The Manolo Recommends 8 Gift Books for the 2010

Manolo says, it is the well known fact that the Manolo is the ardent reader, someone who takes great pleasure in the well-written words. And so, allow the Manolo to suggest to you the few books that you might consider giving as the gifts to the peoples on your List of Xmas.

The Thoughtful Dresser

In April, when The Thoughtful Dresser by the Manolo’s friend Linda Grant was released in America, the Manolo said the following

Make no mistake, if, like the Manolo, you are the reasonably intelligent person who likes the clothes, and the shoes, and thinking about why people wear what they wear, you will adore this book.

And so, for the clothing-obsessed persons of some intellect on your shopping list, you could do no better than to present them with the copy of this marvelous little book.

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

Perhaps the funniest book the Manolo has read in the past year is How I Became a Famous Novelist. It is ridiculous in the most incredibly delightful way, certain to make anyone who reads it giddy with pleasure.

Financial Lives of the Poets

Johnathan Franzen’s Freedom is so 2007. If you want to read about the American life as it is lived in the year 2010, then you must read The Financial Lives of the Poets. Sure to be dated in late 2011, this is the remarkably jolly and well-written account of our current deplorable condition.

Gunns Golden Rules

For the Manolo, as for thinking peoples everywhere, the best thing to come out of the Project Runway will forever be the Tim Gunn. His fashion advice has always been classically stodgy but sound, however, it is as the life and deportment coach where he truly shines. Thus, for the person in need of the little help, the Manolo suggests, Gunn’s Golden Rules.

Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann

For the most atavistic of manly men chefs who harbor the openly poetic side, allow the Manolo to recommend the Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, from the hand of the magnificent Francis Mallmann.

Cooking For Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food

And for the more cerebrally inclined and less poetic chefs of your acuaintance, you should perhaps consider the Cooking For Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food, as being the sort of gift book that will provide much entertainment.

Fasihoning Fashion

With exactly the right amount of informative historical text and beautiful photos Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700 – 1915 would be the perfect thing to give to the would-be fashion designerish teen.

Manolo Bhalnik Book: New Shoes

Finally, the new book of shoe pictures from the Maestro Manolo Blahnik…what more needs be said?


Six Years of Shoeblogging: Project Runway 4, Episode Eleven

N.B. In honor of the Manolo’s six years of shoeblogging, the Manolo has decided to repost this week some of his favorite pieces.

Back before the Project Runway, the shark did jump, the Manolo regularly commented upon the episodes of the show. Among the most popular of these comments was the fairy tale inspired by elf-like capering of Christian Siriano, who eventually won the whole contest. This post first appeared on February 15th, 2008.

Manolo says, Once upon the time, there was the poor tailor who was in danger of having his head chopped off if he did not complete the fabulously fierce outfits for the evil queen,

and her court…

…jesters, Toothy Orange Bottom and Brunhilde Valkyrie.

The tailor worked for many days without sleep, cutting and sewing, sewing and cutting. But, as the deadline approached, there were as yet fifteen yards of organza to be worked into the designs he had chosen, and the unhappy but honest tailor became worried and began to despair.

Even his acquaintance, the wise wizard who lived down the block, could only offer platitudes.

“Make it work,” said the wizard most unhelpfully, as he left the tailors shop.

“Ayyyyy!” shouted the tailor, “I am doomed. The Queen will have my head!”

The tailor collapsed into his chair near the fire, put his head in his hands, and wept the bitter, bitter tears, knowing that all was lost. After many minutes of sobbing, he fell asleep, certain that the morning would bring his execution.

It was then, while the tailor was sleeping his uneasy sleep, that the most miraculous thing happened.

First, there was the faint sound of tiny bells, followed by the strong scent of Aqua Net and Elizabeth Taylor’s “White Diamonds”, and then, with the audible pop, the tiny little fashion elf appeared out of no where!


Androgyny, Thy Name is Australia

The Logical End of the Trend for More Masculine Runway Models

Manolo says, frankly, the latest crop of Russian super models leaves something to be desired.

