Thursday, December 29, 2011

Icon: Goodbye Tura Satana

Saying goodbye to 2011 I thought I'd feature a lesser known Icon that we lost this year, Tura Satana. Every good girl wants to be bad. And Tura Satana represented the best of Bad Girls. 

Born,  Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi on July 10, 1938 in Hokkaido, Japan to a silent movie actor and a circus contortionist. She is perhaps most famous for her 1965 role as Varla in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 

Tura's family moved from Japan to the west side of Chicago after World War II in a very unwelcoming time for someone of Japanese decent. A child of mixed race, her father was Japanese and Filipino, her mother Scottish/Irish and Cheyenne, she was raised in internment camps. She was harrassed for her nationality as well as for being very developed at an extremely early age.

Tura was raped at 9 and as a result her father taught her karate.Sent to reform school after no justice was given to her attackers, she joined a gang and started wearing leather. She said of her rapists, “I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them." She did, "they never knew who I was until I told them.” 

At 13 she married a boy in the Navy of 17. The marriage lasted nine months. The same year she traveled to Los Angeles to do modeling. Returning home to Chicago after suffering from makeup poisoning, Tura began dancing in a nightclub in Calumet City, IL as a "Spanish dancer" and not long afterward started her career in burlesque. 


An accomplished martial artist Tura used acrobatics in her burlesque routines, elaborate asian costumes and a Buddha she gained a lot of attention.  Tura's burlesque aka was Miss Japan Beautiful. She was also known for squabbles among other dancers and ill behaved patrons.

 On April 18, the day the above ad was published, the Toronto Star
reported the “statuesque Eurasian” was set to retire in two weeks.

Satana as Suzette Wong in Irma Le Duce starting Shirley Maclaine
She was romantically linked to Billy Wilder while filming Irma La Duce in her first American film role in 1963, Joe DiMaggio and Rod Taylor. Before that she had turned down the marriage proposal of Elvis Presley.

When it came to making Faster Pussycat, Tura was as instrumental to the film as her character Varla. Having come up with many of the most famous lines from the film, director Russ Meyer credits Tura referencing that "she and i made the movie." Not only did she do all of her own fighting, but she created much of the visual design, her own makeup, and costuming. And she was also responsible for the iconic image of spinning tires used to kill the main male character in the film.

Something of a visionary, Satana could not have predicted how her extaordinary life would change the face of women in film. The 1973 film Doll Squad starring Satana would inspire Charlies Angels. And evidently Satana's real life inspired Tarantino's Kill Bill, three decades later.

After completing the grindhouse film Doll Squad the tough-as-nails Satana survived a gunshot wound to the stomach by an ex lover. She also survived a broken back after being hit by a speeding car in 1981. Hospitalized and several surgeries later she worked as a nurse and for the police department as well as devoting time to her family before she returned to entertainment in 2002. 

At 72, on February 4th 2011, Tura Satana passed away of heart failure in Reno Nevada. An amazing woman who lived an amazing life, kicking ass and taking names. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

YA - Film Review

Toronto Premier Poster for Young Adult

Nowadays young adult fiction is best represented by Harry Potter and Twilight, when I was a kid and a teen/tween in the 80's it was maybe best represented by Judy Blume with Are you there God, it's Me, Margaret and later, The Sweet Valley High series. Come summer time, I would be outside til it was dark or curled up in a chair reading for days. 

Being a big movie fan and a teenager of that time, the 80's teen movie is definitely a genre I can't resist even though inching nearer to 40.  From the good 80's teen flick (i.e.:Valley Girl & Pretty in Pink), to the not so good (i.e. Teen Wolf & Girls Just Want to Have Fun), these films and novels are perhaps the one thing that awakens my sense of blind nostalgia for those days. 

In this way I can somewhat relate to the nostalgia felt by 37 year old, recently divorced Mavis Gary, played by Charlize Theron in the film Young Adult. Mavis is the writer of a young adult book series and we meet her in the middle of a midlife crisis in Minneapolis Minnesota. Director Jason Reitman follows Mavis' misguided attempt to fix her damaged life by heading home to the "hick" town she happily left behind to win back her high school flame, now married and a new father.

Charlie Theron and Patrick Wilson

The film was shot in 30 days between Minneapolis, Minnesota, upstate and Brooklyn New York. Visually bleak and emotionally dark, it is an ode to falling apart at the seams and hitting rock bottom. Even the wardrobe, compiled largely of thrift shop clothing mined from a Minnesota "Thrift Town" conveys Mavis' depression and alternately the ensembles she acquires to attempt to hide it.

