Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Black is back!:

Ah -- but did it ever really leave -- or lose its standing and cache as the fashion world’s favorite color? We may flirt with wearing pastels and eye popping brights from time to time, and white may well seem novel and fresh, but NOTHING makes one feel more chic, more urbane, more sophistocated and more polished (not to mention instantly taller and skinnier) than black.

The return to black even made news in several newspapers recently. 'Black is Back' was the caption for a gossip piece which found it's way into Page Six of The New York Post, August 14th. This was in reference to the news that Bloomingdale's Chairman and CEO Michael Gould had just inforced an all black dress code for sales associates in their New York stores. Apparently, he was so enamored of the way in which the minimal and sleek uniform looked on the sales staff of the newest Soho shop, he decided this should apply to all. (Unsurprisingly, it was also reported that many are unhappy they are being told what to wear. Dressing IS a form of self expression, no?)

And one of the cover stories on the front page of WWD on August 25th, recounted that "At Barneys New York, black is back in quarter as owners evaluate bids". Retailers, while adoring the effect of glorious color on their floors and in their store windows, love nothing more than 'being in the black' (as Martha Stewart will tell you, "It's a good thing"). Coincidentally, this news coincided with a decidely 'colorful', well publicized, and jam packed party the high end Madison Avenue shop threw to celebrate the launch of 'T'.

Oh-- and by the way -- one of the best places to find memorable black items just happens to be Barneys. Standouts include the amazingly sculptural pieces designed by Nicolas Guesquiere for the house of Balenciaga, which were based on the houses's legendary archives. The balloon shaped knee length dress is a notable example (the store's fashion director Julie Gilhart listed this as one of her favorite fall items in the new issue of 'T').

And then of course there is the glorious Yohji Yamamoto department located on the 4th floor. For fall/winter 2004, Yohji once again relied on his signature black to form the basis of a collection filled with artfully mindblowing coats and jackets done in a thick boiled wool, many of which feature oversized pockets (talk about mixing form and function). While I was told by a sales associate that alas, they have almost completely sold out of all the best pieces from Fall 1, Fall 2 will be in the stores shortly, and it too will be a veritable 'black out'.

Is there any better way to 'jump start' fall than chosing black? It is an instant way to get your mind set off the beach and back to business. And is there any better color which more successfully shows off your 'bling'? (You DO have a stache of glittery pins, don't you???).Even Patrick MacDonald, the dandy about town who is known for his colorful, patterned, and textural haberdashery admitted to me that he is in a new mood these days, and black will form the basis of his Fashion Week wardrobe.

- Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, August 30, 2004

'T' Time

All I can say is, it's about time! In recent years, I had been sorely disappointed in The New York Times' bi- annual magazine devoted to the styles for the upcoming season (which had been called, 'Fashions of the Times'). I had often found it to be visually confusing, editorially jumbled, and self consciously trying too hard to be 'edgy' and controversial. Quite frankly, it was something I would pick up, glance through a few times, and simply toss out.

with Stefano Tonchi's new kid on the block , 'T', the Times now has a refreshing entry into the wide world of magazines devoted to fashion, beauty, style, culture. Not only did they completely change the title and format, but supposedly, this will this be published each month, positioning itself to compete with all the other monthlies who are trying to reach the same audience. And in a world with so much sameness- same hype, same ads, same clothes, same models, same 'must haves' (I am sick of pins already), where everything is done and overdone ad nauseum, 'T' seems to have their own slant and their own stamp.

I always enjoy reading Suzy Menkes, Tyler Brule, Josh Patner, and Horacio Silva, and generally found 'T' to be intelligent, gossipy, visual, entertaining, and filled with lots of information. Well, okay, so what if much of it is 'useless' information (unless you're a die hard fashionista who cares what Barneys' Julie Gilhart considers to be the season's best bets or who wants to know how to makeover a $25 thrift shop fur for well into the 4 figures), but nonetheless, in this crazy world filled with all too much horrible reality, I admit I enjoyed the fluff.

One thing I wasn't crazy about was the cover- I think they could have done better than that closeup of Kate Winslet (it was a bit too close-up), but all in all, good work!

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Fall Preview:

Host of CFDA party Michael Kors

We’re ensconced in the dog days of August, the Republicans are coming, and Labor Day is just around the corner. In short, it’s the perfect time for most die- hard city dwellers to head out of town and enjoy the last few weeks of summer. So, why was Michael Kors’s 20th floor west 42nd street showroom crawling with hundreds of fashion insiders? It was the setting for the CFDA’s Annual New Members Reception, that’s why. And thanks to the relatively new schedule, putting New York Fashion Week first (ahead of Paris and Milan, and falling right after Labor Day), designers have basically been ‘robbed’ of their once carefree summers, as they are now forced with the task of putting the finishing touches on their upcoming spring collections.

New members pose for group shot with Stan Herman and Michael Kors

And boy, what a mixed bag this event was. Not only was it a mix of boldfaced names- well established designers from the ‘old’ guard (Michael Kors, Koos Van Den Akker, Gloria Sachs, Carolina Herrera, Rebecca Moses, Marc Bouwer, Steven Stolman) sipping champagne along side the young stars (Peter Som, Zac Posen, Behnaz Sarafpour), but unsurprisingly, the fashion statements were highly schizophrenic and varied as well. While some looked as though they came straight from the beach, decked out casually in madras shirts, Bermudas, tank tops, t shirts, and flip flops, others seemed intent on displaying their fall finery.

‘In Style’s’ Cindy Weber Cleary, for example, wore a chicly tailored brocade coat thrown over her shoulders, Candy Pratts Price selected a simple little black dress trimmed with tiny crystals, and many others opted for statement making accessories (fall is ‘all about’ pins, bold rings, sparkle, and shine). Retailer Amy Chan (her eclectic shop is located at 247 Mulberry Street), always wears eye catching ‘jewels’ - like the fabulous over the top ring and necklace she chose for last evening, and Sylvia Heisel opted for a glorious pile - on of slightly ethnic vintage silver bracelets to complement her classically simple olive green satin shirt and shantung pants. Even Fern Mallis made a fashion statement, donning a chic black cast instead of the traditional white version, on the lower part of her leg. When I inquired if it would come off in time for Fashion Week, she said, unfortunately not - it needs to remain on for about 4 weeks. (No, she didn’t injure herself while performing gymnastics at the Olympics in Athens).

Marilyn Kirschner interviews Carolina Herrera

Speaking of our own ‘Olympics’- upcoming Fashion Week- and the color black, the always- chic Carolina Herrera told me that for her ‘globally’ inspired spring show, one color we will NOT be seeing is black (“Color, color, color, no black” is how she phrased it). She also told me that there would be plenty of “special prints”. What else can we expect to see from September 8th through the 15th? Couturier Maggie Norris, who worked for Ralph Lauren for 15 years and now sells exclusively to Bergdorf Goodman, noted interesting mixes (she loves the idea of riding jackets worn with ball skirts and evening gowns); Behnaz Sarafpour, clad in pink and white sleeveless gingham shirt from her past spring collection, whose show will be held at Tiffany’s on Sunday morning (‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, indeed), admitted she “loves doing sportswear” but is also feeling strongly for “a mix of things”; Jill Stuart, dressed in a formfitting white lace dress paired with sexy black open toed high heels, described her collection as “pretty and girlie: pin-up sexy”.

But while Peter Som described his overall mood as “easy and relaxed”, Neimans’ Joan Kaner was feeling anything but relaxed and casual. She feels spring will be an “evolution” of what we are now seeing for fall, and is anticipating “feminine” clothing saturated in color. As she said, “women are having fun with dressing up”.

Oh, and for the record, Michael's new digs may well be sprawling, but I found them to be somewhat sterile, office-like, and lacking in personality.

-Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Filling the "Bill"

Certainly, New York Times photojournalist -- and fashion historian extraordinaire -- Bill Cunningham is truly one in a million, there is nobody like him, and he can never be duplicated or replaced. But it seems there is someone out there who perhaps might love to 'fill' his shoes someday, or at the very least, has been inspired by his work and that photographer is Kate Schelter.

Ms. Schelter's photographs of stylish social fixtures and stylish 'relative unknowns' appear routinely in both Style.com and on the pages of Vogue each month, and they've just given her a new forum for her work. If you click on to Style.com, you will find a brand new feature: "Candid Camera- Taking it to the Streets": a slide show highlighting the warm weather street smart personal style of New Yorkers as captured by the young and adorable photographer (and "trend-tracker"). Sound familiar? Well, of course, it's hard not to notice that it is very much in the mood of that Sunday New York Times feature we all know and love- Bill Cunningham's 'On the Street' column.

Ms. Schelter has always caught my eye simply because she seems to be 'everywhere' and is hard to miss: effervescent, cute, tall, skinny, she's the one at all the fashion shows and high profile parties, with camera in hand, flashing that smile, as she searches for interesting 'photo-ops.' She truly seems to love what she does (like Bill), appears to derive much pleasure, and find tremendous satisfaction upon tracking down that perfect 'subject' (again, like Bill).

-Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, August 16, 2004

Art and Fashion:

Hand painted jacket

Do art and fashion make strange bedfellows? Of course not, and certainly, fashion designer Sylvia Heisel, who once studied art history, has been in business for about 20 years, and is known for her modern, youthful and luxurious separates, and New York artist Patricia Jacobs (better known as PJ Cobbs) think there could not be a more perfect combo.

The two talented women, longtime friends, have recently entered into a collaboration, the result of which is a couture like limited edition collection of ‘Fast Couture’ comprised of hand-painted ready to wear featuring PJ’s abstract “splatter patterns” (which bring to mind Jackson Pollack) rendered on silk organza. The well-edited line, which will be available in stores come September, will focus on small jackets and coats with simple lines, all the better to show off the colorful, bold, and dimensional artwork.

On my recent visit to Sylvia’s showroom, 214 west 39th street, suite 502A, 212 719 3916, I was shown what has to be the ultimate ‘jean jacket’ because of its sporty ease and simplicity. It is a perfectly weightless and versatile piece, which can easily go from day to night. I myself would wear this over (white) jeans, chinos, or cargo pants, but it can also be thrown over a long gown or ball skirt for something more formal.

Among Sylvia’s other signature standouts were her group of silk organza shirts, which retail from $400 to $495. Colorful, pared down, and timeless, they are a constant, something she always does because her customers ask for them and rely on them to get them through the year. I also got to see her “transcultural” resort collection, filled with global influences. It is a perfect mix of trends and technology, which is really what fashion is all about these days.

By the way, the very enterprising PJ, who has been the subject of several of my columns, has an enviable collection of hand-painted vintage coats, and for $350, she can even customize a coat of your own in a selection of three different abstract designs in a choice of four colors. For more information, contact her at Pjcobbsarts@aol.com.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

'Tanks' a lot:

With the dog days of summer upon us, as we head into the sultry month of August, most of us are relying on our cool, comfortable, cotton t's and tanks to literally get us through the day- and night.

Now, Catherine Malandrino has taken this reliable staple one step further. She has combined the idea of trompe l'oeil decoration (very Elsa Schiaparelli, no?) with the hotter than hot trend of bejeweling and decorating EVERYTHING, resulting in a small and irresistible group of jeweled tank tops.

Priced from $195 to $345 retail, there is a Necklace Tank, a Knit Jeweled Tank, and a Byzantine Tank, which are currently available at the Catherine Malandrino Boutiques in New York City, East Hampton, and Los Angeles. In October, they will be available nationwide at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifthe Avenue, and Intermix.

What I love most about these whimsical and unique tops, is how versatile and 'look changing' they are, enabling you to easily go from day to night, and everything in between. You can wear them with jeans, a circle or pencil skirt, OR a ballskirt.

Tanks, Catherine!

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner