TUTTLE MODE | REVIEW

by James Tuttle

Gentle reader,

RuPaul and Design Star took a back seat this week because we have a very special treat for you here at Tuttle Mode.  It’s our first ever book review!

Now, wipe that stupid look off your face.  Books can be fun, especially when they’re about two of your favorite things—sex and fashion!  Just ask Jackie Collins or my longtime friend, bestselling London author Lulu Taylor.  We are introducing a new novel called Walking Marina written by a male model about the modeling business and that, as far as I know, hasn’t really happened before.

Author D. R. Hildebrand. All this and he's smart, too!

The story follows an aimless teen catapulted from a Mid-western steel mill into New York’s fiercely competitive modeling world.  When his novelty begins to fade, he gets pulled into the seamy underside of the business, testing his morality and, ultimately, his humanity.

It isn’t exactly what you’d call a “Summer Beach Read” and you’re hearing that from someone who took the first half of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, which is about twelve hundred pages of tiny print, to read by the pool on a very wild, very gay Atlantis Cruise.  I only managed to get through about three pages on that trip but I looked incredibly sophisticated every time I closed the massive tome to adjust my Gucci swim trunks and order my next strawberry daiquiri.

So, no, Walking Marina certainly isn’t a light and frothy Candace Bushnell book about expensive shoes and the girls who love them that you’d pack with a straw hat and sunscreen for Careyes.  The writing is dense and poetic and quite intense.  I have to admit that there were times I became a little annoyed by the wordiness but was then pulled immediately back into the narrative, yearning to know what happens next.  When I occasionally had the impression, as with Proust, that we were about embark on an exploration of some tiny detail that would go on for hundreds of pages, it ended up only a paragraph or two before we were back on track and the quick diversion would turn out, in hindsight, to be quite illuminating.

It really is masterfully written, especially for a debut novel, and is a revealing look into the inner workings of the fashion industry from the rare point of view of a male model.  Something that really stood out for me was the visual quality of the writing, as though I was watching a film.  One chapter describes a runway show at New York Fashion Week so vividly that my inner critic took over.  “Damn, that collection is all over the fucking place,” said inner critic, “almost as crazy as the spring Dior Couture mess!  Who the hell follows beads with Ikat prints and python and velvet?”  Then I realized I was only picturing it in my head the whole time so, who knows?  Maybe it looked fabulous.  Though it wasn’t at all what I’d expected from a story about models, I’ll have to recommend this book.  It’s unlike anything you’ve ever read about the fashion business and you can buy it here.

Hildebrand scaling literary heights one leap at a time.

I don’t know the charming author D. R. Hildebrand very well but we had some wonderful conversations over cocktails when he was in L.A. last year working on Walking Marina and we did catch up one crazy night in New York a couple of weeks ago so I felt confident that I could ask him some racy questions about his book.  You can find the short, enlightening interview (and more hot pictures) here.

So, now that we’ve sautéed that mushroom, let’s talk about what we’re going to be wearing this upcoming season.  It’s blissfully sunny and warm here in L.A. and will continue to be for the next couple of months but the Fall-Winter collections are on the shelves and if you don’t pick up a couple of favorite pieces soon, you’ll have missed out.  Let’s face it, honey, the fashion wheel isn’t slowing down for anyone, come rain or shine, or a desperately crippled world economy.

Traveling men at Varvatos F/W2011.

I’ve been hearing about John Varvatos quite a lot the past couple of weeks and not in the fashion press.  People around me have been randomly saying things like “those boots remind me of Varvatos,” or “You’d look great in John Varvatos” for no apparent reason.  He’s never really been on my radar so I had a look at his website, which was difficult to navigate and not very interesting once I did figure it out.  I did find that the Detroit-born Varvatos seems quite connected to music and that his dark, documentary look advertising campaigns have featured such diverse bands as The Roots, Dave Matthews and ZZ Top in recent years.

The rock and roll connection really does come alive in the collections, where we see a rocker at his country estate in Spring 2011, an Edwardian traveler with a Black Keys soundtrack in the current Fall 2011 and a Led Zeppelin/Rolling Stones vibe in the upcoming Spring 2012.  The runway looks were wearable and cool and I knew this stuff couldn’t be as nose-bleedingly expensive as my beloved Balmain Homme so I decided to check out their West Hollywood boutique even after my new phone’s autocorrect ominously changed “Varvatos” to “Barbarism” when I looked up their hours.  That was weird.

Inside the West Hollywood Varvatos.

They are located on the corner of Melrose and Robertson between world-famous gay bar The Abbey and world-famous home of obnoxious salespeople Maxfield, so there must some kind of a gay fashionista thing happening there, and the interior is clean and spacious with enough touches of worn luxury in the old frames and antique rugs to make it comfortable.  The line is quite extensive, with sportswear in the high ceilinged main room and tailored suiting to the left in a more intimate space.

Left to Right: Like, Love, Jury's still out.

I was instantly interested in a lightweight gray double-breasted jacket on a mannequin but when the beautiful salesperson, Pam, who is friendly yet exudes cool chick confidence, went to check on my size I fell in love with a great wintery one on the rack that fit perfectly and was priced pretty reasonably at under $1,400.  The knits were beautiful and even the burnout tees that you find everywhere had a lovely ombré effect here that I haven’t seen before.   It’s pointless for me to try those on, though, because no matter whose name is on the label, I always feel like a fist-pumping douchebag the second I pull them over my head.

The shoes looked amazing, especially some broken-in lace up boots for just under $600 that I’ll be back for if I can’t bring myself to spring for the Chelsea boots by you-know-who that I’d have to order from Paris and pay for in euros.  I was a little disappointed in the hanger appeal of some of the shirt and trouser fabrics but I didn’t really give them a fair chance by trying them on.

If you ladies are tempted to run down here, make sure it’s to buy a gift for your man (or me!) because the only things Varvatos has for women are a fragrance and a Converse tennis shoe.  You well-dressed guys with some spare coin, on the other hand, you should probably pay Pam a visit and allow her to work her magic.

And, no, that dress doesn’t make you look fat.  The cake did that.

Much love,

xxJames