Unlike so many of the action, comedy and period films that open around the holidays approaching the New Year, it is for me, refreshing to see some of the starker realities of life reflected on the big screen.  These realities do not after all, go away because of our love (or loathing) of the holidays. 

Patton Oswalt and Charlize Theron

Writer Diablo Cody who gave us Juno presents Mavis as a woman attempting to live through her perception by others once upon a time, and dealing with her own unkind and long held perceptions of self. Unlike in Juno. there is rarely any comic relief to the angst that is Mavis' existence. Although I found the story a bit drawn  in representing this angst frame after frame upon her arrival home, the emotional impact of Mavis facing her own demons and identifying a new chapter in her life, is perhaps, worth the wait.

And when it comes to facing demons and starting a new chapter, I can relate there too. 

xo, V

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vivian Westwood: Ethical Fashion Africa

Vivienne Westwood in Nairobi by Juergen Teller

Being a thrift store junky even as a fiercely independent kid of the fashion gone crazy 80's I never really got into big labels or logo bags. Perhaps its that rebel sensibility that makes me LOVE Vivienne Westwood. A woman who introduced punk rock to fashion, has been holding protests at her fashion shows for nearing a decade and has a manifesto. Le Sigh. 
Vivienne Westwood has launched the Ethical Fashion Africa Collection.  Her collection includes handbags and totes upcycled from road side finds from flip flops to old tent fabric. All bags in the collection are handmade in Nairobi, Kenya by a women’s work co-operative for a livable wage.

Westwood’s Africa collection is part of the Ethical Fashion Programme which is part of the International Trade Centre, the joint body of the United Nations (UN) and World Trade Organisation (WTO). 
The Ethical Fashion Programme supports the work of over 7,000 women. They promote work for marginalized communities of women such as single mothers, widows, HIV/AIDS victims and those living in extreme poverty. Their slogan is ‘This is not charity, this is work.’



In need of a big label bag? Shop the collection online.
For more information on the Ethical Fashion Programme please visit Here.


Art for Everyone.

260 Baby Doll Hands by Lisa Congdon

Recently I discovered a website that kind of blew my mind. The website is 20 X 200 was started by Jen Bekman, a small gallery owner on the Lower East Side of NYC in 2007. She endeavored to make her mission of supporting emerging artists and collectors accessible to all!

Let's Party by Jessica Craig-Martin
20 X 200 makes limited edition prints of artists work starting at $20.  Each print is  made to order, delivered with a numbered certificate of authenticity that is signed by the artist, the artist's bio and statement, and instructions for caring for your print.  

We Are Who We Are by Robert Garcia
They introduce at least two new editions a week: one photo and one work on paper. Most are available in three or four sizes. They also offer 11"x14" editions of 500 for $50, 16"x20" editions of 20 for $200, 20"x24" editions of 50 for $500, 24"x30" editions of 10 for $1,000 and 30"x40" editions of 2 for $2,000. 

Modern Art by Craig Damrauer
All images in this post are original artworks from the 20 X 200 website and are copyrighted to the artist. Frames in the images are at an additional cost. If you like any of the items I have featured here hurry to the site before they are gone! 

Atari by Hollis Brown Thornton
If you are an artist which I know so many of you are, sadly, submissions to 20 X 200 are closed. However Jen Beckman runs an annual photography competition called Hey, Hot Shot. One of the benefits of submitting is consideration of your work to be on 20 X 200. 

Bird Power by Carrie Marill
It took no time to find some artists that I loved and I see my burgeoning art collection in the near future. I am in love with 20 X 200. Art curating for all. 


Saturday, November 26, 2011

A New Love for Marilyn

In 1957 Young Colin Clark documented his year of working on the film The Prince and the Showgirl. His journal of the production of the film later became a memoir called The Prince, the Showgirl and Me. My Week with Marilyn is a film named after his second memoir on the subject, documenting an astounding week omitted from the first.

Clark is torn between being the dutiful assistant to the film's Producer, leading man and director, Laurence Olivier and ally to Marilyn Monroe, who was at odds with Olivier for much of the filming. And of course as to be expected, Clark falls in love with Monroe. Perhaps, slightly less expected, is that we fall in love with her as well

Michelle Williams' performance is so emotive, and revealing of a very layered woman whose depth we can not begin to know. There were so many moments in which Williams channeled Monroe's thoughtfully searching eyes, quick grinned and quick witted charm that made me smile bitter sweetly. Moments that amounted to an amazing performance and made me consider the subject, more than just an icon. We are after all, just people. Even Marilyn Monroe.

