Monday, January 31, 2005

‘Catch’ a Rising Star

Fashion Group International’s 8th Annual Rising Star Awards were held yesterday at the New York Hilton Hotel and they were the most fast paced and well edited thus far- from beginning to end.

FGI President Margaret Hayes moved things along with her introduction, followed by a tasty, quick and efficient luncheon (everything was already waiting on the table, from main course of salmon to dessert). Then came Special Guest/Keynote Speaker - a former ‘rising star’ (his star has already RISEN) - Zac Posen’s unlaborious, to the point, and sincere sentiments. He told the guests that for him, it’s all about making “beautiful clothing”, the “frivolity of fashion”, the “imagination of a woman”, and “empowering” his customer by helping her realize her “fantasies.”

He went on to emphasize the importance of promoting and supporting new young designers (which is what the entire event is all about, after all), urging “accountants and bankers” to do their part to help the cause, and he observed that the garment industry is a “dying industry” which must be aided. He also paid homage to the city of New York which he called “the most diverse place in the world”, and noted that since New York designers now show first (before London, Milan, and Paris), the stage has truly been set for the limelight to shine on our bright stars, right here, in the Big Apple.

The awards were broken into 8 categories. Accessories: Sandra Wilson, Neiman Marcus’s Accessories Director presented Gabriella Zanzani with her Rising Star; Beauty/Fragrance Corporate: Jane Larkworthy, W’s Beauty Director, presented Nicole Howard (Origins) her Rising Star; Beauty Fragrance Entrepreneur: Kristin Perrotta, Elle’s Beauty Editor, presented Paula Dorf (Paula Dorf Cosmetics), her Rising Star; Home/Interior Design: Doug Wilson, Co-Host of the TV show, ‘Trading Spaces’ presented Jeffrey Hutchinson (Jeffrey Hutchinson & Associates) his Rising Star; Fine Jewelry: Steven Lagos, of Steven Lagos Fine Jewelry, presented Simon Alcantara (Simon Alcantara LLC) his Rising Star; Men’s Apparel: David Chu (David Chu Inc.) presented Tomer Gendler (Tomer) his award; Retail: Glen Senk, President of Anthropology, presented Tory Burch (Tory by TRB) her ‘Rising Store’ Award; Women’s Apparel: and Patrick Robinson, who is now Creative Director for Paco Rabanne, did the honors announcing Kathryn & Lindy Jones (Palmer Jones LLC) as winners in their group. (Interestingly, in their acceptance speech, the duo admitted their muse is none other than Cinderella….who knew?)

By the way, I was delighted to chat with Tory Burch, who was clad in a fabulous diamante edged gray herringbone jacket and lean pants of her own design - natch! We first met in the 80’s, when we were both at Harper’s Bazaar (I was a senior fashion editor, and she was a very young assistant). The attractive, chic, flawlessly groomed young woman may be a fixture on New York’s social circuit, but she hates the term ‘socialite’ as a description for herself. A wife and mom, she is known for her philanthropy as well as her absolutely AMAZING apartment at the Pierre, which had recently been photographed for a major Vogue layout.

I must say, when I first heard that she was starting her own fashion company, I was skeptical (writing it off to just, well, a ‘thing’ to do). When I admitted this to her, she grinned and said she could easily understand my feelings. But of course, I quickly changed my opinion, as soon as I saw what she was up to. Tory’s high taste level and aesthetic is very much apparent in her tightly edited ‘lifestyle’ collection (comprised of highly collectible items that transcend the ‘trends’), which is available in her Elizabeth street shop (257 Elizabeth Street, 212 3343000,, and can be found at Bergdorf Goodman. She is obviously someone to watch.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Chic to the (Conservative) Core, Continued...

Regardless of how you feel about their politics (or about them), the operative word for the fashion statements on parade by members of the ‘First Families’ during today’s Inaugural festivities was ‘chic’. It is obvious that ‘chic’ edged out ‘warmth’ judging from the decidedly streamlined, modest, lean, un-bulky coat ensembles, the absence of hats (silly or otherwise expect for the black fur ‘beret’ worn by Condoleeza Rice to compliment her black wool coat), scarves and mufflers, with the exception of former First Lady Barbara Bush who was a vision in red (cumbersome shawl), white (hair, earrings, and gloves) and blue (coat and pants). Hey, she can do or wear whatever she wants and she does! Perhaps most surprising (and refreshing) there was hardly a fur in sight (except for a smattering of tiny fur collars here and there, like the one worn by one of the Cheney daughters). Hmmm, was this an effort to be politically correct? Or a nod to that “proper Republican cloth coat” the late President Richard M. Nixon eluded to years ago?

