Modern Frenzy/Vintage Memories

On Saturday morning my husband and I stood on line for forty minutes before it opened to get into the Modernica sample sale. I found this very amusing since it reminded me of standing in line at the Manolo Blahnik and Chanel sample sales, although the crowd at Modernica was a little different from the die-hard fashion warriors at the designer clothing sales.

Modernica sells mid-century modern furniture–Eames fiberglass chairs, glass Noguchi coffee tables, Case Study platform beds, all good stuff. (Mike is an architect and a modernist.) You can always tell an architect because of their offbeat eyeglasses (Mike’s current ones are rimless Prada) and their interesting shoes (usually Italian suede or Japanese sneakers).

Each subculture has its own uniform–when I was at Conde Nast, we all lived in Helmut Lang peacoats and Joseph leather jeans (this was in the late 90s). So when we got in line with all the interior decorators, architects and design enthusiasts, this being LA, there were a lot of girls with Betty Page haircuts and guys in vintage rocker T-shirts and plaid grandpa pants. It was a convivial group, unlike the slightly sour, competitive, shrill nature of clothing sample sales, although once the gates were opened, there was a MAD dash for the Eames rocking chairs ($199 from $350). “WHERE ARE THE ROCKERS???” was the desperate cry. We pounced on them as if our lives depended on it, quickly scoring a classic white one to call our very own. We also bought two Eames wire side tables ($55 from $135).

We couldn’t buy as much as we could have liked since we’re moving from our apartment to a house later this year, but since we don’t have the house yet, there’s no space to put anything–like the wall-length Eames Storage Units (ESU’s) we were looking at longingly ($600 from $2000).

It was a very bonding experience for the two of us since I love to shop, and Mike loves modern furniture, so we both enjoyed it very much. Plus, it was fun to bump into a bunch of like-minded friends who had also made the early-morning trek. (When we first moved to LA, we joked that we should put an ad in Craigslist, “wanted: Modernist couples” since we seem to get along best with people with the same design taste.)

I was never much of a modernist before I met Mike–my parents decorated with classic Neo-Colonial-Tropical-style, a lot of dark woods and hefty armoires and hand-carved rosewood tables, cane-backed chairs and the like. They think all Scandinavian furniture equals IKEA. (We love IKEA, don’t get us wrong, but too much IKEA is like wearing too much GAP–everything starts looking too bland and “moderately priced” after a while.) It’s good to have some amazing, one-of-a-kind “couture” pieces of furniture…we always joke that we would throw ourselves on top of our Capellini couch to save it in an earthquake rather than take shelter underneath it.

Afterwards we had brunch at the Newsroom Cafe which always reminds me of my dear friend Karen Robinovitz, who introduced me to the place. Karen always liked the Newsroom better than the Ivy (the famed celeb haunt) across the street, she said it was more “naturally” LA, rather than the tourist-infested exhorbitantly-priced Ivy. At the Newsroom, everything is organic, lowfat, vegan, good for you, and tasty–damn, I’ve really become an Angeleno.

The Ivy is fun too, but you have to be in the mood, and have a reservation, and steel yourself with attitude. It’s not a spontaneous choice, although my friend Gabe who’s lived in Los Angeles all his life swears it can be…that in the past he’s just walked in and been seated next to Michael Douglas because everyone in LA looks so casual they have to treat you well in case you’re “somebody.” But I don’t want to find out–I hate trying to get in somewhere “cool” without making the proper arrangements, sitting in a bad table or not being able to get into (the club, or the VIP room, wherever) always seriously bums me out so I always make sure it doesn’t happen.

The secret to life is planning ahead and avoiding the triggers that make you question your lifestyle choice, and I’m not self-hating enough to make myself feel bad for “caring” about some “dumb club” because I wasn’t let inside–not getting in always takes the fun out of an evening. So instead I follow the ‘trendy’ rules religiously. As in, I call ahead, I call the publicist, I make the reservation two months ahead of time, or do whatever I need to do to ensure an enjoyable experience…So far, it’s served me well. I’m not one to question why I am not one of the people who can just swan in anywhere hip and get a table on second’s notice. We can’t all be Gwyneth Paltrow…

Speaking of celebs, we finished brunch and walked down Robertson and there was an immense crowd of teenagers in front of Kitson, that popular store made famous by US Weekly where one can buy “Team Jolie” or “Team Aniston” t-shirts. I’m a big fan of Kitson, it’s got the cutest accessories, and the best selection of jeans, and really nice salespeople. It’s better to go during the week, because on weekends, there is such a big crowd that they have to stagger entrance in front of the velvet rope. I thought it was just another crowded weekend, but it turned out Nicole Richie was signing her book inside, and all her fans were standing outside, waiting for her.

