A Quill's Best Friend
It's no secret that the art of the letter is dying fast. The days of thick stock paper, gleaming with fountain-pen strokes, are just about over, thanks to e-mail, e-cards, and everything else that's instant and disposable. But the decadent pen, watch, and paper company Montblanc is breathing a little air into the tradition with the very conspicuous Royal Collection of diamond-encrusted note cards ($39 a card at Montblanc, 834 Madison Avenue; 212-535-6061). "It's a real, full-cut diamond," says Montblanc CEO Karsten Martens. "It is just very small." Small or not, be careful: There's no delete option on a fountain pen.
Paint It Black
Remember that "clear" phase? Everyone looked clean-scrubbed, healthy, glowing. But now Susie Chapstick has given way to Siouxsie Sioux (pictured): Makeup colors this spring are not about blushing violets, or blushing anything. They aren't even necessarily about color. They're black. Black to wear with your New Wave Marc Jacobs-via-Blondie outfits, black to wear if you're going for Calvin's biker chic. There's Blackstar eye shadow from By Terry ($38) and black Carbon eye shadow ($12.50), black Lipmix ($10), and Black Glitter ($13) from M.A.C to dust yourself with. The blackout is even affecting beauty products, which we're used to seeing in sudsy white or pastels: Origins' Clear Improvement mask ($17.50) is a dark shade of . . . black. If only Diana Vreeland were here to say it: Black is the new pink.
While of-the-moment brides are swearing off such wedding conventions as suiting up helpless bridesmaids in matching taffeta, there's still one custom no girl seems to want to forgo: something blue. Current favorites of the pre-nup set include the sexy baby-blue lace French briefs from Eberjey ($32 at Anthropologie) and Oh My Garter!'s twist on the thigh-high tradition in blue-and-white gingham or blue silk with rhinestones ($40, to order call 212-744-4428). And designer Michelle Roth has come up with an entirely new way for brides to fit in the hue: kitten-heel slingbacks with cobalt-blue soles ($595). "Brides are not floating down the aisle anymore," says Roth. "They're treating the aisle like a fashion runway."
Seth Shapiro, the man behind the American Manufacturing label, has no formal training: He got into designing because he was inspired by a woman he would see walking on lower Broadway when he first moved to town ten years ago. At one point, Shapiro collaborated with Steven Alan on ORFI (the Organization for Returning Fashion Interest), which he left once the label's space was built ("I cried when I saw it," he says). But eventually, it was his choppy designs for that dream woman that evolved into the strikingly elegant look that landed him a coveted spot beside Elisa Jimenez and Christine Ganeaux in this year's Moët & Chandon Designer Debut, to be held during Fashion Week in the tents at Bryant Park. Shapiro's clothes are lean and draped, with more than a touch of seventies glamour. There are caftans, ruffles, and unexpected color and texture combinations -- innovations that Shapiro says are born of necessity. "I can't," he says sheepishly, "always afford enough expensive fabric."