Day 9 of the 2-week countdown to our photo shoot

To quote my friend & founder of #june4thstudio, @rebeccaliscious, “stay hydrated!” Esp the lips. So I’ve been slathering my ūüćč scented lip balm brought all the way from Tokyo multiple times a day. Hope it works! #photoshootūüď∑ #beauty #2020goals #brandimage #beautyintheboardroom

The Countdown to the Photoshoot Begins! Day 1: Land an Awesome Photographer

Day one of the 2 week count down to my photoshoot.

It’s time. I’m FINALLY getting my new headshots.  I’ve hemmed, hawed and avoided this project for years. And then I spent another few years looking for the perfect photographer: someone who will make me feel comfortable, understand what I’m trying to convey, and will make me look awesome! Note to self: I really despise the way I look in photos so it was super important that I gelled with my photographer. 

I found that person: Rebecca Rehder, founder of June 4th Studio. And the good news is I used to work with her years ago in the advertising biz! So not only do I feel comfortable with her, but she adds a strategic lens from her Ad Strategy background to her talent as an artist.  She really GETS me.  She put a ton of effort in to thinking through the my “brand,” the various looks I wanted to achieve. In all honesty, we started the process of thinking through this shoot a few weeks ago but I’m introducing her now as the first step to the photo shoot of a lifetime!  

Hope you follow me during this two-week countdown ūüôā

Can Brick & Mortar Fashion Retail Resurrect Itself? A #Video Conversation with #experientailretail — Le Board — Answers the Question

Hello readers!¬†¬†Apologies for being so out of touch. I’ve been caught up experiencing¬†some great beauty and fashion experiences¬†that I¬†will THEN write about.¬†¬†And… I’m writing¬†a book!¬† Yep. In fact, I will be surfacing some of my book via Beautyskew over the next months to get your take on it.¬†¬†

But¬†now¬†let’s go back¬†to the topic at hand.

Henri Bendel, a fashion institution for close to 125 years, is shutting it’s doors.¬† It joins a long list of retailers.¬† Living in Manhattan I see the demise of retail, especially fashion retail, all around me as almost every block near my neighborhood displays at least one for rent sign.

The struggles retail are experiencing are not new.¬† Thanks to online shopping, retail, especially fashion retail, it is in bad shape.¬†¬†I’m as much to blame as the rest of us.¬† I really hate clothing shopping.¬† I hate the process of going to a store, then trying to find something, ANYTHING, that fits my body and the look I’m going after.¬† I hate waiting on lines, I hate¬†poor sales help and I hate the atmosphere of being surrounded by loads of clothes that¬†squeeze me.¬† So I stopped shopping.¬† I hired an amazing stylist and we shop online and occasionally run into a store and where she finds me everything.

But I’ve always been a believer in the role of a great fashion shopping experience.¬† I just think most brick and mortar retailers¬†haven’t cracked it.¬†With perhaps a few exceptions out there, most clothing stores see the retail space as a depot to unload their inventory.¬† ¬†Yet, physical spaces can offer SO much more, especially more than online experiences.¬† They can offer a sense of adventure, customization,¬†emotion¬†and true style.¬† They we can be meeting grounds and places to experience new sensations.¬†¬†Sure, physical spaces allow us to literally try on the styles.¬† But it’s more than that.¬† It’s only in a physical environment¬†can you feel, smell and¬†examine¬†the¬†the stitching, fabrics and textures.¬† ¬†In this era of¬† online-everything, we crave the physical — maybe even more so.¬† We’re still human, and it’s a fundamental need to want to connect with the physical spaces a places around us.¬† In anthropology¬†this need is called “place making.”

And¬†it’s only in a physical environment¬†that¬†we can connect with human beings in a nuanced, deeply emotional way.¬† These humans can be¬†expert stylists who seek to¬†truly understand our¬† bodies;¬†our needs and our aspirations or other like-minded people who want to share¬†— whether that’s their excitement around fashion or feelings about other issues.¬†¬†There’s no surprise there is still love for the open bazaar or¬†souk¬†or¬†shuk.¬† These are places where shoppers shop, yes, but more than that they come together to share in a cultural experience. (I happened to have written my senior Anthropology thesis on the topic so I’m very close to it.)

Good news, I think I found such a retail space that gets it:¬†Le Board.¬† Conceived and developed by Creative Director,¬†Sofia¬†Karvela¬†(who also happens to be my stylist — lucky me!)¬†and CEO,¬†John Aghayan, ¬†Le Board is a retail experience that merges fashion with entertainment¬†and, ironically, leverages the medium of immersive technology¬†and¬†human interaction.¬† It can host events like trunk shows, offer immersive tech experiences like holograms and VR “Behind-the-scenes,” and¬†share the talent of thought leaders via panel talks, and art shows.¬† ¬†Another bonus?¬† Opening end of September, the store promotes brands of women-led businesses.

