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Archives: January 2009

Andre Balazs and the Chlorine Cloud

standard LA.jpg

We’re off for our usual pre-Fashion Week week of Pilates and sartorial palette cleansing (also on our to-do list: processing for future posts the mounds of interesting merchandise we encountered at the New York International Gift Fair), but one more bit of news before we leave to you in the nimble hands of guest blogger Mary Beth Klatt. It’s a story we’ve dubbed “Andre Balazs and the Mysterious Chlorine Cloud,” which only sounds like a lost Tintin adventure. Earlier this month, reports of noxious gas swirls seeded fears of a terrorist attack in downtown Los Angeles. Turns out it was a nearby storm basin bubbling with chlorine courtesy of the rooftop pool-endowed Standard Hotel, explains today’s Los Angeles Times:

Hotel maintenance workers initially admitted pouring a small amount of chlorine down a rooftop drain. But investigators did not believe that would have accounted for the noxious cloud. An FBI agent, who specializes in environmental crimes and who is known for her pit bull-like tenacity, conducted follow-up interviews in which employees eventually acknowledged emptying the majority of two 50-gallon drums of muriatic acid and chlorine into the drain, the complaint alleges.

Andre Balazs Properties, owner of The Standard, has been charged by the U.S. attorney’s office with knowingly disposing of hazardous waste and could be fined up to $500,000 if convicted. Assistant Attorney Joe Johns, who is prosecuting the case, told the LAT, “The law does not discriminate between hazardous wastes generated by chic hotels or foul junkyards.” We hear that chic junkyards, elusive as they are, get a pass.

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Fabien Baron, Karl Templer to Exit Interview

interview feb cover.jpgThe gobsmacked expression that Lindsay Lohan sports on the cover of the February issue of Interview (pictured at left and photographed by Mert and Marcus) approximates our own reaction to news that Fabien Baron is leaving the magazine, along with creative director Karl Templer. As you’ll recall, we worried about the fate of Interview, founded by Andy Warhol in 1969, when the brilliant Ingrid Sischy departed last year, but have been duly impressed by the killer design and content upgrade wrought by Baron and co-editorial director Glenn O’Brien.

Brant Publications today confirmed to WWD that Baron and Templer have resigned from Interview. “It has been an adventure working with the DNA of such a legendary title and an exciting, not to mention sometimes challenging, experience to reinvent the magazine to make it relevant and inspiring for a whole new generation of readers,” said Baron. “Now it’s time to focus all my energy on my own business [Baron & Baron] and the many clients that have been loyal to me over the years.” Templer is leaving “in order to focus on other projects.” Rumor has it that graphic design studio M/M Paris may take the creative helm of the magazine.

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Gary Hustwit’s Objectified to Premiere at SXSW

Objectified.jpgIn 2007, a little film called Helvetica debuted at the South by Southwest Film Festival. This year, director Gary Hustwit will return to SXSW for the world premiere of Objectified, his new feature-length documentary about “our relationship to manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them.” Hustwit and several of the film’s cast members will be on hand for post-screening Q&As and a special panel discussion at the Interactive Festival the day after the film’s premiere (the SXSW film festival line-up will be announced early next week). Not bound for Austin in March? Fear not, oodles of Objectified screenings are being planned nationwide. Tickets go on sale Monday at noon for those in San Francisco (April 21) and Chicago (April 28).

Previously on UnBeige:

  • Director Gary Hustwit Releases First Objectified Trailer
  • At SVA Dot Dot Dot Lecture, Gary Hustwit Advocates Elliptical Interviewing
  • Helvetica Director at Work on Industrial Design Documentary

  • Architectural Digest Remembers John Updike

    updike AD.jpgShort stories, novels, art criticism, book reviews, an odd little roman à clef written from the perspective of Lee Krasner: the writerly talents of John Updike knew no bounds. Architectural Digest is remembering the literary legend, who died on Tuesday at the age of 76, through a series of articles that he contributed to the magazine over the years. Now featured on the AD website are four of Updike’s “Guest Speaker” pieces, in which he remembers the towns and houses in which he—and the characters he created—lived. “Architecture confines and defines us,” wrote Updike in “Fictional Houses,” published in the January 1985 issue of AD. “Our human world speaks to us, most massively, in its buildings, and a fiction writer cannot make his characters move until he has some imaginative grasp of their environment.”