P.S. What sort of designer would think this is the good idea?


Whose Shoes, Project Runway!

Manolo says, the Manolo dear internet friend Laura K. at the essential Blogging Project Runway, has challenged us to the Whose Shoes Blogging Project Runway Edition.



Manolo says, ayyyyy! The Manolo’s cable package did not include Lifetime, thus preventing the Manolo from commenting upon the first episode of the new season of Project Runway.

The Manolo is working furiously to rectify this problem. In the meantime, please go to check out the Blogging the Project Runway. It is by far the best site on the internets for Project Runway news and opinion.


The Project Runway Updates

Manolo says, as soon as the Manolo leaves the country, to Argentina, the place where the Project Runway does appear on the television, only many months later, the much awaited Season Five contestant drama finally appears, in the form of Retro Girl Kenley’s big obnoxious meltdown.

Ayyyy! And the Manolo has missed it! Thankfully, the Blogging the Project Runway stands ready to give the Manolo the secondhand news.

By the way, the Manolo is happy to see that two of his picks for the finals, Jarell and Korto have made it, along with Leanne, who has well exceeded the Manolo’s earlier expectations. His money is on Korto to win everything, as she is the one true original from this season.

Also, the Manolo’s internet friend Susanna sent the Manolo the email that Jarell was sounding very Manolo-ish in the last night’s episode, saying, “There’s such a thin line between luxury and low class.”

The actual quote of the Shoeblogger is “The true fashion is found on the border between the classic and the trashy.”


The Missing Recap of the Manolo

Manolo says, many apologies from the Manolo regarding the lack of the recap of the most recent episode of the Project Runway.

The Manolo has been travelling again this week, rolling with the Posse Manolo in Boston and Long Island, and has not yet had the chance to see this episode. This week he is finally back in New York (but for only one week before his big move to Buenos Aires).

However, the Manolo hopes to be able to sit down tomorrow morning, view the episode and report on it before the airing of the new episode tomorrow night.


Project Runway, Season Five, Episode 7

Manolo says, taking the car parts and turning them into the couture? Excellent challenge! Indeed this was another of the episodes that captured the make-it-work spirit of the original season of the Project Runway. (And here allow the Manolo to praise the producers for the uniformly good challenges that have been given to the designers this season.)

As for the competition itself, once the designers were going, it was painfully clear that Keith the Angry Gay Mormon would not survive the week. Not only was his demise foreshadowed by the producers’ choice of clips, but from the beginning his decision to play it safe with the boring blah skirt and halter top was misguided.

The Manolo wanted to shout: “You are Keith! Hear you roar!”

Anger, not childish petulance is what was called for. Keith needed to channel his rage into something powerful and exciting. But in the stead, he gave into to weepy self-pity and insolence. No, no, no!

In the end, the result was foreordained. Keith would be leaving. His final outfit was boring, poorly made, and ill-fitting.

As for the winner, Leanne (the victor of the Season Five Mousy Brunette Deathmatch), the Manolo was underwhelmed by her outfit. But then any dress that includes makeshift panniers and does not include the towering Maire Antoinette wig, is not something of which the Manolo can approve. .

Much more to the Manolo’s tastes were Korto’s stunning and simple seatbelt swing coat.

Ayyyyy! But that was beautiful! Undoubtedly, it was also heavy and impractical, but, still, oh, so very, very pretty

Korto is clearly the most original and unexpected of all of the designers. Her choices are not always those of the Manolo, but they are emphatically her own, and they are emphatically original. She deserves to be in the final three, although whether or not the judges see it that way is the different matter.

Speaking of another of the Manolo’s finalist picks, this week, for the first time, the Manolo was disappointed by Terri. She is the person of undoubted talent, and has the powerful desire for success, but she keeps making the pants-based outfits, and this week’s was not all that. Perhaps there is some small truth in Jarrel’s catty remarks, that she has “only four patterns”.

By the way, the current Manolo final three: Jarrel, Terri, and Korto.

Ayyyy! All of the contestants would be African-American…or, perhaps in the case of Korto, American-African. (The Manolo is unclear on the acceptable terminology. ) Noteworthy and coincidental, yes. But freighted with meaning? The Manolo cannot say.

And now onto what was for the Manolo the true highlight of the evening, when the viewers were showed the picture of Stella with her boyfriend….

William “Ratbones” von Zipper.

When Ratbones likes someone, dey stay liked!


Project Runway, Season Five, Episode 6

Manolo says, ayyyy! Drag queens and Project Runway! Two great tastes that taste great together, like sequins and neon green feather boas! Like Mediterranean accents and fashion blogging! Like existential despair and bargain vodka!

Oh, how very long the Manolo has been waiting for the Project Runway producers to recognize the pure entertainment value of drag; to see that the addition of the ferociously fierce-o-licious drag queens would likely produce one of the greatest episodes ever.

And indeed, it has come to pass exactly as the Manolo had imagined.

But then, the Manolo has long been convinced that if the television networks were truly serious about increasing viewership they would serve up the heaping helping of drag queenage. Consider how much more entertaining your favorite shows would be if the lead actress were replaced with the giant drag queen. (Finally, The Closer would be watchable!)

So, at long last, there they were, giant glorious drag queens heralded onto the runway by the delightful Chris March in full Brunhilda glory. And these were not just any old random drag queens, no, no, no these were famous drag queens, figures of renown and respect in the “community”. Varla Jean Merman (whose Southern accent is much more convincing than Kyra Sedgwick’s), Miss Understood, Hedda Lettuce, and the others, they are all famous, truly the creme-de-la-drag.

At that point, five minutes into the show, the Manolo’s joy knew no bounds!

And then the designing started and the reality of the episode exceeded the expectations. Without the doubt this was the most quotable episode of the Project Runway ever. “Sad chicken”, “gay pterodactyl”, and “wookie onesie” (with sound effects) have all now entered the Manolo’s vocabulary.

It was also the most entertaining episode ever, every bit of it amusing–the trip to Mood, Tim’s customary workroom walkabout, the inevitable attempt at conflict (between Suede and Hedda Lettuce), the celebrity judge (Ru Paul!), Michael Kors comments– every bit of it wonderfully delicious.

For the Manolo, the exact peak of the show arrived when RuPaul rebuked the excuse-full Keith the Angry Gay Mormon with “the dingoes ate your baby,” which is cryptic in print, but hilarious and sharp and cruel in context. Truly, one of the great moments in the history of reality television.

Likewise, one of the most amusing aspects of this most amusing episode, was that Emphatically Not Gay Joe so fully mastered the subtleties of dressing drag queens, to the point that he was judged the winner for pouring Varla Jean into the spangly pink, Gay Ship Lollipop sailor suit. Masterful.

And Terri, whom the Manolo is completely convinced will be one of the three finalists, came up with something so startlingly surreal and original that the previously ousted Jennifer (the bewildered child who claimed her inspiration was “Holly Golightly meets Salvador Dali”, whatever that means) must be kicking herself. Again, masterful.

The bottom three, Miss J. Jarell (whom the Manolo also expects to be one of the three finalists), Keith the Angry Gay Mormon, and Daniel (the bewildered child with the “impeccable taste” that wasn’t) were all deserved, although Jarell’s outfit was merely not over the top enough, rather than actively bad, like the other two.

And in the end, after Keith was cruelly rebuked, when Daniel was sent away by popular acclaim, it was more like the mercy killing than the auf’ing. Daniel’s threnody of whine had grown tiresome, and his lack of talent had begun to tell.

And now the Manolo must go watch this episode again, for such concentrated entertainment cannot be fully appreciated in the single sitting.


Project Runway, Season Five, Episode 5

Manolo says, ayyyy! Who knew Brooke Shields was so nice! She is like the giant, beautiful goddess of nice, radiating kindness and good humor everywhere.