Leading the pack was First Lady Laura Bush who has never looked better (except perhaps for the Annie Liebovits spread that appeared in January Vogue). She has truly come into her own, and her wise choice of Oscar de la Renta’s winter white cashmere dress with embroidered trim worn with a matching embroidered coat was beyond reproach. Smart, chic, cool, and restrained, perhaps most importantly it looked effortless. I liked the fact that she had no unnecessary or distracting ‘tchotchkes’ (no scarf, no bag, no hat). She accessorized only with elegant white kid gloves, tailored earrings, nude sheer stockings and bone colored pumps. The grooming was flawless as well. Certainly a major improvement from the first Inauguration 4 years ago!

And kudos to the Bush twins Jenna and Barbara, who wisely portrayed different fashion personalities, and who both looked young, chic, cool, and streamlined though not very warm. Jenna’s knee length Derek Lam baby blue wool trench coat was THE perfect choice. It was cinched at the waist with a wide black leather belt, and worn over a slightly longer soft pleated skirt, she looked extremely hip and plugged in, resembling a young fashion editor making the rounds or attending the shows. Her open neckline was left bare - not a turtleneck sweater or scarf in sight. And sister Barbara opted for a knee length beige jewel encrusted wool cardigan coat over matching top and pants. It too was left open and blowing in the wind with no scarf, no hat, no gloves (as far as I could see). Somehow, none of these gals looked a bit cold. I guess when you bask in the glow of that second Presidential Inauguration, you simply need nothing else to keep you warm.

By the way, forgetting all that talk about red states and blue states, blue continues to reign as the color of choice for political wives and women politicians. Lynne Cheney wore a bright blue (almost turquoise) wool collarless coat, Senator Elizabeth Dole also wore a bright blue wool coat with eye shadow to match, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton perked up her black wool coat with a bright blue ribbed cashmere turtleneck sweater under her black wool coat.

And blue is still a favorite shade for the men as well. Senator John Kerry (who was probably thinking more about how today should or could have been ‘his’ day, wore a bright blue tie and matching muffler with his suit, as he sat in the grandstand looking on, and President George W. Bush selected a high spirited bright blue patterned tie to set off his dark top coat and suit, as he was sworn in for his second term.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Marriage, ‘Donald’ Style

If there is anything MORE tasteless, disgusting, obnoxious, and at this point in time -- BORING -- than reading about, and hearing about Donald Trump and Melania Knauss’s upcoming nuptials, I’d like to know what it is. Yesterday’s New York Post promised a ‘First photo- a sneak peak’ at Melania’s dress, which featured a double page spread of the Mario Testino photo that is running in the February issue of Vogue (which hits newsstands this week- timed perfectly I might add, to coincide with the wedding that takes place this coming Saturday in Palm Beach). And yikes that dress! I don't care how much it cost, how many hours seamstresses labored over it, how much yardage went into it, and who designed's positively hideous! They couldn't think of enough 'tshotchkes' to put on that thing. What happened to the notion that 'less is more'?

But of course, this is Donald Trump, the 'taste challenged', larger than life, mega maniacal multibillionaire, whose entire life seems to be publicized and choreographed, to the 'nth' degree.

The aforementioned issue of Vogue, which features Melania on the cover wearing her Dior creation (the first time by the way, a bride has graced the magazine's cover) boasts a garganutuan 14 page inside spread, “How to Marry a Billionaire”, penned by Sally Singer and shot entirely by Testino. It was styled by Andre Leon Talley, who accompanied Melania to last season’s couture shows in Paris and arranged for fittings with a select group of designers.

Boy, it really seems Vogue magazine sold out. I don’t doubt Anna Wintour’s affection for The Donald, (which she goes on record with in her editor's letter) and Melania (a professional model) is certainly beautiful, statuesque, and photogenic, but my gosh, you would think this event was the biggest thing to happen in our lifetime!

