Sunday, May 20, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

At Long Last, the ‘Waight’ is Over!

Meghan Markle arriving in her Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy dress
Click images for full-size views
Photo: Reuters

After months of speculation about THE DRESS, Meghan Markle stepped out of her burgundy Rolls Royce on Saturday morning wearing a custom design by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. It was a surprising but assuredly interesting choice. It’s not only a dress with an important label, but Meghan is a feminist who specifically wanted a woman designer to have the honors. Also, Clare is British, and the first woman to have the title of creative director for the fabled French house, so there is some added symbolism there. Oh, and by the way, Meghan paid for the dress herself.

Amal and George Clooney 

The ceremony (of course I got up at 5 a.m. to watch all the pomp and circumstance) was a global event attended by real royalty and Hollywood and sports royalty. Amal and George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, David and Victoria Beckham, Elton John, Idris  Elba, etc. were all decked out in their Sunday (or should I say Saturday) best.

Serena Williams in Versace with Alexis Ohanian

Watching the arrivals felt more like tuning in to the Academy Awards. It lived up to the hype and more than met its expectations if not more so regarding diversity (Meghan’s American and black heritage were imprinted throughout the ceremony). The only thing that could have made it more diverse and inclusive is if they had a Rabbi lol! It broke with tradition without being disrespectful and defined ‘modern’ fairy tale. When is the last time a black reverend preached to British royalty about the resilience of faith during slavery?

Bishop Michael Bruce Curry

Among the highlights were the rousing sermon, evoking Martin Luther King and emphasizing the redemptive power of love, given by The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry (it was quite a moment though I thought it did go on just a little too long). The Chicago based first black leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States is a descendant of slaves and an LGBT rights activist and was hand-picked by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to address their 600 wedding guests.

Gospel Kingdom Choir

Then there was the 19-year-old cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, with his stirring rendition of Ave Maria (he has the distinction of being the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician Award in 2016). The Gospel Kingdom Choir (clad in pastel dresses and ties) sang Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” (a longtime favorite song of mine) during the wedding. And serenaded the just married couple to the strains of Etta James’ affirmative gospel hymnal “This Little Light Of Mine” as they headed out in the sun to take their horse-drawn coach ride along the streets of Windsor.  Another fantastic touch was the glorious weather. It seems we have traded with England. This past week, it’s been grey damp and rainy here while on the other side of the Atlantic, it’s been uncharacteristically warm and sunny.

The Duke & Duchess of Sussex

Yes indeed, Meghan was a beautiful bride, but I have to admit that I was one of those who was just a tad “underwhelmed” with THE DRESS. If the new Duchess of Sussex had that ‘Markle Sparkle,’ it was not because of the dress, which was simple and understated but for 53 flowers symbolically sewn into the Cathedral veil to represent the 53 commonwealths and the dramatic 16-foot veil. Instead, it was because of her fresh-faced beauty, (freckles and all), her incandescent glow, her public confidence and poise, and the happiness that radiated through her. Of course, the 100-year-old diamond tiara that kept her veil in place (it belonged to Queen Mary and was on loan from Queen Elizabeth), and diamond Cartier ring and bracelet didn’t hurt!

The happy couple 

Let’s face it, Meghan could wear anything and look divine. I get that her style is understated and that she wanted to evoke Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s pared-down minimalism for her big day. One could easily forgive her if she wanted to really go all out with something more elaborate and good for her that she stuck with what she feels "Suits" her (sorry for the pun). Was it modern and clean? Yes, But still, I was just somehow expecting more. I wanted my jaw to drop.

The veil

I know that viewing an all-white gown on television puts one at a disadvantage because it is difficult to appreciate the workmanship, the fabrication, the little details. But if you are foregoing traditional ornamentation and bells and whistles, the shape has to be really exceptional, and I felt this was just too simplified. Meghan has a beautiful figure, and this was a little bit shapeless for me. Someone on television referred to it as a “sculptural masterpiece.” I wouldn’t go that far, but that was what I was hoping for.

I first knew I would be a little disappointed when I caught a glimpse of the bride to be on the way to St. George’s Chapel with her mother in the Rolls Royce. All you could see was the neckline, and I am not a fan of bateau necks (they are neither here nor there, and I prefer face framing necklines or details).

