Fringe benefits

Design Build Adventure's Palm Park Tree Installation in Austin, TX.







Waller Creek, the largest urban stream in the country, snakes from the northern part of Austin southward, through the University of Texas campus, along downtown, before emptying into Lady Bird Lake. With a new conservancy set up in its honor, Waller Creek is getting a full makeover (or makeunder, as preservation is the point). To test creative interventions, Austin artist/designer/builder Jack Sanders led a pop-up adventure picnic a year ago in Palm Park, a community art-raising that installed massive accordion rings around a campfire and this tree. Sanders regularly stages such happenings through his company Design Build Adventure, a program of camps and workshops for people interested in collaboratively exploring new perspectives on the built environment (the 4-day workshop in Marfa, TX is calling me). Channeling the play inherent in this project, I couldn't resist pairing the tree skirt with its sartorial twin: a fleece dress with hand-woven flare by Hungarian line Nanushka. Fringe for all.

Quirky equus

Hermès installation by Olaf Breuning in Tokyo's Shibuya Seibu district.








An Olaf encore. In researching Clouds, I learned of Breuning’s simultaneous installation for Hermès in the Shibuya Seibu district of Tokyo. Channeling a parallel strain of whimsy, he took Hermès’ equestrian aesthetic to a playful place, fashioning makeshift steeds by draping sheets over indistinguishable structures (Den furniture? Kitchen chairs?). By Breuning’s hand, the brand's venerable horse-drawn carriage becomes rudimentary: four wheels,  thin platform. The bling is in his bold palette; his horses' hairs are loud – canary, cobalt, teal, tangerine – and their googly eyes are fixed on the sidewalk, inviting further rifts on luxury goods and lifestyle. These Céline cuffs seem similarly self-deprecating in their folded forms, at once tactile and tattered and totally perfect.

Cumulus crop

Clouds by Olaf Breuning, 2008, C-Print.








Azure clouds hover above the southeast entrance of Central Park. No, this is not a meteorological phenomenon, but rather a public art installation, a playful inversion of blue sky, white clouds. The plump aluminum panels, perched atop 35-foot-tall steel ladders, are the doing of artist Olaf Breuning in conjunction with the Public Art Fund. Installed in March, Clouds initially offered a color infusion as winter dragged on, and now, as trees bud nearby, the sculpture inspires wisps of wonder and humor. Clouds is based on a photograph Breuning staged in 2008 in Italy. Using cherry pickers and cardboard cutouts, he created a quick installation and documented it on film (for me to borrow, six years later). Keen to reconceive the image, he designed a new cumulus outcropping minus the climb-able cranes. Why clouds? In conversation with Vogue, Breuning suggested, why not? Everybody likes clouds. “There are those moments on a summer day when you’re lying on the grass and you look up and there are clouds,” he said. “I didn’t really think about the clouds; I could have prepared a lot of things to say, but I just now that clouds are recognizable and each person has their own thoughts about them.” Clouds invite the mind to wander, aloft, untethered. And by painting them blue, he channeled an age-old abstraction, the childhood instinct to scribble blue clouds against white skies. “See, my work is as simple as possible,” he said. “When you are a kid, you draw a cloud, and you make it blue. I don’t know why. I think it’s a design thing, and after I made it, I realized, Oh shit, clouds aren’t really blue. But it looks nice, the different colors.” The color puffs on this dress look nice too, camouflaged to a leisurely stroll past public art (before Clouds closes August 24).

Attainable texture

"False Ceiling" by Richard Wentworth at Istanbul Modern, Turkey. Love Moschino Short Dress in White.







I’m feeling the ceiling today. Of place. Of profession. Of person. Coming across Richard Wentworth’s “False Ceiling,” a site-specific installation at the Istanbul Modern in Turkey, gives me hope that I can decide my ceiling's texture. His is one of cultural and intellectual commentary: the books, sourced from Eastern and Western cultures, rest just beyond reach, removed from their purpose as portals to knowledge, removed from the act of reading. His barrier of distance nullifies any of the information printed on their pages. These are books closed to learning, eroded of authority. No longer tomes of truth, they become merely material, forming a permeable, symbolic surface. This Love Moschino dress seems like an exuberant complement to Wentworth: Channeling the pop pows of Roy Lichtenstein, the words stand less for meaning, more for pattern and visual exclamation. Maybe these Wows will inspire you too.

