Sounding Off..., This & That

Art’otel,Berlin- The 4* imposter

Last weekend I was super excited at the prospect of staying in art’otel, Lietzenburger Strasse with one of my friends who was coming from London.  The joys of catching up with my friend aside, I was looking forward to having my every whim and desire taken care of by the ‘4* hotel’.  Furthermore, I was to enjoy this luxury for free as my friend had got a weekend Groupon deal, which meant I could be her free-loading groupie.

Before I skipped out of my house to go to the hotel my flatmate, X, mentioned how silly the name of the hotel was but I ignored the derogatory comment- no one was going to rain on my parade, I was spending the weekend in a luxurious 4* hotel.

Now ladies and gentlemen of the jury I want you to keep this rating in mind, as I proceed to tell you the rest of the story.

As I rounded the corner, I was greeted by this silly and decidedly ugly ‘piece of art’-

At this point, I was still naively hopeful that my 4* experience was yet to come, so I was rather surprised when the receptionist gave me the directions to my room and did not offer to call a concierge to take care of my luggage.  Now don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances I am perfectly able to carry my luggage,  as a stylist that is part and parcel of the job.  But I wasn’t on a shoot, I was in a 4* hotel.

After a ride up the dingiest, smallest lift ever I made my way to my friend’s room.  Upon seeing my friend, I could see that she was not a happy bunny.  And how could she be?  With the Groupon deal, we were entitled to a free packed lunch, here is what this 4* hotel gave us-

And yes, you really did see that miserable looking sandwich-

I wanted to marvel at the various illustrations on the bedroom walls, like this Marilyn Monroe picture-

But not even the beautiful sight of Marilyn could detract my attention from the shrunken, sad-looking TV in this supposedly 4* room.  It was most decidedly not the ‘modern offerings‘ the hotel promises.

Upon entering the bathroom I saw the TV was not the only minature-sized object in the room, the towels could just about wrap a new-born baby and there was no bath.  Now in the days leading up to this visit, that was what I had dreamed about- singing ‘Kiss’, Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman style in my jacuzzi, instead I was greeted by this narrow sight-

And since when did 4* hotel beds get made like this?  Hello, did I unwittingly enter a time tunnel and travel back to my uni dorm, or am I am in a ‘4* hotel’?

I pity the couple that book their honeymoon in this room.

Art’otel’s strapline is, ‘original art, unique hotels’, and to illustrate their devotion to all that is ‘art’, almost every inch of the hotel is splattered with Andy Warhol images, which as the quote goes- was an attempt of the hotel ‘to adorn itself with borrowed plumes’.

 The thing is the hotel should be more concerned with its basic presentation, if it had been, less time would have been spent hanging up the ‘oh so cool’ image of Warhol photographing Debbie Harry, and more time finishing the paint job on the walls.  It is supposed to be a 4* hotel after all.

I really wish I had been in the meeting room when the interior designer was getting briefed on how to decorate the dining area.  I have a feeling ‘pop art’ was written in bold, repeatedly in his/her brief.  But even though I have no interior design training, I have a feeling that splashing bold ‘pop’ colours on the ugliest shaped chairs e-v-e-r does not equate to pop art.

And I really must commend the staff on their 4* way of setting and presenting a breakfast table.  At this point, I guess I should be grateful that the cutlery wasn’t plastic.

By the end of the weekend, after having our senses assaulted  my girlfriend and I lay in a daze on our ‘hard as nails’ hotel bed, when suddenly all the lights went out and wouldn’t come back on again.  On reflex, I almost felt like reaching out for a torchlight and alerting my home security guards to put on the generator.  But wait a minute, I was not in Lagos, Nigeria.  I was in Berlin, and in a 4* hotel no less.  After much fraffing about by the staff, my friend and I were ushered  into another room and our ugly journey began all over again.

If I could speak to art’otel, I would tell them that their service and accommodation are perfectly satisfactory…for a 2* hotel.  I really can’t believe that this hotel sells itself as a 4* hotel and hasn’t being reprimanded yet because I feel it is false advertising at its worst.

Andy Warhol would be turning cartwheels in his grave if he knew his name and images were being used to entice innocent guests into the ugliest and most pretentious hotel in the world.