And if you haven’t seen enough of the blushing bride and groom to be, inside the magazine, there happens to be a double page color ad for 'Donald Trump The Fragrance', featuring the happy couple in all their splendid glory.

I don’t know Donald or Melania, I have no reason to dislike them, and I wish them well and hope for their sake that this marriage lasts a lifetime. But let’s get real, given Donald’s marital track record (this will be wife #3), his oversized ego, etc., just how long do YOU suppose this marriage will actually last? My best guess is- not as long as all the hype that led up to the wedding.

- Marilyn Kirschner

The 8th Annual Rising Star Awards

Zac Posen to Deliver Keynote Address

Thursday, January 27, 2005 The Fashion Group International presents the Eighth Annual Rising Star Awards recognizing emerging talent in women’s and men’s apparel, beauty, fragrance, accessories, jewelry, interior design and retail. At this year’s ceremony, eight individuals -- who were selected from a highly accomplished and competitive group of finalists -- will have their awards presented to them by a leader in the field and take home top honors in their respective category. Each nominee was nominated and voted upon by FGI members and a special industry panel. Winners will be announced for the first time at the ceremony. One of fashion’s most successful young talents, Zac Posen, will deliver the keynote address.

David Chu for men’s ready to wear
Steven Lagos for fine jewelry
Jane Larkworthy for beauty/ fragrance (corporate)
Krisitn Perrotta for beauty/ fragrance (entrepreneur)
Patrick Robinson for women’s ready to wear
Glen Senk for retail
Doug Wilson for home/interior design
Sandra Wilson for accessories

DATE: Thursday, January 27, 2005

TIME: 11:15 a.m. Reception
12:00 noon – 2:00 Luncheon & Award Ceremony

LOCATION: New York Hilton
Trianon Ballroom
1335 Avenue of the Americas

TICKETS: Call (212) 302-5511

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A ‘Golden’ Opportunity

Let me just say that I was not exactly overwhelmed by the fashion statements on display at Sunday evening’s Golden Globe Awards. Quite frankly, it looked more like an award ceremony honoring the stars of television and movies, than a fashion show or fashion event. And considering that’s precisely what it was, this should not really be too surprising, after all. Predictably, there were high moments… and of course, some low moments (real ‘clinkers’), which is always to be expected (Diane Keaton in her ‘Annie Hall’ inspired jacket and tailored shirt worn with floor length skirt comes to mind, as does Meryl Streep, in her horribly unflattering wide scoop necked gown. It should be pointed out that this particular neckline would not flatter anyone.

In general, it was a somewhat subdued affair (and considering recent world events, this seems rather appropriate). How did this play out? Bling was kept to a minimum, with many stars seemingly opting for small personal jewelry instead of in your face, obviously borrowed gems (although diamond chandelier earrings do not seem to be going away any time soon as they were the accessory of choice). Many attendees opted for dark solids colors or pale neutrals instead of jarring brights or dizzying patterns (though strong, clear red was the color of choice for many, including Jennifer Garner, Patricia Arquette and NBC host Nancy O’Dell). Again, no surprise there, as red is a crowd pleaser, always stands out, flatters almost everyone, and is traditionally chosen for the Red Carpet.

Other color observations? While black is still popular, (Diane Sawyer wore a smartly tailored black satin coat over lace dress, and Glenn Close chose a vintage Geoffrey Beene black lace gown with tiny point d’esprit bolero, which she admitted she wore to honor the late designer) brown and navy have ‘edged out’ black. In fact, one can say that brown really is the ‘new’ black. Chocolate brown in the form of a knee length full skirted party dress was worn by Renee Zellweger and a bronze-y brown Calvin Klein simple jersey gown was selected by beautiful and talented Hilary Swank.

Blue, which is the fashion world’s favorite new hue for spring, was the hue of choice for the always-fashionable Cate Blanchett, who looked highly individual, as always, in her asymmetrical blue draped gown by Jean Paul Gaultier (a designer she traditionally relies on). Not too many people could have carried that one off, but leave it to Cate to do just that. Blue (this time a rich, dark navy) was also the choice for the absolutely stunning Charlize Theron, who was one of the best dressed in her simple but arrestingly form fitting Christian Dior creation. She wisely kept her grooming sleek and her accessories in their drawers.