Serene stripes

Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama, Japan. National Geographic Photo by Photograph by Kyle Merriman, Your Shot.







  Trees remain on my mind, although technically, this forest outside Kyoto, Japan is not striped by trees, but rather grasses, bamboo. Pathways cut through the swaying stalks, inviting people to stroll or cycle, and discover the small Nonomiya Shrine nestled within. Now is the time to visit: the cherry blossoms pop in April, making for a flora fantasia in Arashiyama. If like a spirit animal, I could have a spirit material, it would be bamboo, and my spirit pattern would be stripes.

Ephemeral Easter

Easter in Antigua, Guatemala. Mara Hoffman Kasuri Cutout Mini Dress.

Sans kids, the festive nature of Easter has lost some of its luster. Hoping to reclaim a bit of that wonder, I looked for places with unique Easter celebrations. In the central highlands of Guatemala, Antigua – a UNESCO World Heritage city founded in the 16th century with the Italian Renaissance in mind – expresses Easter in an entirely different palate – vivid and vivacious (like this Mara Hoffman mini). The sensory spectacle begins by carpeting the streets in color; residents spend hours funneling dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles, fruits and vegetables into alfombras, which serve as route markers for religious processions. Every Lenten Sunday, the faithful traipse through the city, razing the rainbow in a riotous parade of floats, costumes and brass music. Ephemeral, elaborate, extraordinary: an indelible Easter experience.

Lucid illusion

Lucid Stead by Phillip K. Smith III in Joshua Tree, CA. Photo by Steven King Photography.









Log cabins and cowboy hats are part of the visual vernacular in Wyoming, my interest in them diluted by their ubiquity. This Joshua Tree installation arrests my ambivalence: Phillip K. Smith III modified a 70-year-old cabin with mirrors and LED lighting to create the illusion of transparency, particularly profound in the arid expanse of scrub brush and desert sand (a profundity referenced in the installation’s name, Lucid Stead). This organza frock channels the installation’s colorful translucence and calm amid extremes. Even though Lucid Stead is no longer open to the public, Smith is busy working on other ambitious artworks: this Friday at Coachella, he unveils Reflection Field, a more elaborate light installation involving five massive, mirrored volumes of light. Computerized color progressions will make the sculptures disappear into their dramatic surrounds. Lucky Coachellians.

Metamorphic muse

Marble Cathedral in Chile. Photograph by Karl-Heinz Raach (laif/Redux).







Marble laces the pages of the most recent New York Times T Magazine, a vein that begins with a photo collage tracing the metamorphic muse in architecture, design, fashion and nature (hence Chile’s Marble Cathedral and my literal pairing with Rachel Comey's maillot). In a profile of lone-wolf sculptor Hanna Eshel, the marble slabs she hoisted by crane into her SoHo loft – photographed in all its light-washed glory – speak to her indomitable spirit. Eshel discovered marble after realizing that she felt confined by both her painting and her marriage. “I needed a material with its own soul, one that I could love,” the octogenarian said. Marble also fills an aesthetic need for French architect Joseph Dirand, who welcomed the magazine into his personal Parisian experiment in livable minimalism. “I like to look for materials that express a lot of disorder,” he said of the exquisite slabs paneling his bathroom and kitchen. Marble expresses self-reliance in the article on self-taught artist Alma Allen, who has carved a remote refuge for himself out of the Joshua Tree desert. Soul. Love. Disorder. Art. These references embrace marble’s metamorphic origins, the fiery folding of rock and time and talent.

Wheel and deal

Brand identity for the new Brooklyn Collection from The Oriole Mill. 






This mise-en-scène gives a whole new meaning to rolling out of bed. Rusty wheels, weathered wood, hand-dyed linens (the new Brooklyn Collection from The Oriole Mill) and a steel guitar waiting to be strummed. I can hear the bed creak and shift as I tip over to check the time on the vintage clock, or take a sip of the half full (or empty?) glass of water. Plenty of morning left to while away in this union suit, to unfold the paper at the foot of the bed and tuck back in.

Mountain tide

Grüner See in Styria, Austria. Photo by Marc Henauer.    Zimmermann Filigree Stud One Piece Swimsuit in Mismatched.  





