Friday, February 23, 2018

20th Annual CDGA Costume Designers Guild Awards by Merle Ginsberg

Costume Designers Are the Real West Coast Fashionistas

Costume Designers Guild Awards
Photo: Merle Ginsberg
Click images for full size views

CDG . . . To any normal living breathing fashion person, those 3 initials could only stand for one iconic thing: Comme des Garcons. But here in Hollywood, where fashion’s always related to entertainment in some way or another (even when it’s bad – no, especially when it’s bad) – CDG stands for The Costume Designers Guild.

The boring explanation: The Costume Designers Guild is the union (Local 892) of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE): Costume Designers, Assistant Costume Designers and Costume Illustrators for film, television, music videos and commercials.

The more relevant fashion explanation: CDG is the twenty year old organizing body for every major modern costume designer you’ve ever heard of: Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago) Ann Roth (The Hours, The Talented Mr. Ripley), Bob Mackie (Cher, Diana Ross, The Love Boat), Sandy Powell (Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, Velvet Goldmine, Carol, Cinderella), etc etc.

Of course, before great American and European fashion came to Hollywood (around the early fifties, when Givenchy started dressing Audrey Hepburn), the classic costume designers of yore: Edith Head (All About Eve, Roman Holiday, Sabrina ), Irene Sharaff (Funny Girl, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Cleopatra) Orry-Kelly (Gypsy, Some Like it Hot) were the ones who made the iconic Oscar gowns of Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly, etc.) Before fashion designers became frock stars, Hollywood costume designers had the biggest effect on American – and international – fashion; all little girls wanted to dress like glamorous actresses in the movies. Movie imagery is what moved merch. Even major hair styling trends started with movies (Mia Farrow’s Vidal Sassoon pixie in Rosemary’s Baby comes to mind)– and eventually, television (need I say more then Jennifer Aniston?).

Doug Jones
Photo Getty Images

This week, I attended the annual Costume Designers Guild Awards – this one being it’s 20th anniversary – and event I always look forward to – not for who wins – but for sartorial people watching. The CGDA, as the event’s known, is always a welcome frilly fantastical flamboyant break from status quo Hollywood so-called “fashion” events. When you go to other Hollywood awards shows/parties, you see two things: 1/fabulously dressed actresses, wearing designer ready to wear or couture gowns, chosen by stylists, or, 2/very badly, blandly or cheaply (or both) dressed everyone else, since they wear jeans or leggings every other day of the year.

Now, when you go to Hollywood mainstream real fashion events: runway shows, store openings (McQueen recently moved from Melrose to Rodeo Drive) – or even last week’s 50th Anniversary of Mr. Chow’s extravaganza (local fashion stars China Chow in Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons, Anjelica Huston in Pamela Barish, Anne Crawford in Rick Owens) – you see stylists/artists/socialites/big shoppers/rappers/music biz types and of course, actresses -wearing very expensive designer clothes they got at Barneys or the Rick Owens store on LaBrea Avenue.

An Crabtree costume designer
Photo: Merle Ginsbert

This is why the CGD’s are so exceptionl: when you go to the Costume Designers Guild Awards, you aren’t going to see chic – or sexy – or even - designer. Costume designers march to the beat of their own drums – and sewing machines. They’re going for drama – theatrics - they flourish in a heightened reality, creating characters, not fashion icons (like celebrity stylists). They’re telling stories – not looking for compliments. Or rich husbands. Or paparazzi snaps. So what they wear reflects their own stories, their own imaginations, their own influences. If you’re looking for wildly original looks in New York, you’ll cruise the East Village. In L.A, you’ll cruise the CDGA.

 And just to add to the fashion world synergy/cred, CDGA 20 was sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar, The Outnet and Westfield Malls.

Mayes C. Rubio costume designer
Photo: Merle Ginsberg

This year, I was surprised to see these female and male swan/divas all wearing black. Turns out, famed modern costumers Ellen Mirojnick (Wall Street, Fatal Attraction) and Arianne Phillips (W.E., Kingsmen, and Madonna’s stylist) put out an APB to guild membership that they should all pay their non-colorful respects to the current #metoo and Time’sUp dress code. Still, even in a sea of film noir (double entendre), there was plenty of eye-popping originality. For instance, tv costumer Dawn Ritz floated by in a black column gown and a makeshift headdress of rainbow colored paper mache butterflies – now, that’s what I call sartorial rebellion! Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale costumer Ane Crabtree threw a black corset mini dress over leggings, and added black flowers at the neck and long leather gloves (never mind the drama of her shaved head). Get Out costume designer Nadine Haders popped on a black gaucho hat to liven up her simple black dress. British Game of Thrones costumer Michele Clapton (who of course, won) donned a puffed sleeve black midi, granny boots and hoop earrings nearly the size of Jon Snow’s direwolf.

