Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Old Home Week

CFDA member (and recent recipient of its Award for Women’s Wear Designer of the Year) Vera Wang opened up her beautiful Park Avenue apartment for use as the setting of this year’s cocktail party to welcome the organization’s 12 new members. It was a bit like Old Home Week,after all, it’s the first time in months that this large group of fashion swells has congregated (other than the Hamptons that is). And with the end of summer imminent, not to mention the approach of New York Fashion Week, it felt like ‘Old Home Week’ and provided a bit of a spring preview (I couldn’t resist asking those present what they would be doing for spring 2006). By the way, when I asked Vera Wang to give me a few words to describe what he has planned for her September show, she quickly said, “One word: Matisse!”

Enjoying the cocktails and sushi, and mingling throughout the beautifully appointed rooms were such established names as Stan Herman (who unsurprisingly would not name the candidates being considered for Peter Arnold’s newly vacated post, and admitted this process would take quite awhile), Oleg Cassini, Fern Mallis, Carolina Herrera, Cynthia Steffe, Koos Van Den Akker, Yeohlee, Teri Agins, Adrienne Landau, Nicole Miller, Simon Doonan, Patrick McMullan, Constance White, and Ruth Finley (who ‘promised’ there would be more changes in the show schedule to come).

When I encountered Peter Arnold, and spoke with him about leaving the CFDA as Executive Director and resuming his new position as president of John Varvatos Enterprises, he admitted, “It’s bittersweet. I love my job and I love the CFDA”. After telling him that I happen to use the John Varvatos fragrance, he proudly stated, “It’s the number one selling men’s designer fragrance in America.” As someone who has felt that the women’s collection thus far has not been as tightly focused as the award winning men’s line (John won this year’s CFDA Award for Men’s Wear Designer of the Year), he didn’t take issue with me and said diplomatically, “I don’t really disagree with you but IT IS very new (only two seasons). It clearly needs focus, but there is a huge opportunity there. It’s something John feels very strongly about. He has a bigger picture for what he wants to do. He’s got big, big plans. It’s an exciting time! I love what he does for men and I really think it resonates for women.”

I had a chance to speak with new member Carlos Miele, a young Brazilian with a shop in the Meatpacking District, who is known for his sensual designs and shows only in New York. I asked what he hoped being a CFDA member would mean in terms of his business and his work as a designer. “I hope being a member will help make my presence even stronger in New York. I chose New York because it’s a great window for the world. I’m a Brazilian and I’m hoping to make my work more international”.

I asked what he had planned for spring 2006 and he replied “My inspiration is Andalusia (southern Spain), a region that has a very rich culture and one that has long had a good mix: Catholics, Muslims, and Jews, who all live in peace.” He also described the collection as “more sophisticated, more long dresses, and more separates”. When I asked if he was using black, he said yes, there would be a large group of black dresses.

Don’t look for black in the spring collection of new member, Doo- Ri Chang, who’s dubbing spring 2006 “My pantyhose collection” because of the emphasis on soft flesh tones and mauves. She did a lot of black for fall and was feeling for going in an opposite direction. The Geoffrey Beene alumni (from whom she learned “discipline”), will be showing in the tents for the first time this season and considers Barneys New York to be her biggest retailer. She also told me how much she admires fellow CFDA members Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein.

When I asked Cynthia Steffe to sum up her spring collection she said, “Different from last season (which had a notable Russian influence). “I would say it’s very clean, spare, modern, architectural, lots of great color (clean, crisp color).”

I spotted the always entertaining and observant Simon Doonan on the way out, (who always manages to find just the ‘right’ words). After giving me the fashion ‘once over’, he complimented me on my outfit (I was carrying a very elongated flat black patent bag) and then said, “Oh, and I love your purse that you could do your own ironing on!”

- Marilyn Kirschner

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