Friday, October 29, 2004

"ARMANIESQUE"

It was, to put it mildly, “The Night Of Giorgio Armani”, at last night’s (Thursday, October 28th) 21st Annual Night Of Stars galaextravaganza, held at the posh Cipriani 42nd Street. The Fashion Group International did a super job in putting on the sumptuous cocktails, dinner and award event, hosted by Barney’s own Simon Doonan, and dubbed “The Conceptualists, Imagineers Of Our Time”.

Sponsors and patrons representing big names such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Elle, Chanel, Estee Lauder, Hearst, Tiffany, Target and the like lent their support and added lots of cachet to the evening, which had a definite je ne sais quoi “Fashion Oscars” aura, evidenced in large part by all of the fashion “stars” who showed up in some of the most lavishly elegant attire we’ve seen in New York City in a long time.

A larger than life, packed house paid homage to Armani, evidenced not only by the multitude of style femmes who showed up in his gowns, but also via the Superstar Award, presented to Armani by Michelle Pfeiffer and Martin Scorcese. Pfeiffer, in a splendid Armani gown and coat ensemble, walked the red carpet with the designer. Scorcese, who obviously believes his own press, arrived with a multitude of handlers, who never left his side.

Award nods aside from Armani went to luminaries in the fashion, retail and architecture fields. Chanel’s Jean H. Zimmerman received The Corporate Stargazer award from Allure’s Linda Wells. Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs and Helmut Lang were presented with Star Honorees in Fashion & Design awards by Kate Hudson, Lil’ Kim and Interview’s Ingrid Sischy. Pamela Fiori received The Fashion Oracle award from Fred Wilson and Billie Tsien was feted with the Architecture award, presented by Gretchen Mol. Target Corp. received its Humanitarian Award, from a smashing-looking Julie Andrews (the 70-something actress looked younger than springtime in cropped hair and a mannish black pantsuit).

Along with the de rigeur models (many of whom sported longer than long gowns, vintage and new fur capes and stoles and big, deluxe jewels) the celebs were out in full force. Seen being photographed by the mob of paparazzi on the red carpet and out on the street … Kate Hudson wearing Stella McCartney; Eva “Desperate Housewives” Longeria, decked out in Bradley Bayou for Halston’s sterling silver beaded gown, showing up with a big, body-builder type; a sophisticated and grown-up Chloe Sevigny wearing Lanvin; Pierre Cardin; Oleg Cassini (the famed, 91-year-old designer showed up with a young blonde on his arm); Heidi Klume in a barely-there black Armani gown still together with Seal; Elsa Klensch, looking stylish and fresh in a long, fitted purple velvet coat and black pants; a very pregnant Kate Spade in a totally revealing, short black dress with high, cuffed Robin Hood boots

Celebs and models aside, we couldn’t help but notice a totally cool woman at the cocktail party, casually sipping champagne with an elegant silver-haired gentleman. When this reporter asked who she was and what she was wearing, she replied, “I’m a social worker and I’m wearing a beaded gown, turquoise jewelry, Lance Armstrong and Cancer Care yellow and blue rubber bracelets and blue cowboy boots, because I just can’t wear those heels anymore.”

–Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Man of True Style: Joe Eula

I was so sorry to hear about the passing of the brilliant and inventive fashion illustrator par excellence, Joe Eula, at the age of 79. Part of Halston’s inner circle, and a good friend of Carrie Donovan, who was Senior Fashion Editor of Harper’s Bazaar in the 70’s, Joe was a fixture at the magazine’s offices. In fact, as a young Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor at the time, I was privileged to have Joe ‘share’ my office space when he made his frequent visits.

Completely natural, unpretentious, and irreverent, he would walk around the halls waving his hands, repeating the mantra, “I’m ‘b’ to ‘d’ with ‘f’…..(meaing, "I’m bored to death with fashion")…which of course, he wasn’t. He may have been bored with the business and political aspect of fashion, but certainly not with the creative style aspect. He would also sketch me while I was just going about my business or while I was on the phone, and would often play ‘secretary’ and mischievously answer my phone, making playfully embarrassing remarks that only HE could get away with. For example, in many instances, the caller would be somebody important from, say, Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein, Ellen Tracy (one of the various houses I covered)…He would cover the receiver, tell me who was on the line, but before I could even take the phone, he would humorously tell the person on the other line, “Oh, she said she doesn’t want to talk to you.”

In Cathy Horyn’s obituary in today’s The New York Times, she quoted longtime friend and fellow fashion designer Fernando Sanchez as observing that both Elsa Peretti and Joe Eula "really defined Halston’s style and the idea that chic doesn’t necessarily imply money.” In fact, Ms. Horyn noted that at Joe’s Dutchess County home, even his “arrangements of summer vegetables betrayed a critical eye.” Now, that’s style! Joe was truly one of a kind, an original, and will be sorely missed.