Sara Sensoy costume designer
Photo: Merle Ginsberg

Thor: Ragnarak costumer Mayes C. Rubeo doctored up her black fringe Stella McCartney. “That’s what we costumers do!,” she told me. “We can’t go plain, no matter what the dress code. I added the embroidery and beading myself. I always do add-ons.” Music video costumer Sara Sensoy (Marilyn Manson, Florence and The Machine) was probably the evening’s best dressed costume designer – let’s call it, most interestingly dressed – in a crowd of eccentrics: she took an already avant garde pin- striped Comme des Garcon-like long dress and goth-ed it up even more: “I added the chains, the pins; I guess I went a bit heavy. And this hat is a leather fez from Morocco – I was going for a YSL aesthetic.”

Kerry Washington
Photo: Getty Images

And the actors who come to present upped their game a bit, too.  Hunky Rufus Sewell, there to present, wore a very traditional Cary Grant looking tux with bow tie. Tall drink of water Shape of Water actor Doug Jones had on a one of a kind vintage steam punk coat from a mail order steam punk catalogue (yes, they do exist). Lily Tomlin, who presented, told me, “I dug out this old black Chanel jacket that I loved – till I read that she was a Nazi lover. Please don’t tell anyone! But Ms. Fonda told me never to toss out Chanel.” Her ruby earrings turned out to be costume – “they belonged to Mae West – someone gave them to me. Do you think Mae West wouldn’t wear paste??” The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan did her 1950’s fit n’ flare character proud: she put a tweed strapless fit n flare midi dress on top of a black v neck. And divine diva-swan Kerry Washington, who got the CDG Spotlight Award, was resplendent in a spring 2018 floral Dolce & Gabbana tulle gown based in black, but strewn with giant 3 D red rosettes. Looking back at the high fashion effect of her show Scandal – the Olivia Pope look sold more Prada bags than Sex and the City – Washington credited the show’s costumer Lyn Paolo with making her waist always nipped – “even when I was pregnant. She got Armani couture pants, cut out the waist, and added expandable fabric. I waddled a lot – but I still looked chic. And not pregnant.”

Eva Longoria, who presented Washington with her award, clearly didn’t get the #metoo memo. The pregnant star looked a little embarrassed in a blush satin Nili Lotan slipdress, with what looked like a baby pink satin bathrobe over it. Well, okay. Pitch Perfect actress Anna Camp looked terrific in a coral tiered J. Mendel gown – but a little sheepish at missing the dress code. Hey, it’s one way to stand out in that crowd.

The night’s big winners – outside of Kerry Washington’s Dolce ensemble -  included the costume designers of I, Tonya, The Shape of Water (Luis Sequeira beating out likely Oscar winner Mark Bridges, for Phantom Thread), The Crown, Wonder Woman and Game of Thrones.

The funniest presentation of the night, the one that woke up everybody in the Beverly Hilton Ballroom at the end, was done by Sally Field, presenting a career achievement award to costume designer Joanna Johnston (Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Lincoln). Field dragged a big old white canvas tote bag on stage with her, and whipped out the fuzzy pink sweater she wore when she (as Mama Gump) famously told Forrest Gump that “life is like a box of chocolates.” “It's such a specific choice for such an important scene — Mama Gump's death — and it speaks in ways words can't,” Field said. She also showed off an odd pastiche quilt constructed from pieces of each of Mary Todd Lincoln's 1860’s gowns, that Johnston made her as a souvenir from that 2012 film.

“All right, who else is going to pull out their quilt?” host of the evening Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) asked the crowd. Rodriguez herself went the typical young actress route for her look: a metallic slip dress with a slit up the back. When in doubt in Hollywood, wear a metallic slip dress and show a lot of skin. Hardly original –but not everyone can be an original.

Unless they’re a costume designer.

