Category: Lifestyle

Paris Hilton Said She Invented the Selfie. We Set Out to Find the Truth.


He pointed toward Robert Cornelius, who in 1839 took a picture that has been cited as the first selfie. But Cornelius ran into the frame. Could it be argued that a selfie must be taken using a hand-held camera?

Sadly for Ms. Hilton, there is a photo of several gentlemen holding up a box camera in the familiar selfie position in 1920.

Even selfie sticks preceded Ms. Hilton by decades, Mr. Marino said. In a 1934 photo, Helmer and Naemi Larsson, a Swedish couple, appear to be using an actual stick to press the button on a camera above them.

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Is this 2006 picture the first selfie ever? No, it’s not. Credit Paris Hilton, via Twitter

Not great news for the heiress. But maybe she’d argue that real selfies have to include celebrities. If so, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Madonna and others got there first.

Well, could a selfie have existed before the term existed? “Selfie” came into popular usage only in 2002, about four years before Ms. Hilton and Ms. Spears posed for the pictures. Mr. Marino and I were getting closer!

Still, try as we might, we could not come up with a way to prove Ms. Hilton right.

“Could it be that they felt that there had never been a selfie quite like this before?” Mr. Marino mused. “She’s not being ahistorical — she’s saying ‘we’ did something with selfies that had not to that moment been done?”

“But yeah, it’s hard for me to tell what that is,” he said.

In conclusion, Paris Hilton did not invent the selfie. Her publicist did not answer questions about whether her tweet was serious. Ms. Spears’s publicist did not respond, either.

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Remembering Azzedine Alaïa: The Designer Who Took Time


He had been, up until the moment his heart gave out, time’s ultimate champion. He understood, more than anyone I had ever met, time’s value and importance to the creative mind. Aside from his constant quest to use clothing to make women feel more invincible and secure in their own selves, and his deep and abiding friendships, time was his greatest obsession.

Or, to be fair, the lack of time the fashion world increasingly grants its designers to explore their own ideas: to try new things and be wrong and try again before having to offer them to the world. The impossibility of being creative on a hamster wheel of a schedule that demands a sprint from collection to collection (eight a year! more! plus social media and packaging and stores and ad campaigns and so on). The inhumanity — that is how he saw it — of forcing everyone to show after show after show without time to eat, or talk, or digest the aesthetic feast arrayed before them. The way it resulted in the increasing disposability of product and people.

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Mr. Alaïa with Carla Sozzani, the founder of 10 Corso Como in Milan and a close friend of the designer’s. Credit Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe

He had made it his mission to stand against the tide; to become the lone voice to say (loudly) what others might only complain about behind closed doors; to refuse to devalue the hours needed to think and experiment and work. He set his own schedule, day by day and long into the night, and season by season. Meals started when he was ready — he had to be dragged out of the studio sometimes — and so did collections. I was not the only journalist whose relationship with Mr. Alaïa began when he stood me up for an interview and I had to reschedule.

Sometimes he would have a show the week after the season had ended and everyone had left Paris, because that’s when the clothes were ready. Sometimes it was two weeks. Sometimes it didn’t happen at all. Last July, it actually happened during the official season, and attendees leaving the previous show were so scared of missing it that they abandoned their town cars and jumped on the Métro because they feared getting stuck in traffic.

Often, late at night during the collections, after whatever guests had come for dinner had left, I would see the light on in his ateliers across the courtyard when I was up writing a review. And I would know he was bent over his sewing table, moving a seam a centimeter this way, curving it again that way, perfecting and pushing his expression of a line, all by himself in the room.

On occasion I would go back through the kitchen, down a hallway that led to the boutique, and then up the stairs on the side to his atelier, to sit in a corner and watch him work, to try to understand how he managed to get the clothes to fit the way they did and fall the way they did, so they felt so much better than anything else you could ever put on. I never quite got it, but that was part of the allure.

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A design by Mr. Alaïa, displayed in 2015 in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Credit Giorgio Onorati/European Pressphoto Agency

A dress was finished when he said it was finished (one honeycomb pattern took him, he once told me, six years to get right). This could be, to those other parts of the system — retailers and manufacturers and the keepers of the calendar and, yes, critics — deeply frustrating, but to the many designers who idolized him but did not dare step out of line, it was an inspiration. He did what they dreamed of doing.

It was very hard.

Students and young designers just starting out often say Azzedine is their role model, because he did it his way, in his time frame, but they rarely understand the self-belief and stubbornness it took, and the time he spent in the wilderness, railing against a system everyone else was celebrating, working alone. He made money — enough to take care of his employees, and live the way he wanted, and once Richemont made an investment he had security — but he could have made a lot more if he had played the game. For him, the trade-off was worth it, because you could not put a price on creative freedom, but it came at a cost. In the rush to celebrate his accomplishments, and there were many, we should not forget the sacrifice involved.

Ultimately, he did not have to kowtow to the fashion world, because the fashion world (and the art world and the literary world and the music world) came back to him. His work was so singular, they had no choice. And you could argue that only a designer of his rare talent could ever take the stand he did. But he would probably say, “How would you know? Since no one else is given the time to figure out if they have the talent, too.”

To this end, Azzedine left a last testament of sorts: “Taking Time,” a book to be published by Rizzoli next fall. A record of a series of conversations on the subject he conceived with the cultural critic and academic Donatien Grau, it includes discussions between Jean Nouvel and Claude Parent, Jean-Claude Carrière and Julian Schnabel, Isabelle Huppert and Bob Wilson, Jony Ive and Marc Newson, and Blanca Li and Rossy de Palma, among others. Plus one between Mr. Alaia and Mr. Grau, which will serve, unintentionally, as his final statement on the subject.

Also a reminder that, once the accolades stop and the impossible task of figuring out what happens next to his house is resolved, perhaps the best way to truly honor him would be not simply to wear his clothes or donate them to a museum for posterity but to pick up his baton. To raise a glass of vodka over green beans and roast chicken, and never sacrifice curiosity and exploration for expediency.

To take time.

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Mourning Alaïa: The Designer’s Friends and Collaborators React


After the news of Azzedine Alaïa’s death broke early Saturday, Instagram and Twitter flooded with tributes to the Tunisian-born designer. Below, some of the designer’s closest friends and collaborators shared their thoughts with us.

“I think one of the most memorable fashion moments I’ve ever had was seeing the wedding dress that Azzedine created for me. I didn’t know what the completed gown looked like until hours before my wedding; it was an incredible moment and the dress is a true work of art. The craftsmanship and hand-detailing are overwhelming. He was still stitching it on me moments before I walked down the aisle. Azzedine was a master because he understood the soul and the anatomy of women. I was lucky to have him as a constant presence throughout my entire career. I am forever grateful to mon papa.” — Stephanie Seymour, model

“Azzedine Alaïa believed that every woman should look and feel beautiful. And this belief was infused in every stitch of his being. His generosity goes beyond fashion. I will miss him, deeply.” — Ikram Goldman, owner of the Chicago boutique Ikram

“In my point of view, Azzedine was one of the most important designers in the world. Not just for the last 10 years. … I have too many memories, I could make two books about it. I considered him my best friend.” — Gilles Bensimon, photographer

“A long time ago, on a night when we were drinking, he told me, ‘When I am a ghost, my spirit will inhabit your body.’ And I responded, ‘But Monsieur Alaïa, I’m too small.’ We laughed and laughed. Now I regret not answering, ‘Yes, please.’ Regardless, he’s eternally in my heart. I didn’t know I could cry so many tears.” — Hideki Seo, Alaïa’s first assistant

“I am numb. I learned so much from Azzedine. And I thought he was indestructible. It’s a bit devastating to hear this news.” — Joe McKenna, a stylist who made a film about Alaïa last year

“I think Azzedine was completely uncompromising, which made his clothes so special and unique and loved by so many people. My favorite memory of him is sitting in his store with Grace Jones watching the video of the couture show — it doesn’t get much more glamorous than that. He also made my brown snakeskin wedding dress, and it was such an honor to fulfill a childhood dream of ‘Getting married in Azzedine.’” — Katie Grand, stylist and editor in chief of Love magazine

Others paid tribute on social media:

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman

Azzedine Alaïa, Fashion’s Most Independent Designer, Is Dead at 82


He dedicated his life to the belief that fashion was more than just garments, but rather an element in the empowerment of women and the broader cultural conversation.

An exhibit of his work at the Villa Borghese in Rome in 2015, where his gowns held their own among the Caravaggios and Berninis, proved he had achieved that goal.

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Styles from the Alaïa ready-to-wear collection for Spring 2014. Credit Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Born in Tunisia in 1935, Mr. Alaïa came to Paris in 1957 to work with Christian Dior, living in the “chambre de bonne” of Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers, and paying his rent by making clothes for her and babysitting her children. Word spread, and he became an inside secret of the great and good of French society; clients included the writer Louise de Vilmorin, Cécile and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, and the actress Arletty. He opened his own maison in 1979.

He introduced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980, and was heralded as “the king of cling” — though in fact his garments were much more than that: He used leather and knits to shape and support the body, transforming it into the best version of itself. Though his aesthetic fell out of fashion with the advent of deconstructed minimalism in the 1990s, Mr. Alaïa never allowed himself to be distracted by the trends of others, and by the year 2000, acolytes began returning to his atelier on Rue de Moussy in the Fourth Arrondissement, the complex of buildings where he lived, worked and cooked.

In 2007, Compagnie Financière Richemont bought a majority stake in the business, allowing it to expand at its own pace: A perfume was introduced, store expansion planned and by last year Mr. Alaïa had more than 300 points of sale globally. Beyond the runway, he created work for the ballet and the opera, began holding art exhibitions in 2004 in the space that also houses his showroom (regular programming began in 2015 with an exhibition by the Syrian poet Adonis), and was planning a bookstore.

Mr. Alaïa returned to the couture calendar in July after six years, and in the audience were Jack Lang, the former French minister of culture; Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, former first lady of France (and one-time Alaïa model); Isabelle Huppert, the actor; Marc Newson, the industrial designer; and Fabrice Hergott, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. He had become the equivalent of a national treasure, and everyone was there to honor him.

He is survived by his nieces and nephews; his partner, the painter Christoph von Weyhe; his closest collaborator, Carla Sozzani, and all those who worked with him.

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Confirm or Deny: Anne Wojcicki


No, I liked all the crazy. He also had spring shoes, shoes with a spring in the back of them for people with back problems. He wore them a lot. Sergey’s amazingly creative. I mean, that’s the fun of him. The stuff that comes out of his mouth sometimes is just extraordinary. He really genuinely sees the world in a different way. He’s also not worried about what people think of him.

There is too much capital chasing only a handful of good ideas.

I think there’s a lot of capital chasing other capital.

Regulators should leave Silicon Valley alone.

No. I think there’s a balance.

You spend more money on Goop than on Amazon.

Oh, I live on Amazon. I’m buying something right now.

If you had been invited to the tech conference to meet President-elect Trump at Trump Tower, you would have gone.

I’m trying to stay out of politics right now.

If you are not genetically a morning person, you can never change that.

I think you can train your body. I did.

You want to know how you’re going to die.

I would like to know when. And then I could plan.

Read more from Maureen Dowd’s interview with Anne Wojcicki here.

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