Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In the Market Report

A Cross To Bear

Vintage Chanel gripoix glass cross pendant 

I must confess: I have an affinity for crosses that borders on the obsessive, going back as long as I can remember. And while I recognize and appreciate their obvious religious symbolism, since I am Jewish, it is about spirituality rather than religion; their iconography; and of course aesthetics -- namely, their classic lines and innate symmetry. I personally gravitate towards Maltese and Byzantine crosses: specifically, hard to find vintage Chanel gripoix glass cross pendants, and anything from Verdura (www.verdura.com). The storied house was established in 1939 by Fulco di Verdura, a Sicilian duke who began his career as Coco Chanel’s head jewelry designer. Verdura’s Byzantine cuffs were sartorial signatures of both Coco Chanel and Diana Vreeland, both of whom literally armored them to their wrists, and they are at the top of my bucket list.

Diana Vreeland wearing her Verdura Byzantine cuffs, photographed by Horst P. Horst, 1979 

In addition to iconic vintage pieces, I must make note of two notable collections, which specialize in bold, unique, statement making cross pendants, and they appeal to me for different reasons. Darren Manes, a talented, painter/artist who has a graduate degree in architecture, creates one of a kind Byzantine and Maltese cross pendants which are punctuated with large stones and are hand crafted from vintage component pieces. They range in price from about $575 to $650 and have the ancient look of something one might unearth during the course of an archaeological dig. They are only available through Sheri Weiss, Sheri’s Vintage Collections, Showplace, 40 West 25th Street, N.Y. 10010, Gallery 30 (rubylane.com/shops/boobearsbaubles; email: sew125@aol.com).

Verdura Maltese cross hinged stone cuffs 

In a very different vein is the clean, minimal modern, feminine simplicity of Lisa Jackson’s LJ Cross (www.ljcrossny.com), which launched this past February at a cocktail party held at Phoenix Rose, 944 Madison Avenue, where they are sold exclusively. It was hosted by Marcia Mishaan, Patrick McMullan, Marisa Noel Brown, Helen Shifter, and Dayssi Olarte, and among the guests were designers Tory Burch, Nicole Miller, Dennis Basso, and Vera Wang. FYI, Vera and Lisa, who share the same “modern design aesthetic”, have been best friends for over 20 years (she was actually Vera’s interior designer), and Vera is one of Lisa’s biggest fans and supporters.

Darren Manes cross pendants

Lisa, who had her own successful design company where she designed furniture, was inspired to do crosses because of her late brother Stephen who “had the chicest style and always wore multiple crosses” and she sees the cross symbol as being “less about religion and more about a peaceful harmony she hopes will unite people”. Fashion forward and innovative, her crosses (which can be described as both girlie and cool) are comprised of 18K white, yellow and rose gold (she especially love diamonds) with prices ranging from $1,200 to $50,000 (depending on the material used and the scale). For more information, contact Tony Lucinacci, Sales Director, tony@ljcrossny.com, 212 433 1905.

Lisa Jackson attends the Parrish Art Museum
 summer gala 2014

In the meantime, Lisa proved that she is in fact, her own best advertisement. She attended the Parrish Art Museum Summer Party in Southampton a few weeks ago and clad in her signature New York minimalistic all black style, her only accessory was her XL Silver Quartz Cross at the Parish necklace (the retail price is $15,000), and it truly stood out. There is no more effective way to show off a great piece than to wear black. Speaking of which, while wearing a beloved accessory should theoretically bring one great pleasure, it’s hard NOT to associate black and crosses, with death and mourning.

"Death Becomes Her A Century of Mourning Attire"
(Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

And coincidentally, that is precisely the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s upcoming Costume Institute Exhibition (their first fall installation in 7 years). “Death Becomes Her, A Century of Mourning Attire” October 21, 2014 – February 1, 2015, “will explore the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries”. Organized chronologically from 1815 to 1915, approximately thirty ensembles (including mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra, many of which are being exhibited for the first time), will reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.

