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Archives: November 2008

David Byrne Reveals Imelda Marcos’ Other Secret Obsession

imelda.jpgWhen he’s not making music, blogging, turning buildings into musical instruments, and judging bike rack design competitions, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne is at work on a “disco musical” about the life of Imelda Marcos (at right), wife of the late Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. With Fatboy Slim. In an interview that appears in this month’s issue of Interview, Glenn O’Brien gets the full scoop on the project and can’t resist the obvious question: “Do you have any songs about shoes?”

Well, the shoes…I was wary of them because I thought that’s all she’s known for, and it turns out that they weren’t really discovered until she fled. They all fled the palace, and the mobs rushed in and saw all these shoes and gasped. But, for me, the story is over when they leave the palace. So I never get to the shoes, and I also never get to…There’s other stuff that was discovered. They discovered a house on the palace grounds, and when they opened it up, the entire house—every room—was filled to the top with boxes of Heinz Sandwich Spread. One book described this as her “Rosebud.” I guess Imelda’s family didn’t have much money when she was growing up, so she longed for those kinds of trappings. And when she could get things like that, she just hoarded them.

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Friday Photo: Nightfall at General Motors

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(Photo: Westchester County Historical Society)

The holidays make us all nostalgic (or maybe that’s just the pie talking), and so today’s Friday Photo is this spooky nighttime shot of the lot at the once bustling General Motors plant in North Tarrytown, New York, now known as Sleepy Hollow. Taken in 1953 by an unknown photographer, the image shows sparkling new Chevrolets as far as the eye can see. The plant began its life around 1900 as the site of a Stanford White-designed factory that produced Walker steam cars for Mobile before changing hands and ultimately becoming a Chevrolet factory in 1914. According to the Westchester County Historical Society, from 1918 (when Chevrolet merged with GM) until its closing in 1996, this facility was the largest GM assembly plant east of the Mississippi. If you’re in the mood for a grisly dénouement on this Black Friday, check out Thomas Rinaldi‘s photos of the demolished GM site and other Hudson Valley ruins, the subject (and title) of his 2006 book, written with Robert J. Yasinsac.

UPDATE: In a development that would surely interest Dr. Freud, we’ve just learned that design god and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut is in fact a native of Sleepy Hollow, nee North Tarrytown, former home of the GM plant that was once owned by the Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Company (which acquired the facility from Mobile in 1904). “My house was supposedly built for Benjamin Briscoe back in 1908,” Bierut tells us. “Oddly enough, it has an incredibly small one-car garage.”

H&M Confirms Matthew Williamson Is Next Guest Designer, Plans Homegoods Launch

mwilliamson.jpgWhat’s the opposite of the cerebral-with-a-pinch-of-wit garments now on offer at H&M stores in its wildly popular collaboration with Comme des Garçons? The hothouse hues and peacock feather prints of British fashion designer Matthew Williamson (pictured at left), who has just signed on as the next guest designer for the Swedish megaretailer. The St Martins grad will create capsule collections for men and women, with an initial women’s collection debuting at select H&M stores next April. Additional men’s and women’s pieces for summer will be available in H&M stores (all 1,700-some of them) in May.

H&M home.jpgAnd in the Don’t Get Too Excited category, H&M announced today that it is entering the world of interiors (although probably not The World of Interiors). The first line of home textiles and accessories (including the curtains, cushion covers, bedding, and towels pictured at right) will launch in February, but you’ll have to cross the Atlantic to get it. Sales will initially be limited to markets in which H&M has established catalog and online selling: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. The value-priced range (€14.90 to €49.90 for bed sets, €9.90 to €14.90 for towels) includes something for everyone, with palettes that range from neutrals and monochrome to nautical blues and reds and neons. Watch out, Ikea.

Sao Paulo Art World Suffering Severely, Particularly This Year’s Bienal


Sure there might be museums in Minnesota shutting their doors, museums in Los Angeles running out of money, and the Newseum in DC is now starting to lay people off, but if you think times are tough here, you should be grateful that you aren’t in Brazil right now. Following a few years of bad press for museum thefts, general safety hazards, and massive budget cuts to already miniscule funding, the country’s art infrastructure is suffering plenty. So much so that the Sao Paulo Bienal, which has been running since late October and ends on the sixth of next month, is barely showing any art, nor does it have many galleries involved or employees manning the events. Here’s a bit:

“There is a huge question mark in the air,” says Sao Paulo dealer Daniel Roessler, noting that “visitor numbers from abroad have dropped substantially.” Twenty museum groups visited his gallery during the last biennial, but this year he expects only two or three. He contrasts the Sao Paulo Bienal with the Mercosur Biennial, founded in 1997 in Porto Alegre. “The local business community in the south of Brazil is very supportive of their local biennial,” he says, noting that Mercosur is more professionally run and is growing. “One is going up and the other is in a big crisis.”