Personal Style

The Style of ‘Men Who Lunch’

High Street clothing for men has come a long way.  I remember shopping in the women’s departments of stores like Topshop, H & M and Zara, and upon entering their men’s department, wondering why their design team had pulled the short straw.  Case in point, in Topshop I would see vintage-inspired pieces from independent designers like Oh My Love, then there is their boutique section which stocks experimental brands like Kokon To Zai.  But in Topman, I would always feel like I had wandered into the changing room of a very try-hard, really bad boy band.

So during lunch the other day, after admiring the ensembles of my male friends and asking them where they got their outfits from, I was very surprised to hear the list of High Street stores that came tumbling out of their mouths.

Tio’s (aka Mr Cheekbones) jeans and trenchcoat are from Zara, his cardigan is from COS, the statement frames hail from Mykita and his bag is Gucci darlings.

I adore Tio’s pimp,’ Hugh Hefner-esque’ navy blue velvet slippers which he purchased from H&M.  Accessories like this give his ensemble a chic, effortless vibe.

When dressing up men (unless they dress in drag) don’t have a lot to play with, so to me one of the secrets of how to look stylish for a man, is  knowing how to play the balancing act with your body proportions.  Tio does this by wearing slim fit jeans while he leaves his loose-fitting trench coat open, and with his body proportions, this style works for him.  Below Guan plays with his proportions by wearing a functional loose-fitted jacket over his slim-fitted slate-grey jeans.  The tucking of his jeans into his rounded-toe leather boots toughens up his look. 

Guan’s boots and jacket are from Zara, his cashmere jumper and t-shirt are from H & M.  My favourite piece from Guan’s ensemble are his slate-gray wax jeans, or as I like to call them ‘S&M jeans’.  I call them that because when the wax catches the light, the jeans adopt a sheen that creates a sexy,  leather-like appearance.

Ask Biki...

Things an Interviewer should never do

I always seem to stumble upon articles that give job tips where the focus is on helping the interviewee, so I’ve read articles titled- ‘How to conduct the best job interview and  ‘How to impress an employer’, but as I left an interview last week, I got to thinking that there are some things an interviewer should never do during an interview.  After allthe interview process is a two-way street; just as the interviewee is trying to leave a favourable impression and prove that they are worth hiring, the interviewer should make an effort to make the job and the company attractive to the interviewee.

And in no particular order based on my recent experience, here are things an interviewer should never do-

Don’t ‘bogart’ the refreshments, meaning don’t keep the refreshments to yourself

When I sat down for my interview, my two interviewers already had a jug of water and two full glasses in front of them.  Fast forward ten minutes and I still hadn’t been offered so much as a teaspoon of water.  I watched them take long sips of water whilst they asked me questions like, ‘tell us about your story so far.’  As I am not an infant, there was a work history to be told, but how could I tell it when my mouth was so dry it was spitting cotton?  At that point, I politely asked if I could have some water.  However, it should not have had to come to that.  Maybe in corporate interviews such tactics are used to see if the interviewee can be ‘broken down’ or to measure their ‘stones’, but this was a relaxed creative interview…or so I thought. 

Don’t flick through an interviewee’s portfolio at the speed of an Olympic sprinter

The interviewers then asked to see my portfolio.  Now I know that a portfolio sells itself and doesn’t need to be boosted by commentary and quips but as I was there in person, I didn’t think it would hurt if I told the background story of some of my editorials, especially as those stories clearly state my skills and ability to do the job.  After all, when I am doing a model casting, what really makes a model stand out for me are the ones who show their personalities by pointing out certain interesting facts about their editorials.  In my interview, I was not to be so lucky, as I was telling the story of a particular editorial, the interviewer would flick past it.  I got so frustrated that at one point, I held the portfolio page down so that she wasn’t able to zoom past it, road runner style.  I had a  relevant story to tell, and it was going to be told.

Don’t ask, ‘how old are you?’

Luckily, I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been asked this mood-killer question at an interview.  Metaphorically speaking, it always sends me flying and crashing into the wall behind me, jarring my spleen. 

Don’t present yourself as ‘Slave Labour Central’

Now behind the two interviewers were three employees (or so I thought), so when I asked the interviewers how big their team was, I pointed to the three ’employees’ and asked if they were all part of the team.  The chilling response I got was, ‘No, they are all interns’.  So let me get this straight- the company is in its second year and was started by two of you and now the only extra people you have ’employed’ are the ‘ever disposable, don’t have to pay, plenty more from whence they came interns’.  If it looks like slave labour, quacks like slave labour, its….