Given fashion’s ongoing obsession with black and Victoriana, I predict exhibition will be a big hit: let’s face it, many fashion followers who only wear black, look as though they are in perpetual mourning.


-Marilyn Kirschner

The Daily Bet

Fossil 1954 Fragrance For Women

Fossil’s first fragrance for women is a blend of citrus, floral and spice, with notes of mandarin blossom, rose and white freesia, juniper berry, pink pepper and ginger topped off with Texas cedar.  It’s fresh and feminine but not too sweet.

Available August 14th at: http://www.fossil.com/ $60.00

Navy BB Stars Kids’ Shoes by Bailey Berry

Little feet will stay cool and comfortable in these adorable shoes made of recycled materials.  Each pair comes with four different Reversa Strap designs that can be worn in a number of different combinations. A children’s bracelet and reusable mesh bag are included.  Designed for kids 1-8.

Available at: http://www.baileyberry.com $28.00

- Rhonda Erb
(Visit the new "Better Bets" at http://betterbetsny.tumblr.com/)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Fashion Kool-Aid: Part III

Gallery of Fashion (T)errors
(Click on image for full size view
of each cartoon)

Just Say No To The Final Sale?: I don't know about you, but it takes me about halfway into a season to figure out what to wear, so I'm just hitting my summer stride. Fortunately (or unfortunately) that discovery tends to coincide with sale season making me an easy target for the bait: the dreaded fashion mistake purchase. Apparently it happens to the best of us according to Meenal Mistry who wrote an article in the weekend edition of the WSJ entitled "Oops, I Did It Again" and known as "Five Ways to Avoid Shopping Mistakes" online. (See Article) I'm wondering if Britney Spears knows about that for two reasons.

One is the obvious appropriation of her song title and the other is because Ms. Spears (who I love dearly) aside from when she is onstage and is trashy chic, always looks as if she shopped the sale rack at Kmart during a major clearance 15 years ago. If that's the case at least she's not out a lot of cash as Ms. Mistry is with the purchase of a tragic pair of marked down Celine tuxedo pants with an odd fit. They are unfixable by a tailor due to their strange proportions; overly big waist coupled with overly tight legs.

"Fashion Don'ts" - Courtney Love

The article categorizes the main "boo-boos" we all tend to make when confronted with a "too-good-to-be-true" sale and details how these mistakes make a great teaching opportunity so as not to become a repeat offender. On the other hand, she also says that "missing out on something great is a mistake" so how do you tell the difference? Her best advice: "Believe in love at first try" is a good one; anything that has difficulties in the store will only become more pronounced when you get it home. She encourages you to think of your best fashion purchase, how you felt when you found it and set the bar there.

CDG jacket

Also, sales themselves can be suspect: the odds of something great from a major designer fashion house being marked down over 50% are zero according to the article. My own personal experience is that if you are somewhere out of the way (read NOT NYC) you can sometimes find a good deal on an item that no one in let's say the ATL would dare wear still languishing on the sale rack. Even on Madison Avenue in Manhattan I've lucked out recently scoring an unworn tags-still-attached Comme Des Garcons blazer with weird rosette/origami embellishments at more than 70% off including the 20% off sale that the entire store was having. Granted, it's not the sort of piece you wear every day but, if you want statement making it's got that covered! I'm definitely thinking Fashion Week worthy...

Refashionista "reforms" Nun dress

ReFashionista Inspo: Not sure how I'm so tardy to the party but the Refashionista just came on my horizon aka Jillian Owens from Columbia, South Carolina. Upset with the current trend for "fast fashion" and disposability of said items, Ms. Owens decided about four years ago to use garments that she found in a local thrift store for $1 or things donated from friends and repurpose them into fashionable and wearable items. She then puts the made over item on her blog, wears it once, and then donates it to a women's shelter -- how amazing is that? She is incredibly creative and will not hesitate to pick the most heinous garment and by sewing, dyeing and tweaking (sometimes making an entirely different garment out of it as in a skirt could become a top) she will make it fashionable.

