the MANDALA COLLECTION >
The mandala is basically a representation of the universe, a consecrated area that serves as a receptacle for the gods and as a collection point of universal forces. Man (the microcosm), by mentally “entering” the mandala and “proceeding” toward its centre, is by analogy guided through the cosmic processes of disintegration and reintegration.
Mandalas in China, Japan, and Tibet are basically of two types, representing different aspects of the universe: the garbha-dhatu (Sanskrit: “womb world”; Japanese taizō-kai), in which the movement is from the one to the many; and the vajra-dhatu (Sanskrit: “diamond [or thunderbolt] world”; Japanese kongō-kai), from the many into one. Mandalas may be painted on paper or cloth, drawn on a carefully prepared ground with white and coloured threads or with rice powders (as for Buddhist Tantric ceremonies of initiation), fashioned in bronze, or built in stone, as at Borobudur, in central Java. There the circumambulation of the stupa (a commemorative monument) is tantamount to the ritual approach to the centre.
The mandala of a Tibetan tanka (cloth scroll painting) characteristically consists of an outer enclosure around one or more concentric circles, which in turn surround a square transversed by lines from the centre to the four corners. In the centre and the middle of each triangle are five circles containing symbols or images of divinities, most commonly the five “self-born” buddhas. Of the borders surrounding the mandala, the first is a ring of fire, which both bars entry to the uninitiated and symbolizes the burning of ignorance; next comes a girdle of diamonds, which stands for illumination; then a circle of eight graveyards, symbolizing the eight aspects of individuating cognition; next a girdle of lotus leaves, signifying spiritual rebirth; and, finally, at the centre, the mandala itself, where the images are set.
Similar ritual drawings have been found in cultures other than Hindu and Buddhist—for example, in the sand paintings of the North American Indians. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung published studies of mandala-like drawings executed by his patients. In his view, the spontaneous production of a mandala is a step in the individuation process—a central concept in Jung’s psychological theory—and represents an attempt by the conscious self to integrate hitherto unconscious material.
The luxury high heel as status marker is directed not toward men but toward other women – both intimate confidantes and bitter rivals.
The high heel in its dazzlingly heraldic permutations (as dramatised in Sex and the City) is beyond the comprehension of most men: only women and gay men can tell the difference between a Manolo Blahnik and a Jimmy Choo.
In full disclosure, I never wear these shoes and indeed deplore their horrifying cost at a time of urgent social needs. Nevertheless, I acknowledge and admire the high heel as a contemporary icon and perhaps our canonical objet d’art.
At the Neiman Marcus department store at the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia, a visitor ascending the escalator to the second floor is greeted by a vast horizon of welcoming tables, laden with designer shoes of ravishing allure but staggering price tags (now hovering between $500 and $900 a pair but soaring to $6000 for candy-coloured, crystal-studded Daffodile pumps by Christian Louboutin). Despite my detestation of its decadence, this theatrical shoe array has for years provided me with far more intense aesthetic surprise and pleasure than any gallery of contemporary art, with its derivative gestures, rote ironies, and exhausted ideology.
Designer shoes represent the slow but steady triumph of the crafts over the fine arts during the past century. They are streamlined works of modern sculpture, wasteful and frivolous yet elegantly expressive of pure form, a geometric reshaping of soft and yielding nature. An upscale shoe department is a gun show for urban fashionistas, a site of ritual display where danger lurks beneath the mask of beauty.
— Camille Paglia,
an edited extract from Free Women, Free Men by Camille Paglia (Canongate).
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