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Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Paula Ke in Tokyo, Uslu Airlines, Comme des Garcons' fragrances and more
By MARTIN WEBB
Pret-a-porter a la Paris
An arresting advertising campaign and highly desirable accessory line is winning Parisian womenswear brand Paule Ka more and more fans in Europe, and the brand is seeking to capitalize on its success at home with the opening of a flagship store in Tokyo's prim and proper fashion enclave of Ginza.
The brand is perhaps best known for its chic, sleek and slinky footwear, but the word in Paris is that Paule Ka has of late been gaining increasing acclaim for clever but classic interpretations of seasonal trends seen in its pret-a-porter line. Both ranges are on display in their full glory at the brand new two-story store just across from the Coach store on Namiki Street. With an understated smoke-gray exterior, the store boasts a classy-gray and yellow interior with white marble flooring specially imported from Tuscany - a fitting setting for the classy creations displayed on the shelves and racks here.
Over in the Old Continent, there are the rumblings of a revolution in the beauty world. Brushes and fingertips have been the method of application for makeup since time immemorial, but now Berlin-based makeup artist Feride Uslu has hit upon a new way of doing your face -- the airbrush.
Air diffusion devices have long since been used by Hollywood makeup artists, but they have been too unwieldy for the mass market -- until now. Developed over two years, initially based on the technology of a pastry airbrush, the Uslu Airlines Air(o)pak is about the size of a portable CD player, and allows anyone to spray on foundation, blusher, eye color or fake tan with relative ease. Each Uslu Airlines kit comes with an instructional DVD in which actress Chloe Sevigny and model Christina Kruse go from airbrushing amateurs to misting mavens in a matter of minutes.
While truly mastering this newfangled -- and rather pricey -- misting equipment takes a while, perseverance allows the user to achieve a very light, even covering of the skin that makes for a healthy, natural look almost undetectable as a cosmetic-covered face.
Besides Sevigny and Kruse, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez are among the celebrities who are said to use Uslu Airlines gear to stay looking fresh-faced at all hours, while supermodel Karolina Kurkova swears that it is "the best way to put on foundation." Adding to the product's credibility is that fact that professional makeup artists like Tom Pechaux and Michelle Champagne are also said to be jumping onto the airspraying bandwagon, and can be spotted carting their kits to fashion shoots for worldwide beauty ad campaigns.
The Uslu Airlines Web site provides a comprehensive explanation in both English and Japanese of this technological advance in makeup, as well as an online store where the full range of products can be browsed and purchased.
Epoch-making fashion brand Comme des Garcons, the brainchild of revered designer Rei Kawakubo, is a steady source of radical ideas, and not just in the realm of design. The latest brain wave to emerge from its atelier is a revolution in retail: a series of "guerrilla" stores, open for a period of one year only in down-at-heel but hip districts of 10 urban areas, including Berlin, Barcelona, Brooklyn, Stockholm and Warsaw.
To celebrate the success of this transient fashion store concept, Comme des Garcons has created two fragrances: Guerrilla 1, distinguished by a black bottle; and Guerrilla 2 in a red one. In an arty touch typical of the envelope-pushing label, the perfumes are packaged along with six papier-mache dummy bottles, which fashionistas will no doubt find a creative way to display.
The two scents are characterized by earthy vetiver and cedarwood undertones with an undemonstrative backdrop of musk. The subversive pair do demonstrate distinguishing olfactory signatures -- Guerrilla 1 features saffron, cloves and black pepper, while its zesty sister's bouquet features ginger, bergamot and raspberry.
Comme des Garcons Aoyama, 5-2-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Tel: (03) 3406-3951.
5-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. (03) 6274-3100. www.pauleka.com
Best foot forward
Formerly a high-flying investment banker, Carmen Ho left the fast-paced world of finance in pursuit of her long-term ambition to become a footwear designer. Ho's hunch -- that she would excel at creating beautiful shoes for women -- proved correct, and her brand soon became a permanent fixture at top-class stores like Bergdorf Goodman in the U.S., Le Bon Marche in Paris and Tomorrowland in Japan.
Now in its sixth season, the Carmen Ho line is manufactured by experienced artisans at workshops in northern Italy. Born in Hawaii, Ho resides in Milan, so as to keep a close eye on the manufacture of her beloved shoes. The brand is distinguished by use of luxurious materials like python, and stingray skin, as well as the finest furs and supple Italian leathers, pieced together in charmingly intricate patterns.
All Carmen Ho designs incorporate an insole specially developed to lend her creations added flexibility: That means beautifully crafted shoes which offer the comfort of far less fashion-forward designs.