She appeared on Rachael Ray in July 2012 and remade a studio audience member's pink poufy prom dress (a "Pretty In Pink" moment?) into something "wearable for every day" and it's killing me that I cannot find the clip of the reveal anywhere. In the meantime, her blog is endlessly entertaining and I only touched the tip of the iceberg on it with her most recent entries. It's a little Project Runway without the trip to Mood, the infighting with the other designers, or Tim Gunn. Ms. Owens' tone is fairly irreverent which keeps it interesting. Check it out here: http://refashionista.net/

Cast of B.O.R.N. To Style

"What's On The Telly?": No, it's not a penguin but, Monty Python reference aside, there are some great July happenings in TV land.  First of all, Project Runway is back with a new season on July 24 and I can't wait! Need my PR fix ASAP! In the meantime, I've pre-watched online a new show on FYI, Network (formerly Bio channel) called "B.O.R.N. To Style" which premiered July 15 (Thursdays at 10 p.m.) It's another show about stylists (I was a fan of Lifetime's "Million Dollar Shopper" when it was on last summer) however the action on this show takes place in a brick-and-mortar local vintage store on West 125th Street in Harlem. B.O.R.N stands for borrowed, old, refurbished, new and the nine year old store is " part hangout, part boot camp, part advice shop." (See video)

Owned by the ebullient Jonathan Bodrick described as a "father figure" as well as "Attila the Hun mixed with the fairy from Cinderella" and featuring stylists Latino JJ Langan, Southerner Brandon Hood. Assistant/Jonathan's godson Devin Stokes; Jonathan's 11 year partner/lover Terry Artis as well as makeup artist and the "only anatomically correct girl"( according to JJ), Kristen Brown constitute the rest of this lively crew. This half-dozen crack-wise and smart at first impression--in fact, if you've read my recount of the Met Costume Gala where I was standing near a group of gay men who were sharp with the one liners, then this is like flashing forward about a decade or so with them.

Jonathan, JJ and client Alison

While not necessarily catty, these men are slinging the zingers and bon mots with amazing alacrity. Some examples are more straightforward including Jonathan's "Fashion is more than what you wear...it's an attitude," or "The closet is the window to the soul," as well as "good fashion begins with your undergarments." As he explains when styling one of the two clients (both singers incidentally) featured on this episode for a fashion shoot, "This isn't my first runway." In one scene with JJ and Jonathan heading to see a client on a snow walk through Brooklyn they question whether they are in Williamsburg or Bushwick. "I don't know, I think it's the same. The neighborhood has changed," Jonathan says.

The quips mostly fall to JJ and Brandon with his southern inflection, who when referring to Devin's lateness to the photo shoot styling says "Sometimes that boy is about as useless as a screen door on a submarine." Upon seeing a wall sized prop of a gun in a client's Brooklyn apartment Brandon utters "We need to shoot her with a fashion bullet." Upon coaxing and cajoling the picky Pharrell discovered singer Maxine Ashley who likes to dress "boy" into some fishnets and a sequin bodysuit while retaining her "edginess" he shows his approval with "It's about to get severe up in here." During a bra fitting for client Alison (a boyish Blondie/Debbie Harry aspirant who previously only owned and wore sports bras) JJ exhibits disbelief that anyone wouldn't want to show off an asset: "If I had boobs, everyone would know!" he proclaims. During the stressful photo shoot when an outfit isn't quite working he offers: "Although I do trust Jonathan's aesthetic, there's a fine line between genius and madness and that line gets crossed way too often." Since this was only the first episode of the season I'm wondering if the repartee will stay snappy all the way until the finale.