    Nearly 30 years later I can still feel the thrill of power with which, in my first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, I set characters roaming the corridors of an immense imaginary mansion I had based upon an institutional building for the poor and homeless, which had stood at the end of the street where my family had lived in Pennsylvania, but that I had never once, as a child, dared enter. Now, as an author, I climbed even to the cupola, and chased a parakeet down long halls, “channels of wood and plaster” where a crossing made “four staring corners sharp as knives.”

    Tony Duquette Sues Michael Kors for Trademark Infringement

    duquette book.jpgIn a legal brouhaha that could make fashion designers think twice about trumpeting the inspirations for their collections, Tony Duquette, Inc. (which holds various intellectual property rights associated with the designer and artist, who died in 1999) is suing Michael Kors, Inc. for trademark infringement. Duquette alleges that Kors “infringed the Duquette proprietary name and trademark by producing and marketing a Kors resort collection using the name ‘Duquette,’” according to a statement issued earlier this week. The lawsuit states that Kors used the 2007 book Tony Duquette (Abrams); photographs, images, and patterns from the book; and images of Duquette and his associate and co-designer, Hutton Wilkinson, in advertising and promoting the 2009 Michael Kors resort collection, which is now in stores worldwide. “Our corporate policy prevents us from commenting on pending litigation,” a Kors rep told us.

    kors resort 09.jpgWe noticed a cocktail dress from the resort collection that was originally listed on as “Duquette print dress” (pictured at right) was yesterday changed to “Malachite print dress.” Nordstrom is still using the former description. A copy of the court filing obtained by UnBeige explicitly mentions the Duquette-associated “distinctive deep green ‘malachite’ prints on the front and back inside pages [of the 2007 book co-authored by Wilkinson].” We have a hunch that this suit will prove to be a lesson on how not to promote and extend Duquette’s artistic legacy, which Wilkinson is currently trying to parlay into profits with a new line of Duquette-branded textiles.

    Gilbert Rohde, Under-the-Radar Master of Modern Design

    (Photos: Phyllis Ross)

    Watch out if, like us, you’ve been known to scour 1stdibs for biomorphic coffee tables, chunky nightstands, and swooping art deco lamps by Gilbert Rohde. The influential yet not terribly well-known designer gets his close-up this spring in Gilbert Rohde: Modern Design for Modern Living (Yale University Press), a monograph by Phyllis Ross that traces Rohde’s career at Herman Miller in the 1930s and 1940s, his bold experiments with materials such as Plexiglas, and his innovative merchandising schemes. The book, which judging by the cover (pictured above, at right) would look dynamite on any coffee table, isn’t due out until April, but New Yorkers can get a sneak preview on February 10. That evening, Ross will lecture at the Museum of the City of New York, where a couple of Rohde’s designs (including the table pictured above) are on view in the “Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940” exhibition. We hear that the exhibition will be open especially for program attendees before the discussion, so reserve your tickets now and get there early.

    Inside the Office of Jerry Lewis

    jerry lewis.jpgPerhaps it’s our shameless Francophilia and penchant for spit-takes, but we’ve always been intrigued by Jerry Lewis. And so we were thrilled to read Chris Nashawaty‘s detailed recounting of his meeting with the comic legend, published in the January 30/February 6 double issue of Entertainment Weekly. At next month’s Academy Awards, Lewis will receive a special Oscar for his humanitarian efforts just in time for his 83rd birthday. But let’s get right to the important news: what his Las Vegas office looks like.

    Lewis’ office in Las Vegas is a time capsule of a bygone golden age of comedy. Everything is hermetically clean, superstitiously orderly, and most important, red: the carpet, his old-school IBM Selectric typewriter, the telephone, even the bowl of hard candy on the coffee table. The walls are covered with posters from his movies, flattering letters from Stan Laurel and Steven Spielberg, and a museum’s worth of photos of him with Dean [Martin], him with JFK, and him with Robert De Niro on the set of 1983′s The King of Comedy. He could charge admission at the door.

    Although we would have liked to know what kind of hard candy Lewis favors (we have a strong hunch that butterscotch was inolved), the details don’t end there. Click “continued…” for more of Lewis’s office tableau, which includes the dangerous combination of velvet slippers and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

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    Revolving Door: Mark Breitbard Named Chief Creative Officer of Old Navy

    old navy fall.jpgYou’d think that Old Navy, Gap’s bargain-priced little brother, would thrive in a poor economy—surely, the time is right for twelve-dollar sweaters for the whole family. Not so much. In December, comparable store sales at Old Navy were down 16%, compared to 8% last year. And so Gap Inc. is bringing back Mark Breitbard, who left the company in 2005 for posts at Abercrombie and Fitch (where he launched its Banana Republic-esque Ruehl brand) and then Levi Strauss & Co. (where he headed up the retail division). Breitbard will return to Gap Inc. as chief merchandising and creative officer leading design and merchandising at Old Navy.

    Reporting directly to Old Navy president Tom Wyatt, Breitbard “will guide product strategy for the brand from design conception to product assortment through to its final presentation in stores,” said the company in a statement issued yesterday. From 1997 through 2005, Breitbard held a variety of merchandising roles at Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic ultimately serving as a senior vice president. No word as to what this appointment might mean for Todd Oldham‘s role as Old Navy creative director.

    Rose Art Museum Surprises All By Closing Doors, Planning to Sell Off Its Entire Collection


    As the museum world continues to struggle to keep afloat with lower attendance and much fewer endowments, we’ve seen the idea of selling pieces from collections become a more appealing idea within museum administrations, much to the disdain of many. But sometimes the whole thing happens much more quickly than just flirting with the idea or selling off a piece here and there for a little extra working capital. Such is the case at Brandeis University‘s Rose Art Museum who surprised nearly everyone by suddenly deciding to close their doors and sell off their entire collection immediately. The university’s president and its trustees were the only ones who knew about the closure and sale, which shocked the museum’s board, its director, and the staff, who are all now furious about the decision. And now, due to outcry and the unprecedented action taken by the university’s leadership, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office has decided to investigate:

    Emily LaGrassa, director of communications for the state attorney general, Martha Coakley, said that Brandeis had informed the office on Monday of its decision, but had not consulted with the attorney general in advance. The attorney general has approval powers over certain actions of nonprofit institutions in the state.

    Ms. LaGrassa said that in the case of Brandeis, the attorney general would review wills and agreements made between the museum and the estates of donors to determine if selling artworks violated the terms of donations. “We have not yet offered any opinion on any aspect of the proposed sales,” she said, adding, “We do expect this to be a lengthy process.”

    Home Depot Announces Closure of All of Its Expo Design Centers


    Another knockout blow delivered by the faltering economy: Home Depot has announced that it will be closing all of its Expo Design Center stores across the country, with the liquidation sales beginning immediately. The outlet had served as a more upscale version of its larger, self-service relative, functioning as both a retail store and a home design/redecorating consultation service. Unfortunately for the company, the concept never really took off and had struggled almost from the start, with little to no improvement in its seventeen year life span, which led to even greater suffering once people stopped spending and the real estate market crumbled toward the end of last year. With the close comes a loss of around seven thousand people. Here’s a bit:

    People laid off will be offered a severance package of at least 60 days’ pay, said Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo. Some may find other jobs within the company, DeFeo said, but it’s unknown how many jobs will be available.

    The decision will result in the loss of about 5,000 retail jobs and 2,000 support jobs at the specialized stores, DeFeo said. Together, the losses will total 2% of the company’s workforce, Home Depot said.

    For more information on the closure, we recommend reading BNET Retail‘s take on all of it, as well as the upscale retail design market as a whole. And here’s the press release from Home Depot about the closing.

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