Sunday, November 19, 2006


Same Guy?

While playing catch up on some of my favorite blogs, I noticed this photo from The Sartorialist. Here we have a portrait of Mr. Kinoshita, Fashion Editor of the magazine Brutus.

He looks an awful lot like the fashionable guy I photographed with equally fashionable men at the Uniqlo launch party. Different lighting, different posture, but still . . . The dates make it plausible. The party was on the 9th, and the photo on the Sartorialist taken on the same day. One wonders.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Meeting Miho

After a lifetime of no cavities, I learned yesterday that I have four and that one, due to neglect, may well require the dreaded root canal. This is what comes of having no dental insurance and skipping dentist visits in an attempt to save money.

What's a girl to do when she receives this kind of news? I did the responsible thing, which was to head over to a sample sale at Joolay, where I was introduced in passing to the head designer who turned out to be a Japanese girl named Miho. I did my thing and spoke in Japanese.

"But you don't look Japanese at all!" she protested.

A salesgirl announced, "You know, Miho was a famous actress in Japan."

"Not actress," Miho laughed. "Porn star." Then, nimbly, she pranced away.

This has happened to me before in New York; I meet some Japanese person who used to be famous in Japan but has come to America to start life over. I find the whole concept of relative fame fascinating, especially because the inclination is to believe that the Internet and globalism in general has leveled the playing field.

So who, I wondered when I went home, is Miho? She was clearly very smart. She avoided me the rest of the time that I was in the showroom floor, and didn't want to talk about Japan or her acting career, but had the grace to smile and accept compliments when I told her how much I loved her designs. Obviously, this was a situation where I should have kept my mouth shut and remained American. But it's hard to judge these things sometimes. In other situations, speaking Japanese has been helpful.

Anway, I thought initially that Miho's quip about being a porn actress was a bit of inspired cleverness.

So, I continued shopping. And by the way, if you live in NYC, please do go to the Joolay sale, which continues on till Friday of this week. The clothes are gorgeous and the prices a true bargain, unlike other sample sales which don't sell samples at all. If you like velvet and embroidery and drama and beading, you'll love these clothes. I felt as though someone actually had me in mind while designing! The work plays up the theme of exotic India, which does make you wonder how much the embroiderer was paid for me to be able to take home a $25 tunic . . . (Funnily enough, though, the clothes ARE designed by a Japanese person which makes me think; what's more Japanese? Joolay or Uniqlo?)

Then I got home and prayed that Google wouldn't fail me again. It didn't. Miho is indeed an actress. In fact she's filming now. She's married to an indepdent filmmaker Hal Hartley. She did some "erotic art films" which have a cult following. And yes, in person she is quite stunningly beautiful. All that and tremendous intelligence and talent.

Her English language bio claims that she is descended from a kimono maker's family. Her own collection is described as "A touch of elegance with a touch of Lolita sensuality." Fitting and true. I quite like the way her life has reinvented itself here in America. Certainly she is enormously talented, and I'll be first in line at the next sample sale (if I have any money left after the root canal).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Google Has Failed Me

What's the first thing you do when you meet someone new and intriguing? I confess to turning to Google. And often it reveals interesting facts; I know roughly what old boyfriends are doing, where beloved teachers have moved, what internet friends look like before a first face to face meeting.

Imagine, then, my disappointment that Google failed to turn up even a single a clue regarding the couple whose apartment we are poised to buy. We always swore that, when it came to buying, we'd know within seconds that we'd stepped into a new home. And, in fact, the apartment in question struck a nerve with us immediately.

There were the books, many of which I'd read and loved and saved. There was Kazuo Ishiguro's latest, which I'd bought in Vancouver because it came out a whole month earlier in Canada. A cat watched us suspciously frm the sofa. A piano stood in the corner. A desk, facing West, perfectly placed for writing. Paintings, not posters on the walls.

We loved the quality of light, the use of space and the colors. We wouldn't have to repaint the walls! Forget the fixer-upper of an apartment we were considering. And the kitchen! Why, these people liked food as much as we did! We imagined Christmas, a roaring fire and parties with friends. When we toured the gardens of the coop, I asked the realtor if I'd have my own little plot to play with.

"Yes. Although, I think the woman who lives in your unit now is the only one who ever tried to grow anything on her own."

A kindred spirit. Book readers. Lovers of music. Who were these people?

We looked in their storage unit, and there was a wine collection. We could put our wine where they put their wine! And those masks from the Yucatan! They looked like our masks!

