Wednesday, March 20, 2019

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

The Mad Genius of the Incomparable Bonnie Cashin: The Gift that Keeps on Giving!

Bonnie Cashin in her Studio 
Photo by Corbis 

There is so little in fashion that is original, and Bonnie Cashin (ca. 1908 – 2000) was a true original. I continue to be in awe of her incredible talent and her unparalleled contributions and was fortunate to have met her and see her at work in her extraordinary UN Plaza apartment/studio when I was a young fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar in the ’70s.

Bonnie Cashin ensemble from the mid 70's 
Courtesy Dr. Stephanie Lake 

Among her inspired ideas: referencing ‘humble’ work clothes and using timeless shapes from the history of the world (military uniforms, togas, kimonos, ponchos, tunics, Noh coats). Inventive layering, mixing fabrics and textures (such as leather with tweed or mohair, and suede with canvas. The employment of new and exciting industrial-like metal closures instead of traditional buttons and zippers: dog leash clasps, brass turn locks and toggles (inspired by the ones that closed the top of her convertible). Handbags with double entries (when she worked at Coach, 1960 – 1975, she revolutionized the handbag); and “problem-solving” garments with multiple uses.

Then there were the coats with built-in coin purses and “pocketbook” pockets with latch closures. Her use of pockets, a signature, were often so pronounced (they were made for carrying books around), they obliterated the need for carrying a handbag, freeing your arms and keeping you unencumbered: the essence of modern.

She honestly thought outside the box. Everywhere I look, I see bits and pieces of Bonnie. Her work was highly influential but now seems so commonplace. Is it any wonder she has been a reference point for so many designers?

Decades ago, Bill Cunningham declared, “Bonnie Cashin should be immortalized by a national monument.”

Hubert de Givenchy said, “She has style. She is quite different from the others. I think Miss Cashin is one of the greatest designers in the world”.

Norman Norell once sent a telegram to Bonnie Cashin saying “You are the most original and creative talent we have.

Simon Doonan called her “A titaness of American fashion – a fascinating broad with more style and invention in her little finger than most of today’s designers have in their entire bodies!”

The Editorial proclaimed “Cashin did start conjuring the future, one so radical in philosophy that the rest of fashion is still chasing it, all these years later.”

Reed Krakoff hailed her as a “pioneer” way ahead of her time” one of the real creators of American Sportswear.”

The Economist observed “A single idea can give birth to products worth countless millions. [for example] Denim, a humble material . . . Bonnie Cashin’s “democratic look” is a reasonable runner-up.”

W Magazine called Bonnie Cashin “The most influential designer you’ve never heard of."

Dr. Stephanie Lake is on a mission to change that. She wants the world to recognize Bonnie’s work and for Bonnie to get her due credit. If anyone has the credentials and the background to illustrate how influential and relevant Bonnie’s work continues to be, and to create more awareness and appreciation for her unrivaled legacy, it is Dr. Lake who is only the 5th person to hold a Ph.D. in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, the foremost Bonnie Cashin scholar in the world, AND heir to and owner of Bonnie Cashin’s personal archive, encompassing garments and accessories from the 1920s to the 1980s. She also designs her own line of extraordinary jewelry ( She and her husband Cory Lake reside in Minneapolis with their 5-year-old daughter Odette Elizabeth.

We initially met in 2016 when she was in New York for a book signing at Rizzoli for her 290-page hardcover monograph, “Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It,” Rizzoli New York (the forward is written by Jonathan Adler).If you haven’t read it, you should!  It’s truly inspirational, and a must-read for anyone interested in fashion and great design. I promise you won’t put it down and you will want to keep reading and rereading it. Not only is it filled with eye-catching color and black and white photographs and sketches of Bonnie’s remarkable, modern designs (I want it all), it is filled with Dr. Lake’s marvelously informative narrative, and Bonnie’s memorable quotes. Dr. Lake is currently working on another book, the ABC’s of Bonnie Cashin.

