Friday, June 24, 2005

Folding Nylon Bags

Backwoods, located at 315 west 57 street (212 459 2975) is a 41/2 year old shop owned by John Ruesch and Darren Wernick, which has developed a loyal following and clientele due to its location and great selection of inexpensive and summer perfect cotton skirts, kurtas, shawls, scarves (many with an ethnic feeling - especially the beaded and tie dyed items), not to mention accessories, jewelry, bags, and home furnishings, all priced under $30 (the bulk is between $10 and $ 20). Almost everything is made expressly for the shop and carries the label, Backwoods.

John told me that his most popular and best selling items are the lightweight, Indian made cotton gauze skirts with just enough fullness to make them breezy (some have horizontally layered panels on top which give the torso a very trim look), which are available in a wide assortment of colors and color combinations, lengths, and silhouettes, and almost all are priced at $20 (except for those that are beaded).

And if you are a fan of the popular and practical Longchamp folding nylon bags (which are perfect for summer travel and toting to the beach), but don’t want to spend upwards of $110, you might think of making a phone call to the West Coast. On a recent trip to the beautiful beach resort tof Half Moon Bay, right outside of San Francisco, I stopped into a charming gift shop called, appropriately, The Charmed Rose (650-712-1622) owned by Irene Contreras. The one item that really caught my eye was the group of gigantic, sturdy, folding nylon bags with the familiar brown handles and trim, in a large selection of colors and patterns, that I initially mistook for Longchamps…until I looked at the price tag ($19.99) and saw they were made by JoAnn Marie Designs..

They are available in about 20 colors (some of which change seasonally), including brown, black, and bright orange. They also come in bold awning stripes, over scaled florals, a black and white zebra pattern, and my favorite the brown toned ‘safari’ print (comprised of little monkeys, giraffes, elephants). With safari styles always being a perennial favorite (not to mention all the safari and bush jackets), this would be a perfect addition to one's wardrobe. And at this price, you don't have to decide on just one- you can afford to buy several! Just a note, there is also a $21 version that is the same size but has a long shoulder strap instead of the shorter one, and comes with its own detachable money pocket.

The store is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm and they will gladly ship to anywhere in the U.S.

However, if you are REALLY smart, the best place to buy them is right online, Not only will you pay $16.99, but shipping is free!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

It 'Works' for Me:

Housing Works is arguably one of the best thrift shops in Manhattan, boasting 4 very convenient locations (306 Columbus Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets; 202 East 77th Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues; 143 West 17th Street, between 6th and 7th avenues; and 157 East 23rd Street, between third and lexington avenues).

And with yesterday being the first day of summer (though it's felt like summer many times before), they are taking advantage of the calendar date and celebrating its official arrival with a shopping event worth checking out. Called 'The Summer Solstice Preview Event', everyone is invited to "put on your clam diggers and your flipflops, grab a shovel and a bucket, come hunt for buried treasures at any of our four Housing Works Thrift Shop locations. In celebration of the summer solstice, we are filling each store with enticing summer loot, worthy of a pirate or a prince."

If, like me, are always looking for that summer perfect (or anytime of the year for that matter) little black dress, floral sundress, wedge espadrille or sandal, straw bag, etc.) instead of hitting 5th or Madison, THESE are the addresses for you!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, June 10, 2005

'Vanity' Fair

Extra...Extra...Extra....Cathy Horyn is not 'above' obsessing and stressing about the superficial, yearns to fit into many of the clothes she dishes about, wants to be chicly slim, AND has a vain side after all. Who knew?

What was most ironic about the confession-like article written by Cathy Horyn in yesterday's ‘Style’ section of The New York Times,(“Fashion, The Mirror, And Me”), was that her obvious weight loss was the VERY FIRST thing I noticed when I saw her at Monday evening’s CFDA Awards. In fact, it was so noticeable, (particuarly since she was wearing a body skimming brown jersey gown) that I mentioned it in my day after article about the event ("In the Heat of the Night"). But because I didn’t want to ask her about how she lost the weight, or even talk about her weight (because I thought that would seem so, well, shallow,and she always seemed more intellectual in her approach to the fashion business and somewhat ‘above that’), I didn’t approach her. In addition, I didn’t want to insinuate that I thought she was heavy before.

