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I Am Coco by Isabel Pin

Award winning illustrator Isabel Pin has just published her latest children’s book, I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel (Prestel Publishing).

Much has been written about the designer/fashion icon Coco Chanel (even for children), however, there’s something quite unique and compelling about Ms. Pin’s addition to the stack. As the author and illustrator, she gives readers an overview of Chanel’s life from young orphan at the turn of the last century to innovative designer to icon, highlighting the big events in her life – short-lived singing career, first shop, love affairs, world wars, daring designs, and her comeback in the late 1950s.

Illustrations From the book I am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel.

Each chapter of the story is concisely written and embellished with colorful illustrations. Although Pin’s depictions bear little resemblance to Chanel, her simple drawings with a swipe of added color grew on me. (Her style actually reminds me of mid-century fashion illustrations, in particular Andy Warhol, who was a fashion illustrator in his early career.) Pin’s images of Chanel, her life, and designs are as delightful to look at as a plate of pink and green French Macarons.

Chanel’s story takes place in the world of fashion, but the message within her story is perseverance. In addition to learning about Chanel’s life and achievements, young readers will find in I Am Coco fashion history, inspiration, and encouragement to follow their ambitions.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin is targeted for readers aged six to nine, but this its a fun read at any age.

(Thank you Prestel Publishing and Media Masters Publicity for providing a review copy to ODFL.)

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Illustration of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin from I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel (Prestel Publishing).

In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different.

So true! This reminds me of something a local clothing manufacturer once told me. He said that people don’t want to stand out in their fashion. They want to blend in.

I can understand that. It’s easier to blend in. To not be different. Particularly in our modern world, where life is so hectic. BUT, it’s a lot less fun.

Come back to ODFL tomorrow for my review of I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by award winning children’s book illustrator, Isabel Pin.

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Designing is like a living organism in that it pursues what matters for its well-being and continuity.

Issey Miyake (1938-2022), Renowned Japanese fashion designer.

Miyake was part of the avant-garde fashion movement of the 1980s and 90s, along with Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. Although based in Japan and rooted in Japanese aesthetics, the designs and designers of the movement became global hits. GQ said in 1984, “These are clothes that conform to no fashion standards. They seek to abolish form. They hang loosely on the body in oversized unusual silhouettes.” Additionally the fabric was often in black and had raw unfinished edges.

In 1970 Miyake established the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo where he experimented with textiles and design, following his own philosophy of creating clothing reflective of its time while always staying socially conscious.

RIP Issey Miyake.

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Born in Italy to a wealthy family in 1940, Elsa Peretti became a model while living in Spain in the 1960s where she also started playing with jewelry design inspired by objects she found at flea markets. When she later moved to New York City she met the fashion designer Halston and he included her works in his fashion shows. It was then that she created some of her signature designs such as the bone cuff bracelet and the open heart pendant. Liza Minnelli was among the first celebrities to sport her jewelry and I noticed in a recent interview that she’s still wearing her bone cuff bracelets – one on each wrist!

(Later Ms. Peretti designed the teardrop shape bottle for Halston’s perfume.)

Her unusual sculptural pieces caught the eye of many, including Bloomingdales, who bought her line and in 1972 designated a small corner of the store to her wares and called it “Peretti Boutique.” After winning several awards, Peretti contracted with Tiffany & Co. in 1974 to design exclusively for them. She later told a reporter that it was Halston himself who took her to Tiffany to discuss the contract.

While at Tiffany her designs became iconic – the open heart, the bone cuff, mesh necklace – and these modern, simple designs in silver attracted younger clients.

The Bone Cuff designed by Elsa Peretti.

When Ms. Peretti died in 2021 the jewelry magazine, The Aventurine, said that the designer put Tiffany in touch with what was happening on the street by offering more affordable jewelry. I’m not so sure they are affordable now, but they are still selling. All of the Elsa Peretti designs have become classics, worn today by the likes of Meghan Markle, Sarah Jessica Parker (as Carrie Bradshaw), and Margot Robbie. It’s been reported that Ms. Peretti’s jewelry represented 10 percent of Tiffany sales between 2009 and 2011, and when her contract was renegotiated in 2012 she was given a one-time payment of close to 50 million dollars.

Image from the Tiffany website. This is the smallest of the open heart earrings and the price tag? $1050.

I remember the open heart design, which I wanted so badly when I was in high school. At the time I did a lot of babysitting and one of my regular jobs was for the family of the owner of a car dealership in San Francisco. The couple had a baby daughter and the mother hired me to sit one afternoon a week. I really liked the mom, who was super chic with short blonde hair. I looked forward to seeing each week what she might be wearing to wherever she was going – a meeting, a luncheon, a photoshoot at her husband’s dealership. She wore silk blouses with midi-length skirts and boots and she always sported a gold pair of Elsa Peretti open heart earrings from Tiffany.

Oh, how I wanted those earrings too. But I wasn’t making so much money babysitting to buy them for myself. (I’m a little surprised that I didn’t say something to my mother or my father, as I think a pair would have appeared under the Christmas tree one year.) The earrings were too much for my bank account, but back then they weren’t as expensive as they are now. I suppose it was a passing whim on my part, but one that I remember to this day.

Ms. Peretti appeared in the 2019 documentary film Halston (if you haven’t see that, you should!). I would say that her designs have certainly stood the test of time.

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Jewelry is not fashion. It has to last, not be discarded as soon as something else comes along.

