Category Archives: Fashion

T-shirt new fashion trend in Libya’s Benghazi

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Browsing through the racks of printed T-shirts and scarves, a handful of shoppers inspect the latest designs in what has become one of the most popular clothing stores in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

One of them, Ali, a student, holds up a T-shirt printed with a popular Libyan expression “Grab what is new before it becomes old”, one of the many catchphrases that adorn the designs in Boza, a small shop in an upmarket neighborhood.

“I always bought clothes with English writing on them but now for the first time, I am buying a T-shirt with Arabic print,” he said. “I am so happy.”

Ali is one of the hundreds of Libyans who have flocked to Boza since it opened a few months ago, eager to get their hands on designs that have become a talking point among the youth in Benghazi’s popular coffee shops.

Its name meaning “stylish”, the store – the first of its kind in Libya according to its owners – sells T-shirts, bags, head and neck scarves printed with “Made in Libya”, “Walk like a Libyan” or a jumble of letters spelling out Benghazi.

Some T-shirts are printed with “I love Cyrenaica”, referring to Libya’s eastern province where calls for more regional autonomy have heightened since Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011.

Benghazi was the cradle of the Libyan revolt and discontent has mounted over continued neglect from Tripoli. Easterners say their oil-rich region was starved of cash under Gaddafi.

Other colorful T-shirts carry portraits of King Idris, whom Gaddafi ousted in his 1969 coup.

“Our designs have political messages, it is difficult to separate daily life from politics,” Ahmed Benmussa, a 32-year old oil engineer and Boza co-owner, said.

“We take inspiration from Libyan heritage because we have a rich culture. Reviving history is one of our aims.”

Some of the T-shirts tackle the serious issues plaguing post-war Libya – the mass of weapons on its streets and the armed militias which have hobbled governance.

“Better the devil you know” reads the message on one T-shirt accompanied by the drawing of a knife.

“Some of the messages are critical, perhaps in a more humorous way,” Benmussa said. “This is how we express ourselves, unlike those who actually use weapons.”

PERSONALISED DESIGNS

The shop itself is a mix between old and new. An old record player lies idle in the middle of the store while a large television screen beams Boza’s latest designs.

Importing blank T-shirts and scarves from Turkey, its designers use a small printing machine to decorate the clothes and accessories. Customers can also personalize goods or propose new designs on a “suggestion wall” in the store.

Boza’s T-shirts, which sell for around 50 Libyan dinars ($40), are popular among Benghazi’s youth who say the designs allow them to express themselves – a still relatively new freedom after Gaddafi’s 42-year iron-fisted rule.

“This is a great way in which you can express yourself in a modern and fashionable manner,” Alaa al-Baba, a 24-year old engineer, said. “It would be great if everybody could do that.”

Boza’s owners use social media site Facebook to promote the store, both at home and abroad, posting pictures of the owners’ friends wearing designs around town like professional models.

“We have sent T-shirts to customers in Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, United States, Qatar, Ireland, France, Egypt and Spain,” Benmussa said.

Capitalizing on Boza’s success in Benghazi, plans are now under way to open a branch in the capital.

“There will be a Boza in Tripoli in coming days,” he said.

Choose fashion trends for your body confidence

Twice a year, New York Fashion Week turns media attention to runways, bright lights, style heavy-hitters and of course, to-die-for collections.

And twice a year, the underlying story of these events is how those models manage to stay so thin, and whether their size is a reasonable idea of beauty.

My philosophy around taking care of my own body is pretty simple: I believe in eating more vegetables than French fries overall, drinking lots of water and sweating for at least 30 minutes a day, whether it’s from running or scrubbing the bathroom floor. I do not believe in consuming hard drugs or munching on cotton balls to curb hunger, two tactics of many that were described to fashion reporters this week.

I recognize that my commitment to exclusively external use of cotton balls might mean I don’t look awesome in every trend, and that’s fine. It’s also fine that even though I accept my body for what it is and encourage everyone else to do the same, I still don’t want two enormous pouches of fabric on the sides of a pencil skirt making my hips look bigger than they actually are.

We all have body qualms, even people who are naturally very thin. And we all have that one fashion trend haunting our shopping trips, the thing that accentuates the body issue we’re trying to ignore. I’ve laid out a few common culprits below and some alternatives that you’ll be more confident wearing, because great style is not reserved for people with “ideal” bodies, whatever that means.

This week I read an article from Refinery 29 on Ikram Goldman, owner of the upscale Chicago boutique Ikram, who’s kind of a big deal in the fashion world. She had this to say about personal style: “Be comfortable in your own skin, and your style will come out. You’ll be fabulous in whatever you’re wearing.”

The body qualm: You’re not all that keen on calling attention to your hips and butt.

The problem trend: Peplum skirts

The fix: Peplum shirts

Naturally, I’m starting with one that I can relate to. In fact, I related to it two days ago when I tried on a sheath dress in Target that had ruffle around the waist of truly unfortunate placement and length. I actually thought to myself, “This IS a brand new Target…maybe there used to be an amusement park in here and this particular mirror is leftover from the funhouse?” The somewhat more likely explanation, though, is that a peplum skirt just doesn’t do what I want it to do for my body. Enter the peplum shirt, which appears to be overtaking the peplum skirt in popularity this season anyway. You can go with a structured choice in a thicker fabric, or a more laid-back, subtler peplum top like the lace one from Anthropologie. I love the boatneck and three-quarter sleeves, both of which are slimming and balance out the added volume on the bottom half.

The body qualm: Your thighs aren’t as toned as they could be.

The problem trend: Colored jeans

The fix: Colored trousers or printed jeans

Colored jeans are often made of a thinner, more stretchy denim, which makes some wearers’ legs look “lumpy,” even if the jeans fit. To add insult to injury, they tend to run small, and nobody’s fond of not being able to squeeze into her regular size in the dressing room. With colored, cropped trousers, the fabric is thicker and the fit slightly looser. If you’re set on denim, try darker printed jeans, perhaps navy with white polka dots or a fall floral.

The body qualm: You’re nearly a foot shorter than a runway model.

The problem trend: Maxi skirts

The fix: High-low skirts

This is a fairly self-explanatory problem, and one that there’s not much of a solution to except buying petite if you can or getting a maxi skirt hemmed. If both of these seem like too much work, a hem that’s short in the front and long in the back is trendy this season and more likely to accommodate your frame.

The body qualm: You want to tone down your large chest, just a little – the grass is always greener.

The problem trend: Peter Pan collar

The fix: Embellished or embroidered necklines

This is no more than a feat of optical illusion. A Peter Pan collar is very dainty, so when it sits right above your chest, it’s likely to make it look that much bigger in contrast. Embellishments or embroidery on sweaters, on the other hand, typically reach from shoulder to shoulder. When your focal point is wider, your chest looks smaller.

Emerging global trends

As the global population boom, there are inevitable implications on livestock. Demand for food and shelter have grown manifold resulting in an alarming scarcity of land meant for rearing animals, says Satyadeep Chatterjee.

 

Trends have to be predicted taking into consideration possible drastic changes. Fashion consumers are becoming more conscious of the environment. They prefer eco-friendly material, conservative use of resources, reduced emission of pollutants, greater social commitment and fair treatment of employees in production facilities.

 

The presence of a large number of players in the sector has intensified the competition to garner a larger chunk of the market share of this lucrative industry. On the demand front, consumers are rapidly aligning towards new designs and innovative leather offerings to ensure they are in sync with changing fashion trends. Another factor that needs to be taken into account is the rise of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) economies. Their dominant position in the labour-intensive textile and leather industries makes it difficult for other countries to match them.

 

Owing to high demand, the leather goods industry is on a growth spree. Forecasts are, this vertical will grow at a CAGR of 3.4 percent over the next five years and will touch US$ 91.2 billion by 2018.

The significance of fashion

Fashion forecasting is a process of analysing upcoming trends by predicting colours, fabrics and styles that will be a part of latest collections in the stores. The forecaster works on all categories and variants of the fashion industry, explains Ankita Sodhi.

 Haute couture, pret-o-porter or ready-to-wear and street wear or mass market, all can benefit from trend forecasting. It also involves a study of emerging trends in make-up, beauty and cosmetics, to predict a complete look of the season.