By the way, another color trend that was very much on display at the Globes, is going dark (in terms of hair color). Renee Zellweger recently darkened her blonde locks and Charlize Theron is another one who has changed her hair color from golden to almost black for a movie role.

One star that did not fare too well was Nicole Kidman, who despite her style icon status, and her amazingly statuesque and skinny frame, does not always get it right for these high profile events. Even though she cannot really look bad no matter what she does to herself, she suffers from fashion victim ‘itis’. In other words she tries too hard to make a fashion statement and it does not always work. Her emerald green Gucci gown with the peacock feather appendage on the shoulder was rather unfortunate (regardless of the fact that peacock feathers are ‘in’ this season), and her hairdo was matronly. A far better choice would have been something more classic and chic like Chanel, a look that really suits her. And considering that she is the new face of Chanel #5, and that she will be on hand along with Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute honors Chanel for it’s long awaited upcoming spring exhibit and gala, she really blew a wonderful opportunity.

And finally, one thing that was evident is that one need not actually win a Golden Globe in order to show their ‘globes’ …as evidenced by all the boob jobs on display in plunge front, low cut halter tops and gowns.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Chic to the (Conservative) Core:

With Inauguration Day approaching (January 20th) Laura Bush’s fashion choices for the various events marking the occasion have been the focus of the fashion world as of late, and her ever-revolving style has been a seemingly favorite topic of conversation. On Monday, January 10th, this subject was WWD’s cover story (“WWD Exclusive - Laura’s Oscar”), which featured a sketch of Oscar de la Renta’s embroidered and bugle beaded silvery blue wrap gown, which the First Lady will wear to the Inaugural Ball.

And in today’s ‘Fashion’ section of The New York Times, there was a full-page article, “What the First Lady Will Wear, by Ruth La Ferla” with accompanying pictures and sketches bearing witness to Laura’s ‘glamorous’ transformation through the years. For me, the most illustrative shot was the Annie Liebovitz portrait that appears in January Vogue in which Laura has quite frankly, never looked better (in fact, she is, with all due respects, almost unrecognizable). Why?

Well, for one thing, she looks far more youthful, more modern, less uptight, less ‘done’, yet still stately and above all, ‘glamorous’, in her Oscar de la Renta dark navy (almost black) floor length silk shirtdress, accessorized NOT with dainty pearls or that expected diamante brooch pinned to the lapel- but with a highly distinctive and personal Verdura triple strand lemon quartz necklace. And her hair, which is often too helmet like for my tastes, was wisely and artfully brushed back away from her face, slightly tousled, and seemingly highlighted by the brilliant Sally Hersberger.

There is something in this that can be used as a lesson and application for women of all ages, (especially for those who are well, over a ‘certain’ age). It is proof positive that one does not need bells and whistles to make a statement OR to look glamorous, less can be more, and one can never underestimate the power and impact of chic, understated classics. Wisely, Mrs. Bush is choosing another such creation (a Carolina Herrera raspberry striped silk taffeta shirtwaist gown) for the Texas State Society black tie and boots ball on January 19th. She certainly is a quick learner.

While it’s undeniable that Mrs. Bush has vastly improved vis a vis her fashion sense, since her first public gig as First Lady of Texas, as well as her first term as First Lady of the Land, she still has quite a ways to go before being eligible for truly chic status. By her reliance on the formidable design talents of the chicer than chic Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta (in lieu of fellow Texan Michael Faircloth who she does still wear from time to time) she has made a statement about her new found role as a “symbol of the state” and a “growing awareness that her power is entrenched” (as pointed out in Ms. La Ferla’s article).

But if I was Mrs. Bush’s fashion consultant, I would guide her into more of these wise fashion choices and help her find the most highly distinctive yet classic pieces. I would steer her away from those stiff matched suits with short, fitted jackets and go for versions that have elongated and impeccably tailored jackets cut like riding jackets (far more flattering). I would also steer her away from anything with unnecessary, extraneous trims (you know ‘ruffles and flourishes’), and focus on pared down, beautifully executed, almost minimal designs. I would also keep her away from those predictable saccharine sweet pastels favored by political wives and women politicians (pale pinks and blues) in lieu of forever chic and timeless neutrals white, tan, black, and navy, maybe a hit of red from time to time.