Don’t wait till the 10th of Never to tell the candidate if they got the job or not

I still haven’t heard from the company regarding whether I got the position or not, and with all the time that has passed, I am thinking that I won’t have the pleasure of being their fourth work-donkey, I mean slave, I mean intern, no I meant slave.  Normally, after an interview, I write to my interviewer expressing my thanks for the interview, re-iterating my skills and so on, but this time around I will be doing no such thing.  As I said at the beginning of this article, interviews are a two-way street and this particular company did not sell themselves to me in any particular way.  And after the water episode, why would I want to work for a company where employees, I mean interns, I mean slaves are probably told to ‘BYOTR’- ‘Bring your own toilet roll’.

What have been your worst interview moments?

This & That, Uncategorized

Berlin Cultural Treat- Visions & Fashion Exhibition

If you have a tendency to stare at a fashion or design image for hours on end, I advise you to carry yourself to the ‘Visions & Fashion, Images of Fashion 1980 – 2010’ exhibition  which is currently being held at the Lipperheide Costume Library at the Kulturforum at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

Visions & Fashion presents ‘artistic images that offer a new and fascinating perspective on the history of fashion and style from 1980 to the present’.  The exhibition is spread over two floors with one room focusing more on the original works of international photographers, illustrators, graphic artists and other independent visual artists.  These artists included Peter Lindbergh, Sarah Moon,  Helmut Newton, Tony Viramontes, Michel Comte, Eric Traoré, Lorenzo Mattotti, François Berthoud, Cem Bora, Gregor Hohenberg, Martin Mago, Carola Seppeler, François Cadière and Christin Losta.

 

On the other hand, the other room is a lot more editorial and billboard campaign based, showing classic editorial images from magazines such as iD and campaigns from brands like United Colours of Benetton.  Personally, I got more or a visual kick from the former as the second room portrayed more imagery that I was already familiar with. 

In fact, going round the first room gave me a bit of  a headache in the end, as I was trying to absorb too much of, well everything.  In fact, I finally began to understand the scene in ‘American Beauty’ where the ‘misunderstood weirdo’ wells up with tears in his eyes when he is trying to explain how sometimes, he ‘can’t take’ all the beauty in the world. Reason being, after a while, I really couldn’t ‘take’ all the detailing of the visual images I was trying to soak in- the amazing photographers I’d never heard of before, the shoot ideas some of the editorials were giving me, the shock of seeing Naomi Campbell when she looked like ‘Naomi Campbell’.  Yes, all the Supers were not able to use their super powers (try as they might through Dr Botox)  to evade the ravages of time, but out of all the Supers-as beautiful as Naomi Campbell looks now, I think that she has facially changed the most.

After I finished seeing both rooms with my ‘very hard to please’ friend (who shall remain nameless!), he complained that for an exhibition that was supposed to offer ‘visual interpretations of fashion in photography and drawings’ from 1980 to the present day- that the exhibition should have been curated better, so that more images could have been seen.  He did have a point, after spending €8, I was rather hoping that  a third room would magically appear to reveal more original works.  I also wished that at the very least, more personal TV screens would be added so that I too could sit down with my headphones and enjoy the diverse forms of visual communication by watching the video clips, fashion blogs and websites.  However all that being said, I definitely left the exhibition feeling inspired and with particular images branded in my memory, and at the end of the day, that was the point of the exhibition to use a designed image, so that ‘transient fashion’ could become a ‘lasting memory’.

The exhibition runs from June 30th to October 9th 2011.

My Fashion S/ash Life credits Suitesculturelles.wordpress.com for the images

Personal Style

Remembering Amy Winehouse through Images and Song

With Amy Winehouse passing away on Saturday, 23rd July 2011, the world lost a true icon who in her tragically short 27 years, managed to surpass her field of music to become a cultural tour de force.

It is hard to believe that Amy received worldwide fame and numerous prestigious awards, when she only released two albums- ‘Frank’ (2003) and ‘Back to Black’ (2006).  I must confess that it was the latter album that made me aware of who she was as an artist.  And I feel very lucky that I got to see her perform live in Camden.  Living in London at the time, it was so refreshing to see a British artist whose sound was as memorable and unique as their visual appearance. 

When doing research on Amy Winehouse on the Web, it is amazing how the negative press far outweighs the positive.  We live in an era where the media and public build you up, only to wrench you back down and grind your reputation to a pulp.  Unfortunately, due to the demons Amy was fighting and her out-spoken nature, she was an easy target for the press.  I don’t feel the need to delve further into the personal battles that Amy fought, as that was not what fascinated me about her. Furthermore, all one has to do is to google ‘Amy Winehouse’ to read the lurid details and speculations.

