Before the Oscars, a look at how big red became the thoroughfare of modern royalty

A French Deco Rug

“I am a mortal, a man; I cannot trample upon these tinted splendors without fear thrown in my path.” -King Agamemnon, from the Greek tragedian-playwright Aeschylus in the fifth century, BC.

Those were the words the good (fictitious) king said upon returning home to his plotting wife after leading his troops to victory in the Trojan War. The story goes, wife Clytemnestra laid out a crimson carpet to highlight her husband’s arrogance by having him trample on the color of the gods. He walks on the carpet, but only under protest. Later, depending on which version you read, Clytemnestra or her lover kills him. Because, you know – tragedy.

A Swedish Rug

Evidence suggests that, while there’s a nice mythical quality to tracing red carpet back to ancient Greece, the practice more likely originated at railroad stations. According to Live Science, President James Monroe received the red carpet treatment in South Carolina, his hosts laid red carpet along the river in his honor in 1821. But it was not until the 1900s, when the luxurious 20th Century Limited train from Chicago to New York had passengers board and disembark on a plush carpet that the idea fancy people deserved fancy rugs, i.e. “red carpet treatment,” took hold.

According to the director of the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Margaret Herrick Library Linda Mehr, the red carpet was added to the Oscars in 1961.

Doris Day (1)

Doris Day at the Oscars, 1961
Via: DorisDay.net (http://www.dorisday.net)

 The television broadcasts of the awards show switched to color in 1966, and ever since watching our favorite movie stars traipse down that sanguine, hallowed walkway has become our chief vicarious indulgence.  It would be hard to name a more popular, or more American, fantasy than getting to be part of the Hollywood glitz.

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

Jennifer Lawrence, 2013 Oscars
Via: The Gloss

So who is responsible for the actual red carpet at the Oscars? Today, it’s a man by the name of Joe Lewis. For seven years Lewis has been responsible for seeing that the carpet is ready and in place to carry the stars from their limos to the doors of the Dolby Theater. The carpet itself is 600 feet long and will be laid out today and vacuumed Sunday just in time for the wave of press to arrive.

Red is the color of blood and power. Cheerful, robust, vibrant, strong – a bold, red textile can imbue a bit of glamour and stateliness into any space, even if there’s no chance of Brad or Angie crossing the threshold. Check out DLB’s crimson textile tide here.

Don’t let the Internet dictate your sensibility

Team USA

The opening ceremony in Sochi wasn’t even over before my Twitter feed was glutted with ugly Christmas sweater jokes about Team USA’s Ralph Lauren uniform. There’s something about the Internet that makes us thrill to any opportunity for gleeful derision. It’s somehow more appealing to type “OMG – how awful!” than something more considered and thoughtful.

As a whole, and with a few notable exceptions, the opening ceremony uniforms were forgettable. Even countries that are usually more fashion-conscious that the US (France, Japan) went with middle-of-the-road styles that hardly spoke to a sense of national culture.

For those who quickly panned the American outfits, I wonder if it would have mattered to know that each sweater took 12 hours to whip-stitch? Would it matter that the California-based husband and wife team who designed them took pains to produce something uniquely American? Knitting is an integral part of our textile heritage, so then is all Americana ugly? In spite of all the booing, the same sweaters were auctioning for thousands on eBay by last week. But gauging design value based on dollar signs isn’t any better than gauging it by Internet comments.

sweater model

I suspect the great sweater controversy is mostly confined within our own borders. Other countries care less than we do about the uniforms, and the ironic/nostalgic ugly-Christmas-sweater preoccupation is an American cultural invention. It would be much harder to draw the insulting comparison if the spate of themed holiday parties from two months prior weren’t still fresh in our minds. Those purportedly unlovable Christmas sweaters have become so popular in recent years that pop-up shops selling nothing but holiday sweaters appeared at intersections in my city (Austin). I stopped by one, it was extremely busy.

I do not think the Team USA sweaters look like ugly Christmas sweaters. However – not unlike Christmas sweaters – here are three words I would use to describe them: Festive, friendly, fun. The Olympics are supposed to be about building goodwill among nations. So isn’t it nice that we sent our athletes wearing an outfit that’s unmistakably American – one that invokes a sense of cheerfulness and approachability? That’s a great message to send about the United States and American culture. Why forsake it for something sleek, toned-down and homogenous? Would it really have been better to send our team dressed in something you can buy at a mall?

