Sunday, April 19, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™: "The Power of Fashion" Symposium

All photos Laurel Marcus

Last Friday I attended Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute 5th Annual Symposium entitled “The Power of Fashion.”  The event was held in Fordham’s stunning new space at 150 W. 62nd Street. As you may have guessed from the title, this year’s theme revolved around electricity, wearable tech, connectivity, power dressing, and even the bankruptcy session was entitled “Pulling the Plug.” Fittingly, the day ended with a reception and brief CuteCircuit Fashion Show. Professor Susan Scafidi, founder of FLI, accented her all black attire by matching the cover of the program with her red “electric” pumps. She also carried a beaded bag designed to look like a computer circuit board. At 9 a.m. she welcomed the audience of about 120 lawyers, including more men than last year, to “Boot up!” and then the first panel “Purchasing Power: Mergers & Acquisitions and Fashion Investment” began.  Note to those who are not really interested in the business end of fashion: you may want to skip ahead to the third panel.

Gary Wassner, Yolanda Wardowski, Susan Scafidi

Hopefully, without boring you to tears here’s a recap of what I learned about M & A: Fashion designers need capital to run their business. According to Gary Wassner of Hilldun Corporation and Interluxe Holdings, investors can come in during various growth periods; when a clothing line has reached certain financial levels. At the $5 million mark you are probably relying on friends and family, at $10M you are looking for individuals, $15-20M means “you have proven yourself. You’ve hit every major luxury store and should be expanding your product line to include accessories, shoes, home goods.” That is also the level at which Mr. Wassner might take an interest in your company however he prefers companies that don’t have multiple investors as it’s very difficult to buy everyone out. “Fashion schools don’t teach the business of fashion” chides Mr. Wassner but mentions that there is an effort by the CFDA to remedy that. Perhaps he’s alluding to the CFDA Fashion Fund helping out designers with cash and mentoring?  IP (Intellectual Property which is made up of patent, copyright, trademark, or mark as lawyers call it, and trade secrets) is of the utmost importance. “Where is it and can it be moved globally? Who has liens on what?” he continued. Lastly he mentioned an interesting phenomenon: “In the history of American fashion there has not been a company that remained successful once the name designer has passed away.” He used Geoffrey Beene and Halston as examples and mentioned that only Oscar de la Renta planned for his successor. Wassner’s son Brien, the moderator for the panel of four, a lawyer for Jones Day adds that “Many private equity firms won’t even look at the fashion industry where a business relies so heavily on one individual.”

The second panel dealt with Fashion Companies, Dissolution and Bankruptcy.  James Michael Peck of Morrison & Foerster told the story of Betsey Johnson who “came out fine after bankruptcy” as she had sold her IP two years before to Steve Madden who wiped out 48 million of her company’s debt. In case you’re interested in how a seemingly successful company like Betsey Johnson got into trouble, they had expanded a lot and in 2007 she had transferred the essence of her business to a public equity fund. In 2008 when the “world came to an end” in the stock market crash she was $50-60M in debt and needed to restructure or file bankruptcy which is where Steve Madden came in and bought the IP for significant value. In the case of the Syms/Filene’s Basement bankruptcy, Laura McCabe Brandt, a bankruptcy attorney at Brandt Law PLLC, determined that “all the value was in the real estate not the inventory” to which I said duh!” to myself. Jay Silverberg of the Silverberg Law Firm, LLC made a comment that bankruptcy is really “the new M & A” which the lawyers thought was hysterical. He also spoke of that all important IP again. “Twenty years ago we never looked at IP. Now we file on it. Selling IP to a distributor database has financial value and is part of the asset valuation” he said. While many fashion brands including Kenneth Cole (who is closing his stores and concentrating on shoes and e-commerce) are cutting back or going under, Coach’s decision to go big and buy Stuart Weitzman was termed “a Hail Mary pass” and “strange in this world” by Ms. Brandt.

