Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Market Report: Kate Middleton

"We’ll Have What She’s Having"

Kate Middleton wearing her Zara blazer, navy jeans
 and wedges with Prince William in New Zealand

Whatever you may personally think of Kate Middleton’s sense of style, and even if you disagree with those who refer to the Duchess of Cambridge as a "Fashion Icon", the one thing that cannot be denied is that many women would not only like to BE her (or enjoy the same life of privilege), OR at the very least, they would like to look like her (she is enviably model tall, gorgeous, and always radiant). There is no question that whatever she wears in public, it will guarantee to start a fashion feeding frenzy.

But she is not only highly influential, but pragmatic, if not frugal.  She not only repeats and recycles her wardrobe, but rather than opting for expensive designer, haute couture, or custom made pieces (which she can easily afford LOL), more often than not, especially when it comes to her more informal duties, her choices are culled from moderate priced emporiums. But while this makes them affordable to many women (who do not, like her, enjoy special stature as a royal), they are not always accessible. Because within minutes of images reaching the Internet, whatever it is she is wearing, will undoubtedly be sold out.

Kate Middleton Smythe navy blazer

Kate is a classic and simple dresser as befitting her position, and for her casual outings, has a predilection for Breton striped tops, dark wash skinny jeans, wedge espadrilles, and impeccably tailored navy blazers with gold buttons (the same highly distinctive basics that form the basis for many women’s wardrobes). Last year she was photographed at many events (including Wimbledon) wearing a gold buttoned, fitted Smythe navy blazer (it retailed for about $800). It was in fact sold out in most stores, and was impossible to find anywhere except for EBay, where many savvy and creative international sellers capitalized on the fact,  advertising that the jacket was the one worn by the Duchess of Cambridge (their auctions of course, included pictures of her wearing it), and hiked up the prices.

She and Prince William are now on a tour of  New Zealand and earlier yesterday, the ‘Big News’ online was that she was wearing the same outfit three days in a row (quelle horror!)  And what’s wrong with that? There’s a lot to be said about streamlining and affecting a uniform.  If something is flattering, appropriate, and cannot be improved upon, why try? This is something many women should pay heed to. It’s fun to experiment and have fun with fashion, but there are certain things that stand the test of time. And in the end, who does not want to look tall, skinny, and rich?

Kate Middleton Zara blazer closeup

Once again, her look consisted of a classic fitted double breasted gold buttoned navy blazer, a striped Breton top, and dark wash skinny jeans (J.Brand), accessorized with her signature navy wedge espadrilles. This time, the jacket, in question was from the popular worldwide brand, Zara, ( Out of curiosity, I called a few stores in New York and was told by the managers that it was from their new spring 2014 collection, retails at $139, and had sold out almost immediately by midday. So, if you are interested , your best bet is EBay, where many international sellers are hawking it, once again advertising it as the same one worn by the Duchess of Cambridge -- but often doubling the price.


- Marilyn Kirschner 

Monday, April 14, 2014

See Thru Bags: A Clear & Present Danger

_Kaley-Cuoco-Sweetings  with Vince Camuto purse

Does Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting have a new gig working in a department store is the question I asked myself after seeing her on the red carpet the other night at her movie premiere for her new film "Authors Anonymous" in LA.  Capital One would not have to ask the question "What's in your wallet?" as there wasn't one  or even a "contents  anonymous" to her see-through Vince Camuto clutch bag;  bringing to mind a Bloomingdale's salesperson going on break.

Christian Louboutin 

Remember those clear pouches that store employees were required to use in lieu of their verboten purses? (In the interest of "full disclosure" (ha) the clear bag had a textured blue trim that matched her shoes so it did make some sartorial sense). I can see " clearly" now that this trend has a unique purpose. Last fall the NFL instituted a law against bags being brought in to stadiums (including handbags) unless they were of the clear variety. Major League Baseball is planning to implement the same law in 2015 and I'm sure many concert venues and arenas will sit up and take notice.