I am far more interested in the songs she sang with that voice and the memorable visual journey she took moulding her personal image.  The below images are my favourite Amy Winehouse pictures and how I want the world to remember her, and whilst you are looking at them, I’d like you to listen to that voice.

True fashion icons always have a journey and never just fall into the looks that make them become ‘fashion icons’.  At the start of Amy Winehouse’s career, she looked much different-

Here we see a much more voluptuous -looking Amy with no tattoos, beehive and cat’s-eye makeup.  Her choice of pastel colours, floral print and plastic jewellery are also interesting, ‘edge-free’ and almost ‘child-like’.  However, there is still the trademark Amy ‘bosom doth overfloweth’ look.

The release of ‘Back to Black’ unleashed Amy’s new image, like her music she had matured and used her visual appearance to give the world an insight into her personality and her musical influences-

I absolutely adore her ensemble in this image- she managed to carry of so many cultural references at once- the ratty oversized beehive hair-do, cat’s eye makeup and tight, short outfits were an ode to the girl groups of the 60’s (like The Ronettes).  Amy was definitely a champion of the ‘underwear worn as outerwear’ trend, and the titillating showing of her cleavage and push-up bra is offset with her cartoonish (child-like) hand bag.  Her red patent ‘heart’ bag, looks like something Bettie Boop or Minnie Mouse would kill to get their sketched mitts on.  And then her overtly feminine image is juxtaposed with an assortment of very masculine ‘in your face’ sailor tattoos.  That is what I love about Amy, you couldn’t put her in a box.

I also found it interesting to learn that Amy had an emotional approach to her styling, as she once confessed, ‘The more insecure I feel, the bigger my beehive gets’.  This explains why sometimes it looked like her slight weight would topple under the weight of her exaggerated coiffure.

Fashion houses are always quick to ride the shirt-tails of the new ‘It-thing’ and in 2007, Karl Lagerfied sent the models in his 2007 London Chanel pre-fall show down the catwalk with high hair and dramatic eyes in her honor. “She is a beautiful, gifted artist,” Lagerfeld said at the time. “And I very much like her hairdo. I took it as an inspiration. Because, in fact, it was also Brigitte Bardot’s hairdo in the late fifties and sixties. And now Amy has made it her own style. For me, it was a double clin d’oeil. It is Brigitte Bardot and Amy Winehouse.” Fast forward a few seasons later, he had crowned another young British artist as his muse-Lily Allen.  Such are the transient tastes of fashion and all it holds dear.

After her award-winning album ‘Back to Black’ was released, Rehab became the most popular track at fashion shows. The track played at Comme des Garcons and Dior – two wholly different brands with different target audiences-showing how special the song really was.

I haven’t done the research but I’m sure with the release of the album, black eye-liner sales soared.  After all I remember going to the MAC counters and insisting they give me the necessary war paint to create ‘Amy Winehouse eyes’.  That’s when you know a music artist has made it, when they can command sales in record stores, make-up stores, vintage shops and the like.

I was also a fan of Amy’s colourful use of headscarves.

Amy also like to show her softer side by wearing essentially ‘cute summer dresses’.  But she always made the look her own by donning heavy statement, gold, rap jewellery.

In 2010, Amy was enlisted by, one of her favourite brands- Fred Perry– to design a collection inspired by her style.  The collection sported her signature look including polo shirts, skinny pencil skirts, capri pants, mini dresses and twin sets.

She was also photographed by some of the most renowned photographers in the world, including Bruce Weber– 

Unfortunately in the last few years, the world got accustomed to seeing Amy Winehouse in unfavourable situations (which were made public by the press) like- in various state of undress, clutching onto blood-stained ballet shoes and with various bruises.  But she could also look like this-

And the final image is my favourite ‘retro made  modern’ Amy Winehouse ensemble I’ve seen so far.  It shows that she didn’t always wear revealing short, tight clothing.  When she felt like it, she could ‘fix up, look sharp’ like the best of them.  I can’t tell you how much I love that 50’s leather circle skirt

Which is your favourite Amy Winehouse image and song?

My Fashion S/ash Life credits- startrip.tv, dazzlingdivas.blogspot.com, delastar.com and couchsessions.com

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