Paris Fashion Week: Sarah Baadarani’s New Look

British Lebanese designer Sarah Baadarani has made a name for herself in evening wear since launching her brand in 2010. During Paris Fashion Week, Baadarani gave Audrey a peek at her Spring/Summer 2014 collection, in which she’s shifted her focus toward versatile daywear pieces in cotton and jersey. Though trousers, blouses, and jackets have taken center stage in lieu of her signature gowns, Baadarani’s ethereal style prevails.

Inspired by the concept of elevating daywear with an infusion of elegant drapery and feminine details, the collection features a juxtaposition of structure and flowing fabrics. Pieces range from structured trousers with a generous sash around the waist, to blazers with billowing sleeves, chiffon pieces peppered with a three-dimensional print of hand-painted roses overlaid by embroidered jewels, and versatile cotton dresses that are cut in such a way that they can be worn three different ways.

Baadarani has taken the brand in an interesting new direction by playing around with material and structure to create a collection of visually intriguing pieces. All in all, she has succeeded in preserving the accessibility and comfort of daywear in the pursuit of evening wear elegance, resulting in a thought-provoking collection that questions the boundaries within fashion.

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NewbarK Presents The Most Comfortable Pair of Flats EVER

Audrey gets up close and personal with Paris Fashion Week. 

These days, fashion brands looking to cut costs turn increasingly to overseas manufacturing or cheaper materials. NewbarK makes a point of doing the opposite. Founded by stylist sisters Marjam and Maryam Malakpour, all NewbarK shoes and bags are handmade in Los Angeles. Flip a pair of their flats inside out, and you’d be hard pressed to find a hint of glue. We got up close with the NewbarK Spring/Summer 2014 collection at Paris Fashion Week.

Artisanal quality aside, NewbarK dedicates itself above all to comfort. Models favor the brand for its durability, often wearing the same pair of flats for several years before needing to replace them. Their debut collection featured foldable flats you could take “from shoot to shoot” and a market tote roomy enough for all the gadgets and knick knacks one could need in a busy day. Their newest showcases an aesthetic expansion of the brand’s original practical designs. Wedges and flip flops have joined the original flats, which now come in metallic shades of calf-hair and suede. As for bags, NewbarK SS14 introduces more structured satchels, as well as its much-loved hip bags in new colors and textures, including snakeskin.

With the evolution of the brand, NewbarK has also turned its attention to weatherproofing its products. Though the brand’s hometown of Los Angeles is rarely hit with extreme weather, the designers have now incorporated waterproof materials for fans elsewhere, further solidifying NewbarK’s place as a champion of durability, quality, and comfort.

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Studying Abroad? 5 Things You Must Do

This is the season for wet goodbyes and shy hello’s. Many of us are leaving home, some for the first time, to study abroad in world capitals and rural villages. No matter which end of the metropolitan spectrum you’re headed for, living in a new place can be exciting, nerve-wracking and frightening, all at once.

Last year, I moved to France for college. As I start my second year away from home, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned for those of you just starting your adventures abroad.

1. Read up on your destination like your life depends on it … because it kind of does.

Even a precursory scan of France’s Wikipedia page will tell you useful information, like the fact that it is nicknamed l’Héxagone (The Hexagon) because of its shape. Okay … while some factoids may be not be obviously useful, you will gain a general sense of cuisine, basic etiquette and geography. And who knows, you might find yourself at a dinner party with a cute French guy across the table, in which case informing him of his country’s resemblance to a six-sided polygon is totally going to reel him in.

For more experience-based information, check out the blogs of expatriates and locals. Embassy websites are known for being ugly and unhelpful, so blogs saved me so much confusion when applying for my student visa. Plus they have insider tips on everything from the best cafés to avoiding faux pas.

2. Make a study abroad bucket list.

Because if you don’t write it down, you probably won’t get to it. Always wanted to see Aurora Borealis or walk the streets of Pompeii? Write it down, and then on a quiet weekend book your tickets before you can talk yourself out of it. If you’re in Europe, try discount airlines Easyjet and the infamously sketchy Ryanair for dirt cheap fare. Carpooling and hitchhiking are also easier and more widely accepted than they are in the States. And you don’t have to wait for school holidays — take advantage of weekends to cross closer destinations off the list.

