Monday, September 26, 2005

Modern is as Modern Does

The dictionary definition of ‘modern’ is: “ Of or pertaining to the present time, or time not long past; late; not ancient or remote in past time; of recent period; as, modern days, ages, or time; modern authors; modern fashions; modern taste; modern practice.” But chances are, if you ask 30 fashion designers how they define ‘modern’ you will get 30 different interpretations. The word ‘modern’ as it pertains to fashion has been so overused and bastardized at this point in time, it has almost lost its meaning. Everyone likes to think their philosophy and vision is the last word on ‘modern’.

For me, ‘modern’ is defined by that unbeatable and often elusive combination of form and function - attractive and beautiful things that are comfortable, practical, versatile, and useful all at once. Like Ralph Rucci’s lacquer red silk gros de longres pantsuit comprised of an elongated, seamed jacket worn with narrow pants that is actually a ‘rain suit’; or in a season where the crisp white shirt, or the white collar and cuff, makes everything look better, Zang Toi’s deliciously exaggerated, oversized white organza/lace cuffs that were not part of an entire blouse, but rather, separate pieces affixed to a black silk, wool, cashmere fitted twin set (brilliant!) Just think how much easier this will be to dry clean when they inevitably fall into that bowl of soup. Or Yeohlee’s application of Nano-Tex technology to the fabric of a delicate silk white tattersall cable dress in order to render it stain and water repellent (of course, Yeohee has traditionally had the needs and interests of the ‘Urban Nomad’ on her mind within her collections. I’m still waiting for her to design with a fabric that automatically adjusts to temperature and climate changes. It seems to me that with the exorbitant price tags these days, maybe it’s not asking too much if we expect our clothes to ‘multi task’ and do more than just one thing.

Almost no designer captured and summed up the notion of modern, better than the late Geoffrey Beene, whose influences were recently seen and felt throughout New York Fashion Week, whose life and work has recently been celebrated, and whose personal estate went up for auction this past weekend at Sotheby’s. Geoffrey Beene once took a “dress and crumpled it in the palm of his hands and decreed, “This is modern dressing” according to Jade Hobson Charnin, one of the panelists who remembered and celebrated the designer at an event at Sotheby’s last Monday evening.. Certainly then, by this definition, Einar Holilokk for Geoffrey Beene’s black lurex trimmed black double faced wool crepe suit comprised of a molded zip front jacket and narrow knee length skirt exemplifies this. Because of its precise tailoring and construction, I assumed it would be weighty and stiff but when I took it off the mannequin, I saw that it was completely unlined and had the weight and feeling of a thin cardigan. It could indeed by crumpled in the palm of one’s hands and could easily travel anyplace in the world!

But another major design force to reckon with these days, whose influence and point of reference was hard not to notice on recent runways, was that of Alber Elbaz, head of design for Lanvin, who was the subject of an article in yesterday’s The New York Times Magazine, “The Classicist”, by Lynn Hirschberg. Elbaz, who was awarded the CFDA Award for international designer of the year this past June, coincidentally (or not) worked for Geoffrey Beene for 7 years and though his work is not as architectural as that of Mr. Beene, and relies far more on a very French, feminine approach, the modernity of his work lies in his “ability to combine the hard and soft”, his philosophy that “clothes should be timeless, that the elegant simplicity of a Lanvin dress or skirt or sweater should endure for many seasons”, his desire to put “beauty back to fashion”, and his seeming ability to tap into precisely what it is women want right now (they don’t want to look overtly sexy in a vulgar way, and they want luxurious items that are not too precious and perfect). Alber also stated, “I heard about a Japanese woman who put 10 kimonos in a bag, and I thought, how modern. There’s something about this basicness that I’m attracted to these days.”

It was hard not to see some traces and echoes of Alber in Vera Wang’s beautiful spring collection, shown in New York just weeks ago and indeed, the article alluded to the fact that Vera Wang and her two daughters were recently in the Lanvin store in Paris where she bought three of his silk dresses. As Ms. Hirschfeld noted, “It is unusual to see a designer purchasing clothes by someone else, and Wang had her arms full of garments”.

Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Gee, Haven’t I Seen You Someplace Before?"


Ostrich feathered dress Geoffrey Beene fall 1989 Collection

“Beene there, done that“ indeed. Looking around at the approximately 48 outfits which comprise the Geoffrey Beene fashion retrospective at Sotheby’s, in conjunction with the upcoming auction of the designer’s personal estate (www.sothebys.com), had me feeling like deja-vu all over again. What struck me was not only how incredibly modern, timeless and ahead of the times all the pieces were (some dating back almost 40 years), but since New York Fashion Week had just ended, I couldn’t help but compare them to what was presented on recent runways. Not only were they far more breathtaking and beautifully crafted than most of what was shown (in another category quite frankly), but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen many of these pieces someplace before.


Polka dot dress Geoffrey Beene Spring 1995 Collection

Just consider recent trends spotted on the runways: 1 - polka dots (Geoffrey Beene always loved polka dots- as exemplified by the red and white polka dot chiffon vest and long evening skirt from spring 1995); 2 - floral embroidery, 3 - iridescent taffeta, 4 - billowy skirts, 5 - lace trim, 6 - shrugs (these were all in one outfit- the floral embroidered shrug worn over orange iridescent taffeta lace trimmed full gathered skirt from spring 1991; 7 - fluid black jersey gowns (Geoffrey made some of the most breathtaking and graceful jersey gowns including this duo - the black jersey gown with a burnished gold bra and cut out back from fall 1999, and one with a very low back from fall 1989); 8 - feathers (the striped sequined mini dress whose hemline was entirely trimmed with ostrich feathers from spring 1968); 9 - mini boleros and 10 - oversized buttons (both were on display in the blonde melton bolero with embroidered buttons from fall 96); 11 - boy meets girl, menswear references (the black tuxedo jacket with white pique inset and cuffs from spring 94); 12 - day for night, evening sportive (the ivory wool jumpsuit worn with floor length gray transparent raincoat from spring 1992; 13 - ruffles (the red mohair ruffled hem bolero from fall 92).