"I am trying to prove to myself that I am a person. Then maybe I'll convince myself that I am an Actress" - Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was a troubled woman with a troubled childhood, an actress, a film star and yes, a sex symbol. She was also the second woman to start her own production company in Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe Productions. 

At first laughed at she ultimately gained control of the roles she took, held final production approval, and guaranteed her increased salary of $100,000 per film in an unheard of contract with 20th Century Fox. The deal would contribute to the end of the Studio Star System. The Prince and the Showgirl would be the only film to be completely released under Marilyn Monroe Productions.

Marilyn entertained the troops in Korea while on her honeymoon to Joe DiMaggio and she was a regular at the Hollywood Canteen at home.

She was well known for holding progressive left wing views and was believed to have personally lobbied John F Kennedy to take action on ending segregation. In a time when being "friendly" with Negroes was unheard of among whites she was close friends with Dorothy Dandridge and instrumental in the mainstream introduction to her friend Ella Fitzgerald.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt. It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo (who had refused to book Fitzgerald because she was black), and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him - and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status - that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard… After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman - a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”
                                    -Ella Fitzgerald

I am certain there is much more to the sex kitten with the platinum hair and the breathy voice. Underestimated, perhaps misunderstood, Marilyn was called a genius by some. A fan is born.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Savage Beauty

I am utterly inspired by victorian botanical drawings. Many a modern artist, and/or scientist dedicated themselves to classifying all of the species of people, beings and plants in nature. This study of the world, in particular natural world through drawings are inspired. 

The images they produce are painstaking, determined and a most beautiful interpretation. Very much like the late great Alexander McQueen's work. Having traveled to New York City this summer and not made it to the exhibit Savage Beauty, I am that much more obsessed by the man, his work and this fascinating exhibit. To study the world and interpret it is to revel in it. Of course here are images from Savage Beauty from the Metropolitan Museum of Art blog as well as some gorgeous drawings from an era that inspires Mr. McQueen and myself. 

Mary Delany (1700-1788) was an artist and writer during the Victorian period. Between the age of 72 and 82 she created over 1000 detailed botanical illustrations constructed from cut paper.
       Video Tour of Savage Beauty by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Envy - Rodarte

Rodarte is the first fashion book from the fashion house of the same name. Kate and Laura Mulleavy are the sister design team behind Rodarte. Burning, sanding, dyeing, knitting, twisting, staining and weaving are some of the many complex techniques that have entered into the Rodarte textural vocabulary.

Rodarte a mere 6 years old, is in the permanent collections of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Rodarte also exhibited at Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum at FIT and were the first fashion designers in 20 years to be reviewed in Artforum.

What makes the book something really fabulous is that Rodarte has engaged highly acclaimed not of the fashion world artists Catherine Opie and Alec Soth to both document their conceptual creative inspirations and portrait their work.

Catherine Opie, Laura & Kate Mulleavy, Alec Soth photo:LA Times 

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a conversation at the Hammer museum amongst Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Catherine Opie and Alex Soth. 

It was fascinating to watch Alec Soth's journey from being very clear to not being of the fashion world to being very curious about fashion. Catherine Opie said that she would like to do more fashion. Opie famous for her queer and community portraiture brought her own slant to the fasion portraiture, utilizing some of her frequently featured friends like model and actress Jenny Shimizu and her son, Oliver. 

Soth was given a list of items things and places by the Mulleavy sisters to photograph. He set out on a road trip through northern California to capture some of the Mulleavy sisters most beloved and inspiring images of childhood. 

When it came to the Q & A my favorite question was saved for last,asked by a lithe young wild haired woman who had waited the entire discussion to ask her question. "Since all of you as artists create your own world in your work, what artists world would you chose to live in?" Brilliant question.

Kate stated that she was conflicted, in that of artists that came to mind, she did not think she could live in their worlds.

Opie offered up Gloria Steinem to applause.

Laura after some consideration said that she would consider Michael Angelo, but after some more thought decided perhaps not considering dealing with the pope and endless hours on your back in the Sistine chapel.