-Posted by Marilyn Kirschner





Friday, October 22, 2004

Top Brass

Like everything else in fashion, prominent gold or brass toned buttons adorning blazers, sweaters, and coats are amongst those things that constantly swing in and out of favor. Not so long ago- in the "more is more" 80's shiny, statement making buttons (a la Chanel) were not only highly desirable, but were the mark of a well- dressed woman. Ah- but then came the minimalist 90?s, exemplified by "less is more" subtlety, and instantly, anything that screamed bourgeois luxury, such as gold buttons, quickly looked dated, old hat, old fashioned, and well, completely out of place. The design proponents of "the look" (Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Yohji Yamamoto, etc.) and everyone else it seems, used subtle, unobvious horn buttons, covered fabric buttons, wood buttons, zippers, or nothing at all, to trim their frocks.

Well...that was then, and this is now. After looking back at the 2005 spring collections, one of the most notable and welcome resurrections is the return of the structured jacket, and more specifically, the traditional navy blazer, complete with shiny gold or brass buttons. It's a popular item that has long been the backbone of every well-dressed man's wardrobe, and one that has been sorely missing from many women's closets.

One of the most influential designers in the world, Nicolas Guesquiere, left his odd tricks behind and embraced a very chic, tailored, classic, and wearable tone with his highly acclaimed military/nautically themed spring collection for Balenciaga in Paris. Using an easy-on-the-eye and timeless palette of white, navy, black, and gray in addition to lots of gold accents which came from gold buttons and zippers, it oozed a refined and youthful spirit. It was symbolized by great coats, beautifully cut narrow trousers, knee length skirts that were narrow yet had movement, AND one of the best takes on that natty navy blazer around. Guesquiere's rendition was fitted yet slightly slouchy, elongated, double-breasted, and closed with prominent shiny gold buttons. Worn over a very feminine bare white tank and artfully cut above-the-knee skirt, this could easily be the uniform for many chic, well dressed, and plugged in women for the coming season (if not forever).

And when I visited the newly renovated, just opened, Chanel boutique at 15 east 57th street, 212 355 5050, (thanks to the genius of Peter Marino) what did they select for the window? Not one of their signature tweeds from fall (which are still FAB but so copied, knocked off, and referenced they are almost a cliche) but a dark navy crested blazer trimmed with gold buttons, which is from Karl's resort collection. Mark my words, this will be the new must have! When I inquired about the price, they said resort has not been priced yet and asked me to call back next week for more information.

The good news is that if you want to get the same look by giving your favorite blazer a "face-lift", all you have to do is head over to the legendary store, Tender Buttons, 143 East 62nd street, 212 758 7004, which has been a purveyor of buttons for over 30 years. The owner, Millicent Safro, has every manner of button you can possibly imagine, at every price range, and always stocks her chic heavy gold, gold and pearl, gold and navy buttons which are produced in the very same factory in France that makes Chanel's signature buttons (they range in price from about $7 to $12). Of course, she also carries buttons that would be considered highly rare collector's items and range in price from $2,000 and up. In this category are such rarities as the 18th century paintings in ivory under glass and a small collection of commemorative copper buttons made in honor of George Washington.

By the way, Tender Buttons also sells distinctive blazer crests for $40. And for that favorite white shirt which would be the perfect compliment for your navy blazer, she also sells collectible antique, period and Victorian cufflinks. Appropriate for men and women alike, you and your 'significant other' can both share and enjoy!



Posted by Marilyn Kirschner



Tuesday, October 19, 2004

From French Fried to French Toast

Alber Elbaz has literally gone from "French-fried" to "French toast" in just about five years. The Israeli born designer who once worked for Geoffrey Beene, was "fried" after being unceremoniously dumped from YSL about 5 years ago, after the Gucci Group bought the label and replaced him with Tom Ford. But he is now the "Toast of the Town" as head of design for Lanvin, the legendary French house that he has literally helped breathe new life into, forcing the fashion world to sit up and take notice.

While Paris collections of Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Helmut Lang, Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Phoebe Philo for Chloe, and Dries Van Noten, are amongst those who received rave reviews and were heralded as setting the tone for the season, perhaps the most universally glowing accolades from the press were heaped upon Alber Elbaz, who is truly enjoying his moment in the sun.

In her review in The New York Times on October 19, 2004, Cathy Horyn noted, "No show of the spring 2005 ready-to-wear season received such a response"(in reference to the thunderous applause Elbaz received when he took his bow at the show's finale). And in today's review ,"From Runway to Wardrobe: The Looks for Spring", she singled him out- along with Jean Paul Gaultier at Hermes, as "the leading proponents of the new French chic". WWD also observed, "anyone who is searching out that elusive Parisian je ne sais quoi need look no further than the house of Lanvin. Alber Elbaz knows what and if he could bottle the esprit of his exquisite spring collection, he'd be a gazillionaire." Wow!

