Street located in downtown Oxford
Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian Library:
of the most photographed monuments
British girls at an underground student
bar, The Purple Turtle.
and Erin Wasson modeling pieces
from his H&M
Couture's fur-lined parka in military green.
Ferretti backstage at her Spring 2005
Miller, a reference to the younger
writes her column abroad while taking the semester to study
Journalism and Politics at Oxford University's New College.
humble town of Oxford hardly beckons the "come one, come all" invitation
seen by way of her swanky city sister: the soiree-throwing, night-life
loving London. Now during the day, the fact that Oxford isn't awash
with aboundingly fun events is hardly a motion for heartache. After
all, we grown-up Harry Potter and Hermione Granger types--in theory--spend
the afternoons chasing hard-hitting stories or pressing our bookish
little noses to the grindstone of academia. But once the trusty ol'
13th century Carfax Tower clock strikes nine, pandemonium breaks loose! The
gear is switched as student on the school paper revs up to
become student with a social life. Textbooks are flung out the window
(not literally of course, although it would be exhilarating), the masses
hurry out of any one of the University's one hundred libraries and
drown their worries with a Guinness, a smoke, or perhaps splurge for
both the Guinness and the smoke. So what is a girl to do when she decides,
on a random Wednesday night, that she'd like to go to a place just
a smidgen more upscale, just a bit more hip, then a place rampant with
beer-addled preppies? The discerning girl will find herself at Oxford's
most credible club called The Bridge, which, in the
words of Saks Fifth Avenue, is as close to "the ring on the finger
on the pulse of the city" as she's going to get.
there I was, loving the sassy frolic-fest atmosphere, sipping a classy
amaretto sour, singing along to the KitCat version of Christina Aguilera's "Dirty," when
all of a sudden I'm shimmying alongside Hugh Grant. Well, not exactly
Hugh Grant (although the celeb did attend New College, that was twenty-five
years ago) but this boy was a dead ringer, complete with the twinkling
eyes and all. We attempted to carry on a conversation, but could barely
understand each other over the blaring beats. I kept trying to ask
him his age, he kept trying to answer with an earnest and enthusiastic, "Yeah!" After
a few more rounds of confused "I can't..I don't...what are you
saying?" he finally just grabbed my hand and practically shouted
down my ear, "I barely know you, and I can't understand you, but
I think I really, really like you!"
was that? How can he "really really" like me if he can't
understand me? According to Webster, this is what he would call a contradiction.
A noun indicating inconsistency; discrepancy. Something that contains
contradictory elements. Maybe it's the whole cognitive dissonance phenomenon,
but I've never been comfortable with the idea of contradiction, especially
when that contradiction exists in conventional wisdom. Grown-ups are
wiser than children, couture clothing carry more allure than that of
the mass market, premium ice cream tastes better than reduced-fat,
love is sweeter in the afternoon. Who can refute these simple truths?
But no truth is ever quite as simple, especially when you step outside
your normal periphery. I'm not sure if living alone in a foreign country
has afforded me this heightened awareness, all I know is that
I have never been so attuned to the multiplicity that exists in everyday
going-ons...in fact, I can't seem to ignore them anymore. They pour
in like daily news headlines, one after the other, working to challenge
my preconceptions. And whether it is happening on the Paris catwalk
or on the Oxford sidewalk, contradictions seem to parallel the England
weather: when it rains, like hell it pours.
in Wonderland: Looking Through the Glass"
arrival to the United Kingdom may have been a week shy of London Fashion
Week, but what I can't see on the catwalk, I'll see on the streets.
Some of the preconceptions I've carried with me have been proven true.
For example, the British do indeed walk as if they have swallowed long
umbrellas: back straight, neck elongated, prim and proper (something
my mother had hoped ballet school would instill for me, but to no avail).
But the notion that Brits are reserved, haughty, and a bit boring?