Soth perhaps had the most surprising answer. He stated that he had really developed an interest in fashion out of this project and discussion. He would elect "to become the third Mulleavy sister", to which Catherine conceded, "then I would have to be the brother."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspired: martinMARTIN

I joined my friend Irene on a trip to the garment district where she was searching for fabrics. On our way we saw this fabulous installation in a window front on Los Angeles St. I wondered aloud if it was a gallery or a store. Irene identified it as part of the adjoining martinMARTIN store. 

We had the opportunity to chat with the design team Diane Moss-Martin and Eric Martin. martinMARTIN has received national and international press coverage from Italian, British and Russian Vogue, the Los Angeles Times, Women’s Wear Daily, and the California Apparel News. And it's easy to see why. 

Installation 11/12/2011

Previous installation for Concept L.A. Fashion Week 2011 photo: wireimage

martinMARTIN Store Front

Part of the Storefront Installation

martinMARTIN has a global approach to luxury casual wear. Their appreciation for both the art and function of clothing are that of an architect building the ideal structure.

Diane was up and down from their work loft while Eric was working on the storefront. We chatted with Eric mainly for sometime, pondering the future of fashion but mostly enjoying a little bit of the 40+ years of fashion experience the two had accumulated. It was a lovely find of the day. The clothes lust worthy, the store, gallery chic, the artists, artists. 

To find out more about martinMARTIN, their Spring 2012 line, previous look-books or to check out their latest installation follow them on Facebook or go to their website

 "Destruction + Rebirth" AW Lookbook 2011 

AW 2011 Lookbook Images by Lisa Ophoven 

AW 2011 Lookbook Images by Lisa Ophoven
Diane Moss-Martin, began her career as a costume designer and stylist for film, television, music videos and album covers.

Eric Martin graduated from The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA and then worked as Chief Designer for Max Studio for Men, (a division of Max Studio).

The designers backstage at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week AW 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fashion Hats and How to Wear Them!

Nothing is New. As my one of my favorite blogs puts it. Everything old makes a grand return, once someone remembers how fabulous it truly was. The Fashion hats that I speak of are the Cocktail Hat and the Fascinator. 


cocktail hat is a small, extravagant hat for a woman. An alternative to a large-brimmed hat, and often easier to wear for indoors events and more evening oriented. These hats are often decorated with luxurious fabrics, beads, feathers, jewels and sometimes a veil. 

A fascinator is a similarly decorative hairpiece worn on the side of the head that may be secured by a clip, comb or headband. Hair accessories like cocktail hats, fascinators have never really gone away. 


Fashion hats are not just for royal weddings anymore. We saw them all over the runways for Autumn/Winter 2011 and Spring 2012.

They can be worn with your hair up or down adding further opportunity to flatter your face. Placement is up to you and depends upon the hair style and the hat!  Experiment to see what looks best on you.  These pieces can be worn at the hairline, or closer to the back of your head. One rule of thumb is if it looks good it works. Fashion hats accessories pack a big punch and are meant to be worn at an angle to flatter the face of all shapes.
Going out for cocktails in jeans, a t-shirt, a jacket and your sequins beret style cocktail hat is tres chic! Date night with that new LBD you found won't compete with your golden fascinator.


The Girly Girl
She is a romantic and a Girl's Girl! She loves feminine details, soft shapes. She doesn't need to be showy, but fun and feminine. Her beauty is the thing. A lovely face framing number with pretty trim that brings attention to her sweet face will do the trick!

Mimi Cocktail Hat

The Bombshell 
She is glamour puss! The Diva! A confident woman not afraid to be the center of attention using her womanly charms. She radiates style, charm and confidence and isn't afraid to show it. A showpiece is right for her!

Lola Cocktail Hat

The Laid Back Girl 
Her style is relaxed, easy & approachable, her motto is simple style and comfort and doesn't take herself or her clothes too seriously. Not into doing too much accessorizing a hat is a great style marker for the girl everyone loves!

The Alternative Girl
She is fearless in her style and in her fashion. She can rock her  tattoos, piercings, retro, gothic, lolita, retro lifestyle for any and every occassion! A self stylist she will make any piece she loves work!

Bardo Lingerie Lace Cocktail Hat

The Costumer
This girl loves the theatrical! She loves historical fashion enjoys authenticity and appreciates standing out in the crowd! She will not hesitate to find a realistic headdress for her Cleopatra or a fabulous Fascinator for her burlesque class. She revels in the fantasy becoming reality!

Sequins Floral Tiara Fascinator

Which SweetLeigh Hat Girl Are You?
Check out the SweetLeigh Etsy Store to explore more fashion hats made with love.


Vanessa Leigh