Charlotte Olympia Perspex Clutch

What's a stylish woman to do if you don't care to tote your goodies around in an NFL tote emblazoned with a team name on it or a standard fare beach bag?  Luckily there are some very interesting options at every price point and degree of formality.  At the high end, I have long admired the Charlotte Olympia Perspex clutches which do come along with a variety of decorative pouches so that the items in your purse can remain a mystery (ranging from $995 to around $1,500).

Simone Rocha purse

Simone Rocha makes a lovely transparent purse ($1,485) available on Farfetch with a shoulder strap as well as one by Christian Louboutin which is jeweled and features hot pink trim ($995 at Saks).

Furla croc-pring top handle bag

In a more affordable price range, there is the Jil Sander minimalist clutch with black or turquoise leather trim ($280 at Net-a-Porter), the Furla croc-print top handle bag ($298), a Zac Posen black tinted carryall bag ($595 at Shopbop) as well as a Golden Lane Beach Vinyl petite duffle ($627, also at Shopbop).

Juicy Couture Minaudiere

If you'd like to keep it under $200, and since we're talking PVC plastic or lucite that's really enough to spend, then there's the Rebecca Minkoff mini Mac in a clear or tinted pink version and on sale at Bloomingdales for $115, a Juicy Couture Minaudiere for $148 (now 40% off), a black lace option from Modcloth called "Cool Clear Night" (on sale for $29.99) or a heart shaped chain bag from Nasty Gal ($40).

Alexander McQueen studded Perspex

Okay, so you've got your clear purse now how do you load it? The answer: very carefully. The Big Bang star had several $20 bills, an Amex gold card, a hot pink lip gloss and a driver's license visible in hers.  Certainly you want to be careful not to reenact a scene from 1987's "Broadcast News" in which Holly Hunter leaves the White House Correspondents dinner when she sees that security is checking the contents of women's purses and she doesn't want her date William Hurt to see that she is packing condoms.  (Fun fact:  I recently spotted the dress she wore at a vintage show last month at the Metropolitan Pavillion and called it even before I saw the index card identifying it)!  Also, if anyone asks to borrow a twenty you can't lie by saying you don't have one! Got that Uncle Sam?

So much for transparency!

- Laurel Marcus

The Daily Bet - by Rhonda Erb
Thalé Blanc Flutter of Hope Clutch
Designer Deborah Sawaf created this bag to support children’s cancer research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles The hospital receives 20% of the proceeds from the collection. The plexiglass bag is engraved with 3D brass butterflies and lined with vegan friendly materials.
Available at: $985.00

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fashion Group's RTW Presentation / Lord & Taylor "424 Fifth" Brand

C’mon Get Happy!

Amy Cheung with Margaret Hayes (center) & Evie Evangelou

On Thursday, I attended Fashion Group International’s Fall/Winter 2014 Ready-to-Wear Trend Presentation, held at the Time Life Building. FGI ( ) is now partnering with Fashion 4 Development (F4D), a private sector global platform whose mission is to harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries and implement sustainable strategies for worldwide economic growth. To emphasize its commitment, the designs of Amy Cheung and her parent company Sung Hing Industries Holding Limited were showcased. Their motto is “Green At Heart” and they won in the top environmental management category honored by the OKEO-TEX Sustainability Award and were the only textile company from China to have that distinction.

Panel discussion

It is always interesting to review the collections, once you’ve had adequate time to digest, and FGI’s Fashion Director Marylou Luther sifts through the trends, always puts the whole thing together in proper perspective, ending with a summary of the Best Bets (the trends most likely to go from runway to reality). This time around, they are: Coats (“the fashion must have of the season”, especially wraps and maxis); Outerwear (standouts include military inspired parkas); Shearling (“It’s the yearling of the shearling”); Fur; Leather; Knits; Turtlenecks; Comfort; Prints; Plaids; Intarsia; The Shopping Bag’; The Bucket Bag; The Sneaker-Cum-Running Shoe; The Bootie.

Mickey Boardman, Brooke Jaffe, Elizabeth Kanfer, Julie Gilhart, Marylou Luther

One advantage of attending the noontime showing is the interesting and lively panel discussion that follows. Panelists this time were Paper Magazine’s Mickey Boardman, Bloomingdales’ Brooke Jaffe, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Elizabeth Kanfer, and Julie Gilhart (a consultant who was formerly with Barneys New York). Special Guest Moderator was Fairchild Publication’s Bridget Foley who got everyone talking about a range of subjects from the emotion of fashion, the notion of trends, the power of accessories, designers, and the fashion show system.