Clutch us to your ample bosom, Giant Goddess Brooke! Teach us to be nice to annoying persons with consciously outre hairstyles and studied personality traits. We are your votaries!

Such is the power of Goddess Brooke’s graciousness, that last night, even the most contrived attempts at creating dramatic friction (between Korto and Joe, and Terri and Suede) resulted in the big nothing. And thus, for the first time all season, the clothes were the stars, and not the tediously strained fake personalities.

And for this we are thankful.

Yes, there was that unpleasant (but funny) moment on the runway when Kenley sniggered at Daniel’s protestation that he was possessed of “impeccable taste”, the moment that was sort of like Minnie Pearl making fun of Dolly Parton, ridiculous and ironic on more levels than one could care to count. And in truth, it just made the Manolo pity poor Daniel, self-deluded, his ship of self-image foundering on the rocks of reality.

Other than that, this was the drama-free episode. Indeed it was even one of the few episodes in recent memory when someone actually took Tim’s advice and used it to improve their outfit, as Korto did with her “giant sweet potato” jacket, belting it up and into some semblance of shape.

For the Manolo, the final runway show was the revelation, as it showed that there was more to Keith the Angry Gay Mormon than insecurity, self-regard, self-loathing, and that stuipd bandana. (Who does he think he is, the auxilary member of the 18th Street Locos? ) His final outfit was gorgeous and original, and completely appropriate for Brooke Shields. Bravo!

Likewise, the Manolo has gained new respect for Miss J. Jarell, who is much more intelligent and thoughtful than his silly personal costuming would indicate. His final outfit was the smart blending of textures and materials, and the Manolo preferred it ever so slightly to Keith’s. That belt was rocking.

As for the other outfits, the Manolo agrees that Kelli’s was the clear loser, tacky and cheap-looking as it was. Korto’s wasn’t bad, and ditto for Terri’s, although the Manolo grows weary of the pants thing.

And then there was Blayne, who truly seems to have little talent for original design. Didn’t the Manolo see this exact same grey Bermuda short set on Jennifer Aniston, circa Vince Vaughn? Worse, what is up with Speedy’s the Alka-Seltzer Boy’s hairdo? It does not seem so much styled as thatched.

Of the course, the Manolo now feels guilty for making the gentle fun of Blayne, for it is clear that whatever he lacsk as the designer, he more than makes up for in human decency. They way he behaved on the runway, when asked who should be sent away if his outfit were judged the worst, was the true lesson in grown-up adult behavior. The Manolo salutes him for this edifying display of Brooke Shield’s style graciousness, it deserves our respect.


Project Runway, Season Five, Episode 4

Manolo says, does the Manolo (as ill as he is) need to patiently explain to the producers of the Project Runway, that persons who take up the designing of clothes are not, in general, persons who know much about athletics (other than perhaps ice dancing)?

Indeed, as far as the Manolo could tell, only Emphatically Not Gay Joe and Angry Gay Mormon Kevin had any personal experience with sports, and in Kevin’s case that experience was gymnastics, (a.k.a ice dancing for people who do not like the cold).

And so, it was with this hidden but predictable liability that the designers were set to producing make believe costumes for the U.S. Olympic team, who would presumably sashay proudly into the stadium, or in the case of Stella, pop the synchronized wheelies on their red, white, and blue custom Harleys.

By the time of the final runway show, all the Manolo could think was “cluelessness”. Indeed, the best summation was when Micheal Kors said that it was as if the instructions had been “delivered in the foreign language”, undoubtedly one with many stray consonants and glottal fricatives, like Finno-Ugric, or Klingon.

Clearly, the last time many of these designers had ever seen the athlete, were in the final seconds before some laughing, low-browed jock shoved them into gym locker and slammed the door, as what most of them produced had not the least passing resemblance to what any self-respecting Olympic athlete would wear.

For some unknown reason, many of the designers settled on the 1940s femme fatale chanteuse, or else Rosie the Riveter, as their design inspiration, with Jennifer, who was rightfully sent away as the loser, settling on Jacquelyn Smith for Kmart as hers. Ayyy, but that was one terrible outfit.