Alison as a rock star

Also of note, as opposed to "Million Dollar Shoppers" there is no mention of retail prices so far in this show although high-end designers names are constantly dropped, making me wonder if Alison's Stella McCartney pants outfit was a gift or a show loaner? Previously oversized-sweatsuit-wearing rock band lead singer/ Metropolitan Opera dancer Alison glows as she describes her glam moth to "butterfly"-like transformation. She went from looking like a " homeless boy to looking like a rock star!" so all's good in the hood! "I feel like a more vibrant version of myself," she adds in perhaps the most empowering statement. This episode definitely had a gender bending aspect to it which brings the song "Lola" by the Kinks to mind about. For a new take on this concept, check out the Jenny Lewis video which recently went viral online called "Just One of the Guys" starring Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway and Brie Larson in drag. (Play Video)

If nothing else, Jenny's suit is all kinds of awesome.

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In the Market Report: On the "Dot"

Vionnet Fall 2014 Couture

Notwithstanding the fact that I recently wrote a blog about turning 65, there are thankfully not too many events I go to where I feel as though I am the oldest person in the room. Such was the case (well, almost) last Thursday evening when I attended the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Young Members Summer Party (www.metmuseum.org), for members between the ages of 21 and 35. I say ‘almost’ because I immediately spotted the venerable and ageless Bill Cunningham, doing his ‘thing’, and while HE claimed to be the oldest person there, I pointed out that in actuality, that honor belonged to the ancient Egyptian mummies who inhabit the first floor/

The evening (called from 7:30PM – 11:30PM) was a celebration of art, fashion, and music. Cocktails and hors oeuvres were served; there was dancing (with music provided by the Antoine Drye Jazz Quartet); and private viewings of Charles James: Beyond Fashion and the Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Gunther Vogt (weather permitting). Luckily, the weather WAS permitting, and suffice it to say, that is where most of the guests (approximately 1300 were in attendance) gathered to enjoy the spectacular city and Central Park views at sunset. Including the dashing eligible bachelor Nick Loeb, who, fresh from his split with Sophia Vergara, was apparently more interested in finding a "substitute" for his bodacious ex, than checking out the voluminous Charles James ball gowns (alas, that gallery was almost empty when I checked it out).

 Marilyn and two girls wearing the marimekko polka dots

Indeed, the evening felt like a "mixer", with New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a fabulously seductive backdrop, and that was precisely the tone of an article that appeared in The New York Observer, July 11, written by Alexandra Sternlicht, (“Appreciating art, fashion and macaroni balls with young New Yorkers”). When asked what the objective of the evening was, one 21 year old man said he was “trying to find a wife out there”, and another actually admitted “I’m trying to get laid with a girl who appreciates art”, as he watched the sun set over Manhattan. Oh well. So much for high minded culture.

Marimekko for Banana Republic Kivet Patio Skirt

In any event, the dress code was ‘summer chic’ (better known as “anything goes”), and that was certainly the case. There were  lbd’s and lwd’s (some so abbreviated they resembled swimsuits); flowing maxis; bi level slip dresses; garden floral printed cocktail dresses; a smattering of Clover Canyon’s vibrant digital prints; graphic black and white stripes; and polka dots. As for the latter, perhaps the biggest coincidence was that several guests (including moi), showed up wearing versions of Marimekko’s iconic black & white Kivet circle print (designed by the late Maija Isola), which had been translated into different pieces for Banana Republic. The collaboration, a limited edition capsule collection which launched in May, was wildly successful, with most of the pieces selling out in pre order before hitting the website or the stores. In fact, for many, the only way to get the patio skirt, was through EBay, where wily sellers doubled or tripled the price in some cases (the skirt was initially priced at $98).

Louis Vuitton Resort 2015 

Like leopard prints, polka dots (from teeny tiny pin dots to oversized circles) are perennial favorites with both designers and customers alike, and they seem to reappear after they’ve been absent for a while. Even though there is always a playful element to them, depending on the size, scale, and the way they are used, they can be sweet or sultry; retro or futuristic; dowdy or daring; childlike or grown up; edgy or classic; sophisticated or silly. Speaking of silly, who could forget that December 2013 WWD cover featuring George Clooney in black & white polka dots, the theme carried on to the background? It puts a smile on my face whenever I see it (or think about it).