Bridget Foley (BF): “What excited you most about the shows”? 
Mickey Boardman (MB): “The gift bags (that got a laugh from the audience). Sparkle. It’s a trend that never goes away for me ( he was wearing a black sequined cardigan and toting a humongous leopard printed bag trimmed with a heavy gold chain). “I also loved ankle boots.” 
Brooke Jaffe (BJ): “The novelty and special details.” 
Elizabeth Kanfer (EK): “The energy and emotion of the shows. The challenge for us is how to translate it for the customers. I also loved all the maximalism (shine, furs)” 
BF: “How do you sift through trends?” 
EK: “We need to find the best and edit. It comes from the gut. But of course, our customer feedback is key.” 
BJ: “We always think of our customers. For us, huge trends this season are layering and texture, and we have to educate the customer so she knows how to wear it.” 
MB: “We pick things we love and decide what’s best and then we fill in. For example, this season we love ‘The Villain’ (as in Public School’s cartoon villains), and Gareth Pugh touched on that as well And we thought YSL was the best show.” 
BF: “Do trends even exist?”

Julie Gilhart (JG): “Yes, but they are more related to lifestyle now.” 
BJ: “Yes. Our customer is looking for direction in trends and our job is to point them out.” 
BF: “There are over 600 shows. How do you find ‘the core’ of what is important?” 
BJ: You have to be a good editor, take a position, and have conviction. The trends we feel are key this season are shine and sparkle, and bold florals rather than graphics and geometrics (our customer is girlie).”  
EK: “We go with what we love. It’s the instant emotion of fashion that is important to communicate to the customer.” Bridget agreed that emotion is key in fashion. 
MB: “Yes, it is truly about the emotion but unfortunately, you really must see shows in person because you don’t get that on or You must be there. It’s those few times (those major fashion moments) that really keep you going.” 
BJ: “I got the chills when I saw the clouds at Marc Jacobs. It’s all about communication. The challenge is to communicate that emotion to the customer. It’s all about street style and runway, and not just runway.” 
EK: “Everything is now special. We have to educate the customer so that she understands why things have gotten more expensive.” 
BF: “Accessories have steered the ship for a longtime now. Is that positive?” 
JG: “I had a conversation with a major designer who was very frustrated because women are becoming so casual and simple, and tend to spend their money on handbags rather than fashion. Accessories are an easy way to do that.” Bridget agreed that the increasingly casual lifestyle is frustrating to fashion designers. 
BJ: “Accessories lead the charge and understandably because the customer wants fashion credit for recognizable status symbols that they can wear every day. The good news is that we were in a cycle of minimalism for so long and so this new maximalism is an interesting shift.” 
BF: “What does it mean to be fashionable today?”

MB: “How do you want to look? I think about that every day.” 
JG: “In the same way a merchant must take a stand and own that stand in order to be successful, the best dressed women take a stand and own it. You must have a look that is yours and nobody else’s.” 
BJ: “Regardless of the trends, the most fashionable women always look like themselves.”  
BF: “What about the fashion show system? Are there too many shows?” Everyone agreed there were. 
JG: “It’s excessive but there are exceptions. Last season (spring 2014), Rick Owens illustrated perfectly why you go to a show. It provided images that went all over the social media. And for fall 2014, Nicolas Guesquiere’s debut for Louis Vuitton was a benchmark collection”.

BF: Proving that the shows are important, “Miuccia Prada admitted that she gets ‘cracking’ for her runway shows.” 
MB: “There should be a certain criteria in order to have a show. As soon as you knit one sweater yourself, you think you should have a show. H&M does not need to stage a show during Fashion Week.” 
BF: “It’s harder and harder to be blown away when there are so many shows, but I love going to them because of the creativity. We are never ‘not looking’ at clothes it seems. The vast 90% of people should not be staging formal shows.” 
BJ: “There should at least be some rhyme and reason regarding location. Downtown shows and uptown shows should be scheduled more intelligently.”  
BF: “What excites you this season? What do you take away from the season?”