Elsa Peretti, Italian born jewelry designer (1940-2021).

Ms. Peretti designed for Tiffany & Co. and created the iconic Bone Cuff, Open Heart pendant, and Mesh Necklace.

I can’t agree more with this week’s quote. Jewelry should always be timeless, or at least we should approach it as if it were and mix it up. Certainly all of what Ms. Peretti designed is timeless. Her pieces from nearly fifty years ago are still selling at Tiffany and have become classics.

Come back tomorrow for more on Elsa Peretti.

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Image: Harper’s Bazaar.

Today, I find beauty in more unexpected places. I’ve never been much of a punk rocker, but I love the punk era. It was a time when people didn’t spend hours trying to look picture-perfect. It was rough around the edges. I don’t like things that are too perfect, clean, or groomed. I like when there’s a bit of something weird or different.

Jill Kortleve – fashion model.

Ms. Kortleve was speaking to Harper’s Bazaar magazine in the May 2022 issue.

I would say that the punk rock look wasn’t necessarily just thrown together. For some it was very much a curated look that took a lot of time and thought.

Like Ms. Kortleve, I also enjoy the unexpected in fashion. An added bit of whimsy or something just slightly off with the rest of the outfit is where we find creativity. For example – buttons on the back of a sweater, a strand of pearls worn with a hoodie, or a bee brooch placed on the cuff of a jacket. That’s the fun in fashion!

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Image: Harper’s Bazaar.

I have a couple of necklaces from my grandmother who passed away, and wearing them reminds me of her. One of her necklaces stands for power and freedom. And I think especially being a woman in the ’70s in Morocco, it was not easy. Wearing them reminds me to push through and kind of continue with what I’m doing to stay strong.

Imaan Hammam, fashion model.

This quote is from Harper’s Bazaar, May 2022.

Born and raised in Amsterdam, Ms. Hammam is Moroccan and Egyptian. She says she appreciates her multicultural background, which has allowed her to understand the world better.

I also have many pieces of jewelry from my mother and my grandmother. Whenever I slip on one of their pieces – a ring or a bracelet, a brooch or a strand of beads – I revisit a different memory of them. In that way, they are still with me.

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The Shadelands Ranch Museum Summer Market in Walnut Creek is back for a second year on Sunday, July 31st, 10am to 3pm. The Market offers vintage and antique goodies as well as handmade items from 40 local vendors and this year I am one of those vendors. Also available will be items from the museum’s archives, including clothing, accessories, and home décor pieces. (Last year there was quite a lot of Edwardian and Art Deco dresses.)

Yes, I will be out there too, sharing a booth with Paula Dodd Aiello from Sew Becoming.

These past few months I have been sorting through my collection and my mother’s collection of vintage jewelry and other small items. I will have vintage earrings, brooches, pendants, silver bracelets, and Bakelite bangles. I have a few vintage clothing pieces, hats, handbags, scarves, handkerchiefs, collectable perfume bottles, and dolls. Beads and buttons, too. Paula will have vintage clothing and costume pieces, as well some cool items for the home.

Vintage jewelry from my collection and my mother’s.

There will be a couple of food vendors, lots of shade under the trees, and the Shadelands Museum will be open for tours. What a lovely Sunday afternoon outing. If you’re in the area, please come by and say hello.

Shadelands Ranch Museum Summer Market, Sunday, July 31st, 10-3. 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek.

NOTE: Our booth number is 53 and is under the name Mom’s Closet. We take cash only.

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Installation of Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy at the Legion of Honor Museum. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

A fashion exhibit has recently opened at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy features the designs of Chinese couturier Guo Pei.

1002 Nights, 2010. Left Dress: hand-painted silk, embroidered with silk threads, embellished with Swarovski crystals, Headpiece: resin, silk tassels and Swarovski crystals. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Known for unique sculptural silhouettes and elaborate embroidery, Ms. Pei has been designing couture for four decades. She finds inspiration everywhere – from nature, history, and various cultures around the world – to create unexpected looks.

Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

From curator Jill D’Alessandro: This global worldview manifests itself in her designs, which draw equally from Asian and European aesthetics to occupy a space between fashion, theater, performance, and sculpture.

In 2016 Ms. Pei was the second designer born and educated in China to be inducted as a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the Paris based organization that determines what design houses should be considered true couture.

Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy features 80 designs from Ms. Pei’s 2007 through 2020 collections shown on Beijing and Paris runways. The exhibit is cleverly presented with pieces displayed around some of the museum’s permanent decorative arts collections as well as in independent galleries.

This is Ms. Pei’s first major museum exhibit and it runs now through September 5, 2022 at the Legion of Honor.

NOTE: Please be aware that the Legion of Honor (and the de Young Museum) no longer require masks for entry.

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Guo Pei with the famous Yellow Gown.

Fantasy is the height of your spirit. It is the most important part of life because it fuels its meaning. It makes your existence on this planet more than just thinking about what you eat and what you wear.

Guo Pei – Chinese fashion couturier.

Ms. Pei designed the fabulous over-the-top yellow gown that Rihanna wore to the Met Gala in 2015.

Well, now, for me fantasy crosses with thoughts of what I wear. I put much time and energy into creating various outfits – from every day looks to vintage ensembles. This is my creativity and where I like to let my mind wander. Sometimes my creativity in fashion crosses into my writing.

Ms. Pei is the subject of a new exhibit at the Legion of Honor Art Museum in San Francisco. Check back tomorrow for more on that.

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