3. Now make a serious business list.

Your future self will thank you. It’s tempting to think of nothing but the lovely things you will do and the crazy friends you will meet. In reality, once you’ve arrived at your destination you’ll be too busy taking in the sights, meeting people and figuring out everyday things like where to buy groceries and how toilets work to deal with administrative matters. Take time beforehand to think of all the possible things you’ll need to take care of once you arrive, and make a guide for yourself. Once you’re at your new place, you can refer to this guide for help from your past self. It’ll be like holding your own hand, but in a pragmatic, not pathetic, way.

4. Chase great stories. 

Barring danger to your health, you should go out if you feel like going out. And don’t let anyone persuade you to go clubbing when you’d rather inch through a museum. In the end, what you’re left with are stories and maybe a 2€ brass Eiffel Tower and stacks of used metro tickets, so make your time memorable.

5. Drop all expectations.

This may seemingly contradict the other items on this list, but forget everything you think you know about your destination (unless you’ve been there before) and go without preconceptions. Souvenir means “memory” in French. Travel writers always advise bringing an empty suitcase to fill up with souvenirs and there’s no reason not to do the same for figurative ones, unless you’re allergic to forced metaphors. You’ve traveled miles and miles, spent thousands of dollars, and probably shed buckets of homesick tears to soak up a foreign culture. Don’t let yourself be the one thing that stops you from doing so.

Like many of us, I had carried one image of Paris my entire life, and the charming but grimy streets that greeted me upon arrival didn’t quite match up. France has been a lovely disappointment, and the City of Lights has become more city than light. But I am grateful to see cities as cities rather than ideas. Wherever you go this year, it is a place where humans have chosen to live out their lives together, a place where human innovation and enterprise attempt to make life easier. In some cases, attempt is the key word.

The greatest privilege of studying abroad isn’t the novelty. Rather, it’s coming across a new place and rapidly familiarizing yourself it. It’s getting to know a place intimately in both good and bad ways. You may love your new country or you may hate it — but there’s no denying you will come to know it inside and out. The awful weather and early closing times will become inside jokes; when you have nothing but affectionate complaints, the bond is complete and your new home has Jacob-ed your Renesmee.

An Illustrated Tribute to the Films of Hong Kong Filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai

Film.com has compiled a gallery of illustrations inspired by the films of Wong Kar-Wai in anticipation of the U.S. release of his latest film, The Grandmaster. The illustrated pieces featured range from alternative movie posters to comic strips. Known for the rich aesthetics of his films, which include critic favorites Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, Wong has explored love cinematically in a variety of settings, including ancient China and modern-day New York City.

“In the Mood for Love” by Kevin Wada

“2046” by Afu Chan

“Chungking Express” by Poppy

“The Grandmaster” by Vania Zouravliov

You can see the rest of the gallery here.

Featured photo: “In the Mood for Love” by Adrian Tomine

Asian Holidays Around the World: Ganesh Festival in Paris

The first of September marked the festival of the Hindu god Ganesha, widely worshiped as the god of wisdom and good fortune. The festival, Ganesh Chaturthi, is celebrated on the fourth day of the waxing moon in the month of bhādrapada, which generally falls in August or September.

Miles away from India, dancing and eating were underway in the 10th and 18th arrondissements of Paris at the local Ganesh Festival. The neighborhoods’ Hindu temple, Sri Manicka Vinayakar Alayam, has organized the annual festival since 1996, inadvertently creating a colorful mashup of French and Indian culture. The festive garlands and flags seem to fit right in with the iconic Haussman buildings.

Meg Gagnard of De quelle planète es-tu?, was there to capture the celebrations.

You can see more of the festival here.

First Look: Animated Prequel to Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer”

Audiences worldwide eagerly await Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut, “Snowpiercer.” Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the film contemplates the nature of humanity and whether or not it is worth saving. The film’s cast includes Korean actor Song Kang-ho, as well as Hollywood mainstays like Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Alison Pill, and Ed Harris.

After a failed experiment to stop global warming eliminates most of life on Earth, what remains of humanity survives aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the world powered by a perpetual-motion engine. Over time a class system develops, leading to a revolt by the poor who live at the back of the train.

The film has received critical praise so far, though a release date has yet to be announced. In the meantime, CJ Entertainment has released an animated short that sets up the film’s post-apocalyptic world. It is a chilling prequel to what looks to be a promising work of cinematic science fiction.