JG: “All the emerging talent. The new emerging designers and street culture brands. The key thing is to stay positive. Life is tough for everyone.”  
EK: “We are excited by new talent as well but we have to make sure the brand has the ability to produce and to work with us. It’s like a marriage. At Saks, we take a careful approach.” 
MB: “There are so many designers, the least amazing thing about them, are the clothes (this got a lot of laughs). Sometimes you just want someone nice and easy. If someone is really fabulous, I can put up with a difficult person.”  
BF: “What was the most compelling show of the season?” 
EK: “Fendi, Chanel, Givenchy.” 
JG: “Vuitton: it was more simple than I thought it would be with easy things to wear; Altuzarra, which was American Classic; Simone Rocha: she is living a legacy now; Givenchy (amazing dresses).” 
MB: “Givenchy; Prabal Gurung; Anna Sui (it was the first time she was ‘Chinese- y’); Valentino (I know I’m supposed to be a hipster but I couldn’t help it); Chanel (not the clothes as much as the energy)”. 
BJ: “Fendi, Gucci, Misha Nonoo, Chanel, for the energy, and I loved Michael Kors. Fabulous chunky knits and scarves, and the models always look happy, which they never seem to on other runways.” 

 Pharrell Williams Happy soundtrack from Dispicable Me 2

FYI, regarding all this talk about ‘happy’. The FGI audio visual presentation began with the soundtrack, ‘Happy Days are Here Again”, ended on a ‘happy’ note, and somewhere in the middle, featured tall hats that referenced Pharrell Williams. I (along with everyone else it seems), cannot get his contagious tune “Happy” out of our minds. Is it me, or does it seem to be a reaction to Alber Elbaz’s bold, statement making brass scripted ‘Happy’ necklaces that made their appearance for fall 2013 and were seen on some of the most fashionable necks around?

Marie Holman Rao, Liz Rodbell, & Kate Young

And continuing on with this sentiment, Lord and Taylor’s chief creative officer, Marie-Holman Rao, sure has a lot to be happy about these days, thanks to 424 Fifth, the fabric driven well priced (from $29 to $300 retail) private label collection. To properly celebrate, there was a formal launch on Thursday night, hosted by stylist Kate Young and the American Museum of Natural History with 10% of the sales going to benefit the museum.

Kate Young & Marie Holman Rao with models

Named for the store’s Manhattan address, 424 Fifth is “a compelling women’s brand, inspired by their rich heritage”, and it “offers a full lifestyle collection for the modern woman," according to Mary Turner, Executive Vice President of Specialty for Hudson's Bay Company, the parent of Lord & Taylor. Included are both everyday essentials and statement pieces, and for spring, the color palette is predominantly ivory and black with hits of electric color and a smattering of prints and patterns.

424 Fifth Cherry Red Skirt & crisp white button down shirt

Among the standouts: the vibrant cherry red full satin skirt and crisp white button down shirt; the black patent leather bomber jacket, white Supima cotton t shirt, and tweed pencil skirt; the ivory and black striped cropped jacket, black bralette top, and ivory faille midi skirt. The line is available at Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay stores, and online:;

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Better Bets: "Spring Fling"

Dooney & Bourke Pansy Leisure Tote:

This roomy carry all is a breath of spring in a coated cotton fabric that is covered with brightly colored flowers. Inside there are pockets to hold your wallet, cell phone and other essentials. The zip closure bag is available in three floral prints.

Available at: $198.00

Click for more "Spring Fling" Selections

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ballet Hispanico Spring Gala / "Black & White Carpet" Photo Exhibition


(photos: Julie Skarratt )
Click on images for full size views

Ballet Hispanico ( held its annual black tie Spring Gala on Monday evening at the Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Now in its 20th year, the evening of cocktails, dinner and dancing had at its theme “Community Partnerships through the Arts”. The Ford Foundation was honored with the Civic Inspiration Award, and in the words of Kate Lear, Chair of Ballet Hispanico’s Board of Directors, they are “a champion among our supporters and an organization truly committed to building vibrant communities through the arts.”