A color coordinated panel (L to R) Susan Scafidi, Rachel Larris, Lyn Paolo,
Jeffrey Banks, Vanessa Friedman, Carol Hochman

The third panel “Power Dressing: Politics, Dress Codes, and the Public Eye” was where things got interesting. This panel consisted of no lawyers (!) including Jeffrey Banks, designer and author, Vanessa Friedman, fashion editor of The New York Times, Carol Hochman, RHH Capital and Consulting, Rachel Larris, Women’s Media Center and Lynn Paolo, Costume designer for “Scandal,” “Shameless” and “The West Wing.” This lively discussion had to do with women who run for political office being shamed or called out for any aspect of their appearance while the focus on men’s appearance is minimized. Professor Scafidi served as moderator and opened it up by asking everyone what they thought about the #AskHerMore campaign in which female celebrities on the red carpet are pushing back about being asked who they are wearing and primarily about their attire. “I think it’s hypocritical,” said Ms. Friedman. “If you’re being paid XX millions of dollars to wear a brand you should promote it and not say I don’t want to talk about it.”

Ms. Friedman also pointed out that she is an “equal opportunity clothing commenter” having written about David Cameron’s sartorial style (albeit when she was with the Financial Times). A more recent article on Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister discussed his eschewing of the necktie. “I got hate mail for that article. People said ‘Why are you writing about his tie, not his politics. Well, for one thing, it’s my job. I’m the fashion writer. I’m not Tom Friedman. I’m Vanessa” she quipped. Ms. Friedman also mentioned that John Edwards’ hair once made the front page of the Times whereas Hillary Clinton’s has not. As far as Hillary’s pantsuits being grist for the fashion mill, Ms. Friedman said:  “The best approach is to acknowledge it, own it, and move on. If you’re sensitive about it you give it power.” She mentioned that Ms. Clinton had done just that by making fun of her pantsuits and scrunchies in front of the CFDA. Both Ms. Friedman and Mr. Banks addressed President Obama’s khaki suit and Mr. Banks said the problem with it was the fit and that it looked too big.

Rachel Larris brought up heretofore little known Texas Senator Wendy Davis who, in June 2013 gave a pro-choice 13-hour filibuster. Larris believes that the AP’s call out of her “pink tennis shoes” in the headline undercut Davis’s message and hurt her in the public eye. “Is a guy in Texas going to vote for her when they call her Barbie in pink tennis shoes?” Larris asked. Finally Ms. Hochman gave the obvious answer, one that I was squirming in my seat to say which was that it had nothing to do with the pink tennies. “She could have been wearing a gunny sack and he wouldn’t have voted for her anyway” Hochman said. In contrast, Ms. Hochman believes that Ms. Davis “needed those pink sneakers. After all we wouldn’t have even heard about her filibuster if not for them.” Ms. Larris is representing a group called which seeks to educate the media to use “gender neutral coverage” to prevent “unconscious bias.”

As for what one should be wearing on a personal level, Ms. Paolo mentioned that she dresses herself for a role every morning factoring in where she is, what she’ll be doing, who she’ll be seeing and what is appropriate as well as comfortable. Everyone on the panel agreed that fit was of the utmost importance, showing some gravitas in power dressing while striving for “appropriateness.” They mentioned those who have bucked the trend such as Yahoo President Marissa Mayer who wears long floral dresses and cardigans which is about as far from the image of suited up power dressing as you can get, yet is still taken seriously.

After a “Power Lunch” of assorted salads and cold pasta it was back for “Power Centers: Battling Across Jurisdictions in World War IP.”  If you’re still with me I’ve got good news! I went out like a light (how appropriate) upon hearing “IP is really the backbone of the fashion industry.” It was time for my after lunch power nap so my apologies to Vince Castiglione, VF Corporation, Pamela Echevarria, Fashion Law of Argentina Foundation, G. Roxanne Elings, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Michelle Marsh, Kenyon & Kenyone LLP, Donna Ruggiero, The Estee Lauder Companies and moderator Ewa Abrams, Tiffany & Co. BTW, I noticed the guy to my left also dozed off.

Coco Rocha, James Conran, Doreen Small, Wayne Sterling

I was well rested for the next session entitled Connectivity: Modeling and the Power of Social Media which featured panel members Richard Cleland, Federal Trade Commission, James Conran, Artist and Business Manager, Melissa Wilhelmina Cooper, Wilhelmina Models, Chris Gay, Elite World Group, Coco Rocha, Supermodel and Social Media Pioneer, Wayne Sterling, The Image Management and Moderator Doreen Small, Marquart & Small.  This session explained how models now need to have a “personality” via social media whereas before they had no voice. When Ms. Rocha started blogging “the industry hated it” she said. “Now even Karl Lagerfeld’s cat has one!” You go Choupette! She mentions that her 3 week old daughter Ioni is also on social media mainly because other people tried to register in her name. This strikes me as awful but somehow humorous as Mr. Conran, who is Coco’s husband, mentions the import of keeping an “authentic voice” meaning that they don’t employ anyone to handle Coco’s social media. “If someone is handling it at a PR firm it can become obvious if cross promoting starts to seep in.” Back in the day when Naomi Campbell began modeling, the client would want to see her book, her walk and check her face for spots. Now it’s all about how many Instagram followers you have. According to Mr. Sterling “the pace is set by Kris Jenner. If Kendall has 20 million Instagram followers and she gets a Vogue cover and if 10% of her followers buy her Vogue cover, that’s 2 million in sales. The ability to generate fame is a skill unto itself. You don’t need a talent” he adds.

Ms. Cooper adds that “the world is really changing and the public is selecting the models now. It’s not enough to be beautiful.” Mr. Gay mentions that clients are demanding a social media calendar. Models are “micro celebrities” and must “engage with the brand. It’s all about their ability to connect with their audience." Their careers are based by how they move from brand to brand.” He mentioned his clients (models) often eclipse whatever magazine they’re in, in terms of desired demographics and curated content. “Everyone now wants to be a curator of content. It’s a very competitive distribution of influence. Mr. Cleland mentioned the idea of transparency and that models and companies must disclose that they are endorsing a brand for payment as well as bloggers incorporating the message that they received a particular product for free or are being paid to hype it. Mr. Cleland mentioned a Nordstrom Rack contest where $1,000 could be won for posting 5 pairs of shoes on Pinterest which should have contained a disclosure that those doing so were entered in a contest. Mr. Gay thinks that “We should all be IP lawyers. You have to be very careful…there’s a fine line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

CuteCircuit fashion show

The last session before the fashion show was called “The Power of 2: Licensing and Wearable Technology” and focused on a Skype session from London with the “power couple” of CuteCircuit Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz. Unfortunately, the Skype technology was less than perfect, intermittent and involved a lot of constant maintenance. In a nutshell, CuteCircuit introduced the ideas behind their collections to combine microelectronics and fashion. They spoke about several of their products including the Hugshirt which was awarded “Best Invention of the Year” by Time Magazine and enables you to give a friend across the miles the ability to feel hugged by you due to pressure points where you have squeezed the garment. Of course, Katy Perry put them on the map when she wore one of their color changing light-up dresses to the Met Gala however she mistakenly said the creators were from France when she was interviewed on the red carpet. Oops!

Monica Richman of Dentons gave a visual aid of the evolution of tech products starting with the “Get Smart” shoe phone which was humorous.  She said that the Apple watch is fashionable because Anna Wintour gave it fashion status by placing it on a Japanese Vogue cover. Natasha Sardesai-Grant, senior director of Intellectual Property at Ralph Lauren as well as a technological genius with an engineering degree, talks a bit about the RL smart shirt and creating in-house wearables versus subcontracting them. I am convinced she is also a rocket scientist in her spare time. Speaking of technological advancements, Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo who is working on a “shirt that doesn’t stink for Lululemon” was a bit skeptical of the Apple Watch. “I suppose dinner would be more enjoyable without phones on the table” he quipped. As for Google Glass and it’s collaboration with Diane Von Furstenberg, will she be successful in making it less “geeky?” There are licensing issues as well as the problem of combining aesthetics and technology organically into something that people want to use or wear. Once again the question is raised of “Who owns the IP?” Someone brings up the fact that companies are buying companies just to get their patents. For some reason I think of Daimler Chrysler, knowing that Mercedes bought Jeep in order to steal their trade secrets.

It is now 5:30 p.m. (whew! I made it through) and finally time for the reception with blue “electric lemonade” that tastes like 7-Up, crudités and an excellent cheese platter. We adjourn to the room where lunch was previously, now laid out in a double aisle fashion show format. If you blinked, you missed it…after much fanfare the CuteCircuit fashion show is over in seconds. I say goodbye to some lawyers I’ve met and run out blinking into what’s left of daylight. All my circuits are fried and I think IP now stands for "I’m Perplexed".