And while I understand that there are occasions when only a matched suit will do, as much as possible, I would try to emphasize distinctive and versatile separates (what a perfect time for that navy crested blazer worn with cuffed gray flannel trousers or a kick pleated gray flannel skirt), trench coats, and collecting a wardrobe of coats. Quite frankly, coat dressing is so much more elongating, slimming, and chic than little jackets anyway, they are so versatile and functional, make a perfect traveling companion, go from day to evening, and look as amazing with skirts, dresses, or pants.

As for the First Lady’s weekend wear and casual, down time? My idea of a perfect warm weather ‘uniform’ would be a navy crested blazer, crisp white shirt, perfectly cut white jeans, and rope soled lace up espadrilles. For the colder months, she could channel her Western roots (like hubby Dubya does) and opt for beautifully crafted, couture like whipstitched earth toned suede and chamois jackets, crisp chambray shirts, chinos or dark, stiff jeans, accessorized with pieces of authentic turquoise Navajo jewelry - necklaces, cuffs, rings (very Ralph Lauren, no?) Well, what designer is more identified with the American West, and who more successfully embodies the idea of ‘Great American Sportswear’ than Ralph? Nobody does it better!

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, January 10, 2005

New York Fall RTW 2005 Shows & Party Schedule

Members click here for the complete schedule!

Not a member yet? Click here and become a subsciber to our premium feature ares..

All the major upcoming shows at Bryant Park and other venues around the city covering the period from February 3rd until the February 11th are now up with contact info in our members only area. Please note this schedule is subject to change --and will not be updated -- so be sure to check with the designer or PR firm to confirm all dates and times. This schedule is for our subscribers and is for informational purposes only and we are not responsible for errors, changes and omissions.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

New Year's Resolutions

Most of us start out the New Year trying to make good on our New Year's Resolutions. I myself am really trying harder to catch typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors within my work....On that note, I would like to mention a typo in today's New York Fashion Report, that I unfortunately did not catch in time.

The last sentence in Joan Kaner's quote read: "Translation: personal style – clothes worn by express the wearer and not fashionista clones" . Of course, the sentence should have read, "clothes worn to express the wearer and not fashionista clones." This was my mistake. Sorry Joan!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Woops, They Did it Again!

For the second day in a row, WWD was scooped by The New York Times's Bill Cunningham. As noted yesterday, on Monday, January 3rd, WWD ran a pictorial called, 'Fur for All' which showed images of various socialites and celebs donning those ubiquitous small fur pieces (chubbies, capelets, boleros) during the recent round of holiday parties. It seemed to be practically the same idea (almost the same furs and in one instance, the very same person - Sally Albemarle) already recorded by Bill Cunningham in his Sunday, December 26th ‘On The Street’ column.

And today, there is a double page spread in WWD, 'Pink Chic' which literally follows by two days, Bill's Sunday, January 2nd column, ‘In the Pink’. I can’t wait to see what WWD features tomorrow.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Speaking of the fashion world’s mental health issues…

I’m constantly amazed and struck by the completely contradictory and paradoxical nature of life, something that is especially obvious within the elitist world of fashion. But hey, let’s be honest. Don’t we all suffer from episodes of fashion schizophrenia? Most of us have more than just one fashion personality lurking inside; we are all asked to wear many ‘hats’ (business woman, executive, mom, wife, lover, daughter, friend, chef, party planner, shrink, etc.) and we all have many different sides, moods, needs, and creative outlets. Part of the job of fashion (and the fun, quite frankly) is to help us tap into these different sides, express ourselves, and dress for whoever we are, whoever we have to be, whoever we want to be.

Fashion schizophrenia is something that is actually nurtured and encouraged by an ever changing and contradictory fashion world, inhabited by designers who constantly go back and forth between often opposing fashion ideologies and philosophies- changing their minds and contradicting themselves from one season- or one moment- to the next.

Interestingly, (or should I say, paradoxically) one of the most CONSISTENT fashion designers of all time- the late and great Geoffrey Beene who passed away last year, was sometimes inconsistent and highly contradictory himself. This is something that did not go unnoticed by his heir apparent, Swedish born Einar Holiloekk, who is carrying on the label. (His first collection on his own will unveil during New York Fashion Week, at an informal presentation held in the company's west 57th street atelier).