Floral embroidered shrug from Geoffrey Beene Spring 1991 Collection


The retrospective was not only a perfect way to put an exclamation point on New York Fashion Week, but served as a celebration of Geoffrey's life and career. Last evening, he was remembered in a panel discussion exploring his life and style (“A Toast to Geoffrey Beene: His Work, His World”) which was moderated by a group that included Grace Mirabella, Jade Hobson Charnin, Agnes Gund, Kim Hastreiter, Richard Lambertson, Liz Lee, Marylou Luther, and Helen O’Hagan. Geoffrey Beene passed away almost exactly one year ago today and will be remembered as one of the world’s most intelligent, consistent and innovative designers who raised the bar; one whose amazing influence is still being felt, and one who continues to serve as a reference for a whole new generation.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Friday Notes from Bernadine Morris:

Fashion presentations, like vaudeville shows, tend to save the best for last. So the last day of the tent shows in New York featured some exciting presentations, like Chado Ralpfh Rucci, which approached the elegance of the French couture. But there were other arresting performances before that, starting with Ralph Lauren, who rarely has a bad show, but this time had a superlative one. This time he worked wonders with blue and white stripes, giving them a freshness without nostalgia that was engaging In dresses as well as swimsuits. All of them were light and friendly and should have a strong hold on spring, Of course there were the usual tailored jackets, enhanced by ruffled blouses, some ruffled skirts, embroidies and other harbingers of pleasant weather. But the blue and white stripes were the heroes.

Donna Karan"s new message was a loosening up of her hitherto snug, svelt shapes. Dresses with fulness emanating from the top at the back were a fresh idea firom her, looking cool and graceful at the same time. A good shape is a dress, as wide as a poncho, decorated with abstract designs, spaced on a white backgound. This is done several times and makes a sharp turn from the figure-clinging clothes for which she is known. A change in fashion may be underway. comfort seems to be the guide.

-Bernadine Morris
The Haves and Have Nots

rt and artists admittedly served as inspiration for more than just a few designers who showed this past week and how ‘fit’ting (pardon the pun), since this was one of the more ‘surrealistic’ fashion weeks I can remember. With the shows beginning soon after Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in the history of our country, leaving thousands dead, injured, having lost their loved ones, their homes, their jobs, and their way of life, it served as a rather ‘interesting’ frame of reference with which to reflect on the blown out of proportion pomp and circumstance, the posing, the large egos, and the high drama that goes along with the fashion business and specifically, the collections. It was a week that really magnified the great division between those who have and those who have not and it, as well as which designers have talent, and which ‘have not’. But I’m not going there now.

With thousands of dollars worth of goodie bags which are left for attendees on seats of shows (containing enough make up to last a lifetime) which go to waste because many of them are unclaimed – especially at the less populated shows, one can only surmise how that money could have better been spent on those who have nothing – rather than those who may not have the newest shade of lipstick or hair thickener.

And talk about surrealistic; the center of the lobby of the Tents is the central meeting place where the circus like action takes place, and all the paparazzi claim their spots from which to stake out their subjects and capture the goings on. Right there in the middle reception area, where free bottled water, free cappuccino, free wine and drinks, free chocolate, and countless free newspapers and magazines, they were selling a $25 “Fashion Bridges the Gulf” limited edition t-shirt designed by New Orleans artist Hunt Slonem with all the proceeds benefiting Hurricane Katrina relief organizations (for more information contact: zeichman@imgworld.com). Here we are, consumed with the truly superficial: obsessing over what we’re going to wear, what we’re going to buy, who looks good, and who doesn’t look good. It was impossible not to put this into some sort of perspective and think about our fellow Americans, who could probably start a new life with the money some of us spend on one item.

And how surrealistic was the scene right before Ralph Rucci’s 7 p.m. show. (Ralph had originally planned to show in his brand new Soho space, but unfortunately, it was not ready). The show before was the unapologetically funky and irreverent Heatherette, and many who apparently did not get in (including the usual assortment of what appears to be cross dressers, transvestites, and other eccentrically dressed young fans,) were milling around rubbing elbows with the chicly dressed and incredibly bejeweled attendees arriving for Ralph Rucci. It was quite a moment.


Ralph Rucci's Geometric Velvet Coat

Getting back to Ralph, he showed not only his spring 2006 ready to wear, but treated us to his breathtaking haute couture fall/winter 2005/2006, filled with pieces of such excruciatingly precise detail, craftsmanship, and workmanship that is almost hard to describe. Plus, I don’t have that much space. But I will tell you that interestingly, it was the more simplified pieces that I really loved, and the one item that I would kill for (not literally of course) and a true crowd pleaser from the couture portion, other than the Barguzin sable jacket (oh, so that’s why Ralph turned up the air conditioning!), was the decidedly ‘mod’ looking bold ivory and black bold, geometric patterned belted velvet coat and matching boots.

