Thursday, May 27, 2004

42nd Street

Dennis Basso’s fur shows are always as much a fashion show ON the runway as off the runway- and this year’s was no exception. Celebrating his first 20 years in business, the setting was- for the second time- Cipriani 42nd street, rather than the Pierre where it had long been held. Although not all the 1500 invited guests showed up and there were empty front row and second row seats, it was well attended nonetheless and boasted some big names like the young, hip Chloe Sevigny, Soprano star Lorraine Bracco, and Leroy Neiman (talk about an interesting mix of New York!).

Place cards on the front row promised Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley (fur loving Anna was a no show but fur supporter ALT did arrive), In Style’s Hal Rubenstein and Cindy Cleary Weber (no Cindy but Hal made it), and WWD’s Etta Froio- who was there. Vanity Fair’s Amy Fine Collins and Anne McNally also took their places amongst the high profile crowd.

And what would a fashion event be without socialites? Denise Rich, CeCe Kieselstein-Cord, Ivanka Trump, and Melania Knauss rubbed elbows before checking out the luxurious pelts. Even fellow furrier- Adrienne Landau- paid her respects. She was hard to miss with a sable tail and crystal beaded jacket of her own design (yup- in the middle of May!). Adrienne is living proof that fur has become a year round ‘accessory’, which is at the heart of the fur business and something that Dennis alluded to in his program, stating, “Fur has become an essential part of fashion and is being treated as an accessory to compliment the wardrobe of all who wear it”

By the way, speaking of crystal beads, many of the furs shown today were trimmed with beads (in addition to ribbons and feathers) and judging from the well dressed guests, it’s all about shine- but not shine for evening which is predictable and to be expected, but shine for day. In addition to one guest who was sporting a ‘diamante’ trimmed black cotton sleeveless t- shirt, and several wearing gold lame threads, there were eye- catching, statement- making brooches on many others. But this is not really surprising, given that these well-heeled customers are not wearing pins because they are newly deemed ‘in’ by the fashion press (or because Miuccia made them ‘cool’ and ‘hip’). Au contraire- these ‘ladies who lunch’ never stopped wearing them.

Enough about the crowd- what was the story on the runway? For Dennis Basso, his new collection was (surprise, surprise!?) inspired by “vintage looks from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s” which he has “translated into modern pieces that can be worn for any occasion.” In addition to broadtail, chinchilla, mink, lynx, lynx bellies, sable, he has introduced a new fur – criceto-, which was dyed in shades like chartreuse and peacock. What else? It’s all about the fitted silhouette featuring a small waist, and the return of the bell sleeve. And Mr. Basso has literally gone to great lengths this time around (though he made a case for tiny, abbreviated little shrugs, capelets, and boleros- which look young and modern, and which were all over the recent fall/winter runways), he showed plenty of floor sweeping coats. Now, all you have to do is wish for the tall elongated body to carry them off properly, plenty of cold weather, AND a very full bank account!

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Fashion Week Daily: How Far Beyond Stupid?

Brandusa Niro's tabloid continues running amuck. This time with a "mock" poll as to who is going to replace Craydon Carter if in the very unlikely event he is forced to resign as editor of Vanity Fair.

Perhaps a better poll would be just how long viewers think IMG will put up with Brandusa and her little band of "rabid tabloid scribblers" before they dump her from sheer embarrassment. Brandusa was fired several years ago as publisher of Fashionwiredaily and she seems to have learned little from that experience.

So we wonder who is going to replace Brandusa? Send us your choices and we will post it here.

"To get you juiced up, some starters":

Paris Hilton: A role model for us all...

( The editors of Fashionweekdaily pulled the poll a few hours after we sent the above item out as part of our email newsletter. In fact, they even deleted the archive file that our above link is pointing to. )

Have Bag, Will Travel:

Memorial Day is just around the corner, and that means travel and beach season is upon us. And it also means another excuse to buy a bag (or two, or three). It is a well-documented fact that women can’t have enough bags - they fill many purposes and perform many tasks, and there are bags in every size, fabric, shape, and price range.

If you are always looking for that perfect beach bag - something that is lightweight, indestructible, practical, roomy, waterproof, inexpensive, AND also looks chic enough to tote around on the streets of Easthampton as well as Madison Avenue, head up to the 90th Street Pharmacy, 1260 Madison Avenue, 212 289- 9168. (Yup! In the very tony Carnegie Hill section of the Upper East Side, even pharmacies sell chic items).

