Thursday, October 19, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

American Ballet Theatre Draws Star-Studded Fall Gala

The Young Dancers of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School
All photos Lieba Nesis
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The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) held its annual fall gala at The David H. Koch Theater Wednesday October 18, 2017 with cocktails beginning at 5:30 PM.  While this happening occurs every year there was nothing mundane about this evening as a ballet gala this star-studded hasn't occurred in years.

Artist Rachel Feinstein, Director Sofia Coppola and Designer Marc Jacobs

The crowd was replete with celebrities, philanthropists, designers, and artists who came out on a fall evening when there were at least four competing events including the black-tie Armory Gala.

Cicely Tyson and B Michael

The guests included: three illustrious designers: Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and B Michael; three superstar artists: Rachel Feinstein, Anh Duong and Marina Abramovic; five super celebrities: Liev Schreiber, Sofia Coppola, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cicely Tyson and Cynthia Erivo;

Artist Marina Abramovic, Hamish Bowles and Cynthia Erivo in Zac Posen

Three fashion editors: Vanessa Friedman, Hamish Bowles and Amy Astley; Four sports stars: Victor Cruz, Emeka Okafor, Mario Martinez and Corey Lewis; Four supermodels: Veronica Webb, Constance Jablonski, Sofia Sanchez and Liya Kebede - but who's counting.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

There were no shortage of socialites and philanthropists either including: Dianna and Joe DiMenna, Deeda Blair, Charles and Karen Phillips, Anka Palitz, Jean and Martin Shafiroff,

Star Jones, Amy Fine Collins, Anne McNally, Anh Duong and Sutton Stracke

Amy Fine Collins, Allison Sarofim, John Utendahl and Radmila Lolly, Jody and Sheila Grant, Star Jones, Susan Fales Hill, Aerin Lauder, Mary Elizabeth Snow and dozens of others.

Honoree Valentino Carlotti and Suzanne Hall

This evening was all about "Kevin" and "Valentino" that being Kevin McKenzie the artistic director who was celebrating 25 years at ABT and Valentino Carlotti a former partner at Goldman Sachs who was just named Global Head of Business Development at Sotheby's and was receiving the Melville Straus Leadership Achievement Award.

Left to right Dancers Wendy Whelan, Christine Shevchenko, Scout Forsythe, Kelley Potter, Robert Fairchild and Stella Abrera

Valentino is one of those Renaissance men who is a Trustee on the boards of Carnegie Hall, The Guggenheim Museum, American Ballet Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Studio Museum in Harlem. He is also one of the humblest, kindest most down-to-earth men I have ever met.

Andy Barth Chairman of ABT Board, and Anka Palitz.

Carlotti devotes his life to philanthropic causes while still being a major player on Wall Street. He has been "part adviser, part benefactor" to African American prima ballerina Misty Copeland playing a pivotal role in her ascent to superstardom through his connections at Goldman Sachs as leader of its institutional client group in sales and trading.

Aerin Lauder, Marjorie and Jeffrey Rosen and Deeda Blair

I am just curious if "Valentino Carlotti" is his stage or birth name as when I originally heard of him I was expecting a Sophia Loren lookalike to appear. Valentino has been one of the initiating forces of Project Plie' a program devoted to increasing racial and ethnic representation in ballet and diversifying America's ballet companies.

Michael Kors with Dancer Daniil Simkin and Julie Granger

Plie' was founded in September 2013 and tonight we were shown a video of its far reaching effects in bringing minorities into the current pool of dancers with the help of Misty Copeland.  Tonight also paid homage to Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie another soft spoken superstar who leads with little fanfare.

Nancy Walker and Allison Sarofim

We were shown a film on his brilliant career with principal dancer Herman Cornejo remarking that McKenzie taught him invaluable lessons, including the importance of musicality in dance-forcing Cornejo to hum along with the music at times to sense the rhythm.

Football Player Victor Cruz, Editor-In-Chief Architectural Digest Amy Astley, Model Lila Kebede and daughter Raee

Kevin told me he was very excited at the wonderful tribute he was given and felt his greatest accomplishment was the hiring of choreographer Alexei Ratmansky as Artist-in-Residence in 2009.

Designer Hanako Maeda and Julia Loomis in ADEAM

This evening began with the World Premiere of "The Gift" choreographed by Jessica Lang and danced by the young dancers from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School who were exquisite. We learned that 9 of the current principal dancers were chosen from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School a major feeder to ABT. The next world premiere was "Songs of Bukovina" which was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and danced by Isabella Boylston and Alban Lendorf.

Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie

The last act "Thirteen Diversions" choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon was given its world premiere at ABT in May 2011. This piece was my favorite of the evening with Stella Abrera and Misty Copeland regaling the audience with their incredible strength and flexibility. This piece was perfect for Misty whose sinewy muscles and powerful athleticism were displayed in full force.

The room

The ballet ended at 8:15 PM without any intermission. I noticed ABT has eliminated intermissions from their performances on gala nights; perhaps so that the audience can attend the $2,500 dinner at a timely hour. This seems logical however, a brief pause allows guests to converse with those who might not be attending the dinner while creating excitement for the upcoming performances.

Carmen Fox, Jody Grant and Sheila Grant

Nonetheless, the dinner began earlier than expected on the second floor of the Koch Theater which contained lovely pink and orange decor with pink roses and tablecloths adorning the opulent tables.

Radmila Lolly, John Utendahl and Karen Phillips

The designs adorning the dinner attendees were no less spectacular including some men in the mix. Firstly, Victor Cruz looked smashing in a Givenchy suit with Public School shoes. Cruz is about to announce a major collaboration with a designer in the next year but was not yet able to reveal the details.

Liya Kebede, Alexandre de Betak, Constance Jablonski and Sofia Sanchez

Cruz said he was a major fan of Gucci's Alessandro Michele and recently participated in its "DIY" program which means "design it yourself." I had never heard of DIY and thought it was related to drunk driving but was glad Victor shared this critical information with me.

Susan Fales Hill wearing B Michael, Star Jones, Model Veronica Webb in Balmain & Designer B Michael

Another one of innovator Michele's brilliant ideas which allows the consumer to participate in the designing process with Cruz customizing a burgundy and navy plaid Gucci suit. You learn something new every day and tonight I learned two things with major philanthropic personality Diana DiMenna informing me that Wes Gordon was consulting at Carolina Herrera and she was looking forward to sampling some of the attire.

Ilana Okafor, Dancer Misty Copeland, Cynthia Erivo and Star Jones

It's now time to call out just a couple of my favorite looks of the evening on the ladies and here they are: Amy Fine Collins in a smashing white and black Elizabeth Kennedy Gown; Anh Duong in a fashion forward blue alta moda Dolce and Gabbana pantsuit; Jean Shafiroff in a stunning pink and silver Oscar de la Renta gown that is this season's; Star Jones in a gold gown fresh from Paris; Mary Snow who wore two different gowns one of them being a gorgeous Cavalli gold sequined getup; Radmila Lolly in one of her own showstopping designs;

Exquisite Deeda Blair in Ralph Rucci; Anka Palitz in Monique Lhuillier: Maggie Gyllenhaal bringing it home in a red Monse gown; Cynthia Erivo in a fabulous red Zac Posen; Susan Fales Hill in a spectacular B Michael gown; and my Aunt Bernice who looked positively elegant in a black pantsuit (I love her). This list is by no means exhaustive as there were hundreds of other lovely ladies who wowed and astounded-it's been a long night.

At the conclusion of the evening a DJ played my favorite Michael Jackson and Madonna tunes as Michael Kors and Hamish Bowles danced up a storm with the announcement that a record-breaking $2 million had been raised. At 10:30 PM the night concluded with guests heading home to get ready for tomorrow's big night out-stay tuned.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

The Geoffrey Beene Foundation & Actor Kellan Lutz Unveil Artistic Campaign for New Cancer Research

Diane Clehane and Kellan Lutz
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This week’s lunch at Michael’s is one that is very close to my heart. Having lost both my parents to cancer many years ago, I was more than happy to arrange a meeting between a few of my fellow reporters and the hearts, minds and souls behind The Geoffrey Beene Foundation and the company’s brand ambassador actor Kellan Lutz to talk about their latest groundbreaking initiative “Frame This … Revelations,” created to raise awareness about the need for increased funding for new cancer research through art created by artists with cancer. 

Tom Hutton, sole trustee of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation and president and CEO of Geoffrey Beene and his wife, Mara Hutton, EVP of The Geoffrey Beene Foundation hosted an engaging and enlightening lunch on Table One that brought together Geoffrey Beene brand ambassador actor Kellan Lutz,  Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue and scientist Debyani Chakravarty, Ph.D., Jonathan Amihud, MSK’s public affairs social media strategist, Cool Gray Seven’s Gavin Manley and artist Kym Rampa with Keenan Mayo, executive editor of Best Life, People magazine’s Maggie Parker and entertainment reporter Rob Shuter. It was a terrific group.

While the rest of the room was busy air-kissing and power lunching, everyone at our table was deep in a wide-ranging conversation that covered, among other things, the devastating effects of cancer on patients and their families, the little-known facts about the importance of clinical trials and how celebrity can and should be leveraged in messaging about important causes in the age of social media. 

I don’t mind telling you there were more than a few tears shed, especially when we learned that Kym, the first artist to participate in “Frame This … Revelations,” is battling a very rare type of uterine cancer and recently suffered a setback in her treatment. She is now awaiting word on whether she qualifies to participate in a new clinical trial. As Kym recounted her experience visiting Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue’s laboratory at MSK, we were rendered silent as she bravely recalled what it was like seeing images of her actual tumor for the first time. “It’s hard to put into words what it felt like,” she told us. “But with art, those feelings can come out. I’m glad I have that talent [to paint] and I could do it.” After her visit, she created a stunning painting on a six-foot high, seven-foot wide canvas of a crashing wave with an empty life-jacket floating nearby.

When someone asked why Kym might not possibly be eligible for the aforementioned trial, Christine explained there are many aspects that go into those determinations – and often times, it’s a matter of “economy.” In addition, drug companies often have very narrow parameters for qualifications for their trials making people that fit even slightly outside the requirements ineligible. Christine also explained that simply writing a grant application [for funds needed for trials] is “so much work” and can take many months to be approved. Those delays not only frustrate doctors, but can cost people their lives. “We know what needs to be done, so if we get the money, we can just go ahead and do it,” she said.

Debyani, a scientist who matches MSK patients with trials, added a greater awareness of their potentially life-saving potential is essential. “Too many people don’t know often their best hope is with clinical trials. Only three percent of the population enrolls in clinical trials.”

The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center has conducted over 113 separate new research initiatives/investigations across all cancers resulting in multiple major breakthroughs in cancer therapies. In addition, they have funded 16 shared resource grants - these are grants which provide highly technical equipment to enable precision scientific research. Tom told us that The Center receives over 100 requests for funding every year and makes approved funds available sometimes in as little as three months.

All of this made it even more apparent to the assembled group that the work The Geoffrey Beene Foundation is doing to raise funds and awareness about the importance of new cancer research is incredibly important. Mara and Tom are committed to making “Frame This … Revelations” a powerful part of that strategy. The just-launched campaign was Mara’s brainchild and has issued a call to action to artists battling cancer to apply to visit the labs at The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering and channel their impressions and emotions into art that will help raise awareness about the need for continued funding for new cancer research and for the importance of showing empathy towards those battling the disease.

“The campaign’s slogan is ‘Have a sense of Human,’ explained Mara to the table. “One in three women’s lives are effected by cancer and for men, it’s one in two. It’s an epidemic.”

The goal, said Mara, is to have sixteen artists from every discipline – “painters, sculptors, writers” – create work that reflects their own battle with cancer that would then be part of a specially mounted exhibition that would potentially be featured on dioramas around the country much like the Foundation did with their Rock Stars of Science a few years ago which paired the scientists at The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in national PSA campaign.

“We created the “Frame This … Revelations” campaign for the Geoffrey Beene Foundation as a continuation of our ongoing mission to save lives through the support of new cancer research,” explained Tom. “The concept of using artists and creative talents is that they can frame the artist’s truth about the insidious destruction cancer inflicts on the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of their lives, including their families and friends. We want to stop suffering and save lives.”

They have enlisted brand ambassador Kellan Lutz to help get the word out about the campaign. Kellan is already the ‘face’ of the brand and currently appears in the print advertising campaign aptly titled ‘Man on a Mission’ that has run in men’s magazines including Men’s Fitness. There’s also a television spot that plays off Kellan’s action hero persona. The actor flew in from Los Angeles earlier this week to do a jam-packed media day that included a taped segment on “Frame This … Revelations” on Good Day New York which will air on Friday morning and an interview with WWD. He is also going to meet with the scientists in The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center to get a first-hand look into the science behind the breakthroughs.

When asked why he decided to get involved with The Geoffrey Beene Foundation, Kellan said that he and Tom and Mara had a shared interest in supporting those causes that have meant the most to them having first met six years ago at a benefit in Los Angeles for Saving Innocence, an organization working to stop human trafficking and the sexual exploitation. “When I met them, I loved their passion.”

“I know it takes money and I know I’m an ‘influencer,’” said Kellan using air-quotes to make his point. “When I talk about cancer and the need for funding on social media and I hear back from fans and they share their story, they feel heard and I feel like I’m making a difference.”

He continued, “I lost my grandmother and my uncle, my mother’s only brother, to cancer. I’ve always felt it was important to give back in meaningful ways. Being a celebrity, I have a platform and they needed a platform. It was very organic.”

With over 1 million followers on Twitter with whom he is very actively engaged, Kellan has the potential to mobilize millennials to make this cause their own – and encourage other artists and creatives to apply to be part of the program.

Before the group said their good-byes, Mara stressed that every contribution – no matter how small can go a long way in the fight against cancer. “If you’re going to wage a war on cancer you have to fund it,” she said. “If everyone donated a dollar it would help. We’d love them to donate more, but every dollar counts towards funding new research.  And if you’re an artist with cancer or know one, go to our foundation's website and apply. We need everyone to get involved!”

Scene & Heard Around the Room

Michael Mailer on Table Two … Andrew Stein on Three … British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger just back from Montreal on Four … Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Jeff Greenfield on Table Six … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia at his usual perch, Table Eight … Producer Beverly Camhe on Twelve … NBC’s David Corvo on Fourteen … United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky on Sixteen … LAK PR CEO Lisa Linden with Cushman Wakefield’s Harry BlairEric Margolis from the Toronto Sun on Twenty-three.

I’ll be on location next week. See you at Michael’s in two weeks!

- Diane Clehane

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

FIT's Valerie Steele Transports Audience with Revised "Paris Fashion" Book

 "Paris Fashion: A Cultural History"
All photos Laurel Marcus
Click images for full size views

"I think I keep revising this book as an excuse to keep going back to Paris," said Museum of FIT director Valerie Steele. Last night at the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at FIT, she presented to a full house of the fashion obsessed an in-depth look at the new edition of her "Paris Fashion: A Cultural History" (originally published in 1988), followed by a book signing. The revised and expanded work explores the reasons Paris is considered the capital of fashion.

So what has made Paris the center of fashion for the last 300 years? Steele remarks that it has to do with the "depth and sophistication of performers and spectators. Their culture made it special." Under Louis XIV in the 17th century, France became the most wealthy nation as well as the capital of fashion. "Fashion will be to France, what the gold mines of Peru are to Spain," is the way Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's minister in 1665, described it.

Valerie's presentation to audience at Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at FIT

"Fashion emerged from the court; the 18th century style of clothing was an elaborate style born from an aristocratic culture of novelty" said Steele. A "modiste" or minister of fashion attended to Marie Antoinette who would make house calls (everyone else had to go to the modiste) with different trimmings to apply to a dress in order to change it up.

There was a bit of a division between Paris and London -- Paris was known as "the wicked city of Paris" or "Licentious Paris" as seen in an illustration from the book. The panel on the left shows the original gown along with an eye-popping amount of cleavage (literally a nipple is showing); on the right is how the gown has been modified with a slightly raised neckline which was mocked as "English Prudery." "They made up for it with the bench," quipped Steele, of the right panel's use of an Empire style bench portraying bare-chested women ornamenting the base of the piece of furniture.

Book signing

In the 18th century, London became the capital of men's fashion while Paris remained the sine qua non of women's. Whereas in France there was nothing effeminate about an aristocratic gentlemen wearing a pink jacket with embroidered flowers, England featured the "Natural Man" fashion for upper class men or more of a dark suited look. In 1791 the Count of Mirabeau wore a dark wool suit which was considered a "highly political statement" and "the future of menswear," explained Steele.

Marie Antoinette appeared in a "neoclassical" dress for a portrait stunning and perturbing many as the lightness of the fabric appeared to be underwear. The advent of the "sans culottes" (translated to mean "without knee pants") came one of many French revolutions. Long pants were previously the apparel of the under classes however freedom to wear whatever you wanted was dawning with the new age. "It was considered counter revolutionary to force anyone to wear anything that they didn't want to wear -- questions of dress lay at the heart of the French Revolution," said the curator.

During the Great Revolution of 1789, novelist Balzac advocated dressing for the way you want to become (yes, that's today's "dress for success") to help you rise in society. Baudelaire, one of the first philosophers said of their modern fashion that anyone could aspire to this look of "modern beauty" known as La Parisienne.  Emmeline Raymond, editor of La Mode Illustrée (1867) is credited with saying "In Paris half of the female population lives off fashion and the other half lives for fashion." Fun fact: did you know that in Monet's time you could rent a dress? "Rent the Runway is not a new idea," Steele joked.

By the second half of the 19th century, Charles Frederick Worth had established himself in business as the rise of haute couture dawned. Worth particularly liked American women who he said had "the faces, the figures and the francs," for his creations. At this time came a retail revolution with readymade clothing appearing in department stores. "Milliners had previously paved the way before designers such as Worth, by putting their labels on hats, much like an artist signs his paintings," said Steele.

"Paris theatre was a stage where performers such as Sarah Bernhardt modeled the latest fashions as did the audience. Fashion was an important manifestation of society and culture unlike in America where Henry David Thoreau warned to 'beware of any enterprises that require new clothes.'"

Steele spoke of Poiret who claimed to have abolished the corset in favor of the brassiere although it was not true. "Women claimed they weren't wearing corsets but they were," she said showing a photo of an obviously corseted wasp-waisted woman. The 1920's were also the age of the woman designer including Chanel and Schiaparelli however the Nazi occupation (1935-45) nearly destroyed French fashion. In 1947 Dior introduced the New Look saying that coming out of war women should look like flowers not soldiers.

The end of the 1950's brought a "Youthquake which undercut the whole idea of couture." Steele spoke of how Courreges and Yves Saint Laurent adapted the youth movement with couture versions of modern dressing including the space age dress and the trouser suit. The birth of American Ready-to-Wear came alive in 1973 with the Battle of Versailles in which the fashions of Stephen Burrows and Halston seemed "younger and fresher than their French counterparts also due to their use of African American models."

The 1980's brought designers such as Christian Lacroix. "At that point fashion was really fashionable. By the early 90's we were asking Is couture dead? By 1997 John Galliano at Dior revived it as did McQueen and Givenchy.  Tokyo became a fashion center but Rei Kawakubo shows in Paris. From Moscow to Mumbai -- all have fashion weeks. Didier Grumbach (formerly President of the Fédération Française) now says fashion is a global phenomenon. However, Paris is at least the first among equals," she added.

Steele answered a few questions including one on the role of museums -- "they play a big role since many big fashion houses are collaborating with museums on their own shows.  Fashion today is more widely recognized as an art form -- although the French have always thought of it as such." Her favorite exhibitions include the Charles James show at the Brooklyn Museum ("I wanted to tell the guard to turn around so I could steal a dress.") Her favorite at FIT: the Daphne Guinness Gothic show in 2011.

Steele mentioned that she tends to be influenced by whatever designer she has worked with last. Right now she is working on a Fall 2018 show around the color pink particularly Rei Kawakubo's use of pink in her punk 2001 collection.

How to show a museum that you have curator potential?  "Do things alone such as making up an online exhibition or write a book. Don't wait for them to come to you with ideas." And with that Ms. Steele ascended to her seat at the table, pen in hand to sign her new and improved tome.

- Laurel Marcus