Various practices involved in forecasting are:

  1. Study of various fashion seasons
  2. As an impact of globalisation, mapping of megatrends by analysing collections at fashion capitals of the world
  3. Comparative study of current and previous trends
  4. Identifying the niche market/client/group
  5. Understanding and analysing the demographic and psycho graphic structure of the targeted market/client/group
  6. Predicting themes, stories and trends for upcoming season by generating a style and trend report

 

Various fashion seasons

Design collections are launched as per specific seasons. These include:

  1. Spring/Summer
  2. High Summer
  3. Pre-fall
  4. Autumn/Winter
  5. Resort/Cruise

 

The two biggest seasons are Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. These collections are showcased at major fashion weeks almost six months prior to when they appear in stores. These include both haute couture as well as ready-to-wear collections.

High summer is when some fashion houses or brands launch a collection after Spring/Summer collection has been launched. Several times, these collections are extremely impactful on trends that will emerge in the upcoming season.

Resort/cruise collections are launched for those who are keen on wearing trendy comfort wear at holidays or while travelling for leisure.

Pre-Fall collections have a wide customer range but they are launched to target the elite fashion fanatics and leaders. These fashion leaders are fond of an updated wardrobe. Celebrities of various fields are often the first to get these fresh off the runway outfits.

The perfect time to nab that dress

The colossal spending frenzy where big-name retailers slash their prices has officially begun and while it’s a given that most of your favourite stores will join in if you’re going to make the most of it, you need to do your homework.

The perfect time to indulge in some retail therapy and nab that dress you’ve been eyeing up for a while, some brands can be pretty secretive about their discounts, leaving it until the last possible minute before giving anything away.

So, whether you’re one of many brave sale-seekers hitting the high street or you’re staying in and surfing the world-wide-web there are few things to keep in mind.

 

How to update your work wardrobe for Spring

Firstly, many of these deals are only available for a limited time so keep note of the dates and prioritise your shopping time accordingly.

Similarly, while the temptation to add things to your basket willy-nilly is oh so real, a stack of cheap items soon starts to add up so make a list of things you definitely want or set yourself a realist budget, and stick to it.

Luckily, we’ve saved you a scouring stint and put together a list of the crème de le crème of fashion and beauty bargains you’re not going to want to miss.

Aspinal of London

​If it’s luxury leather goods you’re after pay Aspinal of London a visit either online or in-store and you could save an impressive 60 per cent of selected items including women’s purses, handbags and men’s wallets. Our top pick is The Lottie Purse in cool peppermint green with an impressive 50 per cent off. Now the slimline leather purse can be yours for just £70.

 

Charlotte Olympia

Quirky designer Charlotte Olympia is kicking off with some serious savings of up to 50 per cent on everything from high heels and summer sandals to bags and accessories. For a stand-out pair of platforms that promise to get you noticed pick up the Brazilian Bombshell for £510 and a saving of 60 per cent.

 

Cos Stores

“Our sale is here, but not for long,” warns Cos, so if you’re looking to save up to 50 per cent on their range of super-slick pieces you better be quick. If you’re going to pick up one item we suggest the Wide Belt Shirt Dress with a blue gingham design for just £55 down from £79.

 

Daisy London

Designer of the iconic Chakra range, Daisy London is offering up to 70 per cent of sale items including bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Our sale pick is the sterling silver Vine Necklace that has been reduced to £44.50.

 

Dune London

Summer is the perfect excuse to invest in some new shoes but that doesn’t mean they have to break the bank. Thankfully, Dune London have added further reductions to their sale with up to 50 per cent of both ladies and men’s footwear. Just in time for the heatwave we suggest picking up Steve Madden’s Ruffle Detail Sliders for just £22. Our favourite is pink but they’re also available in black or gold for £26.

 

Harvey Nichols

The luxury department store is offering impressive discounts across womenswear and menswear both online and in-store now, with up to 50 per cent off.

 

Hobbs

Looking to update your summer wardrobe? Then head over to Hobbs where you could save up to 70 per cent on tops, dresses, shoes and accessories. We think this Twitchell dress in yellow is ideal for all your summer events from family barbeques to weddings. What’s more, it only costs £69.

