Monthly Archives: February 2017

Lights May Flicker but Looks Stay Sharp

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the birthplace of SAPE, a loosely organized cult of dandies known as “les sapeurs.” SAPE is an abbreviation of the group’s name, which in English translates as the Society of Ambience and Elegant People. The contrast between the extravagance of their attire and the hardships of their lives has the effect of highlighting the dignity of their code. Indeed, dressing well is part of the culture there.

“Everybody wears these amazing colorful clothes and are so eager to show who they are,” Ms. Harris said of the people in Goma.

Ms. Harris was in Congo on a fellowship documenting energy poverty. She wanted to capture how people, many of whom don’t have reliable electricity or access to water, maintain pride in their appearance. In Goma, 14 of 18 neighborhoods in the city experience rolling blackouts on a daily basis.

“When I talked to people in Congo, they would say that, despite all the struggles and despite all the misery, pride in the way they dress is something they take really seriously,” she said. “They make sure their whites are super-white and their clothes are super clean.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the birthplace of SAPE, a loosely organized cult of dandies known as “les sapeurs.” SAPE is an abbreviation of the group’s name, which in English translates as the Society of Ambience and Elegant People. The contrast between the extravagance of their attire and the hardships of their lives has the effect of highlighting the dignity of their code. Indeed, dressing well is part of the culture there.

“Everybody wears these amazing colorful clothes and are so eager to show who they are,” Ms. Harris said of the people in Goma.

Ms. Harris was in Congo on a fellowship documenting energy poverty. She wanted to capture how people, many of whom don’t have reliable electricity or access to water, maintain pride in their appearance. In Goma, 14 of 18 neighborhoods in the city experience rolling blackouts on a daily basis.

“When I talked to people in Congo, they would say that, despite all the struggles and despite all the misery, pride in the way they dress is something they take really seriously,” she said. “They make sure their whites are super-white and their clothes are super clean.”

“These two necklaces mean a lot to me,” said Olivier Bayongwa, a musician known as El’Weezya Fantastikoh. “The first one shows a pharaoh and the Egyptian pyramids. The second one is Versace and is a gift from my girlfriend.” His dreadlocks hair style is not as common in Goma as in the United States. “Women tend to get a lot of braids and weaves, and the men are into the faded cuts,” Ms. Harris said, “so it was really cool to see somebody who had this kind of hairstyle.”

Classic Americana in Las Vegas fashion

When Ryan Shorosky graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2014, he decided to drive an 18-wheeler around the country for a year, photographing truck drivers along the way. That was when he first went to Las Vegas.He returned there once a month over the course of that year.

On his latest trip, in May, Mr. Shorosky wanted to capture the variety of people who work in Las Vegas, especially those with unconventional jobs. “In other cities you might work as a barista, but in Vegas really strange opportunities exist for people that live there,” he said. He saw these two women outside the Bellagio hotel. The woman on the left has a tattoo covering most of her thigh. “There is a dichotomy that exists in Vegas where, from afar, things kind of look like they’re meant to be, but when you dig in closer, you figure out that there are a lot more layers to the people or the place,” the photographer said.

“I had this idea on my first day about exploring the iconic things of Vegas — Elvis, of course, being one of those things,” Mr. Shorosky said. Not that everything in Las Vegas is as it appears.Zach Brewer, shown above, is not a professional Elvis impersonator. He and a friend, visiting from Houston, were part of a bridal party and decided to dress up. “He was in costume and just drinking a lot,” the photographer said.

Toni James has been a figure in the Las Vegas drag scene for 30 years. “No matter where I went or who I talked to, everyone knew who Toni James was,” the photographer said. He first met Mr. James at the Double Down Saloon, a dive bar where locals hang out, and decided to photograph him there. “He was in this punk bar bathroom putting his makeup on and getting ready,” Mr. Shorosky said.

Eric Underwood Royal Ballet Star of america

The most shocking thing about Eric Underwood, the American-born star of the Royal Ballet in London, is not that he has a potty mouth or a dragon tattoo shooting out of his navel. It is not that he has been photographed frontally nude by David Bailey for a fashion magazine or by Mario Testino mostly unclothed with Kate Moss for Italian Vogue.

It is not that, unlike the dance drones of the “Black Swan” cinematic cliché, he enjoys an evening at the Box, a raunchy cabaret here, and has been known to gorge on burgers and fries now and then.

All of these are established elements of the 33year-old Mr. Underwood’s reputation as an immensely likable if impious outlier in the rigid world of classical ballet. The shocking thing about him is what he does at home.

On those evenings when he is not performing at the Royal Opera House, or on stages around the world, he can often be found on the sofa at his house in Camden conducting one-sided geezer-type arguments with the judges on “Strictly Come Dancing,” the BBC One equivalent of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I’m obsessed,” Mr. Underwood said.

So fixated is he, in fact, that he spent a recent morning shopping for shrubs at the Covent Garden Market to build a privacy screen shielding his living room window from a railway line that runs parallel to his house.

“Right now people now can look in at this crazy man yelling at his TV,” he said.

We were seated in a leather banquette in the bar of the Colony Grill Room at the Beaumont Hotel in the Mayfair district of London. Both the bar and the hotel are theatrical simulacra of a glamorous Art Deco watering hole and hostelry. They were conjured by the celebrated London restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King on a site once occupied by a parking garage. The Beaumont has been one of Mr. Underwood’s favorite places ever since he spent a night there, in a suite called “Room” designed by the British sculptor Antony Gormley.

Mr. Underwood, though muscled, lean, athletic and at 6-foot-2 seemingly built for the discipline, fell into ballet as a teenager almost accidentally when, after flubbing an audition for a performing arts school, he spotted a nearby movement class underway and bluffed his way in.

“I didn’t know anything about ballet, but I could already dance,” Mr. Underwood said.

The assertion seems needlessly boastful unless you consider how central it is to Mr. Underwood’s mission to normalize and demystify his chosen profession. The technical barriers to entry in classical dance are stringent enough to discourage many potential talents from trying. And yet more than mere technique, dance artistry is created from the sum of life experiences, he said.

In his case, that experience notably includes Friday nights spent at home in suburban Maryland, where his mother, a secretary, used to push the furniture against the walls so that she and her three children could dance to Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass and Marvin Gaye.

It was largely a happy childhood, Mr. Underwood added. While many accounts of his upbringing have emphasized the hackneyed narrative of escape from the rampant violence and gun crime of a poor neighborhood near the nation’s capital, that is not altogether how he remembers it.

“Sure, there were gangs at school and there was gunfire, but we were loved and appreciated at home,” he said. “My mother brought us up with that American attitude of ‘You can do anything you want if you work hard enough.’ She had this saying: ‘It’s just an obstacle. Get over it.’”

His ascent through the ranks of the classical ballet world, though hardly without obstacles, would be the envy of most in Mr. Underwood’s profession: Early in his teenage training with the ballet teacher Barbara Marks at Suitland High School Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Maryland, he was awarded a Philip Morris Foundation scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet in New York.

Graduating into the company of the Dance Theater of Harlem, he was promoted at the end of his first season to soloist, and joined American Ballet Theater in 2003. Offered a spot as first artist at the Royal Ballet three years later, he relocated to London, and was quickly elevated to soloist, becoming a favorite of choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor.

I Have Fashion Regrets

The turquoise and fuchsia weavings of the indigenous people of the Guatemalan village spoke to me. “Make us into a pair of jeans,” they said. I shouldn’t have listened, because the first night I wore them out in Manhattan those jeans made me look like a wall hanging.

We all have our fashion regrets, whether from overzealous sample-sale shopping or impulse buying at a market abroad. A new Rizzoli book, “I Actually Wore This: Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought,” includes my regrettable jeans and the cringe-inducing garments of a runway of notables including Roz Chast, Yvonne Force Villareal, Molly Shannon, Chris Burch, Nick Wooster, Gary Shteyngart and Linda Fargo. It was written by Tom Coleman, with photography by Jerome Jakubiec.

Ms. Fargo, the Bergdorf Goodman creative doyenne with a new boutique that bears her name, models the Twizzler-red 3.1 Phillip Lim pantsuit she wore to a fashion event filled with people in black (the New York color of festivity), inspiring ungenerous texts and social media mockery.

“But I always like to scare myself a little,” she said at a party in the spring.

Hers is not the kind of boldface name, however, to attract universal scorn. While many dodged that bullet at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute Gala in May, with its avant-garde dress code in honor of Rei Kawakubo, years past have not been as kind to Sarah Jessica Parker or Rihanna, whose pooling yellow dress in 2015, a.k.a. the Omelet, was the equivalent of sartorial egg on the face.Other great moments of regrettable red-carpet display include the infamous derriere-showing Scaasi pantsuit Barbra Streisand wore for the 1969 Oscars and Bjork’s swan dress from 2001.

That girl should be put in an asylum,” Joan Rivers heckled.

“It’s just a dress,” the singer later responded.

But like a cigar, a dress is not always just a dress, especially in the political arena.

Ivanka Trump learned that when she posted a picture of herself and her husband, Jared Kushner, on Instagram on the January weekend when refugees were detained at airports because of her father’s ban on foreign visitors from seven Muslim countries. It didn’t help that her crinkly Carolina Herrera silver gown photo went viral when a detractor posted it next to a refugee girl in a blanket of similar material. In February, another social media outcry ensued when the first daughter wore a dress by French designer Roland Mouret to her father’s first congressional address — “Buy American” was a major theme — and some felt her bra-like black shoulder strap made the dress seem more Las Vegas than Congress.

In April, the flak jacket and blue blazer ensemble Mr. Kushner wore for a visit to Iraq provoked media sniping; it seemed more country club than conflict zone.

Of course, all this was minor after Kellyanne Conway’s showing on Inauguration Day. She called her much-mocked red, white and blue double breasted coat by Alessandro Michele of Gucci “Trump revolutionary wear.” Later she told The Hollywood Reporter she was “sorry to offend the black stretchpants women of America by wearing a little color on Inauguration Day.”

Fearlessness, I suppose, breeds cluelessness. Or is it the other way around? In fashion as in life, isn’t it often the regrettable that makes us memorable?

“Dressing is always a learning experience, so you have to take risks,” the designer Zac Posen said at a party not long ago for the latest novel by the Vogue contributor Plum Sykes. The only time Ms. Sykes regrets an outfit, she told me, is when it’s “cheap and not well tailored.”

Her sister Lucy, a stylist-turned-novelist who has most recently explored thewellness craze with Jo Piazza, her co-writer, was working the party in bright blue lipstick. She had no regrets even if it was drawing attention away from the guest of honor.

“Every time I wear it, it’s a conversation piece,” she said. “So why not?”

Because sometimes wearing a conversation piece can be like wearing a “kick me” sign, that’s why. I know a cheeky woman who was a shoo-in for an advertising job until she wore a leather jacket — with the word “wild” painted on both sleeves — to her final interview, in the 1990s. My own attempt to wear a radical mix of plaids during the grunge moment resulted in a disdainful once-over from the editor-in-chief of a magazine. He was in a dark, slim-cut suit.