Mr. Holiloekk confessed that Mr. Beene was often “a little bit all over the place”. “You couldn’t pin him down. He would always change. But perhaps, that was his strength - he was actually quite smart”. This was also easily explained by Einar, who observed that as a couture designer, Mr. Beene had to “address the different needs of his customer” as she went from day to night, from city to country, from work to play (and what could be more contradictory and schizophrenic than that?) Thus for every pant, there was a skirt and for everything long there was something short, for everything stiff and tailored, there was something soft, floating, and ethereal. For every outfit that could be used as a daily, no nonsense ‘uniform’, there was something extravagant and highly special.

And although pants figured prominently into Geoffrey’s repertoire (not to mention the fact that he made some of the most memorable jumpsuits around), he nonetheless went on record with his disdain for pants, preferring to see women’s legs. In fact, he was quoted as saying, “I believe by the 21st century women will be wearing pants and I honestly hope I won’t be there to see it.”

-Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, January 03, 2005

Before we can think ahead, we should reflect on the year that was…

The Highs and Lows of 2004

A disclaimer: Let me begin by saying that I in no way mean to make light of mental illness, nor is it my intention to poke fun at psychiatric disorders- this is fashion writing which by definition is meant to be entertaining, lighthearted, irreverent, and taken with a grain of salt.

Bi-Polar Disorder, Multiple Personalities, Identity Crises, Mania, Fashion Schizophrenia...

Okay, so having said that, notwithstanding current bothersome health woes- colds, sniffles, and the flu- this past year was seemingly ‘all about’ mental health issues. The New York Times fashion department seems to be struggling with their very own ‘bi polar’ and multiple personality disorder, not to mention somewhat of an identity crises, as evidenced by recent articles. Their Tuesday, December 21st 'Fashion' section was almost literally divided in half by two articles whose captions and attending images completely and blatantly contradicted one another. Talk about the ‘Three Faces of Eve’. How about the ‘two faces’ of The New York Times? It appeared that one hand literally did not know what the other hand was doing.

Ruth La Ferla's "Department Stores Discover That, Um, Sex Sells", illustrated by Henri Bendel's "naughty mannequins" and Patricia Fields' racy windows for H & M, made a case for the way in which 'sex sells', "light kink" has gone "mainstream", and that as the holidays approached, department stores were helping their customer tap into their "playfully kinky" sides.

Meanwhile, just below, Ginia Bellafante's "In 2004, Prim Looks Foretold the Mood" reflected on the year, which was marked by fashion's desire to "offer women clothes that made them look less like sunbathers on the shores of Brazil and more like graduates of the Katharine Gibbs Secretarial school around 1955" as exemplified by the decidedly demure pictures of Nicole Kidman in her hair held back by a bow trimmed headband and clad in a tweed skirt, and Jennifer Lopez in a bow trimmed top and little black wristlet gloves. She wrote "2004 will be remembered as a time when Seventh Avenue demonstrated a rare kind of prescience, reading a cultural shift toward conservative beliefs and tastes earlier and more accurately than a legion of political prognosticators."

And what was ‘up’ with Cathy Horyn’s article in the ‘Dining In’ section on Wednesday, December 29, 2004, “Everyone’s Driven to Eat. How Many Arrive in a Bentley?”, which was not exactly about dining, nor was it really about fashion or style (though its focus was the always- fashionable Vanity Fair special correspondent Amy Fine Collins, a member of the International Best-Dressed List whose very essence seems to be ‘all about’ style), and it really was not about driving either. It was a strange mix of all the above, but more than anything, it seemed to be a good plug for one highly charismatic and strikingly handsome Turkish driving instructor, Attila Gusso, whose relationship with Ms. Collins and his ability to help her overcome an irrational fear of driving also became the subject of her new book, “The God of Driving”.


