Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whole Foods "Kermès Birkin" Fetches $1,600

Instagram sketches turn regular dad into modern-day Warhol

Instagram sketches turn regular dad into modern-day Warhol

Every morning, Donald Robertson boards the 8:30 a.m. Metro-North train from Larchmont to work at Estée Lauder in Midtown.
The bespectacled father of five — who is a creative director for special projects at the cosmetics giant — brainstorms ad campaigns, develops products and sits in an office.
But before he has even reached his desk to start his day, the unassuming 52-year-old has already done a full day’s work — in his basement studio, where he paints, sketches and gaffer-tapes quirky, colorful works of art inspired by the world of fashion.
He’s prolific, too. He wakes up at 4 a.m., and by the time he leaves the house, he’s already dashed off a handful of zeitgest-y pop pieces.
“People say I am reminiscent of Andy Warhol because he started as an illustrator and then transitioned into art. I am kind of in that position now. Andy’s output was maybe monthly. I like putting out three or four things a day,” says Robertson, who also doodles intricate sketches during meetings like most people sketch circles.
With no place to share his art, he used to dole it out to lucky friends or co-workers. But in November 2012, his assistant signed him up on Instagram under the handle “DonaldDrawbertson,” and the photo-sharing platform has launched him from beauty industry darling to internationally selling artist.
His followers have swelled to 24,000 — many of whom are major fashion taste-makers. Fans were constantly asking to buy his work, so in December he began selling his pieces on the Trendabl app. Prints start at $250 and paintings can fetch up to $2,200. He has sold paintings in Italy, England and Brazil.
No medium or style icon is off limits.
Robertson will sketch Vogue editor Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington with a giraffe of his creation named Mitford; paint a cardboard box to look like Louis Vuitton luggage; use a piece of toast to make Pharrell’s famous hat; or draw amazing likenesses of Karl Lagerfeld on toilet paper.
“My main influence is a cross between Wes Anderson and Damien Hirst. Because the thing about both of them is everything they do feels really hands-on. You can see their hands in their work,” says Robertson.
“Warhol felt very computer-y and silk screen-y and almost a little bit colder.”
The Toronto native has always blazed his own trail. In 1982, he was asked to leave the Ontario School of Art because his instructors thought he was too commercial.
“I went to art school for, like, ten minutes, and I got asked to leave,” he says.
He went to Paris for a year trying to get work as an illustrator but returned to Toronto and helped launch MAC cosmetics there.
While he never finished school, he came to New York in 1989 and toiled for many years at Condé Nast, where he was a creative director at Glamour and Cargo magazines, before heading to Estée Lauder to work with Aerin Lauder, and then to Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.
But his new-found Instagram fame still blows his mind: “This is a 100 percent unexpected thing,” he says. “I’m just some schmoe-y guy who lives in surburbia.”
Meanwhile, the recognition has led to some unexpected collaborations.
British designer Giles Deacon, who found Robertson on Instagram, used his lip-prints for his latest collection; “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke wore one of the pieces on the cover of the April issue of InStyle UK.
He recently designed wallpaper for Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal and his wife Rachel featuring pandas spinning on stationary bikes. J.Crew’s children’s line Crewcuts picked up the print, and will use it for next season’s collection.
“Thanks to Instagram, there is no one I am not working with that I wanted to work with. And that is global. The reach of this app is insane. That’s why it’s so fun. [Magazine editor] Carine Roitfeld ‘regrammed’ me the other day. And then [J.Crew creative director] Jenna Lyons did,” he adds.
Robertson, who describes his work as “happy and high-end,” embraces the immediacy of the platform.
“You get to react in real time,” he says. “It used to be that you did a painting, but you’d have to save it for your next art show. We live in an ADD culture, so I want constant flow.”
Robertson, who is planning a gallery show in New York this June, doesn’t plan on quitting his day job any time soon. In fact, it fuels output — and his mad-scientist mind.
“John [Demsey, Group President at Estée Lauder] knows I have attention issues, so he bops me around. This is the perfect job for me,” says Robertson of his 9-to-5 gig, where he works on numerous brands.
“The magic in what I am doing is that it’s not all day long. I just have this little window where I can pull this stuff off. Plus, when you are working with these different brands and different people, you get a gazillion different ideas.”

