Photo by Nicolas Roark

There's a woman on TV wearing one of those ill-fitting cones designed to prevent a dog from licking its wound. She yips and howls, caterwauling through lips so puffed with collagen it's hard to make out her words.

She's telling me how I should look.

This is a woman who erased herself, who kissed her own face goodbye who knows how many plastic surgeries ago. This is a "fashion authority" who started her day by pulling on a metallic jumpsuit and dog collar combo. This is the expert wagging a finger and preaching the gospel of style to millions.

Even if I'm dead wrong, if what she's wearing doesn't actually look preposterous, there's no way on earth or mars she can effectively move about in that spacesuit. I think if they paraded Gisele down a Parisian catwalk wearing a potato sack, this fashion watcher would pack up her malfunctioning wardrobe and relocate to Idaho.

But who am I to judge? I own one tie and have worn it that many times. As I wrote on this page a year ago, "I don't do fashion; I wear clothes."

I do, however, recognize the importance of function. And when it comes to good design, I consider this is a nonnegotiable. Ventura's Josh Ganshorn and Jen Zahigian meld form and function brilliantly, taking a comprehensive and decidedly artistic approach to the conceptualize/design/build process. Sally Rice visited the monkeyish couple for her story on page 40, exploring their methods and getting to the bottom of their company's simian-inspired name: ABLE + BAKER.

People used to look for beauty in art. We still do to some extent, but nowadays we lean more toward art that is provocative or challenging. (In "Beautiful on the Inside," on page 29, Andrea Kitay explores the home of Westside artist and agent provocateur MB Hanrahan.) Looking good isn't good enough. It's that way in the design world, too. The modern benchmark is design with a purpose: Apple and its eminently caressable digital products, for example.

Few things teeter between form and function as precariously as the bikini. The design question there is how to eliminate as much as possible without, well, finding yourself naked. A 20-something Ventura County entrepreneur named Meagan Scott (page 11) took on the task. With a youthful style that belies simmering business acumen, she built a swimwear brand that's moved from local beaches into international waters, in spite of the recent economic whirlpool.

Her story makes me feel old. Not her story, per se, but my editorial interest in her story. When a guy starts thinking of bikinis in terms of business, you know he's starting to fossilize. (Further evidence on page 18, where a 40-something father of two writes about family travel, wine country, and a five-star hotel built on a bluff where he used to camp and drink beer.)

It is interesting to consider style and design from an economic perspective, though. When consumers don't spend, stores overflow with yesterday's hottest design statements—which today seem excessive, even offensively superfluous.

But good design never goes away. It just moves more toward function.


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