 

Joseph

British-based luxury fashion label has now introduced further reductions to it’s summer sale where you can enjoy up to 60 per cent off the latest spring summer 2017 collection. One for the men here – pick up a pair of versatile Light Cotton Jack Shorts in neutral clay brown for £100, saving yourself an impressive £95.

 

Mango

A brand which has really taken off this year, Mango has up to 50 per cent off womenswear, menswear and kids both online and in-store right now. For a bag that promise to see you through all seasons, we love Mango’s Cross-body Pebbled Bag in Sky Blue for a bargain £9.99.

 

Mulberry

With a sale that started on 12th June, Mulberry’s sale includes discounts of up to 50 per cent on women’s and men’s bags, accessories and womenswear. If you’re looking for a piece that won’t break the bank, we suggest investing in the brand’s Credit Card Slip that has been reduced from £100 to £70.

 

River Island

For the latest fashion trends head over to River Island where you could save up to 50 per cent on womenswear, menswear, girls and boys clothing. Make sure you’re right on trend and pick up River Island’s Pink Floral Embroidered Kimono for £20.

 

Topshop​

Arguably one of the most in-demand sales of the summer, Topshop are constantly adding further lines to their already extensive collection of bargains. Head to your nearest store or visit the website for savings of up to 50 per cent. Step into summer with style and snap up Topshop’s Reena Embroidered Tie Sandals for just £25 down from £52.

 

Urban Outfitters

A favourite for everything from womenwear, menswear and home, you could save an impressive 75 per cent by shopping at Urban Outfitters in-store and online. Still in need of some sunnies for your summer holiday? Well, you’re in luck because you can now get your hands on a pair of Modern Squared-Off Round Sunglasses for just £11.

 

Very Exclusive

Luxury fashion site Very Exclusive has given it’s sale a boost with further reductions up to 60 per cent on designer brands like DKNY, Joseph and Hobbs. If it’s a designer bargain you’re after, we suggest picking up the Karl Lagerfeld Chain Handbag which has been reduced from £285 to £114.

 

Warehouse

It’s time to clear some space in your wardrobe because high street favourite Warehouse has some serious bargains. Right now, you can save up to 70 per cent off denim, skirts, dresses and accessories. Take the hassle out of summer dressing with the Dash Stripe Wrap dress for £25. Wear yours with a pair of slides and cinch at the waist.

Whistles

Now’s the time to bag that dreamy summer dress you’ve had your eye on because Whistles has a sale online and in-store with savings of up to 50 per cent on selected styles. For a piece that will see you through every season invest in the Agnes Biker jacket in cream for £235 down from £330. With a boxy fit and flattering silhouette it promises to go with almost anything in your wardrobe.

Latest Designer Collaboration

Since launching in 2005, the RCA graduate’s catwalk shows have become one of London Fashion Week’s hottest tickets. Erdem is the designer of choice for tastemakers such as Alexa Chung and Keira Knightley, and has become a go-to for both the Duchess of Cambridge and her younger sister Pippa.

To bring the collection to life, H&M and Erdem worked with filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (of Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet fame) who brings his instantly recognisable aesthetic to a campaign film, teased in a short clip revealed today.

‘I am so happy to collaborate with H&M, and to explore my work on a whole new scale including a menswear collection which I have never done before. It’s also such a thrill to work with Baz Luhrmann, one of the most important storytellers of our time,’ the designer said.

Erdem with Baz Luhrmann and H&M’s Ann Sofie ohansson

‘For me, fashion is always about more than just clothing, it is a form of expression – a standalone art form,’ added Luhrmann. ‘I am excited to be collaborating with Erden and H&M to reveal the story of this unique collection.

Dress power player

François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering, the French luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Brioni, wore a stretched-out zip-up hoodie. So did Mark Pincus, the founder of Zynga. Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal, wore a Mr. Rogers black cardigan and baggy black shorts. Ivanka Trump wore an oversize white shirt, untucked, and skinny jeans. Omid Kordestani, executive chairman of Twitter, wore a Patagonia puffer. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, wore skinny cargo pants and a cardigan the color of dried mud.

These were some of the outfits modeled at that ultimate showcase of mogul leisure wear formally known as the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference 2017 and more colloquially called “summer camp for billionaires.” It may have ended Sunday, but its style preferences will resonate throughout the rest of the season.

If you want to know how to dress down like a power player during the coming vacation period, there is no better case study, thanks to the distillation of entrepreneurs, executives and influencers brought together every July by the event’s founder, Herb Allen, the better to deal-make and elephant-bump in the rarefied altitudes of the Idaho aerie.

Officially, there is no dress code at the conference beyond “relaxed” — or “humble,” as a regular attendee once told me — though name tags (humble!) are encouraged, along with the gift gear passed out to all attendees: navy or cherry red fleeces, hoodies, vests, polo shirts and baseball caps, so marked by the neat “SV17” logo over the left breast. And while the “no press” policy means less imagery emerges from the event than from, say, red-carpet happenings, enough snaps of schmoozing lords of the universe exiting their cars on arrival or taking the air between meeting sessions get released to provide fairly good intel on how they define off-duty dress.

Which can best be characterized as “calculated schlubbiness.” Or “Who can give the impression they care less about what they wear than the next guy?” Apparently, when you’ve reached the top of the mountain, literal and professional, it’s really about the smarts, people, not the suits

Stacey Bendet, founder of Alice & Olivia, wore her brand’s best looks, including flared jeans, a periwinkle message T-shirt with “Eye Candy” spelled out under black lashed orbs and a matching long lace coat.CreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

At least as far as the male attendees go. The women, fewer and farther between, seem less inclined to pretend they haven’t thought at all about what they pack. See, for example, Diane von Furstenberg in a perfectly twisted scarf and suede jacket one day, a coordinated navy number and matching trousers the next; Mary Barra, the General Motors chief executive, in a cropped black leather motorcycle jacket over a white T-shirt; and Stacey Bendet, founder of Alice & Olivia and the wife of Eric Eisner, modeling her brand’s best looks, including flared jeans, a periwinkle message tee with “Eye Candy” spelled out under black lashed orbs and a matching long lace coat. Also giant shades with a doppelgänger tote bag and, once, a floor-length red lace dress with picture brim hat. Though in her singularly fashion-forward finery, she was the exception that proved the rule.

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(She was not the only attendee implicitly promoting her own brand-by-association, however. Ms. Trump wore a pair of Ivanka Trump Evia block-heel mules, currently available for purchase. Originally $99, they have been marked down twice on the Bloomingdale’s website to $55.44. Guess even though she is no longer officially associated with her brand, she still likes to shop there.)

But it is the men, in their “what, this old thing?” rejection of the tailored sartorial culture in which most of them spend their days (the tech crowd excepted), whose attire is the most instructive. The predominant ethos being either the gym clothes shoved in the bottom drawer or back of the closet and then pulled out to meet with the personal trainer in the private gym look, or the “polo and baggy jeans on the back deck where no one can see you” style.

Indeed, the only branded area on the body was really the foot, where Nikes were impossible to obscure, and the bridge of the nose, where the Persols, mirrored aviators and Oliver Peoples rest.

All of which made the few attendees wearing the traditional casual Friday uniform of jacket and shirt seem uptight and prissy (and even worse — old-fashioned) in comparison to their peers.

Even Jared Kushner, of navy-blazer-and-flak-jacket-combo-in-Iraq fame, seemed to have learned one thing from his experience and swapped the blazer for a beige crew neck and jeans. Still, he blended into the crowd better when simply wearing a dark long-sleeve athletic shirt, having traded buttoned-up for loosened-up (or at least as if he were about to head off for a chest-thumping hike up the mountainside).

But that was nothing compared with the extreme relaxers, most notably the tech crowd, for whom dressing down is a natural form of camouflage — obvious thanks to the fact that their T-shirts and jeans actually fit them. (They are the Silicon equivalent of the tailored suit.) The best examples were perhaps Nick Woodman from GoPro in a faded black T-shirt with a playing-card bunny on the front, or Jeff Bezos in a black polo, sleeves straining around his biceps.

Indeed, aside from navy, there was, it’s worth pointing out, a lot of black on display, including on Harvey Weinstein, Daniel Ek of Spotify and Ms. Barra — possibly as much as there is during fashion week. Which is interesting.

