Everyone has a The Great Gatsby story. Some of us were forced to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic in high school, some of us discovered it on our own. Some of us thought Gatsby is a pathetic lying shrew, some of us thought he is a helpless romantic. My experience with Gatsby was a dynamic one: Assigned it in a high school English class, it was the first book I was forced to read and then fell in love with. I didn’t like books as a young man. Believe it or not, I was a jock. (Stop laughing.) But Fitzgerald was the writer that ignited a literary passion in me that blazed through the rest of his books and on to the rest of the great American writers, and still burns today. Even when I shopped at strip malls and wore Old Navy sweatshirts to school dances back home in Missouri, I strived for glamour. And Gatsby gave it to me. That book reads as a film. When I was a teenager reading it for the first time, I fantasized about how I’d want to see it on the screen. In fact, that’s what Truman Capote famously said when he was assigned to write a (never-made) screenplay of the film: The book is a movie.
Because we’ve all imagined our own versions, to make the book into a film is bold. But Baz Luhrmann did it. Not that this is news. There are billboards and bus signs and magazine covers and Prada parties and Gatsby inspired pink seersucker Brooks Brothers suits and every entertainment show in the world was in New York last week for the splashy premiere at Lincoln Center. I was at that premiere too. My first impressions? I found it absolutely invigorating and optically exhausting. It was basically more saturated version of Moulin Rouge but without the singing and spruced up in 3D. (I say this is a compliment, but I’ve read reviews that say the same thing as a complaint.) Luhrmann gave all of us who read the book as a young person with childhood fantasies of fancy flapper bashes exactly what we wanted: Glamour. The pearls literally flew off the screen. When Gatsby is famously ripping his beautiful shirts out of his closet they feel like they’re falling on the audience as well as Daisy.
Leonardo DiCaprio was swell as Gatsby. But then again, I’ll support any film that gets Leo wet. (See: Romeo + Juliet’s balcony scene, the second half of Titanic, all of The Beach. In Gatsby, when he first meets Daisy he does so in a wet white suit.) I’ve always been a fan of Tobey MaGuire’s ability to act almost exclusively with his eyes too, despite finding his Carraway character in a sanitarium to deal with alcoholism a little far fetched since he is the moral compass of the book. I at first had some trouble reconciling Carey Mulligan with the part of Daisy because, well, I always had a distaste for Daisy’s disingenuous fragility and false innocence. But despite Mulligan reading too smart to play that sort of ditz, she gave a strong performance. (Her best line? “I love large parties. They’re so intimate. Small parties don’t have any privacy.” Luhrmann has said that some of the dialogue in the film came from the book, but since there isn’t that much dialogue in the book he also pulled from letters between Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, as well as other books with similar characters.) The supporting roles were suburb too: Joel Edgerton (who, randomly, I just watched in Kinky Boots on an airplane and fell in love with) was strong and surprisingly likeable as Tom Buchanon, and he has the best opening sequence in recent cinema history; Isla Fischer does a fabulous floozy; and the Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Daisy’s BFF Jordan Baker came out of no where and held her own.
The day after the New York premiere, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and The New Yorker’s David Remnick hosted a luncheon for Luhrmann and the cast. Luhrmann said something during his (comedically animated and unscripted) presentation that I thought was spot on: “Now is the time to look at Gatsby as a social behemoth in modern culture.” The director first got the idea to do the film while taking the Orient Express train through Siberia. The idea was solidified after the recession of 2008, which was similar (though much less drastic) to the self-reckonings many were forced to make when the Roaring ‘20’s moved into the Great Depression. The things we are seeing happening today — “the moral elasticity of Wall Street,” as Luhrmann put one example — were happening then too. Was The Great Gatsby not a warning sign of unchecked materialism in a superficial world? Can we not say the same about today? A girl at my table at the luncheon compared Bernie Madoff to Gatsby. Yes, that was a stretch, even for me who loves some exaggeration. But it did get me thinking.