What came to mind when I watched the elegant models (they were so elegant, even Bill Cunningham posed the question afterwards, “where did Ralph get such elegant models?”)walk the runway in their perfectly cut and executed tunics and pants, heavily constructed a line coats and dresses, molded to the body double face suits with organza insets, graceful covered up black jersey gowns with front panels and beautiful backs, long floor sweeping heavily constructed satin skirts with chiffon shirts, etc.,etc., was how a whole new generation of designers (particularly the young ones) is now embracing true design techniques, giving attention to the lost art of dressmaking, experimenting with architectural details, cut, fabrication, construction, seaming, volume and covering up, and focusing on empire waists, a-line, trapeze, and tent shapes. In fact, this was even the subject of Bill Cunningham’s ‘On the Street’ portfolio last Sunday, September 11, (“Shape Sense”). Guess what? All of these elements have long defined the work of both Ralph Rucci and the house of Geoffrey Beene (which coincidentally, also happens to show on Friday). Both Ralph Rucci and Einar Holiloekk, who is now head of design at Beene, have been quietly working in this manner for years and now everyone is finally catching up to them.


Geoffrey Beene Spring 2006 Collection

By the way, it was such a pleasure to leave the tents and travel uptown to the west 57th Geoffrey Beene atelier, to see the still life presentation of spring 2006. I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that this is now almost one year ago that Geoffrey Beene died, and in Einar’s second showroom presentation, it’s obvious that he is staying true to the aesthetic behind the legendary label yet putting his own stamp on it as well. All the signatures that one has come to identify with the house were there…but there are signs that Einar is taking “couture in another direction” by making the collection “a little more flexible”. This was exemplified by the jet beaded or Austrian crystal collars and belts. Another example were the abbreviated shrugs (long a Beene signature), in black glove leather, olive or fuchsia heavy double face satin, both with bow detailing in back. leather, and olive or fuchsia double face satin with back bow detail. Any of these versatile pieces can be bought separately and used in a number of different ways, with clothing a woman may already have in her closet.

Coincidentally, Geoffrey Beene’s enviable collection of home furnishings, sculpture, and paintings, will be going up for auction at Sotheby’s, Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24th. And there will be a major fashion retrospective of the designer’s work running through September 22. I have a feeling this may well be the ‘highlight’ of fashion week.

‘Clueless’

First I chuckled and was amused, then was so offended by something I read in a column in Friday’s WWD that I just had to get it off my chest. (Well, you know how it is, it’s the last day of shows and what can I say? I’m hot, tired, my feet hurt, and I’ve been lugging my big heavy bags around for 7 full days now). Under the heading, “Chic of the Show” there is a picture of a smiling Jamee Gregory (the well known socialite, author, mother of Samantha, who does pr for Hogan) who was selected as Chic of the Show because of the way she was put together for Thursday’s Douglas Hannant. The oft photographed tall, attractive blonde with admitted fashion savvy and presence was wearing a white tuxedo ruffled button down Alexander McQueen blouse, gray Theory pants, Manolo Blahnik sandals, and carrying a small fringed Hogan bag.

They quoted her as saying, “All these women carry around these huge bags on their arms and I just can’t. I love that this bag is small and fun and I can still fit my umbrella in it. And I won’t end up walking around lopsided.” Well, EXCUSE ME! I’m sure Ms. Gregory is a busy woman and is involved in many different things, but I don’t believe she covers the shows professionally but rather, far more leisurely and at her own pace as a customer and an interested consumer. She goes to a handful of sporadic presentations so she probably does not (like most of us fashion writers, editors, retailers) leave her house early in the morning and arrive home late at night without the ability to go home, change perhaps, and drop all those heavy things that accumulate during the day. Most of us who cover shows professionally do not have a limo or town car at our disposal either, as I assume she does.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but though I love large satchels sometimes and think they look great, (they also make you look as though you are not a lady of leisure with a limo but someone with many things to do), believe me, I would love NOT to have to carry around a 10 foot long, 100 pound bag on a regular basis. I do it because I have to. When I leave my home in the morning, I have to have everything I may need to get me through the day with me.

I’m happy Jamee can fit her tiny umbrella into her little bag. I need a bag that can accommodate half of my apartment: notebook, multiple newspapers and magazines, umbrella, raincoat, sweater, if necessary, make up, etc. etc. etc. Hey, something just occurred to me. In Thursday's ‘Fashion’ section of The New York Times, Cathy Horyn (“Frayed Nerves and Visions As Two Worlds Collide”)made the observation after looking around J. Mendel’s front row, “what you notice most about socialites is that they have better posture than editors. Apparently years of looking at clothes makes you shorter.” I just figured it out; it’s the big bags that are moving us downward and making us “lopsided” as Ms. Gregory put it. Perhaps that is why Jamee is smiling. She knows she will stay nice and tall thanks to her little Hogan!

-Marilyn Kirschner
Day 7:

Vera Wang jokingly refers to herself as "the oldest young designer alive". In her mid 50's (though she hardly looks it) I suppose you can say that is true. Certainly, she’s been around for a long time (first as a fashion editor at Vogue, then having designed bridal gowns, years before branching out into ready to wear, eveningwear, shoes, accessories). And while she has long been a favorite of socialites and celebrities when they seek out something special for a gala or to wear on the Red Carpet, it is only relatively recently that she has been recognized for her efforts - this past June she received the CFDA Award for Women’s Wear Designer of the Year. It seems each collection get better each time and more focused.