Call them Mr. and Mrs. X. I know what they look like because of the wedding photos displayed in their (tasteful) bedroom. I don't know much more. It feels right, somehow, that the holidays are bringing this kind of expectation. Can't wait to meet the sellers of the apartment, and to move into our new home.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Not Your Mother's Uniqlo


The wall of color and the simple lines may look like Uniqlo to you, but I promise you, this is NOT the same store you might visit in Japan. I was privileged enough last night to attend the flagship store opening ; longtime readers of Japundit will remember that we had a lively discussion last year about the early test-marketing attempts of Uniqlo corporate here in NYC, and that we speculated how it would fare long term against global competitors such as H&M and Zara.
I overheard one fashionista complaining last night that he had no idea how the clothes really looked like, what with Iron Chef Morimoto serving up sublime toro flown in from Japan and with the sake flowing and the DJ spinning music over repeated exclamations of kampai. (For the record, I eschewed buying any $89 cashmere sweaters and took home the sake cup instead. It smells like hinoki).
The store is a labyrinth of glass and spinning mannequins and simple clothes (think J Crew, but sturdier). The fashionable--and the money-minded--mingled together
I've specific thoughts to share with you on the merchanise, which is an interesting mix, and there are definitely items that Japundits will love. But I'll close for now with this thought. The American press so far has been very quick to say that Uniqlo is where hip Japanese go to find basics. The funny thing is every time I'm in Japan, friends look stunned when I say that Uniqlo is coming to America; it isn't exactly considered hip. It's viewed more like the Kmart of the 80s.

Looking around the store (when I could focus), I kept asking myself, "What's so Japanese about Uniqlo?" The Gap likes to point to certain American classic icons (James Dean, Audrey Hepburn) to market their stuff. H&M has English eccentricity as its muse and Zara can play up a general sense of European mystique. What is Uniqlo to do? A great deal of it is and will be designed by Westerners, and not by the Japanese, so it isn't the clothes exactly that are transferring from Japan to America.

Well, read the press release carefully and you'll see that Uniqlo's launch isn't an attempt to recreate what exists in Japan.

Japan’s most popular apparel retailer and a worldwide leader in casual wear, opened its first global flagship store and the world’s largest UNIQLO in New York City, the fashion capital of the world. Located at 546 Broadway, the 36,000 square foot UNIQLO SoHo NY features the very best of UNIQLO - stylish, high-quality and affordable clothing and accessories, complemented by an unparalleled modern Japanese shopping experience in a stunning architectural landmark.

This is a global store; it's not intended for an American audience looking for a recreation of a Japanese experience. And this is why the marketing materials emphasize modernity, service and design, things that Americans always notice when they visit Tokyo. There are also small pockets of Japanese specific designs that play into our notions of what is cool in Japan (more on these later).

All these decisions strike me as smart. I, for one, and rooting for Uniqlo's success. It's about time a Japanese company entered into the discount fashion fray. If Uniqlo succeeds in America, it will be very interesting to see if this version of the store will then inform the Uniqlo back home in Japan.

First posted at Japundit.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Catch Up

Busy days these past couple of weeks. I had food poisoning at the same time that beloved kitten Georgie was rushed to the ICU and given 50/50 odds (he survived). Nonetheless, I spent a good 4 days crying, which didn't help me regain my appetite.

In happier news, friend and fellow writer Kaytie came for a visit where she met her agent (yay, Kaytie!) and attended the CMLP writer's conference with me. Friend Kurt gave one of the most breathtaking concerts I've yet had the privelage to hear, this time at Zenkel Hall. We are looking forward to the new album.

Last night was a doozy. Georgie went back to the hospital for a check up. If you live in NYC and need medical help for your pet, I can't recommend the Animal Medical Center at 62nd and York highly enough. It's better medical care than most humans receive, and the vets are truly compassionate. I'll be eternally grateful to the team of doctors who saved Georgie's life.

After the hospital, I went on to the Housing Works Annual Gin Mingle (or whatever it's called), and met old and made new writer/agent/editor friends. Here's a photo of me with Ron Hogan who writes Beatrice and Galleycat, both of which I try to read religiously. Then, in a most un-bookish twist to the day, I went to the Uniqlo store opening and felt very out of place among the stylish set, though I was more than happy to eat Iron Chef Morimoto's sushi; more about that in a moment.

This weekend will be devoted to finishing up paper-work for our (hopefully) impending move to a new coop in Jackson Heights. The secret may well soon get out about this neighborhood, but for now we are enjoying our good fortune in having found what may well be the last good real estate deal in NYC (this being a buyer's market and all). Here we are celebrating our find with a good Indian meal at the ever delicious Jackson Diner.

And last, but certainly not least, the people have spoken and I'm thrilled. I would say that my faith in America has been restored, except that I never really completely lost my faith; if America falls apart, it's a very bad thing for the rest of the world, and so I continue to have hope. At any rate, I'm so very proud of the country today.

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