Burka Avenger: Teacher by Day, Superhero by Night

Burka Avenger, Pakistan’s first animated female superhero, is on a mission for girls’ education. Donning a burka and using pencils and books as weapons, she fights villains intent on shutting down her school, including corrupt politicians and an evil magician. The show promotes the value of women’s education in a region where the Taliban continues to attack female students and schools in an attempt to suppress their education. Just earlier this month, Malala Yousafzai spoke before the UN, urging world leaders to fight for education.

The show’s creator, Pakistani pop star Haroon, funded the Urdu-language cartoon with the help of an anonymous donor. Orphaned children outside of Islamabad were shown a sneak peek of the show and responded positively to its mix of slapstick humor and resounding messages.

Responding to questions about the choice of burka as superhero costume, Haroon said, “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes. Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”

Here’s the English-language trailer for “Burka Avenger.” The show airs in August on Geo TV.

Instagrams from North Korea

Associated Press reporters David Guttenfelder and Jean Lee have been posting photos and videos from inside North Korea on their Instagram feeds. This is the first time anyone has posted on Instagram from North Korea, and the immediacy of their updates lends a new perspective to our understanding of the secretive nation.

Earlier this year, North Korea began allowing foreigners access to its mobile Internet service, Koryolink. While foreign visitors can use the pricey 3G service to tweet and upload photos, North Korean citizens are restricted to voice calls.

Guttenfelder writes, “On Jan. 18, 2013, foreigners were allowed for the first time to bring mobile phones into North Korea. And this week the local service provider, Koryolink, is allowing foreigners to access the Internet on a data capable 3G connection on our mobile phones. In the past I could post geolocated phone photos to my Instagram feed by turning my online laptop into a hotspot to link my iPhone or iPod touch by wifi. But, today I’m posting this directly from my phone while riding in the back of a van in #Pyongyang. The window on to North Korea has opened another crack. Meanwhile, for Koreans here who will not have access to the same service, the window remains shut.”

Many of the shots capture rehearsals of the Arirang Mass Games as North Korea prepares for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the July 27 armistice that ended the Korean War. But there are also glimpses of daily life and commercial offerings in addition to images of propaganda.

Top image: “Korean War veterans enter a cemetery for their deceased fellow war veterans in #Pyongyang.”

A view of Pyongyang from Guttenfelder’s hotel.

“The yet to be completed 105-story pyramid shaped Ryugyong Hotel can be seen from about anywhere you stand in Pyongyang. The North Koreans started building it around 1987.”

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“DPRK in B&W. North Korean farmers tend fields near #Kaesong.”

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“North Korean veterans of the Korean War gather together in a stadium in #pyongyang before a mass ‘dance party’.”

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“Inside the new Korean War museum on #Pyongyang, tiny models in a glass case depict U.S. Army Major General William F. Dean, the highest ranking American captured during the Korean War.”

guttenfeldernk4“A North Korean communal farm seen from the air.”

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 “North Koreans in a passing car this morning in #Pyongyang.”

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“#NKorean schoolgirls sneaking a moment from a political ceremony to share a laugh. Their haircuts and school uniforms remind me of what my mother wore as a schoolgirl in Seoul in the late 1950s. Last month,#Pyongyang, #DPRK.”

Check out the reporters’ feeds for more footage as it comes.

Young Scientists Break Down Plastics with Bacteria

Plastics have become an ubiquitous feature of modern life, but their convenience comes with a price. Because of the length of time it takes for plastic to decompose, it now clogs up our landfills and oceans. Meanwhile, its production and use does not look to decrease any time soon.

In 2011, Canadian high school students Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao visited the Vancouver South Waster Transfer Station and observed major problems in sorting and eliminating discarded plastics. They were inspired to search for bacteria capable of breaking down plastics, which would in turn speed up the decomposition process and reduce the level of toxic phthalates in our environment. They presented their findings at a TEDx conference in Long Beach, California this February.

“The Forge” Transforms Tragedy into Strength through Martial Arts

In 2011, Tanya Lim committed suicide, leaving her savings to her younger brother Eric. He used those savings to create “The Forge,” a cinematic letter to his sister that is full of regret, hope, and strength. Through the metaphor of a man battling his demons, the short film aims to show us that hardships make us stronger.

The Forge from Costa Communications Inc. on Vimeo.