Who wore it best?

I started this blog a few years ago with a post about the dearth of imagination in fashion ads (“They’re beautiful. So why aren’t they smiling?”). The latest example? Brioni employing Metallica to sell suits that start at (ouch) $7,000 each. Nothing against Metallica. Their latest is a return to form, and using ’em for the tony Brioni label is classic casting against type.

But the black and white campaign (shot by Zachery Michael) is a blatant rip-off of the long-running John Varvatos campaign shot by Danny Clinch. That effort (also B+W) stars a who’s who of rockers: Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Slash, Alice Cooper, Ringo Starr, Joe Perry, ZZ Top, Paul Weller, the Roots, Cheap Trick, Kiss and more.

For Varvatos, Clinch was a no brainer. He’s one of the best rock photographers around. His subjects are unusually comfortable with him, so more of their true personality comes through in his work. Varvatos also has a deep connection to the genre (he bought legendary club CBGBs to preserve it, and penned Rock In Fashion about the love affair between rockers and their threads).

Another reason the Varvatos campaign seems more credible is that his duds cost a fraction of what Brioni’s do, which makes for a more accessible tie-in. Besides, the Wall Street types that wear Brioni are more likely to ‘rock out’ to Billy Joel than to Metallica (me? I’ll take Master of Puppets over Uptown Girl anytime).

To be fair, Brioni’s effort is a nice departure from the mostly staid stuff in the category. I just wish they had put the same effort into their marketing as they do into their impeccably crafted clothing.










The Surefire Sick Bed Film Festival.

It happens. You run yourself ragged, and in that weakened state, you succumb to whatever vile bug is circulating at work or on your last few flights. Before you know it, your body is pleading No más! No más!” like Roberto Duran in his humiliating defeat at the hands of Sugar Ray Leonard.

The first thing you learn when you’re home sick is just how much it sucks to be home sick. Social media is no help. You’ll either feel guilty for not being at work or pissed that life is passing you by. When you’re this beat, even reading is too much trouble.

Enter the The Surefire Sick Bed Film Festival. Now, no two people have the same taste, obviously, but the general gist is the same: Mix some classics, a few thrillers, a dash of romance, pepper in good documentaries and a helping of comedies, and you can’t go wrong. For example:

A Fish Called Wanda  If I’m going to be laid up with a mystery virus kicking my bony ass, I want to keep some of this fare light. John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin and Jamie Lee Curtis make magic in this delightful romantic comedy (also written by Cleese). Kline is unforgettable as a thief torturing Michael Palin over his beloved fish.

A Fish Called Wanda 2

The Swimming Pool  (1969) It starts out innocently enough. The beautiful Romy Schneider and Alain Delon are lovers relaxing poolside at a villa in St. Tropez in this moody French flick. But when her ex shows up with his nubile teenage daughter (hottie Jane Birkin) big trouble ensues.

The Swimming Pool

The Guard  The formula’s familiar: Fish-out-of-water cop (Don Cheedle in rural Ireland) needs help solving a mystery, and finds it in fat, boozy, whoring local cop (the brilliant Brendan Gleeson). The two have great chemistry, but ultimately, it’s Gleeson’s humanity that helps The Guard rise above most buddy movie fare. He also shines in the excellent gangster drama In Bruges.

Cheadle and Gleeson The Guard

A bit of Hitchcock  They just don’t make ’em like this anymore. Two faves are North By Northwest and To Catch A Thief, both starring Cary Grant. In the former, Grant and Eva Marie Saint are stellar. And the colour of the print (all Mad Men tones and all) is as good a test as any for a home theater’s picture. Thief, while one of the Master’s fluffier offerings, is still stylish classic and a reminder of just how stunning Grace Kelly was in her day.

North by Northwest

To Catch A Thief

Bill Cunningham, New York  For documentaries, I tend to gravitate to stories of passionate souls plying their craft against all odds. This one is a poignant portrait of the New York Times photographer who for decades has chronicled the fashions of the moment. We should all be this vital in our 80s. I had a moist eye at the end — I only wish he had found a lifelong companion.

Bill Cunningham New York

Anything by Miyazaki  When I’m in the mood for animation, I do what the mega talents at Pixar do: Reach for anything by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. The storylines are very strong, and the animation is just as good as it gets. Princess Mononoke, an environmental cautionary tale with a fierce female heroine, is one of my favourites. Also recommended: Porco Rosso or Spirited Away.

Princess Mononoke

Headhunters  This very well made Norwegian thriller takes a few liberties with logic, but it’s such an exciting, well acted ride that you’ll forgive the transgressions. Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is one bad, bad guy. Violence, tension, plus lots of clever twists.

Headhunters 2

Jiro Dreams of Sushi  85-year old Jiro (bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Grinch) is one of the best sushi chefs in the world, consistently wowing critics in his modest restaurant underneath Tokyo’s subway station. It’s his work that keeps him alive, yet you feel for his two sons, endlessly waiting in the wings for the old man to step aside. One of the best food docs ever.


Tell No One  Being a guy, I’m a sucker for a good thriller and this French white knuckler will have you on the edge of your seat, er, bed. François Cluzet (The Intouchables) stars as an innocent man suspected of killing his wife. It’s fast, intense, and features some great chase scenes. No doubt Hollywood will bungle the inevitable remake.

Sound City  As a music nut and audiophile, I just loved Sound City, Dave Grohl’s love letter to analogue and the seminal L.A. studio where countless groundbreaking albums were recorded on the Neve console. Great stuff. Others in this vein: Muscle Shoals and 20 Feet from Stardom.

Dave Grohl Sound City

Richard Pryor  Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle and countless others owe a huge debt to Richard Pryor. Watching any of his concert films, it’s easy to see why. Like most comics, he was an astute observer of the human condition, but his humour also comes from a very dark place. It cuts to the bone, it resonates, and most importantly, it cracks you up. Just what the doctor ordered.

Richard Pryor Live in Concert

You get the idea. Of course, since we seem to be enjoying another golden age of television, you may be tempted to substitute a marathon of your favourite shows, but I prefer films.

It goes without saying that it would be better if you weren’t sick in the first place, but there are worse ways to try to slow down and recover than by making a big dent in your Netflix queue.

A little tea with honey and brandy, and you’re good to go.

Dieter Rams: The other genius behind Apple.

Tech historians have documented how Apple nicked innovations like the graphic user interface, the mouse, bitmap displays, windows, icons and LANs from Xerox PARC. A true visionary, Steve Jobs was able to see and exploit the potential of these innovations even when the inventors themselves couldn’t. But beyond Jobs’ extraordinary drive, brilliant marketing and the technology itself, Apple’s greatest weapon has been its sexy, consumer friendly designs.

Most people assume this was also Jobs’ doing, with help from their gifted chief industrial designer, Jonny Ive. But I would argue that Apple wouldn’t be where it is today without the duo’s ability to channel Dieter Rams’ exquisite eye. Called “the greatest designer alive” by Fast Company, Rams was the genius behind Braun’s consumer products for decades. And also, it would appear, many of Apple’s.

Dieter Rams, the greatest industrial designer ever

The global press, tech bloggers, and many in the design community have claimed that Apple cribbed some of its most popular designs from the ground-breaking products Rams drew up for Braun. Ive has long professed his admiration for Rams’ output, saying, “Rams remains utterly alone in producing a body of work so consistently beautiful, so right and so accessible.”

But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Ive and Apple are more than mere admirers of Rams’ products. They’re totally infatuated with them. Allow me to approach the bench.

Exhibit A  The ghost of Braun’s T3 portable radio (1958, left) reappears as the original iPod (2001, right). Same size, same white plastic case, same use of a rotary dial for key functions, etc.

Did Apple rip off Dieter Rams?

Exhibit B  The iPhone’s calculator app (2007, left) borrows heavily from Brauns’s ET44 pocket calculator (1977, right) even down to the identically coloured round buttons for the same tasks.

Did Apple rip off Dieter Rams?

Exhibit C  Compare the aluminum housing, perforated details and swing out panel of the PowerMac G5 (2006, left) with Braun’s elegant T1000 portable transistor radio of 1964 (right).


Below: Close-up of the Braun T1000’s perforated aluminum panel (left) and the PowerMac’s (right).

Did Apple rip off Dieter Rams?

Exhibit D Left, Braun’s infrared emitter (1970s, left). Right, Apple’s iSight (2003).

Did Apple rip off Dieter Rams?

Exhibit E  On the left, Apple’s iMac from 2007. On the right, Braun’s stunning LE-1 loudspeaker which debuted in 1959.

Did Apple rip off Dieter Rams?

I rest my case. But at least Apple had the good taste to steal from the very best. Is Rams bothered by any of this? Hardly. In fact, he praises Apple as the only large U.S. firm that is putting design first, by having the resolve to remove every last unnecessary element in its designs. And he credits Apple for changing our lives in dramatic ways Braun couldn’t even hope to have done.

Indeed, everything Apple has ever created–the original Macintosh, the candy coloured iMac, the iPod, their friendly retail store experience, the now ubiquitous iPhone, iTunes, the iPad, etc.–has been a proof point of their role as “the computer for the rest of us,” as their kick ass ad agency Chiat/Day put it back in the day. The public agrees. Good design sells. Today, Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

So the next time you feel a twinge of technolust as you admire one of Apple’s stylish products, by all means, tip your hat to Jobs & Co. But don’t forget the great Dieter Rams. Thanks to his wonderful eye, brilliant mind and incredible restraint, tens of millions of consumers are using everyday objects that are pieces of art instead of pieces of junk.

Dieter Rams posing with some of his greatest hits

For more on Rams, check out Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible or Braun–Fifty Years of Design and Innovation.

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