Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Posts Coming Soon

There has been a bit of a hiccup well multiple ones to be honest that has prevented me from posting. After all, when your return to America starts with vomiting on yourself and ends with nearly twisting off your knee cap in front of Bloomingdales - it is best to probably take a breather.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sayonara, Tokyo

The past few days have been awesome. I have been so busy getting in the last bits of sightseeing, shopping, and family obligations. The upside of cramming myself in a plane for the flight home tomorrow is that I will have 12 hours to get it all down. Meaning I will have a bunch of new posts waiting to be put up when I reach NYC.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Chanel By Any Other Name, Still Chanel?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the auberge of one of the great chefs of Japan. (Turns out there are some benefits to to family vacations besides the cramped quarters of the guest room!) I could regale you with the food, but seeing as you all weren't there I'm not sure you'd be that interested. After all, I'm the type of person that if I wasn't there to eat it - I could care less. I'm a bit self centered like that, but then again what blogger isn't?

What I do think you would all interested in is the fact that I was able to get my hands on a bottle of wine by Chanel. Well, not exactly. Chanel apparently owns a winery in France, and guess what? They had the bottle at Auberge Au Mirador a restaurant run by Chef Katsumata. This is a man who's cooking (according to my significant other) will ruin Paris for you. So, to say that the wine had to be up to snuff to even be considered as an offering by the restaurant is putting it mildly.

The wine was fantastic of course as I would not expect anything less. What was actually more interesting was the fact that the wine bottle itself neglected to mention its association with Chanel. In fact, it was the waiter that informed us that Chanel owned the winery.

Turns out the Wertheimer family that backed and continues to own Chanel bought the Chateau Rauzan Segla Winery in 1994. I guess this is why I always knew Chanel "owned" a winery. I'm not surprised that I never knew which, however, because as I said the label does not exactly scream Chanel. And yet after considering all the other wines this is one we chose because of the association with Chanel! What can I say? I'm blessed with indulgent hosts who were happy to let me have it as it would increase my fashionista street cred!

It is funny how far the reach of a brand can extend. Chanel is a fashion brand and yet I found myself influencing my culinary preferences. This is almost bizarre when you take into account that the brand as we know it today has way more to do with the reinvention of Coco Chanel's iconography by Karl Lagerfeld than it does the Wertheimer family's palette.

At the end of the day it was aspiration at work. Right now thanks to my monthly student loans I can't afford a Chanel bag or even be gifted one either. What I can have, however, is a bottle of wine associated with the brand. Textbook marketing/branding 101.

If it had been plastered with the double C though I don't think I would have been as interested. After all, I am somewhat of a wine snob and am not exactly a fan of nouveau riche predilections. This bottle of wine struck a unique balance that most co-branding opportunities fail to do: entice you with the branding association but sustain interest through quality in product as well as presentation.

Granted this move by Chanel in purchasing the winery was no more high fashion in concept than Jay Z or Diddy's foray into spirits game. Yet, Chanel was able to leverage this purchase into a unique branding opportunity. It piques consumer interest to hear that the wine is associated with Chanel and when it delivers it reinforces Chanel as arbiter of taste.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Some People Should Never Travel

Today I got up and was going to do a post on my experience with nail care in Japan. That got totally side tracked when I was browsing Jezebel and happened upon this gem of a post: This Goldman Sachs Lady Will Teach You How to Date Black Dudes. I like a good rubberneck as much as anyone so I checked out the the writer's site.

Her idiocy, unfortunately, went beyond the idiocy of referring to African Americans as "the brothers" in the same line as the Asians. She decided to do a whole breakdown on her visit to another place that is really near and dear to me: Italy. I have been visiting the country on and off now for the past 10 years more or less, and have friends there who have become family. So to say that I can get a bit protective sometimes is an overstatement. If I didn't love Japan and my Japanese significant other so much I could definitely see making it my home.

So, you could imagine how much this article really pissed me off. First off, one should not knock the language/culture if they have not made at least some effort to understand it. For example, Prego is almost equivalent to the US English's OK. If someone critiqued that as a quirk I'm pretty sure she would have looked at that person like they were insanely stupid.