Sochi

Of course, the sweaters weren’t the only instance of viral teasing this Olympic season. Host country Russia has probably taken the most heckling. In the weeks leading up to the games, there was a slew of articles on Olympic construction beleaguered by corruption. Then the journalists got to town and confirmed that Olympic hotels were “hilarious and gross.” When the fifth ring didn’t completely light up, it seemed almost fitting.

Most of that criticism was deserved. The Putin regime should be called out on its crony capitalism and poor human rights record. But nations are more than their lousy governments. It would be nice to cut through the negativity and noise for a moment and remember Russia is so much more than its present politics. Yes, it may be the progenitor of some very shoddy Olympic architecture, but Russia also gave us Saint Basil’s, the Kazan Cathedral and many other grand, onion-domed monuments. Russian design isn’t just commendable on its grandest scale, the ornate wooden trim on traditional wood houses found in Siberia is absolutely stunning. The legacy of great craftsmanship will continue to have impact long after we’ve forgotten the construction debacle leading up to the Sochi Games.

rugs

Of course, here at DLB we’re all about textiles and so a hat tip to the history of Russian design would not be complete without a look at the region’s beautiful weaving tradition. We have a lovely collection of Bassarabian carpets. The regional aesthetic blends folk motifs with ideas borrowed from French carpets, as all things French – language, food, design – were once widely admired and employed among Russian aristocracy. The result was a blooming, vivacious genre of rugs and flatweaves.

None of this is to say technology is bad or Twitter-based criticism is invalid. It’s simply a reminder that the metrics of cultural flashpoints aren’t the best standards by which to judge design. Great design is deeply thoughtful and so too should be our criticism. An opinion informed by knowledge, history and cultural context will always afford better judgment than an opinion based on a critical mass of low-information blogs and tweets.

Rug Equivalents to Grammy’s 2014 Best Dressed

This year’s Grammys was a bit of a whirlwind when it came to style. There were more misses than hits, but the best dressed attendees really wowed for the occasion. On music’s biggest night, these stars took the cake.

Beyoncé in Michael Costello
Fashion
Superstar Beyoncé showed off her slim ‘n trim bod in a Michael Costello sheer ivory gown sprinkled floral embellishments. The designer (whom you may remember from Project Runway) was inspired by NYC covered in snow. Michael says he was in shock when Ty Hunter, Beyoncé’s longtime stylist, came into his showroom to pull Grammy looks! And I’m sure glad he did. I love the strategically placed cutouts on this gown. Its fresh, sexy and fun. Exactly what the Grammys should be. I especially love that Beyoncé rocked her blond wavy bob that was a hit from her ‘Beyoncé: The Visual Album’ release last month. Paired with wine hued lips and a subtle smoky eye, this look gets 10s across the board.
Taylor Swift in Gucci
Fashion
Taylor Swift glittered in this silvery Gucci number. The chain mail gown fit her body like a glove and I love the sheer detail at the neckline. The whole look is classy and incredibly beautiful. Taylor’s laid back ponytail and light pink lip were the perfect compliment.
Amber Rose in Naeem Khan
Fashion

Interior Design and Fashion: Mixing Things Up

Fashion and Design-makioh1

Maki Oh

Designer Maki Osakwe knows how to mix it up and her collection Maki Oh is a testament to women’s fearlessness and complexities. The Nigerian designer grew up in the bustling city of Lagos and witnessed power dressing to the max. After dabbling in design as a child (inspired by her mother) Maki went on to formulate her own line, driven by modernity and cultural influences.

Interior Design and Fashion-makioh2

The liveliness of Lagos is seen in Maki Oh’s eclectic collection. For her latest offering- Spring 2014- there’s a healthy dose of sheer, paint splatter, athleticism and ladylike appeal. And it’s wonderfully cohesive to boot. Maki says there’s a hidden meaning behind each piece, which draws inspiration from decades ago when Nigerian women used their clothing to pass messages to others. This line also cares about the environment. Maki uses fabric that is organically dyed on silks and cottons as opposed to industrial paint dying. There’s a passion for sustainability and every part of the design process is done on Nigerian soil.

Interior design and fashion-makioh3

The shining stars of this collection are as diverse as the line itself. An off the shoulder knee length dress boasts puffed sleeves and a sheer skirt. It’s equal parts artistic and whimsical. Another look features an athletic-inspired top with peplum sleeves in a graphic print, reminiscent of chipped paint. The rest of the look is comprised of a high waisted silk trouser with a tad bit of colorblocking under the knee. The details are both evident and discreet, loud yet bashful, mysterious but sweet: much like the duality of a woman. At the core, Maki Oh embodies the freedom of defining your own beauty.  Women want to express all sides of themselves and with this line there’s no need to choose. I’d like to see these pieces at the Fall ready-to-wear shows next month, opening night at an exhibit or pretty much any NYC event. They’ll do quite nicely in my closet.

Kara Mann

Interior designer Kara Mann does for spaces what Maki Oh does for the body. Her work is multifaceted: daring, strong, sexy, worldly and edgy. And sweet. The New York City and Chicago based designer creates distinctive interiors by mixing modern and traditional. Here are some standouts from a few spaces she’s worked on.

Table Toppers

Interior Design

Continue reading

Interior Design: Life Through Rose Colored Glasses

redonredcarpet

Red was the standout color at this year’s Golden Globes. New actress turned fashion icon Lupita Nyong’o donned a super chic off-the-shoulder Ralph Lauren cape in bold scarlet.  Her fierce cropped ‘do acted as a great compliment to the elegant look. Aaron Paul’s wife Lauren Parsekian was ravishing in a sexy lipstick red Burberry gown accentuated with a bit of bling and her golden locks. Actress Amy Adams switched it up with a two toned Valentino that showed off her fit arms and perfect porcelain skin. The color red is associated with energy, strength and power so it’s no mistake that it’s been a red carpet fave. Who can forget Nicole Kidman’s iconic Balenciaga gown that she wore to the 2007 Academy Awards? Talk about epic. Not strutting down a red carpet anytime soon? No worries, here are some surefire ways to kick your outfit and home up a notch with red’s bold accent.

Red Accessories

redaccessories

For everyday style, I love red accessories paired with a neutral outfit like grey or camel. It’s unexpected and never overdone. Try the season’s hottest topper: the fedora. This deep burgundy one from River Island is a hit with a blazer, jeans and boots. Try this Mulberry belt with a denim on denim outfit for a cool pop of color. Over the weekend, these Miu Miu shades are a winner. For night, pump up your little black dress with a colorblocked scarlet and creme quilted leather Miu Miuclutch. When traveling, a vibrant iPad case like this one from Gucci, makes it easy to find in your carryall.

Red Beauty Products

redbeauty

Continue reading

Minimal Design For The New Year

One thing that always comes to mind during a new year, besides making a list of goals, is starting from a clean slate. Organizing my apartment, throwing out things that are causing clutter and getting in the way of me being my best. There’s a refreshing feeling that comes with things that are minimal. You have no distractions and it’s easy to point out the most beautiful and important aspect.

While searching for the minimal and the beautiful, I came across Brooklyn jewelry designer Fay Andrada. Each piece in Fay’s collection is unique and exquisite. Her inspiration lies in handmade tradition and her goal is to create modern artifacts. With her innovative line, Fay has mastered the art of simplicity. Her work is unbothered and almost zen-like, Here are a few of my favorite things:

fayandradaearrings fayandradaneckalces

Continue reading

African Art Re-Imagined

There’s a hot new designer in Italy that’s changing the world of African style. Her name is Stella Jean and she’s a half Italian, half Haitian former model who’s managed to merge her two cultures with a namesake line. Using her “Wax and Stripes” philosophy, Stella creates clothing with traditional bold prints (“wax”) and sharp tailoring from her Italian roots (which she refers to as the “stripes”). Her unique body of work has even garnered the attention of Giorgio Armani, who lent Stella his space to showcase her Spring 2014 collection- a first for the legendary designer.

The allure of Stella Jean lies in the new conversation it’s created for what African fashion can be. The introduction of tailoring and standout silhouettes is extremely refreshing, bringing in new customers who may never have thought of rocking African prints. A tea length A-line frock is a hit at an art gallery opening, while a printed trench and striped skirt is the perfect casual-cool ensemble. Since it’s debut, Stella Jean has been flying off the shelves.

stellajean1 stellajean2 stellajean3

Continue reading

Interior Design: Looking Ahead

More 2014 Trends: Fabulous Floral

Nowadays, trends come and go at the speed of a good broadband connection. Thanks to our ever-expanding Internet connectedness – especially with the explosion of meme culture and aggregators like Pinterest – it keeps getting harder to predict which trends will carry through the coming year. Twelve whole months?! Try twelve minutes.