John and Jody Ahnold

The event was headed by Event Chairs Jody and John Arnhold, Kate Lear and Jonathan LaPook, David Pérez and Milena Alberti, and Randy and Susan Falco.  The Gala Honorary Committee is co-chaired by designer Angel Sanchez and Telemundo COO Jacqueline Hernández.  Proceeds, which totaled over $1 million, benefit the creation of new Company works, need-based financial aid and merit scholarships in the Ballet Hispanico School of Dance, and community arts education programs.  

Ballet Hispanico Dancers

And it was certainly a feast for the ears and the eyes. Attendees were entertained with music from two time Grammy winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, performances by the Ballet Hispanico Company and students of the Ballet Hispanico School of Dance, and were given a sneak peek of original costumes created by Angel Sanchez for El Beso (The Kiss). Choreographed by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, it will kick off the new season and runs from April 15 – 27th at the Joyce Theatre.

Angel Sanchez, Diana DiMenna, Eduardo Vilaro

While the Venezuelan born fashion designer and CFDA member has designed ballet costumes in his native home, this is the first time he has done so here. His eveningwear and bridal lines, known for being dramatic, feminine, and architectural, put an emphasis on form and structure (not surprising since his first love was architecture) and have captivated his devoted clients and fans which include Giselle Bundchen, Taylor Swift, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, and Sandra Bullock.

-Marilyn Kirschner

"Black and White Carpet"

Stephane Kossmann
(Photos: Laurel Marcus)
Click on images for larger views

Capturing the rare unguarded red carpet celebrity moment  is something that photographer Stephane Kossmann could publish a book on.  Actually, make that two books.   Last night I attended the opening exhibition of 27 of his black and white photos on display at FIAF Gallery at the French Institute/ Alliance Francaise  ( 22 East 60th Street).  The exhibit shares the name of one of his  publications: "Black and White Carpet" and  is open from Wednesday, April 9 through Saturday, June 14.  The Franco-German Kossmann who splits his time between New York and Paris, is well-known for his more than 26 years of photos of the stars at the Cannes Film Festival whether he shoots them ascending the steps of the Palais or even better, as they alight from their cars.

Unlike the paparazzi, Kossman does not call out the celebrity's name in an effort to get them to turn to face him; he prefers a sideways or three-quarter shot.  "I think it is much more interesting than when they look into the camera," he has said in French.  He works in natural light without a flash and always in black and white to attain those fleeting and spontaneous moments which other photographers don't attempt to capture.  Often these photos are close up head shots rather than the typical red carpet full length fashion shots and are much more intimate than their posed counterparts.


On display at the exhibit are a mix of foreign stars and Americans: everyone from  Angelina Jolie to Isabelle Huppert, from Sean Penn to Jean-Paul Belmondo,  Julianne Moore to Catherine Deneuve.  Sadly, one of Kossmann's most iconic photos, one of Madonna in a car, is not on view in this collection however his photo of Nicole Kidman was being widely praised by attendees (many French speaking).  His work is so well regarded that during the 2004 and 2005 festivals several of his photos were featured on 100-square-meter posters throughout the city in a show of gratitude by the mayor and citizens of Cannes.  At the exhibit all prints are for sale ranging from $2,000 to $8,000 depending on size.

"The scene"

Kossman was born in Tours, France and first studied photography at the Rencontres internationales de la Photographie d'Arles.  There he met the man who became his mentor, world-renowned photographer Peter Knapp.  Kossman went to work for the magazine "7 a Paris" and in 1989 he was appointed to coverage of the Cannes Film Festival. His editorial clients include Elle, Vogue, Marie-Claire, Gala and Studio.  He has done advertising for Chopard, Nike, Harry Winston, Ralph Lauren, Renault Nissan and de Grisogono. His other book is entitled "Observations sur les marches de Cannes"  (Observations on the stairs at Cannes).  His portfolio of work includes four series: "Observations", "Cross", "Duo", and "Time." Since 2009 he has organized an open air exhibit of  international photographers every July, in his hometown of Pierrevert featuring the work of 50 photographers projected on a big screen.

-Laurel Marcus