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Photojournalism Workshops


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  • Zoriah's photography has appeared in the following publications:
    Newsweek • The New York Times • CNN • Fortune • The Wall Street Journal • BBC News • The United States Library of Congress • NPR • Focus • ABC News • NBC • CBS • The United Nations • Paris Match •  Democracy Now •  NWK • GQ • Elle • Cosmopolitan • The New York Globe • UNICEF • The Guardian • Marketplace • The International Herald Tribune • Liberation • Europe Business Week •  The Huffington Post •  Michael Moore • PBS • Now • Penguin Publishing • The Copenhagen Star • The San Francisco Chronicle • World Economist • Shanghai Chronicle • World News Network • Newsweek Japan • Newsweek Arabic • Focus • Warner Brothers • Universal Studios • Beijing Globe • Cafe •  Publico • Fox News • Conde Nast • On The Media OTM • Penguin Books • L’Express • Grands Reportage • Suddeutsche Zeitung • L’illustre • Atlantico •  The Boston Review • The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) • Index on Censorship • BAGnewsNotes • American Medical News • Politikken • IPTV Mexico • Choc • Grazia Neri • Televizer • Aktueel • Knack • S.P.A. • Trends • Deng • Vi Menn • Capital • Roul Medica • Welt• L’Actualite • Cine Revu • Le Vif • L’Express • REA • Laif • Tendancess Trends • Cordon • Van Parys • Morepraxis • Fellowship of Reconciliation • AMSCO • Pearson • The Accept Foundation • Peacemaking Korea • India Trade News • Denmark Inc • World News • Columbia Globe • India Femina • Beijing Media • China Political • Business Stockholm • Business Daily • Europe Daily • Elle Taiwan • Oregon Examiner • Yangtze News • Offshore Investment News • WN Education • China News Agency • Education Chronicle • Situation • NYK Inc • US Jobs Market • Maritime Shanghai • Mercantile Europe • Elle New York • Securities Regulator • News Wire China • Oregon Examiner • Beijing Woman • Radio TV India • SEACOR • Lanka FM • Ohio Business News • Yangtze News • Estonia Observer • China Business Daily • Denmark FM • Female Asian • China Europe Business • North America Business • China Business TV • Dublin Markets • Business Delaware • Dhaka Business • New York Telemedia • Dublin Media • Securities Regulator • Business TV • Ningbo Times • General Motors GM • Political India • New York Hello • Virginia Inc • Transport Post • Automaker USA • Madras • Elle Thailand • HK Banking • Asia Confidential • Elle Mexico • Elle Japan • World Exploitation • Pennsylvania Inc • Global Auto Maker • Business Daily • Long Island Report • Finland Inc • NY Business • Toledo Globe • Oklahoma Tonight • Business Jamaica • USA Business Week • USA Financial Center • Business Daily • United States CEO • Tamil Nadu Business News • Ohio Inc • Jiangsu Post • Shanghai Financier • Hainan Daily • Maritime Shanghi • London Business News • North Carolina Inc • Club Asia • Harbor Work • China Business Journal • America Business Daily • Business Mumbai • L’Actualite • Situation • Money Talk UK • KWPN • Edinburgh Business • Business TV • World Photos • TV Andhra • USA Cable Business • G•Photo World News • Caritas Pordenone • Indian Rich List • Planet Telex • ICP  • Shumpu Press • Radio There • The Humanitarian Journal •TV Girls •  Story Culture   Krishnamurti Foundations  • KCFR Radio • The Metropolitan • The Washington Park Profile • Photography in the Fine Arts Quarterly - PFA • China Foto • AOP • Arch Digest • Profimedia CZ •The Click • Think Progress • Brave New Films • Photo News Today • Photo District News PDN • Turkish Weekly • Indy Media Ireland • Inter Press Service IPS • REA • Vanpar • Laif • Contra • Mondia • Cinerev • VIF • Ovation TV • Global Voices for Justice • ArgusFest • Labor Against War • MWC News • Nanfan Daily • Public Radio International PRI • WSWS • The Visual Conscience • Radio Canada • Eyes Fall Open • United Nations Development Programme UNDP • Young People We Care YPWC  • CNNI • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Magazine • VSD • On The Media • Spiegel • IEEE Spectrum Magazine • The CW • Pilgrim Films • Pilgrim Extreme • Newton • TLMD • Cosmos •  Al Rojo Vivo • Telemundo • Media Rights • Capital MRC • In Harms Way  •  New Internationalist Magazine  • Eyes Fall Open • PC •  Beeldzorg/Herman Hubrechts Design  •  DR Perspektiv • TVbyGirls  •  Barbara Wiener (Ida’s Story) • The Peace Jam Organization • The Veteran’s Project,  PhotoNetCast • Royal Danish School of Journalism • Peacereporter • OSE Institute •Michigan State University (MSU) • American Weapon (film) • ABC CLIO • History and the Headlines • Conclave:  A Journal of Character • SPQR Street Art • Good People, • Morning Star Features • The Vigil • Cox Channel 18 • Peace Train • OC Peace Coalition • Returning Veterans Resource Project • Art of War • Ovation TV • FreeDetainees • Truth.org • World Socialist • UNDP • Young People We Care YPWC • La Derniere Heure Les Sports • French Magazine VSD • RTTV • Fair • Extra • Peace Channel TV • La Dernière Heure Les Sports • Global Voices for Justice • FAIR/Extra! • The Rachel Corrie Foundation • The Evergreen State College • Massachusetts School of Law • The Mainichi Newspapers Company • Mainichi Shimbun • Educational Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) • Thirteen.org • Women War and Peace • Public Broadcasting System (PBS) • Radical Livros • Aktuel Sweden • Swedish Radio • The History Channel • Cindy Sheehan • Third Day Dawning • Muslim Aid • The Canadian University of Ottawa • Education and Sustainability Magazine • Finisterrae Magazine • Spyglass • Women and Gender Studies Institute • University of Toronto • Discover Magazine • PressTV • Sherwood Ross Associates • World Tour Destinations • Photographer Magazine • Ovideo TV • Fundacio la Caixa • Publico • Princeton University • Small Arms Survey • Press TV • Children of Palestine Show •  Boston University School of Public Health • Movement • PHOTO • DunnThe Signtologist • Moments • Harlow College • Stealworks Design/John Yates Design • Demotix • The Movement Magazine • Pluto Press • Coastal Traveler • One Click One Pic • Revolution Newspaper • Newsstand New Delhi • Laboratory • Arquitectura 21 • Be Profit • La Baiser Sale • Street Magazine Ukraine • Merritt Maddness • University of North Dakota • Wide Angle • WNET New York • Radical Livros • The Sunni-Shia Conflict • DePaul University • Iraq Memorial to Life • Coffee Strong • Nichterschienen • Q2A Media • Conspire Magazine • Conflict ZoneThe Film • Scientific Learning • Creed Interactive • Studio Angantyr • Digital SLR Photography Magazine • Ungvanster • World of Wonder • Socialist Union of Youth in Slovakia • Cordey Design Co • Avant Garde Life • Atelier Obscura • Rochester Institute of Technology • Left Bank Pictures • Strike Back • Badil Resource Center for Residency and Refugee Rights • Marywood University • Mans Unides • Salford University UK • CUNY Graduate School of Journalism • University of Miami Graduate School of Journalism • Trigger Happy Productions GmbH • Pilgrims • Global Humanitarian Forum • Vision Awards •  Why Palestine • Zoe D'Amato • Newscom • Freitag Berlin • Finis Terrae • Daily Kos • Arabawy • New Hampshire Public Radio • Andalus • TWS • Core Concepts • 54 Kol • Allvoices • The Corner Report • Informaworld • Firedoglake • Uncertain Times • Baboon Films • Nova Africa • La Figa • The San Francisco Chronicle • Snippits and Snappits • Verse and Melodie • Inanimate Existence • Intravenous Design • Twine • Architectural Design Journal •University of Design Sydney  • Cause + Art • OS Distribution • Carrot Clothing • Traditional Dwellings and Settlement Review • UC Berkley •  Global Oneness Project • Images Without Borders • Doctors Without Borders • Aferrismoon • Artview Magazine • Kiss Art • Viriato(film) • Al-Andalus Ensamble • Pana Films • Valley of The Wolves Palestine(film) • Tim Weaver/David Raker • Dominate (film) • L'Absente (film) • A Picture of War (film) • Flores del Fango • PetaPixel • EuroNews • A Picture of War (film) • Elite Model Management • Marilyn Models • Silent Models • The StateUniversity of New York • Tonic • PFC Eastern Cape Co • OpEdNews •The Jewish Journal • Europe 1 • Tipete • A Charts • The United Nationas (UN) • The International Red Cross amd Red Crescent Society • Doctors Without Borders • The International Criminal Court • International Medical Corps • The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) • Unicef • United Nations Development Program (UNDP) • The International Rescue Committee • Muslim Aid • The Elton John Center • Sihanouk Hospital • Accept Foundation • Index on Censorship • The Rachel Corrie Foundation • SH Chronic Care Facility • Morepraxis • Word Aids Day • Project Angel Heart • Chouk Sar Cambbodia • Sunrise Children’s Village • Prea Yesu Children’s Home • Pagoda Care • Little Sprouts • The Okinawa Reef Foundation • Fellowship Of Reconcilliation • Tsunami Relief • International Carnival of Pozitivities • Iraq Veterans Against War • Winter Soldier • Images of Resistance • The Palestine Chronicle • The Humanitarian Journal • Story Culture • Another Mother For Peace • ArgusFest • Global Voices for Justice • Healing Combat Trauma • U.S. Labor Against War • Eyes Fall Open • OSE Institute • Peacereporter • The Veteran’s Project • The Peace Jam Organization • Roul Medica • Mondo Library • Peacemaking Korea • Education Chronicle • ICP • Krishnamurti Foundations • Young People We Care (YPWC) • Media Rights • Barbara Wiener (Ida’s Story) •Returning Veterans Resource Project • FreeDetaiees • Archetypal Assoc • Good People • Peace Train • OC Peace Coalition • Ovation TV • Truth.org, World Socialist • Peace Channel TV • PhotoPhilanthropy • Women and Gender Studies Institute • Education and Sustainability Magazine • Women War and Peace• Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Magazine • PhotoPhilanthropy • Fundacio la Caixa • Small Arms Survey • Boston University School of Public Health • Movement • Iraq Memorial to Life • Coffee Strong • Badil Resource Center for Residency and Refugee Rights • Mans Unides • Global Humanitarian Forum • Vision Awards • Global Oneness Project • Images Without Borders • Gaza Awareness Week • Ambassadors for Sustained Health • Hospice Saint Joseph Haiti •International Medical Corps • Littlest Angels Orphanage Haiti • One Plus One • Hatua International • Eleven59 •The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians • Elsevier • The Better Gulf Organization • Avax Home • Mastercraft Safety • Uiversal Records • Rolling Stone Magazine • Warner Brothers Music • Virgin • Glamour Magazine • Mercury Records • Elle Magazine • Paris Match •  Cosmopolitan •  Mark Knopfler • Yeal Naim • Twentieth Century Fox  •  Penguin Publishing  •  David Donatien • CBS Television • GQ Magazine • Public Broadcasting System • Guillaume Perret • Tagada • Tugba Ukinci • Brave New Films • Morning Star Features • Pilgrim Films • The CW Network • Pilgrim Extreme • Eyes Fall Open • Universal Studios • The History Channel • Liquid Blue Inc • Conflict Zone The Film • Left Bank Pictures • Strike Back • Jamla Records • Trigger Happy Productions GmbH • Liquid Blue Band • Al-Andalus Ensamble • Celtic Sunrise • Billboard Magazine • Virgin Radion • Le Parisien • Pop Matters • Caesars Atlantic City • Direct Soir • Sensible Events • Royal Albert Hall • Mass Live • Mc2 Grenoble • What It Is • RumBum  • Irish Times • Net Planet, MLK • 06 Live • DigiTick • Zona Rock • Pik • Last • Larep • Seattle Weekly • Nartube • The Spaghetti Incident • The Sound • Sickplaylist • Live Nation • Jams Bio • Gerlant • The Daily • Nord Eclair • Europe 1  • Tunisie 24 • Tot Room Recordings  •2k • Digital Spy  • Music  • Freezec • Hellocoton France • The One Event • Pleaz • Music Story • Musique Ados • Alliance France  • Wikio • La Voix Des Sports •Orange Telecom • CityVox• Aufeminin • Le Fil • Starzik • Pure People • GreatSong • Lechorepublicain • Evous • CityVox  •  Au Fait • NRJ France Maroc • Museke • Charts in France • Fnac • Orange Telecom • Le Fil • I love Music Japan • Vasiliska • Pacific 2.1 Entertainment Group • Homeland tv • UltraTop • A Charts • Rennes Maville • Cultura • Andre Palais • Cherie FM •Sob o ceu de Paris • Rock n France • RFI • PurePeople • 8012 • Israbox • Padnova • RocknFrance • Europe 1 • Plixid • Mikki Says • Telemoustique • Idoles Mag • Notulus • Maville • RF Musique • Lavoix du Nord • Impactus • Music Zine • Concertive • Close Events • Alvinet • Elle Adore • Chorus 92 • Waxx Music • Laspikedelycmusic • Song Fox • Tunes Pro • Idoles Mag • CoVo Records • Notulus •  Book123 •  A Charts • Avax Home •  Music Zine •  Camus • JPC • Rock Report • AlbumCheck • LeProgres • Ander Palais • Dafina • News de Stars • Lavoix du Nord • Sneak Attack Media • Culture Club • Stars are Underground •  Klatsch Tratsch • Artist Area • NWZ Inside • CD Starts •  Bizarre Radio • Mykritik • 

SADR CITY


Lectures

  • Public Presentations and Lectures
    Zoriah has begun to devote a portion of each year to lecturing and presenting to universities, institutions and at political events. For universities, a typical itinerary consists of two days of presentations to multiple departments followed by a public, multi-departmental lecture. The presentations can be tailored in length and subject matter to each department and the multidepartmental lecture currently consist of a thirty minute slideshow showcasing recent work from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, the Asian Earthquake and the Tsunami. The lecture touches on many subjects including the art of visual storytelling, the current state of the media and my own thoughts on documenting life in conflict. Lectures can be tailored to the need of each individual organization, university or event.

Support Independent Journalism

  • DONATE!
    Each photo story that I bring to the world costs literally thousands of dollars to produce. While transportation to and from remote locations eats up the majority of my budget, I must also pay for food, accommodation, insurance and equipment such as body armor, cameras, lenses, photo storage and equipment maintenance costs. - These photo stories depend on your support and funding. Without your donations these projects will live only in my dreams and not in reality, where the world can see them and be affected by them. If you enjoy seeing this work and believe in supporting truly independent photojournalism, please support it. - The power of the still image to teach, affect and inspire change is truly amazing and people like you make it all possible. Every dollar counts! - You can choose to make a one time donation, or set up recurring monthly payments. If you have not considered recurring monthly payments, these are a great way to fund ongoing projects without putting a strain on your pocketbook. - Because documentary photography is my full time job, recurring payments provide a much needed monthly income and let me focus on the issues that are truly important, intead of what subjects will sell to the corporate media. - - Secure donations can be made below with PayPal. If you are not comfortable with online payments, please contact us for an address to mail a money order or cashiers check to

A RETURN TO BAGHDAD ER


Available Workshops: Location Tailored to Interest

  • Mexico:
    Fossil Fuel Impact. Document car culture and its effects on the environment in one of the worlds most polluted cites, Mexico City.
  • Israel and Palestine:
    Compare and contrast life in Jerusalem and life in the West Bank city or Ramallah.
  • Indonesia:
    Child Drug Addicts. Photograph the lives of children addicted to inhalants.
  • Morocco:
    Travel Photography. Travel from Cassablanca to Marakesh and produce a travel related photo series.
  • Honduras:
    Travel and Underwater Photography. Students produce a travel story with two to five days being underwater photography instruction by Zoriah and the master divers at Ocean Connections PADI Dive Shop. *students without a scuba diving license will complete a three day licensing course durning the beginning of the workshop.
  • Laos:
    Shoestring Travel. Students travel through Laos and produce a story geared to budget minded travelers and backpackers - Brazil: Amazonian Deforestation. Work in the Amazon Basin documenting the environmental impact of clear cutting.
  • Japan:
    Technology and The Modern World. Explore the role of technology in our lives in one of the most advanced cities on planet earth. *Japan workshops have higher tuitions and higher living costs.
  • Turkey:
    The New Face of The Refugee Crisis. Live in an urban jungle pupulated by refugees from around the world while documenting their lives...and your own.
  • Philippines:
    Poverty's Environmental Impact: Work in urban slums to show the impact of poverty on the ocean and environment.
  • Lebanon:
    Palestinian Refugees. Spend time photographing the lives of Palestinian refugees living in camps around the country.
  • Nicaraqua:
    Shanty Towns. Documenting life in extreme poverty.
  • China:
    Modernizing an Ancient Culture. Document how modernization and progress effect an ancient culture in the amazing city of Shanghai.
  • India:
    Beggars life. Spend one week documenting the life of homeless or "untouchable" man or woman.
  • Pakistan and Kashmir:
    Working in Extreme Conditions. This workshop is designed to give higher-level students a chance to experience work under adverse conditions.
  • Vietnam
    Comparing urban and rural poverty. Students spend half the workshop photographing in Saigon and the other half in Chau Doc or another small village.
  • Cambodia
    AIDS Orphans - live in an orphanage and document the lives of one or more children.

Biography

  • Zoriah is an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been featured in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries, museums and publications. Zoriah's clients have included The BBC, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, ABC News, NPR, Focus and many others. With a background in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Aid, Zoriah specializes in documenting human crises in developing countries. His vitae not only lists photographic achievements and study, but also the in-depth training and experience necessary for working under extreme conditions in some of the world's harshest environments
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Rights and Usage

  • Images and text from this blog may be republished online in blogs as long as full credit is given. A link to http://www.zoriah.com must be given as well as a credit line under each image reading "© zoriah/www.zoriah.com" The owner holds all original copyright and licenses. Republishing rights for bloggers only, companies, organizations, NGO's and similar must first obtain permission before republishing. Contact www.zoriah.com/contact for more information or email info at zoriah dot com.

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« Ethiopia - Poverty and Famine | Main | The Smog and Pollution Choked Streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia »

November 10, 2009

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Lauren Conrad has gone green. The reality TV star-turned-designer collaborated with BlueAvocado, a sustainable lifestyle product brand, to debut a line of eco-friendly travel accessories woven exclusively from recycled plastic fibers. (Refinery29)锘?p>Thieves in Richmond, B.C., made off with tens of thousands of dollars worth of Herm猫s handbags after talking their way into a woman's home by posing as insurance investigators. RCMP say the woman was tied up by four men who made off with seven Herm猫s purses and handbags worth at least $5,000 to $15,000 each, plus several other high-end brands. One of the bags appears to have been a coveted Birkin bag, which can be worth from $9,000 to $100,000 each, depending on the materials they are made from. Cpl. Sherrdean Turley said she was surprised to learn the value of the handbags. "I have to admit I'm not a huge purse person, so I was quite shocked at the value of these purses," she said. The incident began around 1:30 p.m. PT on June 26 when two men 鈥?one Asian and one South Asian 鈥?knocked on the door of the woman's home on the 7000 block of Petts Road and told her they wanted to talk to her about an insurance claim involving the vehicle in her driveway. "After talking for several minutes, the males were invited into the female鈥檚 home to continue their conversation. It was at this point that the two males overpowered the female, bound her and assaulted her," said Turley. Two more men 鈥?one Asian and one of unknown ethnicity 鈥?then entered the residence to help the first two suspects loot the victim's house for her handbags and purses. Turley says the suspects are between 20 and 25 years old, and were seen in a silver or charcoal-coloured SUV.锘?p>LONDON The $5.6 billion legal clash between Russian oligarchs Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich offered a rare window into the lives of the fabulously wealthy. With judge Elizabeth Gloster ruling Friday in Abramovich's favor, let's look back at 10 things we learned during the testimony:___OLIGARCHS DON'T PUT ANYTHING IN WRITING.Gloster pointed out that almost all aspects of the alleged agreements between Berezovsky and Abramovich were in dispute, largely because many of the alleged deals were made orally. No one even took notes.Abramovich said the cloud this created was partly intentional: He claimed that for a time, he went along with the fiction that Berezovsky owned part of Abramovich's oil company, Sibneft, because Berezovsky's political capital helped protect the business.___AN OFFICE IS NO PLACE TO MEET.Even when they were doing business, the two men rarely met in conventional places of business. Their meetings took place at all sorts of exotic and exclusive sites: Berezovsky's club in Moscow; on the Riviera; in the French Alps; at the Dorchester Hotel in London; in private planes and super-yachts; and at various heliports and airports.___OLIGARCHS DON'T NEED TO DRESS UP.In one of the trial's most colorful scenes, Abramovich said Berezovsky kept his fellow tycoons waiting for an hour at a high-stakes meeting in 2000 at London's Dorchester Hotel, and when he finally showed up he was wearing a dressing gown and looking disheveled. Berezovsky, who did not confirm his wardrobe choice, claimed that the description was an attempt to smear him and paint him as a Godfather-like mafia figure.___A MILLION DOLLARS IS NOTHING.Abramovich said Berezovsky was down to his last $1 million when he fled from Russia in 2000."He would not have lived long on that," Abramovich testified.___WITNESSES ARE MORE EFFECTIVE WHEN THEY HAVE AN INCENTIVE.Berezovsky admitted in court that he had promised two potential witnesses 1 percent shares of his judgment potentially tens of millions of dollars if he won his case.___AN OLIGARCH IS MOST VULNERABLE WHEN SHOPPING.It wasn't easy for Berezovsky to serve notice that he intended to sue Abramovich. He told The Associated Press that he carried the legal papers in his car for six months while he tried to track Abramovich down, once making a trip 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of London."I even flew to Manchester to a game between Manchester United and Chelsea, but he was with 20 bodyguards. It was impossible to give him papers," Berezovsky said at the time.Berezovsky finally got his chance on London's swank Sloane Square, when he spotted Abramovich shopping in a Hermes boutique. Berezovsky walked in, to the horror of Abramovich's security detail, and served him.___EVERY HOUSE NEEDS A ROOF.The Russian word most bandied about during the trial was "krysha," which means roof. It also means political patronage that blurred the line between business, politics and shady mafia dealings.Abramovich testified that in the 1990s, it was impossible for anyone to build up a major business without the help of someone with business and political connections. That someone was Berezovsky, who he claimed demanded millions of dollars in return for protection.From yachts to French vacation homes to girlfriends' bills, Abramovich testified that there was nothing he didn't pay for to subsidize Berezovsky's extravagant lifestyle.___IT STARTED WITH A QUACK.Abramovich may be one of Russia's wealthiest men today, but his origins are humble. He was orphaned as a child, and lived with relatives. He did not finish college and went straight into business, with his first venture comprised of selling rubber ducks.___IT PAYS TO BE HONEST.Gloster's judgment did not use the "L" word, but she did not mince her words in calling Berezovsky "an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be molded to suit his current purposes. At times the evidence which he gave was deliberately dishonest; sometimes he was clearly making his evidence up as he went along ... at other times, I gained the impression that he was not necessarily being deliberately dishonest, but had deluded himself into believing his own version of events..."I regret to say that the bottom line of my analysis of Mr. Berezovsky's credibility is that he would have said almost anything to support his case."Outside court, Berezovsky denied he was dishonest and instead maintained that Abramovich was the liar.___THE WINNER DOESN'T REALLY TAKE IT ALL.Sure, Abramovich won the case. But let's not forget who's laughing all the way to the bank: London's lawyers. Each party shelled out untold sums to hire some of the world's top lawyers, and legal fees are estimated to be at least tens of millions of pounds. London lawyers fight a lot of Russian battles many Russians distrust the legal system in their homeland and say they're especially good for lawyers because the disputes are often intensely personal, with each party doing everything it can to win.锘?p>NEW YORK, N.Y. - Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton. What woman wouldn't covet a handbag by one of these iconic fashion houses?The still red-hot status handbag market 鈥?driven by celebrity trendsetters such as Katie Holmes and Victoria Beckham 鈥?has not escaped the notice of some big auction houses. They say it's a new and growing category that is attracting a global clientele of sellers and buyers."For the last five years there's been an incredible growth and interest from the average consumer in that type of piece," said Matt Rubinger, director of luxury accessories at Heritage Auctions.Dallas-based Heritage has embraced the market wholeheartedly since its first dedicated handbag auction in December 2010.At its holiday sale a year later, a red crocodile skin Hermes Birkin bag set a world auction record when it sold for $203,150. A blue crocodile version at the same auction sold for $113,525, and a shiny red crocodile Birkin fetched $95,600. All three shattered the previous record of $82,100 for a black crocodile Birkin sold at Christie's London in 2009 鈥?two years after Christies sold two dozen Hermes Kelly bags and other designer handbags and accessories. That 2007 sale convinced Christie's to get in this game, and there is a London auction planned by Christie's for November with 70 bags by Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.This past January, Heritage expanded to include weekly online sales that start at $1 and have no reserve and estimates. Generally, pieces sell from $500 to $2,500.There is the occasional bargain, though: Recently, a rare Louis Vuitton top-handle bag in navy-blue Lucite realized $325 during a Heritage weekly sale, and a vintage Carlos Falchi clutch sold for as little as $69."It's often the more modern versions, the brightest colours and rare leathers that sell for the highest prices," said Christie's fashion specialist Clare Borthwick.These bags are relatively new pieces, most designed in the last 20 years, although some date back to 1950.So, what's all the fuss?It comes down to quality and craftsmanship, with Hermes positioned at the very top as the ultimate must-have status symbol with its tailored and sophisticated Birkin and Kelly silhouettes. (The bags are named after French actress Jane Birkin and the late Grace Kelly.) They are fine leather, limited edition, hand-crafted pieces that "take hours and hours and hours" to make, said Rubinger.Other popular, classic and coveted bags are the Louis Vuitton duffel-style Keepall and its smaller-sized cousin, the Speedy, and the Chanel classic flap bag 鈥?with its signature chain strap.The waiting list for a new Hermes bag can be considerable, leading many people to discover auctions as a viable alternative, added Carole Gordon, head of Bonhams' jewelry department, which combines its fashion accessory categories under one umbrella. Auctions are also often home to "unusual and one of a kind pieces," she said. It's also a place where styles no longer available in the retail market can be discovered.While many people may think it's crass to spend five or six digits on a bag, the auction houses said they hold their value."Hermes bags appreciate the moment you buy them," said Rubinger. Compare that "to someone who spent $200 on a bag in the primarily market that isn't worth anything as soon as they buy it 鈥?with no secondary market for it.""The really tried and true pieces hold their value and increase their value over time. There's a huge market for these pieces," he added.Depending on the brand, the model and the piece, a seller can get between 50 and 120 cents on the dollar, said Rubinger."Most of our buyers buy to wear. We don't necessarily have collectors," said Borthwick. "We don't know if that might change in the future."Strong prices at a May Bonhams auction featuring Hermes bags from a private collection, most of them unused and in their original packaging, were "a reflection of the rarity of these bespoke items," said Gordon, adding that the British auctioneer was considering holding future handbag sales.Rubinger said he gets consignment pieces every day.To prove his point, during an interview he walked over to a large unopened box sitting on a table in Heritage's New York office that had just arrived from Qatar. He slit it open to find two Louis Vuitton purses: A green mousseline mink and crystal Demi Lune Limited Edition Show Bag and a LV monogram multicolour Keepall. Both will be offered at Heritage's Dec. 4 holiday sale with a pre-sale estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.Rubinger produced two other rare pieces that will be included in the sale: A Hermes shearling Kelly bag estimated to sell for $15,000 to $20,000 and a Hermes sterling silver mini Kelly bag with presentation box estimated to bring $20,000 to $30,000.___Online: Heritage Auctions: www.ha.comChristie's: www.christies.comBonhams: www.bonhams.com锘?p>Addison Logan never expected to make a new discovery inside an old Polaroid camera. The 13-year-old picked up the device for $1 at a garage sale in Wichita, Kan. But when he opened the camera, he , who died in a car accident more than 20 years ago, the Wichita Eagle reports. Addison's grandmother, Lois Logan, estimated the photograph was taken about 10 years before her son's death. She said the woman in the picture is a high school girlfriend.But family members had a hard time believing the photo wound up in their possession by complete coincidence."The more time has passed, I just realize the astronomical odds of something like that happening. It baffles me and gives me goose bumps to think about," Blake Logan, Addison's father, .Although Addison's garage-sale find was certainly priceless, other bargain shoppers have unknowingly snagged valuable items for a fraction of their value. Earlier this year, an English businessman paid $5 for several drawings at a Las Vegas garage sale only to discover one of the sketches was an . Similarly, a shopper stumbled across an for just $14. The Columbus resident was in shock when he discovered the item was valued at $6,000. Check out our slideshow of other heroic children below:锘?p>CAIRO Egypt formally asked the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan on Wednesday, seeking a desperately needed rescue package for its faltering economy but raising the possibility of painful restructuring in a country still reeling since its revolution more than 18 months ago.The loan deal, which Egypt says it will reach by the end of the year, presents a major test to the Muslim Brotherhood-rooted president, Mohammed Morsi, the country's first ever freely elected leader, brought to power after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.The IMF has avoided making specific conditions for a loan but it seeks a cohesive government plan for restarting economic growth and reducing a deficit that has grown to $23.6 billion, some 8.7 percent of gross domestic product.A key part of that will likely be reducing subsidies that suck up a third of the government budget every year. Touching those subsidies, however, could bring social upheaval, since they keep commodities like fuel and bread cheap for a population of around 82 million, some 40 percent of whom live near or below the poverty line."The government will have to take urgent measures, at the top of them cutting energy subsidies," said Mohammed Abu Basha, a Cairo-based economist at investment bank EFG-Hermes Holding SAE. The biggest subsidies are those on fuel including gasoline and cooking gas costing the government some $16 billion a year.Egypt's upheaval since the 18-day uprising that led to Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11, 2011, has pushed its economy toward the brink. Amid near constant instability since, foreign investment has dried up. Revenues from tourism one of the country's biggest money makers and employers fell 30 percent to $9 billion in 2011 and the industry is only making a meager recovery.Meanwhile, the government has been burning through its foreign currency reserves, which have plummeted by more than half, to prop up the Egyptian pound and prevent a devaluation that could spur inflation.The government also faces mounting demands to increase salaries for the millions of civil servants and public sector workers and boost social spending. Infrastructure has crumbled, with electricity and water outages pervasive this summer, bringing angry complaints, some directed at Morsi.Egypt's hope is that the IMF package its first loan from the organization in nearly 20 years would provide not only a cash boost but, more importantly, a seal of approval that will bring back international investment.Morsi, his Prime Minister Hesham Kandil and other Egyptian officials met Wednesday with IMF chief Christine Lagarde in Cairo. State TV said Egypt requested a $4.8 billion loan, up from the $3.2 billion proposal discussed earlier this year. Finance Minister Momtaz el-Said told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper that the increase was needed because the deficit had grown with the drop in income from investment and tourism.Lagarde's visit "gives a positive message to Egypt and the whole world that Egypt is stabilizing and that the economy is heading to a recovery," Kandil said. He said he expects a final agreement by December.Kandil said his government has drawn up a comprehensive economic recovery plan for the IMF that includes strategies to counter the deficit, encourage investment and ensure that subsidies reach those most in need. He did not provide details.Lagarde said "Egypt faces considerable challenges." An IMF team would start talks in September with the government over its recovery plan and the loan, she said."Getting the country's economy back on track and raising the living standards for all will not be an easy task," she said. "The Egyptian people have legitimate expectations for a better life and greater social justice. We at the IMF, stand ready to help."Abdel-Hafiz el-Sawy, a chief economist with the Muslim Brotherhood who met with earlier delegations from IMF, acknowledged that "the government is facing a mountain of problems, and whenever it gets out of one trap to fall in the next.""The IMF loan is small but its impact is in the fact that it gives Egypt a certificate that improves the country's economic prospects," he said.Initial talks over a $3.2 billion loan stalled earlier this year amid wrangling between the military generals who ruled the country since Mubarak's ouster and Islamists who won the majority in the now-dissolved parliament. The Brotherhood had opposed letting the interim, military-appointed government sign a deal putting financial burdens on the next government. The IMF insisted on political consensus before approving the loan.Since then, Morsi was inaugurated in late June and a month later formed the Kandil-led Cabinet, and the military handed over authority.The plan presented to the IMF appears to be more or less similar to the previous government's plan, which the Islamist-led parliament had opposed, according to el-Said, the finance minister who also served in the former government, in an interview with el-Shorouk daily.Now Morsi faces the tough task of economic reform. Already, the government has reduced fuel subsidies to energy-intensive factories which were seen as giving a bonus to the wealthy and increased taxes on Egyptians whose income exceeds 10 million a year.But still remaining is the question of how to deal with subsidies that keep prices dirt cheap for gasoline and for butane fuel that many rely on for cooking. The gasoline subsidies are widely seen as inefficient because wealthier drivers benefit from them as much as or more than the poor.The government is studying alternatives, such as distributing to the poor coupons for gas and fuel, while restructuring the tax system.El-Said, the finance minister, also ruled out a devaluation of the pound suggesting that the government hopes that an IMF will bring enough local liquidity to keep the currency strong without infusions from the state's reserves.The IMF loan will not be enough to cover all Egypt's financing needs. IMF officials said earlier that the country needs a total of $10 billion to $12 billion in outside funding over the next 12 to 15 months.Qatar has delivered around $500 million of $2 billion it has promised Egypt. Saudi Arabia promised to deposit $1.5 billion in Egypt's Central Bank. But other aid packages from the European Union, the oil-rich Arab Gulf states and other sources will heavily depend on Cairo's ability to secure the IMF loan.锘?p>With to his name, we'd expect Alain Ducasse to have exquisite, and expensive, taste (After all, at one of his former New York restaurants, he presented to diners when they signed the check). For this holiday season, Ducasse detailed , for Nowness.com. Ducasse's picks range from Pierre Hermes macarons to Hermes stationery -- both lovely gifts, but certainly not cheap ones. If you can't afford Ducasse's suggestions, at least watch the artistic video below. Consider it virtual window shopping.WATCH: 锘?p>Tired of the designer collaborations yet?The onslaught continues with Alberta Ferretti for Macy鈥檚, as the Italian designer creates a collection for the department store's Impulse brand. The , published in Women's Wear Daily today, comes on the heels of , which was unveiled to the press last week. As WWD notes, to create Impulse collections for Macy's. , who presented a line of contemporary pieces in black, white, pink and gray last August. While Macy's is whipping up these capsule collections at top speed (Ferretti's is the sixth in just about one year), they have failed to garner the deafening buzz of similar collections at Target and H&M. Target caused the biggest hysteria with Missoni, of course, to buy the striped goods at a giant markup. after a shopping frenzy got out of hand. And there is already plenty of hype building for the newest collabs: and .Alberta Ferretti will have a smaller impact than all of those, given that the Impulse line will be carried in fewer Macy's stores (185 instead of the typical 220 of past collabs). But Macy's is determined to keep up the designer collaborations, planning on a pace of five a year.Alberta Ferretti for Impulse, inspired by the Amalfi Coast, has a price range of $49 - $119. The collection will hit stores April 17, just in time for spring shopping. and see two preview sketches below!Also on HuffPost: 锘?p>The designer has been quite busy recently. Opening a StoreReem Acra's returned home to launch a store in Beirut on November 3rd with her newest collection inspired by an American Princess, full of bejeweled corsets and blush gowns. Old movies and lost nightclubs once again come to mind. When I saw the dress below, the red plaid -- I instantly thought of a burned out and abandoned Betty Draper, after she'd downed too much Laudanum (I had to mix in some "Boardwalk Empire"). We were able to shoot some of the key looks in the collection at the midtown showroom. The model blew me away; I'm simply excited that I'm starting to shoot actual editorial for HuffPost. Off To The RacesReem just spoke at TEDxDoha, in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, bringing her vision of fashion to that inspiring series of lectures. She's also going to be sponsoring dressage. Reem Acra has signed a three-year sponsorship of the FEI Western European League and the FEI World Cup Dressage Final, announced FEI President HRH Princess Haya at a Champions Club party during the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games."The people who participate in the Games are a mirror reflection of the woman I design for. I believe that this is a beautiful way to highlight the Reem Acra brand and the synergies between the elegance of the sport and my luxurious designs," said Acra on her website. "For me, [dressage] is the most beautiful and stylish discipline within the equestrian world, so I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to take a more active role in the sport."[]It's now called the "Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage". There's something to be said about having an actual World Cup named after you. Frankly, I know nothing about the inner workings of the sport, hence the cut and paste above. But I do know that this is one of the most important ways that Hermes has built a name for itself; not only because horse show culture started and continues to sustain the house, but because they're involved with almost everything associated with the elite sport. They had a booth at the recent Hampton Classic. In the states, Reem is going back to HSN, her last showing a month ago, sold through and the shopping network has graciously invited her back. A Curvaceous BrideLastly, this busy designer is going to be working with plus size brides and opening a "shop in shop" at Curvaceous Couture, a specialty retailer in Maryland that specializes in gowns for sizes 12-32. Acra believes that everyone should look and feel stunning on their wedding day. Most, if not all bridal boutiques carry only one size -- 6 -- as their sample. So curvy girls come in with their slender sisters to try on the dresses and don't get the experience and anticipation of finding the perfect fit. For a vast majority of American's, two-thirds of American's actually, this is part of tying the knot, the search for the prefect dress. Reem Acra is the first luxury retailer to meet the demands of a rather large market that wants to remember their wedding day forever. Her goal is to empower women. Spring 2011Reem chose a kaleidoscope of inkblot prints and groovy stripes as her palate for spring, from blush to purple - with a node to the American Princess. Silk, organza and chiffon capture a spring breeze, evening dresses are full of the meticulous embroidery Reem's devotees would expect. I was enamored with the blush dress below, which embodies the houses elegance, it has a corset built in, Cinderella instantly comes to mind. The dress took over a week to meticulously construct, and combines many sizes of crystal to create the striking look, ready for any ball. The other American Princesses in the collection have an edgier feel, from a "Charlie's Angle" one piece and a flower child on her way to join a protest on the Hill. Other outfits are perfect in their simplicity; white is a welcome reprieve (not enough designers did white). There's gold of course and one silver dress perfect for an art deco visit to the Rainbow Room. I really loved this collection and how well put together it was, from the luxury casual looks, to the simplicity of the evening wear.Photo CreditsPhotography: Model: Karina from IMGStyling and table moving: Yeana Ahn Follow Alex Geana on Twitter:锘?p>Bad hair=bad day. Since Farrah Fawcett introduced the iconic "feather" in 1976, I have been obsessed with sleek, body-licious hair. I have been high and low lighted at Fekkai, trimmed at Oscar Blandi and layered by Byron, the hot shot LA based stylist who tends to the tresses of Victoria Beckham, Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe. The scenario was always the same, I exited with telegenic tresses. Then, after the first shampoo, my glam do -- even with an hour of styling -- would explode into a frizzy mane not dissimilar to Oz's Cowardly Lion. My issue is universal. How to work with the hair that we have and transform it into something resembling supermodel Gisele Bundchen? After years of study, I have uncovered the key to obtaining a manageable mane. The Holy Grail of good hair? Great products and great tools.FOR FRIZZY HAIRUse these smoothing products pre and post-styling for maximum benefits. Dry hair with the Marilyn Brush. The hourglass design gives more control and finishes ends neatly. Use a ceramic straightener as it tackles frizz more effectively., , TO ADD VOLUME TO THIN, LIFELESS HAIRLook for a shampoo filled with protein and amino acids to build stronger locks. Use a volumizing mouse and always dry hair with head upside down for increased volume. Use velcro rollers or a large barrel curling iron to increase volume and add lift when hair is dry., , , , , TO ADD SHINEGlossy hair is the height of chic. To transform dull tresses into a Kate Middleton-style mane, choose a deep conditioner packed with vitamins. Then, after drying the hair, schpritz on a shine inducing spray. This acts as a "top coat" and provide additional luster., , CREATE WAVESFor just-been-to-the-beach-hair, apply curl/wave product to damp hair and braid the hair. Use a diffuser on your hair dryer to create natural looking waves. Then, use a curling iron to add more wave. Run finger through the hair to loosen the curls. , , , TO CAMOUFLAGE ROOTSTo hide skunk effect (gray roots or in-between highlights), toss on thin elastic headband. Another option is to use temporary root touch-up products., , FOR OILY HAIRA dry shampoo can be sprayed into oily hair to absorb excess grease. A thin headband can also be worn to disguise the situation., , , For more quick fixes visit ATK's Follow Amy Tara Koch on Twitter:锘?p>Nothing says "wow!" like an unidentifiable retro accent. Sporting something that nobody else can buy is the requisite ingredient for fashion lust.The spring runways were filled with florals, geometric prints, wide cuffs, rope necklaces, chain belts, lace, ruffles, polka dots inspired by the '50s, '60s and '70s.... Instead of buying pricey designer simulations, shop vintage to get the real deal. A groovy, eclectic blend of sporty modern and vintage is what catapulted Kate Moss into the realm of fashion icon. First stop? Mom's closet. Scoop up '70's silky blouses, fringed cashmere wraps, anything Pucci, paisley scarves, a retro logo belt and glitzy Knots Landing-style jewelry to add pizzazz to jeans or black leggings. Great vintage does not have to be a bold-faced designer. A no-name satin-lined evening bag complete with mirror is classic cool. A mink boa with Aunt Mabel's name stitched on the lining is haute chic. A quirky medallion, old-school chain belt, beaded bracelet, Indian bangles, wooden cuffs and massive beaded necklaces will yield gargantuan global glitz. Of course, if your mom has none of these treasures, swap meets, flea markets, thrift stores and vintage emporiums are excellent resources.Vintage pieces: 1. Celine gold jacket// 2. Gucci satchel// 3. Gucci scarf// 4. Vintage gold chain belt (which can double as a necklace!)// 5. Hermes studded cuffBut beware. There is a fine line between serious "vintage" and old crap. Vintage is that glam little touch that elevates mere clothing to "a look." Quality vintage is special. It is that red polyester blend Studio 54 Halston dress. Your granny's Hermes belt. A 60s Mary Quant trench coat. Conversely, a boxy pink blazer with cheap gold buttons from your first job interview is crap and should be given away. Ditto on the sateen blouse with linebacker shoulder pads. When deciding whether something is crap or not, think... WWKMW? (What Would Kate Moss Wear)? And act accordingly.HOMEWORK: Tear-sheet the looks that you like from magazines and create an "inspiration board." Take photos of these with your phone before you head out to hunt so you have a reference point. And remember to do the sniff test. If something smells like mothballs or worse, do not buy it. It is very hard to get rid of a decades' old stink.Please visit my blog for fast and fabulous style tips! Follow Amy Tara Koch on Twitter:锘?p>For 2011, bid adieu to fashion bungles and material mishaps by committing yourself to leveling your wallet only on garb that adheres the definition of "investment piece." The trick? Recognizing the difference between trendy accent the fabulosity of a true fashion find. Investment pieces --an Hermes Birkin, a Loro Piano cashmere cloak, a Lanvin LBD, a Verdura cuff, Manolo sling backs, a Chanel anything-- have sustained fashion relevance. They are high quality "keepers" (generally offering an unexpected twist on a classic) that will add cache to your wardrobe for years to come.Trendy Accents Peacock feather earrings, mod vests, super glitzy tote bags, pink shoes are whimsical fashion items with a short shelf life that are replaced with the next "it trend" the following season. Luckily, we are living in an age of "fast fashion" where runway trends are interpreted by inexpensive retailers like H&M, Zara and Top Shop almost as soon as the last model jumps off the catwalk. Offering directional pieces at bargain basement prices, these shops are manna for the materialistic minded who are dedicated to injecting of the moment elan into their looks. Gumball sized pearls wrapped in mesh, a groovy faux fur trimmed vest ,a neon clutch bag, a wide zebra belt and a basketful of glitzy gold jewelry will give you major look for a minor investment. So, when you grow tired of these items by March, you will not be riddled with anger for wasting your hard earned cash on fashion with a six month shelf life. The trick is to know thy luxury products and invest with confidence if your purchase is a keeper. Pop Quiz: To Level or not to Level Your Wallet When you are considering dropping a lot of cash on a garment or accessory, the following five criteria must be met:1. I am in love. I am weak in the knees and will pass out of I don't own this trinket.2. It is classic. It is very high quality and can be passed down to my daughter or niece.3. I promise that I will not be sick of this item by Fall 20114. A knock off version of this item is not available at Urban Outfitters, H&M or BeBe5. I am not in desperation mode. My love is real! Follow Amy Tara Koch on Twitter:锘?p>I first fell in love with Thursday Friday when I was obsessing about buying a Chanel bag that I couldn't, and still can't afford. Checking eBay every ten minutes and endlessly googling images of said bag I stumbled upon the and laughed my ass off. It reminded me of the image below from featured ages ago; the image that made us all question consumerism a little, made a laugh of our obsession with obscenely priced goodies and ironically made Chanel look a little cooler just because... The IT bag is over or so we're told but while many women are still spending on their leathers others are poking fun at the notion of such a practical item as the handbag being held up as a status symbol. If you fall into the latter school of thought but want to give a wink and a nod to your fashion counterparts then Thursday Friday is a cheeky way to do it.. Made from "democratic cotton" these canvas totes are printed on all sides with the images of exclusive, even iconic, luxury leather handbags. From Hemes to Balenciaga, Chanel to the newly launched Proenza Schouler (below).What do you think?? I've got my eye on the Hermes for holiday... I can imagine myself parading through the airport with stupidly high heels and saucer sunnies like an A lister. Except I won't have to hang my fancy bag from a naff handbag hook to protect it from nasties... the beauty with these beauties is you can fill your designer bag with smelly towels, destroy it with sand and even forget it in a bar after one too many tequila shots and no ones going to cry... Winner. Follow Angela Scanlon on Twitter:锘?p>I'm a sucker for a bit of jewellery; a statement neckpiece, a sparkly ring (or ten), a vintage Rolex-that's just how I roll. My clothing goes from excessive to minimalist depending on my mood but my jewellery always tells a story, my story!锘?p>Two years after the launch of Girl Meets Dress, the first and leading Online Luxury Rental destination, founder Anna Bance recalls how progress is being made to fulfil her dotcom dream.This week has of course been packed with post Bank Holiday catching up. Last Friday was the Girls in Tech London launch event and I was excited to be on a panel discussing innovation / female entrepreneurs and ecommerce with the lovely Jude Ower of PlayMob and Nathalie Gaveau of Shopcade chaired by Milo Yiannopoulos at Google Campus. Back in the office on Wednesday, I had lots of CV's in my inbox to respond to as we are currently recruiting new team members and I am holding interviews nearly every day. From a founder's perspective, your team can never grow fast enough, there are always new exciting positions to fill in order to expand specific areas and launch new projects. Looking at the Girl Meets Dress team, I am happy with the size we are and excited by the positions I am interviewing for this week - roles such as designers and a business analyst. As a young company it is crucial that the people who join Girl Meets Dress have an certain mindset and they come because there is an exciting proposition to build something disruptive in the e-commerce space of rental.One of the things I get asked most is where did the idea for Girl Meets Dress come from. After leaving The London College of Fashion I had a exciting couple of years working for fashion magazines such as InStyle, Wallpaper and Harpers Bazaar, and planning my next steps in styling / writing and editorial. As a Fashion Assistant my days were spend with the team borrowing the most fabulous designer clothing and accessories from brands around the world. The other assistants and I would work around the clock requesting specific items as chosen by our bosses, and the next day the items would appear in the office - like a Haute Couture Father Christmas delivering in the night. After these items are taken into the fashion cupboard and sorted into themes / trends and photographed, they are packed up again and sent back to the PR offices, and then their journey is repeated at another magazine.When I made the move from magazines into PR, accepting a job at Hermes as UK PR Manager - this lending process was reversed, and now I was the one doing the lending from my selection of 'samples' in our office - choosing what to lend to Vogue / Elle / Grazia for their shoots.We also had celebrities to dress and often journalists...and often their friends... and It occurred to me that although it was already the norm for people to borrow Books / Cars / DVDs / Houses / Boats... the only people allowed to borrow fashion were industry insiders and VIPs. It got me thinking... would everyone like to borrow fashion? That night over dinner I said to my boyfriend, "I think the world is waiting for a 'Fashion library' to launch" I left my job immediately and Girl Meets Dress was born: an ecommerce site, dedicated to borrowing all the dresses you dream of wearing. Net-a-Porter marries LoveFilm.NEXT WEEK - BUILDING A TEAM / GETTING A JOB IN FASHION / MOVING OFFICEP.S I think it is crucial to live your brand and I wear at least one GMD dress a week. This is me last night leaving to go to the Veuve Clicquot Polo in the Park party at the Hurlingham Club wearing Butter by Nadia. Follow Anna Bance on Twitter:锘緼nna Bance launched online luxury rental website with Co-Founder Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise following 3 years at luxury brand Hermes as UK PR Manager.Girl Meets Dress allows you to borrow the hottest designer dresses, bags and jewellery at a fraction of their retail price. They can lend you over 4000 designer pieces from over 150 designer brands. They deliver the dress to you 鈥?at your home, at your office 鈥?and all you have to do is have fun in it and send it back to us when you're done. It鈥檚 like they鈥檙e your new best friend with the massive designer wardrobe who is cool enough to let you borrow whatever you want!锘縄t's no surprise that British TV presenter Cathy McGowan was called "Queen of the Mods." Hired as a presenter for the rock music show "Ready...锘?p>My husband and I recently moved to the oh-so-stylish . After what seemed like an endless search for the ideal place, we were thrilled to find the apartment. The best part is the big communal garden, which delights our 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Tess.Tess is possibly the cutest dog in the world -- she manages to convert even the most convinced cat lover within minutes. Japanese tourists even take her picture. Needless to say, she became an instant hit in our new neighborhood. Shortly after moving, in I set out to discover my new surroundings with Tess by my side. Well-dressed women are the norm here, but my neighbors in particularhave that certain je ne sais quoi which is just so Parisian. Their outfits are usually paired with matching manicured hands and feet -- they seem to excel at color coordination. Not to mention the "perfect" accessory.Never have I seen so many being proudly paraded around. On one of my first shopping excursions up to the , I counted at least eight in the first 10 minutes. (The canvas tote comes in at a close second place.) Their grooming is also impeccable: Most women here always look like they recently stepped out from the hair salon. I just don't know where they find the time for all this, but they do.Even though I work in the fashion industry, I am hardly obsessed with the latest "It" bag or any particular brand in general (although I could clear out the Lanvin store in no time if my budget allowed it). However, I am a strong believer in quality over quantity, and with the right accessories you can get away with mixing and matching almost anything, an art that French women (and their young daughters) excel in. The first time I met Camille, who was to become our favorite dog walker, was on a scorching hot summer day. I had decided to treat myself to a trip to my local nail salon and was comfortably installed in the massage chair being pampered with an equally happy Tess close by.In walked a very young girl. Pretty, poised and perfectly groomed, she was sporting the very same Chlo茅 bag I had just purchased, plus the Chanel flats I had been lusting after for quite a while. I could tell that she was obviously a regular by the way she was greeted by the staff, if not a VIP client. I was a bit bemused, but after all, this is the 16th arrondissement. I kept expecting to see her mother arrive but no, she was on her own getting her manicure and very much 脿 l'aise doing so.Tess too had noticed Camille and before I could stop her (my nails weren't dry yet), my pup did what she does best: A full-blown charm attack involving huge licks and excessive tail-wagging and Bambi eyes. Camille let out a surprised squeal and was finally rescued by the owner of the salon who tied Tess to the sink. I apologized profusely but Camille merely laughed and spent the next 20 minutes on her iPhone, but I did catch her looking intensely at Tess more than a few times. A few days later, I was with Tess in our garden and much to my surprise there she was again. This time, Camille wasn't on her own but with her two adorable younger sisters. She was wearing skinny black jeans from Notify and the cutest Marc Jacobs flats. Her siblings looked like they just stepped out of a Bonpoint commercial.It turned out that we lived in the same building. Within minutes, the girls were playing with Tess. Since that day, Camille has been our very own chic dog walker and sometimes sitter. Tess adores Camille and vice versa.I just love watching the two of them together but I shamelessly admit that I sometimes feel tiny pangs of envy over Camille's ever-expanding wardrobe. She definitely has that something -- along with what seems to be an unlimited budget. She may be spoiled in the clothing and accessories department but she remains a very lovely and polite girl. One evening, I arrived home from the gym to find Camille at the door, asking to takeTess out for her afternoon walk. She was wearing the I've been wanting and sporting a Birkin, no less! She is just 11 years old. I am considering investing in that Goyard dog leash. Camille did politely inquire whether I had a spare for Tess that would more suitably match her pale pink dog collar.This is Paris, after all..Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , , and .锘?p>Choosing a name for your child can be stressful, causing friction within the family as you debate the best options and try, where possible, to keep relatives happy too. But I do wonder what consideration today's parents give on the long-term impact on their child, especially when they choose an obscure name. Children can be so cruel to one another and with a strange name, they may be setting their child up to become a victim of merciless teasing.I am raising this question because I read recently that some parents have I ask you, what sort of name is that for a child? I just hope it doesn't catch on, but you never know, such is the power of social media. What's next? Twitter?At the risk of aging myself, my parents chose to call me Anne as I was born around the era of Princess Anne. It was also a name that couldn't be abbreviated -- although some people over the years have ventured to call me Annie, but picking up on my reaction, have only done it once. And then there's Cora Tsouflidou of Cora's Breakfast and Lunch who calls me Anna, but somehow that has a nice Francophone ring to it, plus I wouldn't dream of correcting her.When we were naming our daughters, I wanted to honour my Scottish roots, hence the name Lindsay, but we struggled with her middle name as we both liked Sarah but then realized that her initials would have been LSD, so that was out. BLOG CONTINUES AFTER SLIDESHOWMy second daughter had bright red hair when she was born, so for three days was nameless as we searched for a red-headed name -- we came up with Megan. As for boys' names, let's just say it is just as well we never had a son, as we couldn't agree at all. It is very personal and some names got eliminated from the mix because we didn't like someone else who had that name or in the case of the name Emma, it was my husband's dog's name and so was promptly ruled out. Some parents go to great lengths to find the perfect name, looking up the meaning of the name and good for them. Although I remember meeting a really chunky, clumsy child named Grace who couldn't have been further from the image of her name. You could only hope as she grew up that she became more graceful.Yet, others seem more influenced by current trends -- such as naming their child after popular celebrities or TV shows such as Dallas which brings me to another trend, naming children after cities, such as Paris, London and the like.Taking a more biblical approach is one option, and consistently for the last 10 years Jacob has been one of the most popular names for boys, while for girls it's been Hannah or Abigail. Nothing is really safe or sacred -- take Apple, daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow.And then, there's how you spell the more popular names. No longer is it just Alison -- it could be Allyson. Or with Christina you could be looking at Kristena, Kristina or Christena. Sometimes as adults, the spelling can change to a more sexier version, like one young woman I know who went from Erica to Erika. Whatever.All I have to say is with each generation the names seem to get odder, and right now Hashtag sure takes the prize. However, with the way trends have of going full circle -- who knows -- plain Jane may soon be back in style. One can only hope. Follow Anne Day on Twitter:锘?p>This article is the first in a two-part series tracing the development of the amorphous online community known as Anonymous, pranksters who have become a force in global affairs.Late in the afternoon of Jan. 19, the U.S. Department of Justice website vanished from the Internet. Anyone attempting to visit it to report a crime or submit a complaint received a message saying the site was unable to load. More websites disappeared in rapid succession. The Recording Industry Association of America. The Motion Picture Association of America. Universal Music. Warner Brothers. The FBI.By nightfall, most of the sites had come back online, but the people responsible for the outages had made their point. They'd landed what they hailed as the biggest blow yet in an escalating war for control of the Internet, and in one of their online command centers, "Phoenix" and his associates were celebrating.Phoenix, a college student, is a member of Anonymous, the loose coalition of hackers, pranksters and other creatures of the Internet who have made headlines over the last 13 months for attacks on the computer systems of a wide range of targets: MasterCard, Visa and PayPal; the San Francisco public transit system; a Texas think tank; Sony; a host of computer-security companies; authoritarian governments in Tunisia and Egypt.( to view an infographic charting the evolution of 'Anonymous'.)Phoenix wouldn't call himself a "member," of course. Much like Occupy Wall Street, a movement with which it has many ties, Anonymous technically has no official membership, hierarchy or specific agenda. Some "anons" do wield more influence than others and the resulting resentments have led to bitter internecine feuds, but its overall lack of an official power structure is essential to its identity and perhaps its survival. As Anonymous put it in a taunting statement to NATO, another recent object of its unfriendly attentions, "You can't cut off the head of a headless snake."The snake seems to have a certain sense of direction, however, as the Jan. 19 attacks suggested. The inciting incident took place earlier that day in the hills outside Auckland, New Zealand, when local police landed two helicopters on the lawn of a man who calls himself Kim Dotcom and owns Megaupload, a hugely popular online service that enables people to share and store movies and other media for free.Authorities shut down the site and arrested Dotcom and six colleagues, accusing them in a 72-page indictment of engaging in acts of "massive worldwide online piracy" that inflicted $500 million in damages on copyright holders while bringing in more than $175 million in profits.The news spread quickly. A message went out on Anonymous Twitter accounts exhorting people to attack the Justice Department and several piracy-fighting trade groups. By clicking on a link, they could launch a page that asked them to identify a target. Thousands typed in the address of the Justice Department site and clicked enter, bombarding it with a fusillade of meaningless commands. Overwhelmed, the site froze and dropped offline.In the chat network where Anonymous coordinated the attacks, the virtual warriors declared victory with a military phrase: "TANGO DOWN."Part war, part game. Given the culture of the Internet, it's reasonable to assume that many of those who responded to Anonymous' call were teenagers. The software used to fire these Internet missiles was the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, a name lifted from the video game "Command & Conquer." Yet the consequences of firing it were real -- a major law enforcement agency's web site was temporarily crippled, leaving the agency to observe that there had been a "degradation in service."Last year, 14 anons were arrested in the United States for using the Ion Cannon to attack PayPal. Some now face the possibility of 15-year prison sentences.Phoenix wasn't around when the Jan. 19 attack went down, but later that night, I found him in an Anonymous chat room and asked him to explain the motivations behind it."You've heard Anons say before that this is a war," he said. "A full scale information war. That's not mere propaganda, many regard that as a perfectly accurate description. And the stake at play is, simply, 'Who will control access to information? Everyone or a small subset?'"In case it wasn't clear, he then labeled that subset: "The government."THE WARThis struggle for control of the Internet goes back years, but it reached a crescendo just the day before the attack on the Justice Department, when Wikipedia went dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, the controversial anti-piracy bills that were working their way through Congress. Google collected 4.5 million signatures on a petition against the bills. Mozilla redirected traffic from its sites. And thousands of other protesters, from Tumblr and WordPress to Some Guy with a Blog, blacked out their sites, took to the streets and posted messages opposing the legislation, saying it would hurt their business and amounted to censorship.Across the battle lines stood film studios, music labels, pharmaceutical companies and other businesses intent on defending their copyrighted property from illegal sharing at a time when the Internet has made it possible for, say, a digital copy of "V For Vendetta" -- an anon fave and the source of their iconic grinning Guy Fawkes masks -- to travel from an iPad in the United States to a piracy site in Brazil to another viewer's laptop in Korea.These companies face a tricky problem: How do you sue a piracy site when it鈥檚 based in another country, especially one with looser intellectual-property laws? The bills' answer: You don't. You go after their enablers -- websites that drive traffic to the piracy hubs by posting links to them, even if they only do so inadvertently. Critics argued that the cost of getting rid of these links would drive smaller sites out of business.Two days after the protests, in the face of public outrage and lobbying efforts from the tech sector, Congress shelved SOPA indefinitely. But that doesn't mean the war is over. As one Anonymous tweet warned about SOPA: "It can be brought back anytime. The bill must be KILLED."Like the web companies involved in the protests, anons tend to argue that anti-piracy legislation could send the Internet down an ever-tightening spiral of government control. Many anons go further, portraying such bills as deliberate assaults on the right to free speech. They say they oppose anti-piracy efforts on idealistic grounds, not that they don't enjoy a bit of pirated entertainment from time to time. Obeying the law isn't their highest priority. "The Internet is the Wild West," Phoenix said on the night of the attacks, "and Anonymous will fight against any attempt to tame it."That conversation with Phoenix was not my first. All of our communications took place online, mostly in the networks of chat rooms where anons plan their attacks (and banter endlessly), and I had come to think of him as a messenger from the Internet underworld: He had one foot in the world of "hax0rs" -- hacker-speak for hackers -- and one in the world of capital letters and correct spelling.He was like a hacker Hermes, moving freely between the realms of the living and the dead, except that in this case the realm of the dead was a dominion of cyberspace in which the dead possessed an unusual degree of expertise in massively multiplayer online video games and porn. Altogether, I spoke with more than 30 anons, and in some respects, their attitudes couldn't have been more different, but one thing seemed to hold them together. They saw the Internet as their homeland, their home. Among them were Phoenix, Xyzzy and Gregg Housh. Together, their stories roughly trace the rise of Anonymous and the battles leading up to what Phoenix calls the war.THE ORIGINS: XYZZYXyzzy said he was in his early twenties, lived in the Boston area, and described himself as an out-of-work computer guy. He had been around Anonymous since its beginning about a decade ago, and as far as I could tell he spent all his time online. There was a two-week stretch in which I instant-messaged with him for hours every night, and I assumed he was going out of his way to talk to me until he told me he was simultaneously IMing with three other people and participating in a seven-person video chat on Skype.Some anons talked about the Internet as their homeland. For Xyzzy, the Internet had literally given him a home. In 2008, he said, the Secret Service pulled him out of a classroom at school after he played a little joke on the government by spamming a .gov website with "KILL OBAMA" rants. ("Not a good idea," he reflected.) His parents kicked him out of the house, and some friends in Anonymous took him in. He considered one of them his "Internet mom" and said he thought of her as "kinda better" than his real mom. He said he was about 12 or 13 when he discovered the Internet, and couldn鈥檛 really remember what life was like before that. "I wasn't anything," he wrote. "I was just a nerd who never really spoke up."The Internet gave him balls. And a mouth. In the chat rooms where he hung out he learned how to mock people and later found he could use this skill "irl", where he went from "never talking in school to making fun of everyone who picked on me for being nerdy."He also learned how to "socially engineer" people -- manipulate them. Often, he said, that meant calling an email provider and tricking the friendly lady who answered the phone into handing over a password to someone's account, enabling him to break in, steal the person's credit-card number and sell it.And he learned how to "troll." At the time, if you didn't troll you weren't really an anon. Trolling is the art of deliberately irritating people until they flip out or otherwise react in a way that generates laughs, or "lulz." It is the bedrock of Anonymous culture, and in the early 2000s there were dozens of "trolling gangs" roaming the back alleys of the Internet.Xyzzy wanted me to understand that they pretty much established the Anonymous mindset. He stressed that when Anonymous started, it was made up of "jerks," and he meant this as a compliment. And he was especially insistent that I appreciate the historical significance of one group of jerks in particular, the Penis Pumpers For Lyfe.The Penis Pumpers were "Anonymous before Anonymous was Anonymous," Xyzzy said. They were a band of tricksters who hung out in IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, a sort of underground city of the web that continues to dominate the Anonymous landscape.If IRC is a city, then its "networks" are the buildings. Each network is comprised of chat rooms, or channels. The Pumpers had their own channels and would join, say, the NHL room and "bitch about hockey, something they had no clue about, just to piss people off." They'd take over other people's channels, ban the real owners, impersonate them and use the stolen personas to troll. "Whatever worked to mess with the intended target," said Xyzzy.Sometimes the jokes went to harsh extremes, and that hasn't changed. In 2010, an 11-year-old girl nicknamed Jessi Slaughter issued a YouTube threat against "haters" who had started an Internet rumor about her. She said she'd "pop a Glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy." As a Unfortunately, as Gawker went on to note, the response went beyond "ha ha." People found her real name, address and phone number. They passed the information around. A bomb squad showed up to her school after a suspicious package arrived in the mail. Encyclopaedia Dramatica, a website that chronicles the lore and pranks of the Internet in the fuck-you-it's-funny style of the Internet itself, published an item on how to troll her. "Tell her dad that we are going to beat her up." "Tell her to kill herself."Jessi responded with another video. In this one, she was seen crying and whimpering while her father crouched in the background, screaming at the camera and shaking his fist. His awkward threats would become memes. A year later, he was arrested for punching Jessi in the mouth, and six months after that, she posted a video saying she'd been institutionalized and was living in foster care. Last summer, her mother wrote on Facebook that the father had died of a massive heart attack. Someone posted a screenshot of the message on FunnyJunk.com.Obviously there isn鈥檛 anything political about relentlessly picking on an 11-year-old, but Anonymous has used many of the same schoolyard tactics to pick on much more powerful adversaries. At its most basic level, trolling is about humiliating people who seem to take themselves too seriously or pretend to be something they're not: 11-year-old girls, corporate executives, whoever. The troll jabs at them until they jab back, exposing their vulnerabilities, then jabs at those weak spots until they do something rash and truly embarrass themselves.Xyzzy told me he and another anon once trolled someone at an antiwar rally in Boston. In an indication of how much Anonymous has evolved since then, he said they attended the rally not to join the protest but to screw with the protesters. Xyzzy told his friend he bet he could "troll out" the first guy he saw who was obviously there just to pick up girls."So we got near the guy and the guy makes the first move," wrote Xyzzy. "He rants at us about peace and I tell him, 'Look, dude, I don't give a fuck.' He jumps on me about how I'm the problem with the world today.""And I just turn it on him," Xyzzy continued. "How HE is the problem with the world today cause he can't leave people alone and needs to stick his retarded nose in other people's business. He clearly is upset so I keep at it saying how he doesn't know the first thing about what it means to stand up for what you believe in. And he responds with how he'll show me how he stands up for what he believes in."At this point in the story, Xyzzy paused to note that while he is under 6 feet tall and "a fat kid," his target stood about 6-foot-4 and looked like he worked out. Xyzzy was not to be intimidated, however. On the Internet, he had learned he could use his wit to humiliate pretty much anyone. Years after the protest, the typical Anonymous trolling target would be the government-corporate matrix, not just some bro at a peace rally. Whatever. Xyzzy isn't picky. He's happy as long as he's having a laugh. By the time he'd finished with the bro at the peace rally, the bro was in police custody.THE GODFATHERBroadly speaking, there are two kinds of anons: those who want to change the world and those who are in it only for the lulz. Xyzzy moved closer to the first group over time, but he remains a lulz man at heart. One of his friends, however, appeared to have transformed himself completely, leaving behind a trail of self-serving crimes. He was part of a group of anons whose elevated stature in the community had earned them the derisive label "leaderfags," and when Xyzzy met them they convened in their own private channel, from which they exerted a certain amount of influence over the rest of Anonymous. Exactly how much influence is debatable, but Xyzzy, for one, called them the "Illuminati of the Internet" and described his friend, with perhaps just a touch of hyperbole, as "the Godfather."The "Godfather" is a 35-year-old computer engineer who lives in a blue-collar suburb of Boston. In November, I visited his home, a wood-frame house up the street from a convenience store and a laundromat. Parked in the driveway was a black Scion emblazoned with the words "Geek Choice" and a phone number: 1-800-GEEK-HELP. A small box of business cards was mounted to the side. I took one. "Computer problems?" it said. "We come to you."A shy, pretty woman, the Godfather's girlfriend, led me to an upstairs bedroom where the Godfather was seated at an incredible array of computer monitors. He had a thin build, a bemused expression and a loud, direct voice. He said he needed food, so we hopped aboard the Geekmobile. I rested my feet on a pile of empty Pepsi bottles.At a nearby restaurant, the Godfather ordered a chicken sandwich and told me that a would-be whistleblower had recently come to him with information that could potentially destroy the reputation of a certain international media mogul. He said he needed to figure out how to protect the whistleblower before pulling the trigger. "Before I'm dead," he said, "I want his empire to be in ruins."The Godfather's name is Gregg Housh, and his sense of himself as someone capable of molding the world to his vision dates at least to 2008, when he played a key role in helping Anonymous organize a series of protests against the Church of Scientology. Following his involvement in these demonstrations, Scientologists uncovered his identity and took him to court, which had the unintended effect of putting him in a good position to talk to the press.Housh, an excellent talker, became a de facto Anonymous spokesman. Confident and articulate, with a little gray in his hair, he started giving interviews to The New York Times, CNN and other outlets. (For his part, Housh rejects the label of spokesman, taking pains to stress that no one person can speak for Anonymous as a whole.)As a protest organizer, he also made connections in the Boston Police Department, which came in handy earlier this year when demonstrators set up tents on a plot of green across the street from the city's Federal Reserve building. In the early weeks of the Occupy movement, Anonymous essentially served as a publicity arm, using its Internet fame to spread the word at a time when few traditional media outlets were paying attention. Housh worked his media connections, established a cellphone-to-cellphone rapport with the Boston police superintendent and cultivated relationships with political operatives. At one point he arranged for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to visit the camp, then led the governor on a guided tour. I watched him give a similar tour to the state treasurer and engage in some friendly ribbing with a city councilman, and it occurred to me that he'd make a pretty good politician himself.Housh has not always been interested in politics. Far from it, he said he used to care only about "amassing as much stuff as I possibly could." When he was growing up in Dallas, his father abandoned the family, leaving his mother alone to care for him and his sister, who has cerebral palsy. Housh quickly came to appreciate the value of money. He also started thinking about ways to make it that didn't involve sweating over a fryer at McDonald鈥檚.At around age 10, he discovered a glitch in a video game at an arcade near his house: When he pressed a button at the right moment, the machine would spit out a token. He did this a few times, ambled over to the token machine and unloaded his spoils at a discount. Before long he had three friends working for him in two cities. He later realized this technically qualified as racketeering.Cunning and rebellious, he might have ended up writing bad checks or ripping off insurance companies for a living, but when he was 14 his mother gave him his first computer. Within a half-hour, he says, "every part that could be separated or unplugged was sitting on the living room floor." By 16, he had dropped out of school and joined a software piracy gang. He drew on the combined skill set of the hacker and the con man, employing the techniques of "social engineering" to get people to fork over stolen software and access to Internet servers.In 2001, the FBI caught up with him and he served three months in a federal prison. When he was released, he had a hard time finding himself. He was afraid to reenter the criminal underworld and unimpressed with what passed for fun outside of it. And then he found 4chan.Founded in 2003 by a 15-year-old named Christopher Poole, 4chan was initially a collection of forums where people could discuss anime and Japanese comics. By the time Housh arrived in 2007, the website, particularly a section called "random," had devolved into a reeking cesspool of gore, porn and insanity. In attempts to capture its unique charms, reporters have likened it to a stall in a boy's bathroom, a locker crammed with fireworks and Hustlers and maybe a copy of "Mein Kampf," even the id.There was only one rule -- no child porn. Reports suggest it was lightly enforced. A quick perusal of the first page of "random" on the evening of Dec. 19, 2011, yielded a picture of a woman's crotch, a picture of a woman's ass, a request for pictures of the feet of "pre-teen models/non-models," a poster recruiting people to flood a rival website with "filth and porn," two rape jokes, several racial slurs, a picture of someone vomiting and a picture of Kim Jong Il accompanied by the comment, "Good night, sweet prince."Conversations with 4chan regulars made it clear that this was a quiet evening.During the past five years, some of the lighter culture of 4chan has seeped into the mainstream: The pictures of cats with misspelled captions (lolcats), those links that trick you into playing that obnoxious music video (rickrolling). These are "memes" and they generate "lulz." In Housh鈥檚 day, the lulz abounded. If you wanted "epic lulz," you could hack into someone's emails and use the stolen information to troll. Or you could "d0x" someone (publish documentation of his identity). Or "DDoS" someone's website (flood it with traffic and knock it offline). Or "swat" someone (get an unsuspecting victim to turn on his webcam, then call the police and "lol" as a SWAT team kicks down the door).All of these activities were "raids," and though people usually planned them in the IRC networks, they assembled their raiding parties on 4chan. The one thing that made them possible was that the site allowed you to post stuff anonymously. People began calling themselves "Anonymous," which became a meme of its own. You began hearing phrases like "Expect us" and "We Are Legion," which have become enshrined in the culture's lexicon.Housh's first adventure as an anon turned out to be a high watermark in 4chan history: a giant raid on the online multiplayer game "Habbo Hotel." At a predetermined hour on July 12, 2007, he and hundreds of other anons logged into the game and selected the same avatar from the character menu: a black guy with an Afro. Then they crowded around the virtual swimming pool, effectively blocking the other players from using it, while proclaiming that the pool had been closed "due to AIDS." Other anons gathered on the patio and arranged themselves into the shape of a swastika. This was called a "swastiget," Housh explained to me matter-of-factly. "You get a swastika on a website or a piece of software that people have to see."Even in those days, one could have conceivably justified many of the 4chan pranks on moral grounds, and when he recounted the "Habbo" tale, Housh attempted to do so, sort of. He said that by creating a character that arguably looked like a racist white guy's idea of a black guy, the "Habbo" design team had done something "kind of racist, so we decided to go be racist to them." There was also a news story making the rounds about a hotel in Alabama that had banned someone with AIDS from the pool.Or something. Mostly, the raid was just fun to do, Housh admitted. Anonymous was still all about the lulz.Later that year, Anonymous brought down the website of a white-supremacist radio host and used the technique of "pedobaiting" to root out a child molester in Canada. Some anons were beginning to see themselves as a force for justice. The real transformation, though, happened in February 2008, with the birth of a movement that blended the ironic sensibility of the Internet with the earnestness of an antiwar rally. In homage to its 4chan origins, it was dubbed "Chanology.""THE INTERNET IS HERE"In "The Prince," Machiavelli warns the reader that "a violator of the property and women of his subjects" will be "hated above all things." In 16th-century Florence, an example of such property might have been a plot of farmland or an ox. In the Chanology War of 2008, the property in question was a video of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology in the pseudo-scientific lingo of the religion and generally "showing himself to be the insane person he is," said Housh.Somehow the video had made its way from Scientology's offices to the Internet, where it had generated untold quantities of lulz. So when Scientology's lawyers pressured YouTube into taking it down, anons went into a frenzy. They found it laughable and outrageous that a religion founded by someone who claimed to believe in a galactic dictator called Xenu could exercise so much control over a source of information as important as the Internet.During the next week, Housh and a few cohorts made two videos of their own. One declared war on Scientology. The other specified what that war would entail: protesting in front of Scientology centers around the world.Housh says he thought maybe a few people would show up and act like jerks. "I thought it would be good for a couple weeks of trolling," he said. It turned out he had seriously underestimated people's love of the Internet or their contempt for Scientology or both.On Feb. 10, 2008, thousands gathered outside Scientology centers in 142 cities around the world. They wore Guy Fawkes masks and blasted "Luma Luma" on boom boxes. They shouted Internet insults. They held up signs saying "OH FUCK: The Internet Is Here." More protests followed, and over time what started out as a prank turned into something more serious.The movement attracted fervent Scientology critics, including a number of defectors. As Housh and other anons got to know those people, they gained more insight into the organization and refined their talking points to target what they saw as its weak spots. Tory Christman, a prominent ex-Scientologist, told me Anonymous helped alter the balance of power between the church and its critics. "Before Anonymous, there were literally about four or five of us who would talk to the interviewers," she said. "Now, there's tons."A new idea took hold: As one anon told me, Chanology gave people the impression that "a thousand malcontent nerds can change the world by going out and yelling something."For Housh, the turning point came when he heard that two anons had "kidnapped" a young woman from a Scientology center in Florida. She had approached them at a protest and handed them a business card with a desperate message scrawled on it: "Want out."When I asked Xyzzy about Chanology, he said he initially snickered at the idea: "From what I gathered from the Internet it was just a hug box and people wanting to be important." In fact, many anons downright hated it. They mocked the protesters as "moralfags," and it wasn't the "fag" part that was meant to be derogatory. In Anonymous lingo, "fag" is basically the equivalent of "dude."A conflict was brewing -- moralfags vs. lulzfags -- and over lunch one day in Boston I asked Housh which side had prevailed.He interrupted his attack on an overdone steak and flashed a grin that suggested he hadn't entirely lost touch with his con-man side."It's a little of both," he said.In part two, coming Tuesday, Anonymous expands its war on censorship, taking on the government. 锘?p>For his latest "destruction series" photo shoot, young Hollywood provocateur Tyler Shields desecrated the ultimate luxury status symbol -- an Herm猫s Birkin bag. And Shields didn't opt for just any Birkin bag. He selected a red Crocodile Birkin VS, for which he says he paid $100,000. Shields's girlfriend, Francesca Eastwood (Clint Eastwood's daughter), went on to obliterate the coveted handbag by chainsawing through it, setting it on fire, and chainsawing it some more -- all while Shields pointed his camera at her. Francesca Eastwood with a burning Birkin / Photo ? Tyler Shields Now the Internet is abuzz over , with one commenter writing on : "The money someone would have payed [sic] for the bag would have really gone to needy families or animals, get real!" Another on called Eastwood "a horrible human being." Eastwood has even over what she and Shields consider art.This isn't the first time the photographer has caused controversy. Last year, he released photographs of "Glee" actress Heather Morris in a , and covered in blood and pointing a gun at his head. Shields spoke to ARTINFO about the Birkin bag fiasco, describing how he acquired the iconic item, why he decided to destroy it, and how he's going to try to win over critics with a $100,000 donation to a needy family -- if somebody buys the photographs. How did you meet Francesca?A long time ago, almost a year maybe? A friend of mine was like, "You have to meet this girl, she's amazing, you should shoot her," and we just did it, and we became friends for a while, and then we started dating.How long have you been dating?I want to say eight months.Why did you decide to destroy a Birkin bag?Well, I've been doing a series for a while where we sawed a pair of Christian Louboutins in half, and whenever I asked anybody, "What's the best brand? What's the biggest thing?" Everyone said, "the Birkin," and then I looked it up, and the cheapest one is like $30,000. There's a waiting list to get them -- these things are amazing. And when I was in London doing my last gallery [exhibition] I ended up getting the opportunity to get one, and I did.Where did you get the bag?I got it from -- basically one of my very good friends over there has a bunch of them, and they set me up with the person who they get them from, and somebody brought me one in the trunk of a Bentley.How much did you pay for it?$100,000.From your own pocket?Yeah.Why the red Crocodile Birkin VS?It just appealed to my aesthetic the most. I love red. I use red a lot and I just loved the way it looked.Many critics have commented that the photo shoot was insensitive to those in financial need. What do you have to say about that?I think if people are [upset] because I spent money on a photo shoot, then they should be upset about every single photo shoot that takes place ever. A $100,000 photo shoot, actually -- Paris Hilton spent $200,000 on her album cover. The catering budget for the movie "John Carter" was $5 million. It takes money to make art. People spend money to make their work. If I was operating a McDonald's, would people be upset because I bought inventory? How many people buy sports cars? How many people buy watches? What if I bought a $100,000 car and I crashed it? I'm not taking anything away from anybody else. That's the thing, somebody wrote me an email, and she was very upset, and she was like, "How could you do this? You should have given that money to me."I was very poor just like six years ago, I had $11 and nobody gave me any money. Nobody just handed me anything. I had to fight for it. I had to work to get what I have. That's the thing about the country that we live in. You can dream anything you want, and if you're willing to work hard enough, you can get it.I support a lot of people. I help a lot of charities. I do a lot of things and when people want to attack me like that, it's laughable.What charities do you support?I do the Love Is Louder charity - they were a part of my last gallery [show]. We tried to raise a bunch of money for that. When the Heather Morris thing happened, we donated three sales of prints to anti-domestic abuse charities, and things like that. I'm all for that and I'm all for helping people. I'm all for people who have nothing being able to have something because that's exactly what my life has been. I didn't have anything and now I'm able to feed myself and all the people who work for me. The idea that I took from people or that I spent the most that's ever been spent on a photo shoot is ridiculous.Some people in the fashion world are calling it blasphemy that you destroyed such a rare and expensive bag. How do you respond to that?That's probably the best bag you can get in the whole world. People spend a lot of money on it, and I wanted to see what was inside it. I wanted to see what it was actually made of. It's durable. It's amazing. I didn't do it because I hated it. I did it because it was such an amazing piece. I didn't destroy it because I was like, "Oh this thing is a piece of shit." I did it because I liked it. I wanted to immortalize it.I have nothing against Christian Louboutin. I love Christian Louboutin. I have a pair of Christian Louboutin's men's shoes that I wear. The reason why I did it was because I wanted to see what was inside them. It took us six saw blades to cut through one pair of shoes. So the money that you pay for those is obviously worth it.That bag is still standing, I still have it. It has been chain sawed. It has been set on fire, and it is still standing upright.What are you going to do with it?I don't know. It's bolted to a table in my basement. There's not much of it left, but it's still there. I think it's a beautiful bag, it's really incredible. We weren't taking anything away from anybody. It didn't prevent anybody from being able to do anything. One of the things that people are upset about is that because some people are in hard times. I've been in hard times. I'm all for people getting out of that. As far as the blasphemy of it -- look, the bag is immortalized now and now we know how it stands up to a chain saw.Francesca has since received death threats via Twitter and Facebook for the photo shoot. Does that worry you at all? Are you two taking any security precautions?Yeah, I've gotten death threats before. I got death threats when we did the Heather Morris thing and the Mischa Barton thing. Obviously you have to assume that any threat could be real, but it's more just people displaying their anger and emotion on the Internet. It's not like people are around the house trying to start fights. It's just people upset on the Internet. Obviously you have to take certain precautions. I think it's just fine, but people are upset.Why do you consider this to be a work of art?Why wouldn't I? It's what I do. I like to create things. I did this completely for myself because this is what I wanted to do. To me, that's what it is.Why did you select Francesca to be the star of this shoot instead of one of your many other young Hollywood friends?She was with me when I came up with the idea for the whole series. She was there and we did the Louis Vuitton thing first and then the Christian Louboutin thing. She's just an integral part of what I do and I wanted her to be a part of it. And I knew that she could handle using a chainsaw, which maybe, certain other people, they couldn't.How did you know that?When you're in love with somebody you just know these things. You know if they can handle a chainsaw or not. She's very good at learning things very quickly and that was her first time ever using a chainsaw.What's next in the destruction series? How are you going to top a Birkin bag?I don't know. How do you top a Birkin bag?That's a hard one.It is. It is a tough one.Diamonds?Yeah, I'm just going to blow some diamonds up. I don't know. There are a few things that I'd love to destroy, but I haven't. We'll see if I can get my hands on them.Any hints?I can't give you the hint without giving it away, but it will be elaborate.Are you planning any gestures for the critics who said that the photo shoot was insensitive?What kind of gesture would I do?I don't know. Donate a Birkin bag to charity.That's the thing - what would a charity want with a Birkin bag?They can cash in and get money, or have an auction.What's the resale value on that thing? Is it that high?I'm sure it must be.Right? I guess so.Or you can donate the amount a Birkin bag costs to a charity.The Birkin photos are for sale. If somebody were to buy -- all right, let's do this. If somebody wants to buy one of the Birkin photos, I will donate $100,000 -- not to a charity -- but to a family. I will give one family in need $100,000 cash, tax-free.In cash, tax-free?Yep. How does that sound?That sounds exciting. We'll see how that turns out. How will you select the family?I'll have to figure it out. I just came up with that right now, so I'm not fully prepared on that. I would select somebody who -- my father had a stroke when I was 15, and it became very difficult financially for the family, so I think I would do that. I think I would find a family that someone had a stroke or some type of ailment. I think that if somebody had done that for us when that happened to me, it would have been like a miracle. So, I'll find somebody who that just happened to and I will help them out.So this wasn't a publicity stunt for Francesca's new E! reality show "Mrs. Eastwood and Co."?We were doing it. The reality show was just there. I had already done a few of these shoots before, and now it's on the reality show platform. It was on TV, so a lot more people saw it. And it's a Birkin and so it's a much bigger deal. I just was more excited for people to be able to see the behind the scenes of how we did it. I love the idea of people being able to see Francesca with the chainsaw because all the things that I do are real.Click on to see Tyler Shields's images of Francesca Eastwood destroying an Herm猫s Birkin bag.See more ARTINFO fashion and style coverage on our blog -Ann Binlot, More of Today's News from BLOUIN ARTINFO: Like what you see? to get the latest on the market, emerging artists, auctions, galleries, museums, and more.Follow ARTINFO on Twitter:锘?p>The skies above Britain are visited by at least one UFO a month, the head of UK Air Traffic Control has admitted. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Deakin said: "Occasionally there are objects identified that do not conform to normal traffic patterns. It does not occupy a huge amount of my time. 鈥淭here are approximately one a month."SEE ALSO: The figures are backed up by Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence. Also speaking on the programme, he revealed between 200-300 sightings a year were reported during his tenure. 鈥淢ost of the reports turned out to be misidentification of aircraft lights, weather balloons, meteors and satellites,鈥?he explained. He added: 鈥淚t did leave us with one or two a month we found genuinely interesting. Of course, our mindset is it鈥檚 probably more likely to be Russian than Martian.鈥?Pope, who continues to work as a UFO investigator, said the most interesting sightings were those which came from police officers, pilots or military personnel. He added: 鈥淭here was no definitive smoking gun that these things were alien鈥owever we never say never.鈥?While the MoD axed its UFO investigation bureau officially in 2009, Pope explained: 鈥淯nofficially people get around that by saying 鈥榰nusual aircraft or 鈥榰nconventional helicopter鈥?鈥?/p>In July, the The Telegraph quotes a 2008 document from a UFO Desk Officer:鈥淚 thought it would be helpful if I gave you some details about the role of the UFO desk beyond the daily mechanics of the job, which are really quite simple.鈥淗owever, since the universe is a very large place and mankind has only explored a very small corner of it, we cannot rule out the existence of intelligent life on other planets.鈥淲e therefore remain open minded on the topic. In the absence of proof either way, this position seems a perfectly sensible one.鈥?/p>The plug was pulled on the ?44,000-a-year post at the same time as the MoD鈥檚 dedicated UFO hotline number. An MoD spokesman said: 鈥淭he MoD had no specific capability for identifying the nature of such sightings and there would be no benefit in such an investigation. Furthermore, responding to reported UFO sightings diverted MOD resources from tasks that were more relevant to defence.鈥?/p>But the National Archives files also contain details of several 'sightings'.Some of the documents relate to a series of aliens seen above West Wales in 1977. One hotel owner said a dome-shaped object landed "like the moon falling down" behind his hotel, from which two "silver suited 'faceless humanoids' emerged and began 'making measurements'".Another saw a craze for releasing Chinese sky lanterns lead to a spate of reports flooding into the MoD of "golden orbs" seen in the sky.One woman called the MoD "panicking [and] saying we had to ring her back (She left three messages saying this). She was petrified and so were her friends. She had never seen anything like this before."Another man from County Durham was more sanguine.He "saw similar lights but did not think they were UFOs as he didn't believe aliens would want to visit Houghton" reported the MoD.锘?p>The last time I was compelled to put pen to paper for the Huffington Post, I wrote of government ineptitude with the aid of Dante and the Seven Deadly Sins. Four months on, my subject matter has not changed but this time I will be taking you to ancient Greece... ZeusThese days the Greeks jump through hoops for the German Finance Minister, but in ancient times they played games for the entertainment of Zeus and his cohorts. Over the centuries their games have evolved and now it is not just the Gods who watch. In fact, in just over a week, the whole world will be watching as the quadrennial competitive pastime experience kicks off in Britain. Unfortunately, at the moment it looks like all the world will see is a lot of rain, a confused looking Home Secretary, soldiers taking the place of security guards, what looks like a broken rollercoaster and small patches of advertising emblazoned with a logo that looks like someone just coughed up nachos and Bermuda shorts on it. It is no longer Zeus' thunderbolt that gives the masses cause for concern, but surface to air missiles on residential tower blocks. Hopefully these hints are enough to point you in the direction that this piece is going. I am finding it hard to explain why small business like ours have been gagged, but maybe the son of Zeus will help me clarify... HerculesAlthough only sometimes listed amongst the twelve Gods of Olympus, legend has it that the games were founded in celebration of Hercules completing his twelve labours. To be honest Hercules had it easy; he only had to contend with an armoured lion, a nine-headed serpent, a raging boar and a flock of metal beaked birds. British businesses have had to do battle with two sets of incompetent governments. In 2005 this country won the opportunity to host the worldwide multidiscipline sports orgy. Regrettably, we only seem to win these things in years when we could probably do without them, that is why we have so obviously given up on the Eurovision Song Contest (see Engelbert Humperdinck). But since the economic hardship began I have dared to hope that this event would act as a catalyst to a dramatic turn in the country's fortunes, just as it did after the Austerity Games of 1948. Unfortunately, rather than promoting the feel-good-factor, tourist influx and team spirit of the event, the then government (Labour) and the then opposition (the now current government) had other ideas. In 2006 they passed an Act of Parliament that created a monster worthy of Greek mythology: LOCOG. Although many businesses were incensed by the act passed in 2006, there was six years for the government and politicians to show some common sense and strangle the snake in the cradle as Hercules did, by amending some of the ridiculous facets of this Act. Unfortunately they did not. And so LOCOG is seemingly squishing the joy, camaraderie and national pride out of what London Mayor Boris Johnson promised us would be "the greatest show on earth". One of Hercules' labours was to divert a river to clean out a stable. This might seem a little heavy handed, but compared to the measures LOCOG has employed to clean any mention of the games from Britain's streets, it actually seems quite reasonable. HermesHermes, the God of transitions and boundaries, was also the patron of commerce, athletics and sports. This role has since been taken over by LOCOG and its boundaries are clear: companies that are not official sponsors cannot mention the forthcoming competition. LOCOG has said "our legal rights are very wide and therefore any 'O*****c' themed campaign is likely to infringe them - even if it doesn't refer explicitly to the games" (please note: the O-word has been removed to protect innocent and enormous multinational sponsors). In fact LOCOG is an organisation so committed to eradicating any unlawful reference to the games, that they even removed the Paralympics from their own acronym. Oops, sorry I am not actually allowed to use the P-word either, or our country's capital city, the number corresponding to the year of the dragon, one-eyed mascots Wedlock and Mandible, shiny discs suspended on ribbons or the precious metals they are made from, interwoven coloured circles or that season between Spring and Autumn that does not seem to have happened this year, maybe LOCOG removed that too. LOCOG's red tape has left any businesses that do not have the kind of bank balances that could rescue Greece, and therefore afford to be an official sponsor, too scared to get involved. This surely cannot be wise? AthenaAthena was the Goddess of wisdom. It seems to me that we could do with her help at this point. Don't get us wrong, sponsors deserve some exclusivity and should be protected, but stealing chunks of the English language, changing the name of the 02 Centre (presumably because it's very name threatens one of the mighty sponsors), banning MasterCard and AmEx (shouldn't we be promoting spending?), telling children that it matters what brand of trainers they wear (which goes against everything many parents have tried to teach their children) and threatening butchers, grannies and even the Middletons, seems a little extreme. Sponsors have stumped up ?750m of the ?9bn needed to host the games. A large portion of the remaining 90% of the bill will be footed by taxes paid by the public and local businesses who cannot even acknowledge that they know the event is taking place. So we would like to call on the Members of Parliament to do the right thing, show some backbone and recall The Commons from recess to do something that will promote the essence of the games and support our economy. With pasties, caravans, charitable donations and the school sport partnership, the current government have shown a willingness to listen to the public and the strength to reverse decisions they have made. Doing the same here might achieve a new personal best. At this late stage it is unlikely that the sponsors would withdraw their ?750m and it would allow the public and small businesses to feel like they are part of an event they have been unable to get tickets for. Yes, I think an amendment to the 2006 Act would be just the ticket for small businesses. Maybe we could call it The Oddbins Amendment? Perhaps this draconian debacle has driven me mad? DionysusDionysus, better known over here under his Roman name of Bacchus, was the God of wine, freedom, celebration and fun. Hera, wife and sister of Zeus, struck Dionysus down with madness. She may have also had a go at Richard Caborn, the former sports minister, too. We all know that politicians say silly things from time to time, but speaking recently on the Today Programme he said "How many people have been in court or before a judge because of that 2006 act? Not one!" He seemed to be saying that the fact that nobody has been charged under the law means that the law is therefore correct. But reading between the lines he may also have been admitting, just a little too late for any businesses to make use of it, that the brand bullies are all bark and no bite. Unfortunately, when the dog is much bigger than you, it would be madness to poke it with a javelin to see if it has teeth (oops, we have done it again, by mentioning the pointy metal stick we did not mean to suggest that we have any association with the high speed rail network that serves that village next to Westfield). Mad as Dionysus may have been, he undoubtedly would have been heavily involved in the ancient games. Unfortunately, we will not have the same privilege in these modern times. We did not want to use the official logo, allude to sponsorship or suggest that our product will improve your sporting prowess. What we wanted to do was to have some fun, join in, support our athletes and take advantage of an event that could begin our country's economic recovery. So, although we will be vocally supporting Collective GB in their pursuit of gilded neck trophies and raising a glass to every victory, this will not be obvious from our upcoming poster campaign. And this is because even though the games have changed, all must bend to the whim of the Gods of Olympus.锘?p>The Huffington Post:It started with velvet crop tops at Alexander Wang, then Nicki Minaj showed up wearing Docs in her Super Bass video, and most recently, the Olsen's debuted another iconic emblem of the decade: The backpack. 锘?p>DUBAI, United Arab Emirates Three international banks that backed out of $10 billion debt restructuring talks with an investment company controlled by Dubai's ruler said Thursday they are now pursuing legal action against the firm, dashing hopes of a consensual deal.The move by Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland, Commerzbank of Germany and South African lender Standard Bank will likely further complicate Dubai Group's efforts to move beyond its debt troubles after more than a year and a half of negotiations with creditors.The three banks said in a joint statement they had offered numerous concessions but since no deal could be reached, they had no choice but to take their case to court."Our preference was always to conclude an agreement without formal legal proceedings and we therefore remain open to such an outcome if an acceptable commercial resolution is forthcoming. However, to date no satisfactory proposal has been put forward," the banks said.The lenders say they will not be commenting further because they are bound to keep details of any proceedings confidential.Dubai Group and its parent, Dubai Holding, are personally controlled by the city-state's hereditary ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. That means cases involving them are not eligible to be heard in a special Dubai tribunal set up to deal with legal challenges involving Dubai World, another state-linked company that faced serious debt repayment difficulties.Dubai Group said a number of creditors have expressed their support for the revised repayment terms it is offering, and it remains optimistic about the negotiations."We believe that we can reach a consensual agreement with our creditors. Over 35 banks are working towards an agreement," it said. "We continue to believe that this deal is in the best interests of all parties."The legal challenge has been filed with a court in London, according to people familiar with the matter. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the case.Dubai Group's severe debt repayment problems came to light in late 2010, a year after the fast-growing Gulf emirate shocked world markets with a financial crisis involving state conglomerate Dubai World.Dubai World signed an agreement with creditors to repay $25 billion worth of loans under revised terms in March last year.Dubai Group has sizable stakes in several financial companies, including regional bank EFG-Hermes and Europe's Marfin Popular Bank, and it owns property in the United States.RBS, which was partly nationalized by the British government during the height of the financial crisis, was a key member of a committee negotiating with Dubai Group on behalf of several partially secured and unsecured creditors. British taxpayers still own 81 percent of the bank.RBS said in July it and other lenders were walking away from the negotiations after failing to come to an agreement on a number of restructuring proposals that would have allowed Dubai Group to keep operating while paying back creditors.Dubai Group has been engaged in separate talks with secured creditors, which means their loans are backed by collateral. It owes local and international lenders a combined $10 billion.锘?p>When Michelle Obama stunned in a sapphire-blue dress from Barbara Tfank at last week's State of the Union address, we didn't know a whole lot about the LA-based designer, other than that she's worked with FLOTUS before (such as when the first lady visited Buckingham Palace in one of her Resort looks last May) and has been collaborating with Adele since Anna Wintour introduced the pair in 2009. Here are some more fun facts about Tfank, who'll present her fall 2012 collection at New York Fashion Week February 13.1. She didn't know FLOTUS would wear her dress to the State of the Union ahead of time. "It's the fourth time she's worn something of mine, but it was by far the most extraordinary because I was watching it on TV and I didn't even know she was wearing it," she reveals. "It was a huge surprise."2. Her first celebrity client was Uma Thurman. As a design consultant for Prada, she created the lavender gown the actress wore to the 1995 Oscars when she was nominated for her role as Mia Wallace in "Pulp Fiction." "I wanted to do something fresh and clean, and she didn't want to look overly done up or sexualized. So, there was a channeling of Grace Kelly and Glenda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz."3. Before launching her line in 2001, she began her career as a costume designer for various films, such as 1992's "A Midnight Clear." "It was all men, and it was a period film and it was mainly World War II uniforms," she recalls. "That was a departure from working in fashion."4. She's not a slave to trends. "I feel like they put pressure on people to conform," she says. I think I'm more of a non-conformist and really try to encourage my customers to be themselves and do what they want with the clothes and personalize them. I go more after beautiful and sensual than trendy."5. Or red-carpet fashion, for that matter. "I don't know what it is, but it just isn't something I really subscribe to," she says. "There are many people who look lovely, but when you ask me a year later what was a standout, I just don't really feel anyone has stood out as an individual. It's all very appropriate, and that's great, but I can't say it's inspiring to me." 6. Her work soundtrack consists of Japanese composer Minami Nozaki, French electronica band Cocosuma, and of course, Adele. "'Someone Like You' is the Adele song I love the most," she says.7. Her daytime uniform includes a Hermes watch, Hermes garden bag, quilted Hermes jacket, James Perse pants and a Gap T-shirt. "That's what I wear for my studio, since I have to get a little dirty," she says. "But I love getting dressed up for parties."8. Her inspirations? Classic film and nature. "Last season, we did Elizabeth Taylor, and this season my collection's based on 'the magic hour' which is a cinematic term for that moment right at sunset when there's an alignment of light and reflection. Certain films have been shot exclusively at that time, like Terrence Malick's 'Days of Heaven.'"GettyFASHION RELATED LINKS YOU MAY LOVE: - Glamour - FabSugar - The Frisky - Elle - Racked 锘?p>Ouch, it's still there, counterfeiting raising its ugly head again. In the latest , more than 20,000 counterfeit bags were uncovered by Chinese police and US authorities, as well as 37 illegal sites for manufacturing or selling the merchandise. They were mainly imitations of luxury brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Coach. While it's always encouraging to hear of successful raids such as this, the issue of counterfeiting doesn't seem to be going away. Consider the fact that if counterfeiting were a legit business, it would be the biggest in the world, and that it is twice the size of . Or, that The World Customs Organisation estimates that the counterfeit business accounts for 7% of world trade, and this represents only those items uncovered. That's a big number. Governments and other anti-corruption bodies are trying to combat the problem through various initiatives such as stronger legal frameworks, enforcement efforts and awareness-raising campaigns. And only last week, the UK based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB) suggested a strategic rethink of how the issue be dealt with, specifically recommending a focus on . I'm inclined to agree that authorities need to look at solving this from a new perspective but, when it comes to luxury counterfeiting, I can't help thinking that luxury brands themselves need to be more vocal on the issue. Looking at the brand of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC), it's surprising to see representation from only a handful of the big names in luxury. Why are they not all signed up? Fair enough, most have in-house teams who deal with the issue specifically, but it does suggest a non-cohesive effort on the part of the industry. One that usually means a more reactive than proactive approach to the problem, which ultimately gives them less control of the situation. During the summer of 2009, the IACC ran an international awareness campaign, with posters placed in airports among other places. But what is your first instinct when you look at this picture? It presents the problem, yes, but does it speak to you? I happened to see ones similar to this at Nice airport that summer and while I agreed with the sentiment, to me they seemed officious; like another person shouting orders, when I was already feeling hassled, standing in line to get through security. Not exactly a winning formula in my humble opinion. Picture credit: IACC.orgSo, here is what I suggest. How about luxury brands run their own advertising campaigns to raise awareness about the truths behind counterfeiting? Place them strategically, where tourists will see them but also where aspiring luxury consumers tend to engage with their favourite brands, such as on their website, or their social media. Brands can do it in a concerted effort, which would be both more powerful and economical, or independently. But either way, their campaigns against counterfeiting would likely be more effective than those by faceless organisations (no offence guys) because luxury brands command instant recognition and credibility, while anti-counterfeiting bodies don't. One way or another, most people who buy fakes have an emotional connection with the brand; they may not be willing to pay full price for it but they like the status it conveys, and they are buying into some aspect of glamour. So why not turn this on its head and show that there is nothing glamorous about parading about town in fakes and worse, pretending that they are real? There has got to be some emotional pull to influence people and as we all know, luxury brands have this in spades.Blog: Follow Beibhinn Gillan on Twitter:锘?p>Leave it to my fab friend J. to be covering the chicest of chic Parisian (and other European) events. The girl's got game, my darlings. She is so in the fashion know we can only bow down with one of the best lines in movie history, which happens to come from nutty-romp-through-Mike-Meyers'-mind . No, I'm not talking about "monkeys might fly out of my butt." It's the genuflecting "We're not worthy!!"J. was kind enough to invite me to tag along while with her to the , an international level show-jumping competition and a series of events based around the horse held April 2 - 4, 2010, and organized by purveyor of leather luxury . From :Open to the general public, le Saut Herm猫s au Grand Palais is an event that celebrates the many facets of the horse riding world, with its "Fantaisie 茅questre" that mix sport, culture and know-how. Over the two days, under the glass roof of the , there will be a succession of events, from the five-star international show-jumping competition, recognized by the International Equestrian Federation and the French Equestrian Federation, to a never-before-seen horse-riding show, exhibitions...Herm猫s started out as a maker of harnesses, then saddles and all the equipment needed by riders and horses before they exploded in the entire opulent lifestyle market. So the company has gone back to its roots, though in grand style. What else would one expect?Herm猫s saddle (Photo by Beth Arnold)You may be surprised to find out that the Grand Palais is no stranger to horse shows.Grand Palais (Photo by Beth Arnold)From the :From 1901 to 1957 the Grand Palais celebrated equestrian events and held riding and carriage driving competitions, speed classes and carousels. Every spring people thronged through the galleries to admire heavy horses, thoroughbreds and Anglo-Normans.The Grand Palais certainly felt like "Horse Country" when we arrived with some people sporting plaid country horsey ensembles (picture the matronly Camilla Parker-Bowles), while others were in jeans or dressed to the nines with spike heels. Herm猫s saddles were displayed, and saddle makers were actually working in a kiosk to show us. Riders warmed up their horses in corrals on each end of the center show course.It had been a very long time since I'd been to a horse show of any variety. These animals and their riders were the essence of grace. One of the most handsome horses (Photo by Beth Arnold)I was entranced with the magnificence of the thoroughbreds as they nimbly leapt over the ever-so-tall fences. Their hooves thundered, and the riders' coat tails flapped in the wind, but they looked light as a feather as they flew through the course.How do they do it? (Photo by Beth Arnold)The answer of course is hours and hours of training for horse and rider to master their skills. attended though I didn't see her.Awards presentation (Photo by Beth Arnold)The Saut Herms went to French couple Pnlope Leprvost and Kevin Staut.After the competition was over, we were treated with a "Salute to Herm猫s" by . Bartabas has chosen to present "An equestrian bonanza" at the Grand Palais with the Acad茅mie du spectacle 茅questre de Versailles (The Versailles Academy of Equestrian Shows), an equestrian ballet troupe that is unique in the world, combining tradition and contemporary creation.This choreographer and his riders took our collective breath away with a series of dances with riders and horses. First, a man and a woman rode out in an equestrian pas de deux, and next was a white bride with her long white veil cascading behind her. My second to favorite were the 10 medieval maidens who rode their white chargers (see podcast below).Japanese kite riders (Photo by Beth Arnold)Ancient Japanese horsemen were next with what I'll call beautiful silk kites flowing behind them. Afterward, lady fencers on gray mounts crossed swords up and down the arena. The final ballet was my favorite, and this was two splendid "wild" herds of riderless horses, manes flowing free, being led by two of the Japanese riders. Wild Horses (Photo by Beth Arnold)Their exquisiteness was the soul of the wild horse. The training in this case was to resemble their ancestors who were savage and free.Wild and free...this is the greatest beauty of all.A glimpse of le Saut Herm猫s au Grand Palais by podcast:A salute to Herm猫s and the horse!Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. To see more of her work, go to . Follow Beth Arnold on Twitter:锘?p>Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, I a snarky tweet the other night. I was snarking about how the UK skinny blogger scene (and I here use the word "skinny blogger" to mean "not-fat blogger" or "not-plus-size blogger") is ridiculously homogenous. Laughably, comically so. It was triggered by the fact I thought I'd seen a photo of one skinny girl blogger, when in fact I'd seen a photo of another; you could write a Shakespearean comedy of errors around these lasses. Yes, of course, there are some amazing, original bloggers, but there are an awful lot of girls who choose to dress exactly the same, with long ombr茅 hair and floppy hats and Jeffrey Campbell Litas and mini "skater" skirts and American Apparel disco pants. Whichever way you look at it, there is a look amongst these bloggers.My best pal then pointed out to me that this just does not happen in the fat blogosphere. How had I not noticed this before? She's some kind of genius. There is no fat blogger look. You can't point at something in Topshop and say "that's so fatshion blogger" (and no, not only because most of us wouldn't fit into their clothes). The plus-size fashion blogger world is just not a homogenous one.I think the reason for this is clear: most of my fat girlfriends and I have always been fat. We grew up fat in a skinny world. What's more, we probably grew up isolated in our fatness, without people to copy in our formative years. We're used to being the odd one out, aesthetically and sartorially. We're used to parts of fashion being closed off to us. Before we got confident enough in own our style and put our photos on the Internet in the form of a fashion blog, we were used to being excluded from fashion. We couldn't wear the clothes that made other girls cool and that constituted "trends." We don't see aspirational images. We don't have "style icons" shoved down our throats ("stealing Alexa Chung's style" doesn't seem like much of an option when you're literally three times her size). We've never had the option of fitting in, of looking like one of the "cool girls." There's always been something keeping us apart, forcing us to figure ourselves out.In films and television, fat girls are never stylish. They're never cool. They're there for a reason, and that's usually to be made fun of. Most fat bloggers are cool and confident, and don't see themselves in these portrayals at all, so once again we're forced into a position where we have to construct our own identities.Even now, as women armed with confidence and a desire to show our looks to the world, it's not like it's easy. Plus-size clothing is pushed away and made to be a marginal branch of fashion. No one pays it enough attention or produces it in great enough quantities for us to be able to develop a cohesive "cool-approved-blogger look." We roll our eyes every season at the hella average stuff that mainstream brands churn out. We're dissatisfied with the majority of clothes marketed at us, so we have to find ways to make things work, on our own terms. There isn't a "must-have" item every season. A bit from here, a bit from there. Squeeze into something from a straight-size shop. Try out an online store. We don't have one approved access point, one easy go-to place that season after season gives us "what girls want." You could never essentialise the "fatshion blogger look." So, now we all look different. I maintain that, to my knowledge, there are no two fatshion bloggers that have the same style. There's a kind of punk girl, a kind of "elegant, gothic lolita" girl, a super classic girl, a girl who only does the pinup thing, a girl who rarely wears anything she didn't make or thrift. Incidentally, I asked two of my best gal pals to tell me what style group I fitted into: the result was "ugly, clashing and green."And for that I am truly grateful.锘?p>This just in from across the pond: "Strictly Sexy" September issue. Inside, Queen B. strikes a pose in the likes of Alaia, Armani Prive, Lanvin and Hermes and dishes on turning 30, her relationships with Gaga and Gwyneth and growing up with some strong females surrounding her....On eavesdropping on people's conversations at her mother's beauty salon:"I loved listening to people's problems. It was like a sanctuary for those women. It was a place you didn't bring your children, and your husbands weren't there."On women's friendships:"I'm afraid when women never hang around with other women. That's a little scary to me -- why is that?"On being called a feminist:"I don't really feel that it's necessary to define it. It's just something that's kind of natural for me, and I feel like...you know...it's, like, what I live for. I need to find a catchy new word for 'feminism', right? Like 'bootylicious'..."Check out some photos below and for a behind-the-scenes video of Beyonce's shoot, . The issue hits newsstands August 6. 锘?p>Well-dressed women are the norm here, but my new neighbors in particularhave that certain je ne sais quoi which is just so Parisian. Their outfits are usually paired with perfectly matching manicured hands and feet -- they seem to excel at color coordination. Not to mention the "perfect" accessory.Never have I seen so many Birkin bags being proudly paraded around. On one of my first shopping excursions up to the rue de Passy, I counted at least eight in the first 10 minutes. (The Goyard canvas tote comes in at a close second place.) Their grooming is impeccable: Most women here always look like they recently stepped out from the hair salon. I just don't know where they find the time for all this, but they do.锘?p>The Hermes Birkin bag is the ultimate It Bag, the most visible handbag status symbol this side of a Louis Vuitton print. But is the wildly expensive leather bag losing its lustre? It's , which points out that across Southeast Asia, so many women carry Birkins that the the cache is beginning to wane. 鈥淪ince almost everybody has a Birkin bag," one socialite told Forbes contributor Blue Carreon, "more and more ladies are opting for bags made from exotic skins now, not necessarily Birkins."Why might the Birkin be falling from the heights of exclusivity and into the arms of the masses? One might point fingers are . The Kardashians are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Birkin-toting "regular" girls. Everyone from and to and have proven that you don't need an invite to the Met Gala or a seat in the front row to carry Hermes (and that being a teen pop singer or reality TV star does the trick).Moreover, Birkins are no longer limited to the uber rich and famous. As Buzzfeed reported, , bringing them to the masses (at a steep markup). On the streets of Hong Kong, , they are ubiquitous. They're also no longer so precious: and aspiring reality TV starlet . It's undeniable that the Hermes Birkin bag is growing more ubiquitous by the day. But does that make it any less coveted? Any less Birkin-y as it once was? And do you still want one? and sound off in the comments below. Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>As the fashion flock moves to Milan for the fall/winter 2011 collections, Tod's chairman Diego Della Valle, fondly called the Italian Ralph Lauren, talks about his life-long pursuit of Italian excellence, the reason why he bought shares at Saks and his part in keeping the Kennedy legacy alive.Blue Carreon: Did you always set out to be in the fashion industry? What were your ambitions when you were a boy?Diego della Valle: Not really. I worked in the family business, which was my father's shoe making company that he had inherited from his father, and that led me to become interested in what could be achieved by a great Italian brand. That became my ambition as a young man. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a footballer and racing driver, like all kids. And to tell you the truth, I have always felt that Tod's is not really about fashion. It is more about providing effortless chic and a timeless style that is resistant to changing trends. Tod's is essentially a luxury goods company with a mandate that focuses on the notion of eternal style.BC: If you didn't have Tod's Group, what do you think you will be doing today?DDV: I'm sure I would be developing a brand of some sort. My other private business interests include shares in a newspaper, a football club and several other firms, including the famous Italian scooter manufacturer, Vespa. In each case, I am attracted to the story of an Italian brand.BC: Did you ever think that Tod's would be this big when you started the company? DDV: I hoped it might be, but I didn't really know what could be achieved. Initially, I wanted to create a new type of shoe that combined the relaxed, casual spirit of America, with the manufacturing skill and heritage of Made in Italy. I was more concerned with making a great new type of product than specific financial goals.BC: What has been the best decision you have made for the company? What has been the worst, if any?DDV: The best has been to stick to a very particular philosophy, which has always been, and will always be, to pursue refined, understated luxury, impeccable taste and excellent quality - an aesthetic delivered through our products being Made in Italy; and not to expand thoughtlessly into areas in which we are not experts. The worst is for me and my financial director to know and for others to guess at. BC: Tod's is doing a lot of charity work, why is this so important to you?DDV: Because it is only right that those of us who have been successful give something back to people who are less fortunate than ourselves. In Italy, the idea of the family is very strong and there is something of this principle in the model of social responsibility. We are all, in a way, one big family.BC: What's the best thing that's been said about you? The worst?DDV: The best thing is that I am a good Italian - in other words, that I am promoting certain cultural values that my country holds dear, like heritage, quality, craftsmanship, pride in our work and the like. The worst, recently, was that I was considering entering Italian politics!BC: How would you like to be remembered by? DDV: I hope I will be remembered as a good father and a fair employer. And a good host, of course!BC: What are the fashion houses you admire?DDV: Chanel and Hermes, as like Tod's, they produce beautiful products that stand outside the arena of the merely fashionable.BC: What's your take on the Hermes-LVMH debacle?DDV: As a board member of LVMH you will understand that I cannot comment.BC: What do you intend to do with your stake at Saks?DDV: I intend to enjoy it! I bought into Saks as a personal investment because when I was a young man and went to America for the first time, it seemed to me that Saks was like a cathedral of retail. I never dreamt that I could one day be a part of it. And now I am. Saks has a great management team and promises good potential. BC: You live an incredibly good life with beautiful homes, a yacht, private jet etc., would you say that you "have it all?" DDV: I am not complacent. You can always do better and do more. In the end, it is this desire to keep developing and to keep learning that drives me.BC: You're known to collect art and vintage cars, what's your most prized possession?DDV: Marlin, a yacht that used to belong to John F Kennedy. I bought it at auction years ago and it still gives me enormous pleasure.BC: What are your guilty pleasures?DDV: Collecting art. It is a wonderful thing to be able to do. Especially as I buy only what I like - so that might mean a piece by a complete unknown, or something by a famous name. For me this is pure fun.BC: What are you most grateful for?DDV: My good health and that of my family. Follow Blue Carreon on Twitter:锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘?p> was, by any measure, a messy one. Some would say the fallout was of the ugliest variety, others downplay the drama. Last night Goreski handed the world yet another little peek into his current status with Zoe. Goreski famously broke with Zoe, his former employer, to start his own styling business. That venture is being documented by which premiered last night on Bravo (to much fanfare, but we have to admit: we found it a bit boring and only watched about ten minutes). Luckily someone kept the TV on over at Jezebel, to promote the premiere. During the interview Williams made sure to ask what everyone always wants to know: what's going on with Brad and Rachel?Wendy: Do you have any conversation with anybody in the Rachel Zoe camp -- her husband, anybody?Brad: No. Wendy: So you haven't seen the baby?Brad: I have not seen the baby.Wendy: Did you send a gift?Brad: I did, I sent an Hermes tower. It had three baby toys in it. Wendy: Did it get returned? Brad: It did not get returned. It also didn't come back with a thank you note...Eek. While our main question concerns the "Hermes tower" (what the heck is that?), we also are curious why a thank you note wasn't sent. We've always taken Rachel Zoe to be a polite, friendly lady, so why no card?The only explanation we can think of is that the toy tower got lost in .See the clip in the video above and . Will you be watching?Related on HuffPost: 锘?p>Sunday was a big day in Paris, and not just for Fashion Week. The launch of the Electric Car. A nippier way to get around Paris without polluting the city. Easy to hire - like the bikes. It was also La Nuit Blanche, an all-nighter where Parisians sample art, dance, and theatre through the night until dawn. The fashion world, however, was hungover from the Diesel party and Kanye West frenzy. In fact, Fashion Week Boredom had well and truly struck - a couple of magazine girlies were overheard moaning about having to go to "another show" and the hot weather had totally screwed up their wardrobe. They seemed more interested in fixing their dinner reservations than fashion - big dilemma whether to go to Societe or Hotel Costes - they obviously did not realise they are both owned by the same company. It felt like the low day of the week. Note to designers: the Sunday slot is not always the best one. Today's hot line up was Kenzo, Galliano, Hermes and Givenchy. The Hermes show is always a highlight and a personal favourite - one of the only designers to still make clothes in France. It does not rely on glamourbuzz, rather the clothes tell their own story. It lived up to every expectation - its grace had the effect of cooling down the frayed nerves of impatient front rowers. Of course the champagne and freshly squeezed juices got the show off to a great start.Everything oozed elegance and class. The models catwalked at a much slower pace, gliding like swans. Rather than the usual strutt-y, show-off-y walk. The colours began with white and got brighter to burnt orange then darker to black. Every garment was a must-have -- especially the orange shirt dress. And to go with it of course the yummiest accessories - bijou purses and canvas bags (roomy enough for an iPad). They also played a track that has been dubbed THE hit of Fashion Week - "Forever Dolphin Love" by Connan Mockasin. The celebs of the day were, however, at Kenzo and then Givenchy. Chloe Sevigny made a surprise entrance on the Kenzo runway as did Jason Schwartzman. Joey Starr, Liv Tyler, Jared Leto and Kanye West all rocked up to Givenchy. It was then time for Tod's soiree at the Italian Embassy - hosted by the ambassador himself. A very suave Italian crowd was there. DSquared also with lots freebies held the hype-y party later at the Ritz.Motto of the day, in fact of the week, is that hype does not mean talent and talent wins every time. Follow BritChick Paris on Twitter:锘?p>When I first arrived in Paris my expectations of haute couture were very high. All fashion roads lead to the city that gave birth to Coco, Yves and Christians (plural). No other fashion week in the world is treated with such reverence. Can you imagine London coming to a grinding halt for a week's worth of catwalks? But as I embarked on my expedition around the style mecca -- Faubourg St Honore, St Germain, Opera and even Le Marais, something seemed terribly wrong. I kept searching and searching for something original and cool. We're not talking zany cool here but All Saints individual, Top Shop creative? Ok so maybe I am slightly exaggerating. But let's put it this way: I saw far too many court shoes and twin sets for my liking. I started observing my fellow shoppers and they were equally traditional. Identical blow drys -- bobs sprayed down within an inch of their life -- dark trousers (nothing above a muted brown tone), silky top and some form of unremarkable trench. The sales assistants also had the same attitude -- no smiling and banter, more of a snooty nod mixed with a grimace. At one high-end store (that will remain nameless) I asked an assistant for some advice on shoes. Anyone would have thought I'd asked him for the answer to global warming. Then at another, I returned a broken necklace and asked for it to be repaired. Not possible. I referenced Hermes, who had been very helpful in mending something for me. "Oh no madame, we aren't as good quality as them." Hmmm not sure their head designer at this leading French createur would be happy with that. Everybody had raved about the store Colette -- a fusion concept store supposedly only selling the most cutting edge garb. I was sorely disappointed. If all the other stores along the street were non-cool, Colette was painfully try-hard trendy. Overpriced accessories that no one will ever wear. Furs and leather skirts that are impossible to put on and extortionate in price. It was a museum not a store. Hamleys for adults with some weird clothes thrown in. On my travels, certain places started to whet my clothes appetite. Zadig and Voltaire. The Kooples. Fab grungy t-shirts and leggings. But I was missing that one-stop experience. My beau took me to the Champs Elysees to try and change my mind. He had to be kidding! Gap, H&M? We entered one of the many Galerie arcades -- Galerie 66 -- and I was literally blown away. A mecca of young designers or nouveaux createurs, all merchandised in a hip, non-conventional way. In fact, it's more than a store. It has its own music label and the layout is Philippe Starck-esque. Shoes were our first stop. I drooled over Vivienne Westwood heels and bought some red ballerina shoes with pom poms. We then entered the clothes zone. And I felt home again. Brit pop was blaring. Tassle bags draped everywhere. Iconic graphics on t-shirts. Sexy one-piece short and crop tops. This was just the beginning. I was like a crazed shopaholic. Clothes piled high -- nothing was getting left behind. I found the most perfect multi-color bag -- in fake snake skin. As for my beau, it was makeover time. Out with the suit, in with the smoking jacket. Groovy waistcoats, double layered t-shirts and suede slip on shoes. Thank goodness mens' shoe designers have started to offer something more interesting than the stock shiny lace-up. I mean, would women wear them? Best of all were the staff -- a funky chick carried all our clothes around the shop as I ran around frothing at the mouth. As we paid, the manager then paid us the greatest compliment. He actually admired our outfits. I was wearing an unusual blue YSL sleeveless sky-blue puffer jacket and my beau a pale grey knitted jacket from Venise. I had all but given up shopping in Paris. Galerie 66 was a revelation. If you're planning a shopping spree weekend -- take a shortcut to Galerie 66. Then finish it off with an apero at the Costes cafe Madrigal next door and spare a thought for passerby shoppers clutching their bags of same same silk scarves and cashmere cardis.锘?p>What lesson did we learn this week, class? Don't rip off Burberry. this week as Manhattan Federal court laid down the law on an extensive counterfeiting network. According to Women's Wear Daily, a slew of Chinese websites using the Burberry name and selling fake Burberry goods (yes, ... )have been found guilty of trademark infringement. This is certainly not the first time the British brand has taken counterfeiters to task. In 2010, for selling fake Burberry products. But the recent suit has more intriguing, precedent-setting terms: in this case, Burberry has been awarded not only a huge sum of money but the offending domain names as well, including yesburberryvision.com and buyburberry.com. , to "hold third-party hosts; payment processors; search engines, such as Google, and social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, accountable for associating with the infringing sites," writes Women's Wear Daily. If a site is found to be in cahoots with the counterfeiters, says WWD, Burberry could cut them out from Web searches altogether.Let's hope those Chinese counterfeiters aren't social media mavens. Tell us in the comment: have you ever purchased a fake designer bag?Related on HuffPost:锘?p>SAN FRANCISCO Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on some pot dispensaries in California, warning the stores that they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law.In an escalation of the ongoing conflict between the U.S. government and the nation's burgeoning medical marijuana industry, at least 16 pot shops or their landlords received letters this week stating they are violating federal drug laws, even though medical marijuana is legal in California. The state's four U.S. attorneys were scheduled Friday to announce a broader coordinated crackdown.Their offices refused Thursday to confirm the closure orders. The Associated Press obtained copies of the letters that a prosecutor sent to at least 12 San Diego dispensaries. They state that federal law "takes precedence over state law and applies regardless of the particular uses for which a dispensary is selling and distributing marijuana.""Under United States law, a dispensary's operations involving sales and distribution of marijuana are illegal and subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions," according to the letters signed by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego. "Real and personal property involved in such operations are subject to seizure by and forfeiture to the United States ... regardless of the purported purpose of the dispensary."The move comes a little more than two months after the Obama administration toughened its stand on medical marijuana. For two years before that, federal officials had indicated they would not move aggressively against dispensaries in compliance with laws in the 16 states where pot is legal for people with doctors' recommendations.The Department of Justice issued a policy memo to federal prosecutors in late June stating that marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers in states with medical marijuana laws could face prosecution for violating federal drug and money-laundering laws. The effort to shutter California dispensaries appeared to be the most far-reaching effort so far to put that guidance into action."This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. The administration is simply making good on multiple threats issued since President Obama took office," said Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the president's drug czar and a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Substance Abuse Solutions. "The challenge is to balance the scarcity of law enforcement resources and the sanctity of this country's medication approval process. It seems like the administration is simply making good on multiple statements made previously to appropriately strike that balance."Greg Anton, a lawyer who represents dispensary Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, said its landlord received an "extremely threatening" letter Wednesday invoking a federal law that imposes additional penalties for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds.The landlord was ordered to evict the 14-year-old pot club or risk imprisonment, plus forfeiture of the property and all the rent he has collected while the dispensary has been in business, Anton said.Marin Alliance's founder "has been paying state and federal taxes for 14 years, and they have cashed all the checks," he said. "All I hear from Obama is whining about his budget, but he has money to do this which will actually reduce revenues."Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said the warnings are part of what appears to be an attempt by the Obama administration to curb medical marijuana on multiple fronts and through multiple agencies. A series of dispensary raids in Montana, for example, involved agents from not only the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, but the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency.Going after property owners is not a new tactic though, Hermes said. Five years ago, the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush made similar threats to about 300 Los Angeles-area landlords who were renting space to medical marijuana outlets, some of whom were eventually evicted or closed their doors voluntarily, he said."It did have an impact. However, the federal government never acted on its threats, never prosecuted anybody, never even went to court to begin prosecutions," Hermes said. "By and large, they were empty threats, but they relied on them and the cost of postage to shut down as many facilities as they could without having to engage in criminal enforcement activity."Besides the dozen dispensaries in San Diego and the one in Marin County, at least three shops in San Francisco already have received closure notices, said Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.The San Diego medical marijuana outlets put on notice were the same 12 that city officials sued last month for operating illegally, after activists there threatened to force an election on a zoning plan adopted to regulate the city's fast-growing medical marijuana industry, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. A judge on Wednesday ordered nine of the targeted shops to close, while the other three shut down voluntarily, Goldsmith said.Duffy, the U.S. attorney for far Southern California, planned to issue warning letters to property owners and all of the 180 or so dispensaries that have proliferated in San Diego in the absence of compromise regulations, according to Goldsmith."The real power is with the federal government," he said. "They have the asset forfeiture, and that means either the federal government will own a lot of property or these landlords will evict a lot of dispensaries." 锘?p>One question I am frequently asked is: "what is your favourite designer"? For some, this could be a question that needs considerable consideration and reflection but for me I know straight away - Herm猫s. I obviously love the beautifully crafted products but my respect for the brand goes beyond this; it is an appreciation for a luxury company that has stuck to its heritage and almost rejoices in its "old fashioned" approach to business. And I believe this is why the label has managed to nurture a cult-like fascination from fashion followers whilst still charging eye-watering prices. Last financial year net profit at Herm猫s was up 41%. I will spare you a potted history of the brand but this year Herm猫s turned 175 and it marked an all time high for the company. However, unlike many fashion brands, when you compare its early years to the present day, not much has changed at Herm猫s in the last century. Although there has been diversification into other areas, Herm猫s is still best known for its leather goods and beautifully printed silk scarfs, as well as its obsession with quality. The complete rejection of mass-producing items means that the Herm猫s craftsmen are still based in Paris and can strictly only work on one item at a time. There have been whispers that it takes at least 10 years for Herm猫s artisan to be seen as "acceptable" and it can take up to 50 hours for just one Birkin handbag to be complete. Once any product is finished, if there is seen as being one tiny flaw on the item it is immediately rejected and either discarded or sold off to staff. It is this level of perfection that sees consumers hunger over each item and happily wait for three years to see their order fulfilled. And its tricky to think of many other fashion houses that can boast of producing almost of all of its products in the same city it was founded. The tight control on quality has certainly attracted me to the brand; you know when you are buying a Herm猫s product it will last and be an investment piece. But what has always attracted me even more is that Herm猫s is not trend led. Nowadays I see too many designers that feel its acceptable to charge outrageous prices but without the same nuance on quality and in a style that is likely to date in a few seasons, making it obsolete in a matter of months. Perhaps not on the same pricing scale, but we have all fallen victim to buying a coveted designer item only to look in our wardrobe two years later and wonder when we will wear it again. Owning a Herm猫s product is like having a piece of fine jewellery - it rarely dates and will be an item you will pass down to the generations in your family. You only have to look at two of the most enduring Herm猫s products - the Kelly bag (introduced in the 1930s and renamed the Kelly in the 1960s) and the Birkin (introduced in the 1980s) - to see how the products have transcended a multitude of quick-lived fashion trends. I can't think of any other styles that have endured the test of time so well and still be proudly worn over a number of decades. Even if you don't own a Herm猫s you cannot ignore the fact the brand is different from others. It doesn't resort to the usual PR stunts, glossy campaigns and paid-for celebrity endorsements; it just doesn't need to. And although the prices can be somewhat terrifying, we should rejoice in the fact that someone is still a champion of unprecedented quality and craftsmanship. Please do not think I am being critical of other designers - the work produced by all of the top fashion houses is innovative and nurtures fresh talent - but Herm猫s is in another league. And what is so exciting is that unlike the fast-paced nature of the fashion industry Herm猫s is proud of its slow approach to production, its focus on traditional designs and being a little bit old fashioned. Follow Caroline Stanbury on Twitter:锘?p>Yoga, one of the world's oldest practices, has become a catch-fire fad over the past decade -- one that is still burning strong. In fact, an estimated practice yoga. Included in that mix? Many of our favorite celebs. Scroll through the slideshow to see who's finding their inner balance. Some you might expect (cough, Madonna), but others may surprise you.锘縈ary-Kate Olsen and her much older French boyfriend are still going strong. The 26-year-old actress reportedly started dating Olivier Sarkozy, the half-brother of former French...锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>When it comes to tasting food, it's widely accepted that our sense of smell is as much a part of the process as our taste buds. In fact research has shown that 70 - 75% of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Apply the same theory to what aftershave you wear and you begin to understand why scent is so essential to style.锘縄 have a great deal of admiration for the First Lady of Cameroon.She is a woman whose style is regularly examined, criticized and sometimes panned, yet she never wavers in her taste. That is a sign of total confidence, something many will never experience.To look at the dress of another and proclaim tackiness, oddity, faux pas, or even merely unattractive is to pronounce one's own insecurity. We are not forced to gaze upon others, we do it because our attention has been caught.Ms. Biya seems to be quite adept at attracting attention. If that is her aim, she dresses quite successfully.锘?p>Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg sat down with to talk about her upcoming album IRM, her role in "Antichrist," and growing up with two famous parents: French singer Serge Gainsbourg and British model Jane Birkin. She said, "When I was starting out, my mother made me very aware that you could have ups and downs. One day you're acclaimed and the next day you're booed. She taught me to never take anything for granted."But what about one of her mother's major ups: the Hermes Birkin bag? Does Charlotte own one?No. [Laughs.] It would be weird to have my mother's bag. It's so close to what she is and how she is. I'd have the impression I'd be copying. But it is a beautiful bag.She also reflected on recording the song "Lemon Incest" with her father and her father's attraction to provocation. At the time she didn't see anything to be embarrassed about, and she still doesn't. 锘?p>Have you been eating your strawberries au naturale? ? Well, you've been eating them all wrong. You should be consuming your , at least according to Pinterest. Lovers of cheesecakes across the country, we've got good news for you: you can now feel good about your cheesecake consumption. When you add cheesecake filling to your strawberries, rather than strawberries to your cheesecake, you get your daily intake of fresh fruit and . It doesn't get much better than this.These cheesecake stuffed strawberries are one of the , taking in more than 700,000 pins. That's a whole lot of people who dig these strawberries. We know it's not one of the most groundbreaking recipes we've seen -- like this -- and it's not as eye-catching as other , so why is it so popular? Leave a comment below and let us know.Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on , , and . Get more cheesecake recipes here.Related on HuffPost:锘縎tylist Cher Coulter has become one of the most dynamic names in fashion and celebrity styling of the past decade. Possessing an extraordinary sense of chic and internationally renowned reputation for forward thinking style, Cher鈥檚 singular talent has made an indelible mark on the world of fashion.Cher grew up just outside of London, and at the precocious age of 14 she began working as a dresser for fashion shows including Hermes and Alexander McQueen. Throughout her youth, she made constant trips to London and eventually enrolled at the prestigious Central St. Martin鈥檚 University to study fashion design. Upon leaving school, Cher began to work with several leading British designers and eventually co-founded AKA, a menswear line that was sold at stores including Barney鈥檚 New York, Colette in Paris and Browns in London. During this time, Cher also worked on design projects with musicians Richard Ashcroft, Star Sailor and All Saints. Designing on-stage costumes and styling celebrities soon became a consulting passion for Cher and a legendary styling career was born.Seeking a change of pace and the chance to deepen her foray into celebrity styling, Cher moved from London to Los Angeles in 2003. Her experience, intelligence and effortless cool were an instant hit and she quickly garnered a celebrity client list filled with the top leading actresses in the business, including Kate Bosworth, Miranda Cosgrove, Kirsten Dunst, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. In February 2006, Cher dressed actress Emily Mortimer in one of her own creations for the premiere of 鈥楾he Pink Panther鈥? and set fashion blogs and best-dressed lists on fire with her inspiring creation.Known for combining easy avant-garde with absolute glamour in her women鈥檚 styling, Cher possesses an equal talent for men鈥檚 fashion. She counts actors and musicians including John Krasinski, Eric Bana, Jude law and Orlando Bloom among the ranks of her men鈥檚 client list. Cher also created one-of-a-kind garments for actor Jared Leto and his band, 30 Seconds to Mars.Cher鈥檚 arresting vision and obsessive creativity has also made her a favorite among the fashion industry鈥檚 top photographers, including Carter Smith, Sante D鈥橭razio, Jenny Gage & Tom Betterton, Cliff Watts, Matt Jones, Laurie Bartley and Wolfgang Ludes. Among the editorial and advertising clients who look to Cher to create innovative and exceptional looks are: Diesel, BCBG, Details, ELLE, Esquire, Harper鈥檚 Bazaar, i-D, Instyle, and Teen Vogue, Coach, Gap, L鈥橭real, Nine West and Shiseido.In 2010, Cher launched Jewelmint, a jewelry line that she designs with longtime friend Kate Bosworth (www.jewelmint.com). Cher currently resides in both New York and Los Angeles, working on top fashion ad campaigns and editorials as well as styling for celebrity red carpet moments.锘?p> kicks off Thursday, bringing beer lovers to dozens of Chicago venues for tastings, beer dinners and more. With so many options, we decided to recruit an expert to guide us through Beer Week happenings. Ryan Hermes is the founder and editor of a site dedicated to all things beer. The site also features a page where beer lovers and journalists such as Karl Klockers and Andrew Flach spread the word about potential legislative changes that could prohibit the ability of craft beer producers to distribute their brews. Though they鈥檙e politically savvy, the Guys Drinking Beer crew also knows about the basics: where to drink, what to drink and the best things to eat with the city鈥檚 tastiest beers.CB: What specific beer events are on your to-do list for the week?RH: Wow. That's a tough one. There are some really awesome and creative events going on it is tough to narrow them down. But, if I must then I must. My shortlist includes:Revolution Brewing's tapping, on May 19th, of a West Coast IPA called Los Osos - which they brewed with California brewery Firestone Walker - should be a hit for hop heads. West Coast IPA's traditionally have mammoth hop flavors and aromas. So if you like really hoppy beers then this one's for you.If stouts are more your speed then Goose Island Presents Twisted Goose at the Twisted Spoke on May 23rd is a must-attend. Goose Island's big, heavy stouts take center stage here; Bourbon County Stout (an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels), Bourbon County Vanilla Stout , Bourbon County Coffee Stout, Bourbon County Lazarus (brewed with the leftovers from batches of Bourbon County Stout), Night Stalker (a hoppy imperial stout) and Big John (an imperial stout brewed with cocoa nibs). You'll also have a chance to sample three different years of Bourbon County Stout (2007 - 2009). Oh, and not to worry, the aforementioned Bourbon County Stout hasn鈥檛 gone bad or stale. Beers that are high in alcohol content, like a BCS, can be aged like wine.Goose Island Presents Rare Stout Night at Goose Island Clybourn on May 25th also caught my attention. And I'm going to cut to the chase with this event. There are a number of fantastic beers on this list but there is just one that truly caught my eye; Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. This is an imperial stout that was aged in whiskey barrels that once housed maple syrup. The end result is a beer with rich vanilla and bourbon flavors mixed with a sweet hint of maple syrup.You'll probably need to a break after the onslaught of imperial stouts and hoppy beers and I couldn't think of a better way to do it than with sour beers at The Bristol on May 24th.CB: Some people don鈥檛 realize that there are a lot of food events going on in conjunction with Craft Beer Week. Which food events on the festival schedule do you think are the most promising?I am glad to see people embracing the idea of pairing food with beer. And there are some very fun and unique combinations that will be on display during Chicago Craft Beer week. As far as the most promising? I think tops on my list is Rock Bottom Chicago's Pig-Out Under The Stars on May 23rd. Dishes showcasing select cuts of pork will be paired with some of Rock Bottom's in-house beers or locally brewed offerings. If the weather cooperates they'll be serving dinner outside on the rooftop patio. A very, very close second is the one sixtyblue Goose Island beer dinner on May 25th. The menu includes seared Maine sea scallops paired with a blackberry Belgian beer and a pecan pie tart alongside an imperial stout brewed with vanilla beans and aged in bourbon barrels. If you want something a bit simpler the Map Room is hosting a beer and sausage night on May 24th pairing three different sausages with beers from Founders in Grand Rapids, Mich. and Great Lakes in Cleveland, Ohio.Probably the most unique beer and food pairing is happening at Haymarket Pub and Brewery on May 21st. The Beerfly Alleyfight will pair homebrewed beer with home chef prepared meals...with local art. Which beers are you most excited to taste during Beer Week, or which breweries are you most excited to try samples from?These events always bring out the best of the best in craft beer, in that brewers may conjure up something fun to commemorate the week and brewers from outside the Chicago area will bring in hard to find and rare beers. I'm sure I am going to inadvertently leave a beer or two out, but in no particular order here is what I'd keep my eyes peeled for:Check out the full Chicago Craft Beer Week schedule . 锘?p>BEIJING Police in China have arrested 73 people suspected of manufacturing and selling almost 1 million fake luxury bags.The Ministry of Public Security says police seized more than 20,000 fake Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Coach bags and closed 37 sites where the forgery ring made or sold the bags. Police say the ring sold more than 960,000 bags and exported many to the United States and Middle East.The ministry said Sunday that police in southern Guangdong province uncovered the forgery ring in January and that Chinese agents worked with U.S. customs and immigration officials in the case.It said authorities seized assets worth 5 billion yuan ($800 million), including unsold counterfeit goods, production equipment and bank accounts.锘?p>Paris Fashion Week is always exciting, but this season brings two particularly anticipated events: and . Simons went first today with his Spring 2013 ready-to-wear collection, his first for Christian Dior since he took over the label last April. The designer, to fill the long-vacant Dior job, scored a smash-hit with his first Dior Couture collection, shown in June to glowing reviews ( "beautiful, modest and thoroughly engaging") and actual success: pieces from the collection have been worn by , , and .Unfortunately none of those leading ladies made it to Simons' show in Paris today. But Simons still had strong showing of celebs and tastemakers, including Mila Kunis, Eva Herzigova, Leelee Sobieski, Robert DeNiro, Diane Von Furstenberg, Rachel Zoe, Carine Roitfeld and even Kanye West (even though , this Paris Fashion Week). But our favorite appearance by far was . The royal, whose father is Crown Prince Maha Vajralongkorn of Thailand, and attended shows for Christian Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Balmain and Hermes in past years. This season she made Christian Dior her first gig, sitting front row in a white lace frock with a partially sheer hem ().Considering she's the lone royal () to make it to any of the major Fashion Weeks this season, we're much appreciative. And she's even got on that ubiquitous royal staple: .Check out Princess Siriwanwaree Nareera at the Christian Dior Spring 2013 show and at Fashion Weeks past!Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘?p>Fashion Whip is a political style column in The Huffington Post by Lauren Rothman and Christina Wilkie. Rothman is the founder of Styleauteur.WASHINGTON -- What does it take to land on The Fashion Whip's list of the best dressed people in American politics?Simply put, it's power dressing -- the kind that moves crowds and makes voters and congressional colleagues take a second look. This is a list of politicians who cultivate their power through their public image -- and this being politics, it's always deliberate.Power dressing in politics is not just about what (or who) you are wearing -- it is also about how you communicate your message. Body language, charisma and the ability to carry oneself well factor heavily into the overall look. You have to own it. This list of politicians includes heavyweights with decades of experience in the public eye, as well as a healthy dose of newcomers -- all of whom have the political clout to move (and sway) people.In a place where many of the most powerful roles are occupied by men, freshman Rep. Frederica Wilson's (D-Fla.) matching cowboy hat and suit ensembles (Wilson reportedly has a room where she keeps more than 80 hats!), and the sharp panache of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) exemplify the unique way these women occupy their own political stage. Among the 'gents, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney are high-budget veterans, and the standard they set influences relative newcomers like Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who have an impressive collection of designer suits between them.Click through the slideshow for the trademarks and tactics that shaped and maintained Washington's reputation for power dressing this year.锘?p>A couple of years ago, no urban fashionista would be seen dead in a jacket with corduroy elbow patches. How things change - practical country clothing, once the preserve of farmers and fisherman, is now fashionable and has spread to the city and suburbs. However, young urban women decked out for a fishing or shooting trip head for the subway instead of country pursuits. High street stores are full of tweed, plaid and wax jackets; meanwhile Hunter boots teamed with shorts are the Glastonbury uniform of countless Kate Moss wannabes.How did this happen? The trend started with the appearance of a Hunter boot-clad Moss at Glastonbury in 2005. However, the real protagonist of this trend is the Duchess of Cambridge and whatever she wears, young women follow suit. When the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry stepped out in matching Le Chameau wellies earlier this year, the country chic trend reached its zenith and a million girls have imitated her style. Hunter, a brand with a 150 year history and suppliers of wellies by Royal appointment, has cleverly courted influential fashion bloggers with their legions of Twitter and Facebook fans. This association culminated in the Autumn/Winter 2011 campaign fronted by Sasha Wilkins aka popular blogger Liberty London Girl. Although, Hunter's very ubiquitousness at festivals might prove to be their undoing, just as Danniella Westbrook temporarily damaged Burberry's credibility, Hunter are in danger of losing their exclusivity. The TV presenter, model and the face of Superga, Alexa Chung avoided the issue at last year's Glastonbury by choosing to wear Italian brand Superga's rain boots instead. The fact that equestrian style is now cool is demonstrated by the New York Times heralding an equestrian grooming kit bag usually found in riding shops, as the 'it' bag for 2012. The Hermes Evelyne has supplanted the Birkin as the must have bag from the Hermes stable (so to speak, couldn't resist that one); this bag is set to be one of the key bags of 2012. Fashion commentators have noted that perhaps the move away from bling is a sign of the times, certainly the Evelyne is an understated and practical shoulder bag but it still sports the all-important Hermes 'H'. So what is country chic? The trend mirrors the relaxed country style of the English landed gentry - think the Duchess of Cambridge at Sandringham. Look for equestrian-style plaid patterned jackets worn over skinny jeans or jodhpur trousers; earthy country colours - green, brown, blue and camel; Barbour jackets; wool camel coats, Hunter wellies or Hunter boot socks (wear these with ordinary wellingtons and pretend they're Hunter boots - a great cheat if your budget doesn't stretch to the real thing).So I'm off out to the local supermarket now:Got my Hunter wellies - check.Got my plaid patterned jacket with elbow patches - check.Got my tight camel jodhpurs - check.Got the horse saddled up and ready to go - err no!To shop the trend at online fashion boutique glam-net, visit .Follow Christine Babington Smith on Twitter:锘?p>When do luxury labels lose their cachet? Forbes Contributor Blue Carreon wrote earlier this year that as the Hermes Birkin bag is so ubiquitous in Singapore and Hong Kong - is it possible the bag has gone out of fashion? Ubiquity signals the death knell for exclusivity and nowhere is this truer than in the perfume industry. Designer perfume brands package mass market luxury, whereas true luxury labels have a story to tell. A recent trip to Avery, a tiny shop in the heart of London's Mayfair, introduced me to some niche perfumes and the concept of Art Perfume.Eight and Bob is a scent with a wonderful history; it was originally developed as a gift by French aristocrat Albert Fouquet for John F. Kennedy, eight of his friends and 'Bob'. Albert died in a car accident in 1939 whilst the formula was hidden during the war by his loyal butler, Philippe, only to resurface decades later thanks to the butler's family. The perfume is so exclusive, using rare plants from the Andes, that only a limited number of bottles are produced each year.Boadicea the Victorious is a niche British perfume maker; with collections entitled Power, Spirit, Courage and Vigour the perfumer prides itself on its individuality. The perfume and its distinctive Celtic pewter style bottle won the Wallpaper Magazine Best Perfume Design Award in 2010. I love Silk by Andrea Maack Parfums, a Reykjavik based fragrance house founded in 2009 by the visual artist Andrea Maack. Their perfumes were originally created for museum exhibitions to translate visual art into an olfactory experience. The concept behind Silk is to enhance the feeling of wearing a perfume like a silk foulard, and it was this fragrance that first led me to Avery.As discerning consumers search for something new - the 'noses' behind the best-selling designer perfumes are taking centre stage. Francis Kurkdjian is a superstar 'nose' of the perfume world, an artist and master perfumer; he has even tried to recreate Marie Antoinette's perfume. Kurkdjian has created fragrances for Dior, Acqua Di Parma, Guerlain, Giorgio Armani and Lancome amongst notable others. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris was established in 2009 and new launches this year include Oud, spicy and woody, and Amyris, floral and woody notes. For the ultimate in luxury Maison Francis Kurkdjian will create a bespoke scent for individual clientele, prices are on request but you won't get any change from 8,000 euros.10 Corso Como in Milan, the concept boutique store owned by Carla Sozzani (sister of Franca the Vogue Italia editor-in-chief), is a good place to look for niche luxury scents. There are no familiar mass market designer label perfumes or celebrity endorsed products (or bargain bins where the latter often end up post-Christmas launch). Instead the perfumes are a list of new discoveries from L'Artisan Parfumeur, By Kilian, Byredo, Diptyque, Heeley, Juliette has a Gun and Serge Lutens. Niche is the new luxury: from perfumes, accessories to clothing labels. Whilst there will always be consumers who aspire to the status of a big luxury brand to validate their success, there are those customers who want to stand out from crowd, who don't want to surrender their personality to a logo. Follow Christine Babington Smith on Twitter:锘縏hat "je ne sais quoi" might come from one/several of these things:-- in France, we are taught to "hold ourselves" in public, ie, you don't hold yourself on the street like you would in your backyard or when you just got out of bed.-- as much as people can afford it (True, French women don't dress as well as they used to ... that is what no increases in wages for years does to one's budget), they'll choose clothes for their fit first rather than say, for their brand. For example, if you pants have a nice color but they are a bit frumpy around the waist, a friend will tell you to buy a different style next time and will suggest you spend a few euros having them redone at a "quick clothes fitting" sho (basically, small shops making adjustments on clothes for reasonably cheap).I'm no fashionista myself and dress casually, but I pay attention to color and I love haute-couture as art. When it is beautiful, it is downright splendid. My favorite is Christian Lacroix. Those colors, that wild creativity, never vulgar... beautiful!锘緾lick here to leave a comment.HuffPost High School welcomes a lively, thoughtful debate in the comment section. Keep in mind that the articles here are penned by young authors, so please keep criticism respectful, and help us to keep this a safe and supportive place for writers of all ages to contribute.锘?p>HAVANA A high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia on Thursday revealed the names of the rebel group's five main negotiators for peace talks with the government.The lead negotiators will be Ivan Marquez, Ricardo Tellez, Andres Paris, Marco Leon Calarca and Simon Trinidad all veteran leaders of the 48-year insurgency. Trinidad is the most controversial of the figures because he is serving a 60-year prison term in the U.S, and it appears unlikely he will be allowed to take part in the negotiations, at least in person.The FARC leader spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the makeup of the peace delegation ahead of a formal announcement.He said Trinidad's inclusion was meant to show the Colombian government how important his voice and influence will be on the talks.A rebel leader said previously that the talks, which get under way in Norway next month, would go on whether Trinidad is released or not. Talks to try to end one of Latin America's longest conflicts were announced last week.In addition to the five principal negotiators, the FARC leader said the group will send five other representatives to Norway.The rebel leader gave the AP four of those names: Jesus Santrich, Hermes Aguilar, Bernardo Salcedo and Ruben Zamora.Colombia's government and the FARC have been holding preliminary talks in Cuba for six months, and signed an accord on Aug. 27 that cleared the way for formal peace talks to be held in Norway and Cuba. The two countries are listed as guarantors of the peace process, while Venezuela and Chile are observers.Several past efforts to end the conflict have failed.The two sides have agreed that the talks will focus on six main points, including agrarian reform, drug trafficking, returning stolen land, reducing poverty and compensating victims.___锘緾ommunity Notice:We've made some changes to our badge program, including the additionof our newest badge: Community Curator.锘?p>Celebrating its iconic signature piece, Parisian fashion label makes the latest addition to the pop-up shop scene with two temporary locations in Shoreditch and West London. The stores, branded - or I love my scarf are set to coincide with a collaboration with photographer Matt Irwin in an exploration of different style tribes around the world.The new project introduces a young and quirky take on the old world tradition of the Herm猫s ethos, with the four girls from different cities featured in Matt Irwin's photography showing the role that the Herm猫s scarves play in their lives. Also a website, the series features street-style portraits of the girls wearing the scarves in numerous ways, giving Hermes aficionados inspiration for how to wear their own.In this video, catches up with and Fiona Rushton, Communications Director of Hermes UK to find out what has made the brand so influential and has kept its fan base growing and evolving over the years."Herm猫s always looks forward; it always has throughout its history. It has always been about travel and voyage and going forward all the time. So there really is a spirit within the company that is very fun"Indeed the brand, now over 173 years old, has been renowned for its quality and its understated innovation, with events like this one encouraging more people to acknowledge its constant reinvention. This is the latest in the rich tapestry of Hermes' history, starting with founder Theirry Herm猫s in 1837 as a crafter of bespoke harnesses. Now their repertoire is a rich and varied one coveted by lovers of luxury all over the world.Designer, Henry Holland explains the appeal of the scarf especially to , as something to add to an outfit to immediately add to your individuality. The shops have Herm猫s staff on hand to teach customers how to tie knots and drape the scarves in a variety of interesting and original ways, style moments that can be preserved with in-house photographers. The Shoreditch branch opened from November 18 to 21 and the West London shop will be open from November 25 for four weeks.Watch 's video here: Text by Shekha Vyas for Follow Constantin Bjerke on Twitter:锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘?p>Sunsets. Mimosas. Creamsicles. Hermes. Autumn leaves. Mangos. Ahh, the color orange is the quintessential hue. Happy in summer, warm in the fall and always elegant when done right. Decorating with orange can be fabulous or a horror show if not. The key is really quite simple. Less is more. Starting with a few decorative accents can add a much needed punch of color. Incorporating with other hot colors like pink and blue is instantly happy. An all white room with orange accents is modern and crisp. A brown comforter with an orange throw is warm and elegant. And I adore an orange chandelier. Recently, we had a photo shoot for my upcoming line and we paired my grey furniture with a bright orange wall. Sounds weird, but it was ultra chic.So, where should you not use orange in the home? The first thing that comes to mind is the foyer. That would be odd. Painting an entire room would likely be too intense. An orange shag rug would be a risky move unless you're a trained interior designer. Trust me here. Five Rules For Using Orange In the Home:1. Less is more2. Pairing with white is a great way to start3. Don't mix with black unless you're decorating for Halloween4. When painting with orange, go lighter.5. Orange always looks better in a modern settingHere are a few of my favorite things in orange...enjoy and let these pics inspire you to use this energizing and happy color!Orange Chandelier from Lamps Plus $99.99. This would be fabulous in an office or a modern but casual dining room Orange Lantern from Z Gallerie $7.99. The perfect touch to warm up a room. Moroccan flavor at it's very best. Orange Pillow from Wisteria. Perfect on the living room sofa. Pom Pom Cocktail Napkins from Dransfield & Ross. These are so chic and fun for entertaining Courtney Cachet for Lovesac. Mixed with the lush grey fabric and some accessories we spray painted in high gloss. Old School Cafeteria Tray, memba them? Very retro chic! This would be fab for a party or as decor in a kid's room $1.60 Robyn Childs Bedding. A perfect example of mixing bright colors and it all coming together. How could you not feel happy in this room? The Mr.Impossible Chair in a red orange by Kartell is full of possibilities! $440.00 at My weakness. I collect the scarves..just in case you wanted to get me a belated birthday gift!Here I am walking the walk in Orange and Hermes..Want to keep up with Designer and TV Personality Courtney Cachet? Hit her up on Facebook and Twitter or check out her website Follow Courtney Cachet on Twitter:锘?p>Bal Harbour, Florida. That little one square mile village in Greater Miami has always been where one went to buy a luxury item, like Gucci, Hermes or Dior. It was a luxury shopping destination and that was pretty much it. As a teenager I remember walking around there and hoping I would grow up to be just like those ladies with all the shopping bags, except they were so old! It had the reputation of being a place where wealthy people from the northeast went to grow old, decorate their condos with conch shells and shop till they dropped... hopefully, figuratively and not literally.But, times have been a changing all over and Bal Harbour has been quite skillful at keeping up with the trend, if not ahead of the curve. The Bal Harbour I visited last weekend still possesses all it's aspirational fabulousness but with hot, young crowds, tons of cultural activities and practically no crime. Really? Yes, really.We spent our first night at what I think is South Florida's best kept secret (until now!). it was a fabulous boutique hotel called, Quarzo. I was expecting a small suite, because that's what most suites are, right? Well, not here amigo. At Quarzo, you can get a spacious, modern and clean 2/2 with walk in closets. There was also a brand new modern kitchen and dining room. For families, this is awesome since parents need a never ending supply of juice boxes, goldfish and um, wine. Makes it much more affordable when you don't have to order from room service. In high season, the rate was just $399. The staff was friendly and helpful and charming. There is a small pool, a hip sun bathing area facing the intracoastal that was a great spot for watching boats go by at sunset. I felt like I was in my chic, Miami apartment and not a hotel. Total steal.We also stayed in The ONE Bal Harbour resort & Spa, which is directly on the ocean. I wanted to stay here because as a designer, I heard I would love this property. I also wanted to check out their $4 million art collection. It was far more sophisticated and elegant than I had expected. It was glam, luxe and worth every penny they charge. The lobby was filled with well-heeled New Yorkers, Latin American gaziillionaires and no shortage of the de rigueur beautiful people. The valet area had more than a peppering of Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis. Seriously, if you were in a BMW, you were slumming it. Recession? What recession? It made me feel like we were back in freewheeling and big money spending 2004. I loved it. The rooms are exquisite, the property is pristine and if you need a little pampering from all that shopping at the Bal Harbour Shops, they boast a 10,000 square foot spa. One of my favorite things was our room had a view of the ocean and a view of the city. Also, the beach is more powder like than it is in South Beach. If you're looking for bikini contests, jello shots or reggaeton blaring from radios, this is not your outpost. Whew! They have a constant calendar of luxe packages, like driving a Jaguar for the day, with lunch at Morimoto, take a yacht to the Sony Ericsson Open or have a driver take you to the International Polo Championship in Palm Beach. I found these little touches a real standout here. They clearly know how to cater to their guests. When I was there, the village was hosting an outdoor movie night on the beach. Totally cool and great for just chilling with your family. Who else does that?For dining, there are a few great restaurants right there in Bal Harbour like Carpaccio and La Goulue. Great food and even better people watching. It's the stuff people watching dreams are made of..gorgeous models, ladies who lunch with really weird plastic surgery and Europeans with ridiculously killer wardrobes. I love it, I could sit there all day if it was cloudy out. When you wish to venture beyond Bal Harbour, make sure you check out Midtown area and have dinner at Sugarcane Raw Bar. It's really worth the trip, if not solely for the torrejas. Trust me. South Beach is just about a ten minute drive, should you want to get a little more action. There was amazing tennis all weekend in Key Biscayne, as well. Aside from that, I saw no reason to leave. We came to Miami to relax, sunbathe, shop and eat well. And oh honey, how we did. In unapologetic, glamourous, Bal Harbour style. XOCourtney5 Fab TipsStop by the YSL shop at Bal Harbour Shops and check out the incredible and affordable (I swear) costume jewelry they have.If you have children, take them to Story Time Sundays at Books & BooksTake a walk down to Buenos Aires Bakery on Collins Avenue and 72nd St. for the best Argentinian pastries in town.Go on a little diet before your trip. Just trust me here.Pack your best stuff, you'll want to sport it here.Check your local TV listings for more of Courtney Cachet's style ideas and tips. You can catch her frequent appearances on NBC nationwide where she dishes out all the latest in home and lifestyle! Keep up with her on and join the conversation!Follow Courtney Cachet on Twitter:锘?p>In my former life as a Conde Nast Traveler Hot List reviewer, I traveled mostly undercover, experiencing the same uneven service as everyone else: I got stranded at the airport when the hotel lost my flight arrival information and fought with indifferent staff over inexplicable charges at checkout. Things have changed. Now that I travel far from anonymously as a luxury consultant, hotel managers stuff my rooms with gifts tailored to my tastes. A strategic mention to the Guest Experience gurus at in Hong Kong last month that it was my birthday (even though I arrived three days after the increasingly fraught date) netted me a gift-wrapped, double padded yoga mat tucked inside the very Manduka carrier bag that's provoked me to abandon Buddhist non-attachment. Along with vastly upgrading my downward dogs, this house team of pamper pros piled the Victoria Harbor facing dining table of my corner suite high with presents like a year's supply of Asia's best hotel pen (size matters) that I'm already putting to the pages inside a subtle UH embossed Moleskine notebook, a stack of engrossing books ideal for my jet lag induced insomnia along with a pointy silver page holder I initially mistook for something more S&M and, to pack it all up, a black leather tote I can almost climb inside.Upgrades are nice. So are complimentary airport picks ups in the new four door Porsche, but there's gravitas in a good VIP gift, thankfully still a mainstay of the hospitality industry even in these lean times. I used to mock people for using a seemingly unnecessary passport coveruntil the public relations team at presented me with a sleek leather one of my own, lined with nifty sleeves for frequent flier cards, immigration forms and extra passport photos. One look inside my carry-on, a handy canvas tote from my first stay at Upper House, reveals a bevy of useful indulgences, from 's Pratesi travel pillow case and eggshell blue leather wallet thoughtfully sectioned for multiple currencies to my sterling and stingray key ring and a well worn makeup pouch embroidered with the funky palm tree logo of in Marrakech. A favorite gift was the gray cashmere shawl I found in the back of the Rolls Royce Phantom driving me away from the a few years back. It had been made especially for the Pen's 80th anniversary. While VIP gifts are meant simply to rub me the right way, some feel downright life changing. I can see so much more clearly thanks to the high tech sunglasses cleaning cloth given to me at resort in Dubai. During a Bastien Gonzalez pedicure compliments of in the Maldives, the renowned nail man convinced me to go bare. My never again lacquered nails are healthier than ever. When a man dumped me, but asked if I would still edit his articles, I took refuge in my snuggly PLOH bathrobe from the Grand Hyatt as I wrote my way around Bhutan with . Before departing this tiny kingdom in the clouds, the spa manager ceremoniously handed me a colossal jar of Amankora's bespoke honey and sea salt scrub. Who needs a partner with all this pampering?Presents need not be pricey to leave a lasting impression, though I sincerely believe my writing has improved since taking notes in my Hermes Ulysses notebook gifted by the to mark my milestone birthday last year. I took childlike pleasure in the enormous teddy bear who wrote me a welcome note, asking to come home with me from and the large conch shells found by the surf coach on deserted beaches around , a rustic chic retreat 250 miles east of Bali. The trendsetters at in the Maldives keep my music tastes up to date, thanks to an ongoing stream of CDs from super hot spinners I would never otherwise know like DJ Ravin and Stephane Pompougnac of Hotel Costes.Other than occasional missteps like ludicrously weighty coffee table books that I adore reading but loathe lugging around, most hoteliers understand the balance in VIP gifting between luxury and practicality. Sometimes however, desire trumps sensibility. This explains why I traveled for nearly a year with my triple-ply camel colored Mongolian cashmere blanket from the owner of outside Ulaanbaatar. I've found the perfect place for it, atop the custom Stearns & Foster bed promised to me by the General Manager at . Follow Cynthia Rosenfeld on Twitter:锘?p>Many of us have heard it's not only okay to eat a bit of dark chocolate now and then, it's actually because of its many health benefits, including being . With that excuse in mind we present you with recipes made with dark chocolate.Here are some of the best dark chocolate recipes from around the web, including cakes, cupcakes, mousse, souffles, macarons and more.What's your favorite way to eat dark chocolate? Leave a comment.Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on , , and .Related on HuffPost:锘?p>New to the Sunset Strip housing market is this 1930's Mediterranean-style property. The home is currently owned by CEO Dave DeMattei and his partner Patrick Wade, EVP, Creative Director of . The home was built in 1937 and has since been meticulously restored. It features three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. The 6,270-square-foot grounds include a pool, private yard, and pool house. The home is listed at $2.895 million.DeMattei and Wade have a number of properties including a Rutherford home in Napa Valley, CA which they designed and a in San Francisco, CA -- -- Both were featured in .Photos courtesy of the official listing with . 锘?p>Sir Anthony Berry was killed in the Irish Republican Army's bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984. His daughter Jo talks about her friendship with the man convicted of the attack and why she thinks empathy can make a difference.When confronted with the heart wrenching reality of conflict there are some individuals who, in their search for understanding, want more than the comforting truths provided by national, cultural or familial bonds. In Peter Beinart's powerful new book, The Crisis of Zionism, the former New Republic editor describes being troubled after watching a video of a young Palestinian boy called Khaled Jaber crying out as his father was hauled away by Israeli forces for "stealing" water intended for a settlement near Hebron. Call it or a sense of common humanity but it was after seeing this child, who was his son's age, in such distress, that his views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict began to evolve. Beinart is not alone, though, in being able to imagine himself in the position of those on the receiving end of injustice, whether in the West Bank or Northern Ireland.If your loved one was killed in a high-profile terrorist act, there could possibly be nothing worse than finding out on television that the man convicted of the attack had been freed as part of a political deal -- one which was intended to heal the bitter wounds of a conflict, but not necessarily deliver justice. Jo Berry found herself in this situation when she learnt that the IRA man convicted of the Brighton bombing which killed her father had been under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. "It's all right for you, you're free. My Dad isn't coming back," she recalls thinking as Patrick Magee walked out of Northern Ireland's Maze Prison in 1999, surrounded by cameras, reporters and supporters. Watching the news report, she felt anger and disbelief, searching in vain for any sign of humanity or remorse in his face.Sir Anthony Berry, a British Member of Parliament, government deputy chief whip and Jo's father was killed in 1984 along with four others when an IRA bomb blew apart the Grand Hotel in Brighton where Conservatives were staying during their annual conference -- an attack which came close to killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Almost a month before the bomb exploded, Magee had visited the hotel, leaving behind a massive bomb with a complex timing mechanism hidden behind a bath panel in room 629. It was primed to detonate at 3 a.m. on Oct. 12 -- the final day of the conference.At the time her father was killed, Jo was due to go off traveling in Africa for a year and had already rented out her London flat. One of her enduring memories was sitting in her car weeping and realizing she had lost both her father and her home in the same week. Part of the shock was also coming to terms with knowing her father had died because a terrorist organization considered him an enemy. "It was like my heart was now open to the reality of war, to knowing the pain others felt as they lost loved ones in conflict," she said. "Someone had wanted my father dead, a fact that shook me to the core."Although she was to make several trips to Ireland over the next 15 years in her attempt to make sense of the conflict, Jo deliberately suppressed her memories of the period around her father's death to cope with the more practical tasks of bringing up her three young girls. She chose not to talk to them or even some friends about the events in Brighton. "I remember burying it. I couldn't deal with the pain so I squashed it in."Her shock at Magee's release in 1999 acted as a catalyst. Suddenly she felt able to talk about her father and his death for the first time in years. Emotions which had been buried for 15 years rose to the surface, but so too did many unanswered questions, not least of which was finding out why it was necessary for her father to lose his life at Brighton. Jo felt that these were questions which only one person could answer. Through intermediaries whom she had come to know in Ireland she requested a meeting, and in November 2000 at a private house in Dublin, she finally came face to face with Patrick Magee.There are no self-help guides on how to begin a conversation with your father's killer. Jo realized that starting a dialogue of this nature was going to require a massive leap of faith, and whether one sees this process as being about empathy or understanding, she knew she would need both in talking to Magee. In trying to understand the reasons for her father's death, Jo was willing to look for answers outside the comfort zone of tribal loyalty -- a fact which has on occasion caused her to question the path that she was taking, particularly out of concern for the other victims of Brighton, and her own family.Jo, a first cousin of Princess Diana, certainly had a radically different upbringing to Magee, a situation she couldn't change, but one which made her more determined to try and look at the Northern Ireland conflict from the perspective of the Republican community from which he came. Understanding the motivations of the man whose actions had such a profound impact on her life was only the beginning. It was also about comprehending why someone born and brought up in entirely different circumstances felt that they had no alternative but to resort to violence to achieve their political aims. "If she could understand it, she felt she could make sense of her father's death," said Michael Appleton, the producer of the BBC Everyman documentary Facing The Enemy, talking about the initial meetings between the politician's daughter and the former IRA man."Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen," Churchill said, something that Jo Berry and Patrick Magee would appreciate more than most. Neither of them knew exactly what they were getting into before their first meeting and there was no sense that there would be any further contact after the meeting in Dublin. According to Dr. Scherto Gill, a research fellow at the Guerrand Hermes Foundation for Peace, listening was fundamental to the process which allowed Jo Berry and Patrick Magee to understand each another. "Jo's ability to listen deeply gave Pat the space to tell a personal story about his response to the oppression experienced by himself and his community."It was Jo's courage, dignity and her willingness to listen to him and even understand him which so astonished Magee in their first meeting. He later told her: "It would have been easier if you had been angry." He elaborated in subsequent meetings: "I was prepared for anger. I could have dealt with that. What I wasn't prepared for was someone prepared to listen to me. Or even forgive me, for killing your father." While Jo has forgiven Patrick Magee, she readily conceded that forgiveness is not a prerequisite for empathy. What is more important, she says, is being interested in listening to the other perspective and trying to understand it, even if you are not willing to agree with it.Michael Appleton witnessed their relationship evolving while working on the BBC documentary:Jo was unique because she offered Pat something more valuable than forgiveness, which from a Christian perspective is a predetermined rather than a personal choice. She offered understanding, and that truly challenged Pat. She offered a process rather than an act, and he engaged with that intellectually and morally. He is also unique because he took responsibility for his acts, and took the consequences of the engagement to a deep level. Until he found his limit: a complete disavowal of violence. Yet, because it's a process, 12 years on they are still dealing with that issue and Pat is still moving. Theirs is a fluid process, which is why hearing them both speak together is still unpredictable and moving.Over a decade on from their first meeting, how does Patrick Magee feel today? "I have become a much better listener from my conversations with Jo," he emailed the other day. "Slowing the dialogue down to ensure you hear properly and explain adequately may be the best means of engaging with someone you have hurt."Someone who was injured by Magee's actions at Brighton was Harvey Thomas, the former Press and Public Relations Director to Margaret Thatcher throughout her time in Downing Street. He was in a room above the bomb when it exploded and was blown out through the roof of the Grand Hotel, before falling through several floors. He escaped with minor injuries and in 1998, after giving a speech in Louisville, Ky., on forgiveness, he felt it was time to start practicing what he was preaching. He wrote to Magee in prison saying that he forgave him, which was followed by a meeting two years later in Dublin. "Jo's quest, like mine was personal," Thomas says, "but our approaches were very different." Whereas Jo Berry's rapprochement with Magee was a more gradual, deliberate process based on a quest to understand as much as she could about the Northern Ireland conflict, the decision of Thomas to forgive his would-be assassin and their later friendship stemmed from his deep Christian faith.Having been involved in reconciliation projects in the Congo, Zimbabwe and many other countries, Thomas says that processes which try to bring former enemies together can only work when both sides genuinely want to move on, and move in the same direction. The friendship between Margaret Thatcher's Communications Director and the former IRA man certainly fits this pattern, progressing to the point where Magee has even visited Thomas at his Hertfordshire home. "Pat is not by nature a violent person, he is more academic in inclination." Thomas says of Magee, who completed a Ph.D. while in prison. Although Harvey Thomas disagrees with Magee's logic regarding the use of violence, he, like Jo Berry, has tried to see the conflict from the other perspective. "However much we might disagree with this view, Pat saw himself as being in a war and he felt he had no alternative but to do what he did."While Patrick Magee still feels that the "struggle" was justified, that belief will not, he says prevent him from looking back over the past and asking difficult questions about decisions and actions he had responsibility for. He remains open to the possibility that new information or a better informed insight might cause him to fundamentally reappraise matters. "The worst thing," he wrote, "is for a person's thinking to become locked onto certainty about the past."Professor Todd Landman, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at Essex University believes that the lessons learnt from Jo Berry's friendship with Patrick Magee resonate far beyond the Northern Irish and British contexts. "Jo's approach appeals to a common shared humanity," he argues, and provides a grassroots way of looking at reconciliation which would be valuable in many current and former conflict zones around the world.Jo is cautious when using the term 'reconciliation' given the dangers of raising false expectations of a panacea for achieving peace. "I am not sure what reconciliation means as it sounds like it should mean two people reconciling and ending up agreeing. I would prefer to say two people who agree to hear each other, listen, see each other as human beings and understand each other but without needing to change each other."While Peter Beinart was able to imagine a distraught Palestinian boy as his own son, so Jo Berry has tried to see the Northern Ireland conflict through the eyes of Patrick Magee. It was because of meeting with Magee and others who had resorted to violence during the 'Troubles' and listening to their perspectives that brought Jo to one of her most difficult moments. Having deconstructed the notion of the enemy so effectively simply by listening to those on the other side of the conflict, she had a sudden painful moment of clarity: "If there is no enemy, why did Dad have to die?" she thought.Through her work, Jo Berry has been to the Lebanon and Ireland; she has met with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and in June she will travel to Rwanda with Patrick Magee to attend a conference exploring the psychological roots of violence. Regardless of where they go from here, their improbable friendship has pushed the boundaries of understanding and illustrated what empathy and listening can achieve. "Jo Berry's perspective in talking to Pat Magee," says Todd Landman, "is that we're all part of a system that created these problems."Jo Berry sees the building of bridges as a prerequisite in establishing the conditions where violence is seen as unnecessary. Why does she think empathy is so important in ending conflict? "My deeper aim is to be part of a world where violence is never used because we recognize the other person as being connected to us. We know your story can be my story if we work together to find solutions, and be alert to conflicts before they happen. I believe empathy is the biggest weapon we have to achieve this."Jo Berry's charity, Building Bridges for Peace, is at .This article is based on interviews conducted with Jo Berry, Patrick Magee, Harvey Thomas and others over several months.Follow David Miles on Twitter:锘?p>The day Julia Child died, her assistant and my friend of many years, Stephanie Hersh, came to spend the night at my home. She had answered a thousand emails verifying that Julia was dead, and simply wanted to get out of Santa Barbara. I made Stephanie a turkey burger for dinner. I opened a bottle of red wine and drank it. Steph probably had a Diet Coke as she's never been much of drinker, though as you can imagine she certainly knows about great wine and food. She had one of the world's finest teachers. I cooked the turkey burgers and topped each one with thinly sliced red onion and creamy ripe avocado. I make the same burgers at least once a week. Not unusual. My husband was late that night and we sat in the kitchen instead of the dining room at my tiny 1950's table. I was so grateful we were in a smaller space. My kitchen felt like a cocoon, and if ever someone needed protection, it was Stephanie that night. The room was warm with grief. Stephanie was devoted to Julia. It was much more than a job. Rolling down those sweet, freckled cheeks of Stephanie's were non-stop tears. Then, interspersed, came big, funny stories of Julia. And we would both laugh again, until we cried. It was hard to swallow. She told me the story of her first day working with Julia. Stephanie, a professionally trained chef and secretary, went out for a day of temp work to the kitchen of Julia Child. She was hired and stayed for fifteen years. And in the last moments of Julia's life, it was Stephanie standing at her bedside. Months had passed when she called to ask me if we could go together to a Julia memorial being held at the Napa's chic Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts. Julia had helped fund and create Copia. It was a monster of a building but had spectacular gardens. It was a food museum with a myriad of wine and food tasting programs, but Copia never really took off. I think it was a mixture of poor marketing, mixed messages, and certainly a lack of money that eventually brought it to its demise. It had a very confused presence and I remember thinking it didn't ever know if it was fish or fowl. And there was never enough of Julia's essence there.We headed to Napa with a big bag of peanut M&M's and a box of tissue. It was more than we needed. The time passed quickly with Stephanie telling me new Julia stories and me reminding her of my favorite moments with Julia. Julia loved having fun and if you were a friend you might have known she played the famous SNL/Dan Aykroyd piece at her own dinner parties. Every hour of our road trip, I told Stephanie that her life with Julia was a book. I still think it is. The day of the memorial, the sky was the prettiest blue which matched Julia's eyes perfectly in the photograph being projected on a giant screen. The picture was Julia toasting the unknown photographer with a glass of champagne. It was a perfect blend of Julia with nothing but unabashed joy mixed with a hint of I-don't-mind-a-little-trouble starring at you. I imagine the photographer must have been handsome to get that shot. It was never a secret that Julia loved men. Many people spoke of Julia's joy at the memorial. Her dear friend, Anne Willan, Robert and Margrit Mondavi, Stephanie, and even Martha Stewart. Martha was on her way to jail but the gossip that day was not about her sentence, no, it was all about her famous purse. Her Hermes bag was being "handled" by one of her assistants. At one point when the assistant was shopping in the Copia gift shop, I spied "Mr. Hermes" in the wheel barrel converted shopping cart. I wanted to remember every detail because I knew Julia would love to hear that story later, she'd think it so silly. I kept forgetting that Julia was dead. It wasn't a sad day to me but more a testament to a great life and the amazing woman who lived it.Copia gave us all a glass of Julia's favorite pink Champagne with a fancy name that I have forgotten and gorgeous gourgeres (French cheese puffs). It was a perfect balance of sweet and salty. I stood close to the serving table for seconds of both. One for me, one for Julia. Afterwards, there was a butter tasting in the corner of the lobby. There were those dry little crackers that look like Barbie's toast with different European varieties of butter. I could hear Julia telling me that people should never be afraid of butter. And then her big laugh, "It certainly hasn't done me any harm!" she would snort. It wasn't until the party had ended and the last glass of champagne was drunk and I went to find Stephanie that I finally felt the impact of losing Julia. It was when Stephanie remarked, "You know, she always called me Dearie." Stephanie is teaching at a few select Sur La Table stores this month. Denise Vivaldo is the founder of the Denise Vivaldo Group Inc., which provides food media and cookbook services. Her official title is, "Big Cheese." Follow Denise Vivaldo on Twitter:锘?p> . They're exorbitantly priced鈥攜ou're looking at $1,500 to $2,000 which is more than most people's monthly rent or mortgage payment. Keeping in mind, the quality will withstand the tests of the time and the craftsmanship can't be beat. Some of those bags are truly works of art.Then you have what are labelled entry-level designer bags. These are bags that usually retail for $400 to $900. They're the more accessible luxury items non-wealthy women will purchase outside of designer perfume and sunglasses.But, one woman's entry-level is another woman's high-end. What do you consider the entry-level bags? Here's a list we've been batting around the office:Do you own or lust for an entry-level designer bag, or are they still too rich for your blood?Here are real Hermes bags on the arms of celebs:锘?p>Diane Kruger -- frock within 48 hours of its trip down the runway -- about her passion for fashion. On what she likes:"I truly, genuinely like clothes. Making them is an art form, and wearing them is a form of self-expression. I find it very emotional because I can remember moments in my life--my mood, how I felt--through these clothes."Her biggest purchase:"The biggest fashion purchase I ever made I thought about for six years. I'm not kidding. All my life I wanted to own an Herm猫s Constance bag, and when I signed with Calvin Klein, I decided this was the time that I could afford it. I truly broke a sweat when I paid for it."Oh, to live Diane's life! ( we can afford.) And does boyfriend Joshua Jackson share her love of style?"We go shopping. But he likes it. I definitely wasn't fond of these blue sneakers that he wore all the time for about a year and a half."On what her favorite look is:"A well-cut dress. It's all about the cut. I love three-quarter sleeves. I definitely like it classic; less is more. The thing I despise most is vulgarity, and there's a lot of that here [in L.A.]."See more and .Photos by the legendary Ellen von Unwerth. 锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縄 really don't care why Mark Zuckerberg is donating $100 million to improve the lives of Newark's children. I care very much that it's being done. READ MOREDear Angry American, Joining the Tea Party Is NOT Your Only Option The Tea Party is angry! Really, really angry. So we are told again and again by the media. What's missing from this narrative is the fact that everybody is angry -- even people who love the president. READ MOREWATCH: Arianna Talks About Technology's Impact on Democracy at Clinton Global InitiativeWATCH: Arianna Discusses Elizabeth Warren, Third World America with Tavis SmileyWATCH: Arianna Discusses Obama, Voter Anger on HardballWATCH: Arianna Discusses Democrats' Tax Cuts Punt on Countdown锘?p>DUBAI, United Arab Emirates Egyptian bank EFG Hermes says the country's financial regulator is requiring it to provide additional information to shareholders before it signs off on a deal for the lender to combine some operations with Qatar's QInvest.The companies agreed in May to merge some of their businesses. They aim to create a joint investment bank meant to service the Arab world and beyond. QInvest will hold a 60 percent stake in the new company initially.EFG Hermes said Thursday it expects to call a shareholder meeting soon to provide investors with information requested by the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority.The bank says it is confident it can still complete the deal in the third quarter of this year.锘?p>DUBAI, United Arab Emirates Egyptian bank EFG Hermes says a majority of shareholders have voted in favor of a deal to merge some of the lender's operations with Qatar's QInvest.Sunday's vote moves closer to completion a deal that aims to create an investment bank serving the Arab world and beyond.The companies agreed in May to merge some of their businesses. Egypt's financial regulator later ordered EFG Hermes to provide additional information to shareholders before it would approve the deal.QInvest will hold a 60 percent stake in the new company initially if regulators ultimately approve the deal.EFG Hermes is Egypt's largest investment bank. Its shareholders include the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Dubai Financial Group and HSBC. QInvest is a privately held bank based in the energy-rich Gulf state of Qatar.锘?p>We are leaving for midnight mass in fifteen minutes, and I look like an utter idiot. Standing in front of the mirror in my childhood bedroom, I try to summon the enthusiasm I'd had fifteen minutes prior for what I was sure was the perfect ensemble for my delightfully WASPy old church -- conservative black silk dress, stacked patent heels and an old chiffon scarf of my mother's. As I stare my reflection, dress and heels are clearly on without incident, but the scarf is causing problems. What had made me think I knew how to tie a scarf anyway? Lacking scarves of my own, I've never bothered to learn, but have admired the scarf and boater shirt look as much as the next francophile, and never imagined the prim yet louche knot at the neck exceedingly difficult to replicate -- somewhere, perhaps, in between tying shoelaces and tying actual sailing knots.This is not the case, I learn, as I weave ends madly around each other. Having adopted the mantle of "fashion person" in a familial tribe of academics, I cannot very well go out and ask my mother how to tie a scarf, and my father, currently reading a massive library book on German foreign policy in the living room, clearly has no clue. As the clock counts down toward the departure hour, the scarf takes on a conflated importance in my mind. They won't know why, exactly, but I convince myself that I will make my parents see there isn't such a huge chasm between Harvard and fashion if I can just tie this bloody scarf. Ten minutes to go. Things at my neck are going terribly. I clack away at my keyboard, googling "hermes scarf tie cannot" and several other nonsensical combinations, only to discover that the wireless has taken this exact moment to take a little silent night of its own. I try to knot the scarf in a prim, posh double knot midway down the front of my dress. I look like a girl who has no clue how to tie a silk scarf, trying to tie a silk scarf. Weird. I hearken back to to my last encounter with non-jeweled neck ornamentation. Last spring, my friend Kwelina and I wandered into the austere, run down vaudeville of the Bastille to find a thrift store our solitary guide book promised would have scads of hundred euro Dior and Courreges for our consumption - Come on Eileen. After an agonizing hour in Come on Eileen, in which the scowling proprietress both point blank refused to sell me a tan Kelly bag that most explicitly was for sale, and snatched my hand away from a stack of old Paris Vogues, Kwelina emerged triumphant, with a mint condition Hermes Les Cles scarf, and knotted it expertly around her neck as an afterthought as the door clicked behind us on the way out. I try to summon the spirit with seven minutes remaining. Let's see, I would be walking down Blvd. St. Germain, having just ingested my body weight in black coffee and ouefs at Deux Magots, and if I felt like it, I would insolently knot a scarf over my dress just like-- I scramble my fingers around in a blur to the left of my neck, and toss the resultant tail in what I hope is a rakish swoon over my left shoulder. I look in the mirror, and almost gag. Somehow, all of this is looking exactly like what it actually is, instead of hitting that sweet sartorial spot that is stripes and florals and fur that shouldn't go together but do, or the red lip you smudge with the back of your hand haphazardly that comes out better than the red lip expertly applied. "Never again," I said to myself, as I did the best I could with a generic double knot dead center that made me look like a wannabe-Parisian clerical worker circa 1983. "Never again." And if there is ever a time for resolutions, for swearing up and down that something will be "the last" the end of the year is certainly it. So in the spirit of timeliness, and also of "never again," some wardrobe-related resolutions from a very liberally, less practically, educated twenty-something "fashion person."1. I will obviously learn how to tie a silk scarf. 2. Despite having heard everyone from Michael Kors to Tom Ford espouse the importance of tailoring, I have yet to truly acquaint myself with a tailor. The mounds of garments, brusqueness of the seemingly joint laundress/drycleaner/tailor at the window front stores in my neighborhood, and my dubiousness that such professions can coexist with any degree of quality in the quantity they appear have made me hesitant. However, if I can wear a stamp of a fringed miniskirt with riding boots and a man's sweater in broad daylight, I am probably brave enough to face a tailor. 3. The sales associates at the Ralph Lauren men's boutique on Madison Avenue sure do understand the importance of fine tailoring, and seemingly many other things I remain uninitiated in. A pre-holiday shopping trip with one of my closest male friends found me reduced to a cheerleader on the cashmere covered bench outside the dressing room while a saleswoman delved deep into the intricacies of cuff length and flat front, while I offered sad little "ooo!"s and "that looks good!"s from my perch. For while I can tell you that I like driving mocs and khakis on men, I become about as informed as a woman with a Coach purse when confronted with the difference between something as rudimentary as double breasted and single breasted suits, or the difference between French cuff links, and other kinds of cuff links. I've demoted myself to silent observer on my next trip, and resolve to get a clue this year. 4. After having lost my beloved signet ring somewhere during senior week (resolution 4.5 -- be more careful with prized possessions) my mother was good enough to replace my ring with a new one this Christmas. As I gleefully slid it on the ring finger of my left hand in front of the tree, my family let out a collective laugh. "Is that your engagement ring?" my brother asked. "People usually save that finger," my mother gently slid the ring off, and put it on my pinky. Irrational rage, again. Don't they know I can give them a presentation on Alber Elbaz right now that will move them to tears? In 2010, I will learn basic sartorial traditions and signifiers. 5. I will buy more vintage. I found an extraordinary thrift store near the Met the other day, and scooped up a very Jackie-in-India pink silk floor length dress with beading, as well as an incredible sequined skirt suit that I'm so excited to wear -- top with jeans and skirt with t-shirt -- that I've begun to question the health of my own devotion to my clothes. More, more, more. Moving to New York this past year has taught me many things, chiefly, that there are a great number of things which I am blithely unaware of how to do. Curtains, for example, will not work with any old curtain rod, nor can you maybe hammer screws into a wall with a bottle of Fiji water in a pinch. No matter how simple it looks at Gagosian to mat and frame photographs, a DIYer like me will find herself, three hours after she has begun, on the floor trying to avoid the Exacto knife somewhere underneath a pile of matted shavings, sincerely contemplating a paper cutter for the apartment. Style, perhaps, holds true to the same tenets. Better to have the spirit of a sartorial original than textbook scarf tying knowledge, but what good the sentiment without the wherewithal for execution? Blind faith that joie de vivre and an extensive knowledge of Talitha Getty's old looks from Ibiza is perhaps not enough to compensate for lack of hard facts in the fashion world, and it is to this that I dedicate my next, and perhaps least fun, fashion year. Kate Moss once said, "To look cool, you have to be cool." If Ms. Moss means that some things simply cannot be faked, I'll stake an afternoon spent with an Hermes e-tutorial on a lifetime of knotted elan, and rest content that I earned every silky, Frenchy bit of it. Follow Elizabeth Nicholas on Twitter:锘?p>After the trauma of missing Couture Week, I stayed on for a few days in Paris to browse the cruise collections with my friends Svetlana and Masha. We stayed, as we always do, at the on Avenue Montaigne, which is conveniently situated right in the middle of the finest concentration of world-class fashion boutiques and jewellers in the world. To give you an idea, it is opposite and next to : heaven!In the end I didn't buy much - just a few pairs of shoes and a jacket in the Chanel sale. You might ask, why buy last season? Well, Chanel, as anyone will tell you, is a classic, which never really goes out of fashion. Also, I like to tell Arkady that I buy stuff in the sales - it makes him think that I am watching the kopeks!Another classic is the bag. I love them - because they also don't go out of fashion like other bags, which barely last a season, and that's if you can get one. Unfortunately, everybody else loves Birkins too. Svetlana has thirty in leather (different colours) and twenty seven in crocodile. She says she keeps them all in her walk-in closet, but even hers couldn't be that big, whatever she says. (Svetlana exaggerates.)Anyway, we went in to Hermes to see if they had any new colours. I have been on the waiting list for years for some of them, but the one I really want is the emerald green in crocodile - at ?27,900 I would consider it a bargain. Well they didn't have one - or said they didn't (you never know whether to believe Parisian shop assistants). I then made the mistake of saying I would take any colour, and of course they said they didn't have 'any colour' either. Later, I was so zloy (1) at myself for allowing myself to be humiliated in Hermes, and still upset about missing the shows, I did what any woman does in that situation and sought comfort food. There are about six restaurants in Paris which for us Ruskiyistas have the right mix of fashion, chic and good food. These are L'Avenue, La Villa, Matisse, Costes, L'Ami Louis and , and in those few days, I think we visited all of them! Lucky for them, Svetlana and Masha have more self-control than I who, like some throwback to my Kozac (2) matriarchal forebears, is drawn to food like a Tatar to a vodka bottle. My binge finally ended when I joined Arkady in Vienna for the weekend. Fortunately I am not a fan of Austrian food - all that macca (3) reminds me of pre-Soviet era cooking - so Arkady and I took the Japanese option (about the only edible food in Vienna). On my return to UK, was in full swing. I managed to get back home just in time to change for 's after-show dinner at fashion favourite, . I wore a twinned with a Dennis Basso crocodile jacket, which turned out to be a wise choice, as it was filled with fashion royal family. The next day I attended the show which was fabulous https://blogger.huffingtonpost.com/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=1375096&blog_id=3&saved_changes=1&classic=1#s - he is one of my favourite designers. Then I went to your Kremlin for a meeting at No.11 Downing Street, followed immediately afterwards by an evening reception at No.10 hosted by Samantha Cameron.style="float: left; margin:10px" Dorogaya (4) this really was something else. The whole fashion house was there from Sir Philip Green to Antonio Berardi, Matthew Williamson, John Rocha and Anna Wintour. Even your Prime Minister David Ianovich was there.Next time you will be learning how I get my payback for overeating in Paris. Also about the new charity I am supporting - the . It was founded jointly by Forest Whitaker and UNESCO last year, and will be holding its first fundraising event in September, hosted by Forest, and with Mary J Blige playing the rok musika! Do svidaniya! (5)Footnotes(1)Angry(2)Cossack(3)Stodge(4)Darlings(5)Bye for now! Follow Ella Krasner on Twitter:锘?p>Against the backdrop of the 63rd session of the United Nations GeneralAssembly, a group of activists, dignitaries and entertainers Thursday challengedworld leaders to cut global poverty in half by 2015. The ''campaign, an effort spearheaded by YouTube, Oxfam and the GlobalCall to Action against Poverty (GCAP), featured the official releaseand live performance of a new song, also called "in my name," writtenand performed by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.I asked will.i.am about the new campaign and his feelings on the first McCain/Obama debate:Joining will.i.am at the event, which took place two blocks south of the U.N. building, was his fellow BlackEyed Pea apl.de.ap, African singer Angelique Kidjo, supermodel Elle Macpherson, Sex in the City starKristin Davis, Queen Rania of Jordan, Indian actor/director Rahul Boseand the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson. Reportedly, Bonoshowed up at noon after the press had already left. Each celebritysigned a Perspex glass wall to signify his or her support for thecause and will leave a message on the campaign website.Here's a slideshow of all the stars:The most prominent guest on hand to sign the wall was U.N. Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon who came briefly to address the crowd, sign the wall, andtake photographs. Flanked by six secret service agents, the SecretaryGeneral told the crowd:I signed my name as a citizen of Korea, but above all as a citizen ofthe world. As Secretary-General, of the United Nations, I will betaking your message back to the many world leaders I am meeting herethis week. I am determined to push them to keep the promises theirGovernments made here eight years ago.The full text of Ban's address can be found .The promises Ban described were the Millennium Development Goals, aset of initiatives issued in 2000 by 189 world leaders to achieve by 2015. The goals include halving theover one billion people in the world living on a dollar a day or less,reducing the child mortality rate and combating epidemics prevalent in poorregions such as HIV/AIDS. Currently, at the halfway point, the 'in my name' campaign vows to remind theU.N. to of its commitment to these goals and help leaders to enact policy to achieve them.The 'in my name' campaign brings an interactive, user-generated media element to the fight against poverty. YouTube has launched a new 'in my name'channel on its site where users can submit videos stating their name,country and a personal message to their leaders on world poverty. Inthe next few weeks, YouTube will review all submissions and will.i.amwill produce a mash-up of the best videos to be presented in front of the U.N. General Assembly inNovember.YouTube's head of news and politics Steve Grove told HuffPost, "Thething about YouTube is that it lowers the barrier of entry to getinvolved. It's so easy to hop on YouTube and just upload a videomessage, speaking directly to your world leaders about what you wantchanged... we're empowering a whole new group of activists to have avoice."Last year, 43.7 million people joined GCAP's Stand Up campaign,setting a new Guinness world record in activism. This year, GCAP aimsto enlist 67 million names, one percent of the world's population. GCAP hopes the mass appeal and star power of the 'in my name' campaign will bring more activistsinto the fold and allow the movement to grow."The struggle for human rights, the struggle for justice, the struggleto end poverty," GCAP's co-chair Kumi Naidoo said, "these strugglesare marathons, not sprints."Here is clip from the live performance of "In My Name" from the U.N.:And here is the official music video for "In My Name" performed by will.i.am, Angelique Kidjo and apl.de.ap:锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘?p>Is there an alternative to ideological illusion and the rhetoric of evil? Yes, there is. We must remember our common human vulnerabilities and bring them into a collective conversation within which our existential anxiety can be held and better borne.锘?p>This edition's title may seem strange given that April was a bit on the dry side, weather-wise, but last weekend's storm blast (and the relatively warm winter) has resulted in an explosion of flowers around the city. With Mother's Day around the corner, it also seemed like a good time to discuss some of the great florists in our city. Whether your needs are for a simple bouquet or outfitting a full event, take a look at the following: - 809 Washington StreetThailand-born Banchet chooses a unique assortment of flowers from around the world to create beautiful arrangements of stunning color. Visit the innovative Flower Bar, an amazing presentation! - 134 Fifth AvenueMeredith Waga Perez studied at the Parsons School of Design (one of my alma maters) and that style and fashion sense shows in her attention to detail and innovative textures. - 148 Duane StreetPersonal service and taking the time to get a true sense of the giver -- and giftee -- is the key to a bouquet or assortment that is absolutely perfect every time. - 122 East 55th StreetSome of the great businesses in the city (including Le Bernardin and the Four Seasons) turn to Floralies for its outstanding customer service and intriguing arrangements. - 310 Greenwich StreetWakeham worked in Paris for several years, then with some of New York's top designers before opening her own shop in 2010. Today, her young, modern approach to flowers can make any occasion special. - Five Tudor City PlaceA sculptor, in a sense, who works in flowers, George is known for monochromatic or monofloral arrangements that are stunningly simple, but also collaborates closely with clients to achieve one-of-a-kind looks. - 19 East 65th Street - 337 Bleecker StreetSandra de Ovando combines a love of gardening, world travels and exotic flowers into dramatic compositions that are now prized by celebrities, luxury hotels and fashion houses including Hermes. - 226 Fifth AvenueThis third-generation business uses the freshest flowers from the Netherlands, Central America and Hawaii in arrangements from the traditional to the exotic. - 209 West 96th StreetThe greenhouse here is a wonder to behold, and worth a visit as you can literally see the sources of your beautiful arrangements at terrific prices. - 828 6th AvenueThere's no such thing as an out-of-season flower at this third-generation shop -- you can find orchids, tropical flora and more during all seasons for your occasion!Whether you need a single stem, a full bouquet or many arrangements for an event, any of these shops can make your life a little more beautiful. Literally take a moment to smell the flowers! Happy Mother's Day and Happy Shopping!Follow Faith Hope Consolo on Twitter:锘?p>It's the last item you grab as you walk out the door, the first thing you put down as you enter a room. It holds your entire life -- it's your purse. But handbags also are statements in style, whether it's a comfortable hobo or a more structured satchel, in black leather, red patent, an exotic skin or eco-friendly cloth. We all know the amazing work produced by the classic houses of Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Fendi and more. But now is also the time to check out the many styles and colors of some newer designers to enrich your look and keep you organized! - 394 Bleecker StreetPurses may be practical, but here they're never boring -- check out the sunglasses on the side of the small Wanda. Guinness designs each piece herself, and many have become collectors' items. - 870 Madison AvenueExotic leathers such as alligator and ostrich in classic shapes and beautiful colors. - 625 Madison AvenueFrance's leading luxury leather store since 1898, Lederer offers classic styles and incomparable craftsmanship that never go out of style. - 5 West 56th StreetBeautifully made handbags and accessories in bold colors are the specialty at this family-run shop, one of New York City's best retailers since the 1930s. - 430 West BroadwayAn import from Rome, Guidi's pieces are colorful, whimsical and distinctive, a real statement in style. - 57 Street and 5th Avenue - 37 Wall StreetAlready a fun place for bags in unusual colors, including its signature blue, Tiffany soon will have a line from Richard Lambertson and John Truex. - 987 Madison AvenueOpening any minute, the first U.S. outpost of a French legend, run by the descendants of the original glovemakers who founded the house. - Multiple stores around townValentine believes that bags are extensions of our "purse-nalities," with bags carrying such names as "confidence" and "rebellious." - 940 Madison Avenue - Italian style with a twist, designed by V. Bruce Hoeksema and hand-sewn in Florence. - 660 Madison AvenueFounded in Brussels in 1829 (a year before Belgium became a nation), Delvaux is the oldest luxury leather goods company in the world. And it maintains its old world craftsmanship, making its bags by hand using time-tested techniques. The results are lasting goods with timeless appeal. - 660 Madison AvenueMilan's answer to Hermes, in a way, given that they both use the techniques of saddlemakers. Valextra's visions apply those methods to interesting, but classic shapes in a unique color palette. - 21 East 57th StreetOkay, I couldn't resist slipping in one of the classics. But the shapes and craftsmanship couldn't be ignored!Nothing completes an outfit like the perfect purse. Check out these stores to find your beautiful, useful companion.Happy Shopping!Follow Faith Hope Consolo on Twitter:锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘?p>Fancy yourself a Chanel 2.55? An Hermes Birkin? Or perhaps a pretty little leather YSL satchel?Just make sure you're not buying a fake. the latest in luxury handbag counterfeiting and found this not-so-good news: counterfeiters are getting much more sophisticated and it's harder than ever to spot a knockoff.WSJ reporter Elizabeth Holmes talks to Elizabeth Bernstein, Accessories Director for secondhand retailer Portero, about how the fake bags are looking more and more real.For one, many fakes are now actually made with leather as opposed to the typical plastic, which used to be an easy giveaway. Those that are still made with plastic are often embossed with a veiny pattern to mimic that calfskin veins on leather bags.But, says Bernstein, there are still ways to tell if you're being duped. From the heaviness of the metal hardware (light hardware = fake bag) to the too-perfect stitching (a real Hermes bag, for example, is all stitched by hand), there are clues that give it away. The most entertaining tip? For Chanel bags, Bernstein instructs skeptical buyers to rub the chain straps together and listen to the sound -- the gold plated metal of the authentic Chanel chains rustle differently than the plastic-sounding fake chain. Looks like you learn something new everyday.WATCH: 锘?p>By Jonathan BorgeIs Art Basel to Miami what Fashion Week is to New York? Saying so would perhaps be an overstatement, but there's no denying that with the arrival of the days-long art fair come some of the world's most extravagantly dressed individuals. From enormous, head-to-toe chinchilla fur coats to gleaming baubles brighter than the sun, Basel goers make their most glamorous and daring sartorial decisions before arriving to each night's invitation-only, celebrity packed soirees. Last year, a one-minute walk down Collins Avenue between 22nd and 21st Streets proved to look more like a stroll through Lincoln Center before a designer's show than a typical day on South Beach. And this year, we shouldn't expect anything less. In fact, the fashion elite will soon arrive, and you only need their first names to know exactly who they are: Diane, Terry, Pharrell, Scott, Bruce, Donna, Stefano, Stella, and Derek, to name a few. The debate over fashion's influence in the art world, or the art world's influence in fashion, is nothing new, but this year's invitations and happenings seem more grande than those of years past. While there are events and openings hosted by Chanel, Hermes, Stella McCartney, Prada, and Christian Louboutin, here are 16 others that are definitely approved of by the fashion glitterati:MOCA and Vanity Fair/Vanity Fair International PartyDonna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Bruce Weber were just some of the recognizable faces that stepped into the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to celebrate its annual party last year. The opening reception of Bill Viola's "Liber Insularum" exhibition is also this same night.Tuesday, December 4, 20127:00 PM - 9:00 PMMuseum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)770 NE 125th St.North Miami, FL 33161Invitation OnlyInterview Magazine and Valentino Cocktail PartyThe Webster's very stylish CEO and co-founder Laure Heriard Dubreuil is hosting a cocktail party at her boutique's own rooftop. Guests, who are probably fashion heavyweights and celebrities, will view Valentino's Pop Pois Collection. Wednesday, December 5, 20126:00 PM - 8:30 PMThe Webster Miami1220 Collins AveMiami Beach, FL 33139Invitation OnlyDelfina Delettrez at Design MiamiRome-based jewelry designer Delfina Delettrez will showcase a career's worth of pieces at the Antonella Villanova Gallery inside Design Miami. The pieces can be viewed through magnifying glasses for a closer view of her necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings.Wednesday, December 5, 11:00 AM - 9:00 PMThursday, December 6 - Sunday, December 9, Noon - 8:00 PMDesign MiamiMeridian Ave. and 19th St.Adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention CenterMiami Beach, FL 33139Bruce Weber's at the Standard SpaFamed fashion photographer Bruce Weber will stop by the Standard to sign copies of his latest book, "All-American Volume Twelve: A Book of Lessons," followed by an invitation-only party with Dior Homme and W magazine at the Moore Building, where Weber will also premiere his new film, "Can I Make the Music Fly?"Thursday, December 66:00 PM (Book Signing)The Standard Spa40 Island Ave.Miami Beach, FL 33139Design Talks with W magazine's Stefano Tonchi and Diane Von FurstenbergBack at Design Miami, W magazine's editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi, who always makes the Basel rounds, will sit with Diane Von Furstenberg to talk about her illustrious career and fashion design.Wednesday, December 56:00 PM - 7:00 PMDesign MiamiMeridian Ave. and 19th St.Adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention CenterMiami Beach, FL 33139Shop Bazaar Pop-Up ShopLast year Vogue hosted a series of events during Basel, but this year Harper's Bazaar is stepping foot into the Design District with its very own pop-up shop, where guests can meet editors, view art installations, sip cocktails, and, of course, shop.Wednesday, December 5 - Saturday, December 8Open at 11:00 AMThe Buena Vista Building108 NE 39th St, Suite 107Miami, FL 33137Visionaire, Net-A-Porter and Mr.Porter EventOnline shopping destinations Mr. Porter and Net-A-Porter have partnered with Visionaire magazine and artist Jonathan Horowitz to host "Free Store," an event and live exhibition where invited guests will exchange their own items for those in Horowitz's "Free Store." Thursday, December 69:00 PM - 11:00 PMSLS Hotel South Beach1701 Collins AvenueMiami Beach, FL 33019Invitation OnlyAndy Warhol and Fendi Casa ExhibitAndy Warhol is back! Well, not really. Fendi Casa is hosting some of Warhol's greatest works inside the Luxury Living Fendi Casa Showroom in the Design District. The pieces will be housed here for two weeks before moving to the Adamar Fine Arts Gallery through January.Opening ReceptionThursday, December 68: 00 PM - 11:00 PMFendi Casa Luxury Living Showroom90 NE 39th St.Miami, FL 33137Invitation OnlyKelly Klein at the WebsterPhotographer Kelly Klein, Calvin's ex, will be at the Webster on Dec. 6 signing copies her of her book, "Pools: Reflections."Thursday, December 66:00 PM - 8:00 PMThe Webster Miami1220 Collins AveMiami Beach, FL 33139Terry Richardson at the Standard SpaYet another fashion photographer, Terry Richardson, will be signing copies of his book. The lens man and provocateur will be marking his signature on "Terrywood" at the Standard Spa on Dec. 7, where he'll host a star-studded, invite-only bash following the signing.Friday, December 77:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Book Signing)The Standard Spa40 Island Ave.Miami Beach, FL 33139Donna Karan at the WebsterBasel might as well be one giant book fair, because American designer Donna Karan will also be signing copies of her book, "Stephan Weiss: Connecting the Dots," on Dec. 7 at the Delano. Friday, Dec. 7Noon - 2:00 PMPoolside at the Delano Beach Club1685 Collins Ave.Miami Beach, FL 33139Design Talks with Pharrell WilliamsCall him a rapper, art collector, entrepreneur, or by any of his other titles, Pharrell will be another guest speaker at Design Miami's "Design Talks" series, where he'll discuss his new venture, a book titled "Pharrell: Places and Spaces I've Been."Friday, December 73:00 PMDesign MiamiMeridian Ave. and 19th St.Adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention CenterMiami Beach, FL 33139Casa Vogue and Ornare Architecture TalkBrazil鈥檚 Casa Vogue editor Taissa Buescu has gathered international designers and architects to talk about real estate, media, and design across the globe. This one isn鈥檛 all about fashion, but it has a chic aesthetic to it.Friday, December 711 AMOrnare3930 NE Second Ave.Miami, FL 33137Invitation OnlyThe Sartorialist at the WebsterScott Schuman, otherwise known as , recently dropped a second book, 鈥淭he Sartorialist: Closer,鈥?which features photographs of the world鈥檚 most stylish people. He鈥檒l be at the Webster signing copies, so come prepared with your best outfit on.Saturday, December 84: 00 PMThe Webster Miami1220 Collins AveMiami Beach, FL 33139Chloe鈥檚 60th AnniversaryLuxury fashion house Chloe chose the Soho Beach House to host its 60th anniversary celebration, where invited guests will see 鈥淐hloe Attitudes Inspired,鈥?an exhibition featuring photography, sculpture, and paintings that honor the brand.Saturday, December 87:00 PM 鈥?9:00 PMSoho Beach House Penthouse4385 Collins Ave.Miami Beach, FL 33140Invitation OnlyI Art New YorkBasel devotees will spend each night , which is using social media to announce a different location for the venue each night at 6:00 p.m. On Saturday, it will host yet another exclusive party with fashion-world hosts that include artist Aaron Young and Harper鈥檚 Bazaar鈥檚 Derek Blasberg.Saturday, December 811:00 PM 鈥?5:00 AMLe Baron. Earlier on HuffPost:锘?p> Copyright 2012 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. "The Huffington Post" is a registered trademark of TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Part of HuffPost Style The Huffington Post 锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘緾lick here to leave a comment.HuffPost High School welcomes a lively, thoughtful debate in the comment section. Keep in mind that the articles here are penned by young authors, so please keep criticism respectful, and help us to keep this a safe and supportive place for writers of all ages to contribute.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>Most are pretty easy to shop for -- a power tool set, cool tech gadget or simple silk tie will usually do the trick. But there are definitely more stylish options to consider this . Whether your pops is a sports nut, an outdoorsman or an urban entrepreneur, every guy wants to look (and feel) devastatingly handsome. We suggest ditching the usual boring gifts in favor of something dapper. From classic shoe care kits and luxe products to printed swim trunks and , we've found 15 fashionable gifts that any (sartorially saavy or not) will love. Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , , and .锘?p>Histories of the Civil War and the mid-19th century mineral rush abound. But what happened shortly thereafter, when newly freed African Americans sought better lives across the U.S., is a story largely resigned to family albums and local historical societies like the one in Fergus Falls, Minn.There, a collection of newspaper clippings and photographs, many donated by a woman named Lorraine Tate, tell the story of the "First 85," 60 men and boys and 25 women and girls who migrated from Kentucky on April 7, 1898.According to an article published in the Fergus Falls Journal in 1933, the group of pioneers was the largest influx of African Americans to settle in a Western state. In Fergus Falls, they set up businesses and homes and raised families for generations. Descendants will gather on Aug. 11 to honor their ancestors' bold move.But how did a trainload of African Americans end up in Fergus Falls? A sought to explain."There were veterans in Fergus Falls and they got a bright idea that they would take real estate brochures down to this event [the Grand Army of the Republic's annual encampment in St. Paul in 1896] and see who they could draw up to Otter Tail County," said Melissa Hermes, education coordinator for the Otter Tail County Historical Society. The pitch apparently appealed to the Army's African American troop, prompting them to pack up their families and move northwest.According to the Fergus Falls Journal, the group consisted of roughly 18 families, including Civil War pensioners Oscar Vaughn, Frank Marshall, John Lewis, Allen Webster, Reuben Fitch, Joe Himsly, Gene Strader and Alexander Pennick. An also includes men by the name of Prince Honeycutt, Joe Robinson, Harrison Webster, Patrick Fitch, Frank Penick, Frank Curry, John Taylor, Lulu Drew, Jean Frazier, Ham, Hans and Max Denham, Thomas Anderson, Simon, Minor and John Anderson, Luens Anderson (Teamsters), Arthur Edwards, Mattie Patterson, Betty Wench, William Gaines, Harden Tate, Henry Johnson, Frank Taylor, Loraine Crockett, Elizabeth Goodall, Albert Mitchell, Eliza Patrick, Raymond Patrick, John Will Smith, Jane Ingram, Bud Wagner, John Ingram, Katie Cod, Albert and June Madison, Willie Vaughn, Arthur Edwards and Clarence Watkins."What was unique is that they came in one large group," Hermes told The Huffington Post. "They packed up the community around Bowling Green, Kentucky, and moved here en masse. As they traveled to get here, people were fascinated. You'd find stories in other newspapers as well." Newspaper clippings and a reveal to both Hermes and the descendants of the First 85 what life was like for African Americans after slavery and the American Civil War."They were really patriotic," Hermes said. "So many of these families had people that served their country in the Civil War ... and later, World War I.""When they got here, one of the first things that they did was registered their kids in schools. Education was extremely important and they worked hard for their children to go to college," Hermes added. "A lot of the children of this original 85 were very successful, working for big companies like Honeywell," though she says the job opportunities are what ultimately pulled them away from small-town life."But it was not easy for them," Hermes continued, noting Minnesota's KKK activity, which peaked from the 1870s to the 1920s. By the Depression, a scarcity of jobs and homestead opportunities, coupled with forced many families to disperse, Hermes said.Descendants of the First 85 gathered for a reunion in 2010, a tradition they look forward to carrying on this year and beyond.PHOTOS:锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>Meet Tyler Shields, photographic provocateur du jour. He's snapped ; a ; and .For his latest trick, the L.A.-based photographer has taken one of the most coveted fashion items ever, and completely demolished in a battle royale: "the red Crocodile Birkin VS. the red $200 chainsaw and 4 dollars of gasoline!"As you can imagine, such an act of fashion blasphemy has garnered some negative reactions. , the model who oversaw the aforementioned destruction, and even death threats in the wake of her controversial shoot.But Francesca, who happens to be Shields' girlfriend (and Clint's daughter, in case you were wondering), seems plenty happy about about the shoot, tweeting on Sunday:Money to burn! Francesca Eastwood and boyfriend Tyler Shields set a $100,000 Hermes Birkin bag on... via @MailOnlineAs it turns out, the Burning Man Birkin project is a well-documented part of her new reality show, which debuted on May 20 on E!. In the clips below, you can see the Birkin saga from start to finish, including Francesca's initial unwillingness to let the bag go and Tyler's rational arguments to destroying it ("Destruction is a beautiful version of freedom鈥? ).Alas, the reasons Francesca wants to spare the bag's life aren't exactly the same as her critics'. Spoiler alert: the model expresses no inclination to donate the bag . We've reached out to Shields for comment. In the meantime, and watch the process unfold in the "Mrs. Eastwood & Company" clips below.UPDATE: In response to the backlash, Shields told The Huffington Post: "People spend 200k on an album cover, they spend millions on catering for movies, they spend money to create things -- that is all I am doing with this."He added, "For all the people who hate it, I get the same amount of emails from people who love it. Art is there for you to decide -- you either get it, love it and embrace [it] or you hate it -- and most people decide in 10 seconds."See below.For some wonderfully intact Hermes bags, check out the pics below:锘?p>How much do you love your handbag? Or, let us rephrase this: Do you think your bank should have a vested interest in protecting it? That's what one French bank thought women wanted when developing their "Pour Elle" ("for her") card. In an attempt to cater to women's perceived needs, Soci茅t茅 G茅n茅rale has created a program in which cardholders can receive up to $250 of theft insurance for their purses as well as two calls to electricians, locksmiths and other types of handymen (because those two needs go hand in hand, obvi). "Those who choose these cards are those who wish to adhere to their femininity," .As much as some may find this program useful, the French bank has already been accused of sexism. It turns out, some women don't like their banks to instruct them on the rules of femininity and handbag care. " :It's a little cheeky to promote both at the same time as 'female crises' that could arise. In my eyes, many men don't know how to deal with a serious electrical issue -- on the contrary, they'd probably get killed...I don't need my bank to dictate what kind of services I need, but it's kind of them to offer.We suspect she didn't sound too grateful when speaking about the bank's offer. Soci茅t茅 G茅n茅rale's spokeswoman didn't see anything "discriminatory" about their approach and even claimed that 5 percent of cardholders are men. And with handbags becoming increasingly more expensive ( costs $48,000 and costs $35,000 -- eek!), the idea that some women might need theft insurance doesn't sound too crazy. But this controversial program certainly raises a few questions about how involved a bank should be in women's purses and feminine identities. Do you take Soci茅t茅 G茅n茅rale's "Pour Elle" program offensively or do you think it's just like any other specialized bank card? Would you want handbag insurance?Check out some celebrities with Hermes bags. Would you get handbag insurance if you had one of these?Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘?p>During the 1992 Presidential election, Bill Clinton's campaign team hit on a slogan that was easy to pronounce and just as easy for people to understand: "It's the economy, stupid!" By that time, the trickle-down economics of the Reagan era had proven to be a ridiculous theory. The fact that President George H.W. Bush had no idea what the price of milk was didn't help matters, either.As the Internet has grown and computers have taken on spectacular efficiencies in moving money, global economies have seen financial transactions increase in their speed and societal impact. Fraudulent practices like Bernie Madoff's exclusive pyramid scheme for the wealthy -- or the implosion of the real estate market due to wild gambling with credit default swaps -- have caused the fortunes and financial security that many investors and homeowners took for granted to evaporate into thin air.On December 5, 1996, Alan Greenspan (who was then Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board) asked an audience at the American Enterprise Institute: "How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?" Although Greenspan's use of the term "irrational exuberance" has been referred to quite often since the global financial meltdown of 2008, if you really want to see what "irrational exuberance" looks like you should start with this clip from Busby Berkeley's 1933 movie musical, Golddiggers of 1933 (in which Ginger Rogers sings one verse of "We're In The Money" in pig latin): Need another example? How about Ethel Merman asking "Could You Use Any Money Today?" in Irving Berlin's 1950 hit musical, Call Me Madam? The past decade has produced numerous documentaries about the perils of the new global economy. They include:However, it is the work of playwrights, with their amazing gift of theatrical license, to dramatize complex economic concepts in a way that can be understood by the average audience. In his 1955 hit play, The Matchmaker, Thornton Wilder wrote that "Marriage is a bribe to make a housekeeper think she's a householder."One of my favorite Thornton Wilder quotes comes from Act II of Hello, Dolly! (which was based on The Matchmaker). Dolly Levi lovingly wraps her arms around the cash register in Horace Vandergelder's Hay & Feed Store and says: "Money, money, money, money, money!! It's like the sun we walk under. It can kill or cure. Horace Vandergelder never tires of saying that 99% of the people in this world are fools. And I suppose he's right. We're all fools: Himself, Irene, Cornelius, myself. We're all fools and we're all in grave danger of destroying the world in our folly. And yet the surest way to keep us safe from harm is to give us those few things in life that will make us happy. And that takes a little bit of money.Now, the difference between a little bit of money and no money at all is enormous, and it can shatter the world. And the difference between a little bit of money and an enormous amount of money is very slight. Yet that, too, can shatter the world. It's all a question of how it's used. As my late husband, Ephraim Levi, always used to say: 'Money -- you should pardon the expression -- is a little bit like manure. It doesn't do anyone a bit of good unless it's spread all around, encouraging young things to grow.'"At its most daring, art is a subversive phenomenon that forces people to look beyond the safety of the status quo. Two new pieces of theatre do a stunning job of examining the recent global financial crisis caused by credit default swaps and other fraudulent financial practices.* * * * * * * * *In the past year, has toured the nation performing one of his most powerful and daring monologues: The Last Cargo Cult. In 2006, one of the most popular television reality shows named its ninth season Survivor: Vanuatu -- Islands of Fire. Daisey's excursion to research the John Frum celebrations on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu proved to be just as challenging as the Survivor series. But none of those people were using Vanuatu as source material to research a dramatic monologue about world financial markets, tribal customs, the glories of IKEA, and the best way to survive an automobile accident in the Hamptons.Mike Daisey (Photo by: Ursa Waz) Few, if any of the contestants on Survivor could match Daisey's intellectual powers, creative talents, or skills as a performance artist. I mean, let's be honest. How many people do you know who can sit at a desk for two hours -- with a glass of water as their only prop -- and hold forth on the terrors of exploring the South Pacific in a puddle jumper that must land in wet grass as the natives emerge from the jungle, the gold standard, tribal coming of age rituals that involve a poor, porcine target, and what it feels like to stand on the rim of an active volcano?In the following clip (recorded when Daisey was performing The Last Cargo Cult at The Public Theatre in New York), the actor and his wife and collaborator, Jean-Michele Gregory, explain what inspired them to create The Last Cargo Cult. Daisey's kind of theatre requires that the audience pay close attention and follow carefully. His strengths as a storyteller allow him to take daring theatrical risks -- like telling the audience they don't really count because they'll be replaced by another audience the next night. Imagine an elephant seal as a prosecuting attorney, a moose capable of skinning and field dressing Sarah Palin, and you have some idea of what your evening's personal guide through mankind's follies is like.As a performer who does not rise from his chair until the end of the show, Daisey is remarkable in his ability to paint pictures with his eyes, his jowls, his arms, and a voice that ranges from seething cynicism to shocked disbelief and near operatic bellicosity. As a writer with a sense of irony that vacillates between shock, awe, and disgust, his performances are remarkable for their probative analysis, the wealth of content they deliver, and the sheer entertainment value Daisey brings to each performance.Mike Daisey in The Last Cargo Cult Photo by: Kevin Berne Whenever I have seen Daisey perform one of his monologues, I've been amazed by the amount I've learned, the magnificent editing in his work, and the sheer theatricality of his presentation. This is one of the rare artists who gives 150% to his audience and leaves them wanting more.Daisey also is one of the few performers brave enough to challenge an audience to let him know what the experience was worth to them. As the audience enters the theatre, each person is given a bill of one denomination or another. Whether or not they return the money at the end of the show is a stunning test of the true nature of each member of the audience and whether or not such people can honestly put a value on Daisey's art. The following clip offers some key moments from The Last Cargo Cult . * * * * * * * * * * * * *San Francisco's Exit Theatre is currently hosting the world premiere of a brilliant new play by Bennett Fisher. Presented by No Nude Men Productions and directed by Tore Ingersoll-Thorp, Hermes does an astonishing job of explaining the similarities between believing in god and believing in debt.The play's premise is simple: Soon after a god returns to earth, the world comes to an end. Fisher stresses that:"While researching the role Goldman Sachs and other American financial institutions played in the most recent financial collapse, I found it very difficult to get a straight answer. I did not intend for this play to be a reenactment of the Greek financial meltdown; I wanted to use the meltdown -- along with the gods Hestia and Hermes, along with the sort of fraud perpetrated by companies like Enron -- as a lens to examine opportunism, indifference, greed, possibility, power, and humanity. In my mind, it is less a play about history, mythology, politics, or economics than it is about people."Gil (Carl Lucania), Anne (Juliana Egley), Jack (Geoff Nolan), and Brian (Brian Markley) make their sales pitch in Hermes.Photo by: Claire Rice The humans in Fisher's play are a quartet of hard-drinking, greedy Wall Street gamblers who (while stuck in Europe because of mass flight cancellations following the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallaj?kull volcano) see an opportunity to manipulate the financial crisis in Greece to their advantage. Debating which sales technique will work best (the Big Bird, Chicken Little, or Jenny Craig approach), they cling to the basic truism that, even in the worst of circumstances, "business finds a way."Then the youngest among them comes up with a brilliant idea. Jack has the gall to suggest that the others may be "too old" to grasp his concept. A noticeable chill enters the room.However, Jack's idea has not gone unnoticed. Usually seen as a messenger in Greek mythology, Hermes also acts as the god of commerce and thieves. Slimier and far more aggressive than Bernie Madoff or Gordon Gekko, Hermes has been crafted by Fisher to act as the physical manifestation of fraud. Clad in a pair of winged golden sneakers, he takes great delight in punching financial cowards in the balls. In his writer's statement, Fisher stresses that:"Hermes is frequently cast in the role of a trickster, a mythological archetype present in many traditions other than the Greeks. But, more than this, he is the god of surrogates and substitutes. Language and mathematics allow us to order the natural world, separating that indistinct jumble of atomic particles that is existence into individual and identifiable parcels. Commerce and trade operate under the principle that a value can stand in for an object. If the truth is undesirable, a lie can be used instead. In my opinion, Hermes' dominion, inventiveness and expressiveness, represent the highest form of human thought. Hermes allows us to think of something greater than ourselves. Poseidon and Demeter have sway over distinct skills like sea travel and agriculture. Gods like Dionysus, Athena, and Apollo correspond to even more abstract concepts like justice and art. But it is Hermes' areas of influence that facilitate each of these. Slippery logic and artful language are more fearsome than thunderbolts. Greed and poverty level more houses than war. Hermes alone allows man to transcend what is tangible, to devise and articulate concepts that have only a tenuous connection to the physical world. Hermes allows us to be human."Brian Trybom as Hermes (Photo by: Claire Rice) With his rough-and-tumble script about corporate greed and the illegal manipulation of global financial markets, Fisher's daring and extremely intelligent play offers a solid dramatic counterpoint to some of Matt Taibbi's investigative journalism about the current financial crisis in Rolling Stone Magazine. His ability to dramatize man's talent for making a profit off of something that is truly worthless delivers a breathtaking experience in relevant, contemporary theatre. Although Hermes may be Fisher's first full-length play to be produced onstage, there can be no doubt that it deserves to reach a much larger audience. Performances continue at San Francisco's Exit Stage Left through March 26. You can .To read more of George Heymont go to Follow George Heymont on Twitter:锘?p>San Francisco's Bay One Acts Festival has just wrapped up its tenth anniversary season with two programs of short plays co-produced by small theatre companies scattered around the Bay area. Here (in order of increasing seriousness) are the plays that impressed me the most.* * * * * * * * * *Written by Crish Barth, directed by Colin Johnson, and produced by Round Belly Theatre Company, The Fall scored a major triumph in transforming one of the most banal experiences into a rollicking keyboard comedy. Barth's play was inspired by an online chat group that started to discuss actress Natasha Richardson's skiing accident in March of 2009 but, as so often happens in chat rooms, quickly veered off course. The five participants who are furiously tapping away at their computer keyboards are:Because none of the characters are facing each other, the audience is allowed to savor their incredulous -- and sometimes angry -- reactions to whatever gets posted in the chat room. This can range from Joy's smug sense of superiority to Dave's astonishment at what is happening to the discussion he's trying to moderate and keep civil.Joy (Maura Halloran), Dave (Brian Quakenbush) and Steve (Lucas Buckman) at their keyboards in The Fall (Photo by: Clay Robeson) The audience also gets to witness snarky bits of dialogue like the following:(Steve) "There is no God. Steve."(Maria) "There is no Steve. God."Considering how boring chat room dialogue can become, Barth and Johnson deserve kudos for being able to mine comic gold from a discussion sparked by a tragic accident. I especially enjoyed Maura Halloran's tightly-wound performance as Joy.* * * * * * * * * * *Capturing a sense of goofiness with words is easier said than done. That's why I was so impressed by Twice As Bright, a short two-character play by Daniel Heath that was produced by The Playwrights' Center of San Francisco and beautifully directed by Sara Staley.Oscar (Ray Hobbs) is a soon-to-be divorced microbiologist who studies pathogens and claims to be "clean in ways that most people couldn't even imagine." Jen (Nicole Hammsersla) is a family doctor employed by Kaiser Permanente whose limited social skills may only work in an examining room.Ray Hobbs as Oscar (Photo by: Clay Robeson) When they meet in the Reno bus station, Jen has set herself a goal of falling in love with the next man she meets and then breaking up with him before getting on her bus (which is due to leave in 10 minutes). Her farcical attempts to seduce Oscar are shaped by the woman's desperate loneliness, social ineptitude, and rigidly linear patterns of thought. Oscar, on the other hand, is open to more possibilities. At first he may come across like a loser, but as a scientist he knows how to take an idea and run with it.Nicole Hammersla as Jen (Photo by: Clay Robeson) Daniel Heath's script was bright, insightful, and wonderfully wacky. I thought Ray Hobbs and Nicole Hammersla did a splendid job of capturing the nervous energy required for this bizarre and hilariously dysfunctional encounter (cruising a bus station hasn't been this much fun in years).* * * * * * * * * * *Having recently enjoyed the world premiere of Hermes (his dazzling two-act play about dysfunctional behavior let loose on the world's global financial markets), Bennett Fisher's contribution to the tenth annual Bay One Acts Festival proved to be equally controversial. In the past 25 years, computer applications have transformed financial transactions so that they now happen at lightning speed with far-reaching consequences. Inspired by a story that he heard on NPR, Pure Baltic Avenue lets the audience in on a vicious real estate scam similar to what took place in Arizona.One thing's for sure: When people learn how to brazenly game the system, altruistic intent is the first thing to fly out the window. Instead of the invisible hand of the free market, what the audience sees in Pure Baltic Avenue is the invisible hand of the free market on drugs.Fisher's play revolves around a get rich quick scheme in which three real estate speculators and a merrily enabling appraiser keep flipping a residential property between themselves so that its value quickly increases. With each sale, one of the participants calls the bank and asks for a mortgage loan (which is automatically granted). The paperwork is instantly signed, stamped, and notarized and the property trades hands in a ritual celebrating the group's power, chicanery, and bravado.Breckenridge (Cooper Carlson), Irving (Nick Allen), Conway (Chris Quintos) and DeWitt (Samuel Richie) in Bennett Fisher's Pure Baltic Avenue (Photo by: Clay Robeson) Whether you choose to call it a round-robin scheme in house trading, a financial game of "Tag, You're It!" or a real estate-based Ponzi scheme, the last person to sign the papers comes out with a property that has been assessed at a ridiculously inflated value. So it's easy to understand why, when a bank officer shows up wanting to know how three mortgages got sold for the same property within an hour, the participants cagily trick the bank officer into signing the next set of papers and becoming the new owner of a severely overvalued property.Produced by Threshold and directed by Alex Curtis, Pure Baltic Avenue's energy is reminiscent of how people who are high on the effects of power, drugs, money, or poppers like to take increasingly bold risks. I especially liked the performances of Samuel Richie as DeWitt and Marie O'Donnell as Parker (the bank's shocked representative).* * * * * * * * * * *One of the more surprising delights at the festival was Test Preparation by M.R. Fall. In this brief but intensely challenging drama, the playwright asks the audience to decide whether "standardized testing is Hell or Hell is standardized testing."Presented by No Nude Men Productions and directed by Julia Heitner, Test Preparation starred Nick Dickson as Mister Francis, a frustrated teacher trying to get his hapless pupils up to par for the SAT examination. It's a situation the playwright knows all too well."We're all trapped in the same system until these various arbitrary totems -- the SAT score, the high school diploma, the eternal GPA, the bachelor's degree - have been collected, and then, suddenly, the system has no use for us anymore. The SAT might get you into college, but it's not going to tell you what to do once you get out. Test Preparation wasn't planned or premeditated; it just came out. Like most plays that arrive in such a fashion, it didn't take me very long to write -- probably about two days altogether." Hoenig (Nick Trengove), Mister Francis (Nick Dickson), Wondercrock (Megan Cohen), and Spotsalot (Leigh Shaw) in Test Preparation (Photo by: Clay Robeson) Although there would seem to be little hope for Hoenig (Nick Trengove), Wondercrock (Megan Cohen) or Spotsalot (Leigh Shaw), M.R. Fall's script boasts the kind of delicious surprise ending that would be recognizable to readers of O. Henry's short stories. Test Preparation was anchored by Nick Dickson's memorable performance as Mister Francis (in addition to his training at the Clown Conservatory at the San Francisco Circus Center, it seems that Mr. Dickson has some solid acting chops).Nick Dickson as Mister Francis (Photo by: Clay Robeson) * * * * * * * * * * *At 2010's Bay One Acts Festival I was deeply impressed by The Philadelphians, a tense and sometimes violent drama by Sam Leichter (who manages the Marin Shakespeare Company's educational outreach program). In a very brief time, Mr. Leichter was able to create a dense narrative in which two men revealed complex wounds and long-simmering resentments. The Philadelphians was an exceptionally intense piece of theatre.Mr. Leichter's contribution to the 2011 Bay Area One Acts Festival is another two-character drama, directed by Paul Cello and produced by Instrumental Theatre. It looks as if his skills as a storyteller may be heading off into Stephen King territory. In The Pond, Bella (Arianne Owens) is a very pregnant nurse waiting at home in rural Maine for her husband to return from a business trip. He was recently painted as a hero on the news after diving into a river to rescue two children trapped in a sinking car.As Bella attempts to decorate her Christmas tree she hears a loud crash outside. Soon, a stranger is knocking on her door on a dark and snowy night.Although Bella tries to stall until her husband returns home, when it becomes obvious that the stranger has been hurt in an accident and needs medical help, her nursing instinct takes over and she lets Decker (Derek Fischer) enter her home. As their initial chitchat starts to deepen, Bella discovers that Decker has known Bella's husband since childhood and is none too happy about his recent successes.Bella (Arianne Owens) and Decker (Derek Fischer) in The Pond Photo by: Clay Robeson What follows is a gripping scene in which Decker's voice lowers in pitch and his demeanor becomes more threatening. Slowly, Decker relates a tragic story about Bella's husband and the death of one of his closest friends.It seems that many years ago Decker, Bella's husband, and their best friend got rip-roaring drunk and then went for a swim across the pond. Although they had frequently swam the same distance, their friend (who had recently come out and told them he was gay) never completed the journey.Beautifully written, the monologue starts with an ominous sense of foreboding but, instead of the scene turning violent, it offers Decker a poignant catharsis for his long-tortured soul and allows him to go back to his car in a state of grace.The Pond is a magnificent piece of dramatic writing, made all the more powerful by Derek Fischer's riveting performance and Arianne Owens' subtle reactions as she listens to his tale of woe. Based on what I've seen so far in The Philadelphians and The Pond, Leichter is far ahead of most young playwrights when it comes to "peeling the onion" to heighten dramatic tension. He notes that:"Last year, I wrote a play. It was the first time my work had been seen by other people. It was an amazing experience. In general, I find that my experiences as an actor are helpful in writing plays, and have been a solid foundation for me as I worked to develop The Pond. As a playwright, this is the first time I've had a play developed. I've met with Paul and the actors several times to read the newest version of the play, allowing me to hear it out loud and make revisions. The process has been incredibly helpful. Paul has been instrumental in the formation of the play.I love ghost stories! By that, I mean both stories that are literally about supernatural forces, and those about memories and experiences that haunt us -- the metaphorical ghosts in our lives. I tend to write about the latter. Most of my plays so far have been about people who have pasts that they cannot escape. The Pond isn't scary in the "BOO!" sense, but rather it will (hopefully) creep under the audience's skin, making them reflect on the skeletons they have in their own closets, the secrets they've buried and never speak of... and what might happen if, one day, someone came into their home and dug them up. I have a few short pieces -- 10, 20, and 30 minutes long -- that I've thought about combining into a night of short plays. They're similar in tone and would fit together nicely. Maybe I'll do that next."I hope to hell he does. Mr. Leichter is definitely a talent to watch.To read more of George Heymont go to Follow George Heymont on Twitter:锘?p>PARIS True style doesn't try too hard.That was the statement at Paris Fashion Week, alarmingly simple, but proved in a number of ready-to-wear presentations Sunday which heralded a move towards clean, simplified elegance.Celine designer Phoebe Philo at the top of her game produced a chic display, effortlessly.Three years after the lauded Briton's Celine debut, she delivered a strong show, which evoked her boho-bourgeois style in soft silhouettes with subtle architecture.Another of Paris' influential designers, Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, presented a new vision of style Sunday.Again, Tisci channeled a clean look, simplifying the house silhouette in a less elaborate yet sophisticated collection.Hermes the house of the jet-setting fashion buyer served up the elegance in its usual cocktail of travel, silk, leather and exotic cultural references.Summing up his show, the house's designer Christophe Lemaire said it represented "a clean, sharp, modernist traveler."Monday's highly anticipated shows include Stella McCartney, Chloe and the hottest ticket of the week Hedi Slimane's debut outing as designer for the rebranded Saint Laurent.___CELINESpring is about gentle contradictions, not color, Phoebe Philo seemed to say: Shown through a muted palette of black, white, navy and gray.The real point of the show was the gentle play on contrasting lines, then textures, then form.Loosely hanging silhouettes often with attention to neck details in high necks, bands and twists came in column or boxy shapes, with a couple of black A-line tuxedo-dresses for good measure.The gloss of sheeny silks whispered a contrast against matte fabric.Philo has often been noted for her chic "utilitarian tailoring," which she delivers with uncanny ease.Here we saw it used artistically in hemline frays which turned into tassels, and twisted fabric that wrapped round the back sewn crudely together in a lump.It's a style that wouldn't look out of place on Juliette Binoche, for example, who accepted a best-actress award at Cannes in 2010 in custom Celine.The house is right in fancying themselves as Paris calendar's arty side.When fashion insiders asked to see the mandatory program notes, there were wry smiles as they were handed a text-free book of collage pictures.___GIVENCHYTrend-setting designer Riccardo Tisci changed the direction of Givenchy's ready-to-wear Sunday.He simplified the silhouette to a more flattened and spread out front-and-shoulder emphasis in 37 black, white and gray looks.A strong voice in the fashion conversation, Tisci's tailoring influences designers far and wide.Last spring, for instance, he brought back the peplum.Now, hardly a collection goes by without one cropping up.The wilder bondage-gear touches that added spice to last season's equestrian-inspired trip, were gone here, in a less elaborate display but which had its moments of clean elegance.A great feature was the clean, descending ripples in many of the looks which are sure to spread into other collections like wildfire.But for a designer who likes to live dangerously, this more saleable collection_ though a departure from last season felt at times like he was playing-it-safe.___HERMESThe fashion crowd got their summer holidays early flown first class across a vibrant mix of Polynesian prints and color-rich baroque foulard motifs.Several of the models carried hang luggage. The mascot of the house, after all, is an airborne messenger.The looks stopped off at every fabric under the sun: in full grain leather woven in silk, washed silk twill, plunged lambskin, satin piping and lovely indigo denim linen.Colors too, were diverse in cappuccino, terracotta, sulphur, emerald, cobalt and _the palette's most beautiful celadon.The flight this season stopped off at the Netherlands and Germany_ with tinges of the geometry and graphics of 1930s."I'm a modernist at heart," Lemaire said following the show, hosted next to Paris' Tuileries gardens.This idea was worked into the collection's best looks with a feel of famed Dutch painter Piet Mondrian who used geometric shapes and blocks of colors that could be seen in several of the final looks.Printed geometric floaty silk blouses and slightly jarring assorted pants made bold statements.They also featured the slight play on masculine styles that Lemaire likes to toy with periodically: A cotton wool cravate appeared on most of the looks as a man's tie, tucked into a hoop.The result was pure luxury, air delivered as only Hermes can.___KENZOKenzo headed back to the Southeast Asian jungle Sunday in a vibrant, fun collection that picked up their last menswear theme: A rainforest trek.After just one year at the helm, the hard work of designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim has paid off: They've managed to re-stamp the brand with a cool, populist edge.But they're serious about their work in other ways too: Fashion insiders had to live the catwalk theme literally by trekking to the far-flung venue, the Maison de Judo, on the Paris city limits.In bold sometimes purposefully garish orange vermilions and greens, the collection threw up some great wide pants and boxy-shaped jackets as well as a lot of safari-style street wear.Though some of the jungle printed ensembles looked overly busy a beautiful camouflage print made up for it with images of flowers that looked like leopard.But there was art in the detail too, with the designers showing a flair for tailoring in great utilitarian features._____Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP锘?p>Well-dressed women are the norm here, but my new neighbors in particularhave that certain je ne sais quoi which is just so Parisian. Their outfits are usually paired with perfectly matching manicured hands and feet -- they seem to excel at color coordination. Not to mention the "perfect" accessory.Never have I seen so many Birkin bags being proudly paraded around. On one of my first shopping excursions up to the rue de Passy, I counted at least eight in the first 10 minutes. (The Goyard canvas tote comes in at a close second place.) Their grooming is impeccable: Most women here always look like they recently stepped out from the hair salon. I just don't know where they find the time for all this, but they do.锘?p>A girl's handbag is more than just an accessory. It's a sartorial companion and women search for them accordingly -- or, at least, British women do according to a recent study.The and have launched the World Luxury Index for handbags, and it . By measuring the total volume of searches by country and looking at the number of handbag searches per 1000 users, researchers have found that ladies across the pond top the list at 422 searches per 1000 users -- meaning, almost half of the users were searching for purses. (Which makes sense considering .)American women don't rank too far behind in second place with a whopping 315 purse searches per 1000 users. And in Italy (a.k.a. land of gorgeous leather handbags), shoppers came in third place with 196 searches per 1000 users. These new measurements are coming when accessible luxuries are topping the priority list for many women. Just think: You can get a lot of visible mileage out of one handbag splurge.The study also ranked the most searched for handbag brands globally. Topping the list is American brand Coach -- . Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Longchamp all rounded out the global top 5 list. The most searched handbag model in the world? The Herm猫s Birkin bag -- . Perhaps most of these internet users are engaging in a little digital window shopping? While this study found that British women beat us in the bag-obsession department, what luxury item tops your most-searched list? Check out some celebs sporting the most covetable handbag in the world!Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>PARIS Day Four of Paris menswear shows had one overriding message: We're tastefully playing it safe.Fashion collections at this time of year are often about anticipating summer and celebrating color.But in Saturday's strong line-up of shows there was a clear emphasis on hues that tended towards the muted and soft.Subtle shows from Kenzo and Hermes featured wide-ranging and inventive palettes, but it was tonal balance that was the key.Dazzling color, prominently in previous seasons, appeared only momentarily: like the red splashes in Kris Van Assche's Dior Homme show.Could this spell the return to elegance for menswear?Sunday, the last day of Paris menswear week includes shows by Pierre Cardin, Lanvin and Paul Smith.KENZOKenzo understands color.The designers travelled to the South Asian jungle to return with a strong and subtly vivid collection."We were inspired by a trip to Thailand last year," said one half of the design duo, Humberto Leon.Down the catwalk trekked bright camouflage prints, deer-stalker hats and even canteens with a harness to stay hydrated."I wanted to give people a survival kit: everything they might need if they were stranded in the jungle," added Leon.But the flirtation with the tropics was just the far-flung concept.The true strength of the show lay with its grounded and subtle working of tonal color a trick that few designers manage to grasp.Fitted short-sleeved shirts with rolled sleeves and wide Asian-style deep-pleated pants came in yellow, blue and orange.But the clothes' color was muted, not primary: a careful effect produced by carefully dying material to an exactly matching tonal strength.The rare result was comfortable harmony.It invoked founder Kenzo Takada's key philosophy: Clothes should be wearable.Flashes of vivid color occasionally punctuated the muted palette.On their sophomore outing in menswear, Leon and his design partner Carol Lim passed with flying colors.HERMESHermes' Veronique Nichanian knows how to dress men.The house's show, set in a storied 18th century stone cloister, was a devastatingly elegant affair.The venue raised expectations that luckily weren't dashed by Nichanian's highly accomplished and colorful display.Sexy fitted suits single and double breasted emphasized the shoulders but remained soft and unangular.Meanwhile, high-waisted long-legged 1950s pants created a highly masculine silhouette.Fashion is all about making statements.Some designers are so busy trying to say something catchy that they forget the aesthetic.Here, this was not the case.There was an emphasis on pure luxury: be it soft suede, silk or tuxedos with peaked lapels in mohair.In color, the elegance translated as a palette terre vert, soft yellow, beige, and soft russet that was wide-ranging but remained tonal and non-garish.In case there was any doubt as to the masculine credentials of the show, sporty details like white sneakers, hoods, zippers and draw-strings brought home that this was all soft, but highly virile.What is the enduring secret for Hermes one of 2011's most lucrative fashion brands?As far as menswear goes, for Nichanian, it's simple: "I don't have any secrets. I just love men."DIOR HOMMEDior Homme marched a tailored naval troop down the runway in a play-it-safe show, banishing black and channeled Royal Navy blue.On Saturday, models with severe slicked back hair in fitted blazers of light-weight wools and Prince of Wales check set the strict, conservative tone.Indeed, there was nothing revolutionary here.Designer Kris Van Assche's approach follows the philosophy: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."He reworked many ideas from last season's much lauded show: marrying tailored military uniforms and sportswear.If Van Assche's aim was to create a salable, gentle evolution in his style, he succeeded."It's my first show where there is no black, blue is the new way of doing black," said Van Assche.The show's other new element was its assault of buttons: silver buttons, black buttons all engraved with Christian Dior's coat of arms.Dior Homme's fitted, short silhouette bucked this season's look of elongated and oversized form."I've noticed clothes can be fitted and comfortable at the same time," added Van Assche. "It's not about doing ballooning volumes."At which point an incredibly skinny Sharon Stone came to give him a kiss.When you're as influential as Dior, you don't need to follow trends._____锘?p>PARIS - Day Four of Paris menswear shows had one overriding message: We're tastefully playing it safe.Fashion collections at this time of year are often about anticipating summer and celebrating colour.But in Saturday's strong line-up of shows there was a clear emphasis on hues that tended towards the muted and soft.Subtle shows from Kenzo and Hermes featured wide-ranging and inventive palettes, but it was tonal balance that was the key.Dazzling colour, prominently in previous seasons, appeared only momentarily: like the red splashes in Kris Van Assche's Dior Homme show.Could this spell the return to elegance for menswear?Sunday, the last day of Paris menswear week includes shows by Pierre Cardin, Lanvin and Paul Smith.KENZOKenzo understands colour.The designers travelled to the South Asian jungle 鈥?to return with a strong and subtly vivid collection."We were inspired by a trip to Thailand last year," said one half of the design duo, Humberto Leon.Down the catwalk trekked bright camouflage prints, deer-stalker hats and even canteens with a harness to stay hydrated."I wanted to give people a survival kit: everything they might need if they were stranded in the jungle," added Leon.But the flirtation with the tropics was just the far-flung concept.The true strength of the show lay with its grounded and subtle working of tonal colour 鈥?a trick that few designers manage to grasp.Fitted short-sleeved shirts with rolled sleeves and wide Asian-style deep-pleated pants came in yellow, blue and orange.But the clothes' colour was muted, not primary: a careful effect produced by carefully dying material to an exactly matching tonal strength.The rare result was comfortable harmony.It invoked founder Kenzo Takada's key philosophy: Clothes should be wearable.Flashes of vivid colour occasionally punctuated the muted palette.On their sophomore outing in menswear, Leon and his design partner Carol Lim passed with flying colours.HERMESHermes' Veronique Nichanian knows how to dress men.The house's show, set in a storied 18th century stone cloister, was a devastatingly elegant affair.The venue raised expectations that 鈥?luckily 鈥?weren't dashed by Nichanian's highly accomplished and colorful display.Sexy fitted suits 鈥?single and double breasted 鈥?emphasized the shoulders but remained soft and unangular.Meanwhile, high-waisted long-legged 1950s pants created a highly masculine silhouette.Fashion is all about making statements.Some designers are so busy trying to say something catchy that they forget the esthetic.Here, this was not the case.There was an emphasis on pure luxury: be it soft suede, silk or tuxedos with peaked lapels in mohair.In colour, the elegance translated as a palette 鈥?terre vert, soft yellow, beige, and soft russet 鈥?that was wide-ranging but remained tonal and non-garish.In case there was any doubt as to the masculine credentials of the show, sporty details like white sneakers, hoods, zippers and draw-strings brought home that this was all soft, but highly virile.What is the enduring secret for Hermes 鈥?one of 2011's most lucrative fashion brands?As far as menswear goes, for Nichanian, it's simple: "I don't have any secrets. I just love men."DIOR HOMMEDior Homme marched a tailored naval troop down the runway in a play-it-safe show, banishing black and channeled Royal Navy blue.On Saturday, models with severe slicked back hair in fitted blazers of light-weight wools and Prince of Wales check set the strict, conservative tone.Indeed, there was nothing revolutionary here.Designer Kris Van Assche's approach follows the philosophy: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."He reworked many ideas from last season's much lauded show: marrying tailored military uniforms and sportswear.If Van Assche's aim was to create a salable, gentle evolution in his style, he succeeded."It's my first show where there is no black, blue is the new way of doing black," said Van Assche.The show's other new element was its assault of buttons: silver buttons, black buttons 鈥?all engraved with Christian Dior's coat of arms.Dior Homme's fitted, short silhouette bucked this season's look of elongated and oversized form."I've noticed clothes can be fitted and comfortable at the same time," added Van Assche. "It's not about doing ballooning volumes."At which point an incredibly skinny Sharon Stone came to give him a kiss.When you're as influential as Dior, you don't need to follow trends._____Thomas Adamson can be followed at 锘?p>New York Times:PARIS -- It is not so much daggers at dawn -- but saddles and stirrups. For two luxury houses are in competition in the horse jumping world to promote their brands. 锘縃ermes was clever for many years. They supplied their stores with fewer Birkin's than demand required. This created a feeding frenzy, and caused the "gray market" for Birkins. Now, with the global recession, Hermes is having great difficulty selling their $150 bottles of cologne, $400 scarves, and $3000 watches. So, they have resorted to making the Birkin more readily available (it's out on the selling floor available for purchase). Everyone who was previously told that their was a "two year waiting list" can now purchase a Birkin without waiting. This is helping Hermes' bottom line greatly. While their fragrance/watches/silk biz is down around 35%, their leathergoods biz is up. Doesn't take too many Birkin's, about $9500 each, to make up for lost perfume sales. Of greater importance though is what will happen now that the Birkin is no longer "exclusive" to the uber-rich and famous? Is the cache gone? Will this kill the demand totally and therefore lower Hermes' sales figures overall? Will they find themselves selling less cologne, silk, watches AND Birkins? If so, then what? Furthermore, Hermes has made several cost-cutting changes to their original business model of "hand made, hand stitched" luxury leathergoods. Twenty years ago a Birkin was entirely produced by hand, by a single craftsperson, totally hand-stitched. Now portions of the bag are machine made, machine stitched. The quality of a new Birkin is not the same as one purchased just ten years ago. Has quantity replaced quality at Hermes?锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縏he "need" is not for the obscenely overpriced purse. The "need" is to fill the void which many people have within them. When you have unlimited means, this void can be filled with very expensive objects, be it homes, jewelry, cars, purses, etc. When you have limited means, it may mean maxing out your credit cards at Macy's, Bloomies, etal. for junk you really don't need, but it sure makes you feel better about yourself.锘縏he book "Bringing Home the Birkin" by Michael Tonello (a great beach/vacation read, definitely not literature) blew up the waiting list myth a few years ago. There never was a waiting list...Hermes was just so snobby that you had to either a) be "somebody" to buy one or b) buy a few thousand dollars worth of other Hermes crap to be mysteriously told that "maybe they had one in the back" Guess the economy has made them worry more about the bottom line than the pedigree of their shopper.锘?p>Before today, the most expensive bag we could conceive of was . The Backpack rings in at $35,000 or $39,000 depending where you check (these days, "email for pricing"). But today our world has been rocked, as Women's Wear Daily reports that a. To which we say: holy sh*t.The deets: the bag was not your average $7,000 Birkin but rather an "Exceptional Collection Shiny Rouge H Porosus Crocodile 30 cm Birkin Bag with Solid 18K White Gold & Diamond Hardware." (Yep, that's its official name). In other words, the bag is made of red croc skin with white gold clasps covered in diamonds. The bag was sold at public auction in Dallas, where it fetched a much higher price than anticipated. Matt Rubinger, director of luxury accessories at Heritage Auctions, , "... This was certainly an exceptional price, exceeding our highest expectations at every corner."You can say that again. Considering we'll never be shelling out $200K on a bag, we wondered and subsequently began to daydream: what else would we spend that cash on? FOR $203,150, YOU COULD BUY... Happy shopping! . 锘?p>Well-dressed women are the norm here, but my new neighbors in particularhave that certain je ne sais quoi which is just so Parisian. Their outfits are usually paired with perfectly matching manicured hands and feet -- they seem to excel at color coordination. Not to mention the "perfect" accessory.Never have I seen so many Birkin bags being proudly paraded around. On one of my first shopping excursions up to the rue de Passy, I counted at least eight in the first 10 minutes. (The Goyard canvas tote comes in at a close second place.) Their grooming is impeccable: Most women here always look like they recently stepped out from the hair salon. I just don't know where they find the time for all this, but they do.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>Two heirs to French fashion house Hermes have found themselves in the news lately. Most recently, on an Air France flight:An heir to the French fashion house Hermes has been charged in federal court with attacking the captain of a jetliner en route to New York from Paris, grabbing the pilot's crotch and trying to punch him.According to the charges, the man, Mathias Guerrand-Hermes, became so unruly aboard Air France Flight 008, which left Paris at 2:10 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, that it took three flight attendants and the captain to restrain him. He was handcuffed, shackled and tied to a seat in first class, officials said.Mr. Guerrand-Hermes, a socialite and polo player who will turn 37 on Sunday, had taken a prescription aspirinlike drug, Propofan, and "quite a bit of alcohol" and started behaving strangely about three hours into the flight, according to a law enforcement official and a criminal complaint. He is charged with one count of interfering with flight crew members, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. But under federal sentencing guidelines, Mr. Guerrand-Hermes, if convicted, would face a maximum of six months in prison as long as he had no previous criminal history.Meanwhile, brother Olaf was scolded by a judge who -- which he had claimed he was unable to afford: A jet-setting heir to the billion-dollar Hermes luxury goods fortune was ordered by a judge yesterday to open up his fancy leather wallet to his ex-wife and their kids.Olaf Guerrand-Hermes must pay Olga Rostropovich $300,000 a year and another $240,000 annually for their two children, said Manhattan Judge Emily Jane Goodman.The judge scoffed at Hermes' contention he is out of work and unable to afford the payments, noting he lives "an extraordinarily lavish lifestyle" with his new girlfriend and their child in Paris and has vacationed in London, Morocco, Costa Rica, Switzerland and Hawaii. Hermes, a 39-year-old lawyer, was "hostile, arrogant and lacked credibility," the judge said.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縎ometimes it's worth spending a little more on something if you're certain it will last a little longer. Sometimes, however, t-shirts with inflated prices actually come from similar factories as the ones you can buy on the high-street. It's a gamble. I'm glad you've got good use out of yours, but it doesn't always go that way.And what happens if someone holds their cigarette too close at a gathering, and you now have a hole burnt in your $345 t-shirt? What happens if your kid pukes on it and the stain never comes out? What if miss the "wet paint" sign and lean against a freshly painted wall? The only clothes I enjoy wearing are the ones I didn't spend too much on, because I feel comfortable *living* in them instead of just strutting around, trying not to brush up against anything. I'll spend a little more on things like coats, because they tend to be more classic in style and need to be hard-wearing to handle the elements, but everything else can come from the bargain rack for all I care.锘?p>PARIS - Hermes' Veronique Nichanian knows how to dress men.The house's spring-summer 2013 show, set in a storied 18th-century stone cloister, was a devastatingly elegant affair.The venue raised expectations that 鈥?luckily 鈥?weren't dashed in what was highly accomplished and colorful display.Sexy fitted suits 鈥?single and double breasted 鈥?emphasized the shoulders but remained soft and unangular.Meanwhile, high-waisted long-legged 1950s pants created a highly masculine silhouette.Fashion is all about making statements.Some designers are so busy trying to say something catchy that they forget the esthetic.Here, this was not the case.There was an emphasis on pure luxury: be it soft suede, silk or tuxedos with peaked lapels in mohair.In colour, the elegance translated as a palette 鈥?terre vert, soft yellow, beige, and soft russet 鈥?that was wide-ranging but remained tonal and non-garish.In case there was any doubt as to the masculine credentials of the show, sporty details like white sneakers, hoods, zippers and draw-strings brought home that this was soft, but highly virile.What is the enduring secret for Hermes 鈥?one of 2011's most lucrative fashion brands?As far as menswear goes, for Nichanian, it's simple: "I don't have any secrets. I just love men."____Thomas Adamson can be followed at 锘縇ong live the House of Hermes ! They employ artisans and craftsmen and artists - as many ateliers in Paris do - and keep alive centuries old traditions of saddle making and painstakingly made bespoke goods. The quality of most of their products is absolutely the best in the world and their level of craftsman ship is impeccable. People frame their classic scarves as art. Hermes is an institution and a housebrand of the aristocracy. Viva Hermes ! You want everyone to wear coveralls and Gap T shirts ?锘縎eptember 21-22T-W (noon-8)Don't miss out on New York Magazine and first-ever Lower East Side "ShopWalk" event this week. There will be discounts from over 40 area boutiques, restaurants, galleries and salons plus amazing late night manicures, free Bear Flag Wine(6-9) and limited edition designer items at the ShopWalk Lounge.ShopWalk Lounge, 151 Orchard Street, near Stanton Street锘?p>PARIS Summing up his spring-summer 2013 show for Hermes, the house of the jet-setting fashion buyer, Christophe Lemaire said, "a sharp, modernist traveler."The fashion crowd thus got their summer holidays early _flown first class across a vibrant mix of Polynesian prints and color-rich baroque foulard motifs.Several of the models carried hang luggage. The mascot of the house, after all, is an airborne messenger.The looks stopped off at every fabric under the sun: in full grain leather woven in silk, washed silk twill, plunged lambskin, satin piping and lovely indigo denim linen.Colors too, were diverse, in cappuccino, terracotta, sulphur, emerald, cobalt and the palette's most beautiful celadon.The flight this season stopped off at the Netherlands and Germany with tinges of the geometry and graphics of 1930s."I'm a modernist at heart," Lemaire said following the show, hosted next to Paris' Tuileries gardens.This idea was worked into the collections best looks with a feel of famed Dutch painter Piet Mondrian who used geometric shapes and blocks of colors that could be seen in several of the final looks.Printed geometric floaty silk blouses and slightly jarring assorted pants made bold statements.They also featured the slight play on masculine styles that Lemaire likes to toy with periodically: A cotton wool cravate appeared on most of the looks as a man's tie, tucked into a hoop.The result was pure luxury, delivered as only Hermes can.___Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP锘?p>The relationship between Herm猫s and LVMH hasn't exactly been the most peaceful since the luxury conglomerate's acquisition of the brand's company shares (let's just say ). And the drama continues today as Herm猫s announces that they've taken legal action again., Herm猫s International revealed today that it filed a complaint with a Paris court on July 10 against LVMH Mo?t Hennessy Louis Vuitton. 鈥淭his complaint concerns the terms of LVMH鈥檚 entry into the capital of Herm猫s International,鈥?the statement read. Specifically, the brand is accusing LVMH of engaging in insider trading and manipulating stock prices, .These accusations are nothing new though, and Herm猫s has been voicing their concern about for years now. In 2010, LVMH acquired 17.1 percent stake in Herm猫s but . So what does this mean for our beloved Birkin and Kelly bags? Well, , securing more than 70 percent of the shares via a family holding company. And . We'll just have to wait and see what the court decides, but we have a feeling this is not going to be an easily resolved issue.UPDATE: LVMH plans to file a retaliatory lawsuit against Herm猫s for 鈥渂lackmail, false accusations and unfair competition,鈥?according to a statement released today.Check out some celebs with Herm猫s bags!Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘?p>This just in: Herm猫s has no sense of humor. , the luxury brand is suing little ol' label Thursday Friday for with images of Birkins printed on them. From the lawsuit:Hermes created, manufactures and sells the iconic "Birkin" handbag. Through enormous sales, publicity and media attention, the appearance of the Birkin Bag has become immediately recognizable to millions of women. Defendant is selling cotton tote bags which bear on each of their surfaces, a color photograph of the corresponding surfaces of what appears to be a Birkin Bag, Defendant is simply riding on the reputation and recognition of the Birkin Bag to sell its otherwise generic tote bags. In so doing, Defendant is creating confusion among the public and is putting Plaintiff's reputation at risk.We don't really feel confused about a thousand-dollar leather purse vs. a $35 tote (that we've been eyeing for months). The real irony? The Thursday Friday bags have been selling like hotcakes and are out of stock until at least March. What do you think?The Thursday Friday tote: Not to be confused with a real Birkin: 锘?p>CNN :Luxury store Hermes on Wednesday apologized to Oprah Winfrey for turning her away last week, saying that its Paris store was closed to set up for a public relations event when the talk show host stopped by."Hermes regrets not having been able to accommodate Ms. Winfrey and her team and to provide her with the service and care that Hermes strives to provide to each and every one of its customers worldwide," the store said in a statement.锘縏hey did not say that Hermes was misspelled, they said that the items were mislabeled.There is a big difference. Misspelled could mean that the goods were counterfeit, which would have been bad enough. Nobody really wants to buy a "Rollex" rather than a "Rolex". They are not the same, and would not have the same value - either new or if you wanted to resell it.Mislabeled, on the other hand, could also mean it was counterfeit, but does not appear to be the case here. What it DOES mean is that they are saying that the product did or did not contain certain materials - "pleather" is not the same as "leather", and silk is not the same as rayon. This is what you are paying for when you are buying a "luxury" brand - high quality materials. If they label it as being made of expensive materials, but are in reality only common items, that is FRAUD.Also, the article says:"Some of the garments were found to contain high levels of acid or formaldehyde, while others had poor color fastness."If the label says "dry clean only", but the dry cleaning chemicals melt the garment or, even worse, react to the unwelcome chemicals and blow up the cleaning facility, that would be a "labeling problem".I could only hope our inspectors would have noticed these problems as well. I'm no fan of the Chinese economic system, but at least they appear to have been on the锘?p>I look forward to running around town and country this winter with my new deer hide bag knowing exactly where it came from, the process it took to get it to its present state and the fact that that beautiful stag lived a serene life way up in the foggy, chilly, windy and romantic Scottish Highlands.锘?p>We already know . So we're a bit stunned to learn that Herm猫s itself has been engaging in a bit of fashion arson, torching its own products behind the scenes., Mulberry's Emma Hill says Herm猫s disposes of any imperfect bags by burning them. Referring to the high standard of quality kept at the French company, :"A friend who was working at Herm猫s said that if there was even the most minor imperfection on a bag they would take it out the back and burn it -- no compromise."Be still our Birkin-loving hearts! We nearly had a heart attack seeing , not to mention . But the idea of Herm猫s incinerating its own leather beauties just makes us sad inside. But the corporate policy may be par for the course, as a source also tell us that Alexander Wang may have done the same. Years ago, when tweaking the design of the trademark Rocco bag, the company decided to discontinue all versions without a shoulder strap, leaving hundreds of strapless Rocco bags sitting in the warehouse. Some were given to interns but others, sources say, were considered for burning. We wonder how many other fashion companies do the same...If there is a Purse Heaven, we bet there are hundreds of Kellys, Birkins and Roccos resting there in peace. See what other dishy deets Emma Hill told the Telegraph at Telegraph.co.uk.See totally intact Hermes bags on the arms of celebs:Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘?p> recently got busted for owning several fake Birkin bags --and now tons more faux-Herm猫s bags will be toast, thanks to an international bust on Birkin couterfeiters.Women's Wear Daily reports that dismantled an international crime ring that produced counterfeit versions of several of its bags. Big deal, right? Happens all the time? Well, here's the kicker: some of the accomplices in the crime ring were actual Herm猫s employees.A dozen people were reportedly arrested in Paris on Thursday in conjunction with the bust, where police discovered secret workshops where leather sheets were whipped into purses that mimicked the devastatingly-expensive Hermes totes. A lawyer estimated the sales of one branch of the ring at 18 million euros. as a result of the probe, but the company believes that several current members of staff could also be involved in the insider job.The bust comes on the heels of both a recent Birkin controversy -- photographer Tyler Shields and his partner-in-crime Francesca Eastwood drew ire for destroying an -- and a larger trend of counterfeit busting, as large companies are winning big bucks in crime ring breakups. in a counterfeit lawsuit; See some celebs with their (presumably authentic) Birkins below!Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .Also on HuffPost:锘?p>"Nothing has changed in twenty years," a veteran shirtmaker at (which translates to "Festival of Crafts") said through a translator, "It's the tradition."As the shirtmaker, who has worked for the French fashion house for over two decades, walked me through the process of cutting and embroidering each button-hole perfectly, the translator explained "It takes seven to eight hours per shirt." This process may be lengthy, but it is nothing compared to what goes into creating one of the brand's or . Holding up a small, quarter-sized ball of silk, a translator at the booth explained that this was the raw material for a scarf, five of which are used to create one printed shirt. Nearby, a printmaker made the plates that would be used to eventually create the elaborate patterned scarves. "It takes a year to create the 36 plates needed for one scarf," an Herm猫s employee explained. Check out our photos below to see the artisans at Herm猫s' Festival des M茅tiers creating their goods. When you see how much work goes into each piece, the outstanding price tag makes a little more sense. Herm猫s Presents Festival des M茅tiers is in New York City, NY (at 583 Park Avenue) from September 5th through September 9th, in San Francisco, CA (at Union Square Park) from September 20th to September 24 and in Houston, TX (1800 Post Oak Boulevard) from October 10th through October 14. Take a peek at the photos below for a preview of the exhibit. All photos by Raydene Salinas.Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , , and .锘縏he brief and to the point article says factually that Physics L. B has published a CERN paper on a possible new particle. I have looked at the two articles and this is true. The beginning of this trajectory up to this particle was catalysed by the objective to search for the SM Higgs. The scientific justification was the papers by Higgs. Brout, Guralnik and others on symmetry breaking and Higgs idea of a field and briefly suggested the occurrence of a boson now called the Higgs boson. Actually as the various comments show there are questionable issues being felt de part et d'autres. Actually this field of physics and of cosmology is daunted by quite a few mysteries: we do not yet know what is mass, gravity, energy, space time etc. With such unknown we can expect a few dramatic surprises. There may not be a cosmic field with a boson responsible for mass. Mass could be more mysterious and could be more important for the ultimate reality of the universe.锘緿ear Hollye, I KNOW you want it to be "done". Trust me, after chemo, radiation is "meh". Mostly an inconvenience. You'll be fitted with your own pillow (that you lie on to keep your position the same every time). The radiation itself takes about 2 minutes-ish. You, in an early piece, said you were getting hot flashes from chemo..I didn't get the flashes until radiation. But you are already prepared. And they do target such a small area. I now simply envy those who catch FBC early and ONLY have radiation. I am so happy you had reconstruction before. No one told me that after radiation, reconstruction was impossible. I'd have had a little implant put in my affected breast during surgery if I'd know. I'm stuck. YOU have lovely, young breasts now. I know, shallow, but still a SL, yes? Please dont' fret radiation. I had 30 rounds (after 8 of chemo). Every week day for 6 weeks..but still, far less taxing than chemo..no nausea and your hair will be fuzz by the time you're finished with radiation (if you have it). Peach fuzz another SL!Take care. LOVE the Finally Five section with the scarf. Precious and important for her.锘?p>Paris Fashion Week tends to yield a wonderfully luxurious crop of bags, and this one was no exception. From the simple totes at Rochas to the decadent confections at Louis Vuitton to the obscenely-chic waist bag (it absolutely cannot be called a fanny pack) that made its subtle way down the runway at Hermes, the possibilities were enough to leave purse nuts drooling. Even though we all know that we'd never be able to fit half of our stuff into most of these...if we could even afford them in the first place.Take a look at the photos and tell us which is your dream bag for spring! 锘?p>Civil libertarians like to see the web as the last bastion of free speech. But the continuing worldwide controversy over the recent anti-Muslim video and two court judgments against YouTube in Brazil suggest that the internet may well turn into an arena of competing legal rules. "We are very much in a regime where the internet is a different thing depending on where you access it," says Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Centre for Internet and Society. While there is much talk about freedom on the internet, expecting Google "to just defy censorship orders worldwide is probably unrealistic," he adds. On Wednesday, Brazilian police arrested Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, the head of operations for Google in Brazil, after the internet company failed to heed a judge's order to remove a series of YouTube videos. The videos made provocative statements about an alleged paternity suit involving Alcides Bernal, a mayoral candidate in the city of Campo Grande, and the court in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul ruled that they violate Brazil's electoral law. This decision came on the same day that another court in Sao Paolo gave Google, which owns YouTube, 10 days to remove clips from the controversial anti-Muslim video currently on YouTube's Brazilian site. According to the Brazilian court statement, once the 10-day window closes, Google will be fined $5,000 US for every day that these clips from the Innocence of Muslims video remain accessible in Brazil. Tipping point? "I don't know if we're at a tipping point, but it's probably going to keep getting worse" in terms of limiting freedom of expression online, says Teresa Scassa, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. Scassa says that while many countries have largely managed to arrive at a consensus about how to apply certain cyber laws 鈥?like those regarding copyright infringement 鈥?reaching an agreement on what constitutes defamatory material is much trickier. "I think it's really hard to get an international consensus on values," she says. "Although these big internet companies operate globally, to the extent that they have presence in individual countries, they are vulnerable to the application of the laws in those countries." In Brazil's case, the order to take down the anti-Muslim video, was spurred by a lawsuit from the National Union of Islamic Entities, a group representing Brazil's Muslim community. It argued that the film violates Brazil's constitutional right of religious freedom. As Google sees it, "being a platform, Google is not responsible for the content posted on its site," the company said in a statement. Company officials could not be reached for further comment. In a statement posted to its blog yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based free-speech advocate, wrote, "Apart from the absurdity of the judicial orders in the last month, these cases highlight the need for strong intermediary protections around the world." The EFF argues that platforms such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter should not be held legally responsible for content posted to their sites. It also encourages countries to enact legislation like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the U.S., which protects sites that host free speech. Censorship concerns Google regularly removes YouTube clips when they are deemed to infringe copyright law in certain jurisdictions 鈥?for example, when they feature unauthorized use of recorded music. And in response to the violence spawned by the recent anti-Muslim video, it removed access to these clips in a number of Muslim-majority countries, including Libya and Egypt. But the global video-sharing site argued that the controversial video was "within its guidelines," even as it is increasingly struggling with how to deal with material that either violates local law or causes offense to certain groups. Google has spent much of the last month dealing with complaints over Innocence of Muslims, the video created by a small U.S. production company that spurred protests and violence in the Middle East, including the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other consular employees in Benghazi on Sept. 11. As Hermes sees it, "The removal of content in certain jurisdictions in response to court orders in those jurisdictions is, in one sense, the best that you can hope for, because at least [YouTube is] not taking it down across the entire internet when one country decides to exercise censorship." Certain governments, notably China, have tried to have certain types of content removed from Google and, at first, Google seemed willing to censor search results that might be critical of the Chinese leadership. But in 2010, after determining that Chinese hackers had attempted to breach some of its services, including Gmail, Google pulled its operations out of mainland China. Acknowledging the size of the consumer market in China, Google has recently re-established its business there. But its long-running censorship with Chinese authorities has continued and it now offers a program that warns users when they have typed in a search term that may lead to blocked results. As for legal action, the Brazil case is not the first time that a Google executive has been arrested because of content posted on YouTube. In 2010, a judge in Milan, Italy, sentenced three Google executives to six-month prison terms for breaking the country's privacy code. (A fourth Google employee was charged but eventually cleared.) The case centered on a YouTube video of a 2006 incident at a school in Turin, Italy, in which three boys reportedly assaulted an autistic schoolmate. Google vehemently denied its employees' culpability in the video, saying in a statement, "None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video's existence until after it was removed." Google said it took the offending video down within hours of it being posted. In a statement, the company said the Italian judgment "attacks the very principles of freedom on which the internet is built."锘?p>You've all heard of the oh-so-elusive Hermes Birkin bag. Carried by A-List celebs everywhere and knocked off by Canal Street vendors on every corner, a Birkin is the ultimate elitist symbol.According to , The elusive Birkin bag made by Hermes is so sought after as a status symbol by women worldwide that the French fashion house has a two year waiting list for potential owners...The elusiveness of the Birkin has ensured it has remained one of the world's most coveted bags since Hermes named it after British actress Jane Birkin in 1984, with prices starting at about $9,000 and rising to about $34,000 for a crocodile skin bag.However, HuffPost blogger Michael Tonello uncovers the mystery behind the Birkin and in the fashion equivalent of a tell-all book called Bringing Home The Birkin shows the masses of the world how they, too, can by-pass the marketing-ploy waiting list.How did he do it?"I would go into a store with a list in my Hermes Ulysse notebook and pile up scarves, shawls, bracelets, worth about $2,000. This made me seem a regular Hermes client," Tonello told Reuters in a telephone interview."Once I had that pile ready to buy at the last moment I'd ask for a Birkin and they would usually produce one of the back room. In 2005 I bought 130 Birkins in a three-month period -- and you tell me there is a waiting list?"So there you have it. The one-step, one-stop shop guide to buying a Birkin. Do, however, learn from his mistakes and don't buy too many, too quickly:"In the store in Paris I went in maybe once too often and they checked the computer and discovered how many bags I had bought. They sent me a fax saying essentially they would no longer sell me any bags."Read some of Michael Tonello's HuffPost blogs , including on the surprising world-wide-web reaction to his book. 锘?p>PARIS - Coco Chanel once said: "The most courageous act is still to think for yourself."Day five of Paris Fashion Week did not lose sight of the legendary fashion designer's words.Saturday presented a gold mine of eclectic and individual shows, each with a unique stamp of their designer.London-based Vivienne Westwood led the crowd, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, but travelling 鈥?as she did 鈥?via Japan, Russia, Spain and Africa.Westwood is the only designer on the Paris fashion calendar 鈥?or perhaps anywhere 鈥?who can cross the globe and several centuries, mixing up Bangkok-style catwomen, Chinese tea prints, tropical cowboys, Velasquez peasants, the Ballets Russes, and still produce a coherent and unified show.Viktor & Rolf, meanwhile, went back to their signature plays on oversized proportion to produce a glitzy show 鈥?as they prepare to celebrate 20 years since they founded the label.The epitome of femininity, Cacharel, explored spring through the natural colours of mother nature, in a trademark delicate display.Sunday's shows include Kenzo, Celine and Hermes.___VIVIENNE WESTWOOD"Global exotic," is how English designer Vivienne Westwood described her brilliant and wacky spring-summer 2013 show, hosted on terra mater in Paris' British Embassy.Disparate encyclopedia fashion references amazingly gelled together, owing to her unique eccentricity.Westwood cited Sergei Diaghilev's "Ballets Russes" 鈥?the early 20th century's most famous ballet company 鈥?as a key inspiration.The influential troupe used exotic styles with billowing trousers and turbans 鈥?which was evoked in many of the baggy globe-trotting looks.One of the nicest looks came in a series of modified Japanese kimonos.One in light grey silk, with wide bateau collar, had fluttering hoop panels that fluttered by.Above all else, Westwood 鈥?who's 71 鈥?has lost none of her humour.There was a special guest star 鈥?a model portraying Queen Elizabeth II. She clutched a handbag in a crown and demure grey silk dress. In this cameo, unlike in the Olympic Games opening ceremony in which a queen look-a-like parachuted into the main stadium, the model just walked in through the embassy door.___VIKTOR & ROLFViktor & Rolf were feeling reflective, looking back on almost two decades since founding their fashion house, and that was evident Saturday in their oversized spring-summer ode to 70s pleated glamor."We were in a reflective mood..." said Viktor Horsting, one half of the famed Dutch design duo which is approaching its 20th anniversary.Not ones to normally take things quite so literally, the inseparable Viktor and Rolf channeled mirrors in their oversized spring-summer ode to 70's pleated glamor.The designers, who founded their Amsterdam-based fashion house in 1993, sent models through a reflective tunnel onto a catwalk wearing mainly black, white and silver ensembles that featured blinding mirror appliques on sumptuous silks.Oversized proportion 鈥?a signature mark 鈥?produced some hits.Giant bows in soft pink and purple were used high or low on the waist to sumptuous effect.But there were some small misses in proportion, too: One tubular floor-length skirt had rose-shaped mirror appliques whose size competed with the model's head.___CACHARELCacharel perfectly captured the fresh mood of spring, in a feminine collection 鈥?typical of the popular French house 鈥?that brought aquatic life to the catwalk.Free hanging A-line slip dress and gently flaring peplums and skirts Saturday, floated alongside prints of goldfish skin, anemones and underwater tea flower bloom.This spring-summer 2013 collection was also a celebration of the natural world in its careful palette the Cerulean blue of sky, orange of sea coral and tea green.But perhaps nature is in the house DNA: After all, designer Jean Bousquet who founded the house in 1962, named it after a small, beautifully striped dabbling duck with the same name.Today's designers Ling Liu and Dawei Sun keep these codes, therefore, adding this season a touch of contemporary graphic prints.The gentle blurring made this collection a visual treat.___MARTIN GRANTAustralian Martin Grant is not a household name, but he has a solid reputation in the fashion world and a string of celebrity followers like Juliette Binoche, Kate Hudson and Cate Blanchett.Saturday's clean and on-trend collection proves it's little wonder."I wanted to play with volumes," Grant said backstage, referring to the many looks which had elongated peplums and jacket-skirts, twinned with black shorts 鈥?seen in Raf Simons' show for Dior.Black and navy was used well in A-line with trapeze silhouettes, and accentuated midriff 鈥?one of the big parts of this season's fashion conversation 鈥?nicely nipped the silhouettes.One of the colours of the season, vermilion, was used perfectly as shards of colour, or completely covering dresses.___Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP锘?p>PARIS Coco Chanel once said: "The most courageous act is still to think for yourself."Day five of Paris Fashion Week showed that even today the legendary fashion designer's words ring true.Saturday presented a gold mine of eclectic and individual shows: Each one with a unique stamp of their designer.London-based Vivienne Westwood led the crowd, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, but travelling as she did via Japan, Russia, Spain and Africa.Westwood is the only designer on the Paris fashion calendar or perhaps anywhere who can cross the globe and several centuries, mixing up Bangkok-style catwomen, Chinese tea prints, tropical cowboys, Velasquez wenches, the Ballets Russes, and still produce a coherent and unified show.Viktor & Rolf, meanwhile, went back to their signature plays on oversized proportion to produce a glitzy show as they prepare to celebrate 20 years since they founded the label.The epitome of femininity, Cacharel, explored spring through the natural colors of mother nature, in a trademark delicate display.Sunday's shows include Kenzo, Celine and Hermes.___VIVIENNE WESTWOOD"Global exotic," is how English designer Vivienne Westwood described her brilliant and wacky spring-summer 2013 show, hosted on terra mater in Paris' British Embassy.Disparate encyclopedic fashion references gelled together amazingly owing to her own, very British, eccentricity.Westwood cited Sergei Diaghilev's "Ballets Russes" the early 20th century's most famous ballet company as a key inspiration.The influential troupe used exotic styles with billowing trousers and turbans which was evoked in many of the baggy globe-trotting looks.One of the nicest looks came in a series of modified Japanese kimonos.One in light gray silk, with wide bateau collar, had fluttering hoop panels that fluttered by.Above all else, Westwood who's 71 has lost none of her humor.There was a special guest star a model portraying Queen Elizabeth II. She clutched a handbag in a crown and demure gray silk dress. In this cameo, unlike in the Olympic Games opening ceremony in which a queen look-a-like parachuted into the main stadium, the model just walked in through the embassy door.___VIKTOR & ROLFViktor & Rolf were feeling reflective, looking back on almost two decades since founding their fashion house, and that was evident Saturday in their oversized spring-summer ode to 70s pleated glamor."We were in a reflective mood..." said Viktor Horsting, one half of the famed Dutch design duo which is approaching its 20th anniversary.Not ones to normally take things quite so literally, the inseparable Viktor and Rolf channeled mirrors in their oversized spring-summer show.The designers, who founded their Amsterdam-based fashion house in 1993, sent models through a reflective tunnel onto a catwalk wearing mainly black, white and silver ensembles that featured blinding mirror appliques on sumptuous silks.Oversized proportion a signature mark produced some hits.Giant bows in soft pink and purple were used high or low on the waist to sumptuous effect.But there were some small misses in proportion, too: One tubular floor-length skirt had rose-shaped mirror appliques whose size competed with the model's head.___CACHARELCacharel perfectly captured the fresh mood of spring, in a feminine collection typical of the popular French house that brought aquatic life to the catwalk.Free hanging A-line slip dresses and gently flaring peplums and skirts Saturday, floated alongside prints of goldfish skin, anemones and underwater tea flower bloom.This spring-summer 2013 collection was also a celebration of the natural world in its careful palette the Cerulean blue of sky, orange of sea coral and tea green.But perhaps nature is in the house DNA: After all, designer Jean Bousquet who founded the house in 1962, named it after a small, beautifully striped dabbling duck with the same name.Today's designers Ling Liu and Dawei Sun keep these codes, therefore, adding this season a touch of contemporary graphic prints.The gentle blurring made this collection a visual treat.___MARTIN GRANTAustralian Martin Grant is not a household name, but he has a solid reputation in the fashion world and a string of celebrity followers like Juliette Binoche, Kate Hudson and Cate Blanchett.Saturday's clean and on-trend collection proves it's little wonder."I wanted to play with volumes," Grant said backstage, referring to the many looks which had elongated peplums and jacket-skirts, twinned with black shorts as seen in Raf Simons' show for Dior.Black and navy was used well in A-line with trapeze silhouettes, and accentuated midriffs one of the big parts of this season's fashion conversation _which nicely nipped the silhouettes.One of the colors of the season, vermilion, was used perfectly as shards of color, or completely covering dresses.___Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP锘?p>An important fashion issue was raised during the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was not about the style and design of the athletes' uniforms (although fashion pundits had a field day with them). It was about how the American public and US Congress reacted to the Ralph Lauren-designed but China-manufactured Team USA uniforms. Why they were up in arms was not just because of the lost revenue for the already struggling American textile and apparel industry; it was also because the uniforms these American athletes wore on their backs were symbolic--it was a show of patriotism and wearing something non- American was deemed as something of a betrayal. The thing is, the U.S. Olympic team is privately funded and relies on generous sponsors. Ralph Lauren is one of those sponsors and it was not the designer's first time to provide uniforms for the athletes. And Ralph Lauren does outsource some of its merchandise production in China.While that issue was later resolved with Ralph Lauren agreeing to manufacture Team USA uniforms within the U.S. come 2014 (Rio Olympic Games), I cannot help but take the situation further--the idea of having American and European designer merchandise outsourced for production in China and the consumer prejudice associated with it. This manufacturing practice is actually not new to consumers anymore-- almost everything from toys to electronics to clothes, jewellery, and bags are made in China these days. And while we are more open to purchasing electronic products that are China- made, many of us are still resistant to paying top dollars for a designer bag or a dress that's manufactured there (as opposed to home countries of these fashion houses). Admit it, there is hesitation. So, why the prejudice?China has sadly bore the brunt of fashion consumers' ire because of the continued reports of designer merchandise counterfeiting, unscrupulous business practices, substandard finished product quality, and poor labor conditions that stem from factories situated within their borders. But big names in the fashion industry have been outsourcing because China does have significantly lower labor costs, thereby allowing them to price their merchandise better. Lower costs equals better bottom lines for them and more reasonable prices for consumers. Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Coach, Longchamp, Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and yes, Prada (some of their nylon products) are among a few of the fashion houses that have made no secret of this. Products they sell that were manufactured in China carry such label. I admit that early on in my discovery, I too was surprised that these fashion houses no longer manufactured merchandise in their brand's country of origin (whatever happened to "brand heritage"). There are a lot of economics involved in their decisions to do so, and I won't be surprised if more labels shift their production work to China in the near future. It takes a lot of trust for major fashion houses to outsource luxury merchandise manufacturing versus in-house production. There is no fail- safe guarantee of quality control for everything manufactured in China. It is a risk, especially because of the reputation of China to many a luxury consumer. This is why a number of fashion houses still refuse to acknowledge that they manufacture some of their products there. Dana Thomas, author of Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster, officially brought this startling discovery to light about how certain well- known brands secretly manufacture products in China but deny that information to their customers. But even before Thomas' declaration, consumers had already become suspicious of such activity--presumably (and mainly) because they saw the change in merchandise quality.Interestingly though, the Hermes group, a company steeped in French tradition, took one step further in proving the promise they see in China by cementing Euro-Asian relations with the country when they invested in and co-founded a fashion and lifestyle brand called Shang Xia with renowned designer Jiang Qiong Er back in 2008. Hermes continues to operate separately from Shang Xia and vice versa. But the mere fact that a very prestigious French company with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of Euros, was willing to create a Chinese homegrown brand speaks volumes in terms of their trust not just in manufacturing but also in the design field from China. As a consumer, I'd like to be told the plain truth--don't bother with the sugarcoating because as consumers, we now have access to a plethora of information that would eventually lead us to the truth--ugly as that truth may be. I have a lot of respect for fashion houses that openly disclose China as their merchandise manufacture origin. Design and price are still my overall deciding factors on whether I make a bag purchase or not. If wanting to maintain lower production costs is the main reason why a fashion house has merchandise manufactured in China, I'd be expecting to see price points commensurate to lowered costs. Better labor conditions for the workers as well as good quality control are also deciding factors--taint the brand with labor lawsuits and stories about poor working conditions of the laborers and you immediately lose me as a customer.Shortly after that Team USA uniform controversy, Larry Popeika of Bloomberg Businessweek noted that, "most of the value from the apparel industry comes from design, technology, sales, marketing, and distribution--not manufacturing." I like to apply that statement not just to apparel but to luxury goods as well. The merchandise execution (manufacturing) is integral, but just as paramount if not more is the design. The idea of China- made European/ American luxury goods takes a lot of getting used to. But worry not about the brand's heritage getting lost just because the item is not made in the brand's country of origin. Put it this way-- if the Hermes group can put their trust in China, perhaps it's time we as consumers learn to be more accepting of China- manufactured luxury goods too. If not right away, at least in due time. Follow Ingrid Chua on Twitter:锘?The Huffington Post UK" is provided by AOL (UK) Limited. 2012 AOL (UK) Limited its affiliates and licensors.Part of HuffPost News . HPMG News锘?p>There are few haute luxury brands in the world that are as coveted or induce such dangerous levels of jealously as Hermes. For one thing its iconic bags don't come cheap. It costs ?4000-plus to get your mits on a small leather handbag - not that you'd be vulgar enough to ask. There's also the sheer lack of availability (you can't just walk into a shop and buy a Birkin, y'know), and while many of its contemporaries are known for their glossy marketing campaigns and spectacular PR stunts, Hermes has managed to retain an image of integrity. All this adds up to the brand possessing an allure that is infinitely more precious than even its closest competitors. Ahead of the to mark the Hermes 175th anniversary, MyDaily had the rare privilege of being invited to Hermes' Paris atelier to take our own private tour. So we headed to Hermes with the aim of answering two questions: what makes Hermes so special? And perhaps more pressingly: why the hell do these bags cost so much? Viewed from the outside, the Hermes atelier is an unassuming industrial building located in the grey Paris suburb of Pantin. But when you get inside things get interesting. For Hermes, how and where things are made still important. They are not just Hermes, they are Hermes Paris and the vast majority of items are still made in the French capital. Watches are made in Switzerland because that鈥檚 where the best expertise can be found.What's immediately clear is the atelier's refusal to deviate from its painfully high standards. Things take time. A lot of time. We were guided around the atelier by studio manager Stephane Le Man who explained how a wannabe artisan becomes Birkin-ready. Trainees spend their first year learning how to make a Kelly bag, then they work alongside another artisan to perfect their skills, taking approximately a decade to reach the 'appropriate' standard."We are all perfectionists," shrugs Couli Joubert, creative director of leather, "a little obsessive perhaps but it's worth it - otherwise what's the point in doing the job?" Choosing, cutting and reading the leather is a job in itself and the majority of leathers that come to Hermes 'leather reserve' are shown the back door because the slightest flaw is rejected. Next come the tools and the skills. Hermes' mantra of quiet discretion translates to a surprisingly pragmatic approach. Every form, every function and every process has a reason. From edging to polishing to beading, nothing is decorative and everything is done with an eye to create something that will outlive its owner. Joubert鈥檚 favourite Hermes bag is the Plume, perhaps the most understated of all the bags in the Hermes universe: 鈥淚t鈥檚 beautiful, it鈥檚 elegant but most importantly it doesn't ever ask for your attention 鈥?I don鈥檛 like fashion trends, I鈥檓 always thinking about creating something that will be around in 20, 50 even 100 years.鈥?/p>The concentration shown by the artisans is intense. It takes 30 to 40 hours to make a single bag, and more than 50 hours to create a more complex Birkin or larger piece luggage, and the same artisan will work on that bag from start to finish - a rarity in this modern world of production. The moment of truth comes at the final stage when a bag gets turned inside out: "it's like watching a child being born" says Joubert. The majority of Hermes bags don鈥檛 even make it to the shop floor. If a bag isn鈥檛 absolutely perfect it gets rejected. Bags that don't pass muster are used for display, or gets sold to staff 鈥?which goes some way to explain the elusiveness of those Birkins, Constances and Kellys. One of our favourite things about the atelier was the personality attached to each worker鈥檚 station, surrounded by their family photo, with their own tools and decorations. This personal stamp extends to the bag itself, says Joubert."Every artisan has such a connection to their bag that they can spot it from a line up of what would look like identical bags 鈥?here we like to think that it鈥檚 not the bag of the customer, it鈥檚 the bag of the craftsman." The Hermes Leather Forever exhibition is currently taking place at . 锘緾lick here to leave a comment.HuffPost High School welcomes a lively, thoughtful debate in the comment section. Keep in mind that the articles here are penned by young authors, so please keep criticism respectful, and help us to keep this a safe and supportive place for writers of all ages to contribute.锘?p>I am serializing an unpublished book in this column. It's about an amazing, mysterious manuscript I discovered in Scotland. It's a little book with nothing in it but 50 watercolor paintings. No one knows who painted it, or when, or where, or what it means. I was so entranced by this that I wrote a whole book of comments and thoughts on it. I call the book What Heaven Looks Like because the person who painted this was dreaming, I think, of an ideal world, a kind of heaven.You can read the first installment and the second installment , if you want to: but if you're coming in late, no problem. No one knows what this book is about, so you can suggest your own ideas, and we can build a collaborative interpretation. I am collecting people's suggestions, both here and on , and I am going to put them -- with full credit of course! -- into the book when it's published. So feel free to add your ideas.Several comments to the earlier posts are especially intriguing: one person thinks this is really a book about hell, not heaven, and about psychosis, not meditation. Another person says that these pictures are like looking up through water, or down into water. I agree with parts of those ideas, and many other ideas people have posted. Thanks so much, everyone!7That () seems to be the end of the first story about heaven and earth. This plate starts something new: landscapes where interesting events are unfolding.This is a sulfurous, volcanic place that seems to be on fire. The sky is choked with dusty clouds, and it shimmers with heat like the inside of an oven. Even the earth glows as though it were stoked with embers. In the middle is a heap of rocks, freshly congealed from lava.In this infernal place -- could it be Hell? -- there stands a holy figure. He has a beard and the mitred hat of a bishop. A man kneels in front of him and crosses his arms on his chest. The bishop is holding something. It may be an open book, but the two pages are canted at angles to one another, and so they could also be the tablets with the ten commandments. The bishop's arms are not in the right position for holding a big book (which would be grasped by the sides, not the bottom); but on the other hand no Catholic bishop should be holding the ten commandments. If it were Aaron bowing before Moses, that would make sense, but of course Moses was never a bishop. Through a famous misunderstanding, Moses was often painted as if he had horns, and that may have been the artist's first thought before she turned them into a hat. I take she wanted the paradox. But what could it mean?There is no help to be had from the figures at the left. One leans back, recoiling from laughter or astonishment. The other points up into the rocks, and if we follow his gesture, we find people there. These are very shadowy creatures, the hardest to see of any in the manuscript. One scampers up the hillside away from the man who points. It has a funny hat, perhaps with sharp corners. The others are fused to the rocks themselves. A large figure seems to stand to the left of the fleeing one; it looks headless. Another vaguer figure remains locked in the rock up where the scampering figure is climbing. There may be more, but the artist has made sure we cannot see them.In the library in Glasgow, this book is in a collection of alchemical manuscripts, and the artist does sometimes draw on alchemical themes. This may be such a case: there is a tradition in alchemy of the "planetary mountains," places where the earth produces mercury, sulfur, gold, and the other metals and stones. The planets and the Greek gods were used as symbols of the metals: the planet Jupiter, for instance, stood for tin, and so a picture of a hill with Zeus on top meant the metal tin. Parmigianino, the renaissance artist, made pictures of such mountains, and this looks a little like his work. What happens here, though, is much less literal. These are mountain spirits, not gods, and nothing is being explained about metals. This is the "universal Catholic" nature, the world pervaded by inexplicable continuous creation. To understand it, an adept needs knowledge of metals and knowledge of the divine purpose -- whether it comes from the Old Testament or the New. 8Now the landscape has shrunk and we are looking at just a bit of it, cut off from the rest like the weightless planets in The Little Prince. Viewers back in the seventeenth or eighteenth century would have thought of cameos and carved gems, and we might think of coins: the figures and their scrap of rock float against a round backdrop, like the embossed head on a coin on its field. This time the action centers on a boy who is running across the scene and gesturing in a somewhat operatic manner. His pose might well have reminded people of Hermes (who was a messenger and a guide, and so was always running). There were statues of Hermes in more or less this pose, and in paintings his clothes tend to billow the way they do here. But there is plenty of room for uncertainty. Although it is clear that he is borrowed from painting or sculpture, it is not as certain that he is Hermes. At the least, he should have wings on his sandals, and normally he also carries his trademark attribute, the caduceus (snakes twined around a staff, the emblem of the medical profession). His cloak flies out in front of him and is caught by a woman, and the two of them together might well have reminded people of Venus and her disobedient son Eros.Once again, there are two meanings that seem incompatible, and again, they fit together like the front and back of a single coin. If this is Hermes, he represents one of the alchemists' favorite metals, mercury. Mercury was said to be "volatile": it runs everywhere, and even evaporates into thin air. If it is Eros, the same ideas apply: Eros (who stands for sexual desire) is unpredictable: anyone might be the target of one of his arrows, and he even stung his own mother. All this makes some sense: it's a meditation on uncertainty, on things that cannot be pinned down, on fleeting thoughts and desires. At least that is what it would be if this were a normal painting. But in this book, it might be something entirely different. This could be just a woman and her son, playing. And it is important not to forget the fat dragon who lies on top of the rock, wagging its big tail and sticking its toothy jaw right in the woman's face. 9That dragon (in the previous painting) may seem gratuitous, and it makes no sense I can think of. Yet it would slight the artist's achievement to say that she just stocked her paintings with whatever came to mind. The dragon is very deliberately painted. The hatchmarks that go round the plate stop at its tail, and resume on the other side. Its body is clearly segmented (like a worm's) and it has a cute little plume at the back of its head. The details are carefully balanced; the dragon's feet, for instance, may once have been more detailed, but the artist has masked them in dark umber tones. I think there was originally a figure to the right of the boy, but whatever was there has been painted out. The scene has all the traits of something that grew slowly and organically in the artist's mind, and was only finished when it reached a pitch of perfection. Even a blatant non sequitur like the overweight dragon has its value. It says, in effect: You will never understand this picture. And that, I think, is a wonderful and deeply modern frame of mind.Here is an even less comprehensible arrangement, an impression of more disturbed thoughts. In the middle a gigantic bear holds a tiny man's head in its mouth. They are floating in a swirl of visceral globular shapes, as if the painting is a view into intestines, and the bear's head and man's head are both being digested by some even larger animal. (Stepping back, it is a gnarled stump or root: but it is always a question of how far back we went to step.)In the lower-right corner a man steps up to a seated figure (probably a woman) and offers her something, or takes her hand. The little vignette would be a love scene, if the woman were a little more real: she is a slightly frightening blur, and she reaches out to the man with long hazy legs -- more like a spider perching on its prey than a person shaking hands.This is a gloomy and threatening painting, and that mood is perfectly congealed in the second bear's head at the upper left. It has a glassy blue eye, and it seems to brood over the scene with amused detachment.10The habit this artist has of looking into stumps and finding fantasies was not original, but other people found stories that were obvious, and therefore comforting. There was a custom of cutting stones -- especially marble and agate -- and finding pictures in them. For a while in the seventeenth century it was said nature sometimes started a painting inside a stone, but left it unfinished and artists would add figures and reinforce shapes to make simple landscapes or mythological scenes. Certain rocks, called "picture agates," were already so similar to landscapes that they were considered finished paintings. In the previous century, people had prophesied by finding shapes in deformed animals and in the gnarls and burls of trees. Nature painted and sculpted, and people tried to understand what she meant. But in every case the things they thought she meant were simple: a prognostication of war, a bucolic landscape, a portrait of the Pope. Here all that has been given up, and it seems trivial. Nature speaks much less clearly in this book. The artist is looking as closely as she is able, and setting everything down in its place: but the results are disquieting, and they often verge on meaninglessness. This time she sees a figure of Saturn with his scythe, looking down absentmindedly at a little boy who clings to him. The man could be Saturn or Father Time -- the two were occasionally interchangeable -- but either way he is significantly less fearsome than usual. The scythe, after all, is for harvesting souls. Saturn and Eros were sometimes paired, and perhaps the artist was thinking abstractedly about Love and Death. This artist has a sweet, familial streak in her, and she has soft dreams as well as terrifying ones. Here it's as if Saturn were in retirement, thinking over a day's work -- or as if he had become a simple peasant, whose scythe cut wheat and not people.The pair are illuminated by a golden light from behind (notice the elegant shadow cast by the boy's foot). In the cloudburst there is an even more comforting figure, very much the kind that people painted in cut marble. He is a benevolent old man, possibly also God himself, looking down on his work. And at the left, another old man, gazing out of the scene. All three men look the same: perhaps the artist was a man after all, and these are three self-portraits, versions of himself made on a day when we was thinking more about the passing years of his own life than about the miracles of nature. Next installment: one of the strangest pictures painted before the twentieth century.锘?p>What started as a chance to wear my latest in resort and vacation wardrobe, which were feeling seriously neglected in my closet, ended up becoming so much more -- and by accident no less. As a black man, one of the last places I thought I'd find some roots was in Puerto Rico. But I did. I'm still a relatively new flier. I've had two turbulence scares on two of the five flights that I've taken thus far. But for the most part, flights for me have been easy. That's why it wasn't a struggle to fly to Puerto Rico this summer for a quick trip. Ever the consummate fashion editor -- this trip was an opportunity to try out several new looks that were perfect for vacations. When I landed, I knew I had to get to the hotel quick enough for an outfit change and then some exploring before dinner with people in my group. I approached the front desk of the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino and was struck by the lobby. Most chain hotels are typical and predictable but there was something unique and authentic about this particular Marriott. It was the decor. Everything was consistent with San Juan and it captured the beauty of the area, while providing mainstream service. Essentially, the hotel presented the best of both worlds. I've been trained to think with a fashion eye, and I find inspiration everywhere. Walking to the elevator, I was confronted by beautiful images and scenery that screamed, fashion editorial location. The marriage of hospitality and fashion was evident with color and design that was right on trend only by coincidence, which made it even better. My room -- an ocean front view of the beach that doubles as the hotel's backyard. It was a writer's room with a patio that had tables and chairs. Fantasies of writing something brilliant and beautiful took up most of my thoughts while there. At night, the room seemed to change with lighting bouncing off of the ocean to fill the space with a romantic glow. I hated leaving each morning and I loved coming back each evening. There was an itinerary neatly organized and set forth by our group leaders. The list of things to do was emailed before I arrived which gave me time to put together looks and edit my wardrobe for strategic placement and optimal packing. For most of the trip, we were with a tour guide -- a distinguished looking man we called Felix. I'd heard horror stories about people getting lost, guides not knowing what they were talking about, and people missing important sights as a result. That wasn't the case with Felix. But I still ended up deviating from the itinerary. I can't swim. I never could. And right there in the middle of the itinerary it read, kayaking at Torrecilla Lagoon. Kayaking? Kayaking! "Never to return again" -- that would be the ending of each story that was told of my demise that faithful day that I decided to chance it and get in the water. No more Prada, Hermes, September issues of my favorite magazines, and True Blood on HBO GO. I told our group leader, "I think I'll pass." But Felix noticed my outfit. Or more specifically, he noticed my medallion -- a fabulous wooden cutout of Africa on a string of wooden beads, in all black -- just how I like it. He said, "I know where to take him."So he did. We wound up in Loiza -- a tiny area with a rotund history. The town was founded in the 1692. Nigerian slaves from the Yoruba tribe were placed there and still hold one of the highest percentages of black residents in Puerto Rico today. What I found to be haunting was the proximity of the beach. I imaged being brought to Loiza, and then watching each day while working as a slave as others came to the island only to do the same. Films, as graphic and truthful as some try to be, still don't do the experience justice. Being there and imaging the tragedy of it all can be just as painful as watching an adaptation on film. Some descendants of those slaves still reside in Loiza -- in fact, according to Felix, most do. I could see remnants of plantations that once existed now scattered with shacks that are converted into eateries. Lines of at least 20 people took up most of the area that didn't include road. These shacks apparently do a lot of business. Roads of sights paired with my own imagination transported me to a time long ago where survival was the only thing that mattered. Four years ago, before he became president, Barack Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia where he called slavery, "America's original sin." And no matter how films and plays projected it -- the truth is, being there is altogether different. During sightseeing, I visited some of my favorite boutiques. It was welcoming to see that style is style in any language. But what was most interesting was the reception I received when walking into the stores. It was a warm feeling of inclusion that I hadn't always felt elsewhere. I can say that I've seen a man of color become president -- and then get reelected. That said it still isn't surprising that I can walk into some high-end stores and be greeted with aggressive stares and the occasional following. Unless I introduce myself and mention what I do in fashion, this is almost always the case. But not in San Juan. Right after my tour with Felix, this is probably the best thing that happened.锘?p>Jane Birkin attends the Hermes Ready to Wear show as part of the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011 at Halle Freyssinet on March 10, 2010 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)Birkin, of course, is the muse behind the Hermes Birkin bag, as well as the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg. 锘?p>Jane Birkin's Birkin bag will hit eBay as one of the items in a charity auction to fund the Red Cross' work in Japan, . The bidding will begin at $2,000, and the bag on the block is one of the four namesake purses in Birkin's collection since Herm猫s named the style after her in 1984.The actress, singer and Serge Gainsbourg muse , "There's no fun in a bag if it's not kicked around, so that it looks as if the cat's been sitting on it--and it usually has. The cat may even be in it! I always put on stickers and beads and worry beads. You can get them from Greece, Israel, Palestine--from anywhere in the world. I always hang things on my bags because I don't like them looking like everyone else's." Birkin also doesn't take issue with Birkin bag knockoffs. She added, "It's very nice that everyone's got one or wants one....If people want to go for the real thing, fine. If they go for copies, that's fine too. I really don't think it matters."The real deal retails for at least $7,000 and is carried by the likes of Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell, to name a random few.. You can . 锘?p>British actress and model Jane Birkin turns 63 years old today, and in her honor, we'd like to take a trip town style icon memory lane. She first made waves in the 1966 film "Blowup" and secured her position in the style spotlight as the lover of French musician Serge Gainsbourg. In 1984, the world's most famous handbag--Hermes's Birkin bag--was named for her. Since then, Jane has kept up her cool, chic image as a singer and activist for immigrant welfare and AIDS issues. Take a look at Jane over the years:Get HuffPost Style on and ! 锘?p>Over the years I have attended several wine auctions at Christie's, both here and in New York. I once purchased a six-bottle lot of Chateau d'Yqem for an exorbitant amount of money (for me) and enjoyed every drop of it. (One of the best birthday gifts I have ever received was a magnum of Yquem from Bill Wilder... hint, hint.) So when Scott Torrence, Vice President and Senior Wine Specialist at Christie's invited me to Bouchon to hear about the first-ever, for them, on line wine auction, I went with a sense of excitement and foreboding. Foreboding because I knew I might get hooked into bidding an outrageous sum on a lot or two of spectacular wines. So be it. Torrence is the guy who was head of LA wine sales 'til 2008, and holds the world record for auctioning 6 magnums of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild at $345,000. He taught a wine classs at UCLA which many of my Huffington readers attended.Scott Torrance of Christie's samples some of the wine at auction.I had followed with great interest their very successful pilot launch of a globally-accessible on-line auction last fall with The Collection of Eizabeth Taylor totaling $9.5 million, far exceeding the pre-sale estimate $1 million. Elizabeth devotees acquired some 400 gowns and pieces of jewelry, in part to benefit AIDS research. The recent on line only charity auction of couture handbags by Hermes tripled expectations, totaling $229,000. Obviously this is the wave of the future. The Christie's wine auction begins at 10 a.m. EST on August 6th and runs until August 20th. Participating is simple: go to www.christies.com/signaturecellars... peruse the 301 lots being offered by three (anonymous) wine collectors, sign in to participate by giving some basic information and a credit card. Make your bids with a click of your mouse... and then you will be alerted each time your bid is bested... and you have an opportunity to increase your bid. That's it. Fun, interesting, informative, and who knows? You might end up with a fabulous lot at a very good price. The Signature Cellars on line auction is offering a mix of blue-chip wines from the old world and the new, along with approachably-priced selections suitable for holding or drinking now. I found everything from a case of Chateau Lafite '82 and Latour, to hard-to-source California cult wines like Harlan and Screaming Eagle. I was, of course, intrigued by the rarities being offered, including magnums of fine Champagne and Imperials of Bordeaux, along with some unusual aged Ports. At Bouchon, Scott offered me a taste of some Bandol wines from Domaine Tempier, which are in the auction. He noted that estimates start as low as $200 and go as high as $35,000. He estimated that the total sale of the 301 lots would go for in excess of $750,000. My guess is that they deliberately placed the estimates low, to encourage bidding, and that the prices could be out-of-sight.Tablemate Robin Canalis share tsting with me.When I lived in New York a lifetime ago, I furnished much of my apartment by attending auctions at Christie's, which at 246 years old calls itself the world's leading art business. Last year they held over 450 auctions in 80 categories for a total of $5,7 billion. So be careful when raising your hand to scratch your face in their showroom, you may have bought something wonderful.To subscribe to Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter ($70 for twelve monthly issues), email him at jayweston@sbcglobal Follow Jay Weston on Twitter:锘縟ct1999: Or like this: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID28142/images/Jay-Z_Beyonce_British_Talk_Show_Marriage_jokes.jpgimgrefurl=http://www.examiner.com/ny-in-new-york/jay-z-talks-beyonce-and-marriage-with-british-talk-show-host-jonathan-rossh=338w=280sz=48tbnid=tQ0RrtmRv1vDaM:tbnh=247tbnw=204prev=/images%3Fq%3DJay-Z%2BBeyonce%2Bphotozoom=1q=Jay-Z+Beyonce+photousg=__viW3WukNg0nLbh7DhzwEChBMx8k=sa=Xei=bNwbTaS9EIOB8gbxm437DQved=0CCgQ9QEwAg锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘縎orry Jean-Paul!!! Christian Audigier already beat you to it to be the Worlds First Desginer to Release a Sex Line!!!!! The Product is hitting the shelves NOW!!! Does the condom have Tattoo on it? No it is made in Malaysia which is the place where Latex is Farmed meaning that the Christian Audigier Condom has no taste or smell and it is designed the revoloutionary new "Baggy Head" design that eliminates excess air while increasing sensitivity tto the head of the Penis! So Enjoy Jean Paul and ... Leave the Condoms to Christian!!!!!! Peace and LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!!!!!锘?p>New York Times:Hot news from Paris: After seven years, Jean Paul Gaultier is giving up his ready-to-wear duties at Herm猫s and will be replaced by Christophe Lemaire, who has been designing for Lacoste since 2000. 锘?p>New York Times:Jean-Louis Dumas, who revived the flagging fortunes of Hermes in the late 1970s and in his nearly 30 years as the company's chief executive transformed it into one of the world's most successful luxury brands, died Saturday at his home in Paris. He was 72. 锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>According to Forbes,. If we were that rich, we'd probably buy ourselves some diamond shoes, an Hermes Birkin bag and , so the Birkin doesn't get lonely.Aniston, on the other hand, decided to be generous with her savings and purchased her boyfriend quite the present: a $12,000 vintage leather jacket once worn by James Dean. , Jen gifted beau Justin Theroux the pricey piece for his 40th birthday. The two have only been dating since May but are moving fast -- , 鈥淭heir romance is like a real-life fairytale... even if it is cheesy beyond belief.鈥?/p>Not that Jen can ever look bad, but the relationship has Jen's style looking better and better. The "Horrible Bosses" star and .Now she's making sure her arm candy is equally stylish with a priceless (well, almost) vintage jacket. and .More Jen & Justin: 锘?p>Beyonce got some sweet gifts yesterday. Her husband, Jay-Z, was spotted shopping at Hermes' plush Madison Avenue boutique on Christmas Eve. A spy reports, "Jay was in a private room of Hermes doing last-minute shopping. He had a guard standing watch outside. He spent $350,000 on Birkin bags, among other things." The buying binge took so long, Jay-Z missed his scheduled lunch at Nello, prompting the restaurateur to deliver his food to the store.--- New York Post, 12/26/10 Jane Birkin was flying from London to Paris in 1981 when she reached into her bag for her datebook and everything fell out. "I'd love a bag with pockets," the English singer/actress told her seatmate. Her seatmate just happened to the chairman of Herm猫s. He was a good listener. He had his designers make a bag with pockets, and he sent one to Birkin. Then he named it after her. And then the fun began. Everything at Herm猫s is expensive. Like: a scarf at $725. Or a leather shoulder bag at $6,500. The datebook Jane Birkin used? It now costs $1,025. The Birkin bag, however, was in another league. Not only was it expensive, you couldn't get one. Why? Oh, because each bag required 48 hours of craftsmanship. You know: "This isn't a bag, it's a work of art." Demand soon outstripped supply. Well, not really. But that was the marketing line. And a genius one at that. Create a luxury item so special it doesn't need a logo. Then make it scarce. Very scarce --- at one point, Herm猫s announced there was a two-year waiting list. Which only made the Birkin more desirable. It's a venerable truth: Deny the rich what they want, and they'll pay anything to get it. It was only a matter of time --- and technology --- before Michael Tonello came along. Our good fortune: Michael Tonello is a delightful writer, and "Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag" is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in years. (To buy the paperback from Amazon, . For the Kindle edition, ) Tonello's outrageous story as a Birkin buyer --- and reseller, or, as he liked to think of himself, "leather liason" --- began with him living on Cape Cod and jetting off to exotic destinations for fashion shoots "with a can of hairspray and a powder puff." He gets an assignment in Barcelona. He falls in love with the city. And moves there. Money, how to make it. He took one of his scarves -- purchased years earlier for $99 at Ralph Lauren --- and sold it on eBay for $430. He sold a Truman Capote first edition for $1,000. He saw the excitement on an eBay board for Herm猫s scarves, so he sold one of his for a $400 profit. And then a curious thing happened --- people who didn't get to buy his scarf wrote to ask him if he had more. He went to Herm猫s in Barcelona, bought two dozen and sold them for a "sizable" profit. He discovered that these scarves cost $30 less at the Herm猫s store in Andorra, so he made the two-hour drive and bought the first of a thousand scarves he'd purchase there. Soon he was selling 30 scarves a week. All because he saw a niche in the market. All because Herm猫s didn't yet have a web site. Inevitably, one of his customers --- who just happened to be songwriter Carole Bayer Sager --- asked if he could get her a Birkin. He had no idea what that was, but once he found out, he was a bag-seeking missile. How Michael Tonello cracked the code and was able to buy Birkins from Herm猫s is the centerpiece of the book. He spills the beans here...That saga is hilarious - if, that is, you are amused by the foibles of the rich and those who cater to them. It is also tender --- if, that is, you can be touched by Tonello's burgeoning friendships with the women who became his best customers. And it is even thrilling --- if, that is, your heart rate jumps when a French colleague tries to rip Tonello off and Tonello must Take Steps. Now? No more waiting list. And now that anybody can buy a Birkin, anyone can sell one. Like Amazon, which sells the Herm猫s 30cm Togo Tri Color (Pink, Bougainvillea & Purple) Birkin Palladium for $6,500, plus shipping. (Or, if you like, a knockoff --- the London Office Tote Croc Finish, for just $59.99, with free shipping). As for Herm猫s, it offers Birkins --- at discount --- online. [UPDATE: Actually, Herm猫s does not. The sites that use the firm's logo and offer bargain prices are apparently resellers at best. More likely, they'll selling knockoffs. Caveat emptor.] So much for "special." What's special is this book. [Cross-posted from ]锘縀ric, how unimaginative. Labels and price tags do not replace real style. True style only requires an eye and an ability to create pleasure and beauty. Think of all the true originals. Both Hepburns, Kelly, Grant, Coco, Astaire, Dean, Poitier, JFK, Keith Richards (lol), and on and on. To say nothing of the countless non-celebs. "To thine own self be true."Style is always original. But the major fashion houses don't want people to be reminded of that fact. These companies will continue to spend heavily on advertising and product placement to keep insecure people "thinking" style can only be attained by purchasing a thing. And unlike creativity, the product never comes cheap. We've been programmed to desire things not for their inherent desirability but for their place in the lexicon of status. And so it's always been. Being rich doesn't give you class, and being poor doesn't mean you lack style. What's that marketing term for getting us to part with our money? Ah yes, "aspirational." Guilty as charged.锘?p>Incredibly expensive handbags that cost more than an arm and a leg are nothing new -- remember and our personal favorite, ?But Jimmy Choo has thrown its hat -- er, bag? -- into the pricey purse ring with a rather unusual offering: . Created by Rob Pruitt, the clutches feature 11,000 hand-applied Swarovski crystals and a detachable golden strap. But the most striking aspect of the pieces are Pruitt's use of his signature panda design. Forgive us for pointing it out, but the sparkly devil-and-angel panda figures are more reminiscent of a colorful (we're thinking Po or Tinky Winky) than the real-life animal. Jimmy Choo's creative directors tapped Pruitt, a New York-based visual design artist, to collaborate on the spring/summer 2012 capsule cruise collection earlier this year. 鈥淲e were captivated by Pruitt鈥檚 energy, his computer screen use of color and the festive exuberance of his prints and materials; there were elements in his work that reminded us in subtle ways of the Jimmy Choo design iconography,鈥?Jimmy Choo creative directors Sandra Choi and Simon Holloway .According to ArtInfo, Pruitt incorporated "rainbow gradients with ice cream sprinkles" throughout the line of handbags, shoes and accessories, drawing (a risky endeavor for any designer...). Sound appealing? Act fast: the , described as the "ultimate expression of the artistic collaboration between Jimmy Choo and Rob Pruitt," are rarer than actual pandas: there are only 14 of each style in the world. Get 'em while they're... sparkly.Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘?p>Ever since seeing the poignant -- and hilariously quotable -- "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" last year, I've been a little obsessed with the sharp-tongued comedian. Happily, Rivers will be getting even more screen time than usual in the coming months. Not only is "Fashion Police" of Rivers' cutting fashion commentary to its format starting in March, but Joan and daughter Melissa will continue to document their chaotic lives in WeTV's "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" whose second season just premiered. We asked the duo to tell us what's on their style radar.What was your first designer purchase? Joan: My first designer purchase was an Hermes purse. I was working in Lord and Taylor and Hermes had just come to the United States. It was only at Lord and Taylor. And I thought, that's beautiful. It was orange, the traditional orange. I thought it was terrific, and it wasn't that expensive. Little did we know what was going to happen, I would have bought the whole damn place out.Melissa: A pair of Joan & David flats. Those were brown, and I had those in school. They were on Madison Avenue. They were like a loafer, and they had a little detailing on the toe. Facebook or Twitter? Joan: Twitter and I work on mine all the time. Melissa: Twitter, but I still have a very active Facebook page too. Rule to dress by? Joan: Overdress. I'm trying to bring glamour back. Melissa: Err on the side of classic. My rule is always if you keep your basics classic. You can add seasonable and very trendy stuff and always look modern and updated, but if you're questioning something and its expensive, err on the side of classic. Joan: Think Jackie O, not Snooki. What trend do you hope dies? Joan: Baggy, and this pajama trend. Everything being oversized. We starve ourselves, we go to the gym -- even people my age -- we live on lettuce and then you put on baggy jeans? Melissa: High-waisted. I can't wear it. Skirts, pants, because you have to be 20 feet tall and two pounds. If you are under a certain height and over 100 pounds no matter how skinny you are, it's going to make you look hippy. And I know it's so in again, and love looking at it in magazines, but I just wish it would go away. Minis or Maxis? Joan: Minis if you're young. If you've got great legs, show your legs while you can. Melissa: Mini in the winter, maxi in the summer. Cause minis are always cute with tights and boots. And in the summer, I love the long skirts and longer dresses. What item do you wear every day? Joan: Black Chanel trousers. They're my staple. I have four pairs of them, I probably have more by now and that's my go-to. Melissa: Jeans and my white tank. What's on your nightstand? Joan: Obviously the phone and clock, dog treats because they always come up into the bed with me. And the books that I'm definitely going to read. And pictures of my parents, my husband, a lot of pictures. I have 26 pictures of [her son] Cooper.Melissa: I've got a clock, a phone, photos from a photo booth with my son, my reading glasses, a remote. And usually some sort of miniature piece of candy, and water. What are you reading now? Joan: O'Reilly's book on Lincoln. Melissa: I'm reading the . If you had to wear clothes from one decade only, what would it be? Joan: Oh, the '30s. The glamour of the '30s: the bias cut, the white satin with white fox. Just glorious clothes. The accessory with those are limos. Melissa: The '60s, because you've got everything from Jackie Onassis, that kind of very American glamour, all the way to American sportswear, to Carnegie Street. You have so many choices. You could go fully ladylike or fully Carnegie. Or punk. You could really go from one end of the spectrum to another, and I always felt like the '60s really brought in all that fabulous American sportswear. Signature scent? Joan: It's called "Now and Forever" and they [Firmenich] only make it for me. We used to sell it on QVC. Melissa: I rotate. Right now I'm wearing Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle. He did this whole line for Barneys. I also love the Bvlgari green tea. Ideal shopping buddy? Joan: Myself, because there's so many things I look like a pig in. And no matter what, Melissa will say "You look good."Melissa: My mom, Because she makes me be less conservative in my shopping. I tend to look and wait and ponder and think and she'll say, "Just get it." I you could only shop in one store for the rest of your life, what would it be?Joan: Bergdorf Goodman Melissa: Barneys What's your greatest fashion regret?Joan: All the platform shoes that I love and I buy and then I do not wear. I have shoes that, literally, the soles are not touched and it's usually Chanels. They're too high, you buy them, you say these are gorgeous and I'm terrified. I can't walk in them. I can sit in them on camera. I have about seven pairs, because I still buy them like an idiot. Most of them are Chanels, and Louboutins. Melissa: There was a Chanel jacket that we saw in Vegas, and my mom was offering to buy it for me, and I said "No no no, let me think" and I'm still thinking about it six months later.Ideal vacation destination? Joan: St. PetersburgMelissa: Somewhere I can ski and or surf with my son. --Reporting by Katie Bindley GettyCELEBRITY RELATED LINKS YOU MAY LOVE: - Lucky - The Cut - Daily Beast - InStyle - People Style Watch 锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘?9-year-old model Karlie Kloss is having a gossip-plagued year. In addition to rumors linking her to Leonardo DiCaprio, the athletic brunette...锘?p>It's been reported that Katie Holmes got from Tom Cruise -- if you consider $4.8 million over the next four years in child support to be nothing.In comparison to Cruise's reported $250 million fortune it seems like peanuts, that doesn't count the "millions of dollars in jewelry, designer handbags and other gifts" given to her by the 50-year-old actor during the course of their five-year marriage. Sources tell the website that Cruise was "extremely generous" to Holmes and lavished her with millions of dollars' worth of luxury goods. "Tom gave Katie diamond earrings as a birthday gift one year that easily cost over $500k and he had custom design pieces made for her," explained the sources, who claim that the terms of the divorce state that Holmes is keeping all the jewelry, designer clothes and gifts Cruise gave her. But Holmes wasn't with Cruise for the money, explains the source -- a claim supported by the fact that Holmes' primary concern apparently was to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible. Holmes reportedly went to great lengths to orchestrate her plans to relocate to New York, where she . The 33-year-old reportedly used when she was organizing the initial legal paperwork. Her covert planning was a success as Cruise was apparently blindsided by the divorce, but it appears that Holmes' disinterest in profiting handsomely from the marriage was the reason they were able to . "When it came time for the divorce, she just wanted it to be done quickly and with as little disruption to Suri's life as possible. Suri has always been Katie's number one priority and concern," explained the source. Though Holmes may not be receiving spousal support from Cruise, her handbag and accessories collection would reportedly help keep her afloat if she was ever desperate enough to sell any of the ten Hermes bags purchased for her during her marriage. Not that Holmes needs Cruise's money -- she's a working actress who is this fall in Theresa Rebeck's "Dead Accounts," and she's reportedly working on her first film project since the split, which she co-wrote and is co-producing. Holmes also makes a considerable amount of money off the residuals from her six seasons of "Dawson's Creek" reruns. Related on HuffPost:锘縃ermes is a very normal European first name (it's Greek). It's not just a brand like Apple, Chanel.Americans are naming their kids MacKenzie, Melody, Anderson, Crystal, Cassandra.... is that better?锘?p>People:Kelly Rutherford's estranged husband says that the actress's often 20-hour workdays filming Gossip Girl take a toll on their 2-year-old son, Hermes, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE."The filming lifestyle in New York is very hectic and stressful from what I have personally witnessed," Daniel Giersch said in a Jan. 9 court filing.According to his papers, "Often times the TV show calls pressuring [her] to leave the hotels, asking her where she is, telling her that she is late and asking her to get into the van [which takes her to the set immediately]. Usually [her] stress causes Hermes to start crying which then causes [her] to be frustrated toward him. I do not believe this is a healthy lifestyle for him." 锘?p>Celine, Hermes, Givenchy... It was a day of big hitters and debuts on Sunday at Paris Fashion Week. Plus Kanye goes groupie on Phoebe Philo's ass, and...锘?p>If you're a fan of the fashion on Mad Men, get ready for the fifth season premiering March 25th on AMC, and an opportunity to bring that classic style into your home. Vintage scarves from the 1960s and 70s have been framed by designer Alysson La Fourcade, and select designs will be featured in the series. You can also attend a special exhibition of her designs at , a furniture gallery in Los Angeles. opens at March 21st with a special event, and then runs for a month at the Gallery. The designs are extraordinary and come from the top fashion houses including Balmain, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hermes, Pucci, YSL, 21 Club and Neiman Marcus. Upon inheriting her treasure trove of over five hundred exquisite silk scarves from her grandmother (known as The Scarf Lady of Beverly Hills), Alysson was inspired to transform her heirlooms into fashion for the home. The scarves are framed and mounted on non-damaging material, and can be removed and worn.What I love about these pieces is how fashion is transformed into art. When a scarf is worn it has one impact, and then a second impact when displayed. The color palettes are dramatic and the designs are graphically strong. For those who adore fashion and want to celebrate it -- now they can hang it in their home to enjoy. will transform its first floor into a tribute to the silk scarf, installing La Fourcade's designs amongst their renowned collection of French and Continental furniture, lighting, architecture and art. 1960s Balmain scarf, framed1960s Hermes scarf, framed 1970s Longchamps scarf, framedVisit at 169 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036.锘縉O what you just said is basically it. She has done nothing beneficial to society. The answers to all your various questions can be answered with one word....Sextape Why?-SextapeWhat has she done? SextapeTalents? not sure.. I'll have to watch her... SextapeNewsworthy?- Sextape for sureWho is she?- person who did a sextapeWhy do we care?.. no one really cares..trust me.We all have this disorder or twitch in which we HAVE to click on an article and comment even though we HATE the individual.锘?p>At first glance you'd think that Kim Kardashian didn't have a care in the world. Just look at her - chilling on a yacht in a leather-look swimsuit and heels (natch) doing her best Bond girl impression. Kim's stretches her sea legsBut sources reveal that there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. The star is in trouble with PETA again after being spotted with a Birkin crocodile skin handbag.SEE ALSO: uh-ohIt wouldn't be the first time the star has locked horns with the animal rights organisation, . As a result of the attack Kim's sister Khloe, who was a strong supporter of PETA and even posed for them naked in a campaign, parted ways with the organisation. PETA denied having anything to do with the incident despite offering to pay the activist's legal fees.In a statement, PETA said: 鈥淔or every alligator or crocodile-skin accessory, an animal was likely beaten but still conscious and able to feel excruciating pain as his or her skin was peeled off.鈥淭hese animals feel fear and pain and they don鈥檛 want to die. Alligators and crocodiles have no real legal protection, but they have done nothing to deserve the violent treatment that they endure.鈥淧ETA urges consumers to watch Joaquin Phoenix鈥榮 video expose of the cruel exotic-skins industry and vow today never to buy items made from the skin of alligators, snakes or crocodiles.鈥?/p>> IN PICS: KIM KARDASHIAN'S STYLE HISTORYAlso on HuffPost:锘?p>When celebrity romances get super serious, sometimes the parties involved will wear matching outfits () or more bravely, .But Kim Kardashian picked a novel fashion technique to show off The reality star landed at LAX on Sunday wearing a Rachel Roy coat, a Celine necklace and leather pants paired with a black Birkin. But Kim's other accessory trumped even that expensive Hermes bag -- she was sporting gold stud earrings with the initials "K" and "W." (Her , however, had vanished.)The rumored couple , grabbing ice cream in Soho and then dining in the Meatpacking district later on.We suspect Kim knew exactly what she was doing in feeding grist to the rumor mill, given her ponytail. Girl isn't stupid.See photos of Kim's "KW" earrings below:Check out Kim's style evolution!Also on HuffPost: 锘?p>This week we learned a lot of awkward information from the fashionable (and fashionably-challenged) on Twitter. Lindsay Lohan told us there because she has (we get it, Lindsay, you), Kim Kardashian posted a bizarre throwback photo that may or may not feature a (following in , perhaps?) and Kim's brother has because he's always been "passionate" about them. In other news, got an 8-hour massage that cost $1,500 -- and watched "Bruno" on repeat the whole time. Yep, that's about as weird as it can get.Take a look at the tweets below to see these and more of our favorite :Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , , and Instagram at @HuffPostStyle.锘縈y concern is that Kim ALWAYS seems to conform to whatever her man wants, likes, does, instead of staying true to who she is as an actual INIVIDUAL..and she can b too much of a "people pleaser" when t comes to her man at the time almost as if she is so eager to please who she is with so that she can finally have a viable, thriving relationship which in my opinion is semi-pathetic cuz he is a gorgeous, successful woman who needs & can find an equally handsome, successful, GOOD man that TRULY loves her for her & treats her right. And yes I do find it mildly controlling that Kanye felt he shld take it upon self to change her wardrobe as if she didn't know how to dress before. She and all of her sisters for that matter always looked fashionable in my opinion ergo they created a FASHION line...btw when does "blanding" dwn your wardrobe to all black, white, & nude/blush make u more fashionable or individual for that matter? And that's comin from someone who always where's black & white & is always criticized for not havn n e color n my closet which btw I'm still working on! Lol锘?p>"Is that a fake Prada? I could spot it a mile away."I still have trouble believing that a girl from my cheerleading squad actually said this to me in the 10th grade. To be fair, she was right. The authentic black nylon Prada backpack that she owned -- and I coveted -- cost over $300, an incalculable amount of hours spent babysitting, so I bought a fake. My friend Erica and I used to take the train into Manhattan once in a while and go down to Canal Street to scoop up knockoff Kate Spade bags that we called "fake Spades" for about $30. At the time, all the cool girls in school had Kate Spade totes and messenger bags, which retailed for around $150.Even if nobody noticed, there's something about wearing a fake bag that makes me feel a little dirty. Was it obvious that the shape was a little off, or that the sheen wasn't quite right? One of my fake Spades lost its glued-on label, and therefore its value. One by one, my fake bags fell apart or wore out, and I'd have to get another. After a while, I realized that at $30 a pop, it would make sense to just save up and get the real thing. That's when my love affair with bags began.My first real bag, a leopard-print Herve Chapelier tote, was like a gateway drug. Lots of girls at my school toted their books in the same bag in plain, solid colors. Owning the hard-to-find animal print made me feel special. I received countless compliments on my good taste. I carried it with me everywhere, but it wasn't enough. I tore out ads from fashion magazines with the bags I dreamed about owning and taped them to my wall.When I started college, I craved a petite designer bag to take out with me on the weekends, but I was already struggling financially. I barely earned enough money working part-time to cover my prescription co-pays and toiletries. I scoured eBay in my spare time, searching for a used bag I could afford, and instead discovered the world of online handbag porn. There were bags designed by Nicky Hilton for the Japanese brand Samantha Thavasa, out-of production Louis Vuitton runway bags and even a gorgeous neon pink Fendi baguette.Studying abroad in Europe during my junior year of college gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for to score my first designer bag at a discount. On a weekend trip to Paris with my roommate and her friends, I took a trip to the Galeries Lafayette, a department store with every designer boutique imaginable. Each one was having a sale. I shivered with excitement. There were classic Burberry novacheck totes, pastel yellow Chanel flap bags and nylon Longchamp totes in every color. Finally, I came to the Dior boutique and spotted the Gambler bag that I had seen in a print ad in a magazine. It was neon pink and purple with python trim and leopard print and was adorned with sparkly silver dice. And it was 50 percent off. I had to have it.My roommate and her friends tried to talk me out of the purchase. They said I probably wouldn't love it as much six months from now. But who were they to judge me for my purchases? They were from Oklahoma, and wouldn't know a great bag if it one smacked them in the face. Ultimately, they were right. A Dior python Gambler that needs to be babysat when you use the bathroom at a bar is less than ideal when you're traveling. I learned my lesson, and vowed to shop smarter next time.In Manhattan, handbags are to women what cars are to men. They're the ultimate status symbol. Instead of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus, there is Hermes, YSL, Gucci, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Chloe and Chanel. To me, a great handbag shows that a woman has great taste, and is successful enough to buy it. It isn't enough to simply wear a designer label; each season there are "it" bags with extensive waiting lists and price tags that can hover between four and five figures.My inability to afford an "it" bag hasn't dampened my desire to own one, but I still wouldn't buy a fake knowing what I know now. In 2011, Harper's Bazaar launched a campaign called "," to create awareness of the threats that counterfeit goods pose to consumers. In addition to the poor quality of most of the items and -- let's face it -- the negligible customer service, the sale of counterfeit goods is a significant threat to our economy.On Wednesday, that a shipment of knockoff bags and belts that would have been worth $20 million in stores was intercepted in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Can this country really afford to send more jobs overseas? Every purchase made from a counterfeiter is a purchase that could have made at a legitimate, tax-paying business.The CFDA and eBay Fashion are now in the third year of their "" campaign. The newest collection of limited-edition designer totes will go on sale on eBay in March, 2013, and I'll be waiting. When it comes to designer goods, this bag lady has learned it's best to keep it real. Follow Kimberly Couzens on Twitter:锘?p>Koto Bolofo, a South African photographer who grew up in Great Britain, gained unprecedented access to the house of Herm猫s when he started working for Monde d'Herm猫s, the Herm猫s magazine, in 2004. After meeting the chairman, Jean-Louis Dumas, Bolofo recalls, "Mr Dumas asked where I came from. I said South Africa. He asked what part. I said Lesotho. He was shocked and very excited. He explained that his great great great grandfather was a missionary in Lesotho and that the Zulus used to attack his mission, but the Sothos - my tribe - protected him." He adds, "I was very happy to be a Lesothan in Mr Dumas's office that day. He called me his cousin and said that his cousin was welcome any time and I had carte blanche to photograph what I liked in Herm猫s".The collection of photographs, which Bolofo took over a six year period, were recently published in eleven volumes by Steidl under the title, La Maison. This beautiful insider's view into the Herm猫s workshops captures the old world feeling of the French fashion house behind the scenes. Volume three, "Le sac Kelly/Kelly Bag" shows almost one hundred photographs of the process involved in producing one of the world's most coveted handbags. Bolofo artfully captured, both in color and black and white images, as a highly skilled designer delicately cut the crocodile skin, stitched the straps and installed the signature logo - all by hand. Close ups of the materials and the worker reveal the time intensive process behind a single bag. In Volume 4, "Clothes," Bolofo shows the an extensive view of the process of creating Herm猫s' ready-to-wear collection. Shot almost entirely in black and white, this volume differs greatly from the more energetic Kelly bag. While "Le sac Kelly" highlighted the process behind creating a single bag, "Clothes" shows an entire team working towards a larger collection of pieces. Bolofo photographed close portraits of the workers with their heads bent, hands sewing and feet pressing pedals. Almost as if the workshop was lit by dim candle light, there is a soft, romantic quality to these images.In addition to these two volumes, Bolofo's photographs of the Herm猫s workshop producing perfume, silk, saddles and more each appear in a separate book. La Maison by Koto Bolofo is available on . For a preview of the photographs, take a peek in our gallery below: 锘?p> is proof that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The Kardashians' has a similar style to her daughters: Tight dresses, , and oversized baubles are all part and parcel of her uniform. With and bright patterns, Jenner could easily pass as the fourth , and Kris and are often spotted out and about This mother of six kids is anything but matronly. Instead, has a fondness for heavy makeup, luxury bags and outfits that show off her killer body. Like her famous offspring, the "" is a spotlight-loving fashionista whose closets are overflowing with with fabulous fashions (in fact, we've seen and Kylie choosing from the large selection of and heels). The pictures of from the '80s and '90s are priceless -- we can only imagine how many shoulder pads are lurking in the klosets. Her look at the time was characteristic of the 1990s -- boxy suits and big shoulders. Since then, her style has been a mix of trend-driven outfits (she and Kourtney share a love for menswear-inspired clothing) and more practical clothes (flat boots and Converse are her running-around-town footwear). And just like her girls, she wouldn't be a Kardashian if she didn't own a , in fact, we are convinced this family keeps in business. We can't help it, we have to say it: They're all kut from the same kloth. To celebrate Kris Jenner's 57th on November 5h, we've gathered 112 fabulous photos of the momager extraordinaire. Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , , and Instagram at @HuffPostStyle. 锘?p>I remember a time when the words "Olympics" and "style watch" used in the same sentence amounted to little more than counting the sequins on the tiny tumbling leotards of gymnasts, preppy lusting over the equestrian britches and giggling at the swimmers' Speedos before they elongated to those little shorts Ryan Lochte sports oh so well. But that was in the yesteryear of the pre-digital era when if you missed a match or a meet, there was no replaying via livestream and empty seats and other faux pas were kept on the quiet in the non-existence of Twitter. The 2012 Games are, one could argue, the first truly social media savvy installation of the world's greatest sporting event, which in turn means that with the increase in the number of eyes fixated on moments both on and off the courts, and infinitely more channels on which to discuss infinitely more topics than say, the score, the fields of play have now become fields of fashion. Consider: "Since Beijing hosted the summer Olympics in 2008, smartphone ownership has skyrocketed to 107 million, a 456 percent increase in four years. Facebook accounts have increased 900 percent and the number of Twitter accounts has gone from just under 1 million to 300 million in 2012" Now consider: "The athletes' parade during Friday's opening ceremony might as well have been a catwalk show, with some of fashion's biggest names - Armani, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney - designing the team uniforms" You can always count on the fashion industry not to count themselves out of a multi-media friendly spectacle. The 2012 Games cements it: from here on out, every global media event-sporting, political or otherwise - is now fair game for a fashion event. In terms of marketing, it doesn't get any better than this spur-of-the moment real-time engagement, positioning Prada pool-side and Hermes against the hurdle. Who cares what the athletes are doing so long as they look chic doing it (in 140 characters or less)? Double up on national pride, free models and large-scale social media exposure. For brands, Olympic visibility means accessing a market via social media that is not limited to runway related interests, that is to say, a broader demographic that may or may not find such fashion week hi-jinx and luxury fashion in general a touch elitist, inaccessible and generally inapplicable to their lives, and therefore, uninteresting. It's a (back)stroke of genius for designer brands looking for ways to engage newer and bigger audiences via their viral channels all the year long, particularly in the fashion slow-down months of July and August. Giorgio Armani's duds for the Opening Ceremony included a navy blue suit with soft two buttoned jacket in cotton jersey teamed with classic trousers, a light blue cotton shirt and a regimental tie for him and a softer version of the same for her. Stella McCartney tapped her longstanding association with Adidas to create the on and off duty gear for team UK (Union Jacks all around) and herself caused quite the stir Instagramming away from the Opening Ceremonies as she cheered on a "Hey Jude" crooning Papa Paul clad head to toe in a delightfully chic shimmery gold number. The Jamaican team had its duds designed by Cedella Marley (daughter of Bob) for Puma and Ralph Lauren took some good old fashioned American flack for outsourcing (or was it off-shoring?) the manufacture of Team USA's kit to China. Hermes neatly arranged riding jackets for France's equestrian team (some saddles would be nice too guys, mais pas?) and Salvatore Ferragamo designed the official uniform for the tiny Republic of San Marino. Karl, in true Lagerfeld style, left the German team to their own unchic devices and cashed in for himself launching, ahem, the Team Karl collection at Selfridge's. The Kaiser accordingly that he would not be watching the Games as he likes the "idea" of it better than the actual event. Team Karl obviously plays in its own thinner, much less sweaty league. The British Fashion Council also announced that a consortium of emerging British talent had a hand in designing costumes for key segments of the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Over the course of the last year Suttirat Larlab, Creative Director for Danny Boyle (who orchestrated the Opening Ceremony), toured the studios of the best of British based new young designer talent in the run up to the big event and selected three to partake in it all. Christopher Shannon, Michael Van Der Ham and Nasir Mazhar were the qualifying finalists gleaned from the East End for Britain's homegrown sartorial team, creating the looks for 350 out of the 1200 dancers that performed on opening night. The style spectacle also spills, just like fashion week, off the pitch and into the sidelines: Michelle wore Mendel and Kate sported Kane, as presses releases lining my inbox over the weekend informed me. And as I keep my eye to Instagram, you can bet there will be some street style scouts on the loose and round-ups of the "best Olympic outfits" coming to a slideshow near you. While the impetus behind fashion's social media sanctified Olympic love affair undoubtedly circles back to a commercial/marketing objective, the implications are rather positive ones. An industry that is normally associated with all sorts of unhealthy practices and substances slipping out of its lofty stilettos and into a pair of sneakers so as to celebrate the human body in all its properly nourished and psychically honed glory seems like a positive enough move to me. Athletes, on account of perpetual training rather than perpetual hunger, make great models that send strong, healthy messages and it's great to give these inspirational individuals a chance to shine in an arena other than their own. Who's to disapprove of the likes of Michael Phelps soaking in a Louis Vuitton bath as opposed to smiling up wholesomely from a Wheaties box? So long as we still pay attention to the actual sports, a little side serving of style never hurt anyone.I suppose the only question left is WHEN will one of our stylish fashion friends lend a helping hand to those poor scrunchied gymnasts still straggling in the mid-nineties? Gabby Douglas would look great springing across that floor in a little Pam Hogg number, don't you think? Follow Kristin Knox on Twitter:锘?p>One Oregon woman almost got away with a bogus $2.1 million tax refund. , a 25-year-old woman from Salem was arrested and jailed last week for filing a bogus tax return on $3 million in income, according to by the Oregonian. Reyes got $2.1 million back on a prepaid debit card and went on a bit of a spending spree, shelling out $150,000 on a variety of things, including a decidedly not-extravagant 1999 Dodge Caravan, according to . She bought a 1999 Dodge Caravan and tires, among other things. According to the affidavit, Reyes appears to have about her employer and wages instead of stealing someone else's identity--an increasingly common way tax scammers are getting tax refunds.Reyes got caught after reporting her debit card missing.Tax fraud and tax-related identity theft are on the rise. were affected by tax fraud last year, more than double the number of taxpayers affected the year before, according to statistics provided by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration, and cited by the Wall Street Journal. 2.2 million fraudulent tax returns last year, 940,000 of which involved identity theft, according to George. have found themselves unable to file legitimate tax returns because identity thieves filed fraudulent tax returns for them first. one more year for his tax refund because an identity thief stole it already, The Huffington Post's Catherine New reported in April. tax refunds twice: once to the identity thief, and a second time to the legitimate recipient, according to the New York Times.锘?p> has finally spoken out about the backlash she received after she wore what appeared to be real fur.Earlier this week she was but instead of revealing if it was real or not (to animal rights organisation PETA as well as an awful lot of distressed little monsters), she cheekily name-checked the design house instead.Lady Gaga wore this fur coat as she met fans in Bulgaria earlier this week"For those press and such who are writing about whether or not my fur is actually real, please don't forget to credit the designer Hermes. Thank you," she wrote.Now the singer has taken to her to respond to the criticism, branding her fans concern as 'fair and applaudable' but still failed to comment on whether she's even worn real fur."To the fans. I want you to know that I care deeply about your feelings and views, and I will always support your philosophies about life," she wrote"I do not however support violent, abusive, and childish campaigns for any cause. Particularly one that I respect. Animal Rights."I am choosing not to comment on whether or not the furs I purchase are faux fur-pile or real because I would think it hypercritical [sic] not to acknowledge the python, ostrich, cow hide, leather, lamb, alligator, 'kermit' and not to mention meat, that I have already worn."Okaaaaaaaaay.Gaga was also spotted in this pink furry number last month"This should already put me in a category as one who appreciates and adores the beauty of animals in fashion, but am not a strict vegan. I have truly always stayed away from skinned fur, especially I have never been able to afford a nice one, but this does not mean my morals are rigid and that I won't bend at the sight of an absolute art piece of a coat."I have no chains about this. You see a carcass, I see a museum piece de resistance. But I am truly sorry to fans who are upset by this, it's a fair and applaudable feeling about the health and safety of animals. I respect your views, please respect mine."Right , that's that cleared up then.Also on HuffPost:锘?p>No wonder 's pooch, Fozzi, is looking worried. Despite previously stating she wouldn't wear real fur, it looks like Gaga might have had a change of heart. Well, meat is SO two years ago.The singer stepped out in what appeared to be a full length fur coat in Bulgaria yesterday and straight into a backlash for wearing the garment, but has yet to confirm if the fur is real or fake.Despite protests from many of her fans, the singer has remained tight-lipped on the origins of the coat but she did namecheck the design house in a Twitter message."For those press and such who are writing about whether or not my fur is actually real, please don't forget to credit the designer HERMES. Thank You! LOVE, gaga," she wrote.What a tease.But her fans - and animal welfare group PETA - remained unimpressed. One fan, writing on her official fansite , said: "How could you? That's so messed up, I thought you stood up for better values than fashion at the cost of animal suffering."Another said: "I love and respect you Lg, but which is it. You said you hated real fur but now you're wearing it??"Meanwhile, have reported that Dan Matthews, Senior Vice President of PETA, has sent Gaga a personal letter urging her to stop wearing real fur."Many of your gay fans, I among them, have long admired what you told Ellen," he wrote. "I hate fur, and I don't wear fur."What happened? Are your stylists telling you that it's fake, or are you a turncoat?'"By wearing those dumb furs in a heat wave, you're making yourself a target just like the mindless Kim Kardashian. As we plan our fall campaigns, please tell us whether what you gracefully told Ellen was heartfelt or just a pose."PETA have since posted a pic of a slaughtered rabbit on their with the message: What do you think? Is Gaga sending out the wrong message to her fans or is it her individual right? Vote below...Also on HuffPost:锘?p>Is Lady Gaga about to meet the fate of Kim Kardashian and get on a red carpet by animal rights activists for wearing fur? It would appear so, unless Gaga鈥檚 many gay fans are successful in a campaign launched in recent days to get the performer to explain a series of recent occasions on which she appears to be donning fur coats.People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is imploring Gaga鈥檚 LGBT fans to pressure the performer, who has said in the past, "." Dan Matthews of PETA, who is gay himself, wrote an open letter to Gaga which appeared on the widely-read gay blog on Monday, warning her of the consequences if she didn't offer an explanation, and then spoke out further on Tuesday, again warning Gaga directly that a flour-bombing is in her future. So far, the singer has been defiant, without exactly confirming if she鈥檚 been wearing fur, , "To those press and such who are writing about whether or not my fur is actually real, please don鈥檛 forget to credit the designer Hermes." 鈥淲e are a lot of Gaga fans here at PETA, a number of gay people are on staff, and among our members,鈥?Matthews said on my radio program on on Tuesday. 鈥淧ETA members helped lead protests against Chick-fil-A. We have a lot of crossover in the gay community. We were thrilled when Gaga went on 鈥淓llen鈥?[] and told her she doesn鈥檛 wear fur. And so, we were quite surprised this past year when we started seeing her wearing fur coats, and we wrote her so many letters asking if they were fake or not. We just got no reply.鈥?/p>PETA points to several appearances recently in which Gaga has worn what appears to be fur, including what鈥檚 been identified as a and an . She also appears in the movie poster for the new film "Machette Kills" wearing what Matthews says appears to be.Some bloggers, however, are defending Gaga, pointing to the Hermes coat she referenced in her tweet and it is "high-pile," a fake fur. Matthews claimed PETA confirmed with one shop that a coat with which Gaga left the store was indeed real fur.鈥淔all is coming and we need to know if she is a turncoat or not,鈥?Matthews said. 鈥淏ecause when you鈥檙e a public figure and you wear fur -- there are animals that are anally electrocuted, skinned alive, drowned, entrapped. They do horrible, horrible things to animals in the fur trade. She came out of a hotel in Bulgaria today holding her dog and wearing a big giant fur coat. I. We鈥檙e thrilled that she supports gay rights but to so brazenly support one of the most violent industries on the planet, she鈥檚 asking for it. When you wear fur so conspicuously you are setting yourself up to be targeted.鈥?/p>Gaga fans who are anti-fur have been tweeting the performer furiously in recent days, including openly bisexual "Good Wife" star Alan Cumming, who is an animal rights advocate: After Gaga's vague response about the designer of her coat, Cumming shot back: Kim Kardashian was by an animal rights activist after PETA launched a similar campaign against her. Matthews said the reality star has since been very reluctant to wear fur in public.鈥淲hen frivolous people like Kim Kardashian wear fur publicly and flaunt it, it sends a message that this is something that's a frivolous fashion,鈥?he said. 鈥淎lthough it was probably a PETA member who did the flour bomb of Kim Kardashian, there are people all over the place who are animal advocates, whether they鈥檙e PETA members or not, who will confront people who are public personalities, especially wearing fur. Gaga needed fair warning. We hope she will come to her senses and stop making such a bad example.鈥?/p>Mathews said he appealed to the LGBT community not just because much of Gaga鈥檚 fan base is gay, but also because he believes LGBT people are sympathetic to the plight of animals. 鈥淯s gays are better than that,鈥?he said. 鈥淲e can look at things more critically and can be a little bit more sophisticated and not support things that are cruel. Because, let鈥檚 face it, we鈥檝e all faced enough of a rough time from the ignorance and the arrogance that people have had toward gay rights.鈥?/p>Listen to the interview with Matthews here:Above, watch HuffPost Gay Voices Editor Noah Michelson and host/producer Ahmed Shihab-Eldin about this story and other hot topics.Earlier on HuffPost:锘?p>Pop sensation Lady Gaga made social networking history earlier this year when she became the But reports now claim that the as was once believed. Thanks to a The Huffington Post has discovered that, as of Tuesday, up to 72 percent of Gaga's 29 million Twitter followers are Called the research tool is said to highlight what percentage of a tweeter's followers are " They normally have no followers, but follow large numbers of people. An inactive account is one in which there has been no activity for a while. They could be real people, but we would describe them as consumers of information rather than sharers of information. A good account is everything that remains," StatusPeople executive Rob Waller told the Guardian. In Lady Gaga's case, it looks as if 34 percent of her followers are "fake," 38 percent are "inactive" and only 28 percent are considered "good."The pop star is not alone in the plight of the fake followers, however.According to an Lady Gaga, President Barack Obama, pop singer Rihanna and reality star Kim Kardashian are just a handful of the many Twitter superstars who have more potentially "bad" followers than good. Curious to see how many fake followers you have? Try out the StatusPeople tool Related on HuffPost:锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>There is no denying it anymore -- you are now down to the wire. Christmas is on Sunday, and no amount of scavenging through your freebies drawer is going to help you find the perfect gift for your dad.Now, as much as we want to help you -- -- we also know that sometimes, looking for a gift is something you have to do for yourself.So instead, we've compiled a list of some of the best gift shops across Canada, in no particular order. These are the places that, no matter who you're shopping for or how much you want to spend, are almost guaranteed to have what you're looking for. It's just a matter of patiently waiting at the cash. Good luck, and happy shopping!Do have you a favourite gift shop that didn't make our list? Let us know on Twitter at , or in the comments below. 锘?p>"I love showing off my city! I feel extremely proud and excited," The Webster CEO and co-founder Laure Heriard Dubreuil told The Huffington Post on the heels of Art Basel Miami Beach 2012. "I feel like I've been an ambassador of Miami for the past five years. People have this image of Miami that is ultra-superficial, when it's actually very rich culturally. I think it's important to share it with the world, especially with people who are so sophisticated and refined and people with such strong education."Heriard Dubreuil, who is engaged to artist Aaron Young and serves as a bit of a bridge between the fashion and art worlds, said that she hopes people visiting town for Art Basel recognize what a unique position Miami is in as a city."It's great to show that Miami is extremely rich culturally and booming financially," she said. "It's such an interesting city. It's such a strong financial city with such amazing weather, on the water. There are only a few cities in the world that are so strong economically and also on the beach."Over the coming week, Heriard Dubreuil will keep extra busy, shuttling between The Webster, the various art fairs and several exclusive events. She shared some of the events that are on her "must-see" list with The Huffington Post. Check them out below:Tuesday, December 4Wednesday, December 5Thursday, December 6Friday, December 7Saturday, December 8锘?p>Le Mans starts on Saturday, and Nissan have revealed their new Batman-inspired car to compete at the 24-hour-long driving event.The Nissan DeltaWing spearheads the Japanese manufacturer鈥檚 dominant entry to the 80th running, featuring a sleek black design which bares similarities to the Batmobile which appeared in the Tim Burton-directed Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).It features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a conventional Le Mans machines, meaning it uses half the fuel of its competitors.The car is so unique that it will compete in the race outside the regulations of Le Mans, wearing the number 鈥?鈥?and running from 鈥淕arage 56鈥? reserved exclusively for experimental racers.The Dark Knight's Batmobile in Batman Returns锘?p>"A Look Back" is a daily column that highlights a moment from fashion's fabulous past. Today's pick is of , walking in New York City on October 15, 1972. Don't you love her over-sized sunglasses, white fur coat and Hermes watch?WireImageTake a look out our previous photos in the slideshow below. CELEBRITY RELATED LINKS YOU MAY LOVE: - Lucky - The Cut - Daily Beast - InStyle - People Style Watch 锘?p>If you toss and turn when the lights go out, or find yourself examining the ceiling at 3:00 a.m., you are not alone. The Department of Health & Human Services estimates that more than one-quarter of the U.S. population suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime. And approximately 10 million people per year visit physicians complaining of insomnia, even though the average time it takes someone to seek professional help is 14 years 1.The personal cost of insomnia is much higher than an extra cup of coffee the next day -- it can be life threatening. A National Sleep Foundation Poll shows that 60 percent of people have driven while feeling sleepy, and in the last year, 37 percent admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. And there are long term consequences, including that people who suffer from sleep deprivation are 27 percent more likely to become overweight or obese. While the reasons for insomnia are complex and varied ranging from stress, depression, anxiety, fluctuating hormones, medications, to medical conditions, everyone can benefit from proven approaches that release many common obstacles to getting a peaceful night's rest. And it may come as a surprise that some of the best strategies to meet our contemporary sleep challenges date back to 4,000 to 1,000 B.C., arising from Babylonian and Sumerian cultures2.The most comprehensive way to ensure a good night's sleep uses both external and internal approaches. So before we whiz back in time to learn the perennial internal strategies for deep sleep, let's review some of the external considerations provided by The National Sleep Foundation:Once our external environment is sleep supporting, there is an even more significant way we can cultivate peaceful sleep. We can shape our internal environment using visualization. Visualization, also known as guided imagery and a close cousin of meditation and hypnosis, can shift brain wave activity, and specific images can be learned that promote the brain's movement toward deep, restful sleep. Some of the earliest documented philosophies of the power of images for sleep come from ancient Hermetic philosophy. While the origins of Hermes are unclear, the earliest writings are often attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, with some of his books referred to as the pastophorus or "image-bearing." In Greek mythology, Hermes was often described as the bringer of sleep and dreams.Visualization also shares roots with hypnosis. In ancient Greece, Hypnos preceded Hermes as the "God of Sleeping", and sleep temples existed in Greece, India and the Middle East playing an important healing role in the ancient societies. And while being in a hypnotic state is different than sleep, some of the deep relaxation methods are now adapted to relieve insomnia.Another ancient tradition whose practices can help alleviate insomnia is yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, considered the foundation text for yoga, were written in approximately 200 B.C. The behavioral science journal, "Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback" published a study showing the benefits of yoga for both falling asleep and staying asleep. Because cognitive and physiological arousal is known to be a major factor in chronic insomnia, this study reported positive results using a form of yoga which included the calming benefits of relaxation and meditation.Yoga Nidra, nidra being the Sanskrit word for sleep, is a branch of yoga which strongly incorporates guided visualization. And while yoga nidra is "dynamic sleep" in which you maintain a level of awareness more attentive than the sleep we seek at night, the tools for conscious relaxation carry over into creating the conditions necessary for deepening into restorative sleep.When you've snuggled into your bed and are ready to sleep tonight, let these images carry you into deep restorative sleep.Unwind: Imagine in your mind's eye a small ball of yarn. See this ball of yarn as holding the last little bit of residual tension you may have. Find the tip of the yarn and watch as the ball of yarn begins to roll slowly, unwinding as it moves. See the strand of yarn unfurling and resting on the floor, becoming longer as it continues to roll slowly. Sense the decompressing. Feel the spaciousness around it now. As you watch the yarn, feel also the unwinding of any residual tension within you. Like tiny muscle fibers softening, watch as the ball continues to release from its very core, the soft yarn now stretched out, open, and completely at rest. Sleep Dome: With your eyes closed, imagine an energetic barrier shaped like a dome arching over you providing safety and comfort. This protective dome is where deep restfulness and sleep occur. Notice the shape, the size and the color of your protective shield, and adjust it until it is just right. Know that outside of the shield, anything you need to attend to during the day is separated from you. It will be there tomorrow, when the time is right. Dial it Down: Just as you've adjusted the light in the room just the way you want it, whether it's pitch black or with some soft light, imagine doing the same inside yourself. Take a moment to imagine dialing down light behind your eyelids to a same restful setting within. Do the same with sound. You know all those voices that accompany you during the day, like the ones that remind you of tasks, imagine dialing down the volume on all those internal voices, and imagine keeping the volume off for the same amount of time you intend to sleep. River of Sleep: Consider that on many occasions in your life, you've been carried easily from wakefulness into sleep, as easily as a leaf floating on a stream. Like a river with a set course, a part of you already knows the way to restful sleep. Let yourself be carried now, just let go. Feel yourself being carried on that safe and gentle current into deep, deep rest and finally sleep.Sweet dreams.References:* * * * *Leslie Davenport is the author of the classic book on self-healing "Healing and Transformation Through Self-Guided Imagery." A pioneer in the health care revolution that recognizes psychospiritual dimensions as an integral part of health, she is a founding member of the Institute for Health & Healing at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, serves on the faculty of John F. Kennedy University, and is a clinical supervisor with the California Institute of Integral Studies. Visit Leslie on Red Room.锘?p>In my last post I mentioned that I my new goal was to do a triathlon. Is this goal different from any fitness goals I have ever set for myself? Is this goal really just a bunch of fitness goals combined together? No, this goal was far out of my comfort zone. The bigger question became, "How can I motivate myself to train for a triathlon?" I know of two things that motivate me: sharing my goals with a friend (besides Hermes) and paying for the race. Once you share a goal, you will only embarrass yourself if you don't follow through. Also, for me, spending money is always a great motivator because my money is hard-earned and I don't want to waste it. There are four distances in triathlon: Sprint Distance is 0.5 mile swim / 15.7 mile bike / 3.1 mile run; Olympic Distance is 0.9 mile swim / 24.8 mile bike / 6.2 mile run; Half Iron Man is 1.2 mile swim / 56 mile bike / 13.1 mile run; and Iron Man is 2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run. I settled on and paid for a sprint distance race in Philadelphia called the . Next I told friends and posted on Facebook, which meant there was no turning back.Next step was figuring out how to train. I did some research and found a book by Joe Friel, the Triathlete's Training Bible. In order to train properly for a sprint distance race, I had to swim three times a week, bike three times a week, and run three times a week for at least an hour each time for each sport. Once I did the research, I recalled why I had only toyed with the thought of doing a triathlon -- the time commitment. In order to train, I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. (I was already getting up at 5:15 a.m., so what is 45 minutes?) to walk the dog before starting training. I had a place to swim, since the gym I belong to has a pool. Bike training in the winter would be indoors at spin classes. I could borrow a road bike from someone when it came time to train outside. I would have to start running again... I hadn't run consistently in a couple of years because of injuries.I like to swim -- really I do -- but trying to motivate myself to get into a pool at 5:00 a.m. was hard. On cold winter mornings, the pool water feels much colder than it really is. So my motivation became, "You have to go to the pool, otherwise you will embarrass yourself come race day." I didn't want to be "that" person. On days that I really didn't want to get out of my warm bed, I used the same motivation for running and biking.I discovered the meaning of a brick workout. A brick is when you run immediately after you bike in order to train your legs to adapt to running off the bike. The word "brick" is very apropos in this case because bricks are exactly what your legs feel like. Or, as I like to say, "I have to be wearing the legs of another person." What I didn't know during my training is that a triathlon is all about the run! (More on running in my next post).Three years ago when I started triathlon training, I discovered some terrific benefits, and these benefits continue to motivate me today. One benefit is that I fell in love with biking. There is something powerful and satisfying about taking a long a bike on a beautiful day. Another benefit is the social aspect of triathlon. You make new friends in the triathlon community. Endurance sports tend to bring people together because you can relate to the "war" stories. The triathlon community even has its own language: bricks, 70.3, 140.6, bonking; burning your matches, blowing up on the run, T1, T2, OWS, to name a few.Another bonus is how my diet has changed. I now have to consider carefully what I eat because what I put in my mouth becomes fuel for my training. Additionally, the proper foods help with recovery after each workout. When I did some research, I found that the body recovers better when you have protein and carbohydrates (fruits and veggies, not pasta and bread) within 30 minutes of completing a training session (see recipe below).But the most satisfying benefit of all was the race! All the training paid off and I finished with a great sense of accomplishment. I also discovered that I am good at triathlons. I placed second in my age group, in my first race, with a pretty decent time. These are the things that motivate me! Hermes had a pretty good race too, but he only beat me by three minutes.In my next post I will talk about "The run." Recovery Smoothie -- in a blender录 cup plain greek yogurtBananaHandful each of blueberries and strawberries1 scoop of whey protein isolate (I buy online at Amazon)录 teaspoon of raw cacaoTbs of chia seeds (sold at Whole Foods)Tbs of flax (grind in a coffee grinder, much cheaper this way)Handful of Goji Berries (you can buy online)6 oz of orange juice锘?p>Before I tell you about how I stay in shape and what motivates me, let me introduce myself.I am 57 and happily married with seven grown children (two girls and five boys) and fourgrandchildren (all boys). Wow -- right? So life for me has been busy for a long time.I have been active my entire life. I started skiing when I was seven, took six years of balletand began swimming at a very young age. I grew up in Michigan, and we always went to thelakes in the summer and swam competitively through high school. I also did gymnastics, played basketball (why not? At 5 foot 7, I was considered tall back in the day), ran track, rode horses ... I am exhausted just writing about it. My parents didn't push me into these things; rather, I always asked to do more.I stayed active before, during and after my children were born. I can still recall the first Pepsi10K race I ran when I was 24. Running races was just starting to become popular, and Pepsiwas one of the first big sponsors. My sister-in-law and I consistently ran three miles about fivedays a week when we decided to do the local Pepsi 10K race. Keep in mind, we had never run six miles and certainly not at a race pace. During the race, about three miles in, we started throwing the water from the water stations on each other to keep going. For three days after the race I walked down steps backwards because my quadriceps were so sore. But I did keep running and racing! We didn't have much money, and what little money we had went to diapers and food, so buying new running shoes was out of the question. I found a product called Shoe Goo. When applied to the worn-out portion of your running shoes, you could cover holes and even out the worn edges and heels.One of my oldest daughter's earliest memories was standing at a finish line next to her dadwaiting for me. My husband always had something for me to drink when I finished. Celesterecalls that the day was very hot, and she kept begging her dad for some of the orange juicehe was holding for me (a half gallon!). He wouldn't give any to her because he wanted tomake sure I rehydrated at the end of the race. (I think the real reason is he didn't want to hear me complain.)I should mention my husband here -- he doesn't want me to write his name so going forward, he will be called "Hermes," the Greek god of Herds, Trade and Athletics, so it fits. He is also French so it fits from that perspective too (though he's hardly one to wear designer duds). My oldest thinks Hermes is trying to run away from cancer -- he had prostate cancer a few years ago and has been more obsessed with fitness since then. In fact, he was on our NordicTrac the night he came home from his surgery.Flash forward to a few years ago. Both of us, of course, had been staying fit by running,swimming, participating in spin classes, etc. I had been toying with the idea of doing a triathlon for a while, but didn't think I had enough time to commit to the training. I have a full-time job at a major Philadelphia university that is pretty demanding, and Hermes also works full time. But suddenly, three Januaries ago, Hermes declares we need a goal -- we should do a triathlon. Why not? I can swim and run, and how hard can the bike be?What motivates me to train and stay and shape? I can name many reasons that you haveprobably seen a thousand times and are very good to consider when you think about your health. First, I truly enjoy running, swimming and biking, but they are also my therapy. Workingout not only relieves my stress, it helps me sort out work issues as well as general day-to-dayproblems. If I am upset, it calms me down (swimming 3000 yards has that effect, since it relaxes my mind). The health benefits are phenomenal. I feel terrific, have a lot of energy and rarely get sick. These are the things that motivate me.EARLIER ON HUFFPOST:10 Exercises For After 50锘?p>This past Sunday, June 24, Hermes and I both participated in the (Olympic distance). I love this race because the route includes some of the most beautiful and interesting areas of Philadelphia. The .9-mile swim starts at the Saint Joe's boathouse, east side of the Schuylkill River, and ends on the west side of the river at the transition area. This swim is very calming thanks to the trees and greenery lining the river banks, causing you to forget that you are swimming in a river that divides a major US city.The 24.8-mile bike leg of the race is two loops through and includes part of the bike course used in race. Fairmount Park is a large urban municipal park system and is really beautiful and I like to think of it as an oasis in my city. The 6.2-mile run is an out-and-back on Martin Luther King Drive.I had a great race and felt very strong the entire time. I admit I was somewhat apprehensive about my ability to recover fully after the grueling only two weeks prior. The results speak for themselves -- consistency in training (remember, I wrote that consistency is key in ). My only hiccup was around mile 4 of the run; my right hamstring started to seize up so I slowed down a little and massaged the problem area as I ran. The pain subsided and I was able to resume my pace and finish strong. I placed fourth in my age group but even better... I beat Hermes by four minutes! Hermes' penchant for adventure never ceases to amaze and entertain me. Before I go into details I will first set the stage -- how the transition area for a triathlon is set up. The transition area is set with for bikes and each row/rack has a specific set of numbers assigned to it. The biggest reason for this is so that everyone has the same advantage/disadvantage. One way to think about this: if your bike is racked right next to bike out/bike in you don't have far to go, but the guy on the other side of the transition area does. In order to put you and the other guy on a level playing field, the run out for you will be on the other side of the transition area and the other guy is right next to the run out. Each rack is lined with stickers in numerical order that coincide with the athletes' bib numbers. In Hermes case, his number was 630.One of the first things an athlete does the morning of the race is to rack their bike in the designated spot and set up their gear in order of use. Bike shoes, helmet, and glasses are in the front and the running shoes, running belt and possible hat are right behind. You do not have a lot of room, think of an area that is a pair of shoes wide and two of pair shoes deep. The next thing an athlete does -- which is probably the most important -- is to look for quick ways to locate your bike rack when you are coming in from the swim and from the bike. There are two reasons for this: the obvious one is that there are two thousand bikes in transition, and the second reason is you are somewhat disoriented from exerting yourself during the swim and bike. I had a wonderful locater on Sunday -- a utility pole -- and it led me right to my transition area each time.Hermes' adventure began when he finished his bike leg. He came into transition and found his bike rack but went up the wrong side! He racked his bike in the spot he thought was his and put on running shoes only to discover they weren't his! At this point he became very flustered and shouted out, "Where is my transition spot?" A sympathetic participant told him he was on the wrong side of the rack. He then had to quickly unrack his bike and rack it in the correct spot -- precious time was lost -- but not enough to say that was the reason I beat him! Hermes often has transition adventures (he is not as obsessive as I am about setting up his area and preparing his things, and our daughter always reminds him that he should be). Once he pulled what he thought was an energy gel out of his backpack (not a good idea, the gel should have been set up with his running shoes) and took off on the run. About a mile into the run he tore the top of the "gel" only to discover it was a shampoo sample. I am always entertained by Hermes! So ends the Mellet Tri Tour -- four triathlons in five weeks. I am doing the Philadelphia (sprint distance) on August 5 but our next big one is the (half ironman) on September 30. There will be many training stories! Next Sunday, July 8 we are doing a century (100 miles) ride for the .锘?p>I am sure you have noticed that as we get older our bodies do not perform as they did in our 20s, 30s, and yes, 40s. Not a big news item but it is important to bear in mind as you work to stay fit after 50. When I started running again, I noticed that I could no longer pound out a 7:30 or 8:00 minute mile -- I had lost a step or two, or possibly three. In addition to my slower pace, I experienced frequent injuries (aging is not fun). As I discussed in my previous posts, triathlons are all about the run! I competed in three triathlons my first year racing. My run time for each was terrible, with an average pace of 9:30 miles. I didn't expect to have blazing speed after swimming and biking, but 9:30 miles seemed crazy! Additionally, no matter if I ran on fresh legs or tired legs, my hamstrings felt like they were on a rack. While I understood why I was slower (I didn't want to accept it, but did comprehend it) I was concerned about my hamstring issue. I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to continue with another season of triathlons I needed a running coach.Enter . John is a local Philadelphia running coach and came highly recommended. For our first session he had me take a to locate my areas of weakness. I was surprised to learn that my core strength and core timing were lacking (how could this be, I swim, bike, and run). Core timing is very important for running, it is the "firing" or "engaging" of your core. One image I like to use for core timing is the ignition of the car -- once you fire up the ignition you are ready to go.To address my weaknesses, John started me doing exercises that at the time seemed rather silly. From my hands and knees, with a water bottle at the base of my back, I had to lift my right leg and left arm and point them in and the water bottle had to stay on my back. Try it and you will be surprised at how hard it is. He gave me various other core strengthening exercises to do daily (AND yes, they all seemed silly). What made sense to me is something that I now do every day before I workout -- a dynamic six minute warm-up. Instead of doing static stretches on cold muscles, I now warm up with movement. This type of warm-up gets me into the flow of the run before I start (as well as the swim and bike). After a few sessions John introduced weights for strengthening. One exercise in particular helped my hamstrings -- the dead lift. After a couple months my hamstrings felt stronger and didn't hurt when I ran. Another bonus -- I could keep the water bottle on my back. Realizing that maybe John was on to something, I faithfully did strength training twice a week along with core strengthening. We also talked a lot about running form, power from the core, and core timing. I kept these concepts in mind every time I ran. John told me that I shouldn't be running fast every work-out, that I should mix it up and run slow, at least two minutes slower per mile than I would run in a race. I didn't need to beat myself up with every work-out -- a revelation!Hermes also went to John for a couple of sessions. He was experiencing different running issues -- planter fasciitis and he was a heel striker. John gave Hermes exercises for his planter fasciitis and taped Hermes running so he could see what he was doing wrong. Hermes spent last year doing the exercises and changing his running form to a mid-foot strike. Hermes ran his first marathon last October, the , in 4 hours and 5 seconds after only 6 weeks of training -- and faster than our 30-something son who trained for months.My first big running test after I started training with John came last June at the . I was doing the Olympic distance, .9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run. Drum roll -- my average running pace was 8:45 minute miles. Forty-five seconds faster per mile than the prior year. All the hard work and silly exercises paid off and then some!The second big test came in August at the Triathlon in Philadelphia. SheROX is a sprint distance race and I had done the race the prior year and averaged a 9:30 pace. Drum roll again -- this time I averaged a 8:29 pace -- 59 seconds faster per mile. Note to any woman who is considering a triathlon. The triathlon series is awesome - no men allowed! So what is the big take away here? For me the first big step came when I recognized that I had to change my approach to running rather than giving up running. I couldn't take my body for granted anymore, I had to help it along with strengthening and core exercises. I learned to be patient and remind myself that this process would get me to my fitness goals, running without pain and running faster. I also learned not to beat myself up during every work-out. I know now that it is still important to work hard and push my lactate threshold pace to improve endurance, but it is just as important to go slow.Finally, setting fitness goals is very important. What do you want to achieve? In my case the first goal was to run without pain. Once achieved, I was able to run faster. To avoid setting yourself up for failure, fitness goals should start small, and escalate as you accomplish each goal. The sense of each accomplishment is very rewarding.锘?p>As I mentioned in a previous blog, I have already set my 2012 fitness goals. One of these is to participate in the in San Francisco on June 10. Many have told me I am crazy for wanting to do this event. Who in their right mind would choose to swim a mile and a half from Alcatraz to shore, bike 18 miles through hilly San Francisco and then run 8 miles (includes the 400 equinox sand steps). Occasionally, I question my own sanity. Biking and running aside, I want to focus this post on the trials and tribulations of the triathlon swimming leg -- the most treacherous part of the Alcatraz event.I have been a swimmer my entire life. I grew up in Michigan and learned how to swim in the state's beautiful lakes. I was on the team at our local swim club and then competed on my high school team -- I am no stranger to competitive swimming. That said, nothing can prepare a new convert for a triathlon swim start -- it is something that must be experienced to be appreciated. The most important word to describe the start is survival. There are a few different types of swim starts. During a once the horn goes off, everyone in the wave runs into the water at the same time and starts swimming. As you might expect, there is an incredible sorting out of the bodies and during that period, there is a lot of contact. You get kicked, slapped and sometimes swam over (I've been guilty of swimming over slower competitors). The water becomes a huge washing machine and most tend to swallow a lot of water at the start.Another type of start is called an , which I prefer because I can position myself in front and near the furthest buoy. There is still some contact, but not to the same extent as a beach start. However, the washing machine effect at the start is the same, and there is no avoiding the occasional drink of water.The other type of start, and the one I am dreading, is for competitors to jump like off the San Francisco Belle into the 54 degree brackish water of the San Francisco Bay. Anyone who knows me understands how much I hate being cold. In fact, I am more concerned about the temperature of the water than I am worried about the risk of sharks. I admit it, I am a cold water sissy and my children constantly remind me of this! I alternate between thinking about the thousands of people who do this event every year (so it can't be too bad, right?) and how much I hate being cold. I am hoping that on the day of the race just being with the other triathletes on the boat ride to the starting point will calm me. We are all in the same "boat" so to speak.How am I preparing for a swim like this? has me doing a lot of strength swimming (i.e. pulling with paddles or swim gloves). I plan to attend open water swims that begin the first week of May (Saturday mornings at 6:30 a.m.). I hope there is a dock so I can practice jumping into the cold water, shocking the body. Hermes and I are doing a short triathlon in Sea Isles City, NJ at the end of May. The swim is in the ocean and the water will definitely be cold. We are going to San Francisco the week before the Alcatraz race to practice swimming in the cold Bay every day. Hermes and I can also visit Napa and Sonoma -- someone has to taste the wine!I also bought a book on open water swimming with a chapter on acclimating to cold water. One suggestion was to wear thinner clothing outside in the winter and skip the gloves and hat. I tried it and quickly abandoned the idea -- very uncomfortable, to say the least. After obsessing about the cold water I found the perfect way to think about the swim on - swim like you are going to drown. This "mantra" runs through my mind each time I get into the pool and on race day I am pretty certain it will motivate me to swim fast and get the h#^* out of the cold water.So why am I doing this and why would I set a crazy goal for myself? I have been told by fellow triathletes who have participated in the Alcatraz triathlon that it is one of the most spectacular races, truly a bucket list event.By participating in triathlons, I have also learned that stepping out of my comfort zone brings big rewards.锘?p>The Mellet Tri Tour (continued)Race #3 - After the race we quickly drove home and packed for San Francisco. We were scheduled to fly out of Philadelphia first thing Monday morning, June 4. Our plan included staying at our son Vince's apartment in the. When we arrived, I realized that his apartment overlooks Alcatraz! I was going to stare at my nemesis all week. My stomach started doing flip-flops and the voice started again -- you are crazy! To relieve stress and loosen my legs I went for a two mile run. Tuesday morning it was time to acclimate to the cold water, so Hermes and I went to to swim in the bay. We met a local man named Doren who showed us how to get into the Aquatic Club that has hot showers and a sauna. We also spoke with another local named Eric who gave me some important swimming tips from Alcatraz. Both of these men swam in the bay without -- I repeat, without -- wetsuits (water temperature is approximately 56 degrees) everyday.I am not as brave when it comes to cold water -- anyone in my family will tell you so -- so I put on my wetsuit, neoprene bonnet, latex swim cap and goggles and walked into the water. It was not as bad as I anticipated so I started swimming. My hands and feet weren't cold but my jaw went numb -- again, not what I expected. I finished the swim and felt both relieved and confident about swimming from Alcatraz on Sunday. Of course, I couldn't talk for about 15 minutes because my jaw was so numb, but I didn't care since I wouldn't need to speak after my swim during the race.Hermes and I went swimming again on Wednesday morning. This time I wasn't cold at all. In fact, Hermes's hands and feet were freezing. My confidence grew as a result! We rode the bike course on Thursday morning -- again it wasn't as bad as I anticipated. My confidence continued to grow -- I was going to nail this race.Saturday was spent picking up my race packet, getting body marked and going to the athlete meeting. One thing to note: We were told the current would be strong. I went to bed at 9:00 p.m. because I had to get up at 3:15 a.m. for the race. Pre-race I ate a banana, drank a little coffee, bike to and set up my transition area, took the bus to the pier, and then the boat with 2,000 other athletes to . I don't think I slept all night. In my mind I was either swimming or biking or running.On the boat ride to the island I met really wonderful people from all over the world, including Merry from Houston, Texas. She was doing the race again because she had a terrible swim last year and had to be picked up by one of the kayaks (or as us swimmers call it -- the shame boat). She wanted to redeem herself -- I call that guts!The 1.5 mile swimOnce we arrived at the island, everyone zipped up their wetsuits and put on their caps and goggles. The National Anthem played, raising the tension (oh, my stomach...). The horn went off and the pros jumped into the bay. The horn went off again and the rest of us started jumping off the boat into the bay. In I went, and began swimming toward my first sighting point, the Fontana Apartment buildings. I felt great and swam at a fairly decent pace. My next sighting point came into view -- the trees at Fort Mason, then the next point, .All of a sudden, another woman and I continuously collided. It was as though we were magnets. A volunteer came over on a surf board and tells us that we are stuck in an eddy and to swim to our left out of the eddy. Once I did, the wheels started to come off because the current really picked up. I told myself not to fight the current and just continue to sight and relax. Relaxing was very difficult; the swells were tossing me around like a row boat in the middle of the ocean.Time to sight the . Wow, I had been in the water for what seemed like an eternity. I could see the beach (swim exit) and I passed it! The current was really strong. I tried to swim back to the beach against the current -- no luck. At that point, I decided to swim to the rocks that are past the beach and walk over them to the beach and timing mat. I looked around me and about 200 or so other athletes were doing the same thing. I guess I wasn't the only one having a problem with the current! My son snapped my picture as I came out of the water -- I have a big scowl on my face because I was upset about the swim. He sent it to the family with the following caption, "I haven't seen mom this mad since I told her to shut-up 20 years ago." I knew my swim time wasn't good but I had to let it go because I still had the bike and run left. One of the volunteers helped me strip off my wetsuit and I ran a half mile to transition. I do not recall how I got to transition because my equilibrium was off balance and I felt drunk.The 18-mile hilly bikeOnce I arrived in transition, I quickly put on my bike helmet, glasses and bike shoes. I still felt very woozy and needed nutrition. I knew if I ate a whole gel packet at this point I would get sick, so I rode the first mile and half sucking on the gel pack. I also drank from my bottle of Cytomax and started to feel better. I started to approach the first hill...It wasn't too bad. In fact, the hilly bike ride was a lot of fun (thank you Barry for all the hill workouts). The scenery was phenomenal. We rode by the through the Presidio and to the Pacific on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before I knew it, I was back in transition and putting on my running gear. The 8-mile hilly trail runI knew before the race that the run was going to be a challenge, but I was really psyched up for it after my bike leg. About one mile into the run, we turned onto the trail path. It started out flat, but we quickly started to climb. We climbed up 300 feet on a trail, up steps, through a Civil War tunnel and up a path that had two-way traffic because other runners were on their loop back. If you got stuck behind someone slow you had to pass them once the coast was clear! Up and up we went -- thank you for the Lemon Hill repeats -- until I saw Baker Beach. The run then went down steps to Baker Beach for the difficult mile run on the beach -- again, thank you Barry for the beach fartleks -- I felt really good. In fact, we were all joking with each other. One topic that came up was the current during the swim. Athletes who had competed in the race before said they had never experienced such a strong current. This made me feel a little better.As I turned around on Baker Beach, in front of me was a spectacular sight: The Golden Gate Bridge was just to my left and was surrounded by mist. Life couldn't get better than this! As I looked to my right, I could see the other runners climbing the 400 steps of the Equinox Sand Ladder, one of the last tests of the race. Up the sand ladder I went, using the plastic coated cable to help me get up the steps so I don't sink too far into the sand. It wasn't too bad, and I was actually enjoying it -- thank you for all my strengthening exercises -- my hamstrings were holding up quite nicely.After the sand ladder, there was more climbing and then we headed back down the trail and through the Civil War tunnel. Finally, the last two miles were flat. I was feeling really good and had enough left in the tank to step it up. I could hear the announcer calling out the names of the other finishers. I was getting close... I could see the finish... I was running through the finish shoot, I couldn't stop smiling... I heard the announcer call my name... I did it! I escaped from Alcatraz, then rode 18 miles and then ran 8 miles. Despite my awful swim I finished second in my age group. Next up -- the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon (Olympic Distance) on Sunday, June 24锘?p>Last Sunday was a beautiful day in the northeast so I went for a two hour bike ride with Hermes. During the ride, I reflected upon how I viewed cycling in the past and how those views are different today. Until three years ago, my biking experiences included riding with my friends as a child and getting from point A to point B as an adult. I don't count spin classes as "cycling" because they are crazy intense classes that require jumping up and down and pushing as hard as possible for 45 minutes to an hour.I viewed cyclists as lazy because they sat as they rode -- how hard can riding be if you are sitting? I had a good reason for viewing cyclists as lazy. During the time we lived in the suburbs, on most Sunday mornings, a gaggle of cyclists would ride by our house and a few would end up at the local bagel shop after their ride. My observation at the bagel shop was this: none of them looked particularly fit and none of them should have been wearing spandex (enough said about spandex!) thus creating my bias of lazy cyclists.I continued to think this way until I started taking Pure Cycling class at the local gym. After my first class with Barry I walked out soaked with sweat and so hungry that I could chew my arm off (still true today). Also, he didn't have you jumping up and down or pedaling as fast as possible. Instead, Barry taught the true fundamentals of cycling; no dead spots in pedal strokes, smooth and circular with a cadence of 90 RPMs, pushing lactose threshold levels, and good form. My take away from his class was that by cycling properly I can teach my body to push its endurance level far above what I ever thought possible. What makes Barry different is that he isn't one of those 20-something spin instructors normally at the gym and he does not look like the Sunday cyclists I observed in the bagel shop. In fact Barry is in his early 50s and is extremely fit. To give you an idea how fit -- he qualified and raced at the I in Kona, Hawaii when he turned 50 in October 2009. Before I tell you his time let me give you some benchmark times. The top male pro finisher, , who by the way is 39 years old, finished the 2011 race in 8:03:56. The average age grouper finishes somewhere between 11:30 and 12:30 hours. In 2009 Barry finished the race in 10:19:52. In 2011 he again qualified for Kona and raced on October 8, 2011. Two years later (and two years older) his time improved to a sub 10-hour Ironman 09:54:34. So I was lucky to have this really awesome person teaching me how to cycle properly. This year Barry is helping me train for all my races (my 2012 goals and training are a blog for another day).I discovered that cycling has an intellectual component as well. In addition to learning the fundamentals of cycling, I had to learn about bikes! I am very grateful that Hermes is an engineer because he helped me in this capacity. All I knew was there were big chain rings and small chain rings but what they did was a mystery to me. I can proudly say that I now understand big chain rings and small chain rings as well as change a tire. I will admit getting a flat during a race terrifies me even though I can change a tire. Let's just say I am not the fastest tire changer around and the first time I get a flat in a race well...I will lose at least 5 - 10 minutes.I now appreciate bikes as machines. Today I would rather get a new bike (Hermes if you are reading this I am coveting the ) than other gifts, including jewelry.I had other learning experiences along the way such as how to ride a bike with clip in pedals. Cycling shoes have clips on them that latch onto special pedals and take some getting used to. Learning to do this resulted in some embarrassing moments! When you stop with clip in pedals you are supposed to lean on the side you unclip (if you unclip your right foot you should lean to the right). There were times when I pulled up to a crowd of cyclists, unclipped, leaned to wrong side, and fell. Not my finest moments.Another learning experience came when I had to fuel during long bike rides. My favorite cycling fuel is peanut butter on whole grain bread because it does not upset my stomach. I feel like I am back in grade school when I make them because I cut them into quarters. The quarters allow Hermes and me to fuel every 45 minutes to an hour.But the bottom line here is I fell in love with cycling. To me it is wonderful experience to ride long distances and commune with nature (I can't believe I just said that but it is how I feel). Following Hermes has improved my strength and overall speed because he is stronger than me. Also, I was driven by pride: I had the choice to stare at his butt for hours or get stronger and ride in front of him from time to time. Cycling is also very social -- hence the Sunday cyclists that I judged so harshly. Hermes and I go for long bike rides together. We also enjoy riding with other groups such as the . Little did I know that cycling is a great form of fitness with the added bonus of enjoying the company of others. An important tip: make sure that you have your bike fitted! This is relatively inexpensive and can save you from injuries and other uncomfortable occurrences during a long ride.锘?p>Sorry I haven't blogged for a while, but training, racing and work have kept me busy. As I type this, I am sitting on a plane from San Francisco back to Philadelphia after the . Before I blog about the race, let me catch you up on my racing and training.Hermes and I ran the in Philadelphia on May 3. I first started running this race in 1997, when only 5,000 athletes participated. This year there were over 30,000 runners! Hermes and I both ran well and improved our respective times by two minutes over last year. Two minutes is significant -- especially at my age -- and proof that the hard training is paying off. Training for Alcatraz intensified after Broad Street, including running and biking hills and strength swimming. My legs were constantly fatigued, but I stuck with it because I have learned that consistent training is the key to finishing a race.The Mellet Tri TourRace #1 - Tri for Our VetsHermes and I did a super sprint triathlon (400 meter ocean swim, 8 mile bike and a 5K run) in Sea Isle City, New Jersey on May 26 as a tune-up for our upcoming events. We like this triathlon because it is for a good cause, raising money for our veterans -- in Memory of Matt McCulley. We were happy to have our friends Ray and Tara in Sea Isle racing with us. The weather was spectacular -- not too hot and not too cold. Even the ocean temperature wasn't bad, about 64 degrees. All four of us had a great race. Tara placed 2nd in her age group, Ray placed 8th in his age group (his age group is very competitive!), Hermes placed 4th in his and I placed 1st in mine. And I beat Hermes! He wasn't too happy and wouldn't high five me when he found out. Let's just say I don't think he will let me beat him again. (To his credit, Hermes swallowed a lot of water at the beginning of his swim and it affected his race, in particular his run. As a result of swallowing all that water Hermes breathing was very labored during his run.)Race #2 - Rev3, QuassyThe following Sunday, June 3 was the second leg of our tri tour. Hermes participated in a half ironman in Middlebury, Connecticut. The race is part of the Rev3 tri series. Our friends Harvey and also competed. To refresh your memory, a half ironman distance is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. I was there as a spectator and cheerleader.The weather on the day of the race was once again spectacular. As Hermes came out of the water, he pumped his arms and hooted. Needless to say he had a terrific swim, a far cry from his previous race. He also had a great bike and run on a tough hilly course and finished in six and half hours (sounds long, huh). Harvey had a great race, too, and finished just a little after Hermes. Barry... well he is a beast. He finished 23rd overall in the time of 4 hours and 44 minutes. I am beginning to think he is not from planet earth.After the race we drove home and packed for our trip to San Francisco. Our flight was scheduled for early Monday morning, June 4.Next up, race number three of the Mellet Tri Tour... Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.锘?p>Last Sunday was a beautiful day in the northeast so I went for a two hour bike ride with Hermes. During the ride, I reflected upon how I viewed cycling in the past and how those views are different today. Until three years ago, my biking experiences included riding with...锘縕jYtkDCkdAyp8M3LFRgy7xTFj%2BgLssdqc6jgUpMjsEkGG%2BC0r9Cxz1nGR%2Bj7%2BMI04JV0LjXrd%2F2KVVCWNvUUwkUMAi7dTbqiUKJ8yDpsTJGNp0GEdw0Q8tQq%2FHBol2Va锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>WHO: Kourtney Kardashian.WHAT: The eldest sister opted for a sleek black and white short-suit combo complete with metal collar tips. Kourt chose to pair her look with bold accessories -- orange Herm猫s Birkin bag and Christian Louboutin snakeskin pumps.WHERE: She was spotted with at the Sears Headquarters to discuss their fashion line on July 21 in San Francisco, Ca.Meanwhile, if you're loving Kourt's orange pout as much as we are, make sure you learn how to . 锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>Admitting that she paid $500 for a new floral print Vera Wang bag, Adriana Castro couldn鈥檛 help but blush.鈥淚 got it on sale two months ago,鈥?the hospital coordinator said quietly, away from the ears of her teenage niece. 鈥淚t was originally $2,250. And it鈥檚 something different, not like your typical black or brown leather.鈥?/p>On a recent Saturday at mall in Los Angeles -- where nearly everyone sports a sparkling logo or three -- Castro wasn鈥檛 shopping, but hanging out with her family. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 shop as much as I used to,鈥?she said. 鈥淓specially for splurgy items, clothes, shoes. With the economy, you try to be more conscious.鈥?/p>Still, it鈥檚 hard to resist a good sale once in a while when, at least for the moment, you have a job. Castro wasn鈥檛 the only one to treat herself this holiday season. Industry insiders have noticed a comeback of what they call 鈥渁spirational shoppers鈥?-- those women and men who spend big chunks of their incomes on bags, watches, gadgets and other status symbols. Armed with credit cards, they鈥檙e charging "affordable" luxury brands like Michael Kors -- the self-proclaimed " -- toward whirlwind success.But are these luxuries really affordable? In an economic recovery that is still itself , some are worried that the return of middle-class overspenders is no more than a relapse in disguise.Armine Melkonyan, 35, of Los Angeles, bought the classic quilted Chanel "Timeless" bag in December after obsessing over it for nearly two years, paying with a credit card. The price? $2,100, according to a sales representative at the Beverly Hills Chanel store. Melkonyan doesn鈥檛 have a job right now -- she鈥檚 a student at the Los Angeles City College -- but says the money isn鈥檛 a problem. "You just have to keep up with the bills every month,鈥?she said.Banks, it seems, are just as relaxed as Melkonyan, handing out cards with uncharacteristic generosity. Bank of America, for one, saw a 50 percent surge in new during the last three months of 2011, compared to the same period of 2010. In November, meanwhile, rose 7 percent, according to merchant processing company First Data.Stores noticed the change. Luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the biggest winners in the 2011 holiday retail tussle, reported same-store sales up 7.7 percent in the last three months of 2011, which it credited in part to middle class shoppers.鈥淵ou are clearly seeing aspirational customers starting to shop,鈥?CEO said on the company鈥檚 earnings call with analysts last week.Of everything sold at Saks, handbags did particularly well. Macy鈥檚, a mid-range department store, saw similar trends. 鈥淚 think [the customer] really wants designer and logo right now,鈥?said Russell Orlando, Macy鈥檚 accessories fashion director in an interview. 鈥淭he whole classic piece in leather at a higher price point is driving the business ... It鈥檚 been going on a year now.鈥?/p>The aspirational "look" is becoming a fashion trend, as well. Michael Kors, one of retail's most profitable brands, has championed the aesthetic with logo-covered bags ranging from to . The "sweet spot" for shoppers is $348 to $398, Michael Kors executives told analysts on the company's most recent earnings call with analysts, saying "jet-set" no less than five times. "Jet-set" is Michael Kors鈥?favorite buzzword for its look: Picture soft leather and classic prints, safe enough to wear in Minneapolis or Milan. raised $944 million in an IPO in December, valuing the company at $3.8 billion.Ironically, a $348 tote might just be what kills the trip to Europe for some people.Genevieve Spitz, 23, of Boston, says she sometimes has to pick between plane tickets and shopping. "I'm one of those people who'll say 'Wow, I love that piece. I'm going to buy it, no matter the cost. And then I do. Unless, of course, I could buy a plane ticket to Spain instead.""I'm not buying designer stuff," Spitz says. "It's more like, can I technically afford those $300 shoes? No. Will I be unable to afford food for the next few weeks if I buy them? No."As in dieting, it's especially hard to say "no" to cravings after a long dry spell. More than three years after the recession began, many Americans are looking for small tokens to make life feel richer, like high quality fabrics or an eye-catching watch.George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, is working on a study with colleague Russell Golman examining how society's image of "the good life" impacts consumer decisions. "Sometimes people are worried that they're poor or appear poor, so they spend money as a way to reassure themselves," Loewenstein said. "But of course, it's about the worst possible strategy you could have."For any class of shopper, the current push by banks to issue new credit cards will no doubt create temptation to overspend. "Credit cards anesthetize the pain of spending money," Loewenstein said.Melkonyan, for one, isn't losing sleep over her new Chanel bag -- unless you consider the late night parties where she鈥檒l wear it. "I don't care about the brand; it's not because [the bag] is expensive," she said. "I want something beautiful." 锘?p>The thirst for luxury handbags has not only led to , but a second black market for luxury shopping bags.The Wall Street Journal reports that in Korea, where the consumer base for expensive fashion and accessories is growing by the day, one receives after shopping at Cartier, Prada, Louis Vuitton and the like. On one site investigated by the newspaper, a seller was promoting four different brand's paper bags for about 25,000 won ($23) each. We took a look around the web ourselves and found two Chinese companies doing the same, and . , making the argument that the paper totes are worth paying for because of the logo, of course, but also because "the paper is thicker and more solid compared to regular paper bags.鈥?/p>But Sung Young-shin, a professor of consumer psychology of Korea University, said it's simply about keeping up with the Jonses. 鈥淚n Korea鈥檚 collective culture, consumption is not just personal behavior. It is not so much about my need as it is about whether other people in my peer group have it," she said.We suppose that having a paper shopping bag emblazoned with the Louis Vuitton logo could be the next best thing to having your own leather LV tote... but spending money on paper bags seems just a bit absurd. Sound off on the strange new trend below and . 锘緾lick here to leave a comment.HuffPost High School welcomes a lively, thoughtful debate in the comment section. Keep in mind that the articles here are penned by young authors, so please keep criticism respectful, and help us to keep this a safe and supportive place for writers of all ages to contribute.锘?p>NEW YORK -- Magician-daredevil David Blaine is ready to shock people.Blaine is returning to New York City on Oct. 5 for a three-day, three-night stunt called "Electrified: One Million Volts Always On." It will be streamed live.A trailer for the stunt shows the 39-year-old endurance artist wearing a futuristic-looking bodysuit in between two conductors.Blaine's last stunt was hanging upside down without a net high over New York's Central Park for 60 hours in 2008. But the grand finale of the "Dive of Death" stunt didn't go according to plan.His other stunts include holding his breath underwater for 17 minutes and 4 seconds, being buried alive for a week in a see-through coffin and being encased in a block of ice for 63 hours.___Online: CLICK: 锘?p>What could possibly make Marc Jacobs stand out among all the other rich and famous people vacationing on St. Bart's? Using what looks like a Herms Kelly bag as his beach tote.Just Jared of the designer hauling what looks like the $10,000-$60,000 sack on a recent visit to the beach.Named after Grace Kelly, the bag was famously used by the late princess to conceal her pregnant stomach, as in the photo below. Get HuffPost Style on and ! 锘?p>Thirty years ago Britain fought a costly and bloody war to reclaim the Falklands from Argentina. Today, Britain's ability to defend the islands is being repeatedly challenged.The most biting criticism has come from retired senior military figures concerned about the impact of British defence cuts. A group of retired Royal Navy chiefs wrote a well-publicised to the Times arguing: "Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation...from which British prestige...might never recover." Major General Julian Thompson that "the Argentines could invade and seize the Falklands again." And a report by four retired senior military figures that the Falklands were a "disaster waiting to happen", and a "plum ripe for the picking". It is certainly true that cuts to the British military would make retaking the Falklands more difficult should the islands be lost. It is also true that the discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves in the waters around the Falklands has increased their strategic value, and that Argentine rhetoric on the Falklands has become . But does Argentina have the capability to seize the Falklands? Fortunately, the answer is no. First, the Falklands today are well defended. In 1982, there were fewer the 100 Royal Marines on the islands, and Argentina was able to capture them with relative ease. Today, Britain has an airbase at Mount Pleasant with two runways, four Eurofighter Typhoon jets, an army deployment of 420, radar stations and - possibly - a nuclear attack submarine. A Joint Rapid Response Force could get additional forces to the Falkland Islands at very short notice.Second, if Argentina wanted to land troops on the Falklands and seize the Mount Pleasant airbase, it would need to somehow achieve air superiority over the islands in order to prevent British fighter jets from attacking Argentine forces. Argentina's air force, however, has not received new aircraft or upgrades since the 1982 war. Computer simulations I conducted for a suggest Argentina would need to use their entire Air Force if they wanted to try to destroy the Typhoons on the ground or destroy the runways - and would be highly unlikely to succeed even if they did so. And destroying the Typhoons in the air is likely well beyond the capabilities of Argentina's ageing planes.Third, even if Argentina was somehow able to negate British airpower, Argentina simply doesn't have the ability to get sufficient forces onto the Islands to seriously threaten the airbase. Argentina has very limited fast sea transport capabilities - and the possible presence of a British submarine in the waters round the Falklands would make the crossing from mainland Argentina extremely risky for Argentine forces to attempt. An air assault would provide Argentina with their best chance of getting significant numbers of forces onto the islands - and if Argentine C-130s were able to land on one of the rough airstrips on the islands, they would not need to capture the airbase. But keeping such forces protected from British airpower, protecting the flights necessary to keep them resupplied, and preventing British reinforcements from arriving, are all likely beyond Argentina's capabilities.There are, inevitably, uncertainties in assessing complex military contingencies. And the low odds of success do not necessarily rule out the possibility that Argentina might gamble everything in a daring and risky effort to get the Falklands back. But unless Argentina invests substantial resources in their Air Force and Navy, the Falkland Islands are at a low risk of being lost. The debate over the wisdom of British defence cuts will - and should - continue. However, worries about Britain's capacity to defend the Falkland Islands should no longer play a prominent role in those debates. Follow Mark Bell on Twitter:锘?p>When I think about the detritus post-divorce, I'm not talking about couples haggling over household property, the spat over who gets the cat, and the painful tug-of-war when a marriage goes south. I'm thinking about parents of the divorcing couple who are left with the (for lack of a better word) memorabilia. The accumulation of stuff that must be hidden from view or ditched to prove one's loyalty to one's own. Maybe it seems trivial to be talking about tangible remainders, but these things can present a problem. Dare we mention their names, but what do you do with the perfume she gave you for Mother's Day that is your signature scent? Or the book he so thoughtfully picked up at the secondhand shop because he knows you're interested in antique Porsches? Or the Hermes scarf you never in a thousand years would ever buy for yourself? Or the magnificent cut-glass bowl the kids gave you when everything was just hunky-dory to thank you for watching the grandkids when they went to Germany for their tenth anniversary? And what about the framed photographs and, geez, the wedding album where you look so terrific? Do you, as one grandmother did, cut out the heads of the offending in-laws to "protect" her grandchildren from the sight of happier days? Are you supposed to toss the lot with the loss of family? (Okay, some parents don't call it a loss. They call it a blessing. They knew from the get-go the marriage wouldn't work. Still there are all those "things" you have to deal with.)And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (King James Bible, Mathew 5:29) Maybe I'm making too much of these inconsequential items when you consider the real fallout when a son or daughter gets divorced. Sadly, many grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren. That's not the detritus of divorce. That's a bloody disaster.I'm also mindful of the parents whose adult children are not married but in committed relationships. These breakups can be just as devastating for parents. Just the other day I was talking to some parents who were bemoaning the end of their son's eight-year relationship with a girl they "adore." (Notice the present tense.) The wife cried, "I was closer to Sara than her own mother." On the one hand, these parents understood why their son decided to finally end the relationship, but on the other, they couldn't get past the fact that "Over means it's over, Mom and Dad." Were they expected to delete all those vacation videos? I guess that's what's expected -- delete, delete, delete. So I never wear the freshwater pearl necklace my ex-daughter-in-law gave me for my birthday. (It's still in my jewelry box.) And the little china doll a son's former girlfriend gave me when she came for a visit -- it's off to Goodwill. As for that fabulous Hermes scarf ... I am definitely not going to sell on eBay. (Although I wonder how much I could get for it.) 锘?p>It's amazing that a movie star from the 1950s had a wardrobe that looks as fresh and stylish in 2010 as it did over 40 years ago. The amazing part is Grace Kelly's personal style. Her look was classic and that's why it has endured. That is why a new collection of Grace Kelly's clothing just went on display in London at the Victoria Albert Museum until Sept. 26th 2010. The exhibit is simply called, "Grace Kelly Style Icon" and is sponsored by Van Cleef Arpels. How amazing that over 50 years since Grace achieved popularity as a film star, that her style still looks so fresh and modern. In 1955 McCall's magazine said of Grace Kelly, "The thing that made her stand out is what we call 'style'. Part of the exhibit is Grace's well worn and often carried Hermes "Kelly " Bag which she used to camouflage her pregnancy in 1956. reports that , "despite her high-maintenance image, Grace Kelly was surprisingly thrifty with her wardrobe. The signs of wear and tear make it clear she continued to carry the same handbag for many years - a sharp contrast to the habits of modern celebrities, who avoid wearing the same outfit twice." The floral dress that Grace wore when she first meet Prince Rainer was not a couture dress, but a dress made from a McCall's easy to sew pattern. Like Audrey Hepburn, Grace took good care of her clothes and wore them repeatedly.I had the pleasure of seeing Grace honored earlier this year in Los Angeles at the Rodeo Walk of Style. When I look back at old Grace Kelly photos, or watch her in To Catch a Thief or Dial M for Murder, I think of her beautiful accessories and her simple strand of pearls. There are many things today's fashionista on a budget can learn from Grace. Grace's fashion lexicon was simplicity of style and classic pieces. No matter what she wore, she remained the focal point. When I think of , her look can be emulated either with well chosen pieces from a discounter or with luxury fashions from or a high-end store. Whether you are a fashionista or a , Grace Kelly's style is priceless. Her style included a colorful scarf around the neck, a simple string of pearls, shirt dresses with cinched waists and capri pants with ballet flats.If you can't make it to London for the exhibit, then visit the to experience her style through the magic of the Internet. Designer treasures in the exhibit feature movie studio designers like Edith Head, and high fashion names like Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. Follow Mary Hall on Twitter:锘?p>Here we are still in the grip of an economic low, with high unemployment still rattling the world and the sales signs screaming at me every time I go to the mall. Yet, the wardrobe of style icon Audrey Hepburn, is as immune from recessionary woes as a blue chip stock. Pieces of Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe just sold at auction at in London on Sunday for record-breaking amounts. I learned this from one of my favorite guilty pleasures, news section. The auction took place at, an auction house that is a treasure trove of vintage and modern style pieces. You can find everything from a vintage Chanel gown to pieces of Queen Alexandra's "lingerie" (underwear) at Kerry Taylor. Browse the online catalog sometime for glimpses of rare fashion eye candy. Its no surprise that this auction house became the home of Audrey Hepburn's prized style possessions. Oh, what wouldn't I have given to have played dress up in Audrey's closet? Now, through the magic of the Internet we can. Here's a little fantasy guided tour. If I had unlimited budget, and couture designers at my fingertips, I would also indulge as Audrey did in the finest pieces. Wouldn't we all?The final selling price for Audrey's finery was a grand 拢268,320 (鈧?96,617 or approximately $435,995), twice what her auctioneers had estimated. What is it about Audrey style that intrigues us so? And why is her clothing so timeless? I believe its due to a few things. Her simplicity of style. The lines of her dresses are simple. No drop waists, ruffles or trendy touches. She paid top dollar for her wardrobe, but she kept it in top condition. It was typical of her to order extra fabric from her designers like Givenchy, so she could make repairs or alterations as needed later. Her casual wardrobe was equally chic and simple. A black turtleneck, Capri pants and ballet flats served her well. Remember how Gap bought that look back in their advertising campaign? As the holidays are here, its a fitting question to ask, how can we emulate Audrey style today? A few suggestions for my frugal fashionistas.Invest in a good, but economical Little Black Dress. There are many chic n' cheap versions of the important fashion concept of the Little Black Dress brought to us by Coco Chanel. LBDs abound everywhere from the stores, to eBay and to thrift stores. The possibilities are limitless. Her casual chic look is easily obtained with black pants, and a slim fitting black turtleneck.Follow Mary Hall on Twitter:锘縋ictured: The Burberry Spring 2013 collection mixes traditional Burberry styles with rock star flash (images courtesy of Burberry.)A women steps onto the runway in a white cap. The music begins. Soon, the covering falls away from the glass panes above the show space. The light streams in from London's Kensington Gardens illuminating the runway and the show space. White coats and capes are quickly followed by colorful dresses with corset seams and ruching. That was the Burberry show at London Fashion Week last week. For the last few years, I've shown the show on my blog . This year I was fortunate enough to actually attend the show live in Kensington Gardens. The Burberry runway show was an amazing production, choreographed as well as, if not better than, a classic Hollywood production. The show was notable not just for its production quality, but for the beauty of the clothes. I was privileged to see the clothes up close at the Burberry showroom after the runway show. I've never seen such exquisite garments. There was a dress made of real peacock feathers plus flashy raincoats in a rainbow of color and metallic threaded dresses and ruched coats. There were corseted strapless tops with peplum trim, paired with glittering pencil skirts. They looked even better up close than they did on the runway.Pictured: The rainbow of shiny raincoats walking the runway to the tune of "Walk On" (images courtesy of Burberry)The Burberry Spring/Summer collection is full of bright, splashy colors for Spring fit for a rock star or the celebrity red carpet. There were the usual classic Burberry coats in white and neutral colors, but there were also lipstick reds, pinks, fuchsia, green and turquoise. The bright color palette was a stark contrast to the more subdued greys, yellows and black many designers showed at New York Fashion Week for Spring 2013. The fabrics were as rich and vibrant as the colors. Metallic silk used to make those amazing ruched dresses. Metallic leather, sateen and lace were also generously used in this collection. The accessories complimented the lush looks of the garments. In the show finale, the models walked with colorful plastic Burberry "blaze" bags that put memories of the faux Hermes jelly bags to shame. Shoes were 1940s vintage style metallic peep toe wedges and pointed toe wedges with ankle straps. The striking fashions were complimented by an equally stunning show soundtrack. Burberry's Christopher Baileyhas thoughtfully incorporated music into the brand's marketing strategy and social sharing to great effect. This show featured aplaylist of emerging British artists that every viewer probably added to their iPhone/iPod immediately after the show (I know I did!) The musical selections were:Pictured: A look at a corseted dress with a cape (images courtesy of Burberry)Pictured: A new take on the art of the trench, colorful Burberry coats on the London Fashion Week runway (images courtesy of Burberry) Follow Mary Hall on Twitter:锘縋ictured: Inside the racks of designer deals at Sequels Beverly Hills (Photo Courtesy of Billie Jackson)A short distance from the high-priced shops on Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard sits a little treasure of a shop: Sequels Boutique. If you live in Southern California, you'll find Sequels Boutique at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Charleville Boulevard, across the street from the Peninsula Hotel. 聽If you're outside of Southern California, you can check out online and on. Owner Billie Jackson has an incredible collection of consignment designer goods and vintage finds. 聽Some people call consignment goods "pre-owned" but in the case of Sequels, I would call the goods "pre-loved." Most of the items (excepting a few stray pairs of shoes) have been gently worn and are in excellent condition. 聽Some of the gowns in the store last seen on the Hollywood Red Carpet, and perhaps were worn only once before their owner (or her assistant/stylist) passed them on for resale at Sequels. 聽If you're a lover of quality designer goods, some of them vintage, made before luxury brands were outsourced to China, then you should check out this store.Pictured: A Vintage Travilla dress similar to one made by the designer for Marilyn Monroe.聽 (Photo courtesy of Billie Jackson)Designers you'll find in stock at Sequels include Mr. Blackwell, , Gucci, Versace, Dior, Chanel, Missoni, Pucci, Valentino,聽Yves Saint Laurent聽and (William) Travilla. 聽Some of these designers, like Travilla, are no longer in business, so the only place you can find them is a store like Sequels. Of William Travilla, Marilyn Monroe said, "Billy Dear, please dress me forever. I love you, Marilyn." 聽Looking at the gold lame goddess dress he designed on sale at Sequels, I can totally understand her feelings.Pictured: My new Chanel bag, purchased at Sequels after an epic quest (Photo Courtesy of M. Hall)I stopped into Sequels to shop before the holidays to try to find a Chanel bag without paying thousands. I wasn't sure I would be able to find the item I had been lusting after for years: a navy Chanel handbag with the double CCs on the front. 聽Chanel handbags are obscenely expensive. They range in the thousands of dollars. Even more outrageous, for Chanel bags are about to go up in 2012. 聽It is estimated that Chanel bags will increase between 12 percent to 20 percent. With prices in the thousands, than can mean that a purchaser in 2012 will pay say, $500.00 or more over the 2011 prices for some of the bags. 聽The Chanel boutique at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills was packed before Christmas, full of upscale shoppers, presumably not on a budget shopping plan, buying their Chanel at the 2011 prices. 聽That's budget shopping Beverly Hills style :).To my delight, 聽I found my Chanel bag for about $1,500 (a savings of over $ 2,000) at Sequels. The bag has all the trademarks of genuine Chanel. 聽This was still a huge splurge, but with Chanel as with most of the designers on sale at Sequels, the value of the item will hold, and I can even resell it later if I want. If you're looking for some unique dress, vintage pieces or a special gift, do check out Sequels in store or online. 聽If you visit the store, you'll get hands-on attention and help from owner Billie Jackson. 聽You'll find the same luxury brands on sale over on Rodeo for far less. For affordable luxury gifts check out the Burberry scarves, Juicy Couture bags, jewelry, sunglasses and some of the sweaters. There are two Hermes bags in the store right now, no wait list required, but they are not in the budget category, although they are considerably less than Hermes retail prices. With new items being dropped of regularly by a loyal set of sellers, you never know what you might finds at Sequels. And that is precisely what makes it such an adventure in shopping. Follow Mary Hall on Twitter:锘?p>No time to page through thousands of eBay listings? Then just sneak a peek at my weekly eBay Roundup of Top Vintage Clothing Finds.This eclectic mix of designer and non-designer vintage clothing and accessories caught my discerning eye for their uniqueness, their contemporary feel or their highly collectible nature.As always, buyer beware! Be sure to read the listings closely and contact the sellers with any questions.This week's finds include pieces by Hermes, Pucci and Chanel along with a few unlabeled gems. Check out the 1920s embroidered straw hat just perfect for spring!GET READY, GET SET, BID!!!CLICK IMAGE FOR MORE INFORMATIONVintage 1960s Pucci Beaded Blouse (booboopeedoo) Vintage Black Lucite and Rhinestone Clutch (iseelwhatyouwant) Vintage 1950s Strapless Lace and Tull Wedding Gown (*calendargirl*) Vintage Yves Saint Laurent Coin Necklace (remark16) Vintage Lilac Silk and Lace Bed Jacket (1860-1960) Vintage 1970s Hooded Trench Raincoat (bustownmodern) Vintage Hermes Wallet (fey-one) Vintage 1930s Hawaiian Pineapple Gown (millstreetvintage) Vintage 1950s Alfred Shaheen Batik Sundress (irenie153) Vintage Chanel Long Red Glass Necklace (plasticplanet) Vintage 1960 Paganne Print Dress (twin-hearts) Vintage 1990 Hermes Antique Dolls Scarf (sisterofpoupi) Vintage 1950s Print Cotton Sundress (jewal) Vintage 1980s Grecian Blouse (nbvintage) Vintage 1920s Embroidered Straw Hat (grapefruitmoongallery) Vintage 1950s Floral Wiggle Dress (mynoble) (Disclosure: Editorial selections are made by Zuburbia with no direct promotional consideration from Bay sellers. Zuburbia is, however, a member of the eBay Partner Network).(To receive the eBay Roundup via email, sign up for the mailing list . Your information will never be sold or shared and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.)Follow Mary Kincaid on Twitter:锘?p>No time to page through thousands of eBay listings? Then just sneak a peek at my weekly eBay roundup of top vintage clothing finds.This eclectic mix of designer and non-designer vintage clothing and accessories caught my discerning eye because of their uniqueness, contemporary feel or highly collectible nature.As always, buyer beware! Be sure to read the listings closely and contact the sellers with any questions.Today's selections include pieces by Hermes, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta and Nina Ricci. Be sure to check out the vintage 1950s ombre prom gown and the beaded cashmere peacock sweater.Which item is your favorite? Leave me a comment below to let me know and please take a minute to rate your favorite slides.GET READY, GET SET, BID!!!To receive the eBay Roundup via email, sign up for the mailing list . Your information will never be sold or shared and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.(Disclosure: Editorial selections are made by Zuburbia with no direct promotional consideration from eBay sellers. Zuburbia is an affiliate member of the eBay Partner Network).Follow Mary Kincaid on Twitter:锘?p>When you think of the year 1929, most likely the stock market crash and end of the roaring '20s/beginning of the Great Depression come to mind. Less on the brain are the notable births, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Anne Frank and even Imelda Marcos. But three birth dates are the most interesting to me: May 4, July 28 and November 12, when three of the world's preeminent fashion icons were born: Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Grace Kelly, respectively. I certainly consider these women to be the epitome of beauty and style and find it remarkable that they were all born in the very same year. So I wondered: is there something that made this seeming coincidence less of one? I suppose I could look at the era: they came of age at the end of World War II and were exposed to the new riches that women indulged in -- they were the young generation that could take advantage of spending money on fine things again, in a way that hadn't been done since their birth year. Also, they came to know fame around the same time, when feminism was growing; hems were raised and waists were flaunted and these women embraced casual chic with flare. (Images of all three in Capri pants come to mind; Grace and Jackie while sailing; Audrey bicycling.) It was also the era of the emerging fashion designer who was constantly seeking his muse (Oleg Cassini had both Jackie and Grace; Hubert de Givenchy had Audrey), so they were impeccably dressed when they were to be photographed. (Paparazzi-stalked celebrities don't have the same luxury today.) I'd love to hear other theories of why 1929 produced the three most elegant women in the world, so please share below.Also, right now you can get a taste of the elegance at an exhibit honoring Princess Grace's style on display at the Victoria and Albert museum in London (now through September 26). More than 50 outfits are on display, including the original Hermes Kelly bag and her wedding dress (which is more impressive in photos than in person, I'll be honest). Follow Meg Hemphill on Twitter:锘縄 agree with binq56, boring, mainly because those are all reeeeally expensive or unattainable bags carried by a slew of designers or the uber-rich. You didn't reveal a cross section of New Yorkers or enough variety of people or bags. The article is called NYC Street Style but the first pp talks about what the well-dressed" are carrying....very misleading.I don't see Hermes being carried around that much, nor do I care. Of course we'd all like THE most expensive handbag on the planet, duh! How about a wider variety of brands and people next time from high end and down to other recognizable designers like Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Minkoff, Chloe, vintage, and now that's its spring clutches and cross bodies are what I'm seeing.Anyone else?锘?p>A longtime fixture in the style scene, writer Lynn Yaeger is crazy for collecting. She skips fashion shows for antique markets and her morning ritual involves trolling eBay armed with her shortlist of favorite search terms. Yaeger offered , an online style magazine presented by eBay, a rare glimpse inside her apartment--a well-appointed showpiece for her collections. She'll also be joining the publication as a guest columnist, focusing on her personal story as a collector as well as those of other style makers whose personal collections inspire their work--and keep them awake at night.The following is an except from Yaeger's : Here is what I do every single morning, in between teeth-brushing and waiting for the coffee to boil: I turn on my laptop and type "" into eBay. This is followed by "" and then either "sweater 1930-46 (, )" or "" or "." I do this because I am an avid, some would argue rabid collector, with a shifting catalog of enthusiasms that at the moment includes vintage cardigans and 1920s bracelets; rag dolls meant to resemble French cartoon characters (the aforementioned Becassine dolls) and Victorian children's jewelry--the rarer, the more elusive, the less findable, the better.Yaeger in her entryway with her eBay-bought fur and Hermes Kelly bag; Yaeger in front of her overflowing closetLynn Yaeger in her eBay finest: reindeer sweater, Fendi bag and Hermes bag; Yaeger giddy at the thought of an eBay auction winantique toy and doll collectionsMy collecting started innocently enough, decades ago, with a desire to perk up my house with a couple of interesting geegaws and maybe add a few pieces of old-fashioned glamour to my wardrobe. One day, oh, maybe 12 or so years ago, I was at my desk at the Village Voice when a colleague moseyed over to show me something our new toy, the computer, could do. He typed "Martha Chase doll" (a circa 1910 plaything I was obsessed with at the time) into something called eBay (funny name, right?) and when those doll faces popped up on the screen, my life changed forever.Yaeger in her kitchenThe items I collect exert a powerful pull on my imagination and I am certain that I'm not alone in my passions. In the next several weeks, I will be interviewing other collectors--people like Barneys Creative Director Simon Doonan and his partner, renowned interior designer Jonathan Adler--for eBay's The Inside Source. Some folks may head to eBay seeking a new MP3 player or a handbag that sold out before they could get their hands on it (I know I have!), but I'll be trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of what makes otherwise sane people spend all their money on King George coffee mugs and vintage striptease costumes. They'll be sharing with me the joys of the hunt, the incredible rush of victory when you get your hands on something you've been longing for, and, inevitably, the agony attending the ones that got away.At her computer browsing on eBay Read more about Yaeger's collections and find her eBay wish list at .锘?p>This article was written by Dana Linett-Silber and originally appeared on . To read the full interview, click and be sure to visit us on and . Sydney Evan "The Discs" Necklaces ($620-$4,910)A browse through Rosanne Karmes' Sydney Evan jewelry line leaves us wondering how one designer can achieve so many contradictory traits at the same time. Her pieces are so trendy, yet undeniably classic. Serious, but also downright whimsical. And best of all, so rich, but yet relatively affordable in comparison to the competition.Maybe that's why since its inception 10 years ago, Sydney Evan has become such a wildly successful fine jewelry line--one that has adorned A-list celebrities like Demi Moore, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Bar Refaeli and Diane Kruger, and sells like hotcakes at Bergdorf Goodman, Fred Segal and Harrods in London. We sat down with Karmes to talk about the trends, the trade, and her tremendous success.Sydney Evan designer Rosanne KarmesThe Inside Source: When did you first start designing?Rosanne Karmes: That goes back all the way to the '70s when I was in junior high school! My parents weren't big on allowance, so how was I going to buy candy? I would get mother of pearl, puka shells, silver beads, and string necklaces. I'd sell them to friends for $5. Then I'd blow my profits on Hershey bars!The Inside Source: What about your first real job?Rosanne Karmes: I sold chains and charms at my friend's family jewelry store. Later on I worked for a big jewelry manufacturer, and I got into every aspect of the business: designing things for customers, picking diamonds, everything!After that I opened my first showroom, Le Trend, and represented many different designers. Often I would come up with ideas for pieces that would do really well for the clients I was representing. Then it occurred to me--hey I'm designing things for other people, so I might as well do it for myself! I was working with all kinds of fashion accessories, but my heart was always in fine jewelry. The Inside Source: Did your parents influence your work?Rosanne Karmes: Yes, definitely. I grew up with a lot of superstition. My mother would always sew our camp clothes with red thread to ward off the evil eye! So when I started my line, I focused on creating pieces that had to do with luck. In fact, right before 9/11, I started doing my first line with lucky charms and peace signs and I did a lot with red strings, evil eyes, hamsas... So I was always into that stuff before it became widely fashionable. No one got it when I first started making those pieces, and now, of course it's so big and everyone loves wearing lucky jewelry. I first designed the red bracelets when the manager for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher wanted gifts for their kids. I knew they were into Kabala and I wanted to design something special for them. I still see the red bracelet on Rumer! The Inside Source: What are you most proud of?Rosanne Karmes: That I set trends; that I was the first to do all those lucky charms and the first to do the beaded bracelets. Also for not every having any financial help ever! I started and grew my line all by myself. I'm also proud of the fact that my jewelry is priced with women in mind, so that they can go out and buy themselves fine jewelry without having to wait for a man to buy it for them!Yellow-Gold Hedgehog Necklace ($3,960); Yellow-Gold & Diamond Pyramid Ring ($5,590); Yellow-Gold & Pink Sapphire Ice Cream Necklace ($1,145)The Inside Source: What's one of your favorite designs?Rosanne Karmes: I love my Love line! I just wrote out the word love in script one day and it felt so good to me. And I've gotten such a positive reaction to those pieces. My favorite things are so simple, really.The Inside Source: What tips can you give us about how to wear jewelry?Rosanne Karmes: In general, anything goes! Go ahead and wear minimalist pieces with big statements. Mix it up. My favorite thing is the layering of short and long. Also, don't be afraid to change your jewelry every day, depending on your mood.My advice for right now is to go out and get a stack of bracelets on your wrist. No less than three, and five is ideal! Mix it up with different textures: beads, chains, metals, leather and fabric.And always remember: If you're ever in need of money quick, there's nothing else that would be worth more than gold and diamonds. It's a great investment, so buy what you like!The Inside Source: What new designs are you working on?Rosanne Karmes: I love color. I'm very into monotone color blocking on beads and am also very excited about double and triple wrap bracelets. I'm coming up with new versatile ways to wear beads in layers. And expect to see more leather pieces. I'm also working on a gold collection that's very special, priced from $200-$500. The name of the line is Shy by Sydney Evan, I'm really excited about it.The Inside Source: How do you use eBay?Rosanne Karmes: I use eBay to get yelled at by my husband! No, just kidding! I love to shop on eBay for vintage watches and vintage handbags.The Inside Source: What are some of your favorite search terms?Rosanne Karmes: Hermes belt, Chanel bag, Hermes Medor watch, Hermes bag, Fendi belt, Alberta Ferretti...Photos courtesy of Rosanne Karmes. 锘縄 live in Sandusky ( a beautiful port city on Lake Erie ) Since Sandusky has been named Sandusky since 1803 I dont see us changing our name because of a liked named child molester. I know Mike Hermes. Hes a good guy who made a mistake. This was a haywagon ride betwwen a country bar his family owns and another bar a few miles away. There were no children involved. The wagon was full of adults who were probably more drunk than Mike.( he says he had 4or 5 beers) He wasn't driving recklessly. He was pulling two wagons with a tractor and the second wagon's rear wheel left the pavement on a turn and flipped on it's side. It very well could have happen if he hadn't had anything to drink锘?p> -- Michael Phelps retired from swimming with more medals than any other Olympian. Don't expect him to lose any of them because of an ad campaign for Louis Vuitton.Phelps' longtime agent, Peter Carlisle, dismissed any suggestion Friday that the retired swimmer may have violated International Olympic Committee rules when provocative pictures for the campaign were leaked on the Internet during the London Games.The IOC, under a provision known as Rule 40, prohibits athletes from promoting non-official sponsors during a nearly monthlong period around the games. Among the possible sanctions: stripplng medals won by an offending athlete.Carlisle told The Associated Press there's no issue with the IOC because Phelps did not authorize use of the pictures, which were leaked by a source that still isn't known and appeared on several Web sites. In fact, the agent added, there are dozens of similar, unapproved uses of most top athletes' names and images during any Olympics."He didn't violate Rule 40, it's as simple as that," Carlisle said in a telephone interview. "All that matters is whether the athlete permitted that use. That's all he can control. In this case, Michael did not authorize that use. The images hadn't even been reviewed, much less approved. It's as simple as that. An athlete can't control unauthorized uses any more than you can guarantee someone isn't going to break into your house."The ad campaign, which revolves around pictures taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, officially began on Thursday the day after the IOC ban ended. Among the pictures: one that shows Phelps in a bathtub, wearing only goggles and a skimpy brief, another that depicts him sitting on a sofa, wearing a three-piece suit and chatting with former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, whose record for most overall medals he broke at the London Games."I can't count on every hand in this office the number of unauthorized uses that happen during the games period," Carlisle said. "We uncover them by the dozens. Some are by companies we don't even know. It happens constantly."Phelps won four golds and two silvers at what he insisted was his final Olympics, raising his career totals to 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes. The 27-year-old American retired as soon as he finished his final race in Britain.Carlisle expects his client to still be a force in the world of marketing. Look no further, he said, that the Louis Vuitton campaign, in which Phelps is following other iconic figures such as Sean Connery, Bono and Mikhail Gorbachev."In many ways, this is one of the greatest illustrations of how Michael has transcended swimming, and arguably even sports," Carlisle said. "Only global icons are even included in that campaign. If you go through the list of celebrities who've been part of it, it's pretty remarkable."___Also on HuffPost:锘?p>It used to be that Canal Street was the place to get the goods -- the red-hot goods, that is. I'm sure they are still doing business -- but these days, if you are serious about selling your fake designer goods, you are much better off becoming a cyber-con. Over the last few years, eBay has boomed beyond all expectations. We have read the Sunday supplement articles that trumpet the impressively gargantuan figures of that virtual marketplace: over one hundred million registered users, and profits of six billion dollars for 2006. But there is one figure that has not received as much media attention, because little has been done to ascertain its precise measurements. The elusive figure, you ask? The number of eBay buyers that have handed over their money in good faith, and gotten scammed. This next number may provide a hint: According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the counterfeit market is at $500 billion-a-year, and they estimate that in twenty years it could skyrocket to $2 trillion-a-year. It doesn't take a savvy economist to know that much of that growth is attributable to the proliferation of online auction sites.I picture a well-heeled, fashionable woman shelling out thousands for a designer bag she picked out online, waiting breathlessly by the mailbox for its arrival, eagerly unwrapping the packaging, and then slowly realizing that the priority shipping she insisted on far outpriced the item she is holding in her hands. Then I picture her either sobbing inconsolably, or googling the gun laws for her state. Trust me -- there is more than one reason that I only deal with the real McCoy in my eBay luxury goods venture. Women these days are deadly serious about their purses. But all kidding aside, this story is sad. And I know it happens, because I have to do a lot of convincing of once-burned consumers, a lot of hand-holding and reassuring emailing. And while this whole scenario of ripping off someone by selling them a fake is upsetting and unfortunate, it's also unsurprising. Because there is little, in fact almost no, recourse for the buyer who gets scammed on eBay.When someone unknowingly buys a fake, naturally they will first attempt to contact the seller. But when their angry emails bounce back as non-deliverable, they may as well throw in the towel. (There isn't even a number to call -- eBay's customer support is only via email.) There is the option of "feedback," comments that users can post on a seller's site, but if your seller has vanished like a traveling snake oil salesman, you are just screaming into the virtual void. And presumably the seller, who can switch "storefronts," i.e. screennames, with ease, will turn up elsewhere like a bad penny. It is a dream come true for anyone wanting to make a dishonest dollar. Tracing the physical location of a counterfeiter through the internet is extremely difficult and time-consuming, and would require the intervention of the auction sites authorities. Without professionals working on the case, a single seller can elude identification for months or even years, swapping out email addresses and P.O. Boxes. Not surprisingly, there is a slew of registered eBay sellers peddling fake Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, etc. Some have prices that are dead giveaways that the items are imitations, but many are trying for top dollar. One example is a seller that deals with "Hermes" scarves. He/She sold scarves on eBay in a style called Paddock, a scarf pattern serious collectors recognize -- but not in the colors this seller had. However, if you were no expert, just a person saving up your pennies for your first scarf indulgence, you could easily be duped into paying the same for one of these fake scarves as you would for an actual Hermes one. Which is exactly what happened in this case, to a number of innocent victims. I've also seen fake Hermes Birkin auctions end in the $3000-4000 dollar range, and I've seen some of the fakes firsthand. Well crafted in Italy, definitely passable in an online photograph, but an item that Canal street stores would sell for maybe $150. Amazing profit to be made: If that seller sold 9 fake Hermes handbags in a 30-day period, his annual haul is over a quarter million dollars. Of course, you can simply stay away from the online marketplace. But if you are collector of rare or hard-to-get items, or living in an out of the way place, eBay can be a dream come true. (To extend the example, Hermes has only fifteen stores in the U.S., and the purported wait time for a Birkin is three years.) And the fact remains -- this is a problem that could be, if not solved, vastly eradicated.And what is eBay doing? Well, since eBay makes its commission regardless of whether or not the item is a fraudulent one, they haven't exactly made rooting out counterfeit luxury goods their top priority. They talk a game about "intellectual property" and "ongoing investigations," but they have tried to put the brunt of the policing back onto the companies whose brands are most commonly pirated. Unfortunately, the companies involved have a stock response: buy the items at our stores, or deal with the consequences. And in a new twist, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton/Dior are suing eBay, claiming the site is violating trademark rights by profiting on the auction of fake merchandise. (Louis Vuitton/Dior says in its lawsuit that in a study made over the first six months of 2006, 90% of the items bearing their trademark were fake.) Solutions that might be costly for eBay -- changing PayPal policies, stricter site policing, or conducting individual investigations -- are derided by the company as impractical. However, with a good chunk of that 500 billion dirty dollars floating through the online auction arena, washing their hands of the problem will only keep them looking clean for so long.Can YOU tell the real eBay Hermes item from the knockoff?Hermes black crocodile purse ---retail value approx. $32,000.00, listed at $55,000 on eBay (mark-up dueto purported three-year wait time instores)Counterfeit "Hermes" black crocodile purse---retail value approx. $150, listed at $12,999 on eBayHermes silk scarf, Paddock design---retail value approx. $325Counterfeit silk scarf, Paddock design---retail value approx. $20, sold on eBay for $325 Follow Michael Tonello on Twitter:锘?p>With the weather finally warming up, now is as good a time as any to wear orange. Singer extraordinaire Mary J. Blige went for a stroll in London on Tuesday wearing an outfit that looked fresh from the citrus fields: an orange blazer, a yellow tee and some killer orange pumps. She also added an Hermes belt and what we assume is an Hermes Birkin bag in classic orange.But we scratched our heads. Blige's splashes of color looked awfully familiar...That's because we've seen Michelle Obama in a nearly identical look (and ). Back in February, headed to California in an equally sunny ensemble: a , a yellow tee, jeans and some killer green heels. Which means Mary J. must have taken a bit of bright style inspiration from the First Lady herself. So who wore it better? Check out the pics and cast your ballot below!Who wore these outfits better?Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .Also on HuffPost:锘?p>Here at Stylelist and HuffPost Style, we're constantly snapping photos of (and adding the most flattering filter) the most fun behind-the-scenes moments at our jobs, like the time I got to see an artisan or when our visited Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention and . In case you missed these moments, we've rounded up some of our favorite instagram photos from the past week, including our pedicures, the most exciting invitations we've received for (thanks !) and so much more. Check out our favorite Instagram shots below and make sure to follow us on your iPhone or Android!Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , , and .锘?p>Flipping through the pages of Vogue today, I felt like detective Clarisse Starling knocking on the door to Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb's house. I leaf through page after page of cadavers or rather just the skins being worn for the love of fashion or rather obsession.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>It's not every day that I am presented with a silk scarf, have to negotiate a terrestrial design of lotus flowers and have a bindi plastered to the middle of my forehead, but sometimes you just have to roll with it.I was at the Delhi offices of Orange Business Services (OBS) and I felt like a diplomat, an honoured guest rather like being Richard Gere in Dharamsala or a Chinese decision-maker in Brussels. It was an impressive welcome, a greeting that would be followed up by similar revelations about OBS and its offering.But first some background. This was my first trip back to India since I had left the country 12 months previously. I had stayed in the country for two years after (fortuitously) fleeing the recession and taking my wife and young son to the beach.We had planned to stay for one year but had loved the lifestyle so much that we stayed for two. I (fortuitously) became a Bollywood film star and acted as a white villain in two big movies and had one of the most interesting times in my life.Professionally it had also been interesting. At one stage I found myself in my Bollywood trailer writing a proposal for Paramount Digital Entertainment and the release of Iron Man 2 across mobile in India. It was a pitch that was successful. From Bollywood to Hollywood in one jump; how I loved myself.Consequently I had good knowledge of the Indian mobile industry after meeting all the operators on behalf of Paramount... and I also had some idea of how do business in India and how it is much more complicated than it first seems.That goes from for the sub-continent as a whole. Poverty juxtaposes with wealth and this so-called land of contrasts is exactly that. So the reaction of my fellow journalists and writers as our bus made its way through beggars and mayhem to the gated business city of Gurgaon in Delhi was revelatory. It was the same as when I came to India the first time; bewilderment.The rest of the day was more eye-opening for me. I was aware of Orange the operator and its branded relationship with France Telecom. I knew it was doing interesting things in emerging economies and I liked how it was growing its operator business in Africa and its CEO's commitment to visit all of those African territories in the first two years of his tenure.What I didn't know about was Orange Business Services and the 鈧?.2 billion of revenues it did in 2010. I didn't even know about the 2,100 people it employs in the four data centres it runs in Delhi, Rio, Cairo and Mauritius.Furthermore in the course of the day I also learnt through the third eye of my recently acquired bindi that every airport and airline in the world is connected to the OBS network through the world's check-in kiosks and, through the company's acquisition of Equant, that it has been operating a telecoms networks since 1948.The company's business continuity management is also impressive. During this year's Japanese tsunami OBS was the only network to operate normally and parent company France Telecom even owns a fleet of ships to fix cables whenever they're damaged by events of this magnitude.Rather more disconcerting was the company's announcement that in their Delhi office, "78% of our employees has pledged their eyes." While I wondered on the meaning of such a statement I then realised that this was part of OBS's commitment to organ donation.After the trip around the Gurgaon offices we were taken away to a reception at the Belgian Embassy where I learnt about the Embassy's relationship with OBS and its Hermes project that secures communications. Bearing in mind that TinTin is the country's most famous brand I did think that the project should have been called Herg茅 rather than Hermes after the author, but that was childish so I didn't.By now the day was coming to an end and after a farewell speech from the charming Vivek Badrinath CEO of OBS in India at a rooftop restaurant complete with tabla band and sushi water-pipes it was back to the hotel.As I packed away my newly acquired silk scarf and looked at what remained of the bindi on my forehead I reflected on my return to India. Rather like that faded mark, my memories were the same. Same old India, different new India, but always opening eyes.Follow Monty Munford on Twitter:锘?p>CAIRO Hosni Mubarak's two sons were accused Wednesday with insider trading in a new case opened just three days before they and their elderly father are to hear the verdict in a separate trial on charges of corruption and complicity in killing protesters during last year's uprising.The prosecutions of the Mubarak family and its cronies had seemed to be part of a process of dismantling the old regime ousted in the uprising. But now Mubarak's last prime minister and longtime protege is one of two candidates heading into a runoff vote for president in just a few weeks.The new case, which was referred to trial, was interpreted as a timely attempt by Egypt's military rulers to assuage anger over the possible ascent to the presidency of Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak and, like his mentor, a former air force commander. Shafiq is widely viewed as an extension of the Mubarak regime remembered for authoritarianism, corruption and a brutal police force."It's an attempt to ease the popular anger over Shafiq," said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a key leader of the anti-Mubarak uprising. "It is a theatrical move by the generals to create the illusion that there is no question of showing leniency to the old regime."Mubarak and his two sons, the one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa, are already on trial for separate charges of corruption. They have all been in prison since April 2011, two months after a popular, 18-day uprising forced Mubarak to step down after 29 years in office.Mubarak, 84 and ailing, faces additional charges of complicity in the death of some 900 protesters during the uprising. But his sons are not charged in the protester killings. The former leader could get the death penalty if convicted on the charges linked to killing protesters.A statement by the prosecutor-general's office on the new charges said the Mubarak sons, along with seven others, made 2 billion Egyptian pounds in illicit gains. Their actions violated central bank and stock market regulations, it said.The nine are accused of conspiring to stealthily buy a controlling 80 percent stake in Al Watany Bank of Egypt without declaring their share to the stock market authority, it added. They later traded its shares through closed funds and investment companies based abroad."They deliberately withheld this essential information on the sale of the bank from other share traders to execute their criminal plot and violate the principles of transparency and equality between traders," said the statement. It did not specify the role of each of the nine defendants nor announce a date for the trial.The seven other defendants are free on bail but banned from leaving the country.The prosecutor's statement said Gamal, 48, unlawfully made a profit of nearly 500 million Egyptian pounds from the sale of the Al Watany Bank of Egypt and that his brother Alaa, believed to be around 50, used insider information about the bank to reap an illegal profit of some 12 million Egyptian pounds.Two of the seven men charged along with the Mubarak sons are the joint chief executive officers of Hermes, one of the Middle East's top investment banks with branches in nine Arab nations. They are Yasser El-Malawny and Hassan Heikal, son of Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, Egypt's best known political writer and a longtime confidante of the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser.Late Wednesday, Hermes said in a statement that its two chief executives acted properly in the aqcuisition of the Al Watany bank, in which the National Bank of Kuwait took nearly a 100 percent stake in November 2007."The two chief executive officers had no personal interest, gain or any dealings or trading in the shares of the Al Watany Bank of Egypt," it said, adding that the company has taken the necessary legal actions to defend them.The three Mubaraks, along with the ousted leader's security chief and four of his top aides, will hear the court's verdict on the case already in progress on June 2.Gamal Mubarak was viewed by many as a corrupt politician who used his father's position to illegally amass a fortune while working along with a coterie of regime-backed wealthy businessmen and powerful politicians to ensure that he succeeded his father.He rapidly rose to the top of his father's ruling National Democratic Party to become its de facto boss on the eve of his father's ouster, when he also was effectively running Egypt's day-to-day affairs. At the time of the uprising, there was growing anxiety in Egypt that his succession was imminent. That anxiety is seen as one of the key sparks for the uprising that overthrew Mubarak.Many of Gamal's closest allies are among some three dozen regime stalwarts in detention facing charges of corruption. Some of them have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms.The new charges came two days after Shafiq was officially declared one of two top vote-getters in the first round of presidential elections held on May 23-24. Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi will now go head-to-hear in a runoff vote on June 16-17. The winner will be announced June 21, the last step before the generals are due to hand over power.A Shafiq presidency would mean the continuation of de facto military rule in Egypt, where all four presidents since the overthrow of the monarchy nearly 60 years have been of military background.Shafiq's qualification to the runoff has angered many Egyptians who see him as an extension of the old regime and an affront to the uprising that, among other things, sought to end military rule. Several hundred protesters stormed, vandalized and set ablaze his campaign headquarters in Cairo late on Monday night, just hours after the official results were announced.Other protesters in Cairo and a string of cities in northern Egypt tore down his campaign posters.Michael Hanna, an Egypt expert from the New York-based Century Foundation, said the announcement of new charges is the latest measure by the ruling generals who took over from Mubarak against their old regime rivals Gamal Mubarak, his brother along with the businessmen and politicians who threw their weight behind the succession scheme. The military primarily opposed the succession because it would end the military's decades-old grip on the land's highest office."Today's announcement fits a pattern of prosecuting politicians and businessmen viewed by the military as a threat to its interests when it has been nearly impossible to convict policeman accused of killing protesters."Earlier Wednesday, a criminal court convicted and sentenced to five years in prison a policeman for his part in the shooting death of 18 protesters on January 28, last year, the bloodiest day of the uprising. Mohammed el-Sunni had been sentenced to death earlier when he was on the run. Thursday's verdict came after a retrial that followed his surrender to authorities.But his conviction followed multiple court cases in which policemen charged with killing protesters have been acquitted or received light sentences.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>LONDON A British fund manager on Friday called for Rupert Murdoch to resign as chairman of News Corp. as a step toward restoring trust in the global media company.The British firm Hermes Equity Ownership Services, which manages more than $140 billion of assets, also called for Murdoch's sons James and Lachlan and affiliated directors to be replaced by what it called "credible outside directors.""News Corp. has not reacted with sufficient urgency to investor concerns about its board composition and corporate culture," said Hermes' director, Jennifer Walmisley.Earlier this week, another group, Institutional Shareholder Services, had urged shareholders to toss out the entire 15-member board at News Corp.'s annual general meeting in Los Angeles on Oct. 21.Questions about News Corp. governance flared after one of the company's British newspapers, the News of the World tabloid, was shut down amid a scandal over illegal telephone hacking and alleged bribery of U.K. police officers. The scandal has claimed the resignations of several top Murdoch executives, and several former employees have been arrested.There was further embarrassment for New Corp. this week by reports that the Wall Street Journal Europe had published two articles as part of a deal with a supporter to distribute cut-price copies to students.Hermes, which represents about one-half of 1 percent of News Corp. shares, said it would not vote next week for the re-election of directors Arthur Siskind and Andrew Knight because of concerns about their independence. Both have been on the board since 1991.The Murdochs control the company through a family trust that owns 38 percent of voting shares worth $5.1 billion.Institutional Shareholder Services said the U.K. hacking scandal "laid bare a striking lack of stewardship and failure of independence by a board whose inability to set a strong tone-at-the-top about unethical business practices has now resulted in enormous costs."It also called for shareholders to vote against a pay package that gave Rupert Murdoch a bonus of $12.5 million for the past fiscal year. The vote would not be binding.News Corp. spokeswoman Teri Everett said the company was working hard to resolve the hacking scandal."However ISS' disproportionate focus on these issues is misguided and a disservice to our stockholders," she said.The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, representing 54 U.K. members with assets of $100 billion, has recommended last month that shareholders vote against re-electing Rupert Murdoch as chairman and James Murdoch to the board.The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors has called for the elder Murdoch to be replaced by an independent chairman, and for votes against re-electing the Murdoch brothers, as well as Natalie Bancroft, David De Voe, Knight and Siskind.Ann Byrne, CEO of the Australian group, said there was no hope of mustering majority votes to oust anyone."However, in an endeavor to keep pressing for skilled independent directors to join News Corp. and raise the standard of oversight, a clear messages needs to be conveyed to the board," she said last month. 锘?p>Attorneys representing five men charged with attempting to build bombs or make terrorist threats during the NATO summit in Chicago allege their clients were set up by undercover police officers.Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and, Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. were arrested before the NATO summit began for conspiracy to commit terrorism. .But defense lawyers Kris Hermes and Sarah Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild say Church, Chase and Betterly, and two Chicago men facing similar charges in an unrelated incident, are victims of entrapment that were set up by.This week, Gelsomino and Hermes began circulating a photo of a man who identified himself to many protesters and Occupy participants as "Moe," an anarchist protester who traveled to Chicago with his cousin, known as "Gloves." According to Fox Chicago,., according to ABC Chicago. They say weapons, equipment to make Molotov cocktails and plans for pipe bombs were found during the raid. Defense attorneys say the equipment was for brewing beer and question the warrant's legitimacy.Hermes told the Associated Press that the arrests were part of a successful "effort to frighten people and to diminish the size of the demonstrations," pointing out that "."Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and his predecessor Jody Weis, have both come out defending the undercover officers' work and condemning the defense attorneys for undermining the investigation -- and the officers' safety."I'm pretty outraged to hear that," McCarthy told Fox Chicago (see video above). "What they're doing is they're putting police officers' lives in jeopardy right now. And I think that's pretty disgusting, quite frankly."Chase, Church and Betterly appeared before a judge late Tuesday morning to be either indicted or given a preliminary hearing, according to Occupy Chicago. The organization began circulating their own photos of "Moe" and "Gloves" Tuesday in advance of the hearing, including dissemination to various media outlets.Meanwhile, two more NATO protesters were charged Tuesday with felonies, the Chicago Tribune reports. Christopher French, 21, of Wisconsin was charged with aggravated assault of a police officer in connection to a Sunday incident and Alex Cerajewski, 20, was charged with felony mob action in connection a separate confrontation with police Sunday.The charges against French and Cerajewski bring the total of NATO protesters charged with felonies to date to six, according to the Tribune.锘?p>ANKARA, Turkey -- Neslisah Osmanoglu, an Ottoman princess who married an Egyptian prince and was twice forced into exile when both royal households were abolished, has died. She was 91.Neslisah Sultan, or Princess Neslisah, died in Istanbul on Monday, according to her nephew, Abdulhamid Kayihan Osmanoglu. He didn't give the cause of death, but new reports said it was a heart attack. A funeral ceremony was being held Tuesday for the princess, who was the oldest member of the Ottoman dynasty.Neslisah Sultan was born in Istanbul on Feb. 4, 1921, two years before the Turkish Republic replaced the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled Turkey, parts of the Middle East and eastern Europe for 600 years.Her grandfather, the last Ottoman Sultan Vahdettin, and all other members of the dynasty were sent into exile in 1924, and the princess spent her childhood and adolescence in Nice, France, before moving to Egypt."When we were in exile we lived longing for the country," she told historian Murat Bardakci, whose biography of the princess was published last year. "My mother had friends who would go to Istanbul. I would ask them to bring me back a bit of soil from Istanbul, but none did."Ottoman princesses were traditionally married to members of Muslim royal families, and in 1940, Neslihan Sultan married Egyptian Prince Muhammed Abdel Monem. Prince Monem headed a regency committee that ruled from July 1952 to June 1953, when the new rulers of Egypt turned the country into a republic.The royal couple were placed under house arrest, accused of being part of an international plot against the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser, but acquitted and forced to leave the country.Exiled for a second time, Neslisah Sultan returned to live in France with her husband.In 1952, the Turkish government allowed female members of the Ottoman family to return to Turkey, and the prince and princess moved to Istanbul in 1957.On Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the late princess."She was the poster-child for nobleness who carried the blood of Osman," he said in Parliament, referring to Osman I, the Anatolian ruler who established the Ottoman Empire. "We remember her with high regard and our blessings."The princess took the surname Osmanoglu, or son of Osman, along with other surviving members of the dynasty."When I go out in the streets, I see that all nice things were built by my grandfathers," she told Bardakci. "I therefore cannot help think that they belong to me. I feel like I am a part of this place and that I belong to this land."Prince Monem, who was born in 1899, died in Istanbul in 1979.Neslisah Sultan is survived by a son, daughter and a grandson.__Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed. 锘?p>In today's news of the weird, Herm猫s's new video campaign stars a hand skateboarding through the brand's Fall/Winter 2010 collection. The kids call it "fingerboarding." We have to hand it to them -- pun intended -- the clip is pretty mesmerizing. But we're wondering if those who can actually afford Herm猫s goods are into it.()WATCH: 锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2Fptabp17JpsnCxRqP8i%2FnQ%2F%2FQCRQQZbADnOA7NCM1WIGCZAzHFRy8Py%2BBthjh0lwfxOpNFswsNWnerThQBM2aH7e5oFSBLbKSUoJcAnScqo3BezOW2So8qFarrZbSAldx%2FZsr8xTsJhYE锘?p>Nico Castro, a 6-year-old boy with brain cancer, got a break from his chemotherapy that would allow him to trick or treat as Batman on Halloween. Instead, Nico chose to be a superhero to other young patients in the children's ward at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif."I was sad they wouldn't have candy," .With the help of his parents, Nico and delivered the dress-up donations in time for the big day, NBC News reports.Nico and his family, who live in San Bruno, Calif., began the drive on Oct. 4, , according to People magazine."Even though he's going through all these challenges with his medicine and his treatment, for him to be able to think about other kids is such a wonderful attribute," Carla Delemos, a child life specialist at the hospital, .Nico's family recently spoke with HuffPost blogger Toan Lam. Watch the video below and . 锘?p>SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been less than a year since the Obama administration launched an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana in California, and the government's actions have already taken a significant toll on the economy.Since Department of Justice officials announced last October that they would be going after cannabis operations throughout the state, hundreds of dispensaries from San Diego to Yuba County have been forced to shut down. Thousands of employees at said businesses have lost their jobs as a result, and California is losing out on much-needed sales tax revenue."The average dispensary employs half a dozen to ten people and has gross revenues on the order of $500,000 to $1 million per year," Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Huffington Post. "Therefore we are talking about thousands of legal jobs and tens of millions in tax revenues lost."Though the drug remains illegal under federal law, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes when voters passed in 1996. Recent figures released by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national coalition dedicated to promoting legal access to the plant, that medical marijuana sales generate upwards of $100 million in annual tax revenues for the state.California's coffers could certainly benefit from that money. State leaders are struggling to close a foreboding $16 billion budget deficit. Governor Jerry Brown has repeatedly warned that if voters fail to pass his plan to temporarily increase taxes in November, he will be forced to implement severe cuts to schools and public safety services.But federal officials have plunged ahead with their war on weed, sending threatening letters to dispensaries across the state warning that their storefronts operate too close to parks and schools. Oakland's Harborside Health Center, known as the "nation's largest pot shop," has been targeted for closure simply because it's too big.Harborside brings in some $20 million each year and employs more than 100 workers. Since Oakland imposes a five percent business tax on cannabis, its shuttering would not only cost the city dozens of jobs, but more than $1 million in potential revenues.Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has been seeking information about every dispensary currently open in San Francisco. The city has lost nearly half of its pot shops in the past year -- nine have been forced to close since October. This summer, two dispensaries known for their close-knit communities of patients, The Vapor Room and HopeNet, .During his time on the campaign trail and shortly after taking office, President Obama and other high-level members of his administration repeatedly stated that they would not go after marijuana operations in states that had legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. The reasons behind the government's about-face largely remain unclear."I can't speak for the Obama administration; I can't speculate," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "The federal government is not giving up and it's absolutely puzzling why they would put so many thousands of patients into harm's way."Hermes pointed out that many patients have been forced to purchase marijuana using illegal means or simply go without, a plight highlighted in a featuring a variety of regular Harborside customers. "People should be able to benefit from a medicine that is legal under their own state's law," he added.Obama broke his relative silence on the issue in interview with Rolling Stone in April. "What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana," the president . "I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana."Hermes disagrees that the federal government has only been targeting a specific type of business. "It's an indiscriminate attack. They arent going after dispensaries that are breaking state law; they're investigating all of them," he explained. "They've been pretty effective at intimidating the entire medical marijuana community. Much more so than Bush was during his time in office."HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at America鈥檚 failed war on drugs August 28th and September 4th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. -- and join the conversation.Related on HuffPost:锘?p>There's buying consignment, and then there's buying consignment online.When you shop for items in a store, you can use your five senses to assess quality. Online, however, it can be trickier (how are you supposed to know if the items you're checking out are legit?). And with the recent explosion in online consignment stores, we wanted to arm you with a few tips that'll help you get the most from your WWW clothing-buying experience.So we chatted with the experts over at . (The site offers up consignment finds from stylists to the stars, like Elizabeth Stewart whose clients include Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain.) Here are their 10 must-follow online shopping tips.Designer Fashion DepreciatesConsider buying luxury consignment items instead to supplement your wardrobe. You'll be buying a depreciated item -- you won't lose value and you could actually make money when you resell. Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin shoes retain the most value. Contemporary brands like Trina Turk do not retain value.Clean Your Closet Each SeasonIf you do, you can make hundreds, maybe thousands from items you have in your closet. If you wait too long, your items will lose their resale value. Very few items are really collectible vintage -- they're just old.Don't Follow TrendsBuy what you love. Spot a great mini that you can't live without? Buy it -- it's a staple.Know Your Body ShapeBuy silhouettes, shapes and colours that are flattering to your figure. If you're petite, stick with classic cuts that won't overwhelm your small frame or if you have a small waist, go for an A-line skirt and nipped-waist blazer.Buy End-Of-SeasonYou can already expect to save 70 per cent, but at the end of the season, items will be marked down even lower.Alter ClothingIf you find a fabulous piece that isn't exactly right for your body, remember you can always have it altered to elevate your look.Know Your SizeA pair of Manolos will fit differently than a pair of Louboutins. If you're hesitant about sizing, feel free to email our stylist at stylist@therealreal.com.Price It OutThe best pieces are usually the most expensive. Think of it as an investment rather than a splurge.Get ExperienceThe more experience you have in buying and selling pieces, the wiser you'll become for your next purchase. Familiarize yourself with brands that fit your body and your personal style aesthetic.Have Fun!Buying and selling pieces online is fun and rewarding. It's also an economical way to keep your wardrobe fresh season after season.锘?p>In Random Recast, we find new uses for ordinary things. For our extended launch week, it's all about getting creative with paper. And this time, we're getting really creative with this paper Hermes bracelet that we're using as a napkin ring. Why? Because it looks amazing. (Wouldn't it look fabulous if made with black paper?) It's not too difficult to create, either, thanks to Hermes' convenient PDF. To access it, visit Lesailes.Hermes.com and select "I Want It, I'll Have It" from the thumbnails. (Hint: You can move the thumbnails around to find it.)Want more clever paper projects? Then check out... 锘縈e too but I didn't win it. They probably can't sell it since these kinds of things rarely are transferrable and I get really tired of so many people thinking they have the right to tell others what to do. Can you even imagine how stressful it must be to be homeless and jobless in Green Bay right now? If they need to use it, I say use it. Maybe when they get back they will feel renewed and focus more on getting employed. It's a tough market here in Wisconsin. We're all lucky to have jobs who have them.But if someone wins something why should anyone begrudge them their happiness?锘縕jYtkDCkdAyp8M3LFRgy7xTFj%2BgLssdqc6jgUpMjsEkGG%2BC0r9Cxz1nGR%2Bj7%2BMI04JV0LjXrd%2F2KVVCWNvUUwkUMAi7dTbqiUKJ8yDpsTJGNp0GEdw0Q8tQq%2FHBol2Va锘?p>With the four main Fashion Weeks just around the corner, I am looking forward to finally seeing the latest collections from some of the world's best designers. Whether I am lucky enough to be present at the shows, or if it's a case of catching up online afterwards, September marks the time of year I make my imaginary shopping list of coveted items, either for my styling clients or myself. With a jam-packed schedule in each city, and a host of brands to choose from, it can be a difficult task to name my favourites, however, I have tried to encapsulate below my "must-see" shows, and the designers I will have my eye on this season.锘?p>PARIS The Paris prosecutor's office says it has opened a preliminary investigation into scarf and bag maker Hermes' claim that luxury giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton engaged in insider trading and share manipulation when it took a stake in its rival.The French stock market regulator AMF is already looking into LVMH's 2010 acquisition of Hermes stock, but Hermes has also filed a criminal complaint. LVMH has called the charges completely unfounded and an attempt to slander a competitor.The prosecutor's office confirmed Friday that it is investigating.LVMH initially bought a 14.2 percent stake in Hermes in October 2010, to the apparent dismay of the Hermes family, which called the move "unsolicited" and vowed to maintain its independence. LVMH has since increased its stake to 22.3 percent.锘?p>Well-dressed women are the norm here, but my new neighbors in particularhave that certain je ne sais quoi which is just so Parisian. Their outfits are usually paired with perfectly matching manicured hands and feet -- they seem to excel at color coordination. Not to mention the "perfect" accessory.Never have I seen so many Birkin bags being proudly paraded around. On one of my first shopping excursions up to the rue de Passy, I counted at least eight in the first 10 minutes. (The Goyard canvas tote comes in at a close second place.) Their grooming is impeccable: Most women here always look like they recently stepped out from the hair salon. I just don't know where they find the time for all this, but they do.锘?p>That favorite fragrance may be the one thing ladies must put on before leaving the house, but it may also contribute to a number of health problems. Fragrances and perfumes have often , like sneezing or watery eyes, but the chemical scents may also bring on bouts of contact dermatitis (a condition in which the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after direct contact with a substance) or, in the worst cases, depression."Scent sells. So not only are there definitely more fragranced products in the world, the fragrances themselves are also more complex. And for many people, repeated exposures can bring about a constellation of symptoms," Tracie DeFreitas Saab, a human factors consultant with the Job Accommodation Network at West Virginia University, .About one in 10 people are to chemical elements in fragrances, but with the increased use of scents -- whether it's an air freshener or scented candle -- with for at least one allergen.Aside from general irritation, , which presents as inflamed skin, may also result from an allergy or irritant brought on by perfume. In more severe cases, cosmetic contact dermatitis , a marked by itchy rashes.But the heaviest health burden falls on the who are chemically intolerant. This heightened chemical sensitivity can be incapacitating in the most extreme cases, rendering sufferers unable to leave the house because they are so bothered by certain synthetic molecules in scents. Chemically intolerant people are also more likely to experience panic attacks or , according to a recent study conducted at two Texas family medicine practices. "We don't know why this association exists," lead researcher Dr. David A. Katerndahl of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio . While Katerndahl found chemical intolerance is linked to mental health problems, the study does not prove cause and effect.Though the vast majority of the population is not effected by such severe side effects, people who wear perfume should still be cautious of the chemicals in the bottle. In a 2010 report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in partnership with the Environmental Working Group, researchers found 14 potentially harmful chemicals that were not listed on fragrance product labels."'The fragrance mixture itself can be comprised of dozens, even hundreds, of individual chemicals, and those don't have to be listed on the label," Jane Houlihan, co-author of the report and EWG senior vice president for research, .Also on HuffPost:锘緾ommunity Notice:We've made some changes to our badge program, including the additionof our newest badge: Community Curator.锘?p>England's most famous sister Pippa Middleton is known most for her head-turning style. But she's using that style to do a little giving back. that the scarf Pippa wore out yesterday is no ordinary neckwarmer: it's the , from which a percentage of the profits benefit the , a movement devoted to ending human sex trafficking. Pippa used the scarf to accentuate her black skinny jeans, blue jacket, Kate Kuba boots and Bulgari sunglasses. The scarf costs about $127 -- to look like Pippa while also helping a terrific cause.Check out Pips' do-good look below! 锘?p>VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI embarks Friday (Sept. 14) on a high-risk trip to Lebanon, as the country's stability is threatened by spillover from the conflict in neighboring Syria.The three-day visit is also the pope's first foray into the Middle East after the Arab Spring, giving him the opportunity to reassure the region's Christian minorities who fear the recent rise to power of Islamist leaders in the region."My apostolic voyage in Lebanon, and by extension in the Middle East in its entirety, comes under the sign of peace," Benedict said Sunday during the Angelus prayer at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Despite the "dramatic situation" of a region torn by "incessant conflict," people "shouldn't resign themselves to violence or worsening tensions," he added.Officially, Benedict travels to Lebanon to hand over "Ecclesia in Medio Oriente," the final document of a 2010 meeting of Middle East bishops at the Vatican.But the conflict in Syria -- between Sunni-led rebels and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the minority Alawite faith with links to Shiite Islam -- will loom large over the trip.In recent weeks sectarian clashes between Alawites and Sunnis broke out in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, threatening the country's fragile equilibrium among religious groups.Lebanon has the Middle East's largest Christian community, numbering around 4 million people -- 40 percent of the majority-Muslim population -- though the situation is made more complex by the fact that both Christian and Muslim communities are further divided into sects."There's never been a (papal) trip in such a dramatic situation," said the Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Catholic priest recently expelled from Syria after three decades in the country for his support of the rebels.The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, attempted to dispel fears that the trip might be canceled. But Lombardi admitted that the decision to go ahead with the Lebanon trip despite growing tensions is "an act of great courage" for the 85-year old pontiff.Lebanese authorities reassured the Vatican that security will be tight during the trip, which they hope will highlight Lebanon's example of Christian-Muslim cooperation in a region where such agreements are rare. Lebanese political and religious factions have announced a warm welcome for Benedict, including Hezbollah, the Islamist party and militia that is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States. Hezbollah's leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, called the pope's visit "historic."Najib Mikati, the head of the Hezbollah-backed Lebanese government, even declared Sept. 15, the central day of Benedict's visit, a national holiday.But tensions that threaten Lebanon's fragile fabric "have only been frozen, not resolved," warned the Rev. Jean Azzam of Beirut's Redemptoris Mater Seminary, and the conflict in Syria has deepened those tensions.During his stay, Benedict will have to walk a diplomatic line between calls for a military intervention to topple Assad and the position of Syria's Christian communities, who have enjoyed religious freedom under his regime and fear persecution should he be removed.On Friday, the Rev. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, a senior Vatican official, spelled out the Holy See's official policy on Syria at an international conference in Istanbul. He called for an immediate end to violence, urged Assad's government to respond to the "legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people" through dialogue and asked the international community to "dedicate itself to a process of peace in Syria.""The pope will speak in general terms on Syria," said Dall'Oglio, but he "will appeal to those in power to respect human rights."The leader of Lebanon's largest Christian group, Maronite Patriarch Bishara Rai, came under fire in past months for voicing support for Assad, though he has since softened his stance.In Lebanon, Benedict will also have the opportunity to take stock of the changes brought to the Middle East by the Arab Spring.Post-revolution elections in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have brought Islamist parties to power. This has further fueled the fears of Christian communities in the region, who suffered several episodes of violence in the instability that followed the fall of the old regimes.Though the Vatican in general supported democratic reforms, it has also stressed the need to defend the rights of minority groups, including Christians, in those Muslim-majority countries.Guixot said Christians in the Arab world are "ready to play their part" alongside Muslims in the effort to "build societies that respect the human rights of all citizens."Also on HuffPost:锘?p>SAO PAULO Fire forced the shutdown of a transformer in a substation, causing a 30-minute-long power outage in five Brazilians states, the country's Electric Energy System Operator said Thursday.The government agency said in a statement that Wednesday night's outage was caused by a fire in one of three transformers in the southern city of Foz de Iguacu.The fire was quickly extinguished and the substation's three other transformers swung into action."There was no blackout, but a preventive and controlled shutdown," agency director Hermes Chipp told reporters. He said the cause of the fire is being investigated.The number of people affected by the outage was not immediately available.Chipp said that the country's electric grid undergoes regular maintenance "and problems such as this are rare.'"But that does not mean they will not occur along Brazil's more than 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) of transmission lines," he addedHours after Chipp spoke, the Brasilia Energy Company said another power outage hit the Brazilian capital on Thursday, leaving at least 1.7 million people without electricity during two hours, company spokesman Mauro Pinheiro said.He said the outage was caused by a brushfire that damaged part of a transmission line on the outskirts of Brasilia.About two weeks ago, a power outage caused by a flawed transformer hit six states in northeastern Brazil. More than 5 million people were left without electricity for at least 20 minutes.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>It's not everyday that you get to see a small upstart emerge in the luxury market, let alone a heavy hitter. According to our sources Qatar will launch its own brand and its own luxury boutiques around the world. That's it!The Huffington Post has obtained the name of this self-proclaimed luxury brand, as of yet kept secret: QELA. Given the virtually unlimited financial means of the Qataris, established brands such as Hermes, Dior and Louis Vuitton are not likely to take this news lightly.Caroline Guillon, the marketing director of Qatar Luxury Group, which launched the brand, told The Huffington Post, "Since its inception, the goal of our group has been to create a fashion brand in Qatar, and then, in time, expand to an international vocation. We are currently working on the collection." However, for the time being, Guillon preferred "not to disclose the name."This information came from the other side of the Atlantic when a source close to the project confided that Qatar is actively seeking commercial space in New York for a luxury boutique. Several real estate agents have been retained by the Qatar Luxury Group, which is owned by the . A commercial real estate specialist in Paris confirmed the group's interest in New York space. The new entrant is also searching for premises of at least 500 square meters in the French capital, with a preference for the fashionable rue du Faubourg Saint-Honor茅, which already hosts Dior, Louboutin, Hermes, Lazzaro, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. "We are actually looking a little more closely at New York and Paris, but our priority is the store opening in Doha," Guillon said. "Otherwise, no date has been set."Late 2012, Probably 2013Ultimately, the launch could include more than ten cities including Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Milan, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and, obviously, Doha. Each of these stores would exclusively sell the brand. This project involves creating the stores as well as the products. The objective is to launch at the end of 2012.But in reality, it will take a few more months. Not all of the commercial sites have yet been found. Accordingly, it is unlikely that leases will be negotiated and shops installed in just four months. "In my opinion, it is too late for the end of year," says a close affiliate. "The project is not yet fully put together, there are still too many unknowns."Guillon says the group's priority is Qatar."We have filed for trademarks in many countries to date so that no one will be able to take the name," Guillon says. "But our priority is launching in Qatar. This will start as a local brand. Do not expect a launch with great fanfare or fireworks ..." In Doha, the goal remains to launch by the end of the year, but as always, construction is never free from delays.QELA Already RecruitingIn Doha, things seem well underway, as recruitment has already started. The name of the future luxury brand is referenced within an announcement of the famous Michael Page recruiting firm:(Click the image to go to Michael Page's website)"As a luxury seamstress [...] you must meet the highest standards of quality QELA demands at all times," details the announcement from the Qatar Luxury Group. The employment announcement is dated Aug. 4, evidence that the pace of development for the brand is accelerating. "Our main shareholder is the Qatar Foundation, which has a mission to educate young Qataris," Guillon said. "Our future brand will allow us to train some in the luxury sector."Registered BrandThe concept of launching Qatar's own luxury brand obviously crossed the mind of the head of the Qatar Luxury Group several years ago. In fact, the brand and logo were registered as trademarks in the United States on Oct. 21, 2009: Initially, this trademark was registered for textiles and cosmetics, such as essential oils, perfumes, colognes, potpourris, creams, deodorants, lotions, false eyelashes, beauty masks and so on. But on May 2, the trademark was extended to include a broader category of products. Now the Qatar Luxury Group can also market the following products under the QELA brand:Leather goods (attach茅s cases, boxes, trunks, suitcases, travel cases)Jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, brooches, rings)Sunglasses,Binoculars,Notebooks,Textiles (blankets, clothing)Shoes,Bath accessories (shoes, hats, bathrobes鈥?, etc.Of course, obtaining a trademark does not necessarily mean that all of the products listed will be sold, however, it does reserve the right to sell such products in the future and further prevents competitors from usurping the name for a similar line of products.The brand was filed in Switzerland in October 2009 with a brand r. A deposit was also recorded in France at the .( pour voir le d茅tail, lien en allemand) et, en France, un d茅p?t a 茅t茅 enregistr茅 脿 l'INPI ().鈥?And the WebsiteThe group also took the initiative on the web. The domain www.qela.com was filed on June 13, 2002 but has been updated as recently as June 7. Qatar Already Had One Foot in the Luxury MarketQatar's interest in the luxury market is nothing new or surprising. But it has been several years since the Qataris have been involved in this market through their many investment funds, particularly in France. On March 16th, it was disclosed that Qatar had a in LVMH through its investment fund Qatar Holding. The gas-rich Gulf Emirate has also bought up numerous luxury hotels, such as the Hotel du Louvre, the Royal Monceau Hotel Lambert and the Concorde Lafayette in Paris, the Martinez and and the Palais de la M茅diterran茅e in Nice. The Qataris have also participated as a 6.39 percent holder of the Soci茅t茅 des Bains de Mer, which owns four luxury hotels in Monaco. Finally, Qatar, through the Qatar Luxury Group, has become the majority shareholder () of Le Tanneur, the French handbag manufacturer.Enacting a Luxury BrandAll these investments have certainly helped Qatar gain experience in the luxury market. Several French people have gone to work for the Qatar Luxury Group. Gregory Couillard directs both the Qatar Luxury Group and Le Tanneur. Is this sufficient to create a luxury brand? This remains uncertain.Despite the enormous financial resources of the Qatari family, branding cannot be decreed. This is all the more true given that the most well known luxury brands have earned their stripes over decades. "We'll see how they position themselves, but they do not have the aura of an Hermes or a Louis Vuitton," says one expert. "There is a probationary period in which a brand transitions from new to trendy to luxury."Starting prudently at first in Doha, and then transitioning to New York and Paris demonstrates that the Qataris are not skipping steps. One thing is certain, we have not heard the last of them.This in Le Huffington Post. 锘縠GHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ2EUUrkxATVpSzBNJOBqEzcV2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ6fVx4NbTyV%2B7Ql2tAH0vCj4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesA7EFvdsOSuTBc8OfyGzw3GYqrfjYvGOR8QAEXbdlMhN锘?p> is cooler than any of us. She , and Should we even keep trying?Her Majestyover the weekend -- home of the -- on her way back from a grouse shoot. But instead of her trademark floral hats -- much more customary for a royal -- she slipped into some unusual headgear, wearing what appeared to be a grey-colored hoodie.The 86-year-old queen usually scoots around in her chaffeured Bentley, so we're surprised to see her gunning behind the wheel of a green Range Rover. But regardless... THAT HOODIE.Now, we have to ask. Was the queen actually decked out in a hoodie, or was her headwear just a scarf pinned down with bobby pins (which we can sort of make out in the photos)? More hoodies in her past? See Queen Elizabeth II's style evolution:Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .锘?p>PARIS - The start of haute couture week in Paris is a must on any self-respecting fashionista's calendar.But day one of the French capital's fall-winter 2012 shows was different: It's what's called a fashion event.Monday was the debut of Christian Dior's new designer Raf Simons 鈥?the first chance to see into the future of a storied powerhouse.He is only their fifth designer since Christian Dior founded the company in 1946.The anticipation was evident in the front row turnout: a who's who of influence, from Marc Jacobs to Donatella Versace, Pierre Cardin, Riccardo Tisci and Diane von Furstenberg.Ever since last year's dismissal of John Galliano, the house has been looking for a new, stronger direction.In Simons' triumphant offering 鈥?which modernized the cinched waisted New Look 鈥?it would seem they've found it.Haute couture is an artisan-based method of making clothes that dates back over 150 years.The highly expensive garments, shown in collections in Paris twice a year, are bought by a core group of no more than 100 rich women around the world.Other shows on a busy day included Giambattista Valli, who also channeled 1950s silhouettes in tulip and A-line silhouettes.Meanwhile, Moroccan-born designer Bouchra Jarrar went back to haute couture's artisanal roots to produce an accomplished show of femininity.Tuesday's shows include Chanel and Armani Prive.CHRISTIAN DIORSay it with flowers.That was the clear message from new designer Raf Simons in his 1950s-tinged haute couture debut for Christian Dior.When the normally exuberant house first hired the Belgian designer, known for his minimalist and linear style, it raised eyebrows.But Monday's show will win many over.He revitalized with panache the curved Dior "flower women" silhouette.It's what Christian Dior, the man, used to describe his revolutionary 1947 New Look of cinched waists and full skirts that resembled inverted flowers.One thing's clear: Simons has done his homework.In the four months since being named creative director, he's delved deep into the house's archives.The result: a strong show in homage to Dior's love of flowers, but never a servile one.Simons owned it.Fifty four diverse looks paraded through several sweet-scented salons, wall-to-wall in myriad multi-colored flowers.The first pieces were among the strongest.Simons truncated the New Look, pairing high-waisted A-line mini dresses with contemporary black pants.These were followed by a series of clean A-line archive pieces in bright reds and pale pink.Their clean lines with large, hip-level pockets signalled a break from the vivacity of Simons' predecessor, John Galliano.Dior's been looking for fresh direction ever since Galliano was sacked last year for a drunken anti-Semitic tirade.This collection shows they've found their man.Simons aimed to create a new kind of couture. He said it wasn't "just about reaching for a typical satin duchesse, a silk...but new forms."And this was certainly fresh territory.One bright yellow, show-stopping evening dress might have come in silk, but its skintight sheer top exposed the model's nipple ring.Some of the looks in fur didn't quite work, but the misses were outweighed by plays on traditional form.In a clever touch, Simons transformed the Bar Jacket into a tuxedo-dress, turning its cupped pockets into a Madonna-style conical bra.Simons' show proves that change is a good thing. Now, Dior could well give Louis Vuitton and Hermes a run for their money.BOUCHRA JARRARBouchra Jarrar is relishing her feminine side.The lauded designer opened Paris' haute couture week on a breeze of soft A-line silhouettes.The 22 highly wearable dresses 鈥?in a gentle palette of lavender, black and white 鈥?floated by with clean draped collars and backs with effortless elegance.But the simplicity of the collection was deceptive.At work here was the atelier of the last great embroider, Francois Lesage, who passed away last year 鈥?a huge loss to Parisian fashion.But here his techniques carried on.A perfect example was on one silk georgette knee-length dress with a deep green flash of crepe de chine. Its hand-woven draped collar in tweed showed off couture's accomplished fastidious technique."It was like magic," added Jarrar. "(The atelier) worked with Lesage for 30 years: you can see it in the clothes."And you could.GIAMBATTISTA VALLIGiambattista Valli explored the flora and fauna of Mother Nature in a cinched waisted 1950s offering.Models in billowing floral creations of lightweight silk organza and muslin fluttered by on Monday, some with butterflies covering their mouth.His signature style of clothing 鈥?known to be uber-feminine 鈥?is rapidly building up a strong following among fashion's glitterati.It was 鈥?of course 鈥?a VIP-filled front row."I'm dying to get into one of those dresses," gushed Jessica Stam, one of the world's highest paid models. "I just loved those butterflies."The vibrant show was all about prints.For the garden, tulip shaped or A-line skirts were covered in rose prints.The silhouettes at times had a distinct feel of Christian Dior's 1950s looks 鈥?this generating, on more than one occasion, shocked gasps from fashionistas.There were some sublime looks. In several ensembles the models' head disappeared in the voluminous, petal-like muslin ruffles.But Valli took it too far.One bizarre green feathered evening dress, the program notes described as "wild grass." It looked more like a hedge needing a trim.ATELIER VERSACEOn Sunday, in an emotional coming home, Donatella Versace finally took an Atelier Versace couture show back to the Ritz Hotel in Paris 鈥?the last place she saw her late brother Gianni.The Ritz has a particular significance for the storied Italian house.Gianni staged his last runway show there shortly before his murder in Miami in 1997.But Donatella ensured there was no room for mourning. Instead, her couture was a bejeweled celebration of a house with buoyant revenues and still lots to say.The celebrity presence alone was proof enough of the house's enduring pull.The 26 dresses were all strict, revealing and uber-sexy. Waists were cinched to within an inch of life on mainly corseted bodices 鈥?in metallic gold rose, blush and purple. The longer length evening gowns billowed with techno chiffon, of Barbie doll proportions.Donatella is a designer demanding of perfection. It seems that being 6 feet (1.8 metres) is still not tall enough: one model stumbled twice, her heel tangled in her gown's cascading layers.But the garments, bought by a core group of no more than 100 rich women around the world, are not for the average Jane. Creations range in price from $19,000 to $125,000.The show ended to Prince's hit "Kiss."You don't have to be rich to rule Versace's world? Surely it must help._____Thomas Adamson can be followed at Alexandria,">http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP锘?p>Alexandria, Egypt is a city that appeals powerfully to imagination. It was here that the Egyptian Revolution was ignited by the brutal murder of blogger Khaled Said, and the city continues to be a major focal center of political activism. But Alexandria is also the city of Cleopatra, and of the ancient Library, reborn today as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. It was the home of the philosopher and mathematician Hypatia, beautifully brought to life by Rachel Weisz in the recent film Agora. And Lawrence Durrell immortalized the sensuous, mid-20th century incarnation of the city in his classic evocation of the city's exotic and sensuous ambience, The Alexandria Quartet. Yet for many its place in the world remains indistinct. Most visitors to Egypt tend not to venture north of Cairo to the shores of the Mediterranean where Alexandria is found. Instead they head up the Nile to the pharaonic monuments of Luxor and Aswan, or East to the beaches and diving resorts of Sharm El Sheik. But in Alexandria we have a cultural jewel, one of the most brilliant cities in the history of the world, its Corniche stretched along the blue bay shore, awaiting rediscovery by lovers of history and ancient spirituality.A casual visitor today might not see beyond the hectic traffic, the dingy buildings, and the absence of pyramids. And it's true that not much remains from ancient times to offer an easy appeal at first glance. But look deeper and a mysterious realm begins to appear, the place where the Western mind first began to take shape, the cultural capital of antiquity. Founded by Alexander the Great, the city was the birthplace of the first great library containing all the knowledge of the ancient world. Without the Library of Alexandria we would probably not have preserved the work of Homer, Plato, Aristotle or Euclid, to name just a few of the figures without whom civilization would be immeasurably poorer.It was here in about 250 BCE that Eratosthenes first calculated the circumference of the Earth using nothing more than a stick, a string, and a shadow, and got it right within 500 miles. It was also here that the first lecture halls and laboratories were built in the Museion, named after the Greek muses. And for those with more philosophical interests, it was in Alexandria that a syncretic fusion of Greek and Egyptian wisdom gave birth to new spiritual streams that would alter the thinking of the world, and deeply influence both the West and Islam for many centuries.Alexandria was the world's first cosmopolis -- a place where all the cultures of the known world flowed together. Greek philosophers rubbed shoulders with Egyptian priests and Indian gymnosophists, African influence flowed down the Nile, and the lands of the Mediterranean and Black Sea both fed and were nourished by its brilliance. Multiculturally, it was the New York of its day, where devotees honored the divine spiritual teacher Hermes Trismegistus, a blend of the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek Hermes. His legacy, the Hermetica, was to have a profound influence on the Renaissance. Alexandria was also the home of alchemists, Gnostics, and lovers of esoteric wisdom; and later whole schools that developed worldviews in which Greek philosophy was beautifully integrated with Christian and Jewish belief.Today, the ancient city has begun to live more vividly in our imaginations. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new Library of Alexandria, was built in the last decade on the approximate site of its legendary predecessor, and is intended to serve as the world's window into Egypt. Books on Cleopatra, Like Stacy Schiff's recent best-seller, continue to fascinate and reveal a brilliant and diplomatically skilful woman fluent in multiple languages.The movie Agora used spectacular computer graphics to recreate the sheer grandeur and beauty of Romano-Egyptian Alexandria, marred tragically by the murder of the noble philosopher Hypatia by an incensed Christian mob. More subtly, Leonard Cohen's poignant song, Alexandra Leaving, echoes the work of the 20th century Greek-Alexandrian poet, Constantin Cavafy, a friend of E.M. Forster, whose poems often evoke moving scenes from antiquity.Alexandria today may bear little resemblance to the world city that amazed antiquity. Nor does it possess the sophisticated, multicultural ambience of Lawrence Durrell's evocative Quartet. But after decades of neglect and stagnation under military rule, admirers of this city of genius and mystery have reason to hope that post-revolutionary Egypt will build on the Library's resurgence and enable Alexandria to retake its rightful place as one of the greatest cultural and spiritual gems ever created. 锘?p>Meet the real-life exorcist who claims to perform ten services a week.Brother Hermes, from Colombia, has been coming to the aid of those who believe they've been possessed by evil spirits for the past 25 years - and estimates that he's carried out thousands of rituals in La Cumbra.The 50-year-old, real name Hermes Cifuentes, covers those needing his help in mud and surrounds them with fire, lime and eggs.Brother Hermes says he's performed thousands of ritualsThey lie in the shape of a crucifix, with pieces of green and white ribbon tied to small crosses forming a part of the cleansing process, too.At one point those he's treating are also made to stand in a hole in the ground.Exorcisms have long had a place in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, but the number performed rose sharply in the 1960s and 1970s, possibly because they began appearing in horror films.Those being cleansed are covered from head to foot in mudThree years ago, a Roman Catholic priest claimed that two Italian men were cleansed of evil spirits by the mere presence of the Pope.He wrote: The scientific viewpoint is that those who truly believe they're possessed could be mentally ill.锘縄t may look strange or silly to us but if the person claiming 'possession' truly believes that they're possessed then rituals like this can alleviate their psychic (as in mental) suffering. It's the same principal that makes placebos effective even when the patient is told up front that it's a placebo. Many people with serious mental illnesses, particularly those with bipolar and schizophrenia, do not believe they are ill and will often refuse to believe it even if they're told by doctors and loved ones but those with other illnesses such as depression do realize they're ill. It's very likely that those seeking healing from this man don't have serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia because they're actively seeking treatment but they may have other problems like depression, anxiety, personality disorders etc. that *can* be helped --at least temporarily-- by the attention and belief they have in such ceremonies.锘?p>What do surfing, acting and collecting have in common? They are all important aspects of Tanna Frederick's life.Frederick has been cast in numerous films since her big screen debut in 2003 with leading men such as Noah Wyle, Michael Imperioli and recently Judd Nelson. When she isn't rehearsing her lines she is scouting shops and the Internet looking for vintage jewelry. And not just ANY brand will do. Frederick is addicted to Chanel. And let's be honest, what woman isn't?Such a young, fresh face... why the interest in retro goodies? I learned her passion goes far beyond the jewelry, and her home is a virtual retrospect of an era she didn't grow up in...RH: Antique dresses from the '40s and vintage Chanel jewelry. You are hardly old enough to remember this time period, so how did you become so interested in this era of collecting?Photo Credit: Tanna FrederickFREDERICK: I am a total '40s freak. I was born into the wrong era of people. My bedroom is all peach and green which was popular in the 1940s. I actually had my headboard designed after Dinner at 8, one of my favorite movies with Jean Harlow. My entire upstairs balcony has photographs of 1940s celebrities such as Bogart and Bacall, Garbo, Hayworth, Sinatra, etc. I feel an affinity for that time period. The first film I was cast in was Hollywood Dreams. My character was obsessed with the 1940s. To better understand the period, I watched three black and white films a day. It opened up this incredible world to me, and I couldn't help but think this was when I should have been born! I love the bold choices, the elegance, the style... Anything I can get from that time period is fantastic. RH: Coco Chanel was an incredible fashion designer. Clothing, handbags, shoes and jewelry, she did it all. Who would have thought her costume jewelry would be so coveted? It's my understanding she created her line of jewelry so that women could feel comfortable wearing fun jewelry without having to bring out their expensive baubles. What attracted you to Chanel jewelry?FREDERICK: I think it's the elegance of her jewelry. I can still get pieces from the 1960s-70s that have remained in great condition. They don't wear down. I rarely get glammed up, so I don't really have a call for fine diamonds and gemstones. With Chanel jewelry, I can wrap a pearl necklaces around my wrist, or a gold necklace with my jeans and it completely makes the outfit. I love the simplicity and the elegance of it. There is a very romantic feeling wearing Coco Chanel. It makes you feel very sexy yet powerful at the same time which I think is a testament to her personality. RH: Where have you found the pieces in your collection?FREDERICK: I have two favorite places; Riceandbeansvintage.com, and ArchiveVintage.com. I have acquired tons of things from them. I love the hunt of finding something new for my collection and I love the recycled aspect too. Photo Credit: Tanna FrederickRH: Is there any piece you have been searching for but have yet to find? FREDERICK: I don't have a want list. I don't go about acquiring things for my collection by knowing what is out there, and what I am missing. I always love not knowing what is right around the corner. I really feel pieces choose you, instead of you choosing them. When I look for jewelry, it's not about finding the perfect piece; it's about finding something that speaks to me. I am more attached to the beauty and the emotionality of the piece. RH: Do you collect any other jewelry designers or just Chanel?FREDERICK: I love Pierre Cardin from the 1970s. I also love Hermes, Pauline Trig猫re, Lanvin and Gucci from the '60-70s. Judith Leiber belts from the 1970-80s are great. RH: Any advice for budding collectors? Collecting Chanel jewelry is not for everyone as it can be quite pricey. Suggestions for those who want to covet on a budget? FREDERICK: If you are on a budget, I suggest you spend time looking at the different fashion websites and see who is offering the best deal. Vintage (and gently used) is going to be less expensive than buying a new Louis Vuitton purse, or a new Chanel necklace. In the stores, the Chanel necklace might cost as much as $5000, but a vintage piece can be found for less than $1000. You are getting a great piece of history that way!Photo Credit: Tanna FrederickWell Tanna, I must admit I have never owned anything by Chanel. I think I'll surf over to the websites you mentioned and see about acquiring a few long Chanel necklaces to layer with my jeans. I can't wait to see what she wears on Oct. 3 for the opening of her latest film, Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.锘?p>Here's a crazy idea. First, you find an ancient Chinese philosophical text--let's say the most influential book in China's entire cultural tradition (and also pretty damned important in Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Tibet). Then you put it in the hands of some eighteenth century Jesuit missionaries in China who think it is a corrupted version of the Bible. After that, you go looking for a second group of Jesuits who hate the first group, even though they all call each other "brother," and convince them to translate the book into Latin. Now Latin, as we all know, is a dead language and of no use to anyone (keep those cards and letters coming!), so you find additional people to translate the book into dozens of other languages, including English. What happens next? Well, suppose a counter-cultural movement develops in Europe and the Americas during the 1960s. Wouldn't it be great if you had an exotic Asian text that you could embrace in order to show your disdain for conventional middle-class values and frozen TV dinners? And wouldn't it be especially nice if you could use that text to tell fortunes, write poems, produce novels, compose music, choreograph dances, and create art? Boom! That's exactly what has happened to the I Ching (also spelled Yijing), or Classic of Changes (also known as the Book of Changes). The I Ching emerged in China as a fortune-telling manual at least three thousand years ago. It began, so the story goes, with eight three-lined symbols called trigrams, which represented all of the fundamental phenomena in the universe. You can see four of the eight--representing Heaven, Earth, Fire and Water--on the South Korean national flag. When doubled, the eight trigrams became sixty-four six-lined hexagrams (you do the math). This doubling process produced trigram relationships, such as Fire in the Lake, the symbolic elements of the hexagram for "Revolution" (and also the title of a famous book on the Vietnam War).The theory of the I Ching is that the sixty-four hexagrams represent the basic circumstances of change in the cosmos, and by consulting the document reverently (this means burning incense, if you're really serious about it), a person can select a hexagram or hexagrams that will provide guidance for the present and the future. The hexagram names, all of which indicate their symbolic significance, include ideas such as "Juvenile Ignorance," "Waiting," "Contention," "Closeness," "Peace," "Obstruction," "Radical Change," "Fellowship," "Modesty," "Observation," Elegance," "Compliance" and "Joy." Several hexagrams have strong sexual connotations; this should come as a surprise to no one.Over time, not only in China but also in other parts of East Asia, and eventually the West, the symbolism of the I Ching, explained by thousands of Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist commentaries (as well as a few Jewish, Christian and Islamic ones), provoked an avalanche of creative work in realms such as philosophy, religion, art, literature, science, technology and medicine. Its symbols even inspired the theory behind fengshui. In short, the Classic of Changes became, in the words of a Chinese commentator, "a mirror of the mind." To see exactly how and why all this happened, check out my new book, In the meantime, let's look at a few snapshots of famous people in the West who used the I Ching for creative inspiration.锘縫DQaayMBCBfiaOtHg728ioN1nNk0855a6LkOkmn84bd1cQaC89k%2FpiwX6m9kY5DB3eiG3qLHB9EWT6pePonJ4ASssv3qsTl%2BBMoJStew5YA%2ByRkELQ6fvYEeOnhMHHaEtTlwJaUavSN9N3ZJIoIZ0MGUXi9rsDtgZNHZsPja4L6RO4gnSa2RIljchXJFnf2L锘?p>Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) added his voice Friday to the group of Republicans willing to explore tax increases as part of a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, telling the radio station KTRS there's a small chance he might do so as part of broader compromise."I think I鈥檓 unlikely to do that," Blunt said, in response to a question about raising marginal tax rates on incomes over $250,000. However, he added, "If we had real long-term entitlement reform that would offset the negative economic impact of raising tax rates, that鈥檚 something to talk about and that鈥檚 the deal."As Think Progress, which has the audio of his response, :President Obama offered $360 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings in his FY 2013 budget, including reforming the way government health care programs pay for services to ensure that they reward quality and efficiency and not just quantity of care.Blunt predicted there was a less than 50/50 chance Congress would reach an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, . He said his first commitment during the negotiations was to create a climate favorable to job creation."Do entitlement reform, even if it doesn't produce trillions of dollars in the first 10 years because you don't want to affect people approaching Medicare or approaching Social Security," he said. "But do that entitlement reform and then tax rate increases, and then the economic benefit ... would offset some of the negatives of raising tax rates."Blunt is among the legislators who signed Grover Norquist's pledge never to raise taxes, and his official website in which Norquist praised the senator last year for his resistance to raising the debt ceiling.But a number of Republicans have sidestepped the pledge in recent weeks, citing everything from to since signing it.Related on HuffPost:锘緼ccording to a global study of brides and grooms conducted by wedding market research company Splendid Insights, interest in having a "royal"-style...锘?p>Without a doubt, both Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn have influenced my way of dress. But it's Audrey's joie de vivre that has had the most impact on my style. Before the capri pants, ballet flats and fitted turtlenecks there was Audrey's infectious smile and heart of gold. She once said, "I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it." The actress, with , Tonys and many other awards under her belt, was a devoted humanitarian and traveled the world for UNICEF, all while looking incredible poised and polished. In short, a true lady. Although Katharine's borrowed-from-the-boys aesthetic has influenced some of my recent style icons including Ren茅e Zellweger and Elizabeth Olsen, it's Audrey's balance of masculine and feminine has had much more of an impact in terms of style. Even , the legendary shoe designer agrees, "The imprint of Miss [Audrey] Hepburn is absolutely, totally present. Like it or not, she will be the most important look of the twentieth century." Sure, Katharine's signature wide-leg trousers paved the way for Stella McCartney, Celine and Hermes, but it's Audrey's iconic embellished gown from "" that defined the LBD. And who could forget her all-black "" ensemble? The mock turtleneck paired with cropped trousers and loafers showed off her playful and girly personality, while still being refined. Photo: GettyAnd although her wardrobe of Givenchy and Ferragamo is what dreams are made of, it's Audrey's approach to beauty that continues to inspire me. I've already written at length about her (they're my idea of perfection) but her hair -- playful bangs that were anything but juvenile -- along with her wide, doe-like eyes shaped my idea of beauty from a young age. Because of Audrey, I realized that natural beauty and simple dressing is far lovelier than any on-trend fad. In short, I've learned to stay true to myself and my style. Follow Sarah St. Lifer on Twitter:锘縍unway photo: Herm猫s Spring/Summer 2012, photo from Gorunway.As the days get shorter and the temperature dips, we're looking to deeper, richer colors that convey a sense of warmth and comfort. And this loosely fitted ensemble with bold geometric colors from Herm猫s's spring/summer 2012 runway show really caught our eye. We can see pillows accented by hints of red from the lipstick and deep green and purple from the top alongside a pumpkin-hued throw. And let's be honest, what better inspiration than color taken from the Herm猫s catwalk? Find out where you can get these colors for your home below:From top:Fireworks, SW6867, . Deep Jungle, 470 F-7, .Plush Purple, B43-6, .Frank Blue, SW6967, .Pumpkin Bread, C197, .Crushed Velvet, 2076-10, . 锘?p>Ah, fedoras. Is there a more controversial chapeau right now? New York magazine just relegated them to the "lowbrow, despicable" corner of its famous Approval Matrix, and there's a sudden proliferation of .We've got to admit: fedoras scream a little "2003." But that didn't stop stylist to the stars from adopting the look -- not for herself, but for her 1-year-old son .Zoe hit the streets of New York, where she's been for several days now attending the and performing other sartorial duties, and she's brought husband Rodger and baby Skyler along. On a Starbucks run on Wednesday, Skyler showed off his best baby style in a pint-sized brown fedora, an orange necklace, plaid pants and -- OMG -- adorable baby oxfords.Mini Skyler, of course, is no stranger to the (Zoe just this past weekend), nor the.Check out photos of Rachel dressing her tot up in style below.PICS:See Rachel Zoe's style evolution!Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .Also on HuffPost:锘?p>Whether it's a Louis Vuitton, Proenza Schouler or Chanel that your heart desires, it's likely, if you're spending upwards of $1,000 on a purse, you want it to be real. But there are plenty of people out there -- online and on street corners -- who are looking for people super keen on buying a Birkin to scam. (Can you imagine what it would feel like to think you've bought "the real deal" when all you've snagged is a knock-off? Blah.)Avoid the feeling of "it" bag buying defeat, by checking out these tips from . Their five tidbits will help you spot a fake online, and will save you from serious sartorial heartbreak. Easy TellsSpotting replica handbags used to be simple; check the hardware, logos and material. Lightweight metal accents, slightly skewed logos and cheap materials are still the first lines of defence for warding off fakes, but with today鈥檚 higher-quality knock-offs, it鈥檚 a case of needing steps two through five as well.Online IndicatorsWhen buying a handbag online, make sure it鈥檚 from a reputable source. If sites are based in China or Hong Kong, proceed with caution, as the two countries make up 88.8 per cent of the goods seized. Also, check the descriptions and reviews for signs of inauthenticity. If customer reviews say the bags aren鈥檛 the real thing, then they likely aren鈥檛.Respectable ResellersJust because a bag is sold online, it doesn鈥檛 mean it鈥檚 fake. Authentic and vintage handbags are often sold on eBay; buyers just need to be smart in researching the seller. If the deal looks too good to be true, it usually is. A Chanel bag will never be $50, so use common sense. Certified resale sites like Portero also offer discounts on authentic bags.Craftsmanship FlawsA Burberry or Prada handbag will not have crooked stitching or unfinished edges. High-end brands take ultimate pride in craftsmanship, so no imperfect bag would leave their factory for a legitimate retailer like Nordstrom. The leathers and fabrics of authentic bags will always be perfectly stitched and lined up, never crooked or gapped stitched.Brand-Specific GiveawaysKnow the signs to look for in the specific bag. For instance, Marc Jacobs鈥?zippers are embossed with either RiRi or Lampo and all Louis Vuitton bags made since the early 鈥?0s have a date stamped somewhere on the interior. Brand fanatics spend time spotting knock-off bags to protect their favourite designers鈥?integrity, so a quick search before you buy will reveal specific tells for each high-end brand.Armed with these five tips, spotting imitation designer handbags should be simple. Don鈥檛 fall into the impostor trap -- if the real thing is too expensive, buy an authentic, quality handbag of a lesser-known brand. Here are real Hermes bags on the arms of celebs:Also on HuffPost:锘?p>Rather than spend another dime at the same old cookie cutter, overcrowded and clich茅 shopping mall retail stores, drop into one of these favored neighborhood nooks for the season's most original finds.Tortoise General StoreTake off to Japan without leaving the tarmac. These two Japanese infused bungalow boutiques are packed full of hand picked items from Japan. The original Tortoise General Store is a curious collection of old style crafted goods balanced beautifully with a modern and minimalist twist. Up the way, you'll find their expanded sister shop, Tortoise. This addition features more exclusive design items; art, jewelry, out-of-print books and vintage and original furniture including imported Hinoki soaking tubs. Everything you need to live a life less ordinary. For the tot: Ubugi baby kimono ($75) For the artist: Canvas Totes ($125). For the traveler: Double decker stainless steel bento box ($85). All the fun of international travel without the jet lag. Tortoise General Store 1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 314-8448, tortoisegeneralstore.com. The Hardwear StoreSo, you say you still haven't found what you're looking for? Nonsense. Find uber-indulgent vintage, estate jewelry and a one of a kind collectibles at this little local gem nestled on the border of Sunset and Barrington in Brentwood. Proprietor Arnold Turchen is truly a champion of breathtaking baubles; his very vast vintage collection is sorted by style, era, and price. For the vintage aficionado: 18k green gold Gucci green and red enamel buckle bracelet circa 1970's. For the rocker: 18k yellow gold pave diamond A & G Skull ring. Wish list: 18k white yellow Hermes puzzle ring. Prices from $600 up. The golden ticket.The Hardwear Store, 11621 Barrington Court, Los Angeles. (310) 472-2970, Hardwearjewelry.com Big Red SunOften referred to as "that blue and green place" on Rose Avenue in Venice, Big Red Sun is a one-stop whimsical wonder that celebrates indoor and outdoor living in every way possible. Landscape Designer Selena Souders is the creative brains behind this legendary local Venice spot. You'll find two side-by-side shops on the premises: Big Red Sun itself sits in the big blue house and boasts a wide range for succulent arrangements, unique vessels for plants, home accessories, furniture and vintage finds. The Golden State at Big Red Sun is snuggled in the green corner house, and celebrates all things California; from books to fashion, candles and accessories. For the hostess: A merry mix of arranged botanicals ($20 - $300). For the designer: Hanging glass orbs ($40). For the nester: Robe by Surfmonk Malibu ($90-250). For the foodie: Jams and jellies by Jenkins Jellies ($8-15). Homegrown holiday. Big Red Sun, 566 Rose Ave., Venice (310) 433-0019,www.bigredsun.com Happy Sometimes you just have to head East on the 405 to get a splash of happiness. Happy stocks well designed home and lifestyle accessories. They combine gift, garden and gallery to create a unique space, full of inspired goods and thoughtful embellishments. Another added bonus to browsing at Happy is their on site art gallery, they're absolutely dedicated to featuring emerging and talented local artists. For the optimist: Ego Boosters Boxed For (Set of 12, $16). For wine lover: Sagaform wine carafe with oak stopper $29.50 For the player: Dining table ping pong ($32). Artful giving.Happy, 4675 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, (323)661-2200, store.happylosangeles.comTurpanIf you're yearning to bring it back to basics this season, Turpan is your outlet. The shop is a smart, well-curated mix of high-to-low goods that boast beauty, design and practicality. They carry everything from apparel, and beauty products, to organic towels, furniture, jewelry and toys. Don't let the savvy high-brow vibe send you running, goods can be had as low as ten bucks. Kids are welcome, Turpan's owners want shoppers to touch things and engage in the experience of the products; which means that uber soft sheepskin rug in the corner gets a whole lot of play. For the hostess: Balcons breakfast cup and saucer ($175) For Him: Malin + Goetz peppermint body scrub ($30). For the scribbler: Ito-Ya pencils (24 for $12). Wish List: Denis Colomb Throw ($750) Thanks Santa.Turpan, Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, (310-451-9500).Follow Stacie Krajchir on Twitter:锘?p>For those who have it all, I present you with the splurge guide. The Fendi Abici Amante Donna BicycleFa la la la la around town on Fendi's luxury Abici Amante Donna bicycle; the luxury cycle is fully loaded with leather accessories, a leather GPS navigation holder, key and bike chain cover, and a detachable fabulous Fendi case ($5900). The more deluxe version comes stocked with all the above, plus removable saddle bags ($9500). Get moving in style. Exclusively available at Fendi flagship stores LaLaLuxe Concierge If she prefers a perfectly planned, luxurious, last minute birthday party in Paris, or dreams of shopping at Dior at dawn, why not give the gift of a further curated life with . This luxury Purveyor offers personal shopping, wardrobe styling, fine jewelry and private on call concierge services year-round ($300 per hour). This season, slip away for an exclusive shopping getaway via private jet to Vegas, or San Francisco; and if shopping isn't your thing, LaLaLuxe will stock your wine cellar with Napa wines, coordinate a blindfolded cheese tasting with a "fumagier" or cooking lessons at Michael Mina. A perfectly seasoned menu of luxury (From $10,000).iPhone 3G Kings Button If your only wish for 2011 is never to hear "Honey, where's my cell phone?" The iPhone 3G Kings Button could potentially be your solution. This uber luxury phone is the brainchild of Austrian designer-jeweler , king of blurring the lines between gadget, art and jewelery. The phone is covered in 18 carat yellow gold, rose gold, white gold and approximately 138 small diamonds. The home button is where the real bling is -- it's encrusted with a huge 6.6-carat diamond; with a price tag of $2.41 million, your sweetie will certainly know exactly where that phone is. Clear service, not included. Hermes Coloring BookDisney and Dora The Explorer are so last year. Give your kids creativity a splash of style with the Hermes Les 4 Mondes coloring book ($130). This deluxe gift could be responsible for kick starting an early career in design. The coloring book for adults and kids includes 12 pages with 24 designs. Go ahead, color outside the lines. Available at Customized Prada SunglassesSo you say you need something with a little more coverage this season? Pick up a pair of "PradaPrivate" customized sunglasses ($365). These designer shades allow you to express yourself in style; choose a frame color, and modify with cheeky letters, numbers and symbols like hearts, skulls, and snowflakes depending on your mood. Symbols can be easily inserted into the sunglasses' removable arms. ? A combo pack of the pieces are included with every pair. The perfect spectacle. PradaPrivate is available worldwide at Prada Boutiques.Follow Stacie Krajchir on Twitter:锘?p>MUMBAI, India Starbucks will open its first outlet in India by the end of October in an upscale neighborhood of Mumbai and has appointed a chief executive to head its India joint venture, the company said Friday.The store will be in Mumbai's Horniman Circle neighborhood, which boasts an Hermes store and a stately neighborhood park. It will feature coffee sourced locally, through an arrangement with Tata Coffee Ltd.Starbucks is operating in India through a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Global Beverages, called Tata Starbucks Ltd.Avani Saglani Davda, who has worked for the Tata Group for over a decade, will be chief executive. Most recently, she served in the vice chairman's office of Tata Global Beverages, where she was responsible for marketing and business development and helped forge the Starbucks partnership.The joint venture said in January that it aimed to open 50 Starbucks outlets in India by year's end.While that ambitious goal won't be achieved, the store opening is a tangible vote of confidence in India's beleaguered economy. New Delhi has been fighting to open its retailing market to foreign players, over loud populist protests, in a bid to boost growth and boost its reputation among skeptical foreign investors. Wal-Mart and IKEA have also said they intend to open retail outlets in India soon.锘緿ivisive international hitmaker Kanye West is currently an of-the-moment fashion designer with incredible demand for his new Air Yeezy 2 sneakers with Nike, which have...锘縑IENNA A revolutionary discovery is rewriting the history of underwear: Some 600 years ago, women wore bras. The University of Innsbruck said Wednesday that...锘縂old Rush-era Victorians, midcentury classics, modern marvels that defy the carbon footprint: When it comes to unbelievable architecture, San Francisco is hard to beat. Celebrating...锘縋eabody Award-winning journalist Katie Couric is ready to launch her new daytime talk show, "Katie" (nationally syndicated premiere Mon., Sept. 10; check your local listings),...锘縃ermes Would you seriously buy a coloring book for $135 if it was made by a storied French fashion house? ()With the help of one of the interior design world's most stylish and over-the-top personalities, eBay's built its first brick-and-mortar outpost. () Child pageant star Eden Wood has been everywhere lately, even in the pages of W Magazine's latest issue. Now she's getting more exposure, thanks to Anderson Cooper. In his latest episode, the glitz and glamour gets stripped away in a makeunder. ()Karl Lagerfeld has put his creative touch on everything from ice cream bars to cars, and now the designer's lending his talents to a famous winery. () Check out these ten best fall fashion buys to pick up now. () @DKNYPRGirl is one of the style world's most followed twitter handles but her real identity has always remained a mystery. In this new video however, the PR maven finally shows her face. () 锘?p>It is that time of year again, when we are edging near cooler nights and tougher looks. First thing, fashion-wise, that comes to my quasi-rocker/designer/writer/fashionista-mom mode of style is bring on the sweater weather and don't forget the leather. This year, more than ever, we're seeing nuances of cool vintage revival (think Hell's Angel biker babe meets Bridget Bardot's sweet yet wild side) strutting down the runways, for some chic leather Renaissance reunion. Here goes my lovely list of luxurious leather must-haves...1. DOLCE & GABBANA ()I have a personal vested interest in this always fashion-forward brand that never ceases to put a different spin on utility and style, especially when it comes to their beautiful lambskin leather purses. My love and appreciation for Domenico and Stefano (the founding genius duo behind Dolce & Gabbana that commenced in 1982) was instant. I was a young model living in Paris, visiting their Milano showroom for my first of many upcoming fashion show and ad campaign fittings as a model for these two geniuses. They really demonstrated a whole story, from idea to concept of how a woman should embrace her femininity and curves. So it is obvious that their latest stellar creation, the "Miss Sicily" leather handbag, is simply stunning to say the least. It is of a silhouette that is utterly timeless and womanly, made of supple leather construction in a sublunary hue -- with golden hardware and a cross body strap that is also accompanied by a chic top handle.2. CHROME HEARTS ()Nothing epitomizes "cool as you-know-what" as owning a little piece of heaven in your wardrobe aka "Chrome Hearts." Their leather, the same type as is used in the iconic and refined Rolls Royce interiors, is soft and subtly stretchy, and, well, earth-shattering, ground-breakingly killer. Owners and designers Laurie-Lynn and Richard Stark exude the lifestyle that they create each season. Richard, Laurie-Lynn and now also daughter Jesse Jo, fuse into the line modern pieces that exemplify punk-rock spirit with top-of-the-line construction. My whole family, hubby Duff (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver and Loaded fame) is never not draped in their leather quilted fitted moto vest, along with, of course, their supreme quality jewelry, glasses, jackets and boots. Daughters Grace and Mae and myself always have a uniform that consists of a bit of edgy charm (T-shirts, jewelry and those cute fashiony fun leather leggings) from Chrome Hearts, too. 3. CHANEL ()I am not exaggerating to you when I say I cannot leave the house and not wear these precious and oh so comfortable shoes, without receiving a compliment. They are basically my uniform constant, and have been for several years now -- I literally wear them so much that by year's end, I re-buy them again because, quite frankly, it's a no-brainer, with regard to my feet looking and feeling good. I wear them with everything (dresses, leggings, jumpsuits, etc...). They seem to have a wider, rounder toe area than some of the other brands so you can literally wear them from morning 'til night. I put an extra comfy insole in them, and voila -- slippers for the modern-day, on-the-go woman.4. AGATHA BLOIS ()It's no wonder, the fashion guru master himself -- Karl Lagerfeld -- wears custom clothing from this amazing designer. Agatha's deliciously demoniacal designs and fit are second to none. She meticulously hand sews, designs and fits the clothes to your liking, to your frame. She will use the precise thread, buttons and fabric you desire from her marvelous menagerie. Her workspace studio is one of the most original I have ever seen. One step inside, and you know you're in the master leather maker's magic zone. Agatha is sort of the secret gem in the mainstream leather world. The likes of Rihanna, Nikki Sixx, Slash, Fergie and Britney Spears are just a few of the countless celebrities touting her duds. Strong female star Rooney Mara from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was dressed from Agatha's leather and also swears by her new perfume Black Amber.5. HERMES ()If you actually want to save a bit of money over the years, then invest in this timeless, adjustable, simple leather belt. It never goes out of style it can be worn lower or higher on the waist, as it slides for an allowance of various sizes. The classic beautiful belt also can be worn on either side (ie., one side is black leather, and the other tan). Quite simply, it always adds a dash of class, and Hermes exemplifies the most classic form of iconic fashion. Follow Susan Holmes-McKagan on Twitter:锘?p>I sip wine in Paris. I am celebrating. 1) Because I am in Paris. 2) It is almost my birthday (I believe in extended celebration.) 3) My humongous personal leap. Hurrah! Hooray! Here is a story where I do not have to grapple with the arc of a character. I am a certified expert on my own grand and small (at times oh so subtle) ascending and descending (occasionally plummeting) arcs. Since my last stay in Paris, the ascending arc of my character is off the charts. I have been transformed from a woman who was intimidated by scarves to a woman with scarf-cred -- a woman who attracts scarves. The seeds of my startling evolvement were sown last year, when a scarf seduced me on a Paris sidewalk (see details in the archived ""), a scarf that garners compliments regardless of zip code or time zone; a scarf with blurbs. "Tres feminine...tres tres delicat." -- Flirty French waiter at La Closerie des Lilas. "Oh my god your scarf! It takes me back to Paris with Bob." -- My friend, Kelly, in her Los Angeles kitchen. "I want that scarf so much I hate you." -- NYC Woman at French Roast caf茅.I did not return to Paris with the intention of alerting women to my scarf-piece. But, apparently, this is what I am doing. I have yet to meet the French woman who is not eager to read "Why French Women Wear Scarves." Except for the playwright seated beside me on the terrace of Caf茅 Daguerre. "I know why I wear scarves..." the stylish septuagenarian says, her French accent as thick as the lait chaude chocolat she is drinking. "I do not like my neck." She fusses with her three-toned green silk scarf, adjusting it to just below her chin. I gaze beyond the playwright at the cheese, fruit, vegetable and fish stands along cobblestoned rue Daguerre, thinking: If I buy a wedge of goat cheese, now, I'll have to take it back to the apartment...and what I really want to do is walk to Saint-Germain, stroll down rue Dauphine to Pont Neuf. "How is your neck?" the playwright says. "It's okay," I say. She can not see my neck because I am debuting a scarf. A hot French saleswoman persuaded me to buy it (plus a snazzy dress) with her exuberant promise: "When you wear that dress in L.A. with that scarf...you will be 'look at me I am sexy--I have been to Paris.'" The scarf is red/orange, a color perfectly suited for a geranium. It looked great with the dress in the mirror of the boutique. But without the dress, well...the scarf is just not up to my standards. This is part of my humungous personal leap: I have scarf standards! "You are lucky to have a good neck," the playwright says. "Enjoy it while you can."I am in a tiny boutique on rue Dauphine, developing a relationship with a girly swirl of burgundy and white. I have tried on three scarves (the sudden sight of so many colorful, silk scarves, housed in one miniscule shop, diverted my purposeful strut toward Pont Neuf.) But this scarf I place around my neck for the second time. The Asian proprietress has red Betty Boop lips on a pale, smooth face; she is into my decision process. "Transparent," Madame Boop Lips says with a French accent that deserves to be surrounded by colorful silk. "Oui, transparent," I say. "Comme lace. You know the word 'lace?'" "Oui...like lace. The one you are wearing is most romantic," she says. "Comme ca..." She removes the scarf, unfolds it, then drapes it around my shoulders like a shawl. "Transparent," she says, again, gesturing to my skin, discreetly visible through the sheer silk. "Tres romantique." Sold! I tear a page from my L'Agenda Moderne notebook and write: "Why French Women Wear Scarves"... huffingtonpost.com. "Huffington Post?" she says, tentatively, the words too bulky for her dainty mouth. "Google?" I say. "Google," she says. Madame Boop Lips understands 'Google.' Everyone does.I sip Campari outside Caf茅 des Beaux Arts, gazing beyond the locked bouqanistes as a bateau mouche emerges from beneath the Pont des Arts, illuminating the Seine and my reverie. "Oh no...no!" My dreaminess is compromised. An American woman is yelling at a thief--a canine thief. A yellow lab, beneath the next table, clenches his drooling jaw around a thin, rectangular package wrapped in butcher paper. A man and woman, seated at the table, laugh, speaking jovially in French, as they rescue the package from the pooch's determined grip. "He stole it right from my purse," the American woman says to the man as he hands her the package. "Sliced ham," she says, scrutinizing the wrapping. "C'est pas grav," the Frenchman says. The French couple and the four-legged thief are leaving. I notice the color of the woman's scarf: a subdued violet, similar to the blouse that I am wearing (purchased yesterday.) "J'aime cette coleur," I say. "Oui," she says. "Une jolie coleur." She removes her scarf and--hands it to me. "Une cadeau," she says. A gift? Pour moi? C'est incroyable! Talk about the kindness of strangers. I gush my appreciation (in French); and suggest that she read "Why French Women Wear Scarves." "I am not French," she says. "I am Hungarian." We laugh. I place the purple scarf around my neck with a flourish, thank her, again, as she heads up rue Bonaparte with her dog and her man. At a nearby table, three Frenchwomen are all wearing scarves. I speak, excitedly: "The woman who just left with her dog...she gave me this scarf--took it from her neck, and gave it to me." This I say in broken-French as if I had just encountered a space alien. "C'est rare," The Parisian woman, sporting a bright pink scarf and dark pink feathered jacket, says. The three women ponder the phenomenon. The woman in pink says: "Was she French?" "She is Hungarian," I say. All three women nod: now it makes sense.I sip late-morning-espresso outside my favorite neighborhood caf茅 with Corinne, my new French friend. Smart, lively, and chic, Corinne speaks English in a musical tone that lends each word a sound prettier than its meaning: "I read your scarf piece," she says. "C'est vrai. It is true what you write. I love it." She lowers her voice and confesses: "I own fifty-five scarves." "Fifty-five?" "You can own many scarves," Corinne says. "For different occasions." I tell Corinne about my gift from the Hungarian woman. "Fantastique," Corrine says. "I must go now, but I will be back in ten minutes for a business appointment." She steps from patio to sidewalk as I order another espresso. By the time the espresso arrives, Corinne is back (her apartment is around the corner). Like a magician turning a rabbit into silk...she pulls a scarf from her purse: a gorgeous, iridescent blend of lavender and blue, tinged with pink and red, trimmed with red fringe. Wait. This can't be for me. She must be showing me her scarf because it is one of her favorites...maybe 'the' favorite of her fifty-five scarves. There is a glint of mischief in her eyes as she says with a sly smile: "French women can give gifts, too!" I have been wearing Corrine's scarf since she gave it to me this morning. It is close to midnight at Caf茅 de Flores and I am wondering if the man in the red leather booth is the writer that I met here, last year. Angst-ridden-handsome, his black hair streaked with grey, he looks as if he just came in from the wind, although the air is still, tonight. "Parlez vous Anglais?" I say. "Un peu," he says. I tell him: he resembles a writer that I met upstairs in the caf茅. "Your scarf makes you look very French," he says. I swear he said that. And I am delighted. "I love this scarf," I say. "Would you like to sit down?" he says. I would and I do. He is a journalist, he says....war correspondent. "I am a writer, too," I say. "But I have a secret identity," he says. "I am a classical pianist." "Really?" I say. "I have two identities as well....I am a writer and a singer." He asks what kind of writing; what kind of singing? My abbreviated answer includes: my novel, a new album that I am recording, and my HuffPo scarf-piece. We talk about the significance of music in our lives. He says that he could not continue to report about war--because he needs to make music. He drinks water, looks over his glass at me. "Your scarf does make you look very French." "A gift," I say. "Two women gave me their own scarves--including the one that I am wearing." "Here in Paris? This is exceptional. This is rare," he says. "This is your next story." The war correspondent with the secret identity writes down his phone number and email address, slides it across the table. "We will see each other, again," he says. "Oui," I say. I stroll toward the Metro. The moon, round as a plump wheel of brie, looks down at me. Maybe I've had too much wine or maybe it's the intoxication of Paris, but I am wondering if the moon is admiring my scarf. "This is a magic scarf," I say to the moon. The moon winks. I hurry down the stairs of the Metro.锘?p>On a Paris sidewalk, a scarf seduces me. It tempts me from behind the window of a boutique, the size of a rich woman's closet. Just last night, in my Paris apartment -- swapped Paris apartment... one month, anyway, (three weeks left) -- a lucid thought sneaked into the pre-dream trailers, playing inside my almost-asleep noggin:I must buy myself a beautiful scarf.A key ingredient in the recipe for style, here in the City of Lights, Parisian women -- young, old, in between -- don't wear scarves... they flaunt them. A splash of panache, affecting walk, attitude; a confident flair; a statement to gawking tourists: I am French, and you are not!The scarf in the window is une jolie escharpe. A Beautiful Scarf. A black veil of a scarf, patterned with black flowers, connoting romance; mystery. Only I don't want black. I want color."Bonjour," the young saleswoman says, as I enter the empty shop, her French voice a rhythmic lilt. She adjusts the already-perfect symmetry of gloves, berets and scarves displayed on top of the glass counter she is standing behind."L'escharpe dans le vitrine c'est jolie." This is me, speaking French. And I am trying to say -- with all the fluency one can master from having endured four years of high school French, in New Jersey -- the scarf in the window is beautiful."Oui. Tres jolie," the saleswoman says. "Vous est Americaine?"I am disappointed she guessed so quickly. But I am undaunted; apologizing (in French) for my hideous grammar, conveying my adoration for the language, suggesting that, perhaps, if I speak French everyday, my vocabulary will improve.The saleswoman insists: I speak lovely French. And before I can mess up the translation for, do you have that scarf in another color?, I see it -- in a lush, dark violet that has me purring: "Ohhhhhh... j'aime cette couleur.""C'est tres tres jolie," the saleswoman says.Scarves intimidate me. Not that I mean to compare this insecurity with a more worrisome neurosis like, oh... say, fear of clowns. It is just that I do not know how to tie a scarf properly; how to not feel overly accessorized. In short, I do not know how to wear a scarf with insouciance.Until this precise moment. The saleswoman places the scarf around my neck... and voila: She reveals the secret of how French women tie their scarves."C'est une bonne couleur pour votre face et cheveux." A good color for my face and hair, the saleswoman is saying. And I couldn't agree more. "When you wear that scarf," she says -- her accent giving each and every word a French makeover -- "you do not need make-up."I gaze into the mirror and it is true: this burst of violet -- tied just-so -- gives my face an honest-to-goodness glow. "Combien?" I say.She announces the price of this glow as if it makes perfect sense: "One hundred andfifty.""Euros?""Oui...""C'est tres chere pour moi. I wish it weren't so expensive.""C'est rare...very special," she says. "It is made in Florence.""J'habite avec le denim?" I ask, pointing to my jacket.It dresses up anything casual, she tells me. Looks good with my denim jacket and my black t-shirt. "And..." she says, "it looks elegant with elegant clothes."I study my reflection: a casual woman, made in America, "dressed up" by a scarf made in Florence... which sells in Paris for 150 Euros -- 225 dollars! I can not rationalize the expense. Yet, I can not remove this scarf, that I cannot afford, from my happy neck.I explain that I'd seen a scarf in Ile St.-Louis: silk, similar color, but simple--for 50 Euros."This scarf... c'est rare," the saleswoman says.No argument. It is rare -- this scarf that replaces the need for makeup. "I'm a writer," say. "I just finished my first novel. It is necessary for me to sell it -- because I have expensive taste.""Paris c'est difficile. It is easy to spend money here on beautiful things," she says. "C'est difficile.""The fabric is so delicate....what if it rains?""Not a problem...you tuck the scarf inside your jacket.""Show me again how to tie it," I say.I remove the scarf... and -- presto! -- my look has been downgraded.The saleswoman folds the scarf in half, lengthwise, making sure both ends hang at equal length. She drapes it around my neck, loops the ends into the fold, adjusts the scarf until that burst of violet caresses my chin.I remove the scarf. Put it back on."Parfait," the saleswoman says. "C'est une bonne couleur.""Oui. Une bonne couleur.""The last in that color," she says."The last?""No more," she says, as if she is talking about the last precious puppy in the litter of a rare breed."A few years ago, in Paris..." I say. "I bought a black blouse, patterned with flowers... pansies - -same color violet. And the other day, I bought purple boots, swirled with ecru... a shop in the fourteenth."I am having an out-of-body experience: I am watching myself remove 150 Euros from my purse."A couple of years ago," I am saying. "I bought a hat on rue Daguerre... une grandefleur -- I wore it while writing my novel. The hat inspired me.""The shop is no longer," the saleswoman says."Ma romaine est tres sensual...mouvant...mais drole." I think I am saying: My novel is sensual, moving, yet funny. Then I hear myself blurt: "This scarf will inspire me!"And I am doing it -- handing the saleswoman a 50... another 50... and another. One hundred and fifty Euros. For a scarf."Je suis fol," I say. "I am crazy."The saleswoman places a lavender lace sack -- where my scarf will live when it is not residing around my neck -- inside a store bag with handles fashioned from thick ribbon."Bon journee, Madame," she says, handing me the bag."Bon journee!"I leave the shop, wearing My Very Own Beautiful Scarf. I feel stylish; romantic... French.And broke. 5 Euros in my purse.So I hit the nearest cash machine. I insert my bank card, press the button that will allow me 300 Euros, promising myself -- this will last me until I leave Paris!The machine emits a grating sound of effort, like coughing up money hurts. A message appears on screen: PLEASE TAKE YOUR CARD.But the machine has not given me my money. Suddenly -- it sucks in my card... and a new message appears:YOU WAITED TOO LONG TO TAKE YOUR CARD...GO TO YOUR LOCAL BRANCH.Nooooooooooooooooo!No bankcard. No money.An achy, old Frenchman, walking an achy, old basset hound, witnesses my distress. He suggests I talk to the manager inside the bank. And it is only then that I realize: There is a door, not far from the machine; and through that door -- a bank."Parlez vous Anglais?" I say to the teller."Un peu," he says.In French, I explain: I love the French language, but my grammar stinks... and this istoo important -- too complicated for me to struggle with language.The teller nods.In English, I explain: the machine gobbled my card without giving me my 300 Euros."I can get your card," the teller says. "Attendez."He disappears into a tiny office behind the machine. A minute later, he hands me my bank card."But what about my 300 Euros?""We do not know if the machine took it from your account.""But what if it did?""There is no solution.""What do you mean... no solution?""Not today. Tomorrow we will check with the bank. If it has been taken... you can write a letter with your account information and we can transfer the Euros into your account.""How long will that take?""Maybe one week...maybe two."A man (Sarkozy-esque-handsome) announces himself to be the manager. "Is there a problem?" he says.Is there a problem? I convey the problem in French (with my bad grammar) and in English (with my pretty good grammar.) The next thing I know... I am explaining how Air France broke the zipper on my baggage; a suitcase worth 250 Euros. And-- I just bought the scarf that I am wearing... cette escharpe that I can't afford...for 150 Euros. "I gave the saleswoman every Euro I had in my purse!" I am saying. "I have been to Paris, five, six times... and never a problem. Now -- so many.""Sometimes it is like that," the manager says. "But there is no other solution."Ah, but I remember: a blank check in my purse -- for emergencies -- folded into a tiny square, tucked beside my last 5 Euros. I hand the check to the manager. "My account information!"He studies the check. "That is not what we need.""It is what you need.""We need your routing number.""C'est ici," I say... pointing to the routing number on the left side of my check."Right here.""This is your routing number?" the manager says."Oui."The teller fills out a form with my account info; I sign it. The manager says: they will call me tomorrow.I ask for a copy of the form and their phone number."Do not worry," the manager says. "You will not have to call here. We will call you.""I would feel better if I had your phone number."The manager hands me his card. I thank him. I walk to the door, and he says:"Your scarf... "I turn to him."It is wonderful," he says. "Le couleur d'une bonne nuit.""Le couleur d'une bonne nuit?""The color of a good night," he says.And with that one, gloriously sexy phrase, I am certain: my purchase was a wise one.I step outside onto the Paris sidewalk, smiling. I know why French women wear scarves锘?p>The wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is banned from travelling to the European Union, after being added to a list of "undesirables."However it is believed will still be able to visit the United Kingdom as she is believed to hold British citizenship.Asma Assad is to also have her assets in the EU frozen as the international community attempts to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime following its brutal crackdown on anti-government protests. The decision was taken following talks in Brussels which included Foreign Secretary William Hague.The Syrian leader's wife, 36, was born in Acton, west London and married Assad in 2000, the year he succeeded his father as president of the Middle Eastern country.Asma is the daughter of Syrian parents, both from Homs, which is now the scene of some of the most vicious fighting between anti-Assad revolutionaries and government troops.The Syrian dictator's mother, sister and sister-in-law are also expected to be blacklisted when EU ministers meet.The UN estimates that more than 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising began a year ago.Foreign secretary William Hague said it was very important to increase pressure on the Syrian regime."Their behaviour continues to be murdering and totally unacceptable in the eyes of the world," he said on his way into the meeting.The travel bans follows an a in which Asma claimed to be "the real dictator" in the family.More than 3,000 private messages, released by activists showed an bizarre disconnect between the ruling family and the violence taking place on Syrian streets.In the one of the emails uncovered, Asma Assad offers no sympathy for the civilians who have died after bloody 12-month crackdown on anti-government protesters."As for listening 鈥?I am the REAL dictator, he has no choice," she wrote to a friend on 14 December, referring to perceptions of her husband, Bashar al-Assad.In an email sent on 10 January she welcomed a speech by the president for its "no more messing around" attitude.She also forwarded a joke email making fun of people from Homs, just before the government launched a four-week mortar assault on the city which left hundreds dead.In another message to her husband Asma al-Assad said: "So cute, I miss youuuuuuu" and attached a photo of him forwarded by one of his aides.The Guardian also revealed messages in which she discussed purchasing shoes worth several thousand pounds with friends.In another more sinister email sent from an iPad Asma forwarded her husband a link to a report on the violence in Homs by BBC reporter Paul Wood, exclaiming that he had been "smuggled" into the city. 锘?p>Things are not looking up for Taylor Armstrong, the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast member whose . As the Daily Beast reports, Russell left Taylor with a whole heap of financial problems when he killed himself, namely . Now Taylor -- and her favorite jewelry and handbags -- are paying the price. Last July, that Armstrong had raised from investors (Armstrong was a venture capitalist and owned 60 percent of MyMedicalRecords.com's stock). The company sued him for $1.5 million after Russell and Taylor failed to disclose every person from whom they had received money. Then, in August, Russell killed himself.In addition to mourning her husband and having her personal turmoil play out on national television, Taylor Armstrong has spent that past several months trying to settle the MyMedicalRecords.com case out of court. -- but according to the Daily Beast, Taylor does not have that kind of money. So the glamorous reality TV star has been forced to sell or hand over her personal belongings, including and her two Hermes Birkin bags.Except that the purses were fake. "There was no paperwork on the bags," . The ring, however, was worth $250,000. But neither that nor comes close to covering the $1 million demanded by MyMedicalRecords.com. 锘?p>For most teens, $700 is a fairly unimaginable sum. But that didn't stop four kids in Great Falls, Mont., from returning the money when they found it. Kaylee Olson, 14, told the Great Falls Tribune.On June 22, Olson and her cohorts Sean Morris, Korey Thompson, and Alison Taylor 鈥?all between the ages of 13 and 14 鈥?were en route to a basketball game when they saw Chance Cleveland's wallet lying near the train tracks.Cleveland, an 18-year-old employee at Cold Stone Creamery, hadn't even realized his wallet was missing until an officer came to return it."He gave me my wallet and every dime was there," said Cleveland.He found out who the good Samaritans were from a friend who'd overheard the teens discussing how they'd found the wallet, and decided to reward them.Cleveland told the Tribune.Though the foursome admitted that it was tempting to keep the money, they ultimately decided to call police."We just decided to do a good deed," Another teen when she found a wallet while waiting for her school bus 鈥?and received a $100 thank you from its owner upon its return.In another act of altruism, and gave it back to its thankful owner. it had been misplaced.H/T: Check out our slideshow of more kids making a difference below.锘?p>Meet the real-life exorcist who claims to perform ten services a week.Brother Hermes, from Colombia, has been coming to the aid of those who belie...锘?p>Every year sees its share of jaw-droppingly expensive items, but 2011 yielded some seriously high-end offerings. While we wish we were toting the alligator backpack Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen created for The Row, we can't imagine ever dropping five figures on one. And though 24-karat-gold shoelaces would surely add panache to our favorite kicks, we'd rather spend $19,000 on, you know, around 27 pairs of Louboutins.We've rounded up some of the priciest purchases of the past 12 months. Which do you think is the most outrageous?FASHION RELATED LINKS YOU MAY LOVE: - Lucky - The Frisky - FabSugar - InStyle 锘?p> -- "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever" (Faber and Faber), by Will Hermes: New York City might have been dead broke, crime-ridden and garbage-infested in the 1970s, but the music sure was great.Bob Marley opened a club date for Bruce Springsteen, Bronx DJs stole power from streetlights to fiddle with turntables in new ways, Philip Glass drove classical purists nuts with his sweeping, hypnotic compositions, and The Fania All Stars remade salsa. Down at CBGB's, the Talking Heads were double-billed with the Ramones.New York City has been pumping out great music from Gershwin to Gaga, but veteran music writer Will Hermes shows in his episodic and idiosyncratic book, "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire," how 1973 through 1977 stood out as a time for innovation. Not only did the grimy time plant the seeds of hip-hop, it also fostered the highly influential scenes in jazz, Latino music, punk, disco, new wave and classical.The book's fiery title calls to mind Jonathan Mahler's great snapshot of the city circa 1977 in "The Bronx Is Burning." But where Mahler writes about the Yankees and other dramas in the city that year, Hermes focuses on a diverse cast of musicians over the five years, jumping from uptown to downtown in the troubled city."It was like life during wartime," Hermes writes "But as in wars, life went on: love was kindled; music was made."It seems like everyone who strummed a guitar or manned a turntable makes an appearance in this book: Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Willie Colon are just a few. Readers are introduced to a gawky kid from Queens named Jeff Hyman who goes by Jeff Starship, but later changes his name to Joey Ramone. And there's teenager Joseph Saddler, who started moving the records back and forth on his turntables to make cool noises. An early show went so badly he went home and cried. But the man who would become Grandmaster Flash caught on soon enough.The book's panoramic view is a strength and a weakness. The perfect reader for this book would be a music omnivore with Tom Verlaine, Lester Bowie, Chic and Ruben Blades on his iPod. If your musical tastes are narrower, interest in the braided stories might ebb and flow.Also, the birth of hip-hop, Springsteen's rise and the CBGB scene are oft-told tales. Hermes did a lot of fresh interviews but he also relies on memoirs and other published sources. There are no big revelations here.The charm here is Hermes' synthesis the ever-changing points of view from around the city. Hermes also mixes in recollections from back then, when he was a Queens teenager. His memories of looking at the Manhattan skyline that seemed a million miles away across the river underscore that this is the author's love letter to a time and place.___Online: 锘?p>Since it made its July debut, we've been quite taken with The Backpack.Which backpack? Why, peddled by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's The Row. We laughed at first , "If you were ever going to spend $39,000 on a bag, that's the bag you should buy" (that's one big "if," Amanda). We had a few more chuckles when we saw (as if for $39,000, the bag was still not deserving of holding such essentials). But we've wiped those snarky grins off our faces this morning. Attending a fete for The Row in Paris, :Ashley Olsen said the label was rushing to keep up with demand for its much-publicized alligator backpack, which comes with an eye-watering $39,000 price tag. 鈥淚t was the first thing that sold off the shelf,鈥?she said, noting that extreme luxury tends to perform well during uncertain economic times. 鈥淒uring our last economic crisis in the U.S., the only thing that went up was Herm猫s,鈥?Olsen remarked, before returning to sip Champagne with guests including Michelle Harper and Christian Louboutin. Well then. Turns out there is a large consumer base for backpacks with five-figure price tags, beyond people with the last name "Olsen." And those people are actually buying these bags.But are they actually carrying their stuff in them? We'll believe it when we see it. Check out a picture of Ashley Olsen with her Backpack below and . 锘?p>"Hermes, the high-end designer boutique, publicly apologized this week for , the TV queen, her friend Gayle King and others entry to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore store when they arrived 15 minutes after its regular closing time at 6:30 p.m.'I was there, I saw it,' Gayle says. 'It was really, really bad. People were in the store and they were shopping. Oprah was at the door and she was not allowed into the store. Oprah describes it herself as one of the most humiliating moments of her life.'Tom Cruise told Pat O鈥橞rien Thursday night that he was 'just shocked' by the incident.'I know that those kinds of people are not the majority,' he said. 'For that happen to Oprah, we all love Oprah. Oprah is such a great woman. I'm sorry that happened. I'll call her tomorrow.'" 鈥揻rom June 24, 2005 Wow!Tom Cruise called me this morning too! He heard that they wouldn鈥檛 let me into the CVS Drug Store twenty minutes after they closed. As I explained it to Tom, I was just trying to spend some 鈥淢e Time鈥?picking up a bottle of Listerine and a cream for that rash on my leg, but CVS wouldn鈥檛 open the doors. There were still people in there and everything! They said their regular closing time was 8:00 pm. and it was 8:20 p.m when I got there, but come on. I had meant to be there earlier but I got all caught up worrying about Oprah. Is she okay? I totally hear Gayle, but - honestly - the word 鈥渉umiliation鈥?does not begin to describe what it feels like to be locked out of Hermes like that. Humiliating is when you鈥檙e Islamic and you鈥檙e being held in prison, perhaps without much cause, and the guard urinates on your copy of The Koran. Or when born again politicians won鈥檛 let your comatose wife die with dignity, turning your personal tragedy into an international media farce.Or you look like a stoner-dork-loser-idiot on the front page of the New York Times after you're caught money laundering for a "gimme-five"'n right-wing lobbyist. Now that鈥檚 humiliating. Being refused admittance to a Hermes store after they have closed for the day is something much, much worse.Honestly, I don't even know if there's a word for it.I told Cruise this, and I'll say it again in case anyone reading this knows Oprah personally. I don't know what it's like to be who she is, a multi-millionaire denied access to luxury shopping in Paris. But from my limited experience locked out of CVS, I've had a glimpse of what it must have been like. I feel her pain. And also tell her, hey, I just want to know, what can we do to make this right?锘?p>,05.25.2011Freelance writerThe strength of designer Tom Ford's film, A Single Man, is not some flashy or gorgeous visual style but the acting. Ford brought out an award-winning performance from Colin Firth.锘縂od bless you, I just lost the battle for my son, was 23, worked at a special company for handicapped but he did not recover from his last seizure a few weeks ago. Another son now 30, spina bifida, mostly bed ridden, bed sores and infections. Has taken all I ever had to save their life and do as much as I can to make life meaningful. I now have coverage for my him through Agent Orange coverage but was denied because the government lied and covered up for 40 years the AO use until finally admitted just enough to have him covered, but in meanwhile, lost all we ever had for medical help. Nothing for those in the middle, not enough to pay bills, food, clothing, taxes, etc. but too much to get help. The boys were covered by medicare, my VA insurance and medicaid for some items, they were only allowed on that program by considering them adults on their own. So many illegals, funds were cut and no longer covered by any dental or eyes. Used Lamictal for seizures, that is what cost so much and impossible if you don't have some help. We go to the stores and see lines of illegals, go to hospitals and see illegals with sniffles, pregnancies, etc. welfare, housing, clothing, schools, etc. nothing for Americans except hgher taxes and fees to cover those who pay nothing.锘?p>Usain Bolt is back. Racing against a star-studded field in which every qualifier in the semifinal, Bolt successfully defended his 2008 gold medal in the 100 meters by of 9.63 seconds."I executed, and that's the key," after celebrating his fourth career gold medal with a victory lap. "I stopped worrying about the start. The end is what's important."Yohan Blake of Jamaica took silver in 9.75 seconds, with Justin Gatlin of the United States capturing bronze in 9.79 seconds. A training partner of Bolt, Blake equalled a personal best with his runner-up time. Also were Gatlin and Ryan Bailey of the United States, who finished fifth. Of course, with a who's who of international track stars -- largely hailing from the United States and Jamaica -- it was no surprise to see the scoreboard light up with such stellar times."It will take a 9.7 to even get a medal. It's mind blowing," Tyson Gay of the United States told the shortly before the Games. Gay burned to a personal season's best 9.80 to finish fourth. True to his prediction, crossed the line under 9.8 seconds. While the did not better the that he established in Berlin in 2009, he did best the in the event at the 2008 Olympics. Despite noticeably slowing up to celebrate before even reaching the finish line during the 100-meter dash in Beijing, Bolt's time was then a world record. While that mark didn't stand very long, rumors of Bolt's lack of fitness lingered for months leading up to the games. He was at the Jamaican Olympic Trials and revealed just days before the Olympics that he had been that had created hamstring issues. By the time that Bolt reached the track for his first 100-meter heat on Saturday morning, there were more questions swirling around him than answers. STORY CONTINUES BELOW With the world watching, Bolt delivered a resounding record-setting victory and emphatic answers to those many questions. Unfurling his long, graceful leonine strides, Bolt overtook his talented opponents despite having and being mired in the pack midway through the race. Yes, he is still the world's fastest man. Yes, he can still find that extra gear when he needs it. Yes, he still has the same joyfulness about him that so enchanted the world in 2008. And, yes, he is in the minority of people that are totally cool with Wenlock, of the London Games.STORY CONTINUES BELOW"There's no doubt he's the greatest sprinter of all time now," of Trinidad and Tobago to The Associated Press after finishing seventh in the 100. The only person who may want to argue with Bolt's claim is Carl Lewis, the only other sprinter with back-to-back gold medals in the 100 meters (1984, 1988). Not long before the London Games, that Bolt would be able to repeat as Olympic champ. Having successfully repeated in the 100 meters, Bolt now turns his attention to the 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relay. In 2008, in world-record time. When reporters finally tracked Bolt down, he shared a message that he'd given Blake, who will be competing against him in the 200. "I told him (Blake) that he wont beat me in the 200," of USA Today. "That's what I do."Any remaining doubters should take note of the verb tense. Bolt isn't talking about what he did. Rather, he's talking about what he currently does. Stay tuned. 锘?p>"The world is divided into two groups -- artists and everybody else," I told my friends in the early '60s, and sometimes my non-artist friends got so angry at me and my elitist statement they wanted to hit me on the head. I could see it in their eyes.Times have changed. Today the world is one, everything has changed as Earth is a smaller planet in the endless expanding universe and ART and its ARTISTS are spreading everywhere and joining forces as fast as the freedom demonstrators in this Internet ruled world.Fashion and art are also finally becoming one. I decided to join up with childhood friend and acclaimed New York painter, Ed Baynard to cover the New York-Paris art-fashion scene. Dear Ed named our collaborative blog, NOODLE, after his New York City cat. His black and white found cat Noodle looks exactly like my New York alley cat Picachoo. We were meant to join up again.Painter, print maker and photographer, Ed BaynardEd had designed my Paris dress shop Mia and Vicky, that opened in 1968 with now artist Mia Fonssagrives and actress-art collector, Elizabeth Taylor. He did our collectible, hippie Mia-Vicky poster and our nude greeting cards. We found each other last year on the Internet and I was enchanted with the direction of Ed's new work, so much so that I want to make handbags from his hot pink and gold-colored canvas. I decided to write about it, and Ed decided to photograph different art-fashion scenes, and share our thoughts and feelings. Ed began the first NOODLE with a list of 300 galleries on 22nd Street in Chelsea from which he chose 10. Ed has lived and painted nearby and he knows his patch.We were welcomed as "insiders." Ed Baynard is a celebrated painter and print maker, who has been showing paintings of flowers and still life since 1971. He is in many collections globally: the Tate as well as the Met, MOMA and the Whitney. He visits the art scene regularly and knows everybody, and everybody knows Ed. Surprisingly, I was also known by the dealers for my Parisian dress shop and my thirty years in Bergdorf, and they actually came out of their posh modern offices to greet us. Some handed me a gift of their artist's current book.Anybody can walk into an art gallery. It is a free place to learn and to dream. Join us on our tour and become "insiders "with us and let's have fun.NOODLE Friday, April 27: Ed and I met for breakfast in the local Westway Diner on 9th Avenue and he pulled out our gallery-list that we would visit today. I was wearing my latest Parisian silver lame patchwork tennis shoes with red, vinyl heels, a coral, melon and turquoise Hermes scarf, and a black vinyl jacket and slacks. I own twelve Hermes scarves, one for each month, 12 in all... so French! Ed was in black pants; I told him the men in Paris wore coral pants and so did Robert Verdi on HSN TV, hosting with me the night before, as I sold my dresses. In one month, the coral pink pant has gone global!Vicky Tiel and Julie Saul in front of the Jeff Liao photo of the Flat Iron Building. Photograph by Ed Baynard.We started our Tour de Chelsea at Julie Saul Gallery. Julie was having a Brian Ulrich show with eye-popping electric colors in the shocking neon painting "Candy Store." I also swooned over the Jeff Liao photo of the Flatiron building, that houses my publisher, Macmillan. It was a montage of 120 photos all Photoshopped, no easy task. When I introduced myself, Julie mentioned that she loved Bergdorf, but had moved over to Uniqlo. Their clothing captures exactly the item you are looking for today and hooks you in with the $25 price tag. Of course you can't wear it to a party or to marry your daughter.***** The late Robert De Niro Sr.'s paintings from the '60s were being shown at the DC Moore Gallery. His Matisse style corps et objects in happy colors reminds me of my mom's oil paintings of that time and also reminds me of the incredible inspiration Matisse had on modern art, the color and the stroke as well as the composition.Above: Romare Bearden's, Circe's Domaine. Below: Robert DeNiro, Sr.. Photographs by Ed Baynard.The hot find of our day was in the back passageway of DC Moore, where I fell in LOVE with Romare Bearden's, Circe's Domaine. The color-block background of this naive dreamscape paper collage, his happy perfect world is the big movement of fashion color today. The color-blocked pattern clothes and accessories are edged in black detail much like the late sixties, St Laurent's Mondrian dresses. That color block look is here again in clothes, in decor, and maybe soon in cars! I now wear hot pink or lime green socks with my color block shoes and neon shoe laces (introduced by Chris Martin of Coldplay). I have also added a wide piece of purple silk cut velvet across the cushions of my chrome yellow couch in my mountain cabin, just to feel the joy of the shocking colors.Claes Oldenberg at Pace Gallery. Photograph by Ed Baynard.A visit to Pace Gallery where Claes Oldenburg and his late girlfriend, Coosje van Bruggen presented works from Il Corso del Coltello performance art in Venice 1986, was a must see as he has not had a New York exhibit for seven years. Claes was a leader in the world of pop art and a BIG influence on Everything is Art, allowing many emotional artists who can't draw to express themselves merely by calling attention to their art, often by its size. I do feel, coming from Paris (where my dress shop is in the middle of the art world on Rue Bonaparte) that smaller art is coming back.Sheila Hicks wall hangingSheila Hicks works from the last 50 years were at Sikkema -Jenkins, a female artist that lives in Paris as well. Ed respects her art. He and other artists and critics petitioned MoMA to include many more women -- taking their art from the permanent collection, and then installing them in the exhibition spaces. They felt the exhibitions presented too few women artist's work. The history of art is no longer men's history alone. And they made their point, as MoMA changed their curatorial policies. He was mesmerized by Hick's multi-thread, multi-color wall hanging, as I was by the grey sculpture made of fibers looking like a monster from The Thing. Hicks' woven textiles in the small frames, were timeless textures, her colors changing with the times.*****Polly Apfelbaum's "Flattened Funkytown"We both loved Polly Apfelbaum's "Flattened Funkytown "at D'Amelio Gallery, a full floor-based collage made up of crushed creme colored panne velvet that Polly hand dyed and cut out in organic pieces she placed as they exploded onto the floor. I can imagine tie-dyed, hippie, crushed velvet pants returning for fall. I want a pair, I want Polly's look exploding on my thighs.*****Brancusi photograph. Photographs by Ed Baynard.A trip to see Brancusi was a must-not miss. We ran over to 24th Street to see the Brancusi photographs at Bruce Silverstein. I remember visiting Venice as a kid and seeing Peggy Guggenheim's home and the Mariano Marino sculpture in front of the Grand Canal -- falling in love with him and Brancusi. Venice was the place to fall in love with CONTEMPORARY art, as it was so OLD and the art was so young! The woman in the photo, Lizica Codreanu, is wearing a modern fashion statement, pleats and safety pins and whatever it takes to shock and destroy the beautiful body for the sake of getting noticed. Amazed that she could wear it today.Yves St Laurent's "Mondrian" day dressHow many award winning dress designers do anything to be noticed, to get fame, yet sell next to nothing? Then we wonder why they self destruct! Fashion-art is meant to be profitable.There are not many Yves St Laurent's who could draw, sew, and understand the challenge to interpret art into fashion and sell it! *****Late lunch was a stop at Poseidon on 45th and 9th. We ate spanakopita, a Greek spinach-filled light pastry and the owner made us real French espresso. Dessert was homemade halva, baklava, and a second coffee. I bought a prune-filled pastry for tomorrow's breakfast and jumped on a train to my mountain cabin.We had fun... tonight we are young! Join us again. VICKY TIEL began designing clothes forty years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there, as well as dedicated mini-boutiques in Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. In fall 2010 she launched a line of cocktail dresses and special occasion wear sold through department stores nationwide. Her memoir, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DRESS: What I Learned in 40 Years about Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.锘?p>Posh Spice-turned-designer Victoria Beckham but she'll never stop loving her Birkin Bag collection . On Wednesday Beckham was quoted on as uttering, "A Beckham can replace your Birkin" at her Spring 2011 show, which evolved into "Beckham is the new Birkin," so to set the record straight. She told the fashion newspaper, "Silly stories, where do they come from? I have enormous respect and admiration for Hermes so to read 'Beckham is the new Birkin' is yet another totally ridiculous tabloid fabrication. I will not be trading in my Birkin! However, I will be carrying my own line of handbags as well!" Beckham will be toting her Birkins on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and her own handbags on Tuesdays, Thursdays and the weekends--just kidding. 锘?p> on retail sites such as NET-A-PORTER. Will her newest bags, each with a four-digit price tag, cause the same crazed response?The Telegraph featured a preview of (with an iPad case thrown in for good measure). They are all gorgeous, of course, but the main attraction is the super-luxe Alligator Victoria Bag with a price tag of ?18,000, or around $25,776. Pricey? Sure. But it's a steal compared to , Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's deluxe fashion line. The Row knapsack, perfect for the outdoorsy socialite who likes going for a fancy hike, rings up at a whopping $35,000. Who, you might ask, would possibly carry such a precious pack? Ashley Olsen, of course, who .So which is worth the cash -- the Alligator Victoria Bag for $25,776 or The Backpack for $35,000? Both? ("Neither," of course, is not an option.) Take a look at Victoria Beckham's newest arm candy as well as The Row's competing bag ... and keep dreaming. 锘?p> is on a mission. They just ended the first chapter of their tour, which kicked off at the Texas/Mexico border and weaved through Laredo, San Antonio and El Paso, ending in New York May 24. The tour takes the through indigenous territories, showing solidarity with the native people of this country, and to Austin where they'll play with Calle 13. Today, the band performs at Arizona State University's聽聽and will lead a discussion on music's impact on social justice. Below is a dairy Outernational guitarist, Leo Mintek, kept which documents week one of the tour.聽April 3, 2012, Texas Border: Tour began as Miles and I drove the Outernational van down from Austin, TX and headed for the Southernmost point in Texas, called Brownsville. The rest of the band was on a plane from NYC. Tornados in north Texas diverted their flight to Tulsa Oklahoma, and after hours of confusion they finally got a flight into Austin, where they had no choice but to rent a car and make the 6 hour midnight drive to Brownsville. Meanwhile, Miles and I were standing dismayed on the Texas roadside south of Corpus Christi. Our trailer wheel snapped off the axle. I thought we had hit a group of deer and one was hopping away in fear, but it was our wheel bouncing away into the bush. Tough decisions had to be made. This was no simple flat to fix. We decided our 11am tour press conference kickoff in McAllen TX could not be missed. We caught a tow and followed our trailer 3 hours into the night to a shop in McAllen. The next morning with very little sleep Outernatonal was reunited in south Texas and headed to Hermes Music.April 4, 11am: We kicked off the Todos Somos Ilegales / We Are All Illegals Tour with a press conference at the Texas/Mexico music store chain Hermes Music. We interviewed with Univision and local NBC and ABC affiliates and then played a short unplugged set 鈥?"Deportees," "Ladies of the Night," "Que Queremos," and "Fighting Song."聽 livestreamed the whole event. We got a deep response from everyone there 鈥?all asking: "Why did you make this album? Why are you here? What motivates your art and your tour?"That night, we headed into Brownsville TX for our kickoff concert at ,聽a badass art gallery 100 ft from the border: the beautiful Rio Grande river. Thru the ugle border wall we could see the lights of Mexico across the river. Downtown Brownsville is all little shoe stores and clothing stores; it reminds me of somewhere between Sunset Park, Brooklyn and the old west 100 years ago; except with armed border patrol. The show was tremendous 鈥?local bands Cutters, Farmertron and Son De Valle opened up, local Brownsville/Tamaulipas stencil artist spray painted 'Todos Somos Ilegales' stencils on anything people handed him and the crowd was LIVE! Hi energy, passionate and deeply understanding of the message; it was an inspiring kickoff to the tour. We met university archaeologists of indigenous art and heard about all the tension near the border: the drug wars, the people crossing to work, the heavy police presence everywhere and the dark family histories of murder and harrassment. Afterwards, I interviewed with Somos Tejanos 鈥?one of the best interviews yet 鈥?she cut right to the chase, "So what can we do?"April 5, 2012: We traveled to South Padre Island, the tourist spring break strip on the gulf coast. We opened up for and Nortec Collective. Nortec played a giant robot laptop along with accordion and tuba. Los Amigos are like the Venezuelan Jamiroquai with some Tropicalia mixed in. The crowd was half聽locals from the 'Valley' (Mcallen, Brownsville, etc) and half people from Mexico coming up for the show. The cops were all over the place and during our set, a pig went up to the sound board and pulled all the faders down, cutting our sound. We grabbed the acoustic guitars and accordion, went out onto the balcony, and serenaded the crowd with "Ladies of the Night" and "Deportees" until the cops got paid off and we could return to the stage.April 6, 2012: We said goodbye to the Valley and drove to Laredo, TX, only to be shut down by another shredded tire. We hitched a ride into Raymondville TX and got repaired all while listening to local radio Q94.5, who in addition to Queens of The Stone Age and System Of A Down, will now be spinning Outernational in rotation! We hit the road again and made it just in time to Laredo after passing a few border patrol checkpoints aka toll booths with German Shepherds. We hit the stage and I think people had no idea what was happening. As the show went on, people got closer and closer and by the end were singing along and jumping up and down to "Fighting Song" and "Outernational." People thanked us for coming to Laredo, 聽saying no one knows about them or comes to them, let alone make songs about what they deal with on the border. I argued with the owner about the role of the border patrol (apparently they frequent the bar and were in the crowd) and hung out with members of the local Laredo gay community. Very cool scene, very contradictory... we will be back....April 7, 2012: We headed to San Antonio and passed thru Natalia, TX 鈥?beautiful purple and yellow flowers everywhere, oil fields and horse ranches, the air was amazing. We pulled into San Antonio, literally down the block from the White Rabbit where we played with GBH back in 2010. There was an all ages punk/screamo matinee going on鈥?so many kids, hundreds of them all dressed in colorful styles. I wish we could play for them. We set up the stage at Hi-Tones and watched a crew of artists paint canvases in the courtyard along with a fire-spinning dancer and a DJ spinning Hendrix, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and The Clash all night. The show was wild鈥攎oshing, dancing, jumping, singing, old and new fans鈥攁nd once again a deep connecting response from people asking, 'Where are you from?' "What are you guys?' 'What's the album?' 'Thank you for coming here.' The homies closed the show with their accordion punk rock. Watch out for them. They're doing a national tour with at the end of April. Great band and their singer Alvaro is the only person, other than Dr. Blum, that I've ever seen play accordion and trumpet at the same time.April 8, 2012:聽We drive west across the Texas plains and enter what looks more like desert. Another border patrol checkpoint 鈥?the agent walks right up and says, "Outernational? What do you think of the border patrol?" We tell him we are going all the way to San Diego and get out of there quickly. We cross the Pecos River and head into what they call The Big Bend.April 9, 2012:聽We enter Marfa, TX (population 2000) known for the mysterious atmospheric night lights and their growing art gallery scene. Spend the day meeting聽people and hearing the Sex Pistols blasting from art studios. We head to the famous venue Padre's and rocked through a mixed electric/acoustic set. Once again, deep responses: 'Thank you for singing about these issues.' Train tracks roar out in front of the venue and we pile into the van to hit the road once again. Tomorrow we will visit El Paso, the other side of Juarez, Mexico which is one of the most violent cities in the hemisphere. Everyone watch the film 聽to learn more. It's sampled on our album 鈥?track 11 - "The Theme From Todos Somos Ilegales V: Se帽or Juarez."April 10, 2012: We leave Marfa聽at 2am through an incredible lightning storm over the desert and drive through small flash floods to Terlingua, TX. Terlingua is a tourist section of the border, a national park. The landscape is incredible: mountains, hills and the river itself. We enter Presidio TX, formerly Texas' largest cocaine smuggling point. It's a tiny town of 4,000 with a huge militarized border entry. From Presidio, we drive a long barren stretch of land to El Paso. Lightning storms flash over Ciudad Juarez across the river. Juarez is 3 times larger than El Paso, one of the fastest growing metropolises in the world. The history of these sister cities is a story of migrations, from the time of Pancho Villa through NAFTA, up until this moment where everyday commerce and drugs move across the border along with new waves of desperate labor from all over Mexico and Central America.I can see from the hilltop in the historic Sunset Heights neighborhood the panorama of Juarez: the Backyard, the mega-city where the Sierra Madres meet the Colorado Rockies and the United States meets Mexico. One week ago we traveled from the Rio Grande Valley at the gulf coast. Tomorrow, we enter Arizona and the O'odham nation. Soon, we'll be all the way to where the border meets the Pacific in San Diego and Tijuana. Until then...鈥擫eo Mintek, Sunset Heights, El Paso, TX (El Chuco), sunrise 4.11.12Upcoming Tour Dates:4/11 - Tohono O'odham 锘縒e're starting to think we see more of Miley Cyrus' top half than we see of our own.The engaged 19-year-old suffered a wardrobe malfunction...锘?p>If you're a world traveler on a tight budget, , Senior Writer for The RetailMeNot Insider, has some excellent advice! Trae shared her expertise on traveling the globe without emptying your bank account when she joined me on Mondays With Marlo.And if you're looking for more advice on shopping smart, check out Trae's essential tips: Add Marlo On Facebook:Follow Marlo on Twitter: Weekly NewsletterSign up to receive my email newsletter each week - It will keep you up-to-date on upcoming articles, Mondays with Marlo guests, videos, and more! 锘?p>When I heard one of our publicist friends reveal that she uses room spray as an alternative to perfume, I was less puzzled and more secretly relieved; I totally do this. While her signature scent is the room spray created for (the Parisian destination known for its breezy courtyard), I, on the other hand, have a few other home fresheners in my rotation. My stable of room sprays got a little bigger this week when I discovered 's perfume guns. The oversized, grey plastic bottles (which kind of struck me as '80s car cleaning supplies at first) are filled with the room-spray-equivalent of the French perfumer's beyond gorgeous scents, like Jurassic Flower and Rosa Rugosa. Both are spot-on interpretations of fresh-picked flowers straight from the flower shop. I realized I had a thing for room-sprays-repurposed-as-perfume when I would walk around my apartment spritzing the place down, and would find myself lingering through each blast. I'm not sure what the breakdown between a real perfume and home spray is other than I just find it to be a more chill scent overall. Think about it: you'd never spray your house with perfume. More than a few sprays could knock you out. Room sprays are just a less concentrated breed, something I find particularly appealing when it comes to perfume. Not to mention, ounce for ounce it's generally a better score. Here, a few more home sprays I've taken to wearing as regular perfume. Is anyone else out there doing this? In related news, would you use ?Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , and . 锘?p>A jury awarded an Oregon woman $900,000 after her date allegedly gave her herpes.According to , the plaintiff, a 49-year-old woman from Beaverton, met her date on Internet dating website eHarmony in 2010.After three dates, she was satisfied that the defendant, a 69-year-old retired dentist, was exactly her type, reports the website:On their fourth date the pair had sex, and roughly 11 days later, the plaintiff had a herpes outbreak, it was revealed in court.During testimony in the case, the woman said she had asked the defendant to wear a condom. She said he agreed but removed it, without her knowledge, before the act was finished. Afterward, he allegedly told her he had herpes, .According to OreganLive.com, outbreaks of the condition, have been repeated and painful.She took anti-viral medication, which caused large amounts of her hair to fall out. She also suffered from anxiety and depression, and the drugs she took to ease those symptoms caused her to gain 30 pounds.The defendant testified he did not know he was contagious, . The man's attorney, Shawn Lillegren, argued that the plaintiff might have contracted the infection from someone else. And besides, she knew the risk, he said."Grow up. Come on. You're an adult. He's an adult. They had sex," Lillegren said, according to The Oregonian. "The point is she is not some little innocent victim."However the jury disagreed."We all felt he should have told her - he had the responsibility to tell her," said juror Noah Brimhall.锘?p>By Erin Geiger Smith NEW YORK (Reuters) - The microblogging site Twitter has been so abuzz about NBC's tape-delayed coverage of the Olympics that the #nbcfail hashtag was created last week as a way to consolidate criticism of the network. This week, when Twitter executives suspended the account of one of NBC's most ardent critics, a Los Angeles-based reporter for The Independent, the twitterverse turned its ire on Twitter, which was quickly forced to apologize for its action. But Twitter's crisis raised a critical question: Was the public relations nightmare just a problem of street cred with the twitterati or was Twitter's quick apology an attempt to ward off future liability for offensive tweets? The scandal, such as it was, went like this: On Friday, Guy Adams of The Independent included the corporate email address of an NBC executive in a tweet critical of the network's Olympics coverage. By Monday, Twitter had suspended Adams's account. Twitter said NBC had lodged a complaint about disclosure of the email address and informed Adams he had violated the site's prohibition on publishing private information about someone else. The suspension got so much attention that "Guy Adams" became a worldwide trending topic on, you guessed it, Twitter. Twitter's real crisis began, though, when NBC disclosed that Twitter actually told NBC about Adams' tweet and suggested the network file a complaint. (Twitter and NBC have a non-financial partnership to curate online content during the Olympics.) By Tuesday, NBC had rescinded its complaint, saying it hadn't understood the repercussions. And Adams was back on Twitter, asking what he'd missed. Twitter issued a public mea culpa in the form of a blog post by its general counsel, Alex Macgillivray ( Although Macgillivray defended the company's privacy guidelines, he apologized "for the part of this story that we did mess up." The Twitter team that tipped off NBC and encouraged the network to file a complaint had acted out of the norm, the post said. Twitter does not "proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are," he wrote, and such behavior "is not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us." As others have noted, Twitter is a private company and can make whatever rules it wants. But to avoid liability for offensive posts, social media companies such as Twitter, as well as blogs and news websites, have to be sure their policies and actions keep them under the big umbrella of protection provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 says that operators of interactive computer services will not be treated as a publisher of information provided by third parties, such as individual Twitter users. The law permits sites to monitor, censor or take down content posted by third-party users, said Jeffrey Hermes, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. But according to Hermes, when the site becomes so involved in the process of third-party posts that it is considered to be "contributing to what is unlawful about the content," it can face liability. In other words, Section 230 protects Twitter if it merely corrects users' spelling or cuts all tweets down to 120 characters. But if it changes the meaning of a post or compromises its contract with users, the Section 230 shield may not apply. That is why Macgillivray's post on the Guy Adams/NBC controversy is careful to outline Twitter's policy against meddling with posts, according to both Hermes and Jonathan Sherman, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner. Sherman said Twitter may have wanted to restate its policy of not actively monitoring tweets or favoring certain users over others to avoid future claims the site promotes a particular viewpoint or permits defamatory speech to be published on the site. He said the NBC-related suspension "is the sort of incident that a litigator will use to say 鈥楾witter does this.'" Hermes pointed to a 2009 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Barnes v. Yahoo, to illustrate the limits of Section 230 protection. In Barnes, the court found that, if Yahoo Inc promised to take down a fake profile created by a woman's former boyfriend, the site could be liable to her for damages. Twitter General Counsel Macgillivray was on vacation and not immediately available to comment. A Twitter spokeswoman confirmed the events and timeline of the Adams suspension, but said Macgillivray's blog post was the company's only additional comment. NBC, which is owned by Comcast Corp, declined to comment further. (Reporting by Erin Geiger Smith; editing by Eddie Evans and Andre Grenon)锘?p>In today's global civilization, we are confronted with a Walmart of worldviews. We find ourselves in an entangled and sometimes toxic web of ideologies, religions, nationalisms and ethnicities. We generally resolve this cognitive dissonance by doubling-down on our own prejudices in opposition to those with whom we disagree. We tend to pathologize and demonize the other. We frame these conflicts as zero-sum and negative-sum competitions. And if we are right and they are wrong, then we also had be sure that we have the might in the coming battles. Is there some other way to adjudicate between the competing metanarratives that shape our lives and identities, determining how we think and act, what we hold to be true and good, and even which facts and evidence we recognize as relevant to our disagreements?The philosophy of interpretation can help us dig our way out of this relativistic mess. Interpretation is central to the metanarratives by which we create and re-create our sense of self and society. The theory of interpretation is referred to as "hermeneutics." The term derives from the Greek god Hermes, who was the messenger mediating between the gods of Mount Olympus, the mortals on Earth, and the gods of the Underworld. In the mythology, Hermes is something of a trickster, using his role as messenger to confound and confuse. So the analytics of Hermes is not a simple matter. How one interprets sacred scripture, translates from a foreign language, applies case law, constructs history, reads a work of literature and interprets scientific data can lead to very different and sometimes contradictory conclusions. All readers begin with a set of assumptions and prejudices about the text at hand. Even the selection of which text to read is partially determined by these prejudgments. Do we track the New York Times bestseller list or the Christian Booksellers Association list? Do we read The Nation or The Weekly Standard? Do we read in English or some other language? Do we read for pleasure or work or both? Were we trained in a particular profession? Were we raised in a particular religious tradition and culture? Our attitude toward the text is shaped by whether we approach it skeptically or sympathetically. We all have a finite amount of time and attention, so these pre-filters are not insignificant.In the 20th century, a famous debate about the philosophy of interpretation occurred between the German philosophers Hans-Georg Gadamer and J眉rgen Habermas. Gadamer rejected classical German hermeneutics, which seeks to "understand the author better than he understood himself." Instead, Gadamer looked toward a "fusion of horizons" that combined the world of the author, the text itself as something now disconnected from the author and his historical context, and the life of the reader in a different time and place. There seemed to be no possibility of a simple objective interpretation of a text because the text is a moving target -- read, debated, interpreted, and re-read over a long history in very different circumstances and social contexts. But Habermas was critical of the relativistic implications of Gadamer's approach. Habermas came out of the German socialist tradition and was committed to the possibility of social-scientific theories of society that allow critical and objective judgments to be made. To give so much weight to the reader's prejudice does not allow for the possibility of scientific objectivity in hermeneutics. The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur picks up this debate, developing a creative dialectic between the views of Gadamer and Habermas. There is a kind of hermeneutical circle that moves in three stages. Readers begin with the understanding that they bring to the text -- their prejudices in their particular historical and social contexts that valorize the text and orient them to its significance thereof. Ricouer agrees with Gadamer that we cannot escape these prejudices and that they need not be seen as simply negative.The second stage of the hermeneutical circle involves explanation, the work of reading, comprehending, analyzing, and interrogating the text. Here, Habermas' critical theory can help. All manner of psychological, sociological, philological, literary, historical, and philosophical theories can be applied to the text. Each critical framework is like putting on a different pair of reading glasses with which we discover new insights in our reading; but each critical theory also partially determines how we read and understand.This analytical stage then gives way to the third stage, our appropriation of the reading, a new interpretation based on the new data acquired and new relationships observed in a close, critical reading of the text. Through this increased familiarity with the text, we now end up with a deeper understanding. We have achieved Gadamer's "fusion of horizons," as the world of the text and the world of the reader interrelate and inform each other. Should we read the text again, our understanding will be enriched by previous readings. Along with Habermas, Ricouer recognizes that the hermeneutical process so described can become a vicious circle, in which the prejudices of the reader dictate certain dogmatic readings over and over again. The explanation employed is selected to predetermine the appropriation. Such is often the case in the reading of sacred scripture or ideologically informed readings of history. Ricouer's solution is to interject the possibility of a willful distanciation from one's prejudices, a kind of temporary suspension of judgment. The challenge, then, is to imagine the prospect of standing outside a tradition or ideology as an objective observer of the text using multiple methodologies and critical theories. Ricouer renames the three stages as prejudgment, configuration, and refiguration. The suspension of judgment and shifting of standpoint are the keys to turning interpretation into a dynamic hermeneutical spiral. Ricouer seeks in part to reverse the relationship between text and reader. Instead of reading a "passive" text, we should allow an "active" text to read us, informing and transforming our world with new insights and understandings. The Christian metanarrative, for instance, can be a closed, fundamentalist circle, in which each reading of the Bible and the tradition simply reinforces the prejudices with which we began. On the other hand, the Bible can also offer new critical and transformative insights into the world. Among Christians, there are disagreements about the correct reading of the Bible. Nor do all Muslim agree with each other about how to read the Quran. Orthodox Jews affirm that there are "70 faces of the Torah"--many correct readings of every verse. Even within a closed culture or dogmatic ideology, the sacred stories and guiding metanarratives are open to competing interpretations, some better, some worse, some more probable, and some highly improbable.Our challenge today is so much more complicated than the intra-textual hermeneutics of a single sacred tradition, yet we still ought to think about this philosophy of interpretation as we try to effectively adjudicate between different worldviews and multiple and conflicting narratives of self, society, and cosmos. As Ricoeur writes:[I]t is not true that all interpretations are equal. The text presents a limited field of possible constructions. The logic of validation allows us to move between the two limits of dogmatism and skepticism. It is always possible to argue for or against an interpretation, to confront interpretations, to arbitrate between them and to seek agreement, even if this agreement remains beyond our immediate reach.--a unified understanding of science and history--is also a limited field of possible interpretations. The many facts of science from diverse disciplines can be organized hierarchically by chronology of emergence, the scale of size, and thresholds of complexity realized. Every time we pump 200 million year old fossil fuels into our cars or pick up a smart phone, we affirm the reality of this Big History in deed, if not in thought or understanding. The challenge is to use this new Book of Nature as a common reality-based reference in our inter-religious and inter-ideological debates. That would be progress! Follow William Grassie on Twitter:锘?p>Last July, a drunk driver hit the car of a Texas woman. In the car was now-9-year-old Xitclalli 鈥淐hilli鈥?Vasquez. In the wreck, she was paralyzed from the waist down. Last Thursday, Xitclalli's letter to drunk driver Jeremy Solis was read aloud in court on the day of his sentencing. The message left the jury in tears. "I don't remember the first several days. I could not talk, so I had to use my thumb to answer yes or no," , according to the Star Telegram. "While I was in ICU I had very bad moments. They take me to Xrays every day, feed me through my gbutton, I had tubes through my mouth and nose."Read (via the Star Telegram).On July 9, 2011, Solis was driving a stolen car in Fort Worth, Tex., when he crashed into Xitclalli's aunt's car, according to the Star-Telegram. Xitclalli and her sister were on their way to the mall to get their hair and nails done. The girl's aunt sustained a fractured neck and broken leg. Xitclalli, who was 7 years old at the time, was left paralyzed. Solis' blood alcohol level was 0.23 -- almost three times the legal limit. "There were times that I would cry and cry鈥n therapy they showed me how to lift myself and dress myself," , according to ABC News. "But right now it's still very hard. My mom does a lot for me but I try myself. There are days that I cry cause I can't do what I used to. Well, I could keep going but my hand is getting tired. I would like you to meet me and my family鈥here are days that are bad because I have a hard time getting around... Look at what I said and the words I said and tell me how I look and feel. How do you feel today? Do you remember July 9th?", leaving the jury, the judge and Solis in tears. 鈥淭here was not a dry eye in the courtroom,鈥?Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Allenna Bangs told CBS DFW. 鈥淓verybody from the judge, the bailiffs, I think even the defendant was crying at some point. You could really feel the impact of how much this hurt this family.鈥?/p>Xitclalli hopes to walk again and hopes, one day, Solis will apologize. "I hope Jeremy would respond to my letter," she told ABC News. "It will make me happy if he says he is sorry." She plans to send Solis, who pled guilty, more letters while he serves his 10-year sentence. Now, the Vasquez family needs the help of others. CBS reports: The Tarrant County District Attorney鈥檚 Office has adopted the Vasquez family for the holiday season. Medical bills have topped $1.6 million and are climbing. Anyone interested in contributing can email Melody McDonald Lanier at mjmcdonald@tarrantcounty.com.Related on HuffPost:锘緽ritains four-times major winner is just shy of turning 50 and has seen the world of womens golf change dramatically 鈥?yet her desire is as fierce as ever锘?p>We have an opportunity to transform how people live their lives; if that doesn't motivate you then nothing will, says the staunch Everton fan, who took over the ?5bn-turnover division in April. Five years from now, we could have 90 per cent of the country fibre-enabled, maybe more.The Cambridge University graduate describes herself as a resilient little character. But her heady success for one so young is down to a work ethic that has seen her travel all over the country for six-to-eight roundtables with staff each week.Those meetings have resulted in a 30-point plan to improve the business, including making sure the senior team follow her lead and get out at least six times a year to meet with the frontline.Tom EndersChief executive, AirbusBarring a major shock, Enders should soon be confirmed as chief executive of pan-European aerospace group EADS.Insiders suggest the board will ratify his position as Louis Gallois' successor in March or April. Enders gave up the co-chief exec role in 2007, but was given Airbus to run to compensate for the political decision to move to one boss.Alex VanselowOutgoing finance director, BHP BillitonIt's a brave man who quits arguably the world's most celebrated mining group after 23 years.But, with chief exec Marius Kloppers not going anywhere soon, Vanselow leaves in February in search of a top job. His links with the credit markets means he won't be idle for long, with mutterings he could succeed Cynthia Carroll at Anglo American.Katie BickerstaffeGroup director marketing, people and property, Dixons RetailBickerstaffe is on the verge of landing one of the biggest jobs in UK electricals.She is one of two internal candidates in the frame to lead Dixon Retail's UK business early in 2012, which will free up the group's chief exec John Browett to focus on strategy. Bickerstaffe played a key role in refreshing the Currys and PC World brands and she is spearheading the cut in its UK stores from 600-plus to about 450 shops.Nick CooperChief executive, Ophir EnergySuccessful flotations were not a feature of 2011, but Lakshmi Mittal-backed Ophir raised ?300m on its stock market debut.Cooper stuck to a realistic price, earning praise from fund managers, sick of companies overvaluing their assets and business models. Ophir's prospects in Africa are already rumoured to have interested BP, unsurprising given that Cooper insists the company's assets could propel it into the FTSE 100.Simon DingemansFinance director, GlaxoSmithKlineDingemans will leave 2012 as either a hero or villain in the eyes of GSK's institutional investors.The former Goldman Sachs rainmaker is overseeing the sale of GSK's non-core, over-the-counter healthcare brands and is under pressure to get big money: the cash will be returned to shareholders. The 48-year-old has agreed the $660m sale of North American brands, but shareholders want well over $2bn for what remains. His dealmaking savvy could see him recognised as a chief exec in the making.Bruno GuillonIncoming chief executive, MulberryFrenchman Guillon joins Mulberry from Hermes in March, and he knows his priority will be to expand the British luxury handbag maker into global markets.Expectations are high, with analysts talking about Guillon growing revenue from ?120m to more than ?1bn. The 46-year-old was once international director of LVMH's watch and jewellery division. Luxury brands are all the rage among the elite in the Asia Pacific, so expect Guillon to build on agreements signed by predecessor Godfrey Davis in the region.Sheryl SandbergChief operating officer, FacebookAcross the Atlantic, one of the most eagerly anticipated listings of any year is expected in 2012: Facebook.The flotation is expected to value the social media phenomenon at $100bn and will force reclusive founder Mark Zuckerberg into the public more often than he would like. However, Sandberg, the 42-year-old former Google star should be the big winner, having made the operation profitable. Users will look to Zuckerberg; Wall Street to Sandberg.Ari MervisChief executive, Foster'sFoster's is precious to SABMiller, having spent a cool ?6.5bn on the Australian amber nectar in one of 2011's most spectacular deals.Shortly after getting regulatory approval for the deal in November, SAB replaced Foster's boss John Poellars with 46-year-old Mervis, one of the company's most trusted lieutenants.For the previous four years, Mervis headed up SAB's Asia empire, a role he retains on top of his responsibility to integrate Foster's with the rest of the $28.3bn-turnover giant.Nathan BostockHead of restructuring and risk, RBSAlready off with stress, Lloyds Banking Group boss Antonio Horta-Osorio's mood surely darkened when Bostock decided to stay at RBS.The toxic loans specialist changed his mind about heading up Lloyds' wholesale banking in November amid claims, since denied, that RBS stumped up extra cash to keep him. Some analysts have tipped Bostock to succeed the man who recruited him to sort out RBS's bad assets, chief executive Stephen Hester.Martin WheatleyChief executive designate, Financial Conduct AuthorityWheatley, the former head of the Hong Kong stock exchange watchdog, will become arguably the UK's most powerful regulator this year.The FCA will be one of two successors to the oft-criticised Financial Services Authority. Wheatley's tasks will be to restore confidence in financial services, protect consumers and regulate the retail and wholesale markets. The Prudential Regulation Authority will oversee banks more directly.Andrew OwensChief executive, GreenergyGreenergy is the UK's least-known big company: it supplies 10bn tonnes of diesel, petrol and biofuel every day, is part-owned by Tesco 鈥?also a customer 鈥?and has the third-highest revenue among private firms.In the firm's 20th year, 49-year-old founder Owens is finalising future plans, after speculation that he wants to take it public. Bankers are reviewing options, including building through acquisition or issuing bonds. But staff will be offered share options before the company's year-end in April, suggesting listing is still the preferred choice. A flotation is a growing-up stepping stone for a business, admits Owens. The problem is that Greenergy runs on thin margins 鈥?just ?17m profit off a ?9.8bn turnover in 2010/11 鈥?so it will struggle to get a strong valuation in a volatile market. The company is in good shape for public markets, but markets are not in good shape for the company, sighs Owens.锘?p>Travel essentialsWhy go now?Snowbirds from the northern US flock to Miami in January with good reason: right now the skies are dazzlingly blue, temperatures are pleasantly warm (average high 24C), and you won't wade through the sapping humidity of later months.Florida's most colourful city also offers plenty of culture and entertainment 鈥?particularly next weekend when Miami's South Beach district swings into party mode. Art Deco Weekend (14-16 January; ) is a celebration of this neighbourhood's fabulous 1920s and 30s architecture.Touch downThree airlines fly non-stop from Heathrow to Miami. The writer travelled with Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; ), while British Airways (0844 493 0787; ) and American Airlines (0844 499 7300; ) code-share on the route 鈥?you can fly out on one and back on the other.Miami International Airport is 10 miles north-west of South Beach. A taxi costs around $32 (?20), while from 6am to 11.10pm the Airport Flyer bus, route 150 (miami dade.gov.transit; $2.35/ ?1.55 one-way), runs roughly every half hour (less frequently at weekends) between the airport and Lincoln Road.Get your bearingsEast of the cosmopolitan city of Miami that sprawls along Florida's southern coast is Miami Beach, a barrier island between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic. It is to these golden shores that most visitors are drawn.This playground par excellence is made all the more attractive by its architecture. South Beach 鈥?or SoBe 鈥?is a living museum not only of art deco but also 1920s Mediterranean Revival and 1950s MiMo (Miami Modern) buildings. It is low-rise and very walkable, contained between 23rd Street to the north and South Point Park at the island's southern tip.Information on the architecture and the area in general is available at the helpful Art Deco Center (1) (001 305 672 2014; ), run by the Miami Design Preservation League, at 1001 Ocean Drive. It opens 10am-4pm daily.Check inFor sublime style, book a room at The Setai (2) (001 305 520 6000; ) where discreet glamour and pared-down Asian aesthetic is a world apart from much of the Miami Beach vibe. It occupies the old Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel at 2001 Collins Avenue, a classic art deco property, with an additional high-rise tower. Large butler-serviced double rooms start at $621 (?414), including breakfast. Adjacent, at 150 20th Street, The Townhouse (3) (001 305 534 3800; ) is a boutique outfit offering contemporary-chic style and 鈥?for Miami Beach 鈥?good value: the 65 elegantly white rooms start at $130 (?87), excluding breakfast. There's a rooftop lounge, a caf茅 and bikes to borrow.To be right in the midst of what's happening in South Beach head to Ocean Drive. Of the many art deco hotels lining this strip, Beacon Hotel (4) at number 720 (001 305 674 8200; ) is a modest 1930s gem. Doubles are on the small side and cost from $160 (?107), room only.Day oneTake a hikePick up a map of architectural walking routes (costing $3.25/?2.15) from the gift shop at the Art Deco Center (1). Take a short hike down Ocean Drive, then up Collins Avenue, which runs parallel, and then along Washington Avenue. Aside from people-watching, there are plenty of wonderful buildings to look at 鈥?some in need of rescuing, for the restoration of the South Beach district is ongoing.Highlights include: Edison Hotel (5) at 960 Ocean Drive, a yellow-and-blue property from the 1930s currently boarded up; the pink 1920s Locust Apartments (6) at 918 Ocean Drive now housing the Fat Tuesday cocktail bar; and the pink, yellow and white Waldorf Towers (7) complete with lookout window, at 860 Ocean Drive.Turn right along 9th Street and right again along Collins Avenue past the remaining walls of Coral Rock House (8) at number 900 鈥?built in 1916 by Avery Smith, a pioneer of Miami's tourist industry. Continue past the striking Essex House Hotel (9), built in 1938 by Henry Hohauser, and turn left along 13th Street, opposite the art deco-style car park.At the corner of Washington Avenue you'll see a US Post Office (10) occupying a circular building by Howard Cheney dating to 1937. Continue up Washington Avenue, past the Cameo Theatre (11) at number 1445, to Espanola Way, a pretty Mediterranean Revival Spanish-styled street awash with caf茅s and galleries.Lunch on the runStop for Brazilian-style tapas (shrimp risotto, chicken croquettes and more) at Boteco Copacabana (12) (001 305 397 8824) at 437 Espanola Way. Dishes cost from $6.50 (?4.20).Window shoppingContinue three blocks up Collins Avenue to Lincoln Road, the main shopping street of South Beach. Here you'll find everything from outlets of Crocs and Oakley to street stalls and art galleries. However, Miami Beach's most exclusive shopping area is Bal Harbour Mall (13), an open-air mall where you'll find Hermes, Chanel and more (balharbourflorida.com). It is located on Collins Avenue, about a 20-minute ride (on a free shuttle bus) north of South Beach. Buses leave from outside the Ritz-Carlton (14) at 1 Lincoln Road, from Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 7pm.Take a rideFor a fresh view, rent a bike from the Miami Beach Bicycle Center (15), 601 5th Street (001 305 674 0150; . com); $8 (?5.30) an hour, or $15 (?10) for a tandem. The shop supplies maps and advises on routes around Miami Beach.An aperitifStop for a Tiki Martini, with mandarin vodka, peach schnapps, sour apple cordial and papaya juice ($9/?6) at the outdoor tables of laid-back Van Dyke Caf茅 (16) (001 305 534 3600; ) at 846 Lincoln Road.Dining with the localsJoin the cool crowd at Cecconi's (17), inside Soho Beach House at 4385 Collins Avenue (on Collins Waterfront; 001 786 507 7902; ). A sister restaurant to Nick Jones' Soho House in London, Soho Beach House is a private members club and a boutique hotel with a sleek, courtyard eating area open to the public. This outfit was launched in October and its restaurant has swiftly become one of the hottest venues in Miami Beach. The menu is Venetian-inspired; dishes include seared black cod ($38/?26) and wild mushroom risotto ($28/?18.50).Day twoSunday morning: go to churchMiami Beach Community Church (18) at 500 Lincoln Road (001 305 538 4511; ) is an oasis of tranquillity in the midst of South Beach's retail heaven. This bright building holds vibrant Sunday morning services at 10.30am.Alternatively head north to the Spanish Monastery (19) at 16711 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach (001 305 945 1461; ); a cab ride will run to about $35 (?24). This 12th-century Cistercian relic from Spain was bought in 1925 by the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and imported to the US in 11,000 crates . Sunday mass is held in English at 10.15am, and in Spanish at 12.15pm.Out to brunchTake an outdoor table at News Caf茅 (20) at 800 Ocean Drive (001 305 538 6397; ) and watch the wonderful world of South Beach go by. The caf茅 opened in 1988 and has since become the classic venue to chill out, read the papers and linger over coffee. The brunch menu includes eggs Benedict ($10.75/?7.15) and French toast ($7.75/?5.50). The News Caf茅 has been a favourite haunt of many celebrity residents, notably Gianni Versace who lived just down the road 鈥?and reputedly ate his last meal here before he was gunned down outside his Miami Beach home in 1997.Cultural afternoonTake a close-up look at the development of art deco and other styles from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Wolfsonian-FIU (21) at 1001 Washington Avenue (001 305 531 1001; ) is a treasure trove of d茅cor and design. This South Beach landmark displays the collection of the Miami businessman Mitchell Micky Wolfson, which was donated to Florida International University in 1997. The 80,000 or so objects from the period between 1885 and 1945 include priceless furniture, ceramics and paintings. The museum opens noon-6pm (until 9pm on Fridays) daily except Wednesday; adults $7 (?4.75).Take a viewHead to the rooftop lounge bar at the glitzy Gansevoort Miami Beach hotel (22) at 2377 Collins Avenue (001 305 604 1000; ). For most of the crowd here the focus is the pool and other people, but from this vantage point, 18 floors up, you also get a good view over the sea to the east and across to the towers of downtown Miami to the west.A walk by the beachStroll 鈥?or jog 鈥?with the locals along the Miami Beach boardwalk, a two-mile beachside stretch running between 21st and 49th Streets and offering prime Collins Waterfront viewing. The decking path is lined with lush vegetation and has been raised so that you can look over golden shores in one direction and peek into otherwise hidden hotel gardens in the other.The icing on the cakeHowever many times you walk along Ocean Drive during the day, make tracks here after 6pm. In the evening the road is transformed into a neon wonderland, its palm trees and art deco buildings lit up in fabulously lurid colours.锘?p>It takes the effort of Hercules to haul myself off the personal waterbed and into the treatment room. The chill-out zone at the Aquagranda Livigno Wellness Park spa 鈥?with its individual gel-filled beds surrounded by giant deep-sea images projected on to art-installation walls 鈥?is just one of Livigno's affordable entertainments. The space-age concoction of water, glass and plastic-fantastic was designed by the Italian architect Simone Micheli, who must have watched a lot of The Jetsons as a kid. It's the apr猫s-ski antidote to a day of high-Lombardy sun, wind and snow.And snow is on the menu in Livigno, a series of three linked hamlets peppered with old barns and rustic stone chalets. The name derives from the old German for avalanche. Tucked in a sunny transverse valley running east-west, it's a little over three hours from Innsbruck airport via Switzerland. You reach Italy through a one-lane tunnel. In March, the mountain-top snowpack is an impressive three metres, requiring the tall to duck when skiing beneath the chairlift. Yet despite Livigno's sound snow pedigree (it's nicknamed Little Tibet, due to its cold and lofty perch), this Italian resort is still off the radar of the average British skier. Perhaps it's too cheap.A buon mercato, a basso prezzo: one of the quirks of Livigno is its tax-free status, bestowed originally by Napoleon and maintained into the 21st century. Around 200 shops sell cheap alcohol, cigarettes, perfume, electronics and luxury goods along the long main street, generating a vibe of al fresco departure lounge as destination. It doesn't stop there: low prices are reflected in the bars and restaurants lining the 10km strip. There is a Michelin-starred restaurant, Ristorante Mattias, but most places to eat are small, low-key and casual.To add to the charm, the heavy-shopping Europeans tend to ski fewer hours than us, so, unlike the snow, Livigno's lift lines are thin on the ground. For those who love to rack up the miles, skiing here is a non-stop love affair on slopes that rise above both sides of a wide valley, like two giant slices of a ciabatta sandwich waiting to be devoured.Bordering Switzerland's Bernina range, the Carosello side offers the most skiing, accessed by a gondola or a series of chairlifts from the village. Sun pours over rolling pistes, groomed to make everyone feel they're levitating above the snow, expending no visible effort at all.It's red-run heaven, above the treeline and within the comfort level of almost any skier or boarder. And the 115km of mostly wide intermediate terrain is easy to advance on to from the beginner drag lifts that line the valley floor. Indeed, there's a good incentive: 12 of the area's 30 lifts are drag lifts, many of them servicing the beginner areas. After a day or two of T-bars, novices will be relieved to take that snow plough on the road.In this part of northern Lombardy, the road and the piste inevitably lead in one direction: lunch. A proper example is found at the lovely table-service restaurant at the mountain-top Carosello restaurant. Beginning with hub cap-sized heaps of cured ham, cheeses and pickles, we move on to pizzoccheri, the fresh buckwheat pasta drenched in magnuca cheese, accompanied with sup

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    Testimonials


    • "A riveting, unflinching set of some of the most poignant photography I've ever come across." No. Nein

    • "In the great Magnum tradition!" David Lewis-Baker

    • "His commitment to photojournalism can not be denied. I am certain he will secure a place amongst some of our best." JR Photography

    • "I've seen many war photos and met a few war photographers, but Zoriah's work deeply touched me." Globe Visions

    • "Zoriah Miller, In looking through his materials on his website, no one could debate the fact that he is enormously talented as a photographer, there's no doubt about it. Photographs taken around the world, many in war-torn regions...extremely moving." Laura Ingraham on the Laura Ingraham Show

    • "You are as J. Nachtway, Alex Majoli, Alexandra Boulat... brave reportage... good, good job..." Salvatore Piermarini

    • "It is a eye opener to view your work, it brings strong emotions when doing so. Your work reflects an other side of the world around us and beyond. Its a honour to be your contact and I will use it to find inspiration for myself. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us." Frits van Sambeek

    • "Le tue foto danno un senso alla vita,c'è chi ha tutto e chi non si può permettere di pensare al futuro...perchè non sa se ci sarà! Più li guardo e più mi commuovo per la bellezza e la dura realtà." Mimmo Messineo

    • "Your work has changed me. It`s such an interesting effect your work has. Amazing art, it also informs so specifically, precisely." Roberto Eiti

    • "Zoriah`s pictures keep me breathless. They are shocking and at the same time they have an attraction which makes me come back to look at them again and again. Zoriah`s work has my full respect. Chapeau!" T. Klick

    • "Your amazing photos take me away from my comfort zone, and I confess I need that. Thank you for being out there and show all of us what is going on beyond our comfortable lives. Please, be safe as much as possible." Itmelo

    • " Zoriah, your pictures bring out so many emotions in me, I'm at a loss for words. They are heart wrenching and thought provoking...thank you for sharing!" Roxy Millado-Duguay

    • The iraq night patrol series was one of the most frightening photo-series I've seen about war. Zoriah pushed war photography in another dimension. You suddenly start appreciating your own life knowing that millions of other souls don't even know how to survive the next night." Dan cinematographer/Berlin

    • "There's a deep meaning in every photo, you've been at the right time and place. Some photos made me cry, and at the same time I was happy to see such a photostream ! It's one of a kind. Thank you so much for sharing.." Hanan Iaway

    • "Zoriah is a REAL photographer...Thank you Zoriah for showing us the truth." Bluto Blutarski

    • "Your work is beyond words. Almost to point of emotional breakpoint." Chieska

    • "Tus fotos son increibles, impactantes. El tratado de blanco y negro es fenomenal... Me quito el sombrero. Ya me gustaría a mi poder hacer trabajos de ese tipo..." Javier Martin

    • "You have some outstanding work! I checked your site and I understand why you have won awards. You really cover your subject matter with an expert eye, very inspiring and eye opening. I will check back often!" Dvdell Photo

    • "Muito muito muito com o seu trabalho... meus sinceros parabens. Fico feliz em ver fotografos engajados com a luta dos povos Beijos e fortes abraços solidários" Ratao Diniz

    • "Incredible not just because they are excellent photographs but because they are frighteningly honest. I hope you continue to make these strong, thought provoking records and that you stay safe in what must be incredibly difficult situations, both physically and emotionally." JimboTF

    • "It would be somewhat of an understatement to say I was impressed with your work. We obviously know how dangerous it is to be involved in that theater (Iraq.) I'm sure that every moment of every day is just on the verge of chaotic for what is that war (war?) if not the ultimate of chaos? And yet you have these moments where you pause to compose image of graphic quality equal to content. Admire all you compositional skills but am especially taken by the wideangle work. Do your best to do so and know you're held in high esteem." Cyclops-Optic

    • "I have to confess, that I couldn't sleep properly after seeing your photos the first time. These images are still in my mind and won't let me go." Vic

    • "There is a great passion in every single shot and I’m very impressed, sad, shocked, touched, deeply moved, frightened and inspired in the same way.You are documenting a very important episode of history. Your pictures speak for themselves and your work is beyond words. Your work is not easy as it is difficult to photograph people in distress. However, it concerns us all and we shall not forget!" Victoria

    • "Into the very depths of my soul. I cannot begin to even sum up with words, the depths of how your images reach out to me. It brings me down to earth and reminds me as to why I picked up the camera in the first place. Your works are truly inspiring. You're very privileged to have to see these places with your own eyes, observe and capture through your lens the true state of the world we live in. As for now, for me, it'll have to be through your eyes, your pictures and the stories they tell. Truly honored," Itzhar

    • "There is a hunger to know the truth about war and your accurate presentation of it is exemplary. I don't believe it possible to be unmoved by your images. This is especially true for those of us who live in a very different world, essentially free from the suffering and carnage you portray. Thank you for your dedication and courage. You are making and incredible contribution to world understanding, hopefully not at an extreme cost to yourself. War photography seems like a hard way to make a living on many levels. Living and breathing civilian trauma is not easy but it is more localized. You can get away from it by driving or moving to another location, but with war there is no escape. The reality is so harsh and overwhelmingly pervasive into all areas of life. Stay safe. Many will be following you." Phopper Nowlin

    • "Thanks, Zoriah, for your hard work and incredible vision, and for the inspiration your example lends to others who have put down the gun, or never carried one." eL Bz

    • "All I can say: 'It's very, very impressive.' Keep up the good work. The world must know!" Mulder Photography

    • "Oh my God! His work is very dramatic! Reporting reality in a way never before seen ...I am impressed." Primo Tacca Neto, Brazil

    • "Your images are so profound - they have so much depth and feeling attached to them. I have much admiration for those who are willing to risk their own safety in order to capture images such as the ones you do." Luke, UK

    • "After watching your pics... I´m absolutely tired. Exhausted. Sooooo much information inside them. One day, I will make pictures like yours, but it will take me three or four lives to learn to do it. Not great but incredible work. Thanks for showing us all the way. Master." Jose Manuel, Spain

    • "I feel honored after I have seen your great work; one day maybe, with more time I hope I will also be able to take the picture I like, going to those place where a photographer contribute can be of a help to improve the quality of life of all those people suffering. Thank you again" Piero

    • "Your images work so well. One thing I would love you to photograph in an ideal world: The impeachment and sentencing of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Paul Wolfowitz and team for international war crimes. Those pictures would make a fitting end to your middle east series. Keep doing your thing, you are making a difference." Dan

    • "All Wars are very bad and nobody wins...your photographs are very impressive. Congratulations!" Engin Gerçek

    • "Thank you. Your work is amazing, photojournalism is my most desired form of photography. The stories, emotions, and sights your photographs bring to their audience are moving, maddening, touching, frightening - all the things good photojournalism does. Rock on." Podolux

    • "Powerfoul work. It catches visually my attention, and after some pictures I was inmersed in the humanity, the pain, the fight it reflects. Thanks for sharing this work!" Alejocock

    • "You are an amazing photographer. I look forward to following your work." Professor Brian Morley, Ph.D

    • "Your work is absolutely amazing, I love it because it´s hard and beautiful at the same time, you have the most amazing eye, congratulations." Mirelle B

    • "I am often full of words, but tonight your photos have left me speechless. I cannot even begin to imagine the things you've seen. May God keep your heart as you bare your soul through your captures." Michelle

    • "Really, I can't stress how I admire your work. Your photos really move me. I like photography for its beauty, but how you embed meaning in your photos, is just MIND-BLOWING." Screaming Snapshots

    • "Your photos are incredible, for me photojournalism is the most important form of photography, risking your life to show the world real life is crucial." Colin

    • "Nothing makes me cry these days, too complicated to explain, but having just looked at your photos I am sobbing. I can honestly say they are most shocking and at the same time touching photos I have ever seen. You made me think not just of the subject matter but the situation, atmosphere and also how you felt observing and photographing. Thank you for sharing, truly moved." Anonymous

    • "Your photographs are incredible, powerful and touching. I admire that you have a background in humanitarian aid." Terence

    • "Congratulations for your work, your images give us a glampse about what war is about. Humiliation, pain, only for interests. You make this horrible thing seem human. Thank you." Rafael de Carvalho

    • "I find these kinds of life photos as heartbreaking as those which vulgarly show death and destruction. Such good capture, it tells a whole story..." Petit1ze

    • "Tus fotos son increibles, impactantes. El tratado de blanco y negro es fenomenal... Me quito el sombrero. Ya me gustaría a mi poder hacer trabajos de ese tipo..." Javier Martin

    • "Superb photojournalistic images you have in your gallery! Compels me to comment on almost each one. Let them speak for themselves because they really don't need comments. They yet deserve to be deeply appreciated for all their quality. Hope to see more of your fantastic work soon." Mario Proenca

    • "I've often tried to express this practice, but a photo is worth more than my words." W. Quatman

    • "I've always thought that photographs are a kind of self portrait of the photographer. I appreciate your eye and sensibility and the work you do to make the act of war real to the rest of us I mentioned your "eye," your heart is just as visible in your images." Jerry Downs Photographer

    • "Your work is amazingly powerful. Some hard to look at, but gripping nonetheless." Ron Landucci, Infinite Editions

    • "Simply excelent! It's a great reportage of a difficult situation." Rancescamare • "Stunning!" Matteo de Mayda • "Deserves to take a well earned place in history in the company of Phillip Jones-Griffith, Don Mc Cullen, Larry Burrows and Robert Capa. The minimal presentation of his work is perfect...the viewer fills in the details, and the images linger stubbornly in the memory, to awake one from sleep in a cold sweat...these images cannot be taken in in one viewing...the viewer returns restlessly again and again, attempting to process the information...this is really happening. Iconic, compelling images of war by a true professional.... I take my hat off to him." Goddessofxanadu

    • "A chilling commentary on the madness of war, ALL WAR." Ronzig's Gallery

    • "The worlds cruelty compressed into some thousand pixels ... it's so impressive" Cavo Kernich

    • "This is what photography exists for." Dot Spiral

    • "Right up there with Robert Capa. Wonderful work, you should be with MAGNUM. You are showing all sides of the conflict." Old Rollei

    • "Haunting beyond words." Yarnahoy

    • "Hugely thought provoking work." Leah Franchetti

    • "What you are doing is so, so important. I cannot even contemplate what horror and pain you have seen. But see it we must. True dedication and bravery is the only way to expose such inhumanity. Keep truth as your motto, and maybe this silly world we live in will someday wake up and treat people as living souls, not simply pieces of meat to be traded in worthless pointless conflicts. I salute you sir." Jim Bodownie

    • "Simply excellent! It's a great reportage of a difficult situation."Frances Camare

    • "Amazing work. Absolutely outstanding!" Thomas W.P. Slatin Photography

    • "I am awed by these images. Some rank among the best millitary images I've ever seen, and I've collected all the greats." Konsum Terra

    • "I am in awe. I really don't know what to say. I haven't been this affected since I saw Nachtweys work." Dude Crush

    • "It is a eye opener to view your work, it brings strong emotions when doing so. Your work reflects another side of the world around us and beyond. I will use it to find inspiration for myself. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us." Frits van Sambeek

    • "Amazing! difficult to stomach (I am very emotional)... but just brilliant and captivating. Thanks for sharing all your photos..." Penelope Gan

    • "A photograph is like a symbol for all the frightening aspects of a disastrous war that brings so much suffering to so many innocent people on both sides. Great, valuable, artful, high class photography that shows the true face of what is going on in Iraq after the "Holy Mission" was declared completed so long time ago. I bow in respect of your great work." Helmut Schadt

    THE RED ZONE

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