Sunday, June 19, 2011

Grace, Glamour and Girl Talk with New Zealand Designer Rebecca Taylor

- first published in Maniac Magazine May 2011

With a romantic, but edgy sensibility Rebecca Taylor has charmed celebrities, boutiques and department stores with her classic, but youthful style. For this journalist she was also a much needed smile during the stress and party scene at New York Fashion Week.

I was five months pregnant when I first met Rebecca at an after party for her Fall 2010 collection. Because of the celebrity popularity of her runway show that year I was shut out of the presentation, however, the organizers let me attend the after-party across the street from the tents. I felt like Humpty Dumpty standing next to Carmen Electra who looked at me and asked for approval of her pony-tailed hair before greeting the press. I said, caught off guard, “It’s a great hawk. It’s you.”

Although I hadn’t prepared an interview I got in line to talk with Rebecca. Describing Rebecca as lovely doesn’t justify her calm and collected demeanor amongst the melee around her. When it was my turn she eagerly told me about her twin daughters and son, and how she would love to be able to design a children’s line. As a mother she is often inspired by how excited her children get about fashion and colors.

After studying fashion in New Zealand she came to New York with little money, but lots of moxie. Her talents eventually landed her at Cynthia Rowley where she worked for six years before her first runway show debut in 1999 with her namesake company. Her name is now synonymous with established celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman, Cate Blanchett, Beyonce and Kate Winslet as well as new faces like Lauren Conrad, Taylor Swift, Kristen Bell and Whitney Port. However, glamour and glitz is far from the laid back chic identity that the Rebecca Taylor brand embodies. It is exactly what the famous and fashionable wear when they are appearing as normal people instead of characters in a drama or show.

The second time I met her was for the Spring 2011 collection. I had brought my baby to Fashion Week because I was breast feeding and I decided he was the best accessory a mom could have. Not! I remembered all his baby gear but in my haste forgot to put my garment bag, containing carefully choreographed outfits, in my suitcase. I looked like a baggy housewife when I showed up for Rebecca’s after-party at a swanky glass roofed nightclub. This time when I went to interview her, ready with my recorder, the batteries popped out as I again regarded how calm she was amongst the cacophony of conversations surrounding her.

“You must be tired,” I muttered looking for the batteries.

“No, not at all. Do I look tired?” She replied.

“That must be me. I should have left the babe at home.” As I was fumbling for my batteries I noticed her sparkly blue oxfords at the end of her casual jeans; comfort and shine. I regarded that meeting as another testimony to her good manners and gracious sentiment in everything she does.
That inspiration is easy to see in her vintage floral prints with prairie sleeves emboldened with rich colors and beaded bursts. Inspired by pretty things, she creates looks perfect for an urban garden party; they are playful designs with a sophisticated air.

“I like to design clothing that women can wear and feel good in. The Rebecca Taylor girl knows pretty, but she is not overly precious. I design with that girl in mind.” Rebecca said after her recent Fall 2011 runway presentation. This you she forwent the parties, but made time to answer questions from me.

For this season she looked for patterns that reflected her sentiment. She explained, “This season I was inspired by Ross Bleckner’s paintings, blurred images and sparkling lights.” The star bursts of color and striations of tones are reflected perfectly in the textiles she created for her separates and frocks.

Common to her collections is universal neutrality that she applies to her style compositions that gives her artistic interpretations a wider brush with consumers. The pieces easily fit into any wardrobe. “I feel there are no real cardinal rules when it comes to fashion. I think women should have fun with fashion. I love camels and grays. They are easy to wear and look great when paired with bold colors or patterns.”

Although, my disheveled chic style may be a far cry from the posture of Rebecca Taylor, her collections are always filled with wearable flirty, but refined designs that any woman, including me, can appreciate and wear with delight. America’s star Kiwi designer earned her sparkle by striking a chord that resonates in all women. Her designs, much like herself, are graceful, flirty, and simply pretty.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cirque du Soleil and the Evolution of Life in My Womb

Accidental Mama Goes to the Circus

by Sarah Lolley

My impending doom hit me on the opening night of Cirque du Soleil's Totem performance, which was also my husband Patrick's 36th birthday. It was a rainy night that made lakes of puddles and turned the rain into pelting water bombs. As we found our seats, passing up the bar serving champagne which I longingly desired, I had that feeling I often get at these times of my life. I felt plain stupid.