Then she goes on to critique the Italian subway system. It is by no means perfect, but if you are holding the NYC subway as a paragon of transport you've got problems lady. It is rocky as hell, tends to show up whenever, and reeks of trash as well as other unique scents I'm going to chose not to dwell on at the moment. Fact is the Italian subways are cleaner, more efficient, and actually get you where you need to go without the need to go express at a moment's notice.

People like this should just never travel. They navel gaze too much and are unable to break out of their own me-centric POV. If they can't figure it out it is not because it just happens to be different it is because it is deficient. The whole point of her post was to discuss how differences can arise even if one looks the same, well I guess she made her point loud and clear here. We both are women, reside(d) in NYC, and have been to Italy. And you know what? We could not be more different. Mission accomplished.

The fact is the great thing about traveling is that it not only lets you see and experience new places, but also lets you discover new things about yourself as well. When you let it that is and when people are unable or unwilling to that - they miss the whole point of traveling. That is the very reason why I truly believe some people should never travel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Japanese Hair Accessories: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

One of the things i love best about Japan is their dedication to hair accessories. As all of my readers know, I'm very into head gear. The bigger and the more elaborate - the better!

As an early Christmas gift, I got to pick out some gifts in Tokyo. So of course, I went straight for the hair accessories. I literally wanted to headdesk when I saw the difference in the prices. Seriously, I would have to pay at least twice as much for similar quality and style in the US.

Even better, I love that the selection I've found here is way more daring than what I've seen for sale in the US. Don't get me wrong I'm a HUGE fan of jennifer behr and and, but I feel like here I can get as crazy as all get out with my hair accessories. That might be because what I wear is tame compared to the everyday gear of some of your everyday Japanese.

Enough commentary though - onto the accessory porn! Once again, i apologize for the quality in model and photo. I'm in Japan without my digital camera (or Adobe Creative Suite) and well its the end of a long day of trekking merrily about Tokyo.

This one is definitely a night piece. It is really dynamic and huge and perfect for when I go out. I tried to capture it in the photos bus alas an iphone and a bathroom mirror are all I had to make it happen. It is made out of satin which makes it super shiny and the bows are bendable, so it is totally customizable. Well to a point anyway!

This one looks way better when I style it correctly. I love the 20s flapper feel of it and lately I've been kind of obsessed with Boardwalk Empire. It is only fitting then that I should get my hands on an accessory that is reminiscent of that era!

The "plainest" out of the bunch this reminds me of a designer piece I saw quite some time ago. I think it was Lanvin? I seriously cannot remember for the life of me right now. Ah jet lag the gift that truly keeps on giving. I just love how it is able to be understated at a distance and when you get closer it hits you right over the head with the details. Don't you agree?

Monday, December 13, 2010

In the Land of Masstige the Limited Edition is King

Shopping in Japan is a one of a kind experience. Mostly because they have all the brands you'd ever want with a Japanese twist via limited editions. Seriously, this is a country where even the candy has limited editions by city.

The question then becomes how do you sustain a brand in an environment like this? In theory, this should make it more difficult to sustain a brand as the variants make it more difficult to maintain a unified brand front. Everything you are taught in branding and marketing is to make a consistent experience to ensure consumer comfort. Disruption in the brand equals discomfort supposedly, but I'd actually argue that it can as in the cases of the Japanese limited editions delight consumers.

This is a great example of how the limited edition is handled in Japan. This is Francfranc for Disney and as you can see here they developed some products around the 7 dwarfs. Now I'm a bit old for Disney paraphernalia, but these candles and candle holders are something I could easily see my self purchasing. Those bath salts to the left would also make a great gift for my more serious friends who are still kids at heart.

The trick about it is that it requires a better understanding of the brand than just the mass production and execution of key values. Japan has everything from Starbucks to Coldstone to Prada to Chanel and yet it is through the limited editions that they are able to claim the brands for themselves. And you know what that does? Generate more cash overall for the brands. This is because the Japanese feel they are being catered to and someone like me for instance is delighted by the fact that they can get a Matcha Latte at Starbucks.

