Friday, November 30, 2007

Not Exactly Da Vinci -- The Moaning Lisa Mannequin

Forget the iphone, the latest in gadget interface is the Moaning Lisa, a female foreplay mannequin that uses sensors to respond to stimulation with an entire library of sounds that she can be programmed to make, including a library of over 200 different moans!

Developed by multimedia artists Matt Ganucheau, Kyle Machulis, and Kelly Moore, this vixen version of la joconde is no Tickle-Me Elmo. Routed with a controller board programmed with advanced multitouch software (conveniently located in her pneumatic chest), Lisa is sensitive to the speed, duration, and sequence of touch input, meaning that a certain degree of arousal must be attained before she'll respond. So basically, it's technologically impossible for her to fake it!

(Photo credit: Kyle Machulis)
For more information

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Windows, Bergdorf Goodman

The black tarp that has been convering the windows at Bergdorf Goodman for the past week has finally been removed, revealing a scintillating display of luxuriant and otherworldy window designs.

The theme this year was "elements;" Air, Water, Light, and Earth. A tribute to Tony Duquette, the designer that died in 1999, the windows are reminiscent of the opulent, ornately gilded, and lavishly bedizened costumes and stage sets that he was famous for designing. (Think Liz Tayor meets Liberace).

"Water" for instance, is a chimerical combination of crustaceans and tiny bongo, tambourine, and accordion playing monkeys in red fez and matching coats. Though very captivating in their nautical theme, surrounded by thousands of white mother of pearl shells, the window's focal point is certainly the woman in the dazzling taffeta-bottomed gown that is sultrily being led in a tango by an alligator with jeweled eyes. The overall feel is that of an underwater mardi gras of sorts, though the dominance of red and and white as well as the endless display of seashells are vaguely reminiscent of Santiago de la Ribiera -- a celebrated Saint of a Spanish port city whose favored colors were red and white.

Ruben Pazos, one of the designers that worked on the windows, assured me that every seashell, every sequin, and every mirror in every window was hand stiched, glued, and or placed. The windows have been a work in progress for the past year (mainly their design), and production began last May. Even after the windows had been revealed and viewed by thousands of pedestrians, Ruben was still patrolling for perfection. Design plans in hand, he assiduously examined the "Water" window, making sure that each detail, down to the tiny conch shells surrounding the tiny pedestal where the tiny felt-hat salior stood holding an even tinier flag...were all in their place.

"Air" features a life-size golden elephant covered in jewels from trunk to toe flying through the air with an empress sitting effetely on his back. Though perhaps the least "busy" in the sense that there aren't too many things going on around it, this window seems to get the most attention.

True to its name, "Light" makes anything that Diana Ross wears look like baked potato. Thousands and thousands of circular mirrors reflect the glamour of the red-headed woman seated, legs crossed, before a sparkling 1930's microphone. Though it does have its fair share of critters and small quirks, including a large gold hanging grasshopper that dangles just above the mic, this window is the least imaginative.

Being an Aries, I was excited to see what Bergdorf would do with "Fire." Perhaps by the time I got to this window I had been so barraged with sparkle that it ceased to impress me, but I was not a fan of this window. The dominance of gold made it feel like what I imagine to be the lobby of a 7 story hotel in Dubai. The mannequin's wig, shaped like a Chinese character, is pretty impressive, but otherwise there is nothing worth standing in the cold for.

"Earth," by contrast, is much more refreshing with its palette of poland spring green and pristine white. There is also plenty to look at -- a towering white giraffe with beautiful green, chartreuse, and pink designs painted on it, an oversized snail, a pair of festive monkeys, grasshoppers, and even a poodle.

This window wasn't part of the elements, but I think the parasol-shaped wig is splendid:

I've made a short musical photo show to feature the windows, but unfortunately, quicktime and youtube have really messed with the quality and timing, so I won't include it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Counterfeit Mannequins

Rootstein mannequins can be found anywhere from the affordable and fashion-forward H&M and Zara, to the slightly pricier Anne Taylor and Ralph Lauren, to the decidedly high-end Chanel, Escada, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Barney’s, and Miss Selfridge’s. Many are also sold and resold on ebay (most often in entirety, but sometimes in bits – stray hands, a set of legs, an arm), because their quality and design render make them timeless display fixtures and desirable collectibles. Just type Rootstein into the ebay search bar and you'll be sure to find a few for sale. Pat Marino of the Rootstein factory in Brooklyn actually told me that many vendors say Rootstein in their sales description, even when the mannequins are made by a different company so that they can sell them at a higher price and attract more buyers.

The clothing chain, Forever 21 is notorious for ripping their clothing stylesfrom luxury designers, but did you know that even many of their mannequins are counterfeit? Peek into their Union Square store(right next to Whole Foods) and you'll see their Rootstein knockoffs.

No respect for original design!

Holiday Windows at Macy's, Lord and Taylor, and Saks 5th Avenue

Spaeth Designs Inc is the company that designs and builds the sets for holiday windows at each of these landmark establishements. The snowpeople at Saks, the Miracle on 34th Street of Macy's, and the Tastes and Aromas of Christmas at Lord and Taylor -- all of these are the creative work of Spaeth's 50+ person team.

Located on 57th street and 10th Ave, it's Christmastime all year long at Spaeth's showroom/workshop. As early as March before the next Christmas, visionary window architects are already teaming up with the creative directors of each department store and trying to decide on a theme for the season.

An insider at Spaeth confesses that the window specialists and creative directors spend a lot of time discussing, sometimes fighting over what will be featured in the displays. Because Spaeth carries three major department stores that despite being all owned by the still company (Federated), are still in competition, the employees must also be careful to ensure that the ideas of each aren't too similar.

"We spend a lot of time covering and draping things," said the Spaeth insider, "When the creative team from Macy's comes in we have to scramble and cover up our designs for Lord and Taylor," etc.

The windows are designed as if they were homes or buildings -- a small architectural model is made of each, and once the creative team from the store approves, the actual sets can be built. All sets, dolls, toys, and accessories are made by Spaeth, which contains a HUGE animation and props department to be able to satisfy the demand. Everything from ribbons, bows and tassels to mini pianos, puppies, and tea cups figure into their repertoire.

Do the Spaeth window designers get sick of the holidays by the time they roll around? "No!" Says the Spaeth insider....just like everyone else, he strolls the avenues to admire the windows and loves to show off the many intricacies of his work to his friends and family.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Steel Drums at Saks

The holiday windows at Saks set to a bit of a different tune -- music by Curtis G, a steel drum musician that plays in front of Saks 5th Ave.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Barbie Comes to Patricia Fields

In honor of the Barbie-inspired clothing line that Pat Fields has just debuted for Mattel, the store's windows have become a bubblegum pink bonanza.

The Barbie line is available exclusively at Macy's and Hot Topic.

See my October entry on Patricia Fields for a context to these windows.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mannequins are controversial objects!

Some people fall in love with them.

Some people are scared of them.

And there are some people they should be scared of!