To this, I've noticed some shocking contradictions. While I wouldn't
describe their personalities as vivacious, they are definitely an amiable,
engaging, at times humorous bunch. During Fresher's Week, I remember
being thoroughly amused by a handsome law student from Wimbledon who
pretended he was flamboyantly gay for an entire twenty minutes (he
was wearing sort of YSL rive gauche Persian-turquoise velvet blazer
that he looked only too comfortable sporting). He then suddenly quit
the act cold turkey to tell me the only reason he confessed his love
for men was because he had assumed everyone from San Francisco loved
the gays, and then proceeded to ask if I'd be interested in "going
to the cinema". (I had to give him credit for delivering the most
original, strangest pick-up line I have ever heard.) I also remember
being lost on a street looking for the New College bar, pathetically
clutching a map in my hands, when two Teen Voguish-looking girls enthusiastically
bounced over to me and exclaimed, "That belt is beautiful! And
your lovely trousers--are you wearing a skirt or are those trousers??" When
I told them that I had gotten both the belt and the pants from the Kitson
boutique in Los Angeles, their eyes grew even wider. "Ooooh,
lovely," they nodded wisely. One girl siezed my arm. "Come
with us, we're taking you to a house party!" I was reeled. These
girls were like my friends from home--where were the cold brush-offs,
the aloofness? And what were they doing wearing cowboy boots and tassled
belts? I thought only the girls of the golden West had the moxie to
wear those. Admittedly, they did look adorable in their gaucho-inspired
accessories. British girls are darling dressers; after all, they have
Kate Moss and Sienna Miller for references. They seem to have developed
a complete counterculture from the conservative, wearied elegance of
their mummies; these young ladies stroll along the cobbled streets
with a sort of cool confidence (while I can barely keep from tripping
and falling flat on my face) that delivers their eclectic, punkish,
Bohemian chic mix as perfectly executed cakewalks. And by the way,
I have never seen so many winter parkas galore--funked up fur lining
compulsory of course. It's like trying to play Where's Waldo, except
Waldo is the one solitary person on the street who is not wearing
the Ungaro-esque jacket.
Crossover Designer: Masstige
Rushes to the Above and Below"
Mizrahi calls his "cou-Target," Michael Kors favors "carpool
couture," Karl Lagerfeld prefers "Liquid Karl." Actually,
Lagerfeld hasn't tagged a title onto his recent collaboration with
the fast-fashion retailer H&M, but Liquid Karl (his cardamom, amyris
wood and exotic frangipani flower-infused unisex fragrance) will debut
on November 12th. The fragrance that has been described as "rich,
creamy and sensual" will be complimented with an eagerly anticipated
30-piece collection of the legenddesigner's
creations, ranging from $49.90 tuxedo shirts to $129.90 sequined
black blazers. Lagerfeld has been quoted saying, "My dream is
to do very expensive lines like Chanel and Fendi and very inexpensive
I read this, my eyes lit up like candles on a two year old's birthday
cake. What is going on here? Is this the same designer whose tweed
jackets, at $4 thou a pop, I have unwittingly accepted as to never
finding a home in my closet? I'm delighted to say it is. Just in
time for the holidays--God bless their dear hearts--lofty couture designers
have donned a much more egalitarian spirit as they revamp popular
collections to deliver high-fashion chic to adoring, although price-conscious,
fans. Take Mizrahi: back in June, he presented both his $12.99 Target
tees and $20,000 Made-To-Order ballgowns with the same models, the
same runway, the same audience. Mizrahi says that he is "not
interested in doing clothes that only six people...will understand." A
little contradictory? Perhaps. After all, his one-of-a-kind, made-to-order
pieces cater to very particular, high society women, and at $20,000
he seems very interested. But I'd like to think that
even the most sang-froid fashionista should spark up a little
excitement this share of wealth, this mass-market attainability
of the exclusive world brimming with Calvins, Isaacs and Karls.
There's something alluring and thrilling in wearing a $25 effortless,
lovely "Tar-ture" shirtdress
with your glam-glam Chanel sunglasses. It's a devilish clash. And
when your friends dish out the compliments, you can demurely accept
and say, "Thanks, it's Mizrahi."
headline that entails discrepancy is just the kind of sensational story
that makes the reader do a double-take: it indicates something profoundly
fluid about the world we live in, as if nothing can ever be stamped
into finality. Moving to England has exposed me to entirely new situations,
leading my skeptic eyes to see things in an entirely different light.
Maybe a contradiction now and then is a good thing; it can jolt a jaded
heart out of a lull as it offers an element of sweet surprise of something
you didn't know existed, like biting into a chocolate and discovering
a delightful mint cream center just waiting to be yummied up. I now
know that reduced-fat ice cream can most certainly stand its ground
to premium--I have two best friend cuties, Shrina and Bahar, who can
testify; they go absolutely crazy for Cookies & Cream Dreyer's
Grand Light. Backstage at her scintillating spring collection, Alberta
Ferretti declared her belief that "fashion is a form of freedom
... [and] the new lightness reflects a liberation of the mind." In
the process of liberating my own mind, I've lightened my load of misconceptions
and learned a thing or two about myself. Most of my friends and family
would hesitate to call me capable; endearingly naive would be a more
accurate title. But living in a foreign country without the comforts
of familiarity has forced me to become more worldly, more independent,
more capable, to be a little mover-and-shaker without the training
wheels. And the thing is, I don't think I've ever needed those wheels--it
was just another one of those things patiently waiting to be contradicted.