Revolving Door: Ben Giles Takes Role as Publisher of


It’s been announced that Wallpaper has a new publisher for their online outlet, one Mr. Ben Giles, who has been promoted into the open slot. However, he’s also going to be doing his old job as the sales director for the site, so can we expect to see Wallpaper get heavy handed in their specific product focus? We guess we’d have it figured out if, say, there was a story entitled “The Best New Chryslers” or something. But for now, it seems like a positive move. Here’s a bit:, which relaunched in 2004, claims to attract 500,000 unique users per month and 3m page views, and according to IPC ad revenues are up by 63% year on year in 2008.

Giles said: “ is the fastest growing area of the Wallpaper brand and the aim is to make it the most creative, innovative and trend setting website in the world.

“I’m joining an amazing team and I can’t wait to get started.”

Also, completely unrelated other than it appears under Giles’ new iron editorial grip: we enjoyed this interview with Jonathan Adler about his work with the W Hotels chain.

Some Innovation and Design Advice for the President-Elect


The best part of the post-election is that columnists stop writing what candidates should do to win and start telling the person who won what they should absolutely be doing now that it’s all over. But it isn’t all finance and environmental and hiring advice, there’s some design pushes in there too. Just recently, BusinessWeek‘s Janeanne Rae made some suggestions with “What Obama Needs to Know About Innovation” about how the President-elect will have to figure out how to make better-design and forward-thinking a central goal during his time in the White House. She offers up a couple of case studies on who has done what, in which companies, in learning how to turn things around and move forward. Meanwhile, in the same magazine just a few days prior, Bruce Nussbaum writes a very similar piece with an open letter to Obama which has a title that ends in “You Need An Innovation Dream Team.” He pushes things a bit further by offering recommendations to lead said team, people like IBM‘s CEO, Sam Palmisano and a local fella, Patrick Whitney, design department dean of Chicago’s own Illinois Institute of Technology. Both are interesting pieces, to be taken simply as the advice it is, but certainly well-worth thinking about as, judging from his campaign, the President-elect seems to take design and innovation thinking pretty seriously. Is now a good time to mention that we’re available for any and all cabinet posts?

Happy Thanksgiving from UnBeige

turkey.gifAs you—designers and the people who love them—prepare to sit down (in all manner of interesting chairs) to Thanksgiving dinner, during which you’ll again struggle to explain to family and friends exactly what it is that you do, we got to thinking what we’re thankful for this year. All it took was a look through some recent posts to remind us. Below, a very non-exhaustive list:

  • All those design awards. You know we can’t get enough awards news, and thankfully, the competitions seem to be multiplying: National awards for which we predict the winner a year in advance. Good design awards on a bad website. Big fancy prizes. Spark awards. Wallpaper awards. Just plain ugly awards. And yeah, we kind of figured that a “counter-terrorism design competition” probably wouldn’t turn out well.

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  • The new and improved Interview magazine. We’ll admit that we were scared and a little angry when sharp-eyed culture maven Ingrid Sischy packed up and left the conversation-enamored magazine founded by Andy Warhol. But since the new team (led by editorial directors Glenn O’Brien and Fabien Baron) hit its stride with the shimmery September issue fronted by a feline-masked Kate Moss (coverline: “It’s New, Pussycat!”), our faith has been more than restored. We can’t wait to see what the gang has planned for next year, when Interview turns the big 4-0.

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  • Karl Lagerfeld. He designs. He photographs. He dreams big. He has a charming bookshop in the 7e arondissement. He twitters. Last we heard, he had designed Euro coins featuring the sun-baked countenance of Mme. Chanel herself. And so this Thanksgiving, we’re dabbing on his new Kapsule fragrance and giving our Steiff teddy bear teddy bear version of the Kaiser the place at the table he so richly deserves.