And it seems as if Alber is not only enjoying his moment in the sun, but perhaps, the last laugh. His beautiful, modern, elegant, yet youthful and uncontrived spring collection, was alas, more 'St. Laurent' in its mood and spirit, than the ill received stiff, overly retro and referential collection Stefano Pilati put forth in his inaugural collection for YSL just about one week ago.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner



Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ten Best Looks of the Season by Bernadine Morris

Our contributing senior editor Bernadine Morris (30 years the senior fashion writer of The New York Times) who reports now for lookonline.com chooses her ten best looks from the Spring 2005 New York shows. Click here for the complete report. See if you agree with her or not.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

'An officer and a Gentleman'

In this time of one dizzying trend after another, in your face excess, and too much 'frou', one of the best things an influential, world class designer can do, is to breathe new life into favorite, time worn classics and somehow 'reinvent them' , making them look fresh and desirable. That is precisely what Nicolas Guesquiere was able to accomplish in Paris during his runway show yesterday -- instantly dusting off any stodgy or old fashioned image that might have been associated with gold buttons, navy blazers, epaulets, and naval inspired tailored pieces (you know, the sort of things that on paper, you would think might be better suited to 'bridge' departments of large commercial stores). But of course, when Nicolas delves into the amazing archives of the house of Balenciaga, the result is anything but Liz Claiborne, let's be honest. Come to think of it, it actually sounds very 'Ralph Lauren' to me and the perfect direction for him to take for next fall/winter.

While Mr. Guesquiere's past efforts - while always interesting to watch, and often truly wonderful - were often frought with a bit too much trickery and odd experimentation, with this collection, he was able to merge the best of both worlds - the wearable and timeless, with modern, youthful verve. Flights of fancy are fun, and provide a welcome interlude, but most women really want to look chic and pulled together in great 'tailleur'. And of course, they want to look hip and cool at the same time (not frumpy). That is not always an easy feat. Mr. Guesquiere was able to pull that off in one fell swoop!


- Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, October 04, 2004

Is it Fashion or is it Art?

It's a recurring question. Whether there will ever be a definitive answer is dubious. But in the case of Richard Avedon there isn't much of a problem. It's both. Whether it is a glamour girl of the 1950's in a glamorous ballgown of the period, or portraits of real people which somehow acquire a stylish demeanor, the difference between fashion and art is diminished.

The question also comes up with the work of Geoffrey Beene who didn't aspire to making art, just clothes. Yet he cared so much about line and fabric that his work often approached the dignity of art.

Both the photographer and the designer died in the past week, leaving a vacuum that would not be filled with lesser lights. In both cases, it was a case of passion: doing the job so well it could not be improved upon. And of course, there was the talent.

There is no lack of talent today among both designers and photographers. But seeing as clearly as both men did is a special gift. It is not necessary that every dress and every photograph be a work of art. But at their best, the dress and the picture of the dress transcends itself. It becomes something else, something beautiful and permanent. It has a right to be called art.

So the question whether fashion is art cannot easily be resolved. In their highest forms, the distinction is not significant.


-Bernadine Morris
Much Ado About MIUCCIA

There seems to be no letting up in the fashion world’s fascination of/and obsession with Miuccia Prada, who has been the subject of countless articles as of late. In fact, she was the subject of the front- page article, “The Age of Prada”, written by Guy Trebay for his ‘Fashion Diary’ column in yesterday’s ‘Style’ section of The New York Times. And even though I too, have addressed this subject ad nauseum- for seasons now- I have some additional thoughts and observations I would like to share.

What really hits me almost more than anything, is how much Miuccia has been responsible for helping us challenge our perception of what is beautiful, sexy, attractive, and desirable. Hardly a conventional beauty in any sense of the word (and one who eschews false and artificial aids like make up and plastic surgery in favor of a natural look) she is the embodiment of her own individual, eccentric aesthetic. Of course, this is a woman who has also forced us to re-evaluate and redefine what is hip and cool, and re- think luxury (having elevated pedestrian nylon to luxury cult status). She has also helped put an entire generation of young women, (who would have never thought they would do so)- in downright dowdy styles that resemble their mother’s- not to mention gloves and brooches, made it ‘okay’ to buy secondhand thrift shop and vintage clothes, and made geek ‘chic’.

So weighty is her influence and so unwavering is the loyalty of her fans, I shun thinking what would happen if she proposed or suggested we all jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

-Marilyn Kirschner