Kurt Soller

Stories by Kurt Soller

  • Is Michelle Obama Diversifying Model Portfolios? Not So Much

    We're nearly halfway through New York's Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. And so far, the most constant theme is the fashion world's continual obsession with Michelle Obama. Questions abound: Will she show up? (No.) But is that the White House social secretary sitting next to Vogue's Anna Wintour? (Yes.) Which of these dresses might the first lady wear? (Probably few.) And which colorful sheaths were directly inspired by her? (Unclear, but it's safe to say several.)The claim is that Mrs. Obama has changed the fashion world with her carefully choreographed wardrobe choices, and it doesn't just translate to the clothes. Already this week, journalists have speculated whether the ethnic makeup of models on the runway might shift from favoring Caucasians to include more black models in an attempt to reflect America's newest fashion icon. In the New York Times, Guy Trebay wrote, "Already there are signs that the recent industry habits of exclusion may be...
  • The Death (and New Life) of New York's Fashion Week

    It's the Tuesday night before New York's Fashion Week and the scene is pretty much what you expect. Robbie Myers, the editor in chief of Elle, is circulating around a room full of skinny young women who are holding glasses of champagne with one hand, while using their other hand to shoo away waiters carrying hors d'oeuvres. Modern rock music is pulsing; lights are flashing to a static beat and the white couches scattered around the room are crowded with New York socialites (The real ones, not those that you see on MTV's "The City."). All this begs some questions: Aren't we in a recession? Who still has the wherewithal to throw bashes like this?The Answer: JC Penney."They're the only ones that still have money," says a junior editor at an elite fashion magazine who doesn't want to have his name published because he doesn't want to get fired. More than 20 designers have canceled this week's runway presentations and...
  • Worth Your Time: Animated Kanye West Music Video

    On his new album, "808s & Heartbreak," Kanye West swaps rapping for singing, and if that sounds like a bad idea, the actual sound is even worse. His new single, "Heartless," is annoying after just one listen. But the video for it is—go figure—masterful: a cartoon confection that deserves to go viral.The "Heartless" video, directed by Hype Williams, employs a technique called rotoscoping, in which teams of animators draw over footage of live actors. Cinephiles adore rotoscoping for its vibrant surreality: indie auteur Richard Linklater has used it for two films, "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly." (It's currently being used to lousy effect in TV ads for Charles Schwab.) But Williams and West go a step further, using it to lend an ironic sheen to rap's glorification of excess: Louis Vuitton luggage, gyrating fly girls.Williams, who practically invented gyrating fly girls, introduced West to rotoscoping through the work of 1970s filmmaker Ralph Bakshi, best known for his animated...
  • Fact or Fiction: Why Some People Are Mosquito Magnets

    After this weekend's barbeques and fireworks displays, you might wonder why some people wind up covered in mosquito welts and others are bite-free. It's not a coincidence. Each person's individual body chemistry determines how many mosquitoes will come calling.According to Joe Conlon, a medical entomologist who advises the American Mosquito Control Association, the insects can detect their targets from nearly 100 feet away. But what are they seeking? Mostly the scent of carbon dioxide and lactic acid, two compounds that indicate to the hematophagous—or blood-sucking—pests that their next landing pad is nearby. (It's worth noting that when a female mosquito latches on to you, she's not looking for food; instead, she sucks out blood to help fertilize her eggs … that's why males don't "bite").Carbon dioxide and lactic acid are released whenever we breathe or sweat, but the emission rates vary by person. Larger people and pregnant woman, for example, have higher levels and are more...
  • Oprah’s Big Enough Give

    When the Oprah store debuted in Chicago last month, shoppers snapped up affordable cosmetic cases, dog leashes and other items emblazoned with the mogul's signature "O." But the best bargains were in "Oprah's Closet," a small, unadvertised section of the store that sells her previously worn designer clothes at cut-rate prices to raise money for her charity, the Angel Network. Oprah's red Manolo Blahnik heels, for instance, are just $300, about half the retail price for similar shoes at Neiman Marcus and a fraction of what other Oprah-touched items have fetched at open auctions. Nice—but the gambit does raise a tiny ethical quandary: if she's doing it for charity, is she obliged to maximize the return? Or is it OK for her to engage in charity-lite if it helps less-affluent fans get a piece of the action? Don Halcombe, a spokesman for Winfrey's Harpo Inc., says it was "important to Oprah" that her castoffs be accessibly priced. And according to Noah Pickus, director of Duke's Kenan...
  • Intergalactic Artwork

    For art collectors willing to spend a cool million, the latest must-have objects are falling from the sky. Big names like Steven Spielberg, Nicolas Cage and Yo-Yo Ma are buying meteorites at prices that are out of this world. On Oct. 28, Bonhams auctioneers will hold their first-ever sale devoted to them, and some lots are expected to fetch into the seven figures. "The natural world is making a foray into the art world," says Barbara Tapp, editor of Art & Antiques. "Given global warming, these pieces reflect attention on how our world is changing." Esthetic meteorites, as they're called, are mostly iron-based and admired for their sculptural beauty. Private dealers trade rare finds, such as lunar rocks, with museums for less scientifically significant—but more decorative—meteorites. The jewel of the Bonhams sale is the crown piece of the American Museum of Natural History's Willamette meteorite, priced at $1.3 million. "Scientists don't care about money," says Darryl Pitt, who...
  • What's O.J.'s Heisman Trophy Worth Today?

    The Juice's arrest shines a bright light on the murky world of memorabilia. Will the price of his items spike, or plunge? A veteran appraiser offers a tour of some of the market's more outlandish offerings.
  • Could You Live Without China?

    Author Sara Bongiorni and her family spent a year avoiding anything with a 'Made In China' label. The experience was more difficult—and expensive—than you might imagine.
  • Why I Love Facebook

    Facebook has become the dry-erase tabula rasa of my life—and of my 1, 042 closest friends (and counting).