In a time where the recession is pushing consumers out of the stores, marketers might want to take note here of the way the Japanese handle the limited editions. Simply slapping Lanvin's name on H&M gear is really not the way to go. Well in my opinion anyway, because granted I did go to H&M to see the collection but it was more for rubbernecking then purchasing. That hardly happens with the limited editions here, because you know what? They actually take the time to think of how the consumer will respond to the product beyond the brand association. It also eliminates masstige as the higher price points are balanced with extremely limited supply. Even moreso than those of the H&M collaborations. This results in making the overall shopping expierence more dynamic, interactive, and a heck of a lot more exciting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When Retail Therapy Goes Terribly Wrong

Yesterday was not one for the record books. If they ever do a lifetime movie version of my life I sincerely hope they leave that little episode out. I have never been so embarrassed/ashamed of myself in my life.

I had a major freak out in Isetan. Like to the point of almost breaking down in tears. A bit of context is probably necessary here. Isetan has this amazing plus size store, well it did anyway. I've been a couple of times so I was really pumped to be back in Japan and able to shop at the equivalent of Willa Wonk'a chocolate factory for plus sized fashion. (Isetan itself is a department store that has the style direction of Barneys, the penetration of Bloomingdales, and the white glove service of Bergdoff Goodman.) Unfortunately, the section I normally shop in had slim pickings and I could not shimmy into anything in other sections due to my bountiful bosom. I don't know if it was jet lag, all the family obligations (meeting people I don't know very is always taxing), or the language barrier. I just all of a sudden felt extremely overwhelmed and as a byproduct got extremely upset. So much so that I rushed out of the section and was extremely rude to the sales clerk. Ugh.

Even visiting the bag floor couldn't cheer me up. Well that is until I saw this amazing piece by Celine (which I would love to share but I can't track down a pic and forgot to snag one with my phone). Clocking in at over 170,000 Yen (more or less 2K in dollars), it was love at first sight and hearbreak as well as I was lacking the funds to procure it. I'm really not one for french brands in the handbag department as I feel they are always just a bit to "much" for me. I like my handbags utilitarian for the most part and I'm a stickler for leather quality (the Italians seem to be the only ones to really get it right in my opinion). Though every once in awhile I will fall in love with a French one. Last time it was a Chloe and it was the ONLY Chloe I have ever wanted in my life. Stupidly, I did not purchase it (would have required selling a kidney) and then they went in a completely different direction design wise.

I'm planing on visiting a vintage store later on in Shibuya. I'll let you all know what I find! Maybe I'll even track down that Chloe I've been chasing for years. I might also stop by Roppongi and see if I can track down that Celine bag for the sake of all you guys back home. I would go back to Isetan, but I'm not sure my obviously oh so fragile ego could take it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time to Face the Music

It has been a very long time friends. So long that now I'm getting spammers on my blog. The reason for my absence? A job came my way. Originally it was a freelance gig, but it grew into something more. While I'm thankful for the permanent gig, sometimes it is a bit trying as it is a start up. Lots of work for a less than stellar salary, but it is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. So, who knows? Maybe it'll be the new SCDP?

I'm in Tokyo currently on break with my family. Wandering around Tokyo's Harajuku I realized how far I'd fallen in regards to personal upkeep. Holy christ I looked downright shabby even though I'd actually taken the time to dress and wear makeup. A luxury I haven't afforded myself in quite some time as I work from home as well as long hours.

My hair was just completely unacceptable. So, thanks to my trusty iphone I tracked down an English speaking and well respected hair salon in Tokyo. About an hour later, I had $65 dollars less in my pocket and a much improved hairstyle. It is a bit odd according to my significant other, but 20s chic in my opinion.

Living in NYC doing something like this normally results in you looking like your hair was cut with a flowbie. Doing it in Tokyo gives you a new lease on life. Worst or best of all (depends on your perspective) the process was cheaper, faster, and overall just better. I got a killer head/neck/back massage (much needed after my 14 hours of travel), and a faaaaantastic blowout.

Where did I go?

東京都渋谷区神宮前3丁目25−6 サンビューティ原宿 B1F
PH: 03-5411-5633

For those who can't read japanese or barely get by like me:

Watanabe Hair Dressing
3-25-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
PH: 03-5411-5633

Some people seem to have been less than pleased with their cuts there when I checked the reviews. It just seems to me that people (I've been guilty in the past) are not on their game when they get their hair cut. I had to ask for a bit of an adjustment, but other than that I was extremely clear on what I wanted. A key thing to make sure you accomplish no mater where you get your hair cut.

Well I'll let you be the ones to make the verdict whether or not it was worth it!