For her beautiful spring collection, she was able to do what many others did not- make clothes that are special, distinctive, poetic, romantic, urban, modern, and youthful AND sophisticated all at the same time, and perfectly in keeping with the times, and somehow they came off as wearable and not costumy. Her program notes cited the “charm, optimism, and sophisticated primitivsm of Henri Matisse mixed with the strict, sometimes fanciful definitions of femininity in America's Wild West” as her main inspiration….hmmm, sounds familiar, no? Just the day before we sat through Michael Kors’s collection that was also undeniably inspired by the American West….What a difference a day makes. While Michael’s translation was far more literal, predictable and traditional, (and in some instances pieces looked as though they could have been culled from Michael’s archives, no offense), at Wang, the interpretation was more couture like, artistic, romantic, and feminine with its reliance on innovative drape, cut, and construction. Yes, there were hints of Gigli, Yamamoto, Kawakubo, and Victoriana, but still….According to Vera’s mission, she sought to “mix humble and sophisticated fabrics, elements both tailored and relaxed and the inherent modernity of extreme contrasts” and she certainly achieved what she set out to do, putting heavy white cotton shirts or blouses underneath taffeta or duchesse satin jackets and coats or n conjunction with taffeta and duchesse satin, or using rugged brown leather or raffia to accessorize seemingly more formal pieces.

Speaking of white shirts, in a strong season for white shirts and romantic blouses, Vera had several distinctive versions (many of hers also featured cotton tulle jabots), and though dresses may well be the ‘story’, she was yet another designer to endorse pants this season, and pants are beginning to look better and better after so many seasons emphasizing skirts. She showed both cropped full pants and skinny ones (like the pair that opened the show which were shown with a black taffeta eyelet “painter’s” blouse and white cotton tulle jabot underblouse).

Interestingly, while I normally love color, in this collection, the bright pieces looked rather ordinary and not as beautiful as those done in moodier black, mahogany, oyster, charcoal, mustard, navy, lavender, or khaki, and they were not in keeping with the tone of the collection. Volume was an important message as well, and Vera worked volume into jackets and coats as well as skirts and dresses. Sometimes volume was worked with volume, and sometimes it was downplayed with something skinny. Positively beautiful was a black silk faille ‘cape’ jacket shown over a black chiffon camisole and floor length silk faille draped skirt or the narrow lavender silk faille ‘corset’ jacket paired with a white jabot shirt and a billowy navy floral brocade peasant skirt.

When the show ended, the soundtrack turned to Sonny and Cher’s famous hit, “I Got You Babe” (I guess the song must have sentimental value to the designer and her husband. Or perhaps Vera has always identified with Cher because of her long straight black hair). In any event, just as Vera took the stage to take her bow, Cher sang, “they say that love won’t pay the rent before it’s earned the money’s all been spent”. I had to chuckle; the very last thing Vera has to worry about is paying the rent.

I thought J. Mendel was a really pretty collection though perhaps not Gilles best, and very illustrative of the way the designer and CEO of J. Mendel uses his creativity and innovative techniques to bring furs into the 21st century. Gilles stated that the collection was all about the exploration of the art of dressmaking and admitted that he derived the greatest pleasure from taking the expected and turning it into the unexpected. He wanted to create “an urbane dream in chiffon, mousseline and silk tulle that had the feeling of modern heirlooms” and indeed the collection of coats and shrunken jackets with elbow length sleeves, narrow shoulders, exposed seams, high armholes, and hand tacked darts (which he refers to as the “ornaments of this season” ) had a very strong vintage feel. He also deconstructed artisinal tweed which was then reapplied to a stretch chiffon base in order to make it light as a feather and weightless. But this is nothing new for him because he has always taken inspiration from the past.

The entire collection was based on a very soft color palette: flesh tones and make up shades like almond, freesia, azalea, hyacinth, and bark layered over nude. While Gilles endorsed short pleated skirts and shorts for day, he again, was yet another designer who is making a statement with pants (full trousers in this case, like the white wool gabardine pair that were shown under a white broadtail shrunken vest and chiffon blouse). The fabrics used were washed gold silk canvas, gold or brown wool tweed, silk faille (which he cut into a positively beautiful trench coat), goat, chiffon, brocade, crinkle or printed chiffon, chantilly lace and mousseline. Broadtail and minks that were custom colored and sheared were combined with organza and chiffon to ensure their lightness and weightlessness.

Standouts include the washed gold silk canvas jacket with silk satin trim over matching skirt; the gold wool tweed jacket with satin trim over gold wool tweed skirt, almond chiffon tank top and almond chiffon pleated skirt; the white broadtail and brushed organza coat and vest; an oatmeal velvet mink vest with white beads shown over an almond chiffon pleated gown; white long haired mink and chiffon reversible jacket over sky blue chiffon ruffle front blouse and white wool gabardine pants; and the pin tucked lace chiffon gown in pale butter with multi tiered skirts and elbow length puffed sleeves.

If there’s any one on 7th avenue getting more face time and more press these days than Zac Posen (other than Marc Jacobs), I’d like to know who it is. The very telegenic and photogenic Zac Posen who seemingly did not meet a mirror or a photographer he didn’t like seems to be all over the place. It’s a good thing he is still really young with all that verve and energy because he is not only out socializing up a storm, which is part of his whole aura, but has just partnered with Seven for All Mankind on a very expensive (what else?) denim collection, launched his first accessories line, filled with exotic pieces, and presented his spring 2006 collection on Thursday evening. And needless to say, he accessorized the collection with pieces from his brand new line.

Zac has always been highly influenced by “strong, confident, and sexy women” and it’s apparent he really loves women because he seems to celebrate them in his designs - though often it appears he is designing for a fantasy woman with a fantasy life. Certainly, he is not designing for the secretary or school teacher.

His collections are traditionally much more about cocktail and evening than daytime and that was the case this time around as well, but daytime was hardly ignored. In addition to his lovely dresses (many of which are short, high waisted, will full graceful skirts of rolled hemlines), he showed several jackets and skinny elongated pants; offered his take on a classic khaki trenchcoat; presented his new elongated and well cut slouchy jean under a beautifully cut ivory jacket, giving it attitude with an oversized straw hat and satchel; fashioned a cocktail dress out of men’s silk tie fabric; and scored with a group of crowd pleasing knitwear and crochet pieces. As always, he closed the show with voluminous, entrance making ballgowns (which seem impossible to fit through most doorways), and his pale cloud gray strapless number with cascading ruffles made the model appear to be walking on cloud nine (literally).

-Marilyn Kirshner

Friday, September 16, 2005

Editorial: New York Fashion Week

Olympus Fashion week has become bigger than fashion - not better, just bigger, louder, and much noisier. The stage has become more important than the players so to speak. What was originally an attempt by the CFDA 12 years ago to create a venue where designers could show their collections to buyers, retailers and fashion press in a unified and convenient arena has now morphed into a sponsor driven media circus. In many ways, the situation mirrors what has happened to the Oscars in recent years. More and more the media is interested in reporting and promoting what the stars are wearing, the back stage gossip, what is in the goody bags -- and almost anything else that can be associated with the awards. The 7thonSixth shows are now being promoted the very same way by IMG --first to advertisers as an entertainment vehicle and not really as an industry event.

Is there any wonder that many of the best known New York designers do not show at the Tents? Why, because they realize that the Tents are really not about them first. For those designers whose brand names are already household words, what is the benefit to them? They are just one of many designers who get one hour on stage and then are gone.

Over the last 10 years the purpose of a fashion show seems to have undergone a radical change . The shows are now becoming more about branding than about the actual presentation. Many designers believe it is more important to get a 20 second spot on a national TV news show than to have a informed editor actually write about the quality of the collection he or she is presenting. Consumer demand is being driven by the hype the media can generate for a designer which then pushes the buyers into carrying the collection. And more and more the pressure increases on quickly exploiting a designer's brand recognition garnered on such publicity into licensing agreements for perfume, underwear, paint cans and God knows what else.

And speaking of hype, celebrity worship is not just running amuck in the fashion industry, it has become a joke that no one in this industry will laugh out loud about. Fashion and the entertainment media are not just feeding off each other big time, they are in bed together. Just look at the cover of any American fashion magazine and you see the same faces that are also appearing on covers of our entertainment magazines and tabloids. Only a handful of our best know designers today have the cache and "star power" to successfully market their lines . A designer's reputation earned over years for the quality of their work is not enough to drive sales in an over crowded market place. These days an actor/celebrity who is widely enough know can become a "fashion designer' without ever knowing how to sew a button on. He or she has no talent? No problem; with enough money one can buy the talent to design the clothes and with the help of a good fashion PR firm and a million dollar budget can pack the house with the press.

Even the supermodels no longer demand respect and most of them are now looked at as so many fashion dinosaurs. How can they compare to the likes of a Sarah Jessica Parker a grade B actress who, playing a slut on "Sex and the City" , can become a fashion icon with three covers of Vogue to her credit. And what about the likes of Paris Hilton? It is sad that even Vanity Fair must struggle to remain "relevant" by putting Hilton on the cover of their current issue. What PT Barnum said a hundred years ago is still true, "you can never underestimate the bad taste of the public" and that goes doubly true to those editors who pander to that taste.

Fashion is not pure or noble or even honest. It is a business true and like any business must answer to the bottom line. However, fashion is also a creative enterprise. But when you go to a show, you want to see a designer's vision cut in cloth and presented as he wants it to appear, and not how he or a stylist thinks the media would like it . There is a difference! When the lights go down, and the music begins, and the models first appear, there is still the expectation that something beautiful might come down that runway and take our collective breaths away. Take that away and the magic is gone. The celebs will then leave, the sponsors go elsewhere, and Paris will pack her bags and head back to the West Coast.

-Ernest Schmatolla, publisher

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Day 6

I’m not into long skirts for day (not too many women can successfully pull them off, they can look unwieldy and sloppy, AND after all the boho gypsy looks parading around this past summer, I feel as though I’ve seen enough full tiered prairie skirts to last a lifetime), but I still liked Michael Kors’s earthy and sporty collection that had as its theme, the American Southwest. But even though there were many long and tiered skirts for day and evening, it was hardly the only message. The message was about a modern approach to glamour, and an easy, relaxed luxury. It looked just right quite frankly. And while Michael did not push any major envelopes, the collection was true to his philosophy, didn’t look like anybody else’s thus far, and was very ‘Michael’. It was also wonderfully un-precious, not too sweet or too girlie (something that is already starting to wear thin) and an homage to the designer’s ongoing fascination with “great American style” (whatever that is). In this case, “rustic romanticism juxtaposed with the elegant severity of Steiglitz and O’Keefe”.

But perhaps one of the main reasons I liked Michael Kors could be summed up by Eric Wilson’s article in the ‘Style’ section of today’s The New York Times, (“Mothballs Come to Mind - For spring ’06 ladylike looks give way to old-ladylike”). Whatever you may think of the clothes presented, you certainly can’t accuse Michael’s collection of looking “old lady like”.

The collection was a reaction against fussy, contrived, frilly, and over the top glamour and there were some really beautiful items and collectibles. As always, Michael’s fabrics and fabric mixes are noteworthy, and his eased up silhouette was most refreshing. One of the most standout pieces was the hemp suede hand smocked tunic belted in brown leather, worn over olive washed linen pants turned up at the bottom. Another was the hemp suede shift with brass hand embroidery that could be considered a true collectible (I could easily see Anna Wintour wearing this). Of course, there were amazing trenchcoats, as always, often paired over full petticoated skirts which added some personality and a bit of drama. The sweaters and knitwear looked just right, and Michael’s white eyelet shirtdress with full, floor sweeping skirt was one of his best ideas, and such a wonderfully chic and unfussy way to look at night! His finale of black gowns featured one black crushed metallic duchesse bustle gown, which would be a perfect choice for someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones (who just happened to be seated front row center with hubby Michael Douglas) to wear on the Red Carpet.

While Michael’s aesthetic this season may be as far away from hard edged urban chic as can be (well, almost), one designer who is decidedly addressing the needs of the ‘Urban Nomad’ season after season is Yeohlee, and she showed one of her best, most upbeat, youthful and dare I say the ‘S’ word? (Yes, the sexiest collection I can remember). Drawing inspiration from “an infatuation with the work of Robert Mallet-Stevens and the awe-inspiring engineering of suspension bridges”, Yeohlee worked in her signature stripped down minimalist color palette of earth tones, forest greens, and black (natch!), and shades of white. Nano-Tex technology was applied to the fabric of one white outfit in order to render it stain and spill resistant. Now, how much more practical and ‘urban’ thinking is that? There were mini dresses, Victorian bathing suits with matching knitted cardigans, denim shorts, some fabulous and abbreviated black gauze dresses, and one Bali printed A-line mini cotton ‘suspension’ dress that opened the show.

As a nice surprise, Yeohlee enlisted the formidable runway talents of none other than Fern Mallis to model one outfit (for which she received a round of applause not to mention a few cat whistles to which she embarrassedly tried to ignore). The chic and flattering black double face wool Turk jacket (a knee length coat really) worn over back double face wool skirt and white cotton gauze shirt not only suited her perfectly, I’ve never seen Fern look so good. I certainly hope she adds this to her wardrobe. In addition, this show was an opportunity for Yeohlee to introduce knitwear, (a new category) and shoes, (a black sexy high heeled wedge sandal), her first accessory line.

Peter Som also had one of his best shows yet. Inspired by “a thoroughly modern Madame Butterfly”, it was a yin/yang mix of boyish sportif daywear with delicate femininity, worked in a color palette of seaworthy navy and white, celery green, sun yellow, and shades of blues given some shine through matte gold. Fabrics were crewelwork linen, hemstitched silk broadcloth, cashmere voile, georgette, silk twill, Chantilly lace handkerchief, and metallic matelesse and ostrich feathers. Best looks - his take on the current theme of juxtaposing a soft delicate blouse with mannish trousers (like the white hemstitched high necked short sleeved blouse worn with navy sailor pants or the white chantilly lace handkerchief top worn with pale gray cuffed Pinkerton pant); the naive white chantilly lace dress; a nude georgette shimmer gown with Swarovski crystals which was very fluid and graceful; and the group of ostrich feathered separates that somehow looked young and fresh (a white ostrich feather top worn with black linen culotte pants; an ivory linen tunic blouse paired with a white ostrich feather knee length skirt)

Anna Sui admitted she fell in love with “the candy box quality of illustrations in the Gazette du Bon Ton” and was inspired by the Wiener Werkstatte Decorative Arts, both of which served as inspiration for her rather soft, feminine, exotic collection that was big on lingerie touches, flutter sleeves and handkerchief hems as well as embroidered organza, chiffon and point d’esprit. Nothing was hard edged, overtly sexy, or aggressive (just like most of the other collections being shown). And it was all about prints and patterns (border prints, butterfly prints, cherry flower prints), and loose, floaty, flyaway shapes (what a great time to be pregnant I might add, because so many of the dresses have no waists). Signature colors were hothouse orchid, African violet, Bourbon Rose, Bleeding Heart, Fire Azalea, Buttercup, spearmint, black, and white.

And while there were some exceptions, this is one Anna Sui collection where out of the 54 pieces shown, many if not most, were mainly suited for the very young or very very young at heart. But there were some notable exceptions: the black mousseline and lace smock dress worn by Carolyn Murphy; the dark jade over dyed flyaway linen jacket worn over lace top and grey jacquard cropped pants; the pearl all over sequined tunic; the antique gold and black deco border sequined top over floral print chiffon dress; and the platinum/natural metallic scallop brocade clutch coat worn over a sequined halter and platinum/natural metallic scallop brocade cropped pant.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Day Five:

If you can believe it, I’m still vacuuming the stubborn little pieces of silver confetti from Marc Jacobs’ Monday night show off my carpet and my floor. Oh well... At this point in the week, it’s obvious that certain trends have really crystallized. Among them: dresses, dresses, and more dresses, dresses for day and for night, dresses under jackets, dresses under coats; endless variations on the soft pretty white blouse with delicate details (pintucks, pleats) ; lace and lace trim; eyelet; folksy rustic luxe (the idea of an artisinal take on luxury as seen in embroidery and beadwork); ’neutral’ territory: the ongoing love affair with an entire range of pale shades from ivory to tan; classics revisited (a la Marc Jacobs); “March of the Penguins” (no, not the movie everything else seems to be a study in black and white); going dotty with polka dots in every size and shape; ruffles; shorts of every length and proportion.

Tuesday began with Monique Lhuillier’s collection of cocktail and eveningwear worked in a smoky color palette and inspired by the 60’s Mod era with its voluminous skirts. Indeed, while floor length gowns are the house’s trademark, the shorter dresses have become a large part of the lineup. Touches of art deco beading decorate some of the evening gowns while others are rather simple and unadorned.

Standouts in the 38 piece collection are the silk white gazar halter tuxedo cocktail dress which opened the show, a caviar beaded tulle bateau neck ballerina dress, a silk white eyelet ribbon tuxedo shell worn with a black embroidered tulle and chiffon flared a line skirt, a silk white ruched chiffon flapper cocktail dress, the group of chiffon goddess gowns, and the two silk taffeta ballgowns which closed the show.