Beyond the¬†many different aspects of Le Board, is the the feeling the experience evokes.¬† ¬†The ultimate mission¬†of Le Board,¬†Karvela¬†explains, is to provide a place where “women could feel a part of something a little bigger‚Ķwe created this space so we could bring women together to feel inspired‚ĶWomen with goals‚Ķto give them hope to believe that whatever they want to do can happen. We use fashion as a great to avenue to bring these women together to create a look for themselves to inspire to go out there and do great, big things.”

Let’s hear it directly from Karvela in the¬†interview¬†I conducted at the shop a week ago.¬† (By the way,¬†I’m wearing a latex dress which was related to the event which Le Board hosted,¬†Social China…You can hear it in the background :)) Click image below for interview.

For more information visit: weareleboard.com

Finally Going East: Creating Ties Through Beauty and Culture

As I hinted in my last post, there were some changes going on with my website which was why I’ve been a bit delinquent about my posts.

Well, I’m happy to announce that I’m¬†officially a member¬†X UNIPX INFLUENCE Program! ¬†In other words, I’m now acting as an influencer in the Chinese market leveraging¬†UNIPX media platforms which focus¬†on pop culture, lifestyle, media and entertainment. ¬†Here is a recent article¬†my friends at UNIPX published that effectively introduces¬†me to the market as a strategist and lover of all things beauty (It’s super easy to translate into English :)).

While I’m going to represent one of many different points of view from the U.S. market, I realize I need to wrap my head around views of beauty in Chinese culture too. ¬†As you can imagine this can be a life long pursuit, but¬†even just peering in to this new world could be give some insight.

So the first thing I did was look into my past research. ¬†To explain to my colleagues and clients¬†how views of beauty differ across cultures, I compared how Americans vs French, Russian and Chinese natives interpret beauty. ¬† Initially I jumped into¬†social media and published research. ¬†While it’s a few years old (I’m looking forward in¬†my new role to motivate me to do update this), and I’ve had to generalize a bit, I believe some of these themes stand the test of time. ¬† What intrigued me the most, and it surfaces in the article written about me linked above, is the true duality¬†of inner and outer beauty in China. ¬†While concepts of inner beauty are in “vogue” in Western culture, when we talk about beauty, let’s face it, we are really¬†referring to our outer appearances. ¬†From an outer beauty perspective, the Chinese tend to view a healthy body and skin, as well as white skin, and an sense of approachability as attractive.

As a¬†woman wrote¬†in social media (translated into English):¬†“Actually health is beauty. ¬†It’s better to get up early, do some exercise everyday and focus on the balance of whole body.”

At the same time, Chinese culture deems traits like confidence, intelligence and honorability as beautiful.  As another stated:

“Out long tradition emphasizes more the inner beauty of a woman. ¬†Beauty is not only your appearance but also your charm, characteristics and nobility…..”

Of course this is only scratching the surface. But imagine if we started thinking about or appreciating beauty this way. I’m not saying that all the Chinese notions of beauty will be right for us here. In fact, maybe by sharing some of our more enlightened notions of beauty with them we can all grow. I’m looking forward to learning more about these differences, experiencing and adopting some of them myself.

Speaking of experiencing¬†them, I tried to do just that. ¬†While I couldn’t take the next flight to Beijing, I did the best I could and headed down to NYC’s famous Chinatown to explore the beauty world. ¬†I went shopping with my friend, Kristi, at¬†the neighborhood¬†beauty shops, and indulged in¬†some beauty treatments a few weeks later. ¬†Not surprisingly, the shops offered way more beauty¬†products from Korea¬†and Japan than from China. ¬†¬†But that didn’t stop us from partaking. ūüôā

In terms of beauty treatments, I went on a lark to a place that had a website offering manicure and blow outs on Canal St. ¬†The¬†manicure didn’t seem any different than¬†one I would get at a typical salon uptown. ¬†But the hair experience certainly was. ¬† (Let me caveat by saying this is certainly not a comparison of all Chinatown salons since I only went to one.¬†) ¬†The first thing that happened was¬†I was asked to sit on one the of the blow out chairs while a¬†woman covered my collar in plastic. ¬†She then gave¬†me a 5 minute shoulder massage — which was awesome. ¬†Here is where it gets really interesting: while I’m sitting there, she takes the shampoo, pours it on my head while another woman squeezes water out from a plastic bottle to be mixed with the shampoo. ¬†The first woman washes and massages my scalp for another 5 minutes as I’m sitting right next to a gentleman getting his hair cut. ¬†So¬†I’m thinking, do they not have sinks? ¬†What’s the deal? ¬†They do! I know because¬†after the 5 minute wet hair massage I’m led to the sinks where my hair is rinsed and rewashed and then conditioned. ¬†Clearly a healthy, clean scalp and head of hair is a MUST!