Their assortment of weightless mesh tote bags made in Mexico by Mary Jane caught my eye because they are not the predictably saccharin sweet pastel hued or floral printed, but rather, graphic and classically striped or rendered in a very good interpretation of the traditional Burberry plaid (my personal favorite). Most are done in combinations of tan, black, red, and white, but there is also a version with an eye-catching lime green background. Trimmed with a wide band of black ‘patent’- including the hefty handle- they can fold up and be packed in a larger suitcase. Perfect for those trips where you need an assortment of bags but don’t want the extra weight.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Paris Diary: Couture's Crumbling Columns:

To hear Didier Grumbach, president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, tell the story, Paris haute couture is flourishing. His relentlessly upbeat comments, delivered from an impeccably smiling façade, are about as reassuring (and accurate) as the Pentagon's daily press briefing.

What is true is that Givenchy, Versace and Ungaro have pulled out of the upcoming Paris couture shows for Fall / Winter 2004-05, scheduled from July 6-9, amid strong indications that Valentino may do the same. It is also a well-known fact that both Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier are under mounting financial pressure - in the latter case, necessitating draconian budget cuts across the board. Meanwhile, John Galliano continues to produce show-stopping pieces for Christian Dior - requiring a second rendering by couture directress Catherine Rivière before they can be fitted to the House's dwindling list of clients - while Karl Lagerfeld turns out classic pieces for Chanel destined for such youthful matrons as Bernadette Chirac. The failure of any of those remaining columns would inevitably lead to the complete structural collapse of the Federation.

And just as the debate about the future of couture was resurrected last week, Pierre Bergé was the first to jump into the latest fray with his comments to WWD. "I've always said that couture would die with Yves Saint Laurent," he insisted. "Now it's the domino effect."

While it's true that Bergé has long been a nemesis of Grumbach, who he once accused of "running the North America division of Saint Laurent Rive Gauche into the ground", and that his penchant for brusque repartee (accusing Anna Wintour of lying down for cash) might be controversial, he's also demonstrated reliable insight into fashion and its future. After all, he first became a gauche caviar millionaire by recognizing Yves' burgeoning talent, then co-founding the House of Saint Laurent in 1961.

So have times completely changed? That was a question put to me recently at the bar of the Hôtel de Crillon by Alber Elbaz. "When I was in New York just after September 11," the designer recalled. "The one good thing I thought might come of the disaster was a change in people's behavior. I remember going out to buy some bagels, and the deli guy said 'here just take them for free'. But it seems like that sort of kindness was short lived. And in Tel Aviv everybody has gone crazy, having sex and doing drugs like there is no tomorrow. But for fashion, everything has completely changed since the 90s. That was all about sex, and at the end sadomasochism, which isn't sex, it's domination. Now it's about women being smart. And part of that is living with chronic uncertainty."

Alber Elbaz, it might be recalled, was Bergé's handpicked successor for Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, and along with Dior Homme's Hedi Slimane, bears the official YSL stamp of approval.

By anybody's estimate, couture has run up against changing times, and in many ways the beginning of the end can be traced back to 9/11. On September 15, 2001, the New York Times published an op-ed by Frank Rich in which he observed, "this week's nightmare, it's now clear, has awakened us from a frivolous if not decadent decadelong dream, even as it dumps us into an uncertain future we had never bargained for."

Not four months later, Saint Laurent bowed out of couture, citing changing times and a beauty-less world. Now almost two and a half years down the road, the downturn in the fashion industry continues, effecting almost every ready-to-wear label, and more directly couture. Balmain filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this week after an Asian equity partner failed to honor an investment, putting future catwalk shows into jeopardy, while in the PPR consortium, overhauling debt-riddled Balenciaga and Stella McCartney are said to be top priority for new Gucci Group CEO, Robert Polet.

So, given the perennial gloom that enshrouds the fashion world, the fact that traditional couture is quickly dying should not come as any great shock. But what Alber has done with Lanvin Ready-to-Wear, of course, is to take a couture approach - his meticulous draping and the finesse of detail renders the resulting elegance indistinguishable from its noble roots. With Chloe Sevigny, Sheryl Crow, Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker and Liv Tyler, and a dusting of stars on the red carpet of Cannes wearing Lanvin, Barney's record $700,000 order for Fall 2004 seems right on target.

While couture may be crumbling, there is certainly plenty of hope rising from the ruins.