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  • H&M and Target. For their continued faith in the power of design, whether to sell cereal, teapots, or polka-dotted jersey separates designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. Next up: “masstige” collections by dueling Londoners Alexander McQueen (Target) and Matthew Williamson (H&M) set to debut in 2009.

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  • In New Work, Cindy Sherman Becomes Women of a Certain Age

    cindy sherman.jpgChameleonlike artist Cindy Sherman is back with her first exhibition of new work since 2004. On view through December 23 at New York’s Metro Pictures gallery is a series of color photographs of Sherman in the guise of upper-class ladies of a certain age: here the taftan-clad grand dame wafting through her villa, there a whirl of sparkly accessories and leathery skin in the hotel ballroom. Exploring ideas of beauty, self-image, and aging, Sherman nails an aesthetic that fashion designer Michael Kors has described as “very M.O.B. [mother-of-the-bride],” as shown in the spot-on lavender taffeta tableau at right. Shot against a green screen, the portraits are often an awkward match for their worldly backgrounds, which only heightens the disquieting effect that is a Sherman trademark. How did this new series come about? Sherman explained in a recent interview with Paper magazine editor David Hershkovits:

    Well, a friend had been turning me on to some characters on websites. There’s this one called Brenda Dickson—she was a soap opera star who’s sort of infamous now on YouTube, where people mock her website. She has a video on her website which is all about how to look as effortlessly beautiful as she looks. And she doesn’t look at all effortless! She just looks so over-the-top. Originally the posing stuff came from work I did last year for French Vogue. They were meant to look like snapshots at parties. You know, people trying to look so eager to look good for the camera. I liked these older women trying to look good and dignified and over-the-top. Just the idea of these rich ladies who pose in ball gowns in their living rooms with their toddlers—it just looks so ridiculous.

    Clear to Debut ‘Tree-Free’ Magazine

    Clear mag.jpg“Clear is the new green,” proclaims the cover of the November/December issue of Clear, the fashion and design magazine that you may know best as the one with the clear cover. As it amps up to a bimonthly publication schedule, Clear has published a 100% tree free and fully recyclable issue (yes, even that nifty clear cover). The secret? It’s printed on synthetic papers made by YUPO. Waterproof, stain resistant, and durable, YUPO’s paper is actually a category 5 polypropylene plastic film and contains no timber or organic fiber of any kind. When you’re done reading it, simply toss it in the recycling with your empty bottles of soda (or “pop,” as they call it in Royal Oak, Michigan, where Clear is headquartered). As for what’s on those plastic pages, the “fame underground”-themed issue of Clear includes an exclusive interview with Belgian artist Arne Quinze about his new U.S. installation as well as features on ultra-hot Studio Dror, notoriusly camera-shy designer Martin Margiela, and the geographical border-blurring furniture of Arik Ben Simhon. The issue will premiere next week at Design Miami, so be sure to clear space in your carry-on.

    Takashi Murakami Goes to Hollywood

    takashi portrait.jpgCollectors may not have been clamoring for his work at the fall contemporary sales, but Takashi Murakami isn’t planning Damien Hirst-style layoffs. Instead, he’s announced the further expansion of Kaikai Kiki, his global art empire. Next stop? Hollywood, where Murakami will open an animation and film studio. “This studio represents a great step in the evolution of Kaikai Kiki and gives me a closer proximity to the community of artists with whom I hope to collaborate as I continue my explorations of animated and live-action film,” said Murakami in a statement. Among the most anticipated and labor-intensive works shown in the retrospective that debuted last year at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was kaikai & kiki, Murakami’s first major animated film.

    The new West Coast arm of KaiKai Kiki, which currently has operations in Tokyo and Long Island City, New York, will employ approximately 30 people. The Los Angeles Times got the scoop on the new digs: a two-floor building on North Highland Avenue that will offer nearly 9,000 square feet of space. “The studio’s first project will be a feature-length animated film based on Planting the Seeds, the shorts that premiered at Murakami’s mid-career retrospective at MOCA,” notes the LAT. “The digitally animated works feature Kaikai and Kiki, the company’s cartoon-character namesakes, traveling the world in a spaceship and learning to grow watermelons with the help of fertilizer, or ‘poop’ as they gleefully call it.” Click “continued” for a video of the dynamic duo in action.

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