But my gosh, what a stark contrast to last year’s high profile event, where she showed up looking a bit 'puffy' in a somewhat simple black knee length dress wearing flat black shoes and not much makeup which spoke volumes. What it said was, "I'm above this and I don't want to - or have to- compete with all you skinny fashion victims who have spent hours on hair and make-up and on finding the perfect dress". This was very much in keeping with Cathy Horyn’s whole image and very ‘Cathy Horyn statement making’ since she was never one to go for all out obvious glamour, and seemed very content to distance herself from the visual and materialistic trappings that normally go hand in hand with important, front row fixtures.

Ah, but that was then- this is now- a whole new Cathy. I guess being in Paris and spending a lot of time with newly skinny Karl Lagerfeld has really rubbed off on her. Maybe the two will collaborate on a fashionable diet book together.

Speaking of which…..When I talked with the perenially trim and slim James Galanos at the dinner Christine Suppes hosted in San Francisco following the Academy of Art University’s graduation fashion show, and asked what he was reading these days, he said he had picked up Karl’s diet book ("The Karl Lagerfeld Diet", by Ingrid Sischy) not because he needs to lose weight but out of sheer curiosity. He was interested in exactly how he managed to lose that amazing amount of weight so quickly.

There continues to be a wide gap in the way people view weight and body image. The fashion world continues to idolize and worship the skinny and malnourished and many of those who are held in high esteem (because of their mannequin like frames) can arguably be considered sickly, anorexic, and unattractive to the rest of the population. Ms. Horyn’s article, with her down to earth and human admissions, (“Losing weight changed the way I look at clothes, and life”, and “I now understood why women skirmish like the dawn patrol on sale days”) points to why eating disorders are so prevalent and why men and women of all ages are literally starving themselves to become ‘enviably’ thin.

By the way, speaking of weight and body image, for all of you who inquired about where to buy the NYDJ Tummy Tuck Jeans, you can do so on

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, June 09, 2005

F.I.T. Museum Presents: Fabulous! Fashions of the 1940's Exhibition

The fashions of the 1940s, as much as its dance, music and theater, represented the determination and hopes of the American people during the war years, the subsequent economic expansion, and the beginnings of new social movements that marked the decade. The Center and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City will present "Fashions of the 1940s from The Museum at FIT," in the Center's Terrace Gallery, March 18-April 15, 2005. Included in this stunning exhibition will be a selection of more than 30 fashions and accessories from some of the top designers of the decade, including Adrian, Claire McCardell, and Norman Norell. "Fashions of the 1940s" is curated by Ellen Shanley, curator of costume at The Museum at FIT. A New America: The 1940s and the Arts, sponosred by The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Series for Artistic Excellence.

Tuesday June 14th at 10:30AM: Press Preview for "Fabulous Fashions of the 1940's" Rsvp contact: 212-217-3293.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

‘In the Heat of the Night’
(The Red Carpet ‘Blues’)

Lookonline Editor-in-Chief Marilyn Kirschner at the CFDA cocktail party last night wearing a design by Zang Toi
(click on image for enlarged view)

What to wear when the invitation says ‘black tie’ is always a dilemma (particularly when there is going to be a red carpet), and perhaps more so when it involves the world of fashion - a group who obviously takes these things very seriously indeed. Yesterday’s featured a column (and suggested you, “read this BEFORE you attend the CFDA’s”): ‘CFDA Gala Advice: How to behave on the red carpet’, listing suggestions from industry insiders on how to act, what to wear, etc. (Closest to my heart was Vogue’s Sally Singer: “My #1 rule right now is to break all the conventional rules.”)

Kate Moss with Diane Von Furstenburg
(click on image for enlarged view)

However, the one thing nobody talked about was how to dress for black tie and red carpet in the sweltering heat, with thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. (Hmmm, do you suppose ‘someone upstairs’ is trying to tell us something?)? Is it my imagination or are the CFDA Awards (which take place on the first Monday in June), always held on what seems to be the hottest day, and night, of the year? Last night was no exception, in fact, it was the hottest one in memory, as Astor Hall slowly filled up with guests and quickly turned into a sauna. I was not the only woman escaping to the cool and calm of the empty ladies room in order to revive myself. The cover of WWD today says it all with their caption, ‘Heat Wave’ featuring a picture of honoree and icon Kate Moss wearing a lingerie inspired nude illusion Dior couture short dress. Leave it to Kate, who was there to receive her Award for Fashion Influence, to dress perfectly for the occasion. I guess you can say that wearing something that makes you look as though you have nothing on is one fashionable way to get around the problem.