There was a lot of black on display, including on Harvey Weinstein. CreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

You can understand it. After all, this isn’t really “off-duty” at all; it’s faux off-duty. Family may come along for the fun, but attendees are still dressing for one another. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. And that means that to a certain extent what they wear is being chosen to send a message, and define an attitude.

That being: Who can seem secure enough in their position to look fully unguarded? To not need any of the armor of power — aides or clothes or lawyers or polished shoes. To expose their soft underbelly (or loose underbelly as the case may be), the better to appear open and uncalculated with their peers.

Of course, if the rest of us adopted the same strategy, we might just look sloppy. A better takeaway is simple: Truth is, when it comes to casual clothing, we are all as subject to the effects of peer pressure and herd instinct as we are when it comes to professional clothing. It’s just at the opposite extreme.

Using PC Lenses in Fashion and Portrait Photography

Perspective Control lenses for SLR cameras were developed primarily for architecture, interior, and still-life photography applications. PC lenses simulate some of the movements and control that photographers can get from a view camera. They are great for keeping lines parallel and subjects in focus. Just as PC lenses allow photographers to control what is in focus, they also allow you to control what goes out of focus and how quickly it does that. Fashion and portrait photos with enhanced bokeh or selective focus create dreamy blur and guide attention to the areas remaining in focus.

PC lenses or tilt and shift lenses have been around in various forms since the 1970. The Fuji GX-680 made a big splash in the 1980s as a medium format camera system with built-in bellows that could accommodate tilt and shift movements. Some fashion and portrait photographers jumped at the opportunity to play with selective focus. Both Nikon and Canon have recently made waves by announcing ultra-wide PC lenses, but it was the Canon TS-E 90mm and the Nikon 85mm PC-E lenses that brought tilt and shift to focal lengths more favorable to portrait and fashion photographers.

The tilt function of PC lenses allows a photographer to alter or tilt the plane of focus and decide which part of a scene they choose that plane to fall. For comparison, a traditional lens has a focus plane that is parallel to the film or digital sensor in the camera. The amount of depth of field is determined by the aperture of the lens and will give the image clear range focus 1/3 in front and 2/3s behind the exact point of focus. But when you alter the plane of focus using a PC lens away from parallel with the film or sensor, the area in focus can dramatically change.

The pair of images at top shows the same scene shot with two different lenses. The left image was shot with the Nikon 70-200mm zoom set at 100mm while the image on the right was shot with the Nikon 85mm PC-E. The right image and the image above show the effect of tilting the plane of focus on a horizontal axis leaving only the eyes in sharp focus. Since the current PC lenses are not made using bellows systems, they only tilt on a single axis as opposed to view cameras, but they can be rotated to accommodate a horizontal, vertical, or even diagonal axis.

Shifting the plane of focus on a vertical axis can also produce dreamy effects. As the focus plane shifts relative to the image plane, part of the focus plane draws closer to the camera while the other part shifts away from the camera. This has the effect of compressing the area in sharp focus of a standing subject, which is great to isolate attention on the face or eyes. However, that shift of plane might also have the unfavorable effect of rendering a background or foreground element in sharp focus that might compete for attention. It helps to envision how the new plane of focus cuts through a composition and what is added or subtracted from the focus.

These images show the same model shot at f/5.6 one with a traditional 105mm lens on left, and the 85mm PC-E lens on the right with vertical axis tilt which leaves a vertical zone of sharp focus on the model’s face and front of her dress, while her arms go quickly out of focus. By shifting the plane of focus clockwise to bring the right side of plane closer to the camera and the left side further, the background on the right side of the background falls to soft focus while the left side actually gains more focus than is see with the traditional lens shot.

As with any creative effect, a little can go a long way. I tend to prefer a moderate amount of tilt of the focus plane on my fashion shots. I have been able to incorporate this effect into several fashion shoots, but unfortunately not all attempts have made it in to the final product. The rapid shift of critical focus can obscure details on a garment that can be important to my clients. My favorite uses of the effect bring the audience attention to the face while creating a soft and dreamy feeling to the overall image. This effect can be simulated to a great degree in post processing with blur and bokeh filters, but I do like the control that comes from seeing the effect directly in a viewfinder.

