Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the Market Report

The Color of Money (In the Bank)

Bill Cunningham's On the Street, It Bag featuring Robert Verdi's
 colorful $120 bags
(Click images for larger views)

Nothing escapes the all seeing eye (and lens) of Bill Cunningham, and he appreciates it all, from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. Though I actually happen to think he REALLY appreciates those who not only exhibit a great deal of personal style, but find a creative way to get around the staggering high prices of fashion (it’s very much in keeping with his practical and economical aesthetic).

The Color of Money (In the Bank) photographed by Bill Cunningham

To wit, many years ago, he began to ask me about my clothes and accessories, which were admittedly, a combination of vintage finds, and ultra-high end pieces (high and low, there you go). He seemed to particularly love it when I told him something was scored for a ridiculously low price. The result was an 18 picture column, “On the Street: The Color of Money (In the Bank)”, which ran in The New York Times Sunday Styles section, February 11, 2000.

Just about now, all the BIG FALL issues are coming out, hawking clothes and accessories with astronomical price tags, (in many cases the prices are so heart failure evoking, they are not even listed but instead, the copy reads, “price upon request”). Leave it to the ultra-modern and with it Bill to put the spotlight on a great looking bag made of a durable,  EDA material, popularly priced at $120

Great Bag Co. Model M bag

His Sunday column “It Bag” featured Robert Verdi’s ‘Model M’ bag for the Great Bag Co. (Robert wanted to use this name for his company rather than his own, because whenever he sees someone carrying a fabulous bag, he exclaims: “That’s a great bag”!) The lightweight, stylish, stress crack resistant bag (which is easy to clean and will never slouch), is a one- piece molded handbag (an injected mold product, like Hunter boots). It’s made of a proprietary polymer called Fashion Flex and weighs only 1.4 lbs. It was approximately one year in the making (“the strap was the biggest challenge” Robert told me) and was formally introduced at a launch party held at the Bridgehampton home of Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch last summer.

Closeup of Model M's buckle

Bill likened the bag’s handsome shape to that of the iconic Hermes Kelly and Birkin, but Robert sees it as a “finely crafted generic Italian leather handbag”. An avowed and longtime collector of ‘major’ handbags (he claims when he dies, there will be an amazing auction of his swoon worthy collection), he was inspired by all the details he personally loves: locks, padlocks, skeleton keys (“which are not being used anymore”). More importantly, he wanted to create an affordable “forever chic” bag that “people depend upon”, such as the L.L. Bean boating tote (always imitated, never duplicated).

He considers Model M (named after his mother Maria, who has always inspired him), a “fresh, modern version of that idea”. And he proudly hails it as “futuristic”, not only in its look, but since it is a single unit, (goes from “pellet to product”), and doesn’t require assembly (which reduces the cost of manufacturing), it is the “future of accessories”. It is currently available in 7 vivid colors (emerald, onyx, tourmaline, citrine, diamond, topaz, and aquamarine), but 5 more are planned for this fall (oxblood, brick red, chocolate brown, olive green, navy), and two more for holiday (matte gold and silver). When I asked Robert if he had a follow-up model planned, he told me he is concurrently working on a small cross body, a messenger, and a clutch.

Robert Verdi monogram gift bag

By the way, I was not in the least bit surprised that the always inventive and creative Robert (he started out as a successful designer of hand crafted silver jewelry, is currently selling sunglasses on HSN, and is working on a watch collection) has finally gotten into handbags. In 2013, in celebration of his 15 year anniversary in the fashion business, he designed a striking gift bag filled with a sweatshirt with his likeness, and gave them out during New York Fashion Week in September of that year. He took 300 black cardboard boxes and he had them printed with his interlocking initials, RV, in white.

It looked exactly like the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram which is probably not a coincidence since Robert is an admitted Louis Vuitton aficionado and it’s a brand he’s always collected and been associated with. It was as he put it, a “whimsical, amusing concept” for him; one which perfectly reflected his sense of style and his sense of humor. I still use this bag today as it is compact yet roomy, lightweight, goes with everything and is highly distinctive (it’s doubtful I will find too many others carrying it). And it’s a cheeky take on a luxurious standby.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Em-Bell-ished Jeans are Back: Bell Is Optional

Embellished hippie jeans

Did you ever think that we'd be revisiting denim bell bottoms much less those with patches or embroidery? The scene: early '70s, junior high school. The crime: everyone owned that one very special pair of embellished jeans. The guilty party: Landlubbers of course, indicated by the iconic orange and purple label as well as the embroidered purple "L" on the back pocket. Jeans had no stretch in those days and the reigning wisdom was to buy them as tight as you could stand them, necessitating all sorts of weird contortions such as laying on your back in order to zip them up.

Embroidered Landlubbers

The "customized" hippie jean was the thing that determined how cool you were, to my knowledge you couldn't just buy them already decorated. My jeans had all the accoutrements: Happy Face patch, peace sign, inked drawing of flower power traveling down one leg, and various other timely embellishments adorning the wide flared legs. I can actually recall wearing my Landlubbers and feeling groovy in a scoop neck body suit, tie-dyed tee or cropped button down tied at the navel. I even had a floppy, fringed denim hat and a gold paper clip chain with a whistle while my feet were shod in Kork-Ease wedge sandals. Who had any idea that fast forward forty-plus years, my early teenage look would still be all the rage?

I did a little digging into the history of Landlubber products and found that they were originally manufactured in Massachusetts. At their peak in the mid-70's they enjoyed retail sales of about $100 million. Once 1979 rolled around, the extreme flare leg, or "elephant-bell" was dead and Landlubber ceased production. Americans re-discovered Levi's 501's : in fact it was a definite trend in my high school for girls to wear boys Levi's complete with gaping waistband, as well as Guess modified peg legs.

Seafarer mid-rise deep vintage flower Syrene jean

Landlubbers were briefly brought back in 1990, with another iteration of less flared and higher rise pants through a licensing agreement from Hoffman Apparel, which owns the rights to the name.   They were sold at Macy's, Canal Jeans, Trash & Vaudeville and Bloomingdale's for around $42, a big increase from the 1964 original version which sold for $7 to $10 at Army-Navy stores. I actually think mine were from a super cool second-hand store that all my friends shopped at, however I certainly did my fair share of raiding the Army Navy stores for other cool styles including over-dyed jeans.

The Seafarer jeans

With the current '70s fashion revival in full tilt, we've seen plenty of flared leg jeans but not so many of the decorative or embroidered style--until now. I was excited to see a luxe version from The Seafarer of this old-new trend a few weeks ago on Moda Operandi, the web site that features trunk shows from upcoming designer collections. MO featured a pair of the brand's Museum-Worthy Embroidered jeans ($530), so called because the Metropolitan Museum actually owns a pair of Seafarer jeans in their permanent collection. I had previously never heard of The Seafarer, a brand that was initially developed and inspired from the sailor pants of enlisted men's uniforms. The sailor pant was originally created in the 1900s by Italian immigrant and US Navy veteran Tony Alzalone.

Jane Birkin in seafarer jeans

During the 1960s and '70s fashion icons such as Brigitte Bardot, Ursula Andress, Jane Birkin, Raquel Welch, Jacqueline Bisset and Farrah Fawcett found Seafarers in second-hand stores and embraced the look. Seafarers were re-launched in 2013 by an Italian design team in a pop-up shop at Colette in Paris. I recommend checking out their Instagram for some great denim inspo! The brand can also be found locally at Maggy Frances (280 Mott Street) and online at Luisaviaroma, Shopbop as well as several other online stores.

Stella McCartney the skinny boyfriend jeans

If you fancy the embroidered denim jean look but can't wrap your head (or your lower extremities) around the flare leg, then take a look at Stella McCartney's Fall collection, recently seen at Saks and on Her Bow-Embellished tomboy jeans are $780, Wild Cat skinny boyfriend jeans are $735 and embroidered skinny boyfriend jeans are $695.

Stella McCartney jeans at Saks

In case you believe in that old saw about not wearing a revival trend if you wore it the first time around, I say nonsense. If the embellished jean fits, why not give them a chance to transport you back to your youth?

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, August 17, 2015

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner


Diana Broussard dbChronicle bag 

Diana Broussard, (who was the subject of a prior blog), just launched the Limited Edition dbChronicle bag, $1950 (only 150 were made) and it’s ‘technically’ speaking, the best bag I’ve ever seen! It is fabulous and sleek looking: made of her signature resin (plexiglass) with a version of her signature NATE chain as the shoulder strap, you have your choice of gold or palladium hardware, and it also has a small metal chain inside. It's not only sleek but high tech and actually allows you to personalize and carry your own video wherever you go. Perfect for upcoming New York Fashion Week

This is how it works. The Diana Broussard video has been downloaded inside the memory disk. There are two other video spaces which allow you to personalize the bag. You can convert any video to AVI to download it and the video will automatically play one after the other. It comes with a USB cable to add or remove the videos. The same cable can be used for recharging the battery with the electric plug, or you can use it to recharge to PC/laptop (the battery lasts for 90 – 120 minutes).

dbChronicle bag screen side

When I asked Diana what initially inspired her to come up with the idea, she answered: “The factory with whom I am working has been perfecting this for six months. I was asked to design some clothing with flexible LCD screen for a group of architects, and I have been constantly thinking about LCD and a way to truly make a luxury accessory ever since”.
MK: “How long did you work on it?” 
DB: “Six months on the handbag, and then there was the collaboration with Giovanni Locantore, a young motion graphics artist that I love. From there, I approached David Lang, the Pulitzer Prize winning composer that I had worked with briefly on a project for Susan Marshall and the Next Wave Festival at BAM. He provided the ideas from his vast repertoire of pieces. It is performed by So Percussion (published by Red Poppy Music from the album The Woodmans: Music from the Film, courtesy of Cantaloupe Music). We finished the video and music within two weeks. THe collaboration just clicked.
MK: “Are there any other tech things planned for the future?” 
DB: “Yes, I am working on a unisex tote with a flexible LCD screen. I love this chic dbChronicle bag, but a great bag to throw in a computer and work items is a near future must.”

 Louis Vuitton gold and silver Epi Mini Trunk Bag  Fall/Winter 2015

Speaking of structured bags with distinctive hardware, it’s virtually impossible to open any of the BIG Fall fashion magazines without seeing images of Nicolas Guesquiere’s trunk bags for Louis Vuitton from fall 2015. First spotted on the Paris runway earlier this year, they are featured in editorials, and ‘star’ in the company’s advertising campaigns (a curated series photographed by Juergen Teller and Bruce Weber). They will also run you well upwards of $4,000. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Some of the best trunk shaped bags are those produced by Borsa Bella in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s, which I’ve been collecting for years.Also known as train case bags, they, like the Louis Vuitton incarnations, immediately evoke memories of a time (long past), when traveling (and traveling by train) was actually glamorous, luxurious and romantic (decidedly more ‘Orient Express’ than #4 or #5 Lexington Avenue Express no doubt).

Black crocodile effect vintage Borsa Bella trunk  bag

Borsa Bella bags are made in Italy, and the name translates to “beauty purse”. Constructed of sturdy, durable vinyl (in finishes that resemble alligator, crocodile, snakeskin, etc.), other signature features include the use of distinctive gold metal hardware, double swivel handles, t-latch closure, key latch closure, signature lining with label, and double opening which makes them convenient. The typical size is 8” wide, 6 12” high, and 5 ¼ inches deep (compact yet surprisingly roomy).

Vintage Borsa Bella red lizard trunk bag

The good news is that they are always available at vintage shows, on vintage websites, on Ebay and on Etsy, and I’ve seen them priced from about $50 to $300, but are mainly in the $100 range. A recent search turned up several good ones. A $75 Borsa Bella bag in a shimmery black textile punctuated with pewter hardware, a $150 red lizard with gold toned hardware; one auctioned in black "crocodile" and another $59 in white.

- Marilyn Kirschner