There are plenty of forecasting pieces floating around right now (a good round up of interior predictions can be found here. But one trend I believe will continue to have real impact in the new year is a giant crop of flowers – I’m talking big ones – on furniture, walls and textiles.

Comme Des Garcons

 

There was no shortage of pretty petals this fall at the spring 2014 runway shows. And where interiors are concerned, don’t expect your grandma’s boring floral armchair: Giant flowers can be very, very cool.

Interior Junkie                                             Via: Interior Junkie

A huge bloom on a dark background would seem like a loud statement, but I love the muted beauty of this and the sense of quiet it evokes – perfect for a bedroom.

Refinery29 Continue reading

Fashion and Interior Design: An Artsy Touch

The first time I visited The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit in San Francisco, I was so amazed by the beautiful visuals that I had to go again the very next day. This Fall, the masterpiece has made it’s way to New York’s Brooklyn Museum. A friend invited me to the opening night, where Gaultier himself gave a talk on fashion. The multimedia exhibit is made up of 140 haute couture and pret-a-porter ensembles organized around seven themes tracing influences of Gaultier’s over 40 year history – “from the streets of Paris to the cinema.” Custom mannequins greet you as you enter and from then on, it’s a feast for the eyes. Everything from intricate gowns to fantastical photographs by one of the most innovative fashion designers of our time. Even Gaultier’s old stuffed teddy bear (on which he designed his first-ever cone bra) makes an appearance. Amongst the standout fashion, you’ll find behind the scenes images of Gaultier fitting Madonna for her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. There’s literally too many amazing instances in this exhibit to count. I left once again inspired by the unique way Gaultier creates art through fashion.

jpg1 jpg2 jpg3 jpg4 jpg5

Fellow style blogger, Aimee Song of Songofstyle is known as much for her apartment decor as her stellar style. The interior designer’s LA home is filled to the brim with color, texture and inspiration. Starting with the living room, Aimee uses a custom cobalt blue couch as a bold statement piece and continues the theme with a chic animal print rug, ink painting and tiled mirror. Bronze and gold pillows add ample color to the space. In the hallway there’s a gold table of art books and beautiful candle holders. A painting hangs above featuring a woman in colorful African attire amidst a black and white background. It’s a simple yet striking set up. Aimee’s “midnight blue” bedroom is serene sprinkled with fresh flowers and pretty plum accents. Off to the right peaks a textured beige rug. In the closet, Aimee color codes her clothing, which is a more artsy than neurotic habit as the grouped hues add dimension to the wardrobe. It’s a home that’s exciting and insanely unique. The space is artsy without being stuffy which makes for one perfectly lived-in home.

Continue reading

Fashion and Interiors: Easy Elegance

For those who enjoy a sophisticated, minimal style, you will surely fall in love with Valentina Kova. Valentina started off as a jewelry designer in 2011 and for the Fall 2013/2014 season, she expanded her brand to include a womenswear collection, made entirely of Italian leather and silk. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Valentina studied classical art before moving to the states to attend Parsons. She then went on to study at La Cambre in Brussels before moving to Paris, where she worked closely with jewelry designer Natalia Brilli. After a three year stint teaching at Parsons in New York, Valentina decided to put her innovative ideas to work and start her own line. Her designs are for the woman who is confident and classy, with a bit of spunk. Valentina’s clean aesthetic is a breath of fresh air: classic silhouettes mixed with new-age flair. I had the chance to both view and try on the new Spring 2014 collection, housed at premier pr agency, The Collective (founded by Alex Dickerson and Erin Kelly). I was immediately struck by the line’s craftsmanship and luxurious feel.  Pieces on my must-have list include a long silk trench in cobalt blue, a sleek black leather skirt with sheer cutouts and the Spring/Summer staple: an fiery cutout silk maxi dress. The collection is pure luxury and the world has taken notice. Valentina’s work has been featured in Nylon, Harper’s Bazar Russia and Glamour Mexico, among others. Lady Gaga was spotted in a silk lipstick red jumpsuit, looking more sophisticated than I’ve ever seen her.

AnastasiaDress_Red_SS2014_300 BiancaComboTop_White_ConstantineComboSkirt_Black_SS2014_300 BiancaEveningDress_White_SS2014_300

Continue reading