announced plans to go public. Rumors had been swirling about an IPO for most of 2010--actually, for most of the past decade. The new twist to the tales told last year was that the Company had decided to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange. And that is, in fact, what it plans to do. This move is either brilliant--or sheer, high-stakes lunacy.

Prada has always been more modern, more futuristic and more willing to take risks--aesthetically, strategically and financially--than other luxury companies. There have been some ill-considered acquisitions and the burden, at times, of an overly leveraged balance sheet. On the whole, however, Miuccia Prada and her CEO husband, Patrizio Bertelli, have done a masterful job of staying relevant and at the forefront of luxury and fashion, while growing Prada from $450,000 in sales, when they took over the company from her family in 1978, to well over $2 billion in annual revenues today.

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Irrational Exuberance

Earlier this month the window display at Sicis on Broome Street in Soho caught my eye, as it often does. Only this time it was, as I wrote when I posted a picture of it on Twitter, ridonculous--beyond. It was a bathtub--in the form of a gold, mosaic, high-heel platform pump. I loved it for its sheer craziness--who came up with this thing? And then--decided to go ahead and make it?!

And, in fact, it was beautiful. Sicis' mosaic workmanship is always exquisite. The detail on this wacky bathtub was no exception. Since then Sicis has cropped up two more times--and both times it's been for another exuberant product or collaboration. A week ago the India Art Summit was held in New Delhi. A friend posted pictures on Facebook. One of the standout items in her photo album--for its sheer fun factor--was a vibrantly decorated Nano (pictured above). Turns out--it was, as the license plate says, a Sicis production--on behalf of Singapore-based, British-Indian artist Ketna Patel.

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Fashion Democracy

This past Saturday the first of two annual transatlantic fashion marathons kicked off with men’s fashion week in Milan.

Every year those intimately familiar with the fashion calendar (the way others are intimately familiar with professional sports seasons), eagerly anticipate the mid-January to mid-March romps down the runways of Milan, New York, London, and Paris, followed a bit less precisely by the same thing all over again from early June to early July and mid-September to early October (the second installation is broken in two by the obligatory European August shut down). Editors, buyers and now bloggers, too, jet back-forth, north-south to cover it all. And then start all over again from the top.

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