Rei Kawakubo glassed elevator covered in polka dots at the Dover Street Market

There is an undeniably strong connection between the arts and polka dots and some creators are so obsessed with them they have become their signatures. To wit: Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, long obsessed with dots, collaborated with Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton for an eye popping fashion project in 2012. And Rei Kawakubo is so obsessed with polka dots, prominent black ones teasingly decorate the glass elevator in her Manhattan Dover Street Market outpost.

Ralph Lauren Resort 2015 Collection

They have also turned up on a number of collections for resort 2015. At Ralph Lauren, (a chic study in navy, white, and gold, with nautical undertones), one of the main themes was large polka dots; they were sometimes mixed with stripes, and they even covered his chic satchels. At Fendi, they were made of shearling and had a 3d effect. For Nicolas Guesquiere’s second outing at the helm of Louis Vuitton, they appeared as cut out circles on several tops and he covered a chicly tailored navy pantsuit with white circles. For his Demi-Couture Collection for Vionnet, shown during the Haute Couture collections in Paris last week, Hussein Chalayan designed a black mink collarless jacket emblazoned with a pronounced white circle on the front.

Fendi Resort 2015

It seems like everyone’s going dotty these days, including the always fabulously dressed. Last month, I spotted Iris Apfel at the FIT Foundation Gala at Cipriani 42nd street, wearing a vintage two piece long dress in black chiffon covered with large silver coin dots (she continued the theme with her polka dot covered bangles). Several weeks ago, at a party at the Whitney Museum in celebration of the Jeff Koons Retrospective, China Chow wore Stella McCartney’s wonderful asymmetrical charcoal gray dress covered with large white polka dots from her pre fall 2014 collection. This past Saturday, Lisa Perry attended the Parrish Art Museum’s Midsummer Party in Watermill, wearing a long ivory silk halter dress of her own design, printed with green, aqua, and orange circles, and navy and yellow rods. It reminded me of one of Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract paintings, which is not surprising, considering that Lisa has always been inspired by art for her collections, and she and her husband Richard, are renowned collectors of modern art masterpieces.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Viewpoint: Fifth Avenue or Mall of America?

Last October I accompanied my husband on a business trip  to  Chicago where we stayed at a hotel directly off of Michigan Avenue aka the "Miracle Mile." At first it was amazing to me that so many huge chain and higher-end department stores were all within walking distance. Several of the stores were just cavernous, flush with seemingly wasted acres of space between racks of clothing, no doubt due to rents being a good deal less expensive than in the Big Apple. That night at dinner I recounted my retail observations to a native Chicagoan in our group who shook his head disparagingly. "Yeah, but It's not New York," he chuckled.

Recently, while briskly pounding the pavement of Fifth Avenue on our very own "Miracle Mile" between 50th and 59th Streets, I decided that if our friend were here now, he'd see that as of late, even New York isn't New York. To begin with, I have a love/hate relationship with the aforementioned stretch of glorified real estate. In fact, since I became a New Yorker 25 years ago, wild horses could not drag me to the "tourist central" between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I always breathe a huge sigh of relief in January at the thought of reclaiming my city from the hordes of "looky-loo's" who descend like locusts around the holidays. They tend to come back in the spring and summer months, stopping for photos and clogging the sidewalks in front of Tiffany & Co., the Apple store, FAO Schwarz, not to mention Abercrombie & Fitch where a line of wide eyed tweens and parental units often snakes out onto the sidewalk, wrapping around the building thereby exposing the noxious fumes of toxic cologne that is piped in through the air ducts and out on the bare-chested male models.

Saks Fifth Avenue store

Like the proverbial woman past her prime, the stores have "let themselves go" often to the highest bidder and just as often it has destroyed their character. Last year Saks Fifth Avenue had its moniker officially shortened to Saks and was acquired by Hudson Bay Company (HBC) a former Canadian company that had already purchased Lord & Taylor. Saks is to be the jewel in their crown, their classy trophy wife however the quality of the merchandise has truly suffered and the sales staff seems mostly ill trained and surly. It appears as if the playing field is in the process of being leveled and while Saks still carries many more exclusive designers, L & T has been brought slightly up market creating more overlap where there used to be little to none.