Merle Ginsberg
 She is an award winning writer/journalist/editor, and NY Times best selling author, who specializes in fashion, beauty, culture, and whole crossover thereof. She's been a staff writer for Rolling Stone, W Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, Harper's Bazaar, and The Hollywood Reporter. She's also been a contributor to New York Magazine The Cut, the NY Times T Magazine, People, US, Ladies Home Journal, the London Times, Daily Front Row, Marie Claire, NME, Tatler, Variety,Esquire, Cosmopolitan, The Daily Beast, Fashion Network, - and she currently freelances for The New York Post, as well as other publications. Her television career includes entertainment/fashion on air reporting for CNN, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, ABC News, The Today Show, Good Morning America and the BBC. She was a staff producer/writer for MTV, VH1 and E! Entertainment - and starred on two reality shows: Rupaul's Drag Race and Bravo's Launch My Line.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

A Smart & Stylish Partnership: O Magazine, Talbots and Dress for Success

Lucy Kaylin, Diane Clehane, Joi Gordon and Meredith Paley
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I was very excited about this week’s lunch at Michael’s because I was going to be talking to three fabulous women from companies I’ve long admired – Hearst, Talbots and Dress for Success (which is actually a non-profit that’s so well run it could teach many corporations a thing or two about management). Lucy Kaylin, editor-in-chief of O The Oprah Magazine, Meredith Paley, Talbots’ vice president of public relations, and Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success, joined me to talk about their unique -- and highly successful -- partnership, now in its third year, that is the very definition of doing well by doing a lot of good.

Yesterday was the official launch of the O, The Oprah Magazine and Talbots’ co-branded capsule collection benefiting Dress for Success. The five-piece limited edition collection designed by O’s creative director Adam Glassman and the Talbots’ design team offers a fresh take on preppy springtime staples like the cardigan, short sleeve sweater and clutch. Everything is done in red, white and blue “with a patriotic feeling” and many pieces (like the sweater I’m wearing today) are embroidered with ladybugs (which, according to Adam, are “the new polka dots”).

Meredith told me that Adam was inspired when he saw the eye-catching insects flying around Oprah’s garden in California. It turns out ladybugs symbolize love, luck, and prosperity which fit perfectly with the spirit of the whole shebang. It was fate.

O! The Oprah Magazine March Cover

The 2018 collection is featured in the March issue of O The Oprah Magazine in all its striped and gingham glory (and, of course those embroidered ladybugs) worn by actors Connie Britton, Sophia Bush, Busy Phillips, Extra’s cohost Tamika Ray and comedian Yvette Nicole Brown. (There’s also two inside Talbots' covers.) “We had lots of meetings. Lots of meetings,” said Lucy when I ask how they chose the women for the shoot. Lucy, Gayle King, Adam and the magazine’s publisher Jayne Jamison all weighed in. “We wanted women who exuded a sense of fun and were truly interested in helping other women.” And there’s no stick figure in the mix, either. “Adam is keenly sensitive to the issues women face trying to get dressed.” The women on the pages of the issue reflect that.

I had to ask Lucy, who has been editor of O for nearly five years now, what it was like around the office after Oprah gave that barn burner of a speech at the Golden Globes in January that immediately set off speculation she was gearing up for a run at the White House. “Unbelievably exciting; there was a dreamy vibe,” she told me. “The prevailing feeling was a sense of pride. We were profoundly attuned that something extraordinary had happened.” I’ll say.

The O Magazine and Talbots collaboration predates the #MeToo movement (“Something I’m incredibly proud of”) and was in many ways prescient in predicting today’s zeitgeist. “This has been an extraordinarily strange time,” she said. “MeToo caught a lot of people by surprise. Now you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. We’re living in a time when complacency is not okay.”

As a company, Talbots’ message has long been one of empowerment and positivity. It’s mission, said Meredith, is really based on “women helping women,” and their commitment to Dress for Success proves they’re not just talking the talk.

Thirty percent of the net proceeds from the line will be donated to Dress for Success, an international not-for-profit organization that provides women with the tools they need to achieve economic independence. This year, for the first time, Talbots will match customers’ monetary donations up to $250,000. The 2016 and 2017 initiatives raised close to $3 million and collected over 12,000 boxes of donated business attire for Dress for Success, benefiting over 60,000 women. They’re certainly off to a good start. According to Meredith, yesterday brought in $63,000 in donations from Talbots’ customers around the country – making the one-day total triple the amount that was collected last year.