 After seeing an Instagram friend post, “It’s not easy being green,” Robertson was inspired. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, Kermit.’ And I had orange gaffer tape that reminds me of Hermès, so I said, ‘I’m going to do Kermès.’ I didn’t come up with the line ‘Kermès’ — an Instagram user came up with it.” It’s now a recurring motif. This Kermès “Birkin” bag is made from a Whole Foods shopping bag repurposed with gaffer tape; a woman in California recently purchased one for $1,600.

"It's literally Zappos boxes, milk cartons and anything else that would go in the garbage," says Robertson, who transformed his recycling bin into a "Louis Vuitton" luggage set that graces a table in his home. "It is turning garbage into prestige products." Since garbage isn't his wife's favorite medium, it will likely go up for sale.

Wintour is another popular motif for Robertson because of her iconic appearance. “I really like people that lock into a look,” says Robertson. “She is like the ultimate brand, herself.”
In one piece, he crafted the Vogue editrix’s head from a walnut and created her signature bob with gaffer tape — then used it as a stopper for a Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle.
In a sketch, Wintour appears with the giraffe Mitford, which Robertson re-imagines as her employee: “He’s always been Anna’s temp because she needs someone who isn’t going to talk [or] make a movie. [I thought], ‘She should get a giraffe. They are silent.’

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Johnny Weir & Victor Voronov Reconcile - It's All About the Birkin Baby

Johnny Weir's husband agrees to reconcile but ONLY if skater pledges to publicly apologize for nasty divorce mudslinging 

Victor Voronov has reportedly agreed move back in with Weir only if he signs papers pledging he'll tell the world he's sorry for the high profile digs  
The agreement stipulates that Weir's mother must also butt out of the couple's personal finances 
Weir filed for divorce from Victor Voronov - his husband of two years - in February, while in Sochi commenting on the Olympics 
Voronov accused Weir of cheating using gay dating app Grindr and of biting him during a fight


Monday, April 14, 2014

Carole Bayer Sager and the Infamous Hermes Blue Roi Croc Birkin bag

If that handbag could talk, oh the story it could tell! 

But alas it can, there are actually three chapters in Bringing Home the Birkin about that very bag she's holding in her hand.

Forget Apple, General Motors, Exxon, Eli Lilly....Invest in Birkin Bags!

Many consider collecting a male-dominated hobby, with men dominating categories like stamps, cars and baseball cards. But a surge in luxury accessory sales in the secondary market, handbags in particular, have reinforced female dominance in accumulating items like Hermès handbags that can sell for five figures.
The Hermès Birkin bag, a line of bags made by the French luxury retailer and inspired by British actress Jane Birkin, has played a major part in attracting bona-fide collectors.
"Until very recently, people with lots of bags didn't self-identify as collectors. They were shoppers, buyers or 'fans of Chanel,'" said Matt Rubinger, director of luxury accessories for Heritage Auctions. "They weren't creating a collection with a lasting value or investment in mind. As we've hosted these auctions and people see how strong the market is, that has shifted."
Heritage Auctions recognized the growing popularity of the market and brought on Rubinger three and half years ago to launch the luxury accessories category.
Rubinger said that of Heritage's 35 categories, such as sports collectibles, they are all dominated by a male customer base, except for luxury accessories.

Because Hermès can have waiting lists that can span years for Birkin bags, handcrafted in France, the secondary market exploded with the prevalence of online retailers.
Websites Ruelala and Gilt host semi-regular sales for luxury handbags, but none are quite as expensive as Birkin bags.
On Monday, Heritage Auctions is hosting in Beverly Hills a "Fine Jewelry and Luxury Accessories Auction" that includes 68 Birkins out of 275 bags. The most sought-after item is a crocodile Birkin bag that was custom made with an indigo interior. It's estimated to be worth $60,000 to $70,000.

Crocodile Birkin bags can retail for $60,000 in Hermès stores; leather Birkin bags for about $10,000.
Why the big price tag? Rubinger doesn't deny that these bags are "not the norm" for most American households. Buyers with means are paying for both the brand and the quality, Rubinger explains.
"One craftsman sits in factory in southern France and starts with the first stitch, from start to finish. You pay for that craftsmanship," he said. "If they can't get enough of a certain material that meets their standards, they discontinue it."

Hermès did not respond to a request for comment.