HB bag

Meanwhile, another iconic store, Henri Bendel is undergoing a downsizing and reorganization of its own. Bendel's had a storied history until it was bought in 1985 by L Brands of Columbus, Ohio (formerly owners of The Limited) to add to its portfolio of Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and La Senza (a Canadian brand) stores. Again, this was to be their luxury holding; the Fifth Avenue flagship as well as 28 stores in malls across America. In 1990 the store was moved around the corner from 10 West 57th Street to 712 Fifth Avenue into a much larger landmarked space complete with soon-to-be discovered Lalique windows. Initially some of the Bendel concepts including the designer Open-Sees for hopeful unknowns to show their wares and perhaps garner a trunk show at the store, were still in effect. Although fewer and more far between than before, one could still find interesting clothing that couldn't be seen everywhere else.

Eventually that dwindled and in 2009, Bendel's went with an only accessories format introducing a line of Henri Bendel handbags and other items while still carrying third-party merchandise such as designer costume jewelry, sunglasses and the visiting trunk shows. Recently, it was announced that further changes were in the air as all third-party cosmetics, jewelry, fragrances and accessories would be discontinued in order to focus only on the HB line of products. In its heyday the store boasted five floors of retail including a hair salon. It was cut back to two floors with "Rent The Runway" leasing space on the third floor. With the newest adaptation, only the main floor will be in use by Henri Bendel. Their lease is up in February 2016 and it will be interesting to see if the Bendel brand is a viable concept that can work over the long haul. It's worth noting that the mall stores only sell the HB branded merchandise and none of them have been closed so perhaps Bendel can trade on their iconic name outside of New York. After the change-over I would be surprised if any New Yorkers frequent the store as I have yet to see anyone locally flaunting a HB bag. Thank goodness Geraldine Stutz who ran the West 57th Street store for 29 years is not around to see what they've done to her "once-the-epitome-of-chic" brainchild.

Juicy Couture

Also on Fifth Avenue until recently was Juicy Couture, a brand which had a distinct rise and fall. No one can forget the terry cloth bling encrusted sweatsuits with writing on the butt, which came to characterize an entire decade (the 'OO's) of Hollywood starlets, junior high school girls (I finally got rid of at least a dozen of the zip up sweatshirts that my daughter wore daily, many purchased at full price, ugh!), as well as older women in suburbia or at the gym pre-Lululemon. The company had been sold to Liz Claiborne (now Kate Spade & Co.) in 2003 by founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor (see my previous article about this) who walked away with $53.1 million yet recently told the Huff Po "It's Been Painful to Watch the Brand Fail." I saw the writing on the wall (or actually in the window) when a 60% off sale sign appeared in early spring before any other stores were having their seasonal clearance. All North American stores are closing yet Kohl's will feature the brand as well as several international stores. I don't know the status of the now shuttered Fifth Avenue location but would not be surprised to see a Kate Spade boutique in its stead assuming there's still time on the lease.

Intermix on Madison Avenue
Lastly, I am watching a chain of stores not yet represented in the upper Fifth Avenue locale (they have one on 21st and Fifth) namely Intermix which was purchased by The Gap at the end of 2013. They have recently completed a renovation of the store closest to me (Madison and 78th) and seem to be putting a good deal of money into the brand. Merchandise seems to be holding steady (still wickedly overpriced and usually available elsewhere) although there are definitely more sales promotions. Service issues can't be generalized on however; the last time I shopped the uptown store the "sales-sphynx" could not be bothered to show me the merchandise I inquired about and directed me with a sweeping hand and a "It's over there" wave. I walked out and decided to give the Meatpacking District Washington Street store a whirl and surprisingly received no snooty attitude. In fact, the sales staff couldn't have been nicer!

In a soccer analogy,(thanks World Cup): although mass market retailers seek to add profitable higher-end specialty stores as a goal, quite often they can't seem to keep their eye on the ball long enough to kick it in.

- Laurel Marcus