The Fashion Circus

Bounteous Mother Nature continually produces new versions of the genetically blessed creatures we idealize so intensely we call them models.

They exist in every place and every population. The challenge is hunting them down.

“I never thought about modeling in my life,” said Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, 18, who appeared in a show for the label Head of State on Monday in New York.

Mr. Ibrahim immigrated to Albany three years ago from Sudan. He was spotted by Head of State’s Nigeria-born designer, Taofeek Abijako, another Albany resident, at his high school prom.

“I saw him and then got someone to find him on Facebook,” Mr. Abijako, 19, said. “I was obsessed.”

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 Phillip Mayberry, 24, was working as a shirtless greeter at a Hollister store in Texas when a scout approached him, as he explained on a cigarette break before the Parke & Ronen show on Wednesday.

A onetime track star with a ripped physique, he was told he would have a great future in modeling, though only if he dropped some weight.

“I’m 6-2, and I was 200 then,” the model said, seeming at ease while clad in nothing but Parke & Ronen underpants. “I lost 30 pounds,” he added, and one result was a job just completed for Italian Vogue. “It wasn’t really that hard. I just count every single calorie.”

Ben Jordan, 22, was at a mall in London mall when someone approached him about modeling. Credit Guy Trebay/The New York Times

Ben Jordan was 18 and on a day trip from his home in Norwich, England, to the Westfield London mall when someone approached him and his father.

He recalled that he didn’t say anything when the scout asked whether he would consider a career in modeling. “My dad just took over and said, ‘Definitely, he would!’” said Mr. Jordan, now 22, who has trod runways covering roughly the circumference of the planet for designers like DSquared2, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein.Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, 18, was discovered at his high school prom. Credit Guy Trebay/The New York Times

For Harrison Bock, an 18-year-old from Voorhees Township, N.J., the big break came in the gym as he was heading for the showers.

“Is no place sacred?” Mr. Bock was asked.

“Seriously!” the model said backstage at the Parke & Ronen show, making some necessary adjustments to the skintight trunks he had been given to wear. “Until that moment, I never thought about modeling in my life. I was planning to go into the Air Force, for real.”

Harrison Bock, 18, of Voorhees Township, N.J., got his big break in the gym as he was heading for the showers. Credit Guy Trebay/The New York Times
Gray Eberley, 20, from Tenafly, N.J., was that seeming oddity: a young man who recognized in his exceptional looks a potentially marketable entity.

“A friend of the family knew Bruce Weber, and they sent him some pictures,” Mr. Eberley said Tuesday, as he posed barefoot atop a plinth at Skylight Studios wearing a swimsuit and a flowered rubber granny bathing cap.

Phillip Mayberry, 24, was working as a greeter at a Hollister store in Texas when a scout approached him. Credit Guy Trebay/The New York Times

Not surprisingly, the photographer responded to Mr. Eberley’s even-featured, all-American looks and invited him to his compound in the Adirondacks. “Next thing I know, I’m in a car heading out Montauk,” where Mr. Weber has a house, and where Mr. Eberley was photographed for a multipage spread in V Man.

Asked about vagaries of a career in a business subject to overnight shifts in taste and where models, however physically blessed, are commodities with inbuilt expiration dates, Mr. Eberley seemed unfazed.

“It’s all good,” he said. “We’ll just see where it goes.”

It’s Top Backdrop Painter Sarah Oliphant

From Vanity Fair covers to designer fashion shows and theater stages, artist Sarah Oliphant has painted her way into the fabric of fashion by creating beautiful canvases worthy of framing on a scale large enough to become the industry’s leading backdrop painter. Oliphant Studio has been creating scenic backdrops for photographers, film producers, fashion designers, architects, and interior designers since 1978. Along the way, Oliphant has collaborated with the top level of fashion and editorial portrait photographers including Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, Albert Watson, Mark Seliger, Norman Jean Roy, and Sue Bryce while also providing an inventory of backdrops available for rent to photographers beginning and advanced.

Oliphant Studio’s work can be see behind some of the most famous faces and top-flight models on magazine covers for Vogue, Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times, in advertising for Victoria’s Secret, Anthropologie, The Gap, Aveda, Lancome, J Crew, and Guess, and painted backdrops and runways for designers like Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger. The studio has an inventory of about 2,000 canvases as large as 12′ x 24′ and muslin backdrops even larger available for rental from their Brooklyn, NY studio.

Those lucky enough to visit the studio are generally surprised to find that the large scale backdrops begin life as fabric tacked to the floor with the artist walking over them applying paint with implements from paintbrushes affixed to 3′ extensions, to garden watering cans, to bristle brooms to create detailed realistic scenes or swirling abstract textures. The pallet of colors for a composition is contained in a series of buckets rather than dabs on a traditional slab of wood. Oliphant and her assistants paint, pour, and spray colors onto fabric with the swagger of sign painters but with precision of a pointillist.

Those skills serve her well working with photographers creating backdrops both working with them on unique collaborations and anticipating trends creating her stock of rental canvas and muslin paintings. “It is all about communication. I am solving my client’s artistic problem and the more information I get from that client, the more successful I will be at solving the problem,” Oliphant says. “After all these years of working, of communicating with so many different photographers, designers, producers. I can cut to the chase quite quickly now.”

 Sometimes known for her richly painted and smoothly textured canvases, her backdrops frequently appear in fashion and portrait images by long time client and collaborator Leibovitz and other photographers who occasionally frame images to include the edges and roll of a backdrop within the composition. The studio’s rental inventory also includes numerous detailed scenics, cityscapes, skies, interiors, and specialty creations. Set designers and art directors frequently use the studio’s website which displays the inventory when designing sets or creating a concept for a shoot. “For commissioning custom backdrops, we work closely with each client to ensure the backdrop is a collaboration. Each custom backdrop is painted as a unique piece, based on our client’s needs. We can paint anything from a chevron floor or scenic forest to a classic grey portrait drop,” says studio manager Munmun O’Neill, who is also Sarah’s oldest daughter.
“I have had some incredible experiences painting for photographers that know what they want but aren’t afraid to experiment in the process of getting there. Sometimes you have to just go for it using crazy techniques and unusual materials,” Oliphant says. Like other artists, the painter is less comfortable isolating what the current trends are for backdrops in terms of color or style. “This is a difficult question to answer. Yes, there are trends and color palettes that are popular, and we see that in the jobs we are asked to do. The success of a painted backdrop has a lot to do with an artistic aesthetic which is often ineffable and timeless.”
“The largest backdrops we have painted were probably for the Marc Jacobs 2015 Runway show. They were painted to resemble Diane Vreeland’s living room, and had a beautiful luxurious quality to them,” says O’Neill. Oliphant got her start painting large theatrical sets before turning her attention to photographic backdrops and enjoys working on a mammoth scale. “Working as a scenic artist in the theater trained me to work large scale to and paint with confidence under great deadlines. I have a great time collaborating on huge projects. Fashion Week is very exciting for us. I love the feeling of looming catastrophe, then everyone coming together to pull it off,” she says.
The larger the project, the larger the piece of fabric needed to paint. O’Neill couldn’t estimate how much canvas and muslin the studio goes through each year, but added, “We have Rosebrand on speed dial!” Many of the canvas backdrops are rolled on 10′ or 12′ tubes and can measure over 20′ long to provide both a wall and a floor for a sweeping photographic background. Painted canvas backgrounds can be quite heavy. A 12’x20′ backdrop can easily weigh more than 40lbs and require sturdy support to hang for use. Muslin backdrops are lighter weight and more flexible and can be stuffed into bags.
My first encounter with Sarah and Oliphant Studio was as a next door neighbor when we both housed our studios on 20th Street in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, which was formerly known as the Photo District. Among the many eccentricities of having a studio in New York City is sharing a freight elevator which in our case was located inside Oliphant Studio. On numerous times I found myself tip-toeing along the edge of a freshly painted backdrop making my way to or from the freight elevator. The studio itself was a combination of a painting space for the large scale canvases, muslins, and other materials while at the same time being the storage space for Oliphant’s incredible inventory of rental backgrounds. I enjoyed the unique privilege of having almost immediate access to Oliphant backdrops for my shoots, for a rental fee, when the need arose as well as having a frequent peek into the creative chaos that goes into painting the industry’s leading backdrops.