Seasonal submergence. My kind of cleanse. Every spring, snowmelt from the Karst mountains in Austria swells the Grüner See (Green Lake), flooding the park that rings the lagoon. For most of the year, visitors can stroll across bridges, sit on park benches and jog along footpaths. Not so from mid-May to June: the park becomes an underwater wonderland populated by waving green grass, wildflowers and leafy trees. Swiss scuba diver Marc Henauer spent a week exploring the magical expanse in his scuba gear, snapping light-dappled photographs. This Zimmermann one-piece seems suited to the park’s bifurcated existence.

Desert temporality

Desert Breath by Danae Stratou, Alexandra Stratou, and Stella Constantinides in the Sahara of El Gouna, Egypt. Shinola's The Birdy Double Wrap Leather Strap Watch in Women's White with Date

  Over time, wind and weather will erode Desert Breath, a breathtaking land art installation in the eastern Sahara desert. Sited at the meeting of mountains and sea, Desert Breath is a monumental meditation on infinity made by D.A.S.T. Arteam – installation artist Danae Stratou, industrial engineer Alexandra Stratou and architect Stella Constantinides. The team spent two years sculpting a pair of interlocking spirals formed by 178 conical mounds and depressions, precise inversions of positive and negative space radiating from a vessel of water. From above, the work presents a visual image, but on the ground, it becomes a physical experience as visitors walk the spiral pathway. So far, Desert Breath has survived seven years of desert conditions, still “becoming through its slow disintegration, an instrument to measure the passage of time,” D.A.S.T. Arteam writes (for a complementary timepiece, this Shinola wrap watch – intrepidly handcrafted in Detroit – seems like the perfect way to mark such stunning temporality). “The project is rooted in our common desire to work in the desert,” D.A.S.T. continues. “In our mind’s eye the desert was a place where one experiences infinity. We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind."

NoLa alchemy

The Music Box, a now shuttered musical architecture installation in New Orleans, LA. Kaarem Dust Sleeveless Dress in Orchid Leaf Print.








Alchemy is at work in New Orleans in the form of a community arts project called Dithyrambalina. Part sonic playground, part performance venue, part conceptual laboratory, Dithyrambalina nurtures musical architecture in NoLa. What is musical architecture? When community arts org New Orleans Airlift first explored the concept through The Music Box: A Shantytown Sound Laboratory, the Smithsonian Magazine offered a defining description: “Rigged by a team of musicians, artists, inventors and tinkers to coax novel sounds from salvaged building materials – musical architecture.” The Music Box embedded instruments within the splintered walls of shacks; imagine playing loose planks like organ keys. The magical miniature village, built by more than 25 artists, electrified the neighborhood: 70-plus world-class musicians played the architectural orchestra, for an audience of more than 15,000 visitors. Critics sung its praises: “A breathtaking feat of DIY engineering, a living, breathing, sound-making member of the neighborhood” (ArtNet); and “Bravo to all of the brilliant builders, musicians and visionaries. The Music Box is many dreams come true” (New Orleans Times –Picayune).

The Music Box has since closed, but this year will see its resurrection in Dithyrambalina, a roving village made up of five playable houses set to visit neighborhoods around the Big Easy and beyond (the ultimate goal: to find a permanent site). The first new house is slated to open by late April, hopefully in time for my first-ever trip to New Orleans. I’m packing this Kaarem dress, a piece channeling the alchemic nature of musical architecture.

Tee time

The Textile Arts Center in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Rachel Rose Navy Waves Silk Tee









Time to unlock my latent talents. If I still lived in Brooklyn, I would beeline for the Textile Arts Center and take a class with one of the rising star designers on the faculty roster. Oh, the dilemma of what to do: Coil baskets? Dye indigo? Weave with nature? Paint tees with Rachel Rose, maker of this wavy silk top?

Beyond the bevy of adult and youth classes, the Center also houses Sewing Seeds, a program dedicated to disseminating information and inspiration on natural dyes. Did you know carrot tops, onion skins and rhubarb leaves can be used to dye fabric? News to me too.

Swedish solarium

A sunny reading loft in a Swedish apartment.  

Equipment Liliane washed silk pajama set






Another dreamy window seat on a Saturday (perhaps this will become a weekly installment). Plucked from a two-story apartment in Sweden, this light-washed nook is lofted above the living area – the perfect roost for reading. Endearingly disheveled, I wouldn’t change a thing: the rooftop vista, the nest of pillows, the knitted throw, the bowls of coffee, the stacks of mags. But I would add me to this scene, lounging in these cheery silk pjs, made playful with cartoony toadstools and rabbits.