-Timothy Hagy

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

(Excerpted from the 5/19 The New York Fashion Report for Members)

It's so 'Bazaar':

"Why is a magazine that is regaining its foothold in the marketplace still perceived as a poor relation of its more glamorous and prosperous competitors, chiefly Vogue?" This and other questions relating to Harper's Bazaar were broached by Ruth La Ferla in her article in the 'Fashion' section of The New York Times this past Tuesday, May 18th ("Harper's Bazaar Says It's Just Fine"). Since I am an ex-Bazaar editor, I always read with interest articles about this once hallowed name that has been continually beleaguered in past decades.

Though Ms. La Ferla allowed that Bazaar has had its share of problems long before Glenda Bailey took over (going back to predecessors like Kate Betts who was fired and Liz Tilberis who died of ovarian cancer in 1999, she also left out any mention of Anthony Mazzola under whom I worked), there were quotes from fashion insiders who alluded to Ms. Bailey's lack of both "charisma", and "an original personal style", along with the magazine's perception as being "dated", "confusing", and "uncool" are words which -- with all due respect -- be used to describe Glenda herself.

Can we conclude then, that Bazaar's image problems can be somewhat blamed on Glenda's image problems? Will a fashion makeover for Glenda change the luck of the magazine? The highly successful Anna Wintour is undeniably a major fashion star that also happens to be a fashion icon - for which she has been inducted into the Best Dressed Hall of Fame. Can these superficial things alone guarantee success within the industry? And is it even fair to try and draw comparisons between the two women? Ms. Bailey is no Anna Wintour, but then not many are. Is it necessary to equate the look of the editor with the magazine he or she is editing?

Of course not. There are many who may 'look the part' but very few of that group necessarily go on to become a successful editor or editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. And some of the most highly regarded and well-respected editors like Kim Hastreiter and Ingrid Sischy can hardly be described as fashion plates. While 'Interview' and 'Paper' are not fashion bibles like Vogue, they do deal in the world of style, beauty, and design, and both editors are always front row center at fashion shows.

But in the case of Vogue, Anna's flawlessly groomed, self-consciously consistent, signature fashion persona and identity happen to be reflected and integrated in her magazine. In fact, the name Anna Wintour and Vogue have practically become synonymous: it's virtually impossible to think of one without the other and it is hard to imagine Vogue without her. There is a consistent thread that winds its way through every issue of Vogue -- from the cover to the articles -- that is sorely lacking in Harper's Bazaar. When you thumb through the hodgepodge pages of Bazaar, what you find is a well-meaning 'fashion victim' lacking in a strong specific identity -- akin to Ms. Bailey herself -- who predictably and somewhat robotically follows the trends du jour.

Even though Harper's Bazaar may often be filled with attractive eye candy, it lacks any personality or signature identity. If you picked up the magazine without knowing which one you were looking at, you would be hard pressed to 'ID' it. Not so with it's biggest competitor Vogue. Vogue always looks like Vogue regardless of the season, regardless of the portfolio. Whether it's about evening couture or streetwise sportswear it always looks polished and still manages to have Anna Wintour's disciplined and rigorously consistent stamp and clear view on it.

Which leads me to another point. The one thing Ruth La Ferla did not mention in talking about Vogue's success as a fashion leader is Fashion Director Grace Coddington, Anna's 'secret weapon'. Her clear and focused vision helps pull the pages together each month. And of course, they also have Camilla Nickerson.

Ah, but again, talent alone does not guarantee success. Fashion magazines are much like television or Broadway shows: they are a collaborative, group effort. And why is it that some shows and sitcoms (even with the benefit of big name talented stars and celebrated casts) struggle to find an audience, while others (like 'Mash', 'Seinfeld', 'Friends', 'Frasier') become enviable and legendary success stories? It is that indefinable intangible quality ... the combination of personalities who just gel, jive, and work together in perfect harmony. It's something called the 'X Factor' - and if that could be bottled, well, we would all be multi millionaires, wouldn't we?

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

'Catch a Rising Star'

Last evening's party to celebrate the Perry Ellis Awards Nominees for the 2004 CFDA Fashion Awards, which was sponsored by Vogue Magazine and Perry Ellis International AND under-written by Swarovski, was well attended and notable for its diversity and mix.

Held at La Bottega Restaurant at the Maritime Hotel on 9th avenue and 16th street, the fashion group milled around nibbling on hors d'oeuvres and drinking cocktails-both inside and outside the space that resembled a ship, and it was a group that certainly spanned generations. Even though one's initial feeling was that everyone there seemed to be under 30, tall, skinny, and fashionably attired (whatever that means these days), this was really not the case. The most important person there - Anna Wintour - who is arguably the most powerful woman in fashion, may be skinny and well turned out, but she is not young nor is she tall.

Wearing what has become practically a signature look for her - a fitted cardigan and knee length skirt (this evening's choice was Miuccia Prada's red sweater and tie dyed semi pleated silk chiffon skirt), she stayed quite awhile and saw to it that she spoke with all the nominees. B the way - it must be noted that her 'look' seem to have been practically the uniform of the evening- (I wonder if the other wearers were 'Voguettes').

In any event, others there who are not young, tall, AND skinny included veterans like Arnold Scaasi- one of the few to wear a suit and tie (he came, looked around, spoke with a few people, and quickly left), Dennis Basso, Ruth Finley, and Carol Cohen- who once designed coats for Drizzle and now makes fabulous jewelry -like the knockout snake necklace she was wearing. They rubbed shoulders with young guns like Zac Posen, Patrick Robinson, and Derek Lam- all nominees for the Perry Ellis Award for Ready-To-Wear.

By the way, Patrick's wife - Vogue editor Virginia Smith- IS young, skinny, and tall, and was another one who opted for the 'uniform' of a cardigan and patterned soft, fuller skirt. I chatted with the Perry Ellis designer and asked what he was planning to do for an encore (next season). He said he didn't know yet, but that, no, it would not be a continuation of his very vintagey 40's, 50's fall/winter collection. No surprise there- designers ususally do an about face.

The young designer certainly has a huge fan in Teri Agins, the well respected senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal, was was also at the party. Teri is being honored at the CFDA Awards on June 7th when she receives the coveted Eugenia Sheppard Award for Journalism, and when I asked what she was planning to wear, she admitted that she will be dressed personally by Patrick for the big night, though she wouldn't say what exactly she would be wearing. One who disdains the idea of not looking like yourself, she did allow that she would have her make up done.

Also in attendance was young Alice Roi, the Parsons grad who was a 2001 nominee for the CFDA's Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear. When I asked her what she was thinking about for next season- she took one look at me and said, "I'm doing you from here up" (and pointed to my waist). I was clad in a fitted white cardigan, white shirt with matching scarf and bright floral circle skirt. She went on to explain that she was thinking about the 70's and the idea of fitted on top, longer on the bottom.

-Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, May 17, 2004

A Blast From the Past:

Pucci top and skirt from Torso (click on image to enlarge)

This past weekend's New York Vintage Fashion & Textile Show & Sale at the New Yorker Hotel (, may have been so disappointingly scaled down, that I even overheard customers complaining about the unusually small group of dealers present, but it WAS a great place to find collectibles, ready to wear, evening wear, fabulous accessories- specifically pins- AND some new faces.

Chanel necklace from the 1930's

One of the most standout booths to display a wide assortment of vintage jewelry -- not to mention eye-catching pins -- was that of Frontino & Vaz, represented by co-owner, Lucille Vaz. In business with partner Georgene Frontino for about 5 years, the duo began as collectors. According to Ms. Vaz, they specialize in late 19th century through the 1980's- "best in design" items that they believe will become "classics of tomorrow". Most importantly, they are not interested in over the top, costumey, un-wearable pieces. Quite the contrary - they hope their loyal customers find their jewelry "wearable". And though they "specialize in Miriam Haskell", they also have a notable collection of Eisenbergs and Bouchers. Prices start at about $50 up to $1800 for a "one of a kind, real find" - a Chanel necklace from the 1930's (see photo above). They buy and sell by appointment and you can contact Lucille at 212 689 6616, or email:

Booth of Jean Claude Mastroianni

Pins and other highly collectible treasures were on view at the booth of Jean Claude Mastroianni ( who has a studio at 218 West 29th street, New York, NY 10004, (212) 947 9347. A collector with a highly trained eye, he has been in business for about 20 years and specializes in "out of the ordinary items that we find or create", as he put it.

As for favorite designer or period? "I like it as long as it's beautiful". Among the items displayed in his eclectic booth were a wide range of accessories and jewelry, scarves, gloves, and museum worthy Norells and Valentinos, plus a large silk flower that had belonged to the late Eleanor Roosevelt (not for sale). He knows a great deal about this legendary First Lady and had some wonderful stories to tell about the woman who had quite an interesting "secret life" and was hardly just the Waspy dowager one thinks of. For example, he recounted that she had a penchant for lounging around at home in kimonos over leggings! Who knew?

And newcomers, John Hadeed and David Gorski, made quite a splash with their large corner booth, filled with an amazing assortment of 'eye candy'. While their Portland Oregon based company - Torso - is a Mecca for Hollywood stylists and other West Coast fashionistas, and those in the know, they are new to the New York vintage scene. They told me this is only their second show here but are already planning to do the two other big vintage shows: the one held at the Metropolitan Pavilion and perhaps the Triple Piers.

As they put it, "they go where the customers are" and see themselves as "an all inclusive store; not piece by piece but all inclusive". Translation: they can outfit you from the foundation up with accessories included. They can be reached at (503) 294 1493.

-posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, May 14, 2004

First Edition of Puerto Rico Fashion Trends … “Bryant Park” In The Tropics

Interior view of Tent (click on image to enlarge)

The premiere edition of Puerto Rico Fashion Trends debuted on April 29th at the Parque Tercer Milenio, well known as one of San Juan’s most luxurious beach areas. The late day into evening event, which was held in a large white tent (seating capacity 300) that totally replicated the look, aura and attitude of NYC’s Bryant Park extravaganza, took off with an abundance of sizzling hot, high designer style, shown on the floor-level runway by five local designers (well-known and up-and-coming). A host of big-name, international sponsors (think Wella, Sebastian/Trucco, Sprint, Sears, Neutrogena, Carefree, Sony and the like) along with local newspapers and fashion magazines lent their support, not to mention lots of products in the bargain. The varied, jam-packed goody bags at each show more than proved that point.

Overall, the event drew the requisite crush of fashion cognescenti, (over 1500 persons attended) including local/international editors, buyers, socialites and celebs. Former Pro football player, Dion Sanders, not only walked for one designer, but attended several of the shows and then joined the chi-chi crowd at the exclusive, all-night-long after-party, held at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.

Singularly concepted, created and promoted by Cristina Caraballo, the 29 year old managing director of ProActive Group, Inc., and a woman now regarded by many as the Fern Mallis of Latin America, Puerto Rico Fashion Trends was specifically designed to further promote each designer’s image locally and then build upon that in terms of an international presence. Case In Point: The Fall/Winter 2004 collections showcased a well-balanced and well-edited array of casual, sportive and haute glam looks (mostly all eminently desireable and wearable) for both women and men. Adding another layer to all of this and rivaling a lot of what we look for during the NY shows, were the models, styling (clothing and accessories), hair, make-up and music, which were first rate across the board.

Chrisnelia Guzmán Collection (click on image to enlarge)

DESIGNER HIGHLIGHTS … Twenty-two year-old Chrisnelia Guzman’s classically elegant homage to l950’s Paris, especially the tight jackets, pencil skirts and flowing pants that brought us back to Coco Chanel in her heyday.

Pipo Pere Collection (click on image to enlarge)

Pipo Pere’s “Black Fall/White Winter” pieces in monochrome tones touched with gray, golden and red. An outrageous blending of clothing and accessories in microfibers, mesh, lace, satin, crepe, stretch gab and tulle. Best part here is that it’s not just for the girls.

Lilliam Landrón Collection (click on image to enlarge)

Lilliam Landron’s “Eden” collection gave a new slant to cocktail and gala party pieces in chiffon and silk … Miriam Budet’s ultra-colored “Feminine Essence” pieces were sexy and fresh in jersey, silk, crepe and mesh, touched with accents of needlework/embroidery in suede. Super purses, too.

Lisa Thon Collection (click on image to enlarge)

“Tree Of Life” from Lisa Thon showed evening gowns, cocktail dresses and easy separates for women and men. Here, charmeuse, silk, satin, chiffon and laces appear in colors that go from intense blue, green and amber through to classic wine and chocolate.
The look that stole the show (see photo above) … Thon’s bold and beautiful, crystal-encrusted finale gown that swept across the runway and placed a nice ending to the entire event.

The next edition of Puerto Rico Fashion Trends is slated to run in San Juan on October 22nd 2004. For more information contact: Cristina Caraballo, FDC Inc, 787-671-4247 or on the web

- reported by Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg, contributing editor

Brooching’ the Issue of Fall Accessories

(click on image to enlarge)

Well, Narciso (as in Rodriguez) may believe that “Less is More” (and he does have a point I might add), but it’s not the ONLY fashion philosophy out there and judging from the Neiman Marcus Accessories Fall Preview I attended today, at the Chambers Hotel, this retailer certainly believes that “More is More”.

One look at the jam packed, colorful, highly visual display, set up as always in a chic suite at the hotel (thanks to the efforts of Neiman’s Ken Downing, Vice President of Public Relations, Marc Lundeen, and Kareen Mallet - Senior Fashion Editors), it was obvious that the theme was all about “Brooches and Furs” and the thread throughout was that “everything has a three dimensional treatment” according to Marc.

And indeed it did, resulting in a dizzying, dazzling, almost over the top effect where everything seemed highly tactile and ornamental. The wonderful pins (see photo above), which were set up throughout, were displayed in a large variety of materials, stones, shapes, and sizes, many designed by Stephen Dweck and Jose Barrera.

Furs, a major story, were shown in unusual colors (like chartreuse), and in sporty youthful shapes that have nothing to do with your mother’s fur (we’re talking collars, caplets, ponchos, sweaters, little vintage inspired jackets). And the love affair with leopard and zebra shows no signs of abating based on what was on view.

As for color? Well, there was very little black (no surprise there) but there was a lot of green (every shade including teal), ‘the color purple’ (again- everything from pale lilac to saturated lavender), and pink and red- in combination.

Bags continue to be a major category, and while there wasn’t one specific theme or trend which linked the fab bags together, it was all about variety (from teeny tiny jewel like versions which are akin to necklaces, to elongated satchels) AND decoration (beads, sequins, buckles). You name it, they showed it!

What else? Watches and rings keep getting bigger and bolder, and boots are definitely made for walking -- as these wonderful, practical, pancake flat versions will attest. Good news for those who like to hoof it around town and still look chic as heck!

- posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, May 13, 2004

--"Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery?"

Yesterday I ran an item on Tuesday evening's Cooper Hewitt sponsored "Conversation with Narciso Rodriguez and Deborah Berke", which took place at the Tishman Auditorium on West 12th street. Later on in the day, I read www.fashionweekdaily's column, which began with the headline, "Don't use the word "minimalist" around Narciso". What immediately struck me was how SIMILAR this seemed to mine. I felt as if I were reading a transcript of my notes of the evening's quotes.

Oh, sure, there were enough differences - the format, the way it was broken up, the sequence, and the fact that their copy spoke more about Ms. Berke, the well known and well respected architect, who shares a minimalist aesthetic with the revered fashion designer.

But that said, there were eerily and uncannily, many similarities and comparisons: fashionweekdaily seemed to focus on the very same 'highlights' as did I, and more importantly, used the same quotes - which were edited and phrased the way I had jotted them down in my notes.

Just a coincidence? Maybe so. Things like that do happen in this business. In any case, I certainly can't complain. I guess you can say, "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery" or perhaps, "great minds think alike".

- Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Minimalism to the ‘Max’

What happens when you team up two well- known, well-respected and talented souls (a fashion designer and an architect), who have become major design forces known for their minimalist aesthetic? At last evening’s ‘A Conversation with Narciso Rodriguez and Deborah Berke’, hosted by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and held at the Tishman Auditorium, 66 east 12th street, they were both on stage to talk about their mutual love affair with minimalism, their obvious respect for each other’s work (Deborah was even clad in a black and white pared down outfit made for her by Narciso), and the way in which architecture and fashion relate to one another in “an omnipresent way.” As Narciso put it, “Architecture inspires me.”

The event, billed as “An Investigation of Modernism” was a love fest and obvious mutual admiration society, as the duo sat on stage to dish about their passions and inspirations, mixing off the cuff conversation, detailed lists, personal thoughts, all helped with the aid of visuals - a slide show - which illustrated certain points far clearer than words.

Highlights included Narciso’s admission that he hates “girlie” (for him, it’s not about overt sexuality); “it’s not about ornamentation but construction” (“construction makes it ornamental”), and surprisingly, that he is not a fan of the word ‘minimalism’ (“purist is more beautiful than minimalist”).

Who are his “touchstones of inspiration” (his “heroes” and “masters”)? : 1- Madame Vionnet- because of her “architecture and femininity”, and the “linear yet sensuous designs that mixed form and fluidity that were “pure yet detailed”; 2- Cristobal Balenciaga- for his “purity and architecture” and the fact that he “never lost sight of the fact that he was dressing a woman”. His work was defined by “cut, seam, form and shape” and was “always graceful”; 3- Geoffrey Beene- “he’s a thinker” whose work is defined by “creating, detailing, cutting.” “Geoffrey is always finding new ways”, and he has always “wanted to create beauty”. Each of the three aforementioned legends cited were accompanied by a slide show illustrating one of their most definitive designs selected by Narciso.

Ms. Berke talked about visiting Narciso’s design studio and the way he begins each season with a blank wall, which is his “look wall” for lack of a better word. There was a slide show of his last “look wall” for the fall/winter 2004 collection, which was shown in February. Narciso admitted that he was inspired by “graphic elements of sports and uniforms” as well as the idea of “motion and movement”. Interestingly, though most of the images on the wall were not of fashion items per se, there was a picture of Kate Moss (who seems to inspire everyone) and one of a linen ruffled rumba dress from a shop in Cuba.

So- what is on the designer’s current wall? (After all, he is currently working on the spring summer collection, which will be shown in September). According to Ms. Berke, only two things at the moment (well, it is early): the graphic black and white number 104, and the picture of an Eero Saarinen (the famed Finnish architect) staircase. Narciso admitted he is obsessed with numbers and the number 104 in particular, but could not easily articulate why. Narciso also admitted he has always loved the “lucky” number 7, and then introduced Fern Mallis (as in, ‘7th on Sixth’- get it?), just back from India, who took her place on stage to personally ask the team some questions and then field a brief question and answer period during which she invited the audience to participate.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

[What is your opinion? Link to our discussion board]

The New York Vintage Fashion & Antique Textile Show & Sale:

Come to the mother lode of design inspiration and reference materials, featuring over 40 of the best vintage dealers worldwide, with an exceptional array of design resource treasures. Our dealers provide the unique handbags, clothing, scarves, belts, shoes, gloves, hats, jewelry, antique and vintage fabrics, linens, laces, trims, and accessories beyond imagination that translate into knockout collections. Make your readers aware of the show that designers in the know use as their number one resource for inspiration!

Friday, May 14th, 2004
11 am – 7:30 pm admission $20
Saturday, May 15th, 2004
11 am - 6 pm
$20 ($15 with postcard or ad)
The New Yorker Hotel
34th Street and 8th Avenue New York, New York
The show is held three times yearly. For more information, go to or contact Sheila Feeney at 718-783-9736 or 917-584-9303 email

Friday, May 07, 2004

[What is your opinion? Link to our discussion board]

'Not a moment too soon...'

A picture of the always tacky Paula Abdul wearing Celine's blindly bright and giant floral jersey plunging neck dress with fringe trimmed sash/belt (which ran in today's New York Post) was a shining example of why the recent announcement- that Roberto Menichetti would be taking over from Michael Kors as head of design for the French luxury house- is not coming one moment too soon.

As I previously reported, Michael's vision and approach had been a tad too, well, obvious and predictable. Hopefully, Menichetti, who is considered to be an innovative visionary and known for his modern minimalistic approach to design (and the pairing of form and function) will take this sleepy house to another level.

-Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

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Pauline Trigere Designs at Target?

(Reprinted from our latest NY Fashion Report for Members) Talk about modern thinkers- leave it to the brilliant and legendary Pauline Trigere, to posthumously follow suit. The much copied and revered designer who passed away last year at the age of 97, remains one of the most influential and highly acclaimed design forces, (at a recent Doyle Auction of vintage clothes, a simple trench coat with Pauline's signature fabric, her name in repeating columns of black, brought an unprecedented 4 times the estimate). And it was announced through a press release sent last week, that her sons, Jean Pierre and Philippe Radley have teamed with Jeff Lotman and Global Icons, a premiere licensing and brand merchandising agency, to explore licensing opportunities.

According to Mee Won Maddox, President, Global Icons, "Pauline's major regret was her inability to translate her unique and very practical approach beyond the rarified atmosphere of the couture department to mass merchandising. She was a fan of "box stores." Her secret vice—catalogue shopping. To Pauline, good design was never a factor of cost. Her own licensed line of mid-priced outerwear "A Trigere Coat" was a multi-million dollar seller during the eighties and to Pauline's credit and her phenomenal design sense, the coats are prominently recycled today as hot sellers in the vintage clothing market."

"To me, Trigere was more than a designer of clothing. She was the embodiment of what she designed. She infused her own sense of living into everything she created", said Maddox. Maddox believes that Trigere's friends, who encouraged the brothers to license the name, are correct in their assessment that the attributes of the Trigere style can transfer her sensibilities into a variety of mass market products,"soft goods, accessories, outerwear, furniture" aimed at today's price sensitive consumers looking for quality, durability, and style.

In a counter-intuitive approach, Global Icons will extend the brand to areas where the attributes that consumers value and identify with Trigere can provide a value added to the product rather than concentrating on resurrecting the name in fashion and couture.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

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-'The Sun Shined Bright':

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Not on "My Old Kentucky Home", but right here in the middle of New York's beloved Central Park.

Once again, the weather man (or rather, the 'Man' upstairs) saw to it that raindrops did not fall on the well dressed, well heeled, and for the most part, well- hatted group in attendance at the 22nd Annual Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO) Awards Luncheon hosted by the Women's Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. The saying, that it "never rains" on this popular event, holds true one more time.