I was pregnant, again. I have embraced my new role as Accidental Mama with a sense of humor and maybe a little style, but a third! My son was not even one-year-old! He was still breastfeeding. It was the nanny's fault for sure. She had been feeding my son more solid food and telling me not to give him booby. Thanks to spontaneous ovulation and my husband's commando sperm I was going to spend another summer fat and hormonal anticipating the explosion of my loins giving birth to another living being that will probably blame me for scarring their innocence, which might be true. I don't do a good job at endorsing Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It's the Jewish side of me.

All this was going through my head as the lights went down and a figure in a crystal bodysuit appeared hanging from the ceiling above an organic cell like structure with chanting reptilian characters responding to the descending crystal acrobat. The comparison to my defenseless egg screaming out at the invasion of Patrick's charging sperm was too obvious for my imagination. The crystal form began contorting and swinging from bars inside the membrane as the lizards led a tribal chant and danced around the main attraction. This was what happened inside my uterus for sure. Damn it why didn't the lizards people fight back and kick the glittery man out!

The cell frame was lifted and a mostly naked Native American boy danced around the stage performing clever scenes with rings. This still reminding me of my pregnancy, after all Patrick wanted another boy.

Then a loud European in a speedo comes out yelling about this mama at the audience. Now this reminded me of my Romanian husband that won my heart because he does a great Borat impersonation with his thongs on. Oh lord, is this really my life happening before me under the Big Top?

After the skit, a man resembling the camp style of Vanilla Ice and another man with Ken Doll hair dancing to Bollywood and hip-hop beats was left on the stage. They got in an acrobatic bravado battle over the attention of a woman who had the most beautiful abs I had ever seen. I whimpered at that point. That will never be me and I had hopes and dreams of becoming semi-muscular this summer. I was just feeling them tighten again when bam they were sentenced back to mush.

Just when I was wishing for something that didn't remind me of the organism in my womb to divert my self-absorbed attention, aliens came out of the ground accompanied by two beautiful Las Vegas showgirls dripping in crystals. They twirl and balance crystal towels with their extremities, passing them back and forth with precision. It was a pretty good distraction since it didn't resemble house work at all although I thought it would be fun to dress up in a shiny skin color body suit and prance around the house when I am eight-months prego.

The show's theme is abstractly choreographed around the idea of evolution. Neanderthal and monkey characters play integral parts of antagonizing seemingly civilized characters. There are also scaly figures that evolve out of metaphorical water to perform tricks on land. Wonderful, I knew at 6 weeks pregnant I had a little guppy inside me performing its own evolution.

Before intermission the civilized men at war with the apes tore off their suits to reveal rubber bodysuits! If only Patrick had worn one of those the night of my fateful conception. Yeah, if only Patrick were half the acrobat as these guys were balancing on poles and contorting into strange positions. As it happened for this pregnancy, we were in a weird position on the couch and he couldn't maneuver his way out in time. And that is how I became the Accidental Stupid Mama.

The second half of the show reminded me less of my stupidity, although at one point it did remind me of my marriage. One of the highlights of the show is watching a beautifully sculpted couple theatrically argue over the trapeze and in the end resolve to lean on each other. Yeah that's Patrick and me. Stuck at the end of suspended ropes trying to be the one in charge and resolving to life's defeat of us both.

I wanted to wait to post this story until I told my parents the news of my third pregnancy.
My dad laughed at me and said, "It's going to be like a chicken farm around here."
I said with my two blond children at my feet, "I was hoping for a red head this time."
He said, "Great, a rooster."
Here's to the balancing act of life.

Totem runs in Pittsburgh until June 4th. Imagine yourself pregnant for the third time in three years while watching it for an added thrill. Not!