Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Delfina Delettrez

Delfina Delettrez Fendi, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

My name is Altocat & I am a blingaholic. I have loved jewelry since childhood & I was always begging my mother to let me wear her 50's rhinestone pieces, or, failing that, for money to buy others' old costume sparklers at garage sales. In those days (the mid-late 1970's) no one in the small-town midwest wore such things any more & I could pick up fabulous, dangly earrings & dramatic bracelets that would now fetch good money at an antiques show for a quarter, sometimes less. Sigh.

Once you're hooked on jewelry, it's pretty much impossible to stop loving the stuff, & my inner magpie is still alive & well. To this day, I wear tons of vintage pieces, from costume to fine. Actually, when we were dating, I told Mr. Altocat that I wasn't obsessed with stone size, but if he proposed, he'd better do so with a vintage ring in some form of white metal or the deal was off. He came up with a 1940's platinum & diamond ring (okay, I found it while shopping alone, but he loved the design & agreed to it) so I kept him.

I will freely admit to being a total design snob about new jewelry. Most of the "fine" pieces in my/our price range are utterly boring. I did succumb to the Tiffany key pendant trend this spring, but only after I found a very large sterling one that looks like it could be an actual house key. There is some fun, playful work being done in costume jewelry these days, however, even that tends to be too trend-conscious & imitative for me to plunk down my credit card unless it's by Kenneth Jay Lane or Lulu Guinness. When it comes to accessories, I'm not one to play it safe - I like big, odd-looking pieces, or smaller ones that you look at more closely & exclaim "That's a spider! Eeeew!"

Which brings me to this picture of Delfina Delettrez, heiress, member of the famed Fendi fashion family, & a truly brilliant jewelry designer in her own right. Mr. Altocat & I discovered her jewelry a while ago on a trip to South Beach & now it seems her work is in every fashion magazine I pick up. We wandered into Alchemist, a high-end shop on Lincoln Road, while killing time on our last day in town, & I admired some of the dresses they had for sale, but almost immediately headed over to the jewelry case. Nearly every piece was by Ms. Delettrez & I swooned over her sterling & enamel floral ring. made a bit memento-mori-ish by the inclusion of a tiny skull in the design, her flapper-length strand of cultured pearls spiked with a sterling silver fingertip every so often (the nails are all different colors & can be repainted if the owner is bored with her necklace's manicure) & the piece in this picture, a spectacular sterling silver bracelet in the shape of a spider. Upon opening the spider's back in locket fashion - well, perhaps in poison ring fashion - you discover that she is pregnant; her belly is loaded with cultured pearl "eggs". I tried the bracelet on & wore it around the shop for a while as we chatted with the sales associates, who couldn't have been nicer & admired my antique angel skin coral & diamond ring, an auction find - actually, an amazing score - from a decade ago. Alas, wonderful as they are, most of Delettrez' designs are way out of our price range at this time. The "Black Widow" bracelet pictured retails for $3800. I did manage to find a few of her pieces on Opening Ceremony's website for $190-470, but they don't pack quite the punch that this arachnid delivers.

Ever the bargain-huntress, I recently spotted Martha Rotten's pieces in a local store & they do have a similar creepy-but-very-well-made feel. Skulls, bugs, & eerie baby doll faces abound in Ms. Rotten's work, & prices start at around $38. If you don't live in Baltimore, you can view her work at

Prince in a scene from "Purple Rain"

Ever watch a movie you haven't seen in over two decades & realize you still remember it almost word for word, shot for shot? That's what happened when my husband & I watched "Purple Rain" on DVD last Saturday night. I found myself singing along, too, until my husband, J, asked me to stop because he'd never seen the film & was hearing many of the songs for the first time.

I can't tell you how many times I saw this film when it first came out in 1984. I'm sure I caught it in the theater at least twice, & on cable... who knows? As for the soundtrack album, of course I had it, plus "Ice Cream Castle" by The Time & Apollonia 6's "Sex Shooter". I am a huge Prince fan, especially of his mid-80's work; J is not. I did convince J to accompany me to one of Prince's live shows a few years ago, which helped him to appreciate the star's music more; it's just not his first-choice sound. When I asked him if we could watch "Purple Rain" last Saturday night, he wasn't terribly enthusiastic at first, but I asked him to please give it a chance, & he agreed. After a while, he found himself getting caught up in the film's story as well as the music. I was in heaven from beginning to end.

What is it about "Purple Rain"? Why does this film still resonate so with me (& with many others, judging from the comments on my Facebook page when I mentioned we'd watched it?) As one who wanted to move to the big city & make it as a performer, the story is the stuff of my youthful dreams, & the costumes are pure mid-80's ruffles-&-hair-gel-for-both-genders fabulous. The acting is fine, especially for a rock-&-roll picture, & the music... well, it's simply the best soundtrack ever. Ever! (Okay, the music in "Pulp Fiction" is great, too, but for me, nothing can top "Purple Rain".)

If it sounds like I'm on a rosy nostalgia trip here, maybe I am, but for many of us growing up in the upper midwest at that time, "Purple Rain" was more than a movie. It was a shout-out to the world that the part of America we lived in wasn't all bland, all the time. Same goes for the "Minneapolis Sound" - the music of Prince, The Time, Apollonia 6, Sheila E, Jimmy Jam, & others. Finally, people could see that Minnesota was capable of producing performers with a lot more edge than Garrison Keillor & that not everyone in that area speaks with a "Fargo" accent.

26 years after "Purple Rain" was released, I am living in an urban area, making a living in the arts, though alas, not as a rock star. I did manage to go dancing at First Avenue once in the early 90's (to a DJ playing the hot techno hits of the day) & had a blast. Two years ago, J & I drove past the club when we were in town for a family reunion, & my heart fluttered a little, just as it would have back in 1984. I still listen to Prince's music on a regular basis, hope to catch his live show again someday, & managed to see The Time perform at Artscape a couple of years ago. They sounded great, Morris Day was handsome as ever, & there was Jerome, holding his mirror. For that evening, all that had changed was that we were in Baltimore, many miles from First Avenue & Lake Minnetonka.