Nicole came to Karen and my How to Become Famous in Two Weeks book party in Los Angeles three years ago–I believe she even hosted it with Kimberly Stewart–she was really sweet, and this was before the Simple Life had aired, and she looked very different–at our party she wore her hair in pigtails, a tanktop, a fluttery denim mini skirt, knee-high socks and sneakers, and she was normal-sized. Now she is a swan–with that shiny bob of perfectly blonde hair, the oversized sunglasses, the skeletal frame, and the carefully chosen drapey, vintage outfits. She looked utterly poised and absolutely fabulous. The total star. Ok, yes, very thin, incredibly thin, (but remember Nan Kempner? she was like that too), but she is also very tiny–about 5’1″ or something.

Her fans were so cute–how cute are all you teens now! Everyone was so stylish, wearing their fluttery dresses over leggings and holding these giant, slouchy leather handbags. I was a fashionista when I was thirteen too, but it was the 80s, not a good time for fashion. You guys are so lucky–when I was in high school, preppie was the rule, and being too creatively-dressed was looked down upon. The fashionistas were the misfits, and my friends were the metalheads and the punks.

Roberston is my favorite street in LA–Diavolina carries all the great designers (lots of new names, like Doo Ri) and Chloe sandals (I’m holding out on those for now, those wooden wedge heels, I know I will succumb soon enough but they look TOO much like Balenciaga from two years ago don’t you think? And I still haven’t forgiven myself for not buying the Balenciaga wooden wedge heel sandals at the Barneys warehouse sale for a mere $189 (from $700) because I thought it would be too dated. But lo, now the Chloe sandals look EXACTLY the same. Argh!).

And there’s also Curve, where I spotted Michelle Rodriguez once buying shawl sweaters and skipping out on the tax by having the stuff “mailed” to her “address” in New York–wink wink–she walked out of the store with three humungous shopping bags. There was a sale at Ghost, a Brit design brand, about fifteen years ago I was really into Ghost, and I pop in once in a while to see if they have anything new. They were having a sale so I bought a black ruffled dress, very flapper-y, very slimming, for $144 from $400. Steal!

I’ve been buying black dresses because I have my book launch party in May and several of my friends are getting married this year so I have to stock up on party dresses–you can never find a good event dress when you need one, so I tend to buy formal frocks (isn’t that such a great British word?) all through the year. I have a black Marc Jacobs one in satin that I might wear to the book party, a Max Mara black dress in chiffon with spaghetti sleeves and ruffles on the bottom that I plan to wear to Karen’s wedding in Miami in April, a black cocktail dress with a gold band from Fred Segal (it’s some new British designer, I can’t be bothered to check the label right now) that I might wear to a friend’s engagement party at the Bel-Air hotel this Saturday, and now, the black ruffled Ghost one–and another friend just emailed me to say she just got engaged, so I’m glad I have all these dresses in hand.

I’m also a sucker for the new granny-type print dresses, I bought one from Corey Lynn Calter (big LA designer–great casual-girlie stuff) that looks like a 50s housedress, with a sash and cute little sleeves in a brown floral print. I thought it would be great for summer, so much of my shopping means fantasizing about the “image” the outfit displays, and I thought the dress looked so cool-boho-Silverlake-chick I couldn’t resist. I’m solidly a bourgeouis bohemian, so it didn’t bother me that the “vintage” dress was brand-new ($98 from $168). I’m too old to reconfigure old vintage dresses these days, when I was 19 I lived in $5 granny dresses that I would get re-hemmed and reconstructed for $20 at the tailor’s, but I don’t have the time to go through the bins at thrift stores anymore…and the benefits of getting older do include clothes that don’t need to be fumigated before wearing! 🙂

Till next time,
Mel xxoo