The Duchess of Sussex wearing Stella McCartney

On the other hand, I really liked the white Stella McCartney gown that she wore to the evening reception. Stella, who designed both Amal Clooney and Oprah Winfrey’s ensembles, had been rumored to be making Meghan’s wedding gown and assuredly, this, with its sweeping white skirt, could have easily been just that but for a sleeveless halter top (the bride’s arms had to be covered). Another note: Meghan has beautiful hair. I wished that she had worn it down (or half up, half down) for the ceremony and for the evening reception.

But regardless, there is no doubt that bridal gown companies around the world were waiting with baited breath, to see the silhouette and fabrication of the dress and are already making the most of yesterday’s royal nuptials. The minimal Bessette-Kennedy dress, designed by Narciso Rodriguez was a game changer for the bridal industry and is still referenced to this day. I just hope that future brides don’t get sucked into thinking that Meghan’s dress is the only way to go. After all, style is not a one size fits all proposition. What’s good for one, may not necessarily suit another.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

On Royal Watch by Diane Clehane

When Did the Fairy Tale Wedding Turn into Such a Nightmare?

Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle
Official portrait
Photo: Alexi Lubomirski

With less than a week until the big day, Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry, what everyone expects will be an incredibly elegant royal wedding with all the attendant pomp and pageantry, has been turned – seemingly overnight – into a reality show with a rather pathetic and unexpected star, the bride’s father, Thomas Markle.

How did this happen?

Royal weddings are exercises in protocol and tradition. Ever since the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011, the Palace has been incredibly savvy when it comes to public relations with a website and Twitter feed (@KensingtonRoyal). Everything for this wedding has been handled with the utmost taste and control, timed perfectly to coincide with the mailing of the invitations, the selection of the baker (a lemon elderflower cake with vanilla buttercream frosting for Harry and Meghan), and the recent announcement that Prince William would be Harry’s best man.

Back in March, in my role as royal correspondent for Best Life Online and MSN, I reported based on a reliable source close to the Palace, that William would walk Meghan down the aisle because her father would not be in attendance.

There was no way I thought that Thomas Markle, who had never met Harry and hadn’t seen his daughter in over a year, would be at the royal wedding. Perhaps that’s because his side of the family would be considered too trashy for even a TLC reality show. They all seemed to be in regular contact with him as opposed to Meghan who seemed to spend all her family time with her mother, Thomas’ second and now ex-wife, Doria Ragland. His other children -- Meghan’s half-siblings, the charming Samantha Grant (who has said she’s writing a memoir called “The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister” and told Harry to “man up” on Twitter). And Thomas Markle, Jr. (who was charged with menacing last year when he allegedly pulled a gun on his girlfriend), ratcheted up the crazy and became an almost daily presence in the tabloids and British television trashing Meghan.

These people were from a long-ago chapter in Meghan’s life she had left behind and forgotten – at least until she got engaged to Harry.

In fact, Meghan, who had worked so hard to establish herself as a singularly independent woman and strong voice through her acting career, side hustle as a lifestyle blogger and global activism, had seemingly wiped the slate clean of all traces of her former life – even before becoming engaged to Harry. Her constant presence on social media and her popular blog disappeared early last year when rumors started to bubble up that she was quitting her role in “Suits,” the USA Network show that finally gave her a big break she’d struggled ten years in the business to get.

When the engagement was announced, she moved into Nottingham Cottage with Harry, and the press office at Kensington Palace said Meghan would end her involvement with the charities she’d been working with to join the prince in his philanthropic projects. She was also getting baptized and confirmed into the Church of England. She started wearing hats and pantyhose.

The soon-to-be royal bride who has painstakingly navigated an incredibly smooth transition from Hollywood television star to the first American to marry into the British royal family in eighty-one years was just five days shy of sailing through her engagement without a blip. The formerly snarky (and not so secretly racist) coverage in the British tabloids had been tamed and now was downright gushing in its praise of Meghan’s warmth and poise on walkabouts and newly royal (but still modern) fashion sense.

Then her father decided to stage those fake photographs with the paparazzi.

When the news broke on Sunday, all hell broke loose in TMZ land who somehow managed to be Thomas Markle’s mouthpiece for his version of the story. The Palace, who has been putting on weddings for a century, had lost control of the narrative to an organization known for catching celebrity implosions on video.

And this one was a doozy.

On Monday, Markle backed out of the wedding amid reports he secretly cooperated with Los Angeles photographer Jeff Rayner to stage shots that looked as if he was studying up on Britain while at Starbucks, getting fitted for a suit in some cheesy back room and looking at pictures of Harry and Meghan at an Internet cafe. Breathless reports of how profoundly upsetting this was to the bride-to-be started to surface as did ones who claimed Meghan was texting “I love you” her father and had not heard back.

Markle told a reporter he’d “been away from his phone” when his daughter tried to reach him.


Then came a new twist, TMZ reported Thomas told them he suffered a heart attack six days ago, but checked himself out of the hospital so he could attend the wedding. But the Daily Mail had photos of him at McDonald’s and KFC. According to TMZ, he now had decided not to go because he didn’t want to further embarrass the royal family or his daughter. He also admitted the staged photos looked “stupid and hammy.” Markle told the site he was going along with the paparazzi agency, which he now deeply regrets. He was now planning to stay away from the wedding.

As much I as imagined this was stressful for Meghan, I could not begin to comprehend how furious and confused Harry must have been. He and his brother have always (rightly) believed the paparazzi played a direct role in Diana’s death. To learn that his soon to be father-in-law was in cahoots with the paparazzi must have angered him beyond belief. I’m sure there was some concern from the Palace if this man could be trusted to come anywhere near the wedding – and would he sell the story to a tabloid.

The bride-to-be, who had worked so hard to erase anything that might make those people not-so-sure about her in Britain (believe me, just read the comment sections on British websites – there’s plenty of them), was blindsided.

“Meghan hasn’t put a foot wrong since her engagement to Harry,” one insider told me. “She has worked hard to gain the trust and respect of the Queen and the royal family, and this is hugely embarrassing and upsetting for her.”

The hugely embarrassing story about the fake photos broke right after the Palace issued a statement asking the press to leave Meghan’s father alone. When Markle announced he was backing out of the wedding, TMZ, not the Palace became the go-to source for news. For the father of the bride marrying into the British royal family. The website’s staffers called the whole episode “surreal.”

The only word from the Palace on Monday evening was this: “This is a deeply personal moment for Ms. Markle in the days before her wedding. She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect  be extended to Mr. Markle in this difficult situation.”

Which told reporters precisely nothing -- no confirmation if he was going to be there or that he was not.

On Tuesday, I awoke to the news on the Daily Mail’s website that Markle had changed his mind and was now planning on going. I hadn’t left my office for 13 hours on Monday to chase the story, but I wasn’t going to jump on this bit of news just yet. “This is insane,” I told my editor. “There is no way this guy is any part of the royal wedding now.”

Then came the news Tuesday night – from TMZ that Markle wouldn’t be at the wedding after all because he was going to have heart surgery. Late Wednesday, Markle told TMZ that he completed heart surgery and his doctors implanted multiple stents in his blood vessels. That’s the first thing you do after heart surgery – call TMZ. Not your daughter whose wedding is going to be seen by billions of people in three days.

Color me cynical, but the whole thing makes no sense. The press, who have been able to track Markle’s every movie, can’t seem to find out any information on where Markle had his supposed medical procedure. Nothing. Major news organizations like CNN and NBC are reporting this story according to information that comes from TMZ. It’s as if outlets want to go along with the story because it sullied the one shiny, happy event people are looking forward to during such dark times. We don’t want this ruining the royal wedding.

But this is no “modern fairy tale” as much as I (and presumably, you) want it to be.

I can’t help but think there is so much more to this story than we know – which is scary in and of itself. What is Meghan’s real relationship with her father? Why didn’t the Palace have any control over this story? Is anyone having second thoughts? What must the Queen be thinking about her decision to be so open-minded about welcoming an American actress estranged from her entire family except for her mother? How will this affect the glossy public relations campaign starring their newest modern member? These are real concerns in the UK.

It’s a shame that when people talk about this wedding, this tawdry episode will hang over it. Those Meghan bashers will use it as an opportunity to shore up their argument that she is unfit to be a British royal. The royal haters will say that the Palace should have taken better care of this man, the father of the bride, who is grappling with serious issues.

One thing is for sure, Meghan has had to master the British stiff-upper-lip, and all of this won’t show at all when she steps out of the chauffeured car that will drive her to St. George’s Chapel with her mother at her side. She is going to have to put on the performance of her life on Saturday. The fairy tale is real, she’ll be telling us. I am the heroine of my own story, and I am marrying my prince.

Someone asked me what advice I think Diana would have had for Meghan. I knew the answer right away. There is one thing I know she would have said: “You wanted to be famous. You wanted to change the world. And now you have. Be careful what you wish for.”

- Diane Clehane

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

Swarovski x CFDA Emerging Talent Party Does Brooklyn's DUMBO

Dresses from each of the nominated designers
All photos Laurel Marcus
Click images for full-size views

Downtown is dead, fashionistas!  It seems that Brooklyn is the place for the hopeful haute-wear fan. Last night the crowd "aced" it at the CFDA Fashion Awards Swarovski Nominees for Emerging Talent at the spanking new (not even officially opened yet) DUMBO House (a branch of SoHo House) inside the emerging Brooklyn Bridge Park Empire Stores.

Mike Amiri, Kristopher Brock, Nadja Swarovski, Aurora James, Pyer Moss

The evening’s honorees were Mike Amiri, Kristopher Brock and Laura Vassar of Brock Collection; Aurora James of Brother Vellies; Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, and Sander Lak of Sies Marjan.

The scene

A proffered glass of welcoming and welcome champagne accompanied my elevator ride to the 6th floor where a coat check girl relieved me of my soggy rain things (no Uber in traffic for me -- I'm a subway girl)! The elongated space furnished with comfy seating areas think cool hotel lobby, features picture windows and a spacious outdoor area which I was told was open if I'd like to go outside. Despite the foggy yet still spectacular bridge views I wasn't the only one who stayed inside.

Representative dresses from each of the nominated designers were on mannequins by the windows and the nominees themselves were amongst the throng of well-wishers including your usual suspects: stylists, models, photographers, bloggers, fashion hangers-on and various hyphenates of the above. In the far back, tote bags were being embellished with various designs for anyone brave enough to venture into the dark, cavernous area by the open kitchen (were those actual chickens roasting on the spit flanked by huge cauliflowers?) -- at one point I couldn't even get through the bottlenecked bar gridlock.

Natalie and Dylana

Sisters of the sibling variety -- (maybe "sistas" since they are; despite the theme of the Met Costume Institute; not exactly nuns) are apparently on trend now (thanks Hiltons and "Kardash-Jenns") as evidenced by les Soeurs Suarez (Natalie and Dylana), Coleman (Dren and Angel) and Quann (TK Wonder and Cipriana). Isn't it nice when family members werk and work together?

Steven Kolb

Other fashion notables included Kelela; Diane von Furstenberg; Steven Kolb; Fernando Garcia; Peter Som; Nadja Swarovski; Stacey Bendet; Brian Atwood; Marc Bouwer; Zuri Marley; Carly Cushnie; Jillian Mercado; Young Paris; Roopal Patel, Hannah Bronfman; Timo Weiland. DJ Zuri Marley (daughter of Ziggy and yes, she does write and perform her own songs) spun some serious tunes which along with the cocktails and hors-d'oeuvres including eggplant pizza, beets and goat cheese on endive and veggies in individual glasses with dip, kept the mood energized.

Fuzzy handbags and shoes

Naturally, my most important goal is to discover what young partygoers are wearing. Many of them sported fuzzy shoes and handbags ostensibly from the Brother Vellies collection. I'm wondering what happens to sheep in the rain -- do they get that wet dog stench? Fortunately, I didn't get close enough to derive a definitive answer to that stinking question.

Kinky boots?

What did seem like the perfect fashion accessory -- tailor-made for the rainy night was from last year's CFDA winner Off-White designer Virgil Abloh. In this case it's with his Jimmy Choo collaboration by way of a stiletto heeled plastic covered satin boot (the Elisabeth which retails for about $1,800, if you can find it still in stock) since all the celebs (Rihanna, Bella, Naomi, etc) have been duly shod in them -- which one attendee paired with a denim mini. Interestingly, the collection was inspired by Princess Diana who favored Choo's pumps.  Putting a "shower cap" over them seems fitting, what with the impending royal sh*tshow, er I mean wedding.

Designer Stacey Bendet

In a late night quote to WWD, Nadja Swarovski reportedly said “It’s been so great and inspirational — that’s New York. I have to say, the young design community seems so energized, and very positive. It seems they’re having fun, and it seems they’re confident and happy. I think the industry has changed so much, at least in the seven years we’ve been involved with the CFDA. The young designers are getting so much support and encouragement.” It's nice to know that the CFDA provides this type of long-term assistance and is not just doing all this for a reality TV show -- think Tyra Banks with America's Next Top Instagram THOT, sorry, make that "Model," or Buckingham Palace with hapless Thomas Markle thrown under the double-decker bus.

Stay tuned for more from New York's hottest borough: The 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards, in partnership with Swarovski for the 17th year, will be held on June 4th and hosted by Issa Rae at the Brooklyn Museum.

- Laurel Marcus