What has enforced luxury handbags as a collectibles category was that many pieces, such as the Birkin, were not only holding in value through time, but rising.
"In the luxury space, if you buy a new luxury car, you are not thinking of lasting value," Rubinger said. "If you buy a Range Rover, you aren't planning to sell it for more than you bought it."
Luxury handbag collectors, on the other hand, can.
"If you really pay attention to what you're doing, you're not going to lose money, and in the best case scenario you can make money on this bag that you enjoyed," he said.

Last year, Heritage Auctions launched weekly online auctions for luxury bags that start on Tuesday and last for seven days. About 75 designer bags start at $1 with no reserve.
PHOTO: Hermes Birkin Bag

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Flashback: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

Book review: "Bringing Home the Birkin," by Michael Tonello

May 5, 2008
So are you familiar already with what's known as the Birkin bag? It's the product of Hermès, one of those European "designer boutiques" that exists for no other reason than to severely overcharge rich people with self-esteem issues; you know, one of those places that sells hundred-dollar handkerchiefs, $500 t-shirts and the like, eagerly bought up by the wealthy and idle so that they can prove to strangers that they too can afford to waste $500 on a t-shirt. (Yeah, I don't get it either.) But of all the ridiculously overpriced merchandise that Hermès sells, perhaps none is more infamous than their Birkin handbags; named after a famous French singer and habitual Hermès customer, these bags cost a minimum of $10,000 new from the store, and depending on the type can run you upwards of $75,000 or more. And human nature being what it is, of course, it's nearly impossible to get one's hands on an actual Birkin, with there being an infamous two-year waiting list at most stores to even be given the opportunity to blow that kind of money; needless to say, the self-imposed scarcity drives all these upper-class women with self-esteem issues crazy, with some of them willing to go to almost any lengths and pay any price to get ahold of one of them themselves.
And thus enters witty gay entrepreneur and Huffington Post columnist Michael Tonello, whose new memoir Bringing Home the Birkin is a doozy of a book; it's the purportedly true story of how Tonello managed to get his hands on literally hundreds of Birkins himself over just a few years' time, always done legally and with Hermès employees fully aware of his existence, making himself a fortune in the process by reselling them on eBay for insane markups. And I'm telling you, this is exactly what you want a personal memoir to be -- funny, thrilling, chock-full of great cocktail-party stories told with the flair of a natural raconteur, following an overall storyline as tight as any fictional project, one whose ending is not necessarily something you can guess beforehand. It's one of those books I just absolutely love coming across as part of maintaining CCLaP -- one of those books I would never naturally pick up myself, but that turned out to be a real delight, one that makes me happy and glad to be in a position to recommend to others.
So how did Tonello do it? Well, for starters, it helps if you don't buy into the hype of brand-obsession yourself; although a longtime collector of fine clothing (usually in the service of his former day job, providing hair and makeup services to various east-coast media shoots), Tonello admits that he doesn't share the religious devotion to certain designers like his clients do, and finds it emotionally easy to give up ownership of high-ticket items. In fact, that's what brought Birkins to his attention in the first place; after impulsively moving to Barcelona in the early 2000s, then having his prearranged job fall apart once arriving, Tonello found himself selling off big portions of his back wardrobe to the various designer consignment stores around the city, amazed that certain decade-old scarves of his would still be snatched up at nearly the original price by certain crazed collectors. This led him to eBay (of course), where he found that he could actually make a profit off of certain items depending on what they were; this then led to certain customers emailing him with "wish lists," certain old and new boutique items that Tonello would keep a specific eye out for while traipsing across Europe in his travels. And this, of course, is what led him to Birkins for the first time, and for developing the same kind of obsession over their fake scarcity as so many of us do when first hearing about them.
Because that's the smart thing about Tonello, and why he became so good at being a Birkin broker; he realized quite early on that this so-called exclusivity is simply a shell game on the part of Hermès, and that if you could just break their code it shouldn't be hard to buy a Birkin anytime you want, simply by walking into a store and asking for one. This led Tonello to trying out different things at the various Hermès stores he visited across Europe, trial-and-error style until he was able to notice certain things working over and over; and then this realization inspired the expansion of Tonello's globetrotting shopping sprees, to the point of finding himself traveling to places like South America and Russia on a regular basis, just to hit up the stores that rich old white women usually don't make it to. And when all is said and done, really, the winning equation to getting a Birkin turns out to not be that complicated at all...