And how can we forget fashion’s favorite ‘bi-polar’ celebrity/designer, Isaac Mizrahi, who went public with his predilection (or ‘affliction’) at a lavish and highly publicized gala fashion show/celebration held on June 14th at Cipriani 42nd street. Called ‘High/Low’, the runway show was described as an “unprecedented mix of class and mass” by Ruth LaFerla, (“Mizrahi is Back With Two Collections”, June 15th.) "It's high and low, an extension of my own bipolarity. For the most part, that is how I live my life, in custom-made suits from England and polo shirts from Gap”, the designer told Ms. LaFerla. And the man certainly practices what he preaches, routinely arriving at black tie galas and swank parties dressed in his impeccably tailored Savile Row suits and starched shirts, offhandedly paired with (Target’s) rubber thongs, and those signature patterned cotton bandanas rolled up and neatly tied to keep his wavy hair in place.

Isaac has boasted proudly about his ‘highs and lows’, having gone on record with the fact that he loves things that are either $15 or $15,000 (and nothing in between) and on this runway he certainly managed to indulge and play up his penchance, by successfully mixing elements from his made to order line, exclusively available at Bergorf Goodman, with items from his unbelievably well priced Target collection. Case in point: he effortlessly paired a $20,000 ballroom skirt with a $14.99 white stretch cotton shirt… which is precisely what he used to do in his heyday (back in the 80’s). But of course, back then, the shirt would still have been high priced, as it would have come from his main collection.

High/Low not only describes the ups and downs of life, one’s mood, or psyche, but happens to be a phrase which successfully and succinctly defines the practice of mixing ‘high’ elements with ‘low’ elements (high priced with low priced, vintage with retail, street wear with couture, thrift shop with designer, old with new, day with night, ethnic with classic, etc.)

There is no question that it is precisely these unexpected pairings of seemingly incompatible, incongruous, or disparate elements that define modern fashion. It’s something that is employed by designers and stylists on the runway and within their own collections, and something which has been wholeheartedly embraced by the customer who has grown to accept the fact that dressing head to toe in any one look or designer, is pass√©, and to be avoided at all costs, (unless of course, you really WANT to look like Ivana Trump).


For Karl Lagerfeld, one of the fashion world’s most unapologetically ‘manic’ designers (not to mention one that is highly influential, outspoken, irreverent, and iconic) it has always been about the paradoxical mix of high and low. But while it’s true, “without the spice of the low the high bores him”, (as noted by Kim Hastreiter, editor in chief of Paper Magazine, in an article she wrote about the legend in September), he has nonetheless proved to the world just how ‘low’ he can go, making a case for lower is better (in terms of price) with his highly publicized and record breaking collaboration with the low priced fast fashion emporium, H&M (the first time a designer has lent his/her name to a line of clothing for the chain).

Karl is truly inspirational and one fashion personality who never seems to have a down side, or a down ANYTHING for that matter. The fact is, he appears to do everything ‘on’ speed (talk, think, conceptualize, dream, design, travel, party, decorate, buy and sell real estate) and is someone who has obviously benefited from his ‘mania’. At the age of 67, he constantly reinvents himself; having metamorphosed from an overweight aging senior to his current enviably slimmed down physique befitting a rock star. In a youth obsessed business like ours, he is living proof that chronological age matters not.

Quite frankly, not too many people- regardless of their age- exhibit such a youthful verve and spirit. And talk about ‘modern’. He much prefers to think ahead into the future than be mired in a time warp, obsessing about the past (as so many of the young ones obviously do). And how many can claim to successfully work on three ready to wear collections (Fendi, Chanel, Lagerfeld Gallery- which was just bought by Tommy Hilfiger) plus one couture (Chanel) twice a year, design an exclusive line for H & M, collect art, decorate hotels, work as a photographer (directing his own ads as well), create and publish books (which are sold in his very own little bookstore), AND put in personal appearances all over the world- seemingly ALL at the same time? This past year was truly amazing for the unstoppable Karl Lagerfeld, who shows no signs of slowing down, and that is why, he is my ‘2004 Man of the Year’.

--Finally, in the end, what could illustrate the completely bi polar, contradictory, high/low nature of life, than current world events? Just as most of us lucky ones were reflecting on our good fortunes, the wonderful gifts we had just received, anticipating our next material acquisitions, and getting ready to ring in the New Year, news broke of the worst natural disaster in memory- the Tsunamis in Southeast Asia, with its impossible to fathom casualty toll of close of well over 125,000 (and climbing each moment). Talk about putting things in their proper perspective! Happy 2005!

-Marilyn Kirschner