- Laurel Marcus

Saturday, April 18, 2015

In the Market Report: Neck & Neck With Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour wearing her Georgian collet necklaces
Photos: Vogue & Style,.com

Anna Wintour is one of the most consistently turned out women in fashion, if not the world. But while she may vary her ensembles somewhat, there are certain accessories she never seems to be without. In addition to her every hair in place bob (I guess you can consider it an accessory), and her oversized Chanel shades, she has an undeniable penchant for Georgian Collet necklaces which she often layers two, three, or four at a time, mixing the colors. She wears them year round, and for both day and evening (with long gowns, simple sheath dresses, tweed skirt suits, fur and fur trimmed coats, simple t shirts, etc.)

Ralph Lauren Spring 2015
(Lauren photos:

It’s been hard not to notice that Ralph Lauren has been similarly smitten. His Spring 2015 collection shown last September, (a study in “exotic luxury”), had a romantic safari theme, with luminous colors (citrine, orange, fuchsia) playing off khaki. On the runway, he accessorized many of his outfits with multi colored stone necklaces, and often layered them in such a way as to completely cover the bodice.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2015

Ralph is the master of the unexpected mix, and one of the first designers who routinely and offhandedly mixed day and night, boy and girl, soft and hard, street and couture, old and new. The way he played down the formality and extravagance of these eye catching stone necklaces with the more informal and utilitarian cargo shirts, shirt jackets, jumpsuits, (and one show stopping floor length gown), was particularly effective (especially since the pieces were made of gusty suede and cotton drill, in addition to silk gazar).

Ralph Lauren Spring 2015  

The aforementioned necklaces, made of Swarovski crystals, are available in his collection stores and online (, and range in price from approximately $995 - $2495. But as it turns out, many are made of paste, and they are relatively easy to find in far less expensive incarnations.

Anna Wintour inspired collet necklace from Sacred Cake 

Etsy ( has several enterprising sellers who have been capitalizing on Anna’s beloved signature necklaces, a few going so far as to advertise their selection as such. One shop in particular, called Sacred Cake specializes in “Anna Wintour inspired Georgian collet necklaces” (in addition to assemblage jewelry and unique gifts). Priced from $88 - $103, they are all made to order (Jennifer Valentine uses vintage and new Czech glass rhinestones) and you have your choice of size, shape, and color of stone (citrine, olive green, gray, rhinestone, light blue, sky blue, rose pink, purple, sunlight), and finish (silver, antique gold, bronze).

Anna Wintour cheering on Roger Federer wearing her
signature necklaces

So, the bottom line is that you may never be as powerful as Anna, or have her enviable wardrobe, but you can easily follow her lead and add some color, shine, and interest to your neck, and whatever it is you’re wearing.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, April 17, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Lynn Goldsmith Streets of NYC Exhibition

Song writer, film director, prolific rock and roll photographer, multi-award winner -- all of these titles and more describe Lynn Goldsmith. For over 40 years she has been a chronicler of artists with her camera lens sharply focused on "breaking limiting thought patterns." Last night I attended a preview for her latest exhibition at the Morrison Hotel Gallery entitled "Streets of NYC" which features some of her greatest photographs from 1973 to 2013. The theme is that each of these photos was taken of a performer or performers in the case of band members, whilst pounding the pavements of our city. They were also taken without benefit of assistants including makeup and hair people and after formal studio portrait sessions, when Lynn and her subjects would walk around NYC. The exhibit is on view until May 6th and is worth seeing particularly if you are of the baby boomer generation who grew up with these icons.

Lynn Goldsmith

As I walked in to the opening cocktail party last night I immediately witnessed an all too familiar sight: a small cadre containing Ms. Goldsmith, Gallery owner Peter Blachley and others posed for the all important group selfie; stick included. I had an intense feeling of deja vu for two reasons, one being that nearly every party I attend now involves me walking in on a group selfie (shameful, I know). The other is that the last time I was in this same location was for the Frank Sinatra exhibition of photographs which included the infamous early selfie that he had taken in his bathroom mirror. Not only that but I could overhear Mr. Blachley referencing that exact story of having the Sinatra selfie hanging on the gallery wall just a few weeks ago and how it was publicized as one of the first of this now (all too) popular genre. Is that life coming full circle or what?

Steve Winwood 1982

Goldsmith, who originally hails from Detroit, earned two degrees from the University of Michigan in English and Psychology. In the early '70s she took a job at Elektra Records. She became a director for Joshua Television (the company that brings video magnification to large rock concerts) as well as the youngest member ever inducted into the Director's Guild of America. She later went to ABC's In Concert, and became of the first directors of film promotion for musical artists with Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band" which led her to a job as co-manager of the band. She has written songs with numerous notables such as Sting, Steve Winwood, and Todd Rundgren. By the mid '70s she left directing and song writing to focus on her photography.

David Byrne and Talking Heads

Her photographic body of work is staggering and has been featured on and between the covers of Life, Newsweek, Time, Rolling Stone, Interview, People, Sports Illustrated, in museums, as well as on over 100 album covers; two examples are Frank Zappa's Sheik Yerbouti, and Patti Smith's Easter. She has published ten books of her works, I wish I'd had more time to read the two that were there during the show as they were fascinating:  I always love hearing the back story behind the image.

Lynn's iconic leather jacket was worn by many including Bruce Springsteen
 and Frank Zappa

Speaking of images, she debunks several of the commonly held ones about various artists, generally that they were not as wild as they would have liked the world to believe. In the case of Keith Richards though, she makes it clear that you can believe everything you've ever heard. Goldsmith says she actually passed out cold on the bathroom floor after photographing him and simply inhaling the fumes present in the room from the gigantic joint that he smoked. She details many of her ongoing relationships with the artists including Bruce Springsteen who she lived with, and discusses her use of various techniques such as props (her own studded leather jacket became an important article and eventually ended up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a story which she details in her work "Photodiary").

Matt Dillon NYC Sunday 1981

The exhibition includes photos of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Debbie Harry, The Police, U2, Van Halen, Keith Richards, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, Laurie Anderson, Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Keith Haring, Steve Winwood, Annie Lennox and more. The stories of how she came to photograph various celebrities, many of whom didn't really want their photos taken, makes you see how she had to use her psychology degree to get them to cooperate.

Richard Gere 1983

I'm not sure I can pick a favorite but I did overhear a guest saying he really liked the Richard Gere photo since there are two girls at the top of the stairs who are giggling at Gere and he is looking up at them, aware of the attention. In terms of iconic New York scenes, I guess I'd have to choose the one of Matt Dillon on the subway car as a shout-out to how I remember the trains of that era. I read on Lynn Goldsmith's Facebook page that it really was a struggle for her to edit the quantity of photographs for this exhibition; not at all surprising for such a prolific photographer.

Morrison Hotel Gallery is located at 116 Prince Street in Soho.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

A "Fringe" Group Goes Mainstream For Festival Style

Jimi Hendrix Woodstock 1969

Grab your fanny pack or more likely your cross body designer bag. We are now beginning the journey which is music festival season. SXSW is in the rear view mirror, ditto for half of Coachella. There is a long and winding road with miles of festivals to follow throughout the summer and into the early fall. In case you were caught unaware, festival is a clothing season, or at the very least a retail category. All the young, trendy retailers now have a festival section on their website or in their physical store; that's if it doesn't encompass the entire store, as in the case of Free People.   I'm sure you're familiar with the uniform:  the crocheted crop tops or bra tops, the eyelet lace white boho shorts or dresses, the Dylanlex or replica silver tribal jewelry, the denim cut-offs, the gladiator sandals or suede booties, the felt hat or flower crown, the loose flowing batik or colorful dresses.

Gigi Hadid at Coachella

One element that seems mercifully absent this season at Coachella is the previously omnipresent tie-dye but I'm told it is still going strong at other "hippie" festivals whereas you will see neon everything at an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival. Every year it seems more and more that we are taking our style cues from festival which could go a long way towards explaining why so many major designers went rogue with retro Woodstock for SS2015. Although, as I said, festival is a youthquake, perhaps "wasted" (yes, both meanings apply) on the young, I admit to a few #FOMO moments last weekend while watching AC/DC on stage at Coachella. I realize that I am so "past it" in terms of much of the fashion, however, keep me away from any suede or faux suede fringed article of clothing or be prepared to see me in it. I'm actually embarrassed to admit how many such pieces (jackets, vests, handbags, boots) I own. Of course, judging from the looks of things on the grassy fields of Coachella (drought? no drought here.) I'm far from alone in my obsession. Luckily for my fringed suede and suede-like section of the closet, I have turned my addiction for such items towards my festival going daughter's wardrobe.

Fergie in a Alberta Ferretti vest

The faux suede has certainly improved in the past few years and I've decided that it makes much more sense, particularly if you're festival-bound, to stick with these items. My best purchases for her include a pair of poly suede H&M drawstring shorts with pockets ($9.95) and a similar pretender-to-the-suede-throne lightweight fringed jacket by SW3 Bespoke (at Shopbop and Saks for around $250). Fergie who obviously is not concerned with budget or age rocked out at Coachella last weekend in an Alberta Ferretti dark brown suede fringed vest along with denim cut-offs.  Her selection, a cool $4,820, is currently sold out at Net-A-Porter. Both Gigi Hadid and BF Cody Simpson took turns rocking fringed suede items on succeeding days of the three-day festival.

Met Museum Mans shirt

For anyone who is an anti-cultural appropriation zealot (ha), you know, those opposed to the wearing of Native American headdresses at Coachella and other festivals, good news! It seems the masses have gotten the message as I haven't viewed any photos of anyone going full-on Commanche. The current exhibit of "The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art would probably be a better place to see such articles including a warrior's highly artistic fringed and beaded shirt circa 1810. I hate to think what that would cost if a top designer were to try to duplicate it today!

Alberta Ferretti SS2015

Of course not all music festivals enjoy weather as sunny, or abounding celebs (proximity to L.A., duh!), or as many off-site parties as the more mainstream Coachella. I've been informed by my offspring that no one cares about the music anymore at Coachella, rendering it one of the lamest festivals. An article in The New York Times Style section today ("Come for Coachella, but Party at #Nochella") seems to support her view adding that many are only there to attend the branded and sponsored parties including "daytime chill-out sessions" ie. pool parties or "nighttime ragers," and are mainly interested in seeing celebs and drinking alcohol.

Katy Perry at Coachella

I would imagine that if you're not worried about dunking your hem in the on-site porta potties, your choice of apparel could lend itself to something more delicate, perhaps along the lines of the long sheer floral skirt worn by Katy Perry.

Lena Hall

I had the good fortune to see singer/actress Lena Hall perform at Cafe Carlyle on Tuesday night (see New York Times review) and noted that she was wearing a similar dress (black background/large scale floral) which somehow managed to showcase both her bohemian bent (she grew up in San Francisco with "hippie" parents she says) and her Broadway/rock/blues sensibilities. I had seen Hall in her Tony award winning performance as Yitzhak in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" as Neil Patrick Harris' husband; she maintains that semblance of androgyny in her lounge act with her raspy voice and preference for singing songs made famous by male singers. During the course of her set, she consumed three large bottles of water with a "whiskey sandwich" (which she described as two whiskey shots with a whiskey in between), just in case you didn't get the message that she's one of the guys. After performing a ballad rendition of the Talking Heads "Psycho Killer" she mentioned that lead singer David Byrne would be attending her show the next night. I'm still wondering if that's true or if she says that every night in hopes of boosting sales for the following evening's show.

All of this just goes to prove that the warmer months bring out some fun looks in fashion and music. While I'm not about to attend a music festival anytime soon, I have recently added a few concerts to my schedule; many acts from what I consider back in the day are currently touring. I'll be there with fringe flying.

Photo credits: Getty Images, Met Museum, Reuters/AFP, Racked

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In the Market Report: West Side Story

Hudson Yards - the future home of New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week will eventually have a permanent home at the Culture Shed at Hudson Yards. Located on the far west side of Manhattan facing the Hudson, it’s where everything seems to be happening these days. But while this won’t be a reality until 2018, it’s finally been confirmed that beginning this September, NYFW will have two new (well, not exactly new) temporary locations, and unsurprisingly, they are also on Manhattan’s West Side. Yes, it IS a "West Side Story".

Skylight Clarkson Square

Skylight at Moynihan Station (Midtown West), and Skylight Clarkson Square. (Soho West), have both been used for fashion shows and other high profile fashion and art related events in the past. Skylight Clarkson Square, located at 550 Washington Street (between Houston and Spring Streets), has been Ralph Lauren’s venue of choice for many seasons now, Kanye West used it to stage his Adidas collaboration this past February, and it will be home to the first Men’s Fashion Week in July. Its commercial, warehouse locale may not be especially glamorous, but once you get inside, it’s been completely transformed. In addition, it is close to hip and happening Tribeca and Soho, it’s also relatively near the popular Spring Studios on Varick Street, where Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Altuzarra, and Diane Von Furstenberg have been showing these last few years. And, it’s not too far from 1 World Trade, which is now home to Conde Nast. (Though, it’s not as close as Bryant Park was to their old offices at 4 Times Square, where, back in the day, editors enjoyed an enviable two block walk to and from the shows).

Skylight at Moynihan Station 

Moynihan Station, the former post office, is an iconic Beaux Arts structure designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1912 but its location, at 33rd Street and 8th Avenue, is not only decidedly unglamourous, but rather seedy. It’s a far cry from the elegant cultural epicenter of Manhattan: Lincoln Center. That being said, on the plus side, it boasts a relatively centralized location, and with its relatively close proximity to public transportation, as well as the Garment Center, it is geographically desirable and appealing. You can look at it this way: while you won’t be able to walk out the door and head straight to the ballet or opera (as you could when some of the shows were held at Lincoln Center), now you will be able to buy stamps, and mail letters and packages LOL.

Of course, like every other season, many designers (including some of the most highly influential of the group) will still opt to do their own thing, and show away from the centralized spaces. While most will still show somewhere on the west side of town (the galleries in West Chelsea, the IOC Building for example), several designers will buck the trend and continue to show on the Upper East Side. The Park Avenue Armory on Park Avenue between 66th and 67th Streets is favored by both Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs, whose show officially closes the week. And Karl Lagerfeld staged his recent pre-fall 2015 extravaganza runway show there as well.

It goes without saying that it would make the most sense if the shows could be scheduled as intelligently as possible, factoring in location, and trying, where possible, to find alternative venues near Skylight Moynihan and Skylight Clarkson Square to minimize having to run back and forth and up and down. While I’m not a big fan of Spring Studios (because I resent having to crowd into a small elevator with dozens of others, and possibly get stuck in that elevator, in order to get into and out of a show), it is in close proximity to Skylight Clarkson Square.

Delpozo Spring 2014 show held at Location 05 Studios

Speaking of which, I have a few suggestions for spaces that I think are under used, and make sense from a logistical and geographical point of view (they are close to Moynihan, and are easy to get in and out of quickly and efficiently). Location 05 at 205 West 34th Street,, 212 219 2144, is a photo studio, location rental, meeting venue, and event space. (I attended Delpozo’s Spring 2014 show there last September). It is quite large, gets excellent light, has a huge freight elevator which takes guests up to the second floor, and there is easy access to stairs.

SIR Stage 37

SIR Stage 37, (, at 508 West 37th Street, opened in 2009 and thanks to its clean, modern, contemporary feel, has been a favorite of Narciso Rodriguez for the last few years. Billed as a “flexible event and performance space”, it is located just one block from the Javits Center.

Baryshnikov Arts Center     

I also like Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) located at 450 West 37th Street just a few blocks from the northern end of the High Line (, 212 731 3225, 212 731 3200). The foundation and arts complex, opened by Mikhail Baryshnikov in 2005, offers space and production facilities for dance, music, theatre, design, and visual arts. The building itself, a 50,000 square foot complex, includes three theatre spaces (I attended a Josie Natori Fall 2014 show there). The building also houses the Orchestra of St. Luke’s DiMenna Center for Classical Music.  While it’s not exactly Lincoln Center, it does have that cultural connection to the arts.

And finally, while I’ve made note of the fact that it’s all about heading West: (“Go West Young Man”, and woman), let’s hope more fashion designers don’t decide to follow Tom Ford’s lead, and actually head WAY out West to Hollywood (he presented his fall 2015 collection in Los Angeles just days before the Academy Awards). That being said, Dior’s Raf Simons, who was to show his Resort 2016 collection in Los Angeles on May 9, has instead, decided upon the French Riviera on May 11th (just in time for the Cannes Film Festival).

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, April 10, 2015

In The Market Report: ‘Publicolor’ My World

Publicolor students at the event

One of the more colorful, spirited, and unique events on the calendar is Publicolor’s 15th annual Stir Splatter + Roll benefit and fundraiser which took place last evening ( Really, what could be better than something that combines fashion, art, and design, all for a good cause? Their mission is to “engage students in their education, targeting the most underserved communities and underperforming schools with the most seriously disadvantaged middle and high school students in New York City”. Using the “power of color, collaboration and community the event helps to engage at risk students in their education by teaching them painting and life skills”. In fact, their motto is: ‘From Paint Can to College’- Publicolor students don’t drop out.

Central to the mission is the beautification and revitalization of public and civic spaces. The venue for this event has long been the Martin Luther King Jr. High School on Amsterdam Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets, which is a ‘publicolored’ school of course (even the loos have been given an artistic and colorful makeover -- so much so that I found myself taking pictures!). Most importantly, all the money raised (over one million dollars), will go towards Publicolor’s mission to engage disconnected students in their education while reinforcing strong work habits that will prepare them for college and life.

A painting station

The not-for-profit organization was founded in 1996 by the very creative Ruth Lande Shuman who was on hand last night, along with Co-Chairs Gene and Barbara Kohn, Elissa and Greatneck Richman, Sascha Bauer, and Jeffrey Banks. Guests ( civic minded New Yorkers representing the worlds of business, fashion, politics, design, education, and philanthropy) Claes Oldenburg, Borough President Gale Brewer, Stan Herman, Ann Bass, Lydia Fenet), are asked to dress in “colorful and festive attire”, and during the cocktail hour, get to paint alongside some of the city’s leading artists, designers and architects - Tyvek jumpsuits are provided. In addition to a sit down dinner hosted by renowned professional magician Mark Mitton, there was a silent auction featuring specially designed tote bags by some of the worlds’ best architects, artists, and designers. Included were those by Francisco Costa, David Rockwell, Calvin Tso & Zack McKown, Kyle DeWoody, Michelle Smith, Ross Bleckner, Betsey Johnson, and Patricia Underwood.

Tote bags for auction

Each year, a worthy honoree is selected (past honorees are former Mayor Bloomberg, Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien, the Kate Spade Corporation). But since the event is more than anything else a testament to the transformative power of art, it could not have been more fitting that this year’s honoree was the ground breaking visionary contemporary art gallerist Paula Cooper ( Sho has exhibited a lifelong commitment to contemporary artists and to social activism. The Paula Cooper Gallery is now located in Chelsea (534 West 21st Street), but it was the first art gallery in Soho opening in 1968 as a benefit for the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. One of the artists whose work has been prominently on display there is the late Sol LeWitt (he died in 2007 at the age of 79). The minimalist and conceptual artist was known for his democratic approach to art and for his bold, colorful, geometric wall drawings. This year, Ms. Cooper collaborated with Mr. LeWitt’s Estate, and were able to re-create two of his wall drawings which have a home in an “underperforming” school in New York City.

Sol LeWitt at the Paula Cooper Gallery   

By the way, it’s not lost on me that it seems to be all about art these days. On Wednesday, The New Museum ( held its Spring 2015 Gala at Cipriani Wall Street; next Monday, the New York Academy of Art ( will hold its Tribeca Ball at 111 Franklin Street, during which time art collector extraordinaire Peter M. Brant will be honored; and on Tuesday evening, the Public Art Fund ( will hold its 2015 Spring Benefit (which will be co-chaired by Cynthia Rowley).

Jamie Diamond, Carolina Alvarez-Mathies, Patricia Underwood,
 Norma Lujan, and Devon Caranicas

And, on May 14th, El Museo ( will hold its 2015 Gala. It will have a cinematic theme inspired by its current exhibition on the great Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, and ladies are asked to dress in black and white with gloves and veils. This past Tuesday, there was a kickoff party at the U.N. Plaza apartment of two of its Gala Chairs, Maria Eugenia Mary and William Halestine, and Patricia Underwood, the official Gala Milliner, was on hand to sell a selection of her veils.

Manolo Blahnik  

While I’m on the subject of art, there is no question that Manolo Blahnik has created shoes that are bona fide works of art. Fittingly, he will be this year’s recipient of the Museum at FIT’s Couture Council Award for Artistry in Fashion ( The benefit luncheon will be held on Wednesday, September 9th, at the David Koch Theatre.  The well turned out attendees (who always dress for the occasion AND the honoree), will no doubt be paying more attention than usual, to their choice of footwear (it will be all about what’s on your feet!) and it promises to be a wonderful ‘retrospective’ of the 73 year old Mr. Blahnik’s unapologetically flattering and feminine single soled, pointy toed designs which thankfully remain trend free. He famously detests heavy shoes and platforms, and even his men’s shoes: classic oxford brogues in brown and black leather, and 12 shades of suede (which are available at Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard in London), are tapered, elegant and un-cloddy.

Manolo Blahnik men's brogues

FYI, this luncheon unofficially kicks off New York Fashion Week, However, for the first time in 5 years, the shows will be no where near Lincoln Center. Its new home will reportedly be the General Post Office/Moynihan Station on West 33rd Street.

- Marilyn Kirschner