Talbots stores nationwide will continue to collect customer clothing and accessory donations for the Dress for Success program and will also accept monetary donations both in-store and online at

And it started with a single box of clothing. “For years we’d get a box of plus size suits from Talbots without any note or invoice or request for a tax receipt,” explained Joi, a lawyer whose first experience with the organization was as a donor and she’s now been there for 21 years. “Our greatest need was for suits size 12 and up and most of our donors are size 10 and under, so it was perfect. We were able to outfit ten women in suits.”

Four years ago, Talbots’ CEO Lizanne Kindler and Deborah Cavanagh, SVP of marketing, met with Joi after she redirected their donation to Dress for Success’ Boston office (Talbots is based in Hingham, Massachusetts). “They told me that they wanted us to be their one charity which is unique to an organization,” said Joi. “They were clear. They wanted one organization they could wrap their arms around. In three years, the partnership with Talbots and O has literally lifted off the page.”

Joi told me when other companies reach out to her now, the partnership with Talbots inevitably becomes a topic of conversation. “It’s ‘best in class.” Lucy concurred. “I’ve had plenty of fellow editors come around to my door and ask, ‘How’d you do that?’

Connie Britton

If you’re like me, you might have known that Dress for Success provides women with professional clothing and accessories needed for job interviews but did you know they were an international organization whose services include a whole host of programs ranging leadership training to health and wellness? Now you (and I) do. They have 165 offices in 30 countries around the world and have helped over 1 million women. They also offered disaster relief to clients during Hurricane Harvey and other severe weather events. Women in job training programs are referred to the organization to help prepare them for a specific job interview. If the client doesn’t get the interview, they can stay in the program and get support for their continued job search. Ninety percent of their funding comes from corporations or foundations tied to corporations. “In four short years, Talbots has surpassed all of our [other] corporate sponsors in terms of donations,” said Joi.

But there was another equally rewarding byproduct of the organization’s association with Talbots and O Magazine. “It’s transformed how we think about ourselves.” said Joi. “We feel like this is our moment.”

Dress for Success is having another big moment on April 18 at their annual gala at Cipriani Wall Street sponsored by Talbots and O Magazine (who else?) where Bethenny Frankel will receive the Humanitarian Award for her work with the organization. Adrianna Papell is receiving a corporate leadership award (they will also be dressing clients for the gala) and branding agency FCB is also being recognized for their pro bono ‘Open Door’ campaign.

The partnership between O Magazine, Talbots and Dress for Success has also evolved as women’s interest in helping other women seems to be at its highest level in recent years. “Twenty years ago, our clients were the welfare to work population,” said Joi. “In 2008, when the economy bottomed out, that shifted and women who once donated were knocking on the door as clients. Now, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in volunteers. Women want to stand for something.”

Lucy, who joined Dress for Success’ board of directors last year added, “You can leverage [a partnership] for endless revenue or you can help women and change lives.”

As we finished up our lunch, I listened intently as Meredith and Joi shared many of Dress for Success’ clients’ stories and how truly inspiring these women are. One client has a daughter who was recently accepted to Yale University. This would not have been possible, said Lucy, had her mother not been helped by Dress for Success. “The ripple effect of the program is amazing and one you don’t immediately think about,” she said. What also impressed me was when Joi found out this young woman needed to come up with $5,000 to make up what her scholarship wasn’t paying for, Joi went back to her extensive network and came up with the money. “I wasn’t going to let $5,000 get in her way. She is her mother’s success story.”

As we said our goodbyes it struck me that while in the course of the past two hours, although we’d talked about the challenges we are facing today, everything that was said was coming from a place of what we can do rather than focusing on gloom and doom and supposed limitation. Oprah would have been proud.

 Seen & Heard Around the Room

Fashion television pioneer Elsa Klensch celebrating her 85th birthday on Table One. Remember when "Style with Elsa Klensch" on CNN was required viewing? … Andrew Stein on Three … Peter Brown on Four … The Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford, Eva Mohr and a charming fellow named Benny Hansen on Table Five … Table Six was a gathering of ladies who do a lot more than lunch: Mickey Ateyeh, Betsy Perry, Rikki Klieman and Joan Jakobson dining and dishing … PR maestro Hamilton South on Table Seven … Producer Kate Edelman Johnson on Eight.

And there’s more … Estee Lauder’s Alexandra Trower who will be honored with a Matrix Award at this year’s Women in Communications luncheon on April 23 with a pal on Table Nine. Congrats! … Larry Kudlow on Eleven … LAK PR’s CEO Lisa Linden with her colleague Angel Fahy and matrimonial attorneys Lisa Zeiderman and Faith Miller … Penske Media’s Vice Chairman Gerry Byrne with the doyenne of documentaries Sheila Nevins on Fifteen. Did you know Sheila has produced over 1000 documentaries for HBO and has won so many Emmys, Peabodys and Oscars that she had a room at their headquarters to house all her awards? Now you do. Busy Sheila has been traveling far and wide thanks to the incredible interest in her best-selling book, You Don’t Look Your Age … and Other Fairy Tales.

United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky at his regular perch on Table Sixteen … Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff  on Seventeen  … British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger with Janice Orefice Dehn, CMO of Kliger Enterprises and Mark Cooper of Mark Cooper LTD whose firm represents Harney & Sons Teas. Mark told me Harney was asked by Historic Royal Palaces of England to create a collection of English tea blends. Each blend, he noted, “pays homage to tea's imperial history and roots” and comes packaged in a pretty jewel-toned tin. Just the thing to drink later this spring while watching the royal wedding at the crack of dawn, no? … and former NBA commissioner David Stern on twenty-four.

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

New York Fashion Week Fall 2018: In Living Color

Marc Jacobs
Photo: The New York Times
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NYFW was as decentralized as ever. But while the shows may have been scattered, they were also more scaled down with many designers (Victoria Beckham, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang among them) opting for fewer guests in order to make it more intimate, and easier to focus on the clothes. They ran concurrently with the continual barrage of sexual misconduct claims, the ongoing Russian investigation and political discord within our government, the human tragedy surrounding the recent senseless school shooting in Florida, and the human drama unfolding at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Seeing all those amazingly talented female athletes was inspirational, and could not have been better timed since women, and female empowerment, are being celebrated. This was best exemplified by the American alpine skier and Olympic gold and silver medalist, Mikaela Shiffrin, whose motto is “A.B.T.T. B” (“Always Be Faster Than the Boys”).  No wonder NYFW seemed to have been overshadowed at times. But while there were forgettable clothes and collections, there were certainly moments that stood out.

Raf Simons’ Collection for Calvin Klein was simply put, like nothing else that was shown  -- it’s impossible to even categorize it. It was all about the Belgian born designer’s continual experimentation with American symbolism, his view of American society and democracy, staged as a post-apocalyptic barnyard at the former American Stock Exchange. It was inventive, rule breaking, surprising, and out of the ordinary; exactly what you want from great fashion! With Thom Browne now decamping to Paris and no longer on the New York Fashion Week schedule, we really needed this moment. Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to help get you through the paces of your daily life” and Raf took this a few steps further with clothes as protective layers, seemingly made not just for getting you through the paces of your daily life, but for getting you through any disaster that might come your way (chic Hazmats, anyone?).

Marc Jacobs provided one of the only major fashion moments of the week and he too looked like nobody else this season. Though he did look like his hero, Yves Saint Laurent circa 80’s, but far more exaggerated and over-the-top. Where Calvin Klein was all about Americana, for Marc Jacobs, it was quite couture like and Parisian. It had nothing to do with streetwear/sportswear but rather, a sophisticated, dressed up approach to sportswear. The attention to detail, choice of fabrics and accessories, and the way it was all put together was meticulous. In a season of color and stellar coats, he had some of the best. Was it commercial? No, this was unapologetic runway fashion, but not everything was impossibly voluminous and oversized, and there were some wearable pieces. More importantly, it was inspirational; about the joy of fashion, the joy of dressing and if nothing else, it could serve as a catalyst to help one rethink one’s wardrobe and the beauty of experimenting with different proportions. What’s wrong with enjoying some of your more outsized pieces now and again? It’s another option.

The Row was, as always, sculptural and tailored; luxurious purity personified. Each season, the Olsen twins deliver a line-up of pieces that could be the foundation of an ideal timeless wardrobe; the backbone of a daily uniform (if money were no object).It should also be noted that coats were especially strong here as they have been this season in general. I was not the only one who observed that the monastic, ecclesiastical pieces in black (and black and white) would be ideal for those attending the upcoming Met Gala in celebration of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Imagination”. Crucifixes optional.

Other Notable Highlights: The dreamy evening wear and moody wintry florals at Oscar de la Renta; Chris Leba for R13’s strong streetwear/sportswear collection combined with an underlying message about protecting the environment; Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss’s hip, cool active wear for men and women, his new collaboration with Reebok, and a celebration of the black cowboy’s place in American history.  Derek Lam and Gabriela Hearst’s urban but relaxed elegance: Town & Country personified with a nod to the chic equestrienne spirit (the former with an American slant, the latter, channeling her rich Argentinian heritage).

Coach 1941 by Stuart Vevers’ rough and tumble ‘South Western Gothic’ was appealing (great outerwear); Alexander Wang ’s urban, slick sculpted black leathers were punctuated with edgy silver hardware. And let’s talk about his inspired venue: the former Conde Nast headquarters at 4 Times Square.

I loved the freewheeling spirit and studied nonchalance of Michael Kors and his message that anything goes; all proportions are relevant, all types of shoes work (sneakers, flats, platforms, kitten heels, high heels, ballerinas, sandals, pumps, lugged sole lace up boots, slides, etc.), all patterns can be mixed. It’s all about wearing what you love depending on your mood, your needs, and appropriateness of the occasion. It was meant to look spontaneously put together, not perfect and not planned. If it was just a tad dorky, that was part of the charm, and just a bit uncool? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It was all about Michael’s favorite things.

Looking back at the week, these are some of the things that stood out for me:

1. In Living Color

Sies Marjan

There was a joyful explosion of color on the runways. It’s as though everyone has caught up with brilliant colorist Sander Lak of Sies Marjan whose calling card, since his launch for fall 2016, has been the exceptional way he mixes color. This season, even the lighting in the background of his show brilliantly mirrored the intense ombred palette of the collection.

Narciso Rodriguez

Color can be tricky if it’s not done right, but it was done quite well and in a very sophisticated manner this season (as exemplified by Narciso Rodriguez who just celebrated his 20th anniversary in business). Orange just happened to be one of the stars on the runways and one can say orange is the new black; it works as a neutral and looks great with camel. Fun fact: did you know that orange was Frank Sinatra’s favorite color? ‘Orange’ you glad I told you that?

Millennial pink, which was touted as THE color for spring 2018, was back with a vengeance, whether used alone, mixed with other shades of pink, or contrasted with red or orange. FYI, the upcoming exhibition at the Museum at FIT Curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT, is Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color . It will explore the changing significance of the color pink over the past three centuries and runs from September 7 – January 5th.

Prabal Gurung

Pink certainly made a statement at Prabal Gurung. In the Nepalese designer’s homeland, pink represents strength and fearlessness, and he wanted to use the hue to empower women and as an antidote to the ‘All Black’ moment at the recent Golden Globes.

Red and pink and every color in the rainbow, was also the story at Milly by Michele Smith, where it made an uplifting, powerful statement about inclusion and positivity. On Monday, February 12, just three days after the designer’s runway show, Michelle Obama’s official portrait was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery (along with that of the former president), and the dress she was wearing was from the Milly 2017 collection. It was made of humble worker’s fabric (couture like but Spartan) and came with a rather accessible price tag. That season, the designer’s collection was meant to evoke “equality, equality in human rights, racial equality, LGBTQ equality”.

But let’s face it, a little bit of color goes a long way. Quite frankly, the more I see color, the more I love black. One thing you can be certain of: the tide will be soon turning and the runways will soon be fading to noir (I can guarantee it). Certainly nothing cleanses the palette quite as effectively as black and white, which never loses its graphic appeal. Thankfully, this timeless combination showed up on many runways this season.

2. The Continued Celebration of Diversity and Inclusion

Eckaus Latta

Models of different sizes, shapes, ages, genders, and ethnicities took the runways, helping to challenge notions about conventional beauty and redefine beauty for the 22nd century. It’s certainly not about an unattainable every-hair-in-place perfection but rather, about embracing and loving one’s flaws and celebrating who you are and what makes you unique, warts and all.

Christian Siriano

Eckhaus Latta, Prabal Gurung, Chromat, Christian Siriano, R13, and Michael Kors were among those designers who were intent on highlighting diversity in their runway shows.

Gypsy Sport

Perhaps the strongest message was to be found on the runway of Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport where the message was “wear what you want, forget about societal mores and restraints, and ignore those who seek to body shame”. The star of the show, was a 10 year old self-described drag kid and LBGT activist, named Desmond.

While we’re on the topic of beauty, there’s great news if you hate your hair, are having a bad hair day, or don’t have any hair at all.

At Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs, the models’ hair was almost completely covered thanks to the use of hand knitted baklavas (at the former), and black scarves and chic brimmed black hats by Stephen Jones (at the latter), and they looked amazing!

3. Quilts

Calvin Klein

Raf Simons has long said that art is more important than fashion and his graphic quilted dresses with matching stoles (all illustrative of his ongoing fascination with Americana) could easily hang on the walls of the American Folk Art Museum.

Rosetta Getty’s sequined quilted gown and knitted quilted sweaters could hang right next to them.

4. Relaxed Evening Glamour

Carolina Herrera
Photo: The New York Times  

Why does evening have to mean a traditional ball gown and big jewels? Why not something more relaxed and unexpected? Carolina Herrera’s farewell runway show as a designer before (she will be Global Brand Ambassador and Wes Gordon will take over the design reigns) ended with a parade of colorful ball skirts and contrasting wide belts, paired with her favorite signature piece: a crisp white button down shirt.

Brandon Maxwell

Brandon Maxwell, whose collection specifically focused on relaxed evening glamour, also endorsed crisp white shirts, pairing one with a long narrow embroidered red evening skirt and red cardigan with fur collar), suggested a simple white t shirt as way to downplay a dramatic satin ball skirt, and closed the show with a glittery ball skirt and black hoodie. 

5. Leopard

Tom Ford

They say a leopard never changes its spots that that doesn’t mean designers don’t keep trying to change the way leopard looks. This perennial favorite was all over the runways, and while one expects to see traditional leopard coats, jackets, and pocketbooks, what I loved most were the unexpected uses. Tom Ford collaged leopard and snakeskin to fashion a great coat and he recolored leopard (neon green, yellow, orange, red), sometimes beading it, to fit into his 80’s mashup.

Calvin Klein

Raf Simons paired leopard baklavas with graphic oversized menswear patterned coats and different colored plaid skirt suits.


R13’s wonderfully throwaway, sporty takes included a leopard hooded anorak coat with an enormous matching leopard backpack.

6. The Big Bag Theory

Victoria Beckham

This was a season of superb coats AND supersized bags so how about mixing the two and creating something practical and good looking? Apparently Victoria Beckham, (who will mark her 10 years in business with a fashion show in London next season), figured that if you are going to tote your entire life around in a bag, it might as well look sensational and match your coat.

7. Dressing for the Season

There is something undeniably ‘cool’ and modern about ignoring seasons (you know; bare legs, sandals, sheer wispy chiffon slip dresses in the winter). We may be enjoying ridiculously mild weather (the thermometer reached an all-time monthly high of 78 on Wednesday) but have also suffered through snow and the bitter cold, and I am really into clothes that look geared for those impossibly frigid days. Typically wintry clothes that look warm and toasty; clothes to keep you warm, protected from the elements, and fabulously turned out to boot are very appealing! As I previously mentioned, Calvin Klein’s Raf Simons personified this with his protective armor like layers, as did Marc Jacobs, whose models were literally covered in fabric from head to toe. And at Coach 1941 Stuart Vevers emphasized the season (and the protective nature of his gusty shearlings, leathers, quilted woolens and thick denim pieces) with a moody wintry background that mimicked the deep woods, complete with falling leaves on the ground.

Rosie Assoulin

Of course, without doubt, the warmest coats are puffers and sleeping bag coats which are literally ubiquitous on the streets. And they have never looked better or more appealing. This season, standouts included R13’s version in white lined in red shown over a bodysuit and leggings photo printed with trees and branches and Rosie Assoulin’s colorful, painterly, art inspired iterations.

Norma Kamali

Perhaps the most all enveloping and coziest of all is Norma Kamali’s floor sweeping version in pink. Of course, the designer initially put sleeping bags coats on the map.

By the way, not everything that happened during NYFW was a fashion show and as it turns out, one of the best events during that week was the "Norma Kamali Retrospective" at What Goes Around Comes Around, in commemoration of the designer’s half-century in business featuring “collectible art” ranging in price between $750 and $7500.

The iconic award winning designer, who looks decades younger than her 72 years, is the epitome of modern. I love that she is not at all nostalgic, and is always on to the next thing. She wisely resists the urge to wear anything remotely stuck in a time warp. She instead always shows up in chic tailored, timeless, no nonsense pieces that really suit her. Best of all, she is generous with her time and talent. Remarkable!

- Marilyn Kirschner