Equally terrible, but in the different way, was that of Jerell (whom the Manolo has taken to calling Miss J. Alexander, Junior. And, by the way, what is it with the Idi Amin Dada garrison cap, Generalissimo J?) This outfit, all retro frou-frou and polka-dots, would have been fine for meeting the Queen Mum for tea at Harrods, circa 1936, but was otherwise inexplicable.

The less said about Daniel’s purpley-blue cocktail shift the better. Plainly, that boy is on the edge of the nervous breakdown. (It is like Chekhov’s dictum about stage guns, if Tim Gunn, our National Treasure, is mentioning the nervous breakdown in episode four, you can be sure it goes off in episode five.)

As for the winners, they were okay. Emphatically Not Gay Joe did the proper athletic thing, although not especially well, but props for the zippers. Korto, the default winner, produced another flowing pantsuit for the big-legged girl, as if she expected Hillary Clinton to lead the U.S. team into the stadium, in which case you would need sleeves. And Terri did the smart jackety thing, although the outfit looked more suitable for the jaunty Fourth of July with the Boston Pops, rather than the Olympics.

And the final word of the day: “tanorexic”, as in “Blayne the Alka-Seltzer Mascot is the tanorexic fool who is heading for early melanoma.”


Project Runway, Season 5, Episode Two

Manolo says, this week’s Project Runway challenge was the example of how putting two good ideas together can sometimes result in one confusing disaster.

The first idea, to do the outfit made from the ecologically sensitive “green” material, is excellent. Although the Manolo confesses, that when he first heard the term “green cocktail dress”, he thought literally “green” as in the color, which is also the great idea for the challenge, as green is one of the most difficult colors to make fashionable. (Red = Hot. Blue = Cool. Green = Elf or Comanndo, take your pick.)

The second idea, to have the models shop for the fabric, is also the good idea with much potential for hilarity.

Unfortunately, when combined the two ideas resulted in trouble all around, as the significant proportion of the fabric-shopping models settled on the hemp and organic silk blend in the baby-poop brown, the color that flatters no one not born in Tolkein’s Middle Earth.

And so the models return to the work room where instantly the disgruntlement became so thick among the designers that you could have cut it into sections and sewn it into the organic cocktail dress.

But, first, before we can see what the designers are doing, we must be treated to fifteen minutes of personalities on parade, focusing primarily on two of the designers.

Stella is the toughest talkingest biker-rocker chick since Leather Tuscadero! The Manolo expects that later in the season we will be introduced to her “gang”, the Stella-ettes, the group of sarcastic tough girls who aggressively chew gum and smoke cigarettes at the same time. Look for them to extort lunch money from one of the indistinguishable mousey/nerdy brunettes in the girls’ room after algebra class.

Suede likes to talk about himself in the third person, the habit which can be comedy gold in the right hands, but in this case is mostly tedious and annoying. What the Manolo most objects to, however, is the blue faux-hawk. This is what passes for renegade eccentricity this season, the soft half-measure of mild middle-class rebellion.

During this period, the 12th level zen master Tim Gunn walked among then, dispensing advice that could not be ignored.

And then it was on to the runway, where we were introduced to Natalie Portman, dressed head-to-toe in the most fashionable items found in the Fred Segal’s toddler’s department (speaking of green-colored fabric making you look elfin). Ayyyy, but this woman is tiny. Next to her, Heidi appeared to be some sort of Godzilla, threatening to knock the terrified villagers’ church steeples into the sea.

In the end, Suede’s winning dress was interesting and original, but that shorty tulle petticoat rendered it unwearable by anyone other than the 25-year-old Desperately Seeking Susan Madonna.

And the losers? Korto’s dress was the hideous buttocks-emphasizing disaster, and Leanne’s was wickety-wack personified. But it was Wesley’s outift, the unattractive, poorly-made mess, that clearly merited the axe.

As for the other outfits, the less said the better.