Donna Karan
(click on image for enlarged view)

In The New York Times, Eric Wilson also brought up the subject, (“Through a Glass, Lightly, At Fashion Awards Event”) quoting Vera Wang as having observed, “I am surprised by how many long dresses there are in a room that is 102 degrees without air-conditioning.” Of course, who could have possibly anticipated that it would be so hot? Normally, rooms where events are held are so overly air conditioned one wishes they brought that little cover-up or little fur shrug. Well, luckily for the fur loving fashion folks (who never need an excuse to wear their pelts), there were no guests clad in fur last evening. In fact, the one trend is that fur is now being replaced by lightweight feathers (I guess you can call them, the ‘summer fur’) which are a current fashion craze thanks to Miuccia Prada and her endorsement of peacock feathers and other fine feathered friends.

Anna Wintour in Ralph Lauren with daughter Bee Shaffer
(click on image for enlarged view)

As they say, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. I wore Zang Toi’s beautiful hand worked peacock feathered and beaded top, and I was not alone in my choice of feathers. I spotted another guest wearing Ralph Lauren’s long white gown trimmed with white feathers at the hem. And Anna Wintour, who is known to love her little fur pieces, chose an abbreviated jacket lavishly trimmed with white feathers around her neck over a long satin bias cut gown. By the way, Anna’s newest favorite date (replacing beau Shelby Bryan) is her beautiful daughter Bee Shaffer who is beginning to look more like her sister than her daughter. The two seemingly and wisely coordinated their outfits and color scheme (black, silver, and white) as if to ensure their photo ops would be more effective.

Linda Evangelista wearing Alber Elbaz for Lanvin
(click on image for enlarged view)

Let’s put it this way, this was one evening where I truly felt sorry for the guys. Ralph Lauren, Alber Elbaz, Robert Burke, David Bowie, Gilles Bensimon, William Norwich, Joseph Abboud, Ralph Rucci, James Galanos,, looked dapper and festive but they could not have been happy all buttoned up in the sweltering heat. Having said that, what was interesting was the number of women in gender bending pantsuits featuring fitted and well tailored jackets. Carolina Herrera eschewed her traditional long gowns and balls skirts in favor of a chic and click white pantsuit; Candy Pratts Price went the all black route, as did Linda Evangelista (her black leather blazer and blouse were by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin and her skinny black jeans were from Notify).

Nadja Swarovkski in Alexander McQueen
(click on image for enlarged view)

As for the clothing on view, it was predictably schizophrenic and proved that ‘anything goes’. While many guests were in black, there was also lots of black AND white as well as color. There were solids and florals, short cocktail dresses and long gowns, voluminous and lean. Among those who selected black were Nadja Swarovkski (she was in a short Alexander McQueen dress accessorized by some large stones….and I mean ‘LARGE’); Janis Savitt also envlivened her v-neck long black dress with multiple strands of her own coral beads. Both women proved that black is the best way to show off jewelry.

Glenda Bailey in a dress by Alber Elbaz.
(click on image for enlarged view)

Neiman Marcus’s Joan Kaner, a longtime fan of Ralph Rucci, selected a sleek long black Ralph Rucci; Glenda Bailey, an avowed and longtime fan of Alber Elbaz, (who has been wearing a lot of his designs out and about lately), chose a knee length black chiffon dress edged in silver sequins that looked cool, comfortable, and chic. And one of the chicest women there - the legendary Catherine Deneuve, hit just the right note with her Jean Paul Gaultier age appropriate and timeless double breasted black coatdress featuring natty brass buttons. On her feet she wore gold platform sandals which gave the outfit a slightly nautical, ‘out to sea’ look.

Norma Kamali in her own design.
(click on image for enlarged view)

The ever popular romantic gypsy look was chosen by Norma Kamali (her date was Joseph Abboud), who made a statement in a black ruffled gypsy blouse and red tiered ruffled long skirt (both are currently available at her shop) accessorized with vintage Joseph of Hollywood gold chunky necklaces and bracelets. New mom Cynthia Rowley wore a form fitting pale aqua satin mermaid skirt which accentuated her enviably flat tummy and svelte figure, paired with a pale ivory short sleeved scoop neck peasant blouse and beads. Cynthia, who currently designs a children’s collection in Japan, said she may be doing one for the U.S. By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that moving to Paris is obviously agreeing with Cathy Horyn. The New York Times fashion scribe looked especially slimmed down, elegant, and chic in her long brown empire waist dress.

Amy Fine Collins wearing James Galanos.
(click on image for enlarged view)

But when all is said and done, perhaps the best quote of the evening was Ralph Rucci’s observation that the ivory sleeveless and narrow James Galanos gown worn by Amy Fine Collins was “the most modern dress of the evening.”

- Marilyn Kirschner and photos by Randy Brooke
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The Results of The CFDA Awards Are…

Womenswear Designer of the Year Vera Wang - Menswear Designer of the Year John Varvatos - Accessory Designer of the Year Marc Jacobs for Marc Jacobs - Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear Derek Lam - Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Menswear Alexandre Plokhov for Cloak - Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Accessory Design Anthony Camargo and Nak Armstrong for Anthony Nak - Eugenia Sheppard Award Gilles Bensimon, publication director, Elle Magazine - International Award Alber Elbaz, artistic director, Lanvin - Lifetime Achievement Award Diane von Furstenberg - Award for Fashion Influence Kate Moss - Board of Directors’ Special Tribute Norma Kamali

Our report on the event will be up later today.

It's All in the "Jeans"

Father’s Day is soon approaching (Sunday, June 18th), AND the official start of summer (June 21st), the season where fitness really counts, so therefore it couldn’t be a more timely and perfect moment for the “Tummy Tuck Jean”, a collaboration of the father and daughter team, George Rudes and Lisa Rudes-Sandel (the duo behind NYDJ).

Two years in the making and following exhaustive and extensive testing, this revolutionary jean which is produced by their Los Angeles based company, NYDJ (Not Your Daughters Jeans), is the first of its kind (both patented and trademarked). Stylish, great fitting, comfortable (96%cotton, 4%spandex), and well priced ($88), what more can you ask for? By the way, it’s worth noting that George Rudes founded Saint Germain in the 70’s (a contemporary sportswear company known for their great fitting and stylish jeans).

As we all know, the health and fitness craze has reached its peak, and there has been increased interest and fixation on one’s ‘middle’ ground. It is well documented that the tummy tuck is the most popular procedure being done right now (having replaced ‘boob jobs’). Coincidentally, on this past Friday’s Today Show, there was a segment about a new procedure called the ‘tummy shrink lift’ that enables both men and women to get rid of their spare tires or extra weight. Just think: you can have the same effect without the cost and pain of undergoing a surgical procedure, by simply buying a pair of Tummy Tuck Jeans which are conveniently sold in over 300 specialty stores across the country, including Alaska. In fact Nordstrom has gone on record with their amazing success and high customer approval.

This item is geared for women of all ages but especially those of us over 30 who have grown tired of the skimpy ‘how low can you go’ low rise jean (think Paris Hilton) and yearn for a more sophisticated alternative. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that such influential fashion visionaries as Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga and Stefano Pilati for YSL have been promoting the high- waisted pant for several seasons now.

On every hangtag, the jeans promise to “flatten your tummy”, “make you look slimmer”, “contour your hips”, “lift your buttocks”, “allow you to wear one size smaller”, AND “make you feel younger” through its exclusive criss cross feature and inside, the red label tells you it’s “made for real women with real curves”. Another sweet and personal touch is the clear sticker inside which chides, “NYDJ cannot be held responsible for any positive consequences due to your fabulous appearance when wearing the Tummy Tuck Jean with the added line, “You can thank me later”, Lisa Sandel. Ms. Sandel, President of NYDJ, even invites you to email your comments (

Just a note: while the Tummy Tuck Jeans are currently available in dark blue denim and black only, if you’re a white jean aficionado like me, you will be pleased to learn that white will be available in the future. Imagine this: a pair of white jeans that actually make you look thinner!

Marilyn Kirschner