Michael Vollbracht for Bill Blass:

Like almost everyone else, Michael began his show on ‘neutral’ ground with the colors of the season: ivory, beige, and sand tones. His were in the form of little sweaters sets worn over short lace full skirts and trousers suits. Though Michael admitted his inspiration as “The wives of Roger Vadim, 1964 and the South of France”, alas, it sounded a bit sexier than it actually was. Instead of using those elements as a jumping off point, he took it a bit too literally. As if to get his point across, he had his models wearing Brigitte Bardot blond falls and in one crowd pleasing ‘passage’, a trio of Bardots came out in similar sherbert colored party dresses (fitted through the torso with full (petticoated) skirts.

Michael had also promised to feature variations on the ‘little black dress’ and noted that nothing looks better with black than sand. (And interestingly, though Bill Blass himself often used black throughout his career, and designed some pretty fabulous little black dresses -- and then some -- he had once observed that “rich women don’t wear black”. In any event, after having come through a fall season with so many little black dresses, Michael’s current take on the theme produced nothing too exceptional. However, what did look good was his soft, feminized take on the traditional black tuxedo. Michael’s version was a black organza jacket and short full skirt worn over a white tucked front tuxedo blouse. And continuing on with ‘The March of the Penguins’, another successful look was the sweet short sleeved organza blouse in white with black pin dots (dots again), worn over a black organza skirt. The show ended with some pretty, frothy, empire waisted organza gowns.

Behnaz Sarafpour:

Behnaz is known for her pared down, modern, simplistic aesthetic, her signature coats (especially her trenchcoats) and dresses, AND her love of black and white. Spring is actually a study in black and white, which provides the perfect backdrop to play up the couture like construction of her chic little dresses and jackets (some which are shown with skirts, some with elongated shorts). Working with double faced wool, cloque, chiffon, paper boucle, raffia, silk tweed, sequins, and hammered satin, the collection was highly textural, and filled with delightful little details like bows, enormous buttons, slightly puffed sleeves and lace collars.
Standouts included the ivory double faced wool shift outlined in black with black bows on the two large pockets; a short self belted khaki silk trench with puffed sleeves; a pretty white cotton blouse worn with tan silk tweed pleated skirt; a black double faced wool jacket piped in white with large white buttons worn with a black hammered satin ruffled skirt, and her whimsical take on black tie: a black silk and cashmere short sleeved sweater boasting a trompe l’oeil bow tie in front, worn with a black narrow hammered satin long ruffled skirt.

Zang Toi:

The note on the front of the program announced, “Africa….the land of great beauties”, and prior to the show Zang stated that this season was all about the exotic nature and culture of Africa with a touch of the British Aristocrat. So, it was not surprising to find Zang off on his own couture like safari this season. The collection, comprised of 36 looks, including some menswear, was all about black, khaki, and ivory with luxurious, couture like takes on traditional safari items (there were safari shirts, jackets, blazers, even a mini safari dress), all beautifully tailored and seemingly molded to the body.

One of the best groups (I guess you could call it, safari “black tie”) featured a beautiful ivory silk chiffon blouse with exaggerated and elongated ruffled cuffs worn with lean black raw silk trousers, and a black raw silk princess skirt with organza lace back inserts worn with a black silk, wool, and cashmere sweater set ending with gigantic sculptural ivory cuffs. This appeared to be a separate blouse beneath but actually, it was actually organza ‘trims’. Brilliant idea! There were some really beautiful black silk faille and organza evening gowns, some with ruffled trim, a khaki silk satin organza beaded damask floor length caftan, and a show stopping group of black silk satin dresses whose hems were entirely beaded with vivid wild African orchids. The finale featured black silk chiffon gowns with embroidered raffia and ruby or amethyst native African collar.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

“A Night to Remember”

Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera showed strong collections, both exploring that folksy, ‘rustic’ approach to luxury that seems to be all over the runways. Carolina admitted to having been inspired by the freedom and artistic expression of Vienna just before the 20’s and wanted to evoke the feeling of effortless glamour. The 42 piece collection was well edited (a trend on the runways here as designers seem to be paring down their shows a bit) and there were some beautiful pieces, the best of which were embroidered or printed. Ms. Herrera was not alone in her embrace of the polka dot this season (another big trend), and hers were frothy and done in organza (often multi layered), but she also utilized an overscaled floral. But would somebody please tell me who she Carolina is designing those shorts for? Does her customer actually buy them?

And though Oscar de la Renta was having a ‘fit’ (literally, as many of his dresses and jackets were lean and narrow and fitted to the nth degree), he interestingly emphasized trousers more than usual, (in one case he added gold embroidery to a tweed jacket and threw it over an ivory blouse and beige wool trouser to bring it down a notch), He also showed some wonderful little linen embroidered dresses, silk embroidered sweaters, including a few crochet pieces, worked within his usual repertoire of boucle tweeds, brocades, taffetas, organzas, and tulles for some amazing evening dresses that one would kill to have a party to go in order to have an excuse to wear one.

But the day, which ended with Marc Jacobs (as usual), was pretty much all about Marc Jacobs. Whatever you may think of Marc Jacobs as a designer (overrated, underrated, somewhere in between), the one thing you can’t accuse him of is not being smart and crafty. And smart and crafty are words which perfectly describe the way he approached his spring 2006 collection (and I’m not even talking about the clothes which I thought were pretty great and provided a wonderful respite from the all the too sweet, soft, and feminine fashions being proposed elsewhere).