Some people are arguing over the morality of the character of the great Gatsby in this film. Is DiCaprio gross? Is he gross enough? Should he be that likeable? That’s a longer debate and one that has, and will, go on for generations. Luhrmann said at the luncheon that he thought Fitzgerald predicted the end of the Jazz Age and the oncoming Depression. I’m not sure if that was conscious or not as Fitzgerald was a raging alcoholic who reportedly was barely conscious, especially at the end before he died of a heart attack at the age of 44. But lets not forget that the book ends (spoiler alert!) with the murder of a man all alone in the gilded pool of a big empty house, a man who made himself through tricky deals and lies and loves a woman who has selfishly just saved her own skin. Luhrmann said something so beautiful about Nick at lunch: “He came to work in bonds but he ended up writing a book about a guy everyone forgets and his life began.”
It was inspiring to have Luhrmann’s insight into his movie. One of the biggest criticisms of the film will be his use of 3D. (Indeed, in the car chases in the film I was reminded of Janet Jackson’s music video for ‘All For You,’ where she and her back up dancers vogue whilst riding colorfully graffitied carriages on imaginary animated subway rides through the future.) Yet, he made a good point: Fitzgerald was fascinated by the modernities of his time, most obviously a fast lifestyle and affection for jazz music. To the latter, he brought up Jay-Z, which at first seemed like an unlikely fit for a film about the Roaring 20’s, but again Luhrmann insisted Fitzgerald would have been a Beyonce fan. “The music? I knew there would be eyeball rolling but Fitz, if he was anything, he wasn’t nostalgic. He put jazz and pop front and center in his text,” Luhrmann said at lunch. “It made the text immediate, he made it now.” And specifically about Jay-Z? “One of the most professional people I ever worked with.” Jay-Z ended up a producer of the film.
I must say this film was well researched. Luhrmann took liberties, but he wasn’t irresponsible with them. The guy even took an ocean liner to New York from London because that’s what Fitzgerald would have done, and then took a helicopter ride around Long Island to get a feel for the suburban beach mansions that Gatsby and Buchanan would have driven by on their rides into town. He took Mulligan down to the Princeton Library in New Jersey, where there is a trove of Fitzgerald’s letters, to fine-tune her awareness of the dialogue.
At the end of the day, the question all movie reviews ask is: Should people see this film? My answer is yes. Oh, absolutely. It’s good fun (who doesn’t love a good pool party scene?) and even if you skip (you shouldn’t) the moral lesson of an unchecked American Dream the costumes are wonderful. Personally, I love too that the film has snapped Fitzgerald’s book back into the zeitgeist, and has gotten people excited to read it again. At Luhrman’s lunch, they gave out copies of the book and, unlike most goodie bags at these sorts of functions that people throw away, everyone took theirs with them. Hell, I think it’s great when anything reminds people that there are these things called books sold at these things called bookstores. And the fact that The Great Gatsby is back on the best sellers lists is incentive enough for me.
My Grandma Betty (who’s real name was Grace Almeda Clark Egendoerfer, and I still don’t know how you get Betty from that) was a fair skinned red headed beauty who was born on a farm in Ruble, Missouri. She left school at 4th grade, moved to the big city of St. Louis, married a man who worked at the Anheuser Busch brewery and started a hair salon called Touch of Glamour in their basement. When she was still a young woman, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live. She wasn’t having that, though. She beat the fucker with radiation and the determination of a generation who redefined what it meant to be a modern American woman. Skin cancer is scary stuff. Betty was constantly diagnosed with melanomas (basal cell and then epidermoid) and was constantly having them removed. And it was that awareness that kept her alive into her 90′s, which I was particularly grateful for because it meant I was able to meet one of the strongest, sweetest, most stubborn, most courageous women I have ever known. So when SkinCeuticals asked me and a couple of my friends (Sean Avery, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Rebecca Minkoff, Padma Lakshmi) to appear in this awareness video, I thought of my Granny and said yes immediately. Watch the video here, and check those spots!
The fine folks at Opening Ceremony have been rounding up this city’s real world Valentine’s. Now, I’m a lucky guy who has the joy of having a few ladies in my life. But this year, my special someone on the 14th of February will be my St. Louis sister Karlie Kloss. (It helps because it’s also the last day of New York Fashion Week, so I would have been with this leggy lady anyway.) Team O.C. found us on the street last night on our way to a date night, and got to the bottom of our friendly love. And in case anyone is wondering what the perfect Valentine’s Day gift would be, can I suggest a handwritten letter in the mail? Conveniently, I can even help you out in sending them: Buy my special line of Derek Blasberg for Opening Ceremony stationery Valentines at a store near you, or here on line.
Name: Derek Blasberg
Describe the first time you and Karlie met? Although we grew up in the same neighborhood back in St. Louis, Missouri, we didn’t meet till she was living up here in New York. Everyone said I had to meet this sweet girl from St. Louis because I’d love her, and they were right! We were instant family—she’s the little sister I always wanted!
What is she currently obsessed with? Cookies. Or, should I say Kookies? Have you tried her Karlie’s Kookies yet? Mmm, good.
What is her pet peeve? People who expect her to be on time.
Favorite celebrity couple of all time? Bacall and Bogey, of course.
Describe the best first date you’ve ever been on: It’s been so long since I’ve been on a date, they all seem good.
On Valentine’s Day, we’ll find you: Attending New York fashion week. Romance isn’t dead, but it’s work. I’ll get to see my Valentine, though, so there’s a silver lining!
Name: Karlie Kloss
Occupation: 6-foot-tall giraffe (aka model)
Neighborhood: West Village
If Derek was a song, what song would he be? ”Meet Me in St. Louis” by the one and only Judy Garland. We are both from the same small town in Missouri, so it is practically our theme song.
What is he currently obsessed with? Spin class. Not exactly a bad obsession, hey? These days, he has better legs than me!
What is his pet peeve? Tardiness, which happens to be my specialty. Maybe that’s why we get along so well. Opposites attract, right?
Favorite celebrity couple of all time? I have to agree with my big bro on this one. You can’t beat Bogey and Bacall. They’re the ultimate power couple.
What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever gifted or been gifted? I recently received a very special Valentine in the mail from Derek! It was written on his fabulous new stationery line.
On Valentine’s Day, we’ll find you: Hopefully, spending the entire day with my Valentine, Mr. Derek Blasberg. And maybe a few runway shows somewhere in between.
Photos by Brayden Olson
In the January issue of V magazine, which stars Kristen Stewart on the cover shot by Inez & Vinoodh with an article written by my buddy Sarah Cristobal, I debuted a new column on the last page: ‘Bon V Vants.’ (I also interviewed an icon of mine, Penelope Tree, but more on that another time.) Since the theme of the entire issue was inspired by women of influence, for this debut column I dug through my personal photos to find the sorts of people I thought had inspired me. So, who did I come up with? First was my Mom, of course, and I had a shot of her with another influential female, Chloe Sevigny, which was taken at a fundraiser at the St Louis Contemporary Art Museum when Chloe came home to Missouri with me in 2010. Then there was the fash pack that included models Natalia Vodianova and Kate Moss (taken at the Love Ball in London with Mario Testino), and muses Amanda Harlech and Daphne Guinness with Courtney Love (at the reopening of the Chanel Soho store). Lady Gaga (at a MOCA gala), Mary J Blige (at Michael Kors 30th anniversary party at the Residence of the US Ambassador to France in Paris) and Grace Jones (at the launch of a Viktor & Rolf perfume) have left an indelible impression on both music and fashion, and I think Lisa Eisner (with Tom Ford at a gala in LA in 2009) is the ultimate stylish artist. And when it comes to female designers, is there anyone more influential than Miuccia Prada, who I snapped with Francesco Vezzoli and Marc Jacobs at Dasha Zhukova’s 29th birthday party in Venice? Last but not least, I had to include Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, seen here with Karl Lagerfeld in his studio at Chanel headquarters on the rue Cambon. Whenever I hear the word Influence I think of those smart little ladies because I helped them with their book of that very name way back in 2009. Jeez, time flies when you’re dealing with women of influence.
“Oh, shit!” That’s essentially the theme of this video of bloopers from a short video that Chloe Sevigny and I did for our friend Dasha Zhukova. But we meant mainly as a term of endearment, if not just a wee bit of frustration. But learning some swing choreography in a few days and then being thrust into filming was a bit manic, especially for me since, well, I’m not a Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated actress, like Chloe. Oh, but what fun we had! A little background on the original film: In 2012, the fashion photographer Nick Knight commissioned Dasha, the museum founder and magazine editor, to participate in a series of short films called Fashion Fetish for his online platform, SHOWStudio.com. Her concept: A woman goes to a crappy store party and feels dispirited, until her imagine is caught by a Prada dress on a rail. We see her fantasy sequence, when she is charmed by a handsome stranger in 1920′s swing style. She snaps back to reality at the end, but realizes sometimes a dream can be a dress. So she takes it. This was one of the most fun and most fabulous things I did in 2012. And it gave me a whole new respect for those Frenchies who made The Artist.
And in case you missed the finished product, here it is:
Red hearts, chocolates, flower shops, scented candles and sex shops be on high alert. That’s right: It’s Valentine’s Day time, sweeties! And with Opening Ceremony, I’m doing my own little part in participating in a holiday that is all about love to some, and corporation sponsored commercialism to others. I’ve done my part to serve both, for the record. The Derek Blasberg for Opening Ceremony special editions Valentine’s are here, both in stores and online. (GO HERE TO BUY THEM!) Just like the original line of stationery (WHICH YOU CAN SEE HERE, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT LAST TIME), I had a blast putting these together. There are love notes for significant others, secret admirers, family members, close friends and even those sour sorts who hate the holiday – but still deserve to be told they are loved. Here’s an example of those lost three, with the letters I sent to my Mom, and my friends Chloe and Karlie.
Last Thursday, the New York Times ran an article entitled ‘Illness Walks the Runway.’ It was an amusing piece on the frenzied — and immune system challenging — pace of the international collections, which start at the end of this week in New York and then move to London, Milan and Paris, written by Tim Murphy. I was quoted in the piece: “Fashion Week season is a nonstop assault on the immune system,” was one line, as was, “You don’t want to sit next to anyone coughing, because if you get sick, you’re screwed.” My mom will be so proud I managed to say “you’re screwed” in the New York Times, surely.
I have been asked if I think fashion week is too crowded. Many people are quick to say yes, but I’ve always been a little hesitant to show disdain for the (yes, it’s ridiculous) schedule. Am I often pooped? Totally. Do I think some of the shows and presentations and parties are frivolous? Definitely. In fact, when someone asks me if they should do something during fashion week, I always tell them it’s a terrible idea. Most of the events get lost in the shuffle, forgotten in a long stream of handsome waiters holding sponsored cocktails and fatigued publicists working overtime with swollen ankles from standing at doors for too long. Much better to do an opening or a party or a press appointment at a different time in the year, when people aren’t so zonked out.
Another reason I would hate to say that fashion week is too crowded is because it would seem like we aren’t supportive of this industry. I love that everyone wants to participate in the dialogue of getting dressed, of expressing ourselves through clothes. I like that people are crashing shows and dressing up and have a vested interest in this industry. We’re in a recession, and if people stop caring about fashion, I’m out of a job.
At any rate, I had a splendid time thinking about this article, and I thought I should share some of the other things I told Mr. Murphy. First, I told him most of my friends have a joke about fashion week: That by the end, you’re fashion weak. Fashion fatigued. (That’s pronounced “fat-ta-gayed.”) And I told him that there are two kinds of people you don’t want to sit next to at a fashion show: Someone who smells like a bar, which is another epidemic during the shows because socializing is such a big part of the business; or someone coughing, because if you get sick during the shows you’re screwed. It was at this point where I managed to slip in the “screwing” to the Times.
But while many are quick to complain — and I’m sure my day will come when I’m over it, when I’m a bitter fashion queen who can’t crack a smile even when a girl trips on the runway — but as for now I’m still enthralled by the industry. I still get giddy when the lights go down at a fashion show. I still want to know the new models names and go check out whatever young designer everyone is talking about. It’s insane, yes: Early shows, late dinners, everyone crammed into tents and airplanes with other people. Talk about fashion fat-ta-gayed. But I’d be happy to mop the floors at a fashion show if that’s as close as I could get.
And it isn’t completely dire. It’s not exactly nuclear warfare. One can prepare for this extravaganza, after all. A lot of my friends like to de-tox before they re-tox, so to speak. Lots of green juices, vitamins and sobriety happening in the weeks leading up to the shows. Organization is crucial too: That’s why so many editors plan their outfits in advance, and print and laminate their schedules. They want to be able to let their body rest until the last possible moment, and then get up, get dressed and get going as quickly as possible.
The reason I think some people get sick is good ole fashioned hedonism. So, my suggestion is: Pick your nights out and, just as importantly, pick your nights in. And always go home before you’re entirely inebriated. The one thing to remember when it comes to fashion week is that it it happens twice a year.
Illustration from the original New York Times article, published on January 30, 2013, by Rowan Barnes-Murphy
I’m a big fan of Michael Kors. Not only does he have one of the most wicked senses of humor in all of fashiondom (including great impressions), his fashion shows are one of my favorites of all of fashion week. Pounding music, women stalking runways in furs, boys in short shorts, glamour. What’s not to love? I’ve done a lot with Michael, too. From helping him celebrate his 30th anniversary in New York and Paris with this video to wrangling some of my philanthropic friends to watch him get a well deserved award from God’s Love We Deliver. It was at the gala for the latter that I filmed my (extremely brief) appearance in the above video for the United Nations World Food Programme’s fight to end “the world’s most solvable problem”: Hunger. To do your part for the campaign, text ‘MKHUNGER’ to 50555 to donate $5.00 to the World Food Programme.
As anyone who has ever invited me to dinner, let me stay at their house, or spoiled me with a particularly thoughtful persent will tell you: I love a handwritten note. And not just a thank you note. I’ll send birthday cards and congratulations notes and love letters and anything else that involve a paper and pen when the mood strikes me. I still send postcards. When I’m bored and in a hotel room I’ll send a doodle from the complimentary stationery. But I know I’m in the minority here. That’s what inspired me to do the Derek Blasberg for Opening Ceremony stationery line. Now, all my friends who say they should send more letters but don’t have the time don’t have an excuse. This is the easiest, most fun, most rewarding way to send a thoughtful, handwritten personal letter. HOW EASY IS IT? I put together the above video with the fine folks at Opening Ceremony to show off just how simple and sweet it is to send one of my form letters. The recipient here is Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge who just got knocked up with the next generation of Brit royals.
Speaking of my stationery line, before the holidays I did a little tea party at the infamous St Regis Hotel in New York to celebrate its debut. Now, throwing a midday champagne-fueled tea party the week before Christmas in midtown New York wasn’t probably the easiest fete I’ve put together. But I was more than pleased with the turnout: All of my Classy-iest girlfriends, including the girl on the cover of my books, Byrdie Bell, all turned out for the fete, as did a few of my favorite gentlemen. Shout out to Giancarlo Giammetti who moved around his departure to Rome to swing by looking suave.
This was no ordinary cocktail party, either. Meaning that everyone was encouraged to not only nibble on adorable tea sandwiches and shotgun a few champagne punches, but also actually send the letters. Cynthia Rowley sent Alexa Chung a love note; Jessica Hart sent me a thank you note; Katie Lee and Elettra Weidemann sent letters to their Mom’s; Jamie Tisch and Samantha Boardman took home extra pieces of stationery to give their kids. That’s right, it’s good for kids too! (Go to the Opening Ceremony website now to buy the stationery for yourself, your kids or a loved one.) And in the meantime, check out some shots from the St Regis.
Captions, from top: Alexa, Cynthia and me in front of the punch bowls, where we spent much of the evening; Hilary writing a note to her Mum; Constance and Trish; Su and Olivia from Opening Ceremony, the two girls who were really responsible for executing my vision in the most amazing way; RJ at the desk; Katie Lee and Elettra; David Smith, my most handsome friend; Harley being a good girl; Giancarlo and Petey; Alexa is a man magnet, with Jordan, RJ, me and Dorian; fashion icons Stephen Gan and Carlyne Cerf; Harry and Petey; Luisa, the guest of honor; a very stiff party patron; Leigh, Albert, Alexa, me and RJ feeling a little party fatigued after the festivities.
You know the saying, “Never work with animals or children”? Well, I can now speak to half of that statement, and I completely agree with it. I thought I had actress friends who could be hard to deal with, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the feline divas I worked with when I did my holiday etiquette video with these cats. (Did you see that video? It was called Eti-cat, and it was pretty genius, if I can say so myself.) Included in this video are the moments when I was upstaged by Classy Cat and Messy Kitty, a minor Tourette’s outbreak, and a few annoyingly adorable shots of these guys being adorably annoying.