Cardboard genius

Shigeru Ban's Cardboard Cathedral. Photo: Stephen Goodenough for the New York Times.  


TeslerMendelovitch Rosewood Clutch. Sold on





Yesterday, a seismic event happened in the architecture world: Japanese architect Shigeru Ban won the Pritzker Prize, the Nobel of architecture awards, a decisive move away from the celebrity monuments often lauded toward architecture focused on the greater social good.  According to the NY Times article announcing the award, Ban has challenged the notion of “what it means to have a roof over your head” by creating temporary shelters, often using cardboard and paper, in areas devastated by natural disasters. When a 2011 earthquake leveled a 19th-century cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, Ban designed a transitional sanctuary with a nave of cardboard tubes. Dubbed the Cardboard Cathedral, the 700-seat church still stands until funds can be raised for a permanent structure. “His work is airy, curvaceous, balletic,” wrote NY Times critic Michael Kimmelman in 2007. “… he is an old-school Modernist with a poet’s touch and an engineer’s inventiveness.” The same could be said of design duo TeslerMendelovitch, kindred innovators of Ban who actually do the inverse by using wood instead of more playable materials in their architectural clutches.

Mountain memorial

Salvation Mountain by Leonard Knight in Imperial County, CA. Photo: Chris Wang Mara Hoffman Waist Cutout Tea Length Dress

In college, I wrote my senior thesis – a collection of interrelated short stories – on self-taught/outsider/naïve artists (all those slashes attest to this spectral category of creativity). Such artists share an irrepressible drive to visually express themselves, an instinct epitomized by Leonard Knight. A Vermont native, Knight had been a welder, handyman, auto body mechanic, guitar teacher and painter before he decamped to Slab City, a squatters’ colony on a former military base several hours east of LA. In this lawless land, he built a three-story monolith to his faith, Salvation Mountain – a terraced rainbow made of adobe, straw and umpteen gallons of paint, cloaked in Bible verses and crowned with a cross. He shared his creation with others; visitors summit Salvation by following a golden path. Knight died last month at age 82. Without him, his mountain may languish; the site requires constant maintenance to combat the harsh conditions of the Colorado Desert. Can words help save Salvation Mountain? In 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as “a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure... profoundly strange and beautifully accessible.” I want to go (in this omniscient dress) and add my voice to its preservation.

Fresh page

The quintessential reading nook. Burberry Accessories Belted Cashmere Robe.









Saturday mornings usually find me lolling in bed with magazines, an indulgent routine that sometimes leaves me feeling lazy. Would a reading nook break the continuum between sleep and relaxation? It would certainly give me a reason to wear a plush cashmere robe. This spot seams ideal, sited somewhere near surf, bright with natural light, cushioned by overstuffed pillows. My imprint on this world would see some clutter and a cup of coffee, yet still serene.

Transformative design

Whatiftheworld, a gallery representing young contemporary South African artists. Theyskens' Theory Jagger textured linen and cotton-blend vest.


As the World Design Capital 2014, Cape Town will be awash all year in design projects aimed at transforming the city. With more than 470 initiatives in the works, the city will live out design as a way to reconnect, reconcile, communicate, transform, solve and inspire. An ambitious mission to be sure, every creative in Cape Town seems to have rallied behind the cause, making 2014 the year to visit Cape Town. Some hotels are helping their guests tap into the creativity coursing through the city: as the New York Times reported yesterday, the One&Only Cape Town is organizing tours of the Lalela Project’s arts education program in the Imizamo Yethu settlement, as well as curator-led tours of contemporary galleries in the city, with stops including Whatiftheworld, a gallery set in a decommissioned synagogue specializing in emerging artists. I’m going; all I needed was a deadline.

A beginning

Ontological Road Map 081811 (detail) by Robert Walden, ink on paper, 2011. Chambray Machinist Jumpsuit by Madewell, Spring 2014.








Maybe it’s because I live in winter, awash in white and ash. Maybe it’s because I miss the brocade of Brooklyn. Or because I still think in Vietnamese and imagine an alternate life abroad. Or the way my writerly mind works, constantly crafting characters and scenes. For these reasons and a myriad more, I’m always scheming where to go next, and what to wear when I’m there. So to exer(or)cise my sartorial wanderlust, I present Wear + Here.