Neil Tennant is sitting in the Wolseley a day before he and Chris Lowe go west, flying from London to San Francisco to prepare for Pet Shop Boys’ headlining performance on Saturday night at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival. “Is it Coach-ella or Co-a-chella?” Tennant wonders. He’ll find out soon enough. Beforehand, PSB are shaking off six months of rust—they finished the most recent leg of their Electric world tour in Mexico last October—with warm-ups this week in Oakland and Ventura, California. And there’s been a bit of fine-tuning. “We could feel the audience getting a bit shifty in their seats mid-show with the new songs,” says Tennant. So he’s promising “a traffic jam of hits” on Saturday night.
It’s been a staggering thirty years since the very first, “West End Girls.” Over time, that song has become the kind of classic to which all forms of human life have met and mated (Tennant and Lowe are always being reminded of that fact by the ardent fans who pay extra for a pre-show meet and greet). Chart-meister Pharrell Williams confessed to Tennant in Toronto recently that he wished it was his song. On Saturday night, Pharrell finishes his set at the Outdoor Theatre just as PSB walk out onto the Mojave Stage, so he’ll make their gig in time to hear the song he wished he’d written irresistibly elided with a new number, the EDM-ish raver “Fluorescent.” That’s a killer one-two that should shake the starry, starry night over the California desert. It’ll also be a measure of the way Lowe and Tennant constantly revise and refresh their material. “Traffic jam of hits” or not, I’ve never seen a show of theirs which left me feeling like I was listening to a mere run-through of old faves (even though there are dozens of them). The sound is always evolving and so is the masterful showmanship. Pet Shop Boys’ only real peer is Kraftwerk, with whom they are coincidentally co-headlining Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina, in a few weeks.
Tennant agrees it’s a challenge translating their intelligent spectacle to a festival setting: “It’s a bit more nerve-racking because it’s not your audience. You’ve really got to fight.” He remembers one rock festival in northern Spain where the audience was particularly ill-disposed to PSB’s brand of pop music. “But we followed Beck, and we were saved, in my opinion, from being canned off stage because Beck stood at the side of the stage throughout our performance dancing and singing along with his bass player, and the audience thought, Who are we to disagree? As Monica Lewinsky once said to me, ‘Oh, I know who you are. I grew up in Los Angeles in the eighties.’ So did Beck.
“That’s the funny thing about festivals,” Tennant continues. “You’re always following someone like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” Or being followed by them—you have to feel for Bryan Ferry on Friday night, who is lead-in to the hoary goth metal of The Cult. And on Saturday night? “I’m sure it will be someone much more appropriate,” Tennant says confidently. Actually, Neil, you’re following Mogwai. If PSB are purest art pop, Mogwai has always been regarded by its devotees as the apogee of art rock. Maybe that means they’ll appreciate the jackets Jeffrey Bryant has sculpted for Tennant and Lowe from 3,000 drinking straws. At the very least, I’ll be looking for selfies of the Mogsters discoing wildly in the wings while the Pets woo the dancing hordes with their sparkliest manifesto, “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct.”
Tennant’s wracked nerves aside, PSB actually have brilliant form at the most famous festival in the world. I’m talking about Glastonbury, where, on another Saturday night in 2010, PSB were playing on something called the Other Stage while Muse headlined the Pyramid Stage. “The night before, when the Flaming Lips were playing the Other Stage, Chris went to see them and there were just a few thousand people, so we were reconciled to the fact that no one would come to see us. When we got there the next day, our production manager said the actual physical space for the audience in front of the stage was already full. In the end, 50,000 people watched us, the same number that watched Muse. It was absolutely one of the best experiences,” remembers Tennant. So perhaps it’s a promising coincidence that Saturday brings a rematch: Muse is playing on the Coachella Stage at the exact same time Pet Shop Boys take to the Mojave.
Now Tennant must leave to pack his giant-size Tumi for tomorrow’s trip, but there’s one pressing item before he goes. Monica…ahem…Lewinsky? “We met at Ian McKellen’s 50th birthday party. She looked iconic, like a walking Andy Warhol screen print. Liz Taylor, perhaps.” The history of the Pet Shop Boys is crammed with hundreds of similar stories. Can’t wait to see what Coachella adds to the almanac.
As the fashion industry grows increasingly reliant on digital platforms and social media, the Internet is becoming more fashion-savvy. Case in point: Yahoo’s appointment of Bobbi Brown as editor in chief of its online beauty magazine—the latest in a series of high-profile hires (including Katie Couric and Matt Bai) targeted at ramping up Yahoo’s original news and lifestyle content.
Reportedly, Yahoo will make several other related announcements later this week. No doubt Yahoo president and CEO Marissa Mayer has been involved in this shift of focus. Recruiting Brown, however, has brought about necessary examination of the journalistic ethics involved here. Will Yahoo place restrictions on Brown promoting her own products? While that matter has yet to be determined, it’s safe to say that the line between editorial and advertising will only get blurrier.
Yahoo isn’t the only Web titan campaigning for a well-heeled audience. Amazon has been raising its fashion profile by offering a more high-end designer selection (not to mention curating its style site like a magazine). Intel is doing a “smart bracelet” in collaboration with Opening Ceremony. Meanwhile, Apple has a buzzy (and very expensive) iWatch far into development, in addition to championing the new ASAP54 app, which is like “Shazam for fashion.” The format looks a lot like Instagram, with users posting inspirational pictures to their feed, which a team of stylists reinterprets, and then makes related shoppable suggestions. So it seems Yahoo’s move is just further proof that Fashion and Tech have reached the next level in their promising relationship.
Stylist Leith Clark is one of the busiest women in the business—and with the launch of her new fashion magazine, Violet, she just got a whole lot busier. Clark’s credentials are impressive. She’s the founder of Lula Magazine; the style director at large for Harper’s Bazaar U.K.; Keira Knightley’s red-carpet stylist; and a brand consultant for the likes of Honor, Orla Kiely, and Michael van der Ham. Tomorrow, with the launch of the new biannual publication, she’ll add EIC to her résumé. Violet is a labor of love she started alongside her friend Luella Bartley, the new design director for Marc by Marc Jacobs.
“I started talking and brainstorming with Luella,” says Clark, “and slowly, it felt like time for me to do this.” Despite the digital-crazed, online world that fashion is moving toward, Clark argues print still has its place. “Print is not dead for me, no way. Magazines just need to be special and booklike—and Violet is
booklike. I would never read a book on a screen.”
With her heavy involvement in the business, Clark is constantly surrounded by talent, and it seems she’s managed to lasso some of the best for the new venture. Bartlett has been deputized, while other masthead notables include Amanda de Cadenet, Stephanie LaCava, Clémence Poésy, Zoe Kazan, and Valentine Fillol-Cordier. Brit Marling covers the first issue, shot and interviewed by de Cadenet, but Clark is leaving a bit of mystery as to the feel of the whole thing. “It’s difficult for me to explain Violet in a few short sentences,” she says. “Especially when I want everyone who reads it to decide what it is to them. That’s better than me telling them how to feel.”
So where does the name Violet come from? “I called it Violet for a lot of reasons,” Clark says. “Namely because it’s a strong word, my favorite scent, my favorite Hole song, my goddaughter’s name, and also the name of my mysterious great-aunt who I only met once—she wore a kimono and pink lipstick and had naturally shiny silver hair. I was very little and she made quite an impression on me.” Let’s see what kind of impression Violet can make on the rest of us.
Last Saturday, Guillaume Houzé, the contemporary art champion and an heir to the Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette, hosted the first installment of a program called Lafayette Anticipation. Held in a partially renovated, four-floor 19th-century industrial building in the Marais (the future site of an art and design foundation created by Galeries Lafayette), Houzé turned the space over to Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, founder of the review Vestoj, for a storytelling salon.
Guests filled intimate spaces to hear tales from fashion notables, including Michele Lamy, who wistfully recounted a beloved “ghost” dress, once lent and never recovered (or replicated). Simon Costin, wearing a phenomenal folkloric “museum in a hat” by Stephen Jones, recounted the symbolism of each decorative flourish and its tie to the Museum of British Folklore he is currently planning.
But it was Jean-Charles de Castelbajac who brought down the house with the tale of dressing crowds, 5,500 clergy, and even Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day in 1997. Noting that his Lesage-embroidered chasuble is now on permanent display next to the Crown of Thorns in the Notre Dame cathedral treasury, Castelbajac quipped, “I’ve never been in many hip stores, but I have the best window in the world!”
Cronberg, who has just released the fourth issue of her publication, on Fashion and Power, harkened back to her very first issue for this event. “I wanted to explore the relationship between garments and identity—why we wear what we wear and when,” she explained.
At the luncheon that followed, Houzé allowed that further fashion projects were in the pipeline for later this year. Cronberg says she has no plans to replicate the event (yet). But, she said, “I’m just hoping that people will open their closet and really think about what they have. We all have so much stuff!”
Adult is a triannual magazine cofounded and edited by Sarah Nicole Prickett that focuses on “contemporary erotics and experiences.” It publishes a diverse range of photography, art, essays, and original reporting that casts a decidedly female perspective on sex. The magazine just launched its daily editorial website that will operate separately from the printed piece. “Mornings After” is just one of the cool features on the new, well-designed site. It gives us a window into creatives’ morning thoughts and habits with dreamy, intimate photos of the person actually waking up in bed and candid interviews. Not a bad way to start the day.