Marc was apparently intent on making this ‘A Night to Remember” for those in the audience and particularly members of the press and retailers. Let’s face it,it’s hard to forget about a collection that ends with so much confetti thrown on the audience, I am literally still vacuuming pieces off my carpeting, wiping it out of my eyes, picking it out of my hair, off my clothes, off the keyboards of my computer, and out of the bag I carried into the Armory on 26th street and Lexington Avenue, which was the setting for Marc’s show.

And it’s hard to forget about a collection that not only did NOT start two hours late (as had been his custom) but actually started early (well, early by fashion show standards). I must say, I had an inkling there would be changes afoot when I noted Marc’s Monday night show, traditionally called for 9 p.m., had been scheduled for 8 p.m. In fact, the show began at precisely 8:35 and ended at 8:55. Unbelievable! This is a record and something many of us never thought we would live to see or talk about. Marc Jacobs likes us - he really, really likes us. He obviously took all the criticisms of his last extremely late collection to heart and made a concerted effort to turn things around and accommodate those who were less than thrilled with having to wait until almost midnight for the pleasure of seeing his new collection. And that’s not all. We were offered bottles of Perrier by polite young men as pre-show refreshments. How civilized!

As for the clothes? The show started with a very nimble baton twirler and the Nittany Lions marching band from Penn State University (did Marc graduate from there???!!) It was fitting because Marc has always had a thing for uniforms, and especially military jackets and coats. And the collegiate colors: black, navy, and gray, which formed the basis for the Penn State uniforms, were also the predominant colors of the spring collection (in addition to welcome hits of clear red, some soft grays, and a very abstract print. But that’s about it). Marc was reported as describing the collection as “Spring 101” and boy he was NOT kidding!

The show was a definite departure from his very controversial yet critically acclaimed fall 2005 collection and one could almost call it an evolution or refinement of all Marc’s ‘biggest hits’ (amazingly structured coats and jackets, new takes on classic standards like pea jackets, blazers, macs, the great white shirt, silk blouses, tuxedo pantsuits, brocades, lame slip dresses). There was a nod to ‘boy meets girl’ which was missing from other runways thus far and Marc played around with the cuffs on pants, making them extremely wide and dramatic.

Marc is still taken with volume but the volume this time is a bit more controlled and designed than what was put forth last season. He also seems to be very taken with cowl backs: they appeared on some really chic jackets and abbreviated dresses. The footwear was somewhat heavy and grounded, rather than dainty and delicate which gave everything a youthful vibe. There were patent loafer mules, patent mules, and gold loafer mules.

One cannot underestimate the power of a designer who makes us rethink proportion, rethink our wardrobe, rethink the idea of what is beautiful, pretty, or nerdy, and constantly tries to explore and push the envelope.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day Three

Finally, the pace, tempo and schedule picked up on Sunday and there were some satisfying shows and wonderful moments to boot (though naturally, there were some ‘clinkers’ and rather strange moments as well).

Y & Kei, whose constant running theme is “water the earth” started things off with a very elegant, soft, sophisticated, and beautifully accessorized collection which was graceful and feminine and all about modern luxury, texture, rustic ornamentation, and a love affair with pale neutral colors (like ivory, muslin, chalk white, vanilla and there was a hit of black, gray, melon, yellow and parrot blue). The Korean design duo admits that Cate Blanchett is a muse and one can certainly see this strong fashion icon wearing many of these modern pieces. By the way, they are seeing dots (as in circles of all sizes and shapes) and based on early reports, I think it’s safe to say polka dots will likely find their way onto other runways (including that of Donna Karan).

I must say I really liked the showing by of Ashish N. Soni, the Indian born designer who boasts quite a following in his native country. His poetic collection based on simple yet distinctive pieces done in white, black, gray, (and mixes thereof) had more than just a bit of that Japanese vibe (think Yohji, Issye, Rei). There were some absolutely beautiful billowy blouses, as well as tailored coats and jackets, with much attention paid to detail in cut, play of proportion, and an obvious love affair with volume. Of the 45 or so looks that came out on the runway, quite a few were standouts and spoke of an sculptural, dreamy, and artistic vision that is not exactly commercial, but beautiful.

I also loved the well edited collection designed by former Geoffrey Beene intern, Doo.Ri Chung, whose former boss and mentor was an obvious and major source of inspiration. This was apparent in her chic and neutral color palette (she dubbed this her “pantyhose collection” because of all the flesh tone shades), the beautiful silk and jersey draped dresses (both long and short), pleated satin halter gowns, many boasting amazing backs and cutouts, and of course, wonderful coats.

Tracy Reese may not have had her best show yesterday, but it was very signature Tracy, nonetheless was unapologetically girlie, feminine, soft, and in a vintage mode. Relying on a color palette strong on shades of white mixed with buttercup, pale lime, spring blue, citrus, and sweet pink, dresses were both long and short, there was lots of lots of lace and mesh, intricate beading, and the designer admittedly took inspiration from a funky mix of the Belle Epoque and the 60’s.

Alexandre Herchcovits turned his Tent venue into a theatre auditorium for a show that seemed would never start. But start it did and it was as usual, pure Alexandre in its sweet and charming shapes, fresh and youthful prints and pattern mixes, collage effects, and standout dresses, many of which featured full skirts that were above the knee, and thick leather belted empire waists.

Things have certainly gotten a bit strange over at Tuleh ever since Josh Patner left Bryan Bradley to his own devices and the strangeness continued last night with a spring collection that was strangely and shockingly off kilter. Bryan seems to be grappling with just exactly what he wants to say, who he wants to design for, and how he sees the company moving forward. Talking about strange, in one instance, a model came out wearing a bright blue and yellