New Yorkers with superficial occupations are eagerly embracing New Age rituals and jargon, thereby creating a new and very contagious Seventh Avenue Spirituality.
The belief system of this pervasive cult is a mishmash of hippie-dippy gobbledygook. One thing is clear: The fervor of the average Seventh Avenue Spiritualist seems to be directly proportional to the superficiality of his or her occupation. The most “spiritual” people I know are makeup artists and fashion designers; they always seem to be trekking off to India, dangling crystals, yammering on about toxins, cleansing each other’s auras–and they’re proselytizing their wacko ideas to clients. This New Age plague is spreading like wildfire through the hair salons and design studios of New York.
A cult leader has yet to emerge. There is, however, no shortage of contenders: Deepak Chopra or his son Gautama; Kazuko, whose high-priced crystal jewelry adorns the extremities of many a Park Avenue socialite; Donna Karan, who spends more time casting runes than casting fashion shows. But my money is on a new and ambitious pair of ultra-trendy shamans: Deepak, watch your back, here comes Tony&Tina.
I saw the name in a WWD Beauty Report in May and assumed that the Off-Broadway show with the un-P.C. Italian stereotypes ( Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding ) had somehow spawned a tarty makeup line. Reading further, I discovered that there was no connection whatsoever: Owners Cristina Bornstein and Anthony Gill consider their cosmetics line to be “a conceptual art project” designed to “spread awareness about the true nature of color and aroma and how their frequencies affect the human energy system.” I read on, galvanized by the AbFab Buddhism of their ideas, until I encountered Tony Gill’s chilling statement that “80 percent of our interactions with customers end in tears.” The otherwise illuminating WWD article did not clarify what exactly Tony and Tina were doing to their customers to make them cry.
Maybe they were giving them tough love; i.e., “You look like shit because you’re not wearing our makeup.” Maybe, like Julianne Moore and Heather Graham in Boogie Nights, they were doing so much cocaine with their customers that all they could do was hold hands and get lachrymose. Or maybe it was just the inevitable, weepy, Oprahization of the cosmetics world. I decided to investigate.
“Money is energy–and we’re training to be healers,” announced Tina when I interviewed the dynamic young couple at their Soho office. Bewildered, I asked Tony to clarify their goal to be “the first company to evoke human evolution” through cosmetics. He said: “You see, if you have a weakness in your system, it’s traceable back to your chakras.” Tony, a nice bloke from Fulham, London, added to my confusion by diving into their theory of “vibrational remedies”: The Tony&Tina beauty and skin-care line is based on our seven chakras, which Hindus believe are responsible for our well-being. Now, as per Tony and Tina, they are also responsible for our maquillage and our nail varnish (a T&T specialty). “The vibrations of certain colors correspond to, and affect, the vibrations of our chakras,” claimed Tony, with unwavering seriousness.
And those weeping customers clutching Kleenex at the beauty counters of America? “We perform an auric reading of your color field using our seven color cards. Depending on which card your hand hovers over, we will be able to make observations about your chakras which will bring an immediate intimacy–sometimes it’s emotional.”
They laugh genially when I bluntly accuse them of being “crack-smoking lunatics.” I am dying to know how all this baloney translates into the sale of product. I decide I better talk to the Tony&Tina Bergdorf’s counter girls, and co-religionists, Hope and Rhonda.
Rhonda, the counter manger, successfully sidetracks my cynicism by showing me a truly incredible product: the Therapeutic Eye Base for $22. It’s weightless, it’s one color and it contains apple-seed enzyme, which promotes cell generation and reduces the visible signs of aging. (Seventh Avenue shamans don’t want to get wrinkly any more than the rest of us.)
Hope recalled her auric reading. “Tony did it himself. I was drawn to three different colors–blue, green, orange. I can’t quite remember. Intuition, heart and communication … I’m lacking in those areas.” Changing the subject, she added, “All of our lipsticks have aromatherapy.” (Translation: They smell good.) “Chosen, Centered, Balanced, Empowered–they’re all $15.” Hope is correct: The lipsticks smell fantastic, and there is something genius about slapping on scented lippie–the scent wafts up to your nose whenever you move your lips. I recommend Intelligent, a lovely, rich poo brown, reeking of St. John’s Wort, lavender, bergamot and rosemary.
I ask Rhonda about the divine bi-colored bottles containing what appear to be mini lava lamps; she re-ignites my cynicism with a hilarious bit of T&T propaganda. “This is our Nail-Paint Remover, and it represents nondualistic thought. Most people believe that because we are born as individuals, that we are separate from one another–but in all reality, everything is comprised of the same elements, just like our Nail-Paint Remover,” she said. “Shake it, and it all blends into one. It’s $10.”
My advice: Chant your way over to the Tony&Tina counter–Bergdorf’s or Bloomie’s–treat yourself to a chakra-opening scented lipstick and have a damn good cry.
Seventh Avenue Spiritualism is harmless and poignant in its naïveté, and, as Tony said, “You might think we’re mad, but at least we have a concept.”
Do you have an extremely perverse friend for whom it is impossible to buy a birthday gift? Every year you pound the pavement looking for the most grotesque thing you can find, knowing, no matter what you buy, you will barely raise a chuckle or make a dent in his or her warped perceptual mechanisms.
Give your friend a window into one of the scariest enclaves of perversity: Give a subscription to Dolls magazine. There’s no way to describe the haunting montage of doll visages which gaze imploringly from the glossy pages of Dolls , but I will tell you that there is some seriously fucked-up shit going on in this magazine. It’s a world where the sensibilities and aesthetics of JonBenet Ramsey and Cindy Sherman collide, explode and implode in a Jeff Koonsian smorgasbord.
Pick up the August issue, yank out the subscription card and save 50 percent off the single-copy price. For a mere $24.95 (10 issues per year), you can entertain even the most hard-core cynic.
The August issue will also avail you of the opportunity to vote in the Dolls 2000 Awards of Excellence. If you can’t find it on the stands, just mail your check to Dolls , P.O. Box 1972, Marion, Ohio, 43306-2072–and don’t forget to include the lucky birthday person’s address.
When it comes to European footwear, Soho shoppers tend to lose all objectivity. Camper shoes are, supposedly, le dernier cri in trendiness, and I don’t quite geddit. They look rather old-school lesbian to me. They also remind me of the squishy, bunion-friendly shoes favored by senior citizens in civilized countries around the globe.
Lorenzo Fluxá, the founder of the Majorca-based company, has, according to a press release, “the appearance of a relaxed and cordial executive.” How nice for him, but maybe he should hire a few highly strung homosexuals for the design studio to balance out the cordiality.
My recommendation: the ACS. It’s a little, black, high-tech sneakerette ($161)–fine for those degagée moments at the beach. My other recommendation: changing the poorly translated names of the individual ACS styles in the catalogue. Calling a shoe “Stadium Negro” really tests the P.C. sensibilities of the average customer, as in “I would love to try on a Stadium Negro, please.”
The new Camper store at 125 Prince Street (358-1841, near Wooster) is a triumph of design and well worth the visit, even if you can’t find a Stadium Negro in your size.
Cancel whatever you are doing this evening and go see The Eyes of Tammy Faye . Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, this documentary reaffirmed my belief in the power of transcendental grotesqueries–and groceries, for that matter. Needless to say, 80 percent of Tammy Faye’s interactions end in tears.