While it may not have been the kind of glorious sunny spring day that normally races this well turned out and popular event, it did stay dry nonetheless. Over 1100 guests attended (raising $2.2 million) this year, and while many in the crowd (who feasted on spring vegetable tart and a papaya basket of lobster and shrimp, courtesy of Glorious Food) resembled those that attend the Kentucky Derby (well, you know, with their conservative look, big brimmed hats, and well tailored suits), there were many other fashion statements worth noting.

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Of course, the group in attendance is not exactly the oh so hip, cooler than cool group of fashionistas who congregate at fashion shows or the Bryant Park Tents, but rather, the well heeled, moneyed nucleus that forms the basis of New York society. While hats are favored (many of which are always undeniably over the top and statement making -see photo above), they are not obligatory. What was on display? Well, there were the usual and predictable tweed jackets and Chanel (or Chanel inspired) suits, bright colors (lots of grass green), pastels, and of course, floral printed coats which seem to become more and more popular each year.

Several in attendance (young and old..or should I say, 'older') opted for vintage Pucci- geometric cotton voile blouses, cotton skirts, and jersey dresses worn under jackets and coats. That's not surprising since, let's face it, after floral prints and patterns, nothing announces, 'Spring is here' more effectively than Pucci. Less obvious and interesting to note was the trend towards Orientalia. Several women chose straw hats that resembled Chinese 'coolie' hats and one woman even added a satin brocade coat reminescent of a Chinese robe.

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Speaking of brocade, a well coiffed and hatless Joan Rivers was wearing a gold and ivory satin fitted brocade skirt suit- though hers was more ornate than Oriental. By the way, Joan was 'thanked' in the program for her "in-kind gifts and special support" along with the Estee Lauder Corporation, Fauchon, Hermes, Stoli Authentic Russian Vodka, Town & Country, and Wathne Ltd.

Also mingling with the crowd were the former and future Mrs.Trumps- I'm referring to Ivana and Melania of course. I'm sure "The Donald" has given his financial support to help the Central Park and the Conservancy, and knowing the huge ego this man has, I wouldn't be surprised if he would at some point love to have this luncheon named after him, instead of Frederick Law Olmsted.

- Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, May 03, 2004

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PJ's Bag of Tricks:

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Bags have proven to be one of the most consistently successful accessory categories to date, and the artistic, creative, and ever imaginative Patricia Jacobs has come up with a fabulous idea: personalized tote bags with a sense of humor: tongue in cheek renditions of the ubiquitous 'must have' bags of the season. The idea was born "one rainy Sunday afternoon" when as she put it, she "tried to think of ways to carry excess stuff around." And because PJ likes to "paint on anything I put my hands on", she found a way to hand paint cotton tote bags.

How can customers get them (and have them personalized)? Send her a clear photo, jpeg, or description/model name of your favorite bag, your background color preference (or none, if you prefer), and she will hand-paint it with acrylics on a natural untreated cotton canvas tote bag.

The bags will come in two sizes:
Small--14"x16"x3" ("for their spare shoes and whatnot", $90);
Large (her favorite size): 15.5"x19"x5" ("for the rest of their lives", $100).
Both will have straps long enough to go over the shoulders. Shipping/handling is $12.

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PS: Pat is also working her similar magic on another big category: trenchcoats. She has a group of "hand-painted revisited" trench coats that she's "Pollocked" with splashes of paint, SO fabulous, she claims, "I wore mine the other day and a fashionista dude threatened to take it from me." They're $250, or $150 if someone wants her to paint their own. They are being offered in a variety of sizes and trench styles, and though she's been doing them in brown, gold, white and black splatters to keep it neutral, other color combos are available.

You can email her at (this is the correct email address) for more information.

- Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

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7th Annual Avant Guardian Project:

Surface magazine and No. TEN by Tanqueray announce a nationwide search for the best emerging U.S.-based fashion photographers to showcase in Surface's Annual Avant Guardian issue and traveling exhibition.

Now in its 7th year, the Avant Guardian™ project has become the leading showcase for the best new and often unpublished American fashion photographers. Finalists are selected based on photographic submissions and assigned a fashion editorial to be produced as part of the Avant Guardian™ project. All assignments are 'on spec'. Spec shoots are not guaranteed for publication and there are no fees paid for spec shoots. Surface will help coordinate resources such as wardrobe, stylists and models. From these shoots, Surface may select images to A] be published in the magazine B] travel in a touring multi-city exhibit or C] both.

Surface magazine is currently accepting entries on their website Deadline for entries is June 15th.