Dr. Stephanie Lake and Marilyn Kirschner wearing Bonnie Cashin 

I interviewed Dr. Lake over the weekend (by phone) a few days after an article appeared in WWD about her plans for a Bonnie Cashin documentary, and other projects in the works (including opening a corporate partnership). She was very forthright about the state of fashion and Bonnie Cashin’s place in American fashion, American culture, and fashion history. And she is so articulate and animated; you could literally feel the love, devotion, admiration, respect, and awe she feels about her subject. As she observed: “Bonnie is everywhere. She was a creative pioneer of truly modern clothes. It’s always a jaw-dropping moment to see the enormity of her influence in what we all wear. Her influence in fashion is unrivaled, as is the lack of awareness regarding the enormity of her contributions to that industry and American design as a whole. That is my role; to secure her place.”

“She is kind of a secret weapon for so many houses because they don’t know who she was (nor does an entire generation). That’s what I want to change. Clearly, we are in an era of referential fashion and Bonnie is such a great part of it. So much of what she created is in the mainstream of contemporary fashion. She deserves credit. The shaming aspect is perhaps inevitable, but it is not of great interest to me. I shy away from finger pointing, preferring to focus on her work, not on the designers copying her. That’s always a challenge with the editorial coverage that comes from this. It’s immediately about criticizing the designers who copied her instead of celebrating how relevant and inspiring her work is and how many revere her and how many devotees she has.”

Left: Bonnie Cashin left; Right: Raf Simons for Calvin Klein

“I started cashincopy on Instagram about 2 ½ years ago as a way to honor Bonnie’s unique legacy and trace her influence in today’s world. It was right after Raf Simons, in his first collection for Calvin Klein, appropriated her 1970’s orange cape with big zippers line for line. Diet Prada was all over it, and it became a big thing.”

Left: Bonnie Cashin; Right: JW Anderson

“JW Anderson did it for fall 2019 with a Bonnie Cashin cape from 1949. And it wasn’t the first time. For spring 2018, he showed a jersey and leather balloon sleeve dress from the mid-’70s that I wore and is hanging my closet. I have the only example of it in the world, it’s in my book, and it went into his collection in 5 iterations. After WWD reached out, Jonathan said backstage that he has always been inspired by postmodern design, and by Bonnie Cashin but that was solely the result of WWD asking. But I’m glad he said something. When it happened with Raf at Calvin Klein, there was no comment.”

“When her work is the source of design, and she is not recognized, it is a lost opportunity. If she is THAT inspirational and you are copying line for line, PLEASE PLEASE give her credit! It should always be a priority to acknowledge and honor pioneers in any field of endeavor, particularly a female visionary like Bonnie, whose work has been central to fashion for seventy years.The number of designers and brands that converge on her oeuvre for inspiration is astounding, and this has been the case for generations.”

“It’s a missed opportunity. Why not say, ‘’Yes, I’m so inspired by her I wanted to create this garment”? Just PLEASE give her credit. In Bonnie’s era (the 50’s) there were knockoffs, but they were done at a lower price range and were obviously done as knock-offs. That is not the era we are in now. There is a major conversation going on about copying, about creative inertia in fashion and a lot of things are spiraling in a lot of negative ways.”

“So I want to use Bonnie as an example; holding up the standards of what is important in American fashion and American design and what the possibilities are about being a truly creative, generative designer and what one person can accomplish within the field. And I want to reclaim her craftsmanship, her attention to detail, the personality, and the personal force that she was for fashion. She was so fiercely independent. Her designs reflected only her own interests and needs, and yet she created so much that is the foundation of American fashion, and she is not properly recognized for that.”

 “And it goes beyond fashion. It’s about culture and where this country is, and I think she is an antidote to so much negativity. She had so much wisdom and was such a brilliant woman. She is the prism to re re-engage with the best of American design and American fashion, and I want to move forward with her philosophy and her accomplishments. The timing is right. It’s a marvelous time to do that through the documentary and with our plans for a destination for people to reclaim what is positive.”

“Cory and I have what is arguably THE most significant clothing archive of any designer that is in private hands. It is owned solely by us, and it goes beyond just the garments themselves. It is an unbelievable circumstance. It is THE fashion fairytale. It’s an autobiographical and biographical archive. Not your usual archive . The storytelling content alone, the quotes alone are enough to feed a million Instagram feeds. It’s an aesthetic, intellectual, philosophical wonderland that is centered in fashion, and to translate that into film and into social media, and into a physical space that is a national treasure is what Cory and I are focused on.”

“The fact that Bonnie designed herself as my big sister said quite a lot about our relationship."

Cory, Odette, Dr. Stephanie Lake 

One of Odette’s first words was “Bonnie”; she grew up with her like a great aunt. She is so much part of our daily lives. It was meant to be.”

“Cory and I are fully philanthropic, we are art collectors, and I am only the fifth decorative arts scholar in the world. We have a family foundation which the archive is part of. We have a pretty serious foundation within the arts and with American culture and because we have the archive we really want to move towards creating a space where the archive is on view and the content is there. We envision a place where we can have events, where we can have programming, where we can start to create a physical destination as well as an intellectual one. We are taking our first steps and just looking at properties now. In the Twin Cities, there is a robust design community. We have major corporate entities like Target, 3M, and Cardell and there is no lack of support for the arts for really innovative initiatives like this.”

“The film is of course, one big part of it and I have lined up incredible advisors: Executive producer and film financier Stephanie Dillon, filmmaker Liz Goldwyn whose “Pretty Things” appeared on HBO, and Christine Walker, chief executive officer of the John Waters-founded Provincetown International Film Festival, have agreed to help guide her.”

Gloria Vanderbilt wearing Bonnie Cashin photo by Richard Avedon for Harper's Bazaar 1959

“We are talking with the team who is doing the Cardin documentary. Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan, the Toledos, Cameron Silver have said yes to the film, Gloria Vanderbilt who was a client won’t appear on the film but has given us some amazing quotes and pictures of her wearing Bonnie’s designs that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar. I also have quotes from Isaac Mizrahi who was always influenced by her and who has given his blessing for the film. Geoffrey Banks is also participating. Everyone I have talked to said, “Let me know what to do to help” which is a testament to how important Bonnie is and how important this project is.”

“Moving forward now we are working to create this cultural space; taking the archive and transforming it into a cultural space to provide more access and create a destination. There’s the Foundation Pierre Bergé in Paris, which was established in 2002 as a way to conserve and promote Yves Saint Laurent’s work. There are places where this has been done for other artists of other types of art, but in America for fashion, there isn’t a private institute that resembles what Cory and I are building for Bonnie.”

Bonnie and I talked so much about these plans. I am in awe of how she articulated her vision fifty years ago, and how perfectly it fits within today’s fashion world. She saw the relevance of archives, the significance of history, and the desire for experience and storytelling of the highest order. Yet another way in which she was so ahead of her time.

“There are potential partners I want to start talking to. What I have to figure out is who is the most visionary. Who really sees Bonnie as the asset that she is? Is it through a cultural, corporate, or grant partnerships? Or all of the above. Who do I want to approach to direct the film and who do I want to create the look of that film and who do I approach to participate in the Cashin Institute and the physical space? And who is the best fit in terms of content and media exposure providing an audience for that? Minneapolis is interesting because of the wealth of cultural and corporate headquarters we have here. I think Tapestry which owns Coach and Kate Spade is interesting because they are trying to build this American group”.

“Bonnie’s legacy serves the industry and serves contemporary culture in such a meaningful way that it’s my responsibility to do everything that I can to serve her legacy best and to make an impact in the decorative art world and the fashion world. It’s an extraordinary honor, and a responsibility that I have”.

“Cory and I are young, and we are invested, and we are involved in the world around us and what we do to contribute to it. We want to create something visionary, significant, impactful, that is a legacy within fashion and for American culture, and for our own daughter. Bonnie is a national treasure, and she left her wonderland of an archive, her extraordinary legacy and her wishes in my hands. In revering her, there is only inexhaustible joy and inspiration.”

- Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, March 17, 2019

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

March Madness

I'm mad for the timeless elegance of Roger Vivier's Metal Buckle Pumps, $875

There are many things that make me mad: cruelty, discrimination of any kind, terrorism, violence, social injustice. The recent college admissions scandal. Oh, and people who are on a checkout line and wait until the very last minute to start fumbling with their credit cards, or worse; they insist on paying with every single penny they have in their wallet.

In terms of fashion, one pet peeve I have is the way, when one trend emerges; it seems to obliterate all that came before, rather than being thought of as another suggestion, another option that might work depending on time, place, occasion, etc. Why does one have to negate another? There’s room for everything as long as it’s good.

Sure, the focus for fall 2019 has been on couture like tailoring, haberdashery and words like dressing up and glamorous have been used ad nauseum. But it’s madness to think that athleisure, athletic wear, and streetwear are completely dead and that if you wear sneakers (heaven forbid) you will risk being arrested by the style police. Yes, it’s been overdone and has reached a saturation point, and the all-important sense of what is appropriate has been thrown out the window. But isn’t that always the case when anything in fashion reaches such heights of inundation?  The bottom line is there is a time and place for everything. It’s more about how it’s worn and when it’s worn than anything else.

Another thing that makes me mad is the over emphasis on trends, and women who blindly follow them as if they are the ‘Holy Grail’. They’re not. Retailers have to hawk clothes and fashion editors need catchy cover lines. Sure it’s good to know what’s going on and helpful to keep abreast of fashion, but it’s not about dressing ‘on trend’ but about finding those things that work for you; integrating new pieces into your existing wardrobe to create a desired look, regardless of whether they make the ‘hit’ list or not. Quite frankly, when something is ‘on trend’ that is probably the best time to ignore it!

Diana Vreeland 

I don’t understand why so many women want to look like everyone else instead of standing out and developing their own original style. It is so much more appealing and interesting than clicking off the boxes of what is deemed ‘on trend’. The late doyenne of fashion Diana Vreeland once noted, “Style - all who have it share one thing; originality”

Diana Vreeland was a true original who personifies a sophisticated, elegant, grown up chic that is cross generational and predicated on timeless wardrobe basics. It’s one that I’m especially mad about and as it turns out, it has also emerged as one of the stronger themes this season as exemplified by Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga.  Mrs. Vreeland could have easily been a muse.

The fashion icon was not a conventionally beautiful woman but she had a magnetic powerful beauty, an authoritative, distinctive style, and an amazing presence that exuded confidence. She always gravitated to classic sweaters, shirts, skirts, trousers. It was a uniform, meticulously put together, and accessorized with her signature jewelry: the Verdura cuffs and KJL ivory tusk necklace. Her shoes were elegant and obsessively kept in tip top shape.

There is no shoe label more synonymous with elegance and the unfailingly Parisian chic that has been one of the hallmarks of this season, than Roger Vivier. Considered to be the “Fragonard of the shoe”, Roger Henri Vivier, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 95 is credited with designing the first stiletto heel in 1954. He opened his first boutique in Paris in 1937, and created his first custom shoes for the French actress Mistinguett and Josephine Baker, Brigitte Bardot and Queen Elizabeth 11. And those famously worn by Catherine Deneuve in the 1967 film Belle du Jour.

Roger Vivier Fall 2019

His designs have since gained icon status, immediately recognizable by the square buckle. Roger Vivier is now under the creative direction of Gherardo Felloni, who adds a modern twist and just the right amount of contemporary cool to the label’s timeless styles. Today, each shoe and accessory epitomizes the effortless elegance of Inès de la Fressange, the brand’s ambassador. You can’t get chicer or more elegant than Ines as far as I’m concerned (the way she makes everything look easy and effortless is right on the money).

Roger Vivier Fall 2019

Gherardo held a presentation of his eclectic fall 2019 collection (a colorful and often sparkly assortment of handbags, pumps, ballerinas, boots, sandals, sneakers in a variety of luxurious materials) during recent Paris Fashion Week. Everything was based on his interpretation of a woman’s dreams, and "as we all know, dreams can sometimes turn into nightmares”, said Felloni who used a Parisian mansion as a venue and themed each room on a dream.

Catherine Deneuve lookalikes sporting blond wigs
wearing Roger Vivier Tres Vivier pumps

In one room, he recreated a cinema with several Catherine Deneuve lookalikes in identical blond wigs sporting the Tres Vivier pumps from the iconic French film Belle de Jour. They watched a trailer for the film starring the legendary actress which debuted in December to promote the new Beau Vivier bag.

The fall collection won’t be available for several months but there are plenty of other great styles that I’m mad for, which are available now.

Roger Vivier Metal Buckle Pumps

Inspired by the iconic model from the 60's, the Tres Vivier Metal Buckle pump in red patent leather maintains the same characteristics as the original model from the 60's but is updated with a larger buckle and a more sculptural heel, $925. More info/purchase

 Roger Vivier Tres Vivier Metal Buckle pumpsin leopard

The leopard printed Tres Vivier Metal Buckle pumps are on a 1.8 inch heel, $875. More info/purchase

Roger VivierTres Strass Vivier Velvet Boots

The Tres Vivier Strass Ankle Boots in black velvet with a shiny rhinestone buckle and structured low heel pay homage to the geometric silhouette from the 60’s, $1950.More info/purchase

Roger Vivier Embellished Satin Sandals

Roger Vivier Embellished Satin Sandals in a rich jewel-toned green satin are accented with the brand's signature style strass buckles on the vamp, which are adorned with faux pearl and crystal accents, $1325. More info/purchase

Roger Vivier I Love Vivier Pumps

The I Love Vivier pumps, are aptly named thanks to their heart-shaped toe vamp. Made in Italy from lustrous black satin, they stand tall on a curved, 3.35 inch heel that has a glossy finish and are the perfect black pump! $695. Make info/purchase

 Roger Vivier Sneaky Viv' Satin Sneakers

The Roger Vivier Sneaky Viv’ Tres Vivier Strass Buckle Drape sneakers in silk satin feature the iconic Swarovski crystal-encrusted buckle, side bow and rubber outsole, $1325.
More info/purchase

They are perfect for those who want the comfort of a sneaker, but prefer it to be more dressed up and more luxurious.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, March 15, 2019

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

The Couture Council Winter Luncheon

Roopal Patel and Dr. Valerie Steele
Photo: Annie Watt

On Thursday, The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT held its Third Annual Winter Luncheon at Avra Madison Estiatorio at 12 East 60th street. It was not just a wonderful luncheon, but a conversation and Q & A between Roopal Patel, SVP Fashion Director, Saks Fifth Avenue (a sponsor of the event) and Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at FIT.

Lisa Lockwood and Julie Macklowe
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Among the approximately 150 avowed fashion followers in attendance were Couture Council Board members Jean Shafiroff, Liz Peek, Julie Macklowe, Yaz Hernandez, Eleanora Kennedy, Susan Gutfriend, WWD’s Lisa Lockwood, independent curator and publisher Sharon Hurowitz, Patricia Shiah, Tom Gold, Chris Wilksinson, Gordon Kendall, Audrey Gruss, Dr. Penny Grant, Elyse Newhouse, Kathy Prounis.

Photo Marilyn Kirschner

After a classic Greek lunch of assorted appetizers, grilled octopus, grilled vegetables, chicken and bronzino (I felt like I was on the island of Corfu), Winter Lunch Chair Kathy Reilly introduced Ms. Patel and Dr. Steele, who directed her questions to the Saks Fashion Director, focusing on the current state of fashion. Great timing since the fall 2019 collections came to an end last week and Ms. Patel just returned from Paris the day before last.

Dr. Steele asked how she would define her role at the iconic store. Roopal explained that first and foremost, she sees herself as “a curator, a translator of trends”. “It’s all about storytelling. There are so many different stories so many different themes” she explained. “My challenge is how to best break it down and keep it relevant”.

You’re not kidding about there being many trends and stories. The eclectically dressed guests, clad in everything from athleisure to evening-wear; trainers, combat boots and high heels, perfectly illustrated how all over the place fashion is at the moment. There were some in natty pantsuits; a few, like Julie Macklowe, accessorized with sneakers, proving athleisure is not dead (women will wear what they want!)

Sharon Hurowitz
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

A few were in couture like cocktail dresses. Sharon Hurowitz wore a sleeveless black dress with a dramatic cape back, that recalled vintage Balenciaga. She told me that it was from Raf Simons’ last collection for Calvin Klein. It was accessorized with a one of a kind Calder brooch.

Jean Shafiroff
Photo: Annie Watt

Jean Shafiroff opted for horizontally striped silk pajamas by Alice + Olivia punctuated by her red Hermes Birkin bag and red earrings.

When Dr. Steele asked Roopal how she sees luxury today, which has always been about “heritage”, she said “It’s a commodity. It’s a concept”. “It’s really changed in that it is available to everyone. You may not be able to buy a Chanel bag, or a Chanel ensemble, but you can buy Chanel perfume and a lipstick”. As for which fall trends she loves, she quickly said, “Minimalism: a return to effortless dressing as typified by Lauren Hutton.” She also noted, “Glamour, specifically sexy Parisian glamour” as seen on the Balmain and Alexandre Vauthier runways. “It’s all about 'power women'!”

PJ Pascual and Yaz Hernandez
Photo: Annie Watt

“Designers had been focusing on clothes as protective armor in the wake of the Times Up/ Me Too movements but there's been a change, and now it’s officially okay to be sexy again. It’s an exciting time to be in fashion” she enthused, also citing the enormous interest in menswear across the board. Unsurprisingly, the men’s Saks Fifth Avenue store downtown, in Brookfield Place, remains open, while the women’s store has been closed.

Marilyn in vintage Bonnie Cashin 
Photo: Annie Watt

When Dr. Steele asked Roopal whether she sees a difference in fashion depending on which city she is in she said “Yes!” “Paris is the epitome of French chic, French glamour. It’s all about ‘Le Smoking’ and being smoking hot! In New York, it’s all about no nonsense American sportswear as seen at The Row and Gabriela Hearst. Milan is always eclectic and London is quirky”.

Dr. Steele asked Ms. Patel what she is excited about for spring. She replied that she sees the season as a “prelude to fall” and among the big trends are “bold pops of color”, “neon”, “tie dye”, “artistic expression”, “utility dressing; a great pair of chinos are always great”, and “a return to leather” (she herself was wearing a minimally chic black leather shirt dress to the floor and black boots).

Dr. Steele asked her to name the three most important designers at the moment. Ms. Patel asked if she was referring to the actual designers or their companies (great point) so she clarified it and said one could be just a designer name and the others could be companies. At the top of her list was Miuccia Prada, then Phoebe Philo (even though she is not working at the moment, her influence is still being felt), and Marc Jacobs. .

Then came the raffle, the winner (it was not me) was gifted with a $1000 shopping spree at Saks (basically, a pair of shoes lol). And finally, there was a Couture Council membership drive. Now in its 50th year, the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT boasts an elite membership group that supports The Museum at FIT, the most fashionable museum in New York City. Membership makes it possible for the museum to mount its world-class exhibitions, to build and conserve its extraordinary permanent collection, and to organize public programs that serve FIT’s 9,000 students as well as the general public. It was announced that those who joined at the Couture Membership Level ($1000) would be rewarded with a private tour by Dr. Valerie Steele, of the archives at the Museum at FIT. That’s a big deal!

- Marilyn Kirschner