1) Dress the part -- never walk in a store wearing less than a quarter-million dollars in clothes and jewelry.
2) Identify which of the half-dozen "Hermès employee types" you're dealing with when you walk in, then cater to their weaknesses. (So if it's a "Grandmother" type, act like the pleasant courteous son they never had; if it's an "Incurable Romantic," act like they have a chance of having sex with you later that night.)
3) Blow a thousand dollars first, buying other stupid crap. Or if you're in New York, blow five thousand dollars. Mention items by their specific names, to prove you're a long-time educated collector.
4) When they're ringing you up, off-handedly ask, "Oh, and would you happen to have any Birkins in the back as well?"
5) Ka-ching!
But of course, I'm simplifying the situation for humorous effect; as Tonello actually demonstrates here quite well, the real secret to becoming a Birkin regular is more complicated and ephemeral than that, a strange mishmash of sucking up, buying into the hype, and sincere friendships, a legitimate community of high-end haute-couture lovers that you must somehow ingratiate yourself into, if you want any chance of making an actual career out of something like this. And indeed, this is one of the big strengths of Bringing Home the Birkin, and what separates it from the endless similar chick-lit crap that HarperCollins desperately, desperately wants you to think of when thinking of this book (and seriously, HarperCollins marketing department, if you mention Sex in the City one more time in your promotional material I might just vomit all over myself); because Tonello shines a light here through the foggy haze of all that, and shows how the entire haute-couture culture is an endless house of cards that ultimately relies on peer pressure and catering to people's fears in order to work. It makes it a weightier book than the ones it will undoubtedly get compared to by others, a stronger tale that doesn't have to rely so much on you being an obsessive fashion-lover yourself in order to enjoy.
Now, that said, oh man does Tonello tell some great stories on the way to this disillusionment -- of flying into Rio just to visit a Hermès store, of attending star-studded European fashion events, of racking up half a million on a credit card in a single weekend. In fact, that might be the most enjoyable thing of all about Bringing Home the Birkin, is that Tonello is simply a natural storyteller and gifted raconteur; take for example what is easily the best story of the entire book, his uneasy relationship with a skeevy chickenhawk gay hustler he accidentally meets one night, who has various Hermès employees "eating out of the palm of his hand" and so can therefore get his hands on certain items that Tonello can't. Needless to say, things quickly devolve between the two, with Tonello eventually having to hatch a wacky noiresque scheme to steal back a $25,000 Birkin the hustler stole from him in the first place; there's not much funnier of a mental image in this whole manuscript, to tell you the truth, than that of Tonello sneaking around the streets of Paris with a group of headphoned goons in sunglasses, wondering if his hotel room is "safe" and asking himself just what he's gotten himself into, when first thinking it would be fun to sell a bunch of overpriced purses to a group of rich housewives.
This is what I mean by how wonderful this book is; it at once gives us all the great anecdotal stories that come with the highest end of the fashion industry, while still pointing out all the depressing realities that such an industry produces, all the various hangers-on in a community like that who swirl around the small amount of rich, beautiful and famous in the center. That after all has become the biggest problem with America's entertainment industry as well, that there is simply so much money being generated from it in so many different ways that it's become an almost unstoppable monster; it's no longer just about the actors and directors and producers in the middle of it, but all their yoga instructors and dog psychiatrists and personal shoppers, all the gossip columnists and publicists and people who get paid to convince celebrities to use certain products in public. That's what makes Bringing Home the Birkin so fascinating, because ultimately that's what Tonello's story is about as well -- not the fashion designers themselves, but those who game the fashion system in order to skim a profit off its top, the endless retail employees and eBay resellers and party crashers and blog owners and the rest, all of them taking their own little cuts from the massive amounts of money being exchanged in the middle of it all.
It's a fascinating book that tells a fascinating story, not the best-written thing I've read this year but certainly far from the worst, one of those fabled books about fashion that even non-fashion-lovers can enjoy. It gets a big recommendation from me, and I imagine will also be one of the winners of CCLaP's annual "Guilty Pleasure Award" at the end of the year.
Out of 10: 9.2


It's Palm Sunday - Which Means Summer is Just Around the Corner

We All Know The Best Things at Hermes Don't Come in These Flat Boxes!


NBC-TV/Today Show
Summer Reading Round-Up

Bringing Home the Birkin
top 10 summer reads!




May 18, 2008
Bag Man