Another interesting difference between “western” blowouts and and the ones I experienced myself or saw on others in the salon,¬†is¬†emphasis on smooth and straight (vs full volume). ¬†I was not surprised at this look given the high preponderance of Japanese straightening products that have made their way around the globe, and¬†especially¬†in Asia. ¬†Given the humidity and my general¬†lifestyle the look lasted a day or so but experience was a blast.

No doubt beauty is more than skin deep. ¬†But I’m not referring just to inner beauty. ¬†Rather I speaking about¬†how much beauty is¬†a product and reflection of culture. ¬†While there may universal truths about¬†physical symmetry and health as markers of beauty, it’s so evident¬†how our rituals around, beliefs of and issues with beauty tells us a world of information regarding¬†our¬†values,¬†social politics, environment and the list goes. ¬†This is one of the key goals of Beautyskew: to shed light on culture through the lens of beauty.¬†More than that, as evidence of my new relationship with UNIPX media, beauty can be a vehicle to connect with and learn from others, even those from a totally different world.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this great new relationship, sharing what I know and learning from others too, maybe just maybe, helping to build some amazing bridges.

To get a taste of some of the Chinese-American beauty influencers on U.S. soil, check out Soothingsista and Francis Lola.

A Call for Eroticism

In this week’s edition of The New Yorker, I came across¬†a quick story by Peter Schjeldahl, “The Roaring Stetties,”¬† about the artist Florine Stettheimer. ¬†In anticipation of The Jewish Museum’s retrospective of her work, the story gives us a taste of this New York-based artist living during the end of 19th century and first half of the 20th . ¬†Based on the story, Stettheimer seemed fascinating, bold and talented. ¬†In 1915, Stettheimer painted the first full-length nude self-portrait by a woman. ¬†No coincidence the image¬†accompanying the article was a copy of this very painting. ¬†It’s quite beautiful, tasteful and arresting. ¬†Never would I¬†hesitate to share this story and the image with my children. ¬†In fact, I¬†would be proud too!

But why is a painting of a nude woman any different than other¬†images of¬†naked¬†woman we witness all too often in today’s culture on the internet? ¬†Would I want to show these other images to my children? ¬†My initial response is “no!” ¬†But why? My question¬†reminds me¬†of a post a wrote a number of years back about the difference¬†between erotic art and pornography. ¬†Below is piece¬†from that post:

What explains why pornography is considered base while erotic art is deemed beautiful? In both cases we lay our eyes upon the beautiful (or sometimes not so beautiful) human form.¬† According to Robert Scruton in Beauty, pornography objectifies the body whereas erotic art represents the embodied person ‚ÄĒ soul, personality, character….

What struck me about the argument is Scruton‚Äôs own words: ‚ÄúMy body is not an object but a subject, just as I am‚ĶI am inextricably mingled with it, and what is done to my body is done to me.‚ÄĚ

His thinking has implications way beyond pornography for me.  Essentially he’s elevating the role of our bodies.  They aren’t just flesh and bone, they are inseparable from ourselves, from our essences.

Keeping our kids shielded from pornography makes absolute sense. ¬†Pornography demeans us and distances ourselves from our bodies. ¬†And the reverse should be true as well.¬†¬†We should not only deem erotic art differently from pornography, but actually¬†encourage¬†our¬†kids to view it. ¬†They will¬†get a taste of talent and challenge themselves to understand the art in the context of its time. ¬†But perhaps more importantly,¬†they will hopefully embrace the human form¬†and see it as something beautiful not some¬†distant “piece” of who we are, or even worse,¬†a source of shame. ¬†Instead they will see it as¬†inherently part of us,¬†and as such, will¬† respect it, treat it well and love it that much more. ¬†In a time and culture where we have so many conflicting feelings about our physical selves, let’s at least give our kids a sense of our bodies as sacred and worthy of self-care. ¬†I truly believe such a stance towards our physical selves will make us healthier, happier and more respectful of others’ physicality as well. ¬†Imagine that: we will not only be more loving and protective of our own bodies, but more accepting, caring and cherishing of others’ bodies too. ¬†Could this help to stop body shaming¬†and¬†actual physical harming others? ¬†Maybe.¬† I hope so.

I would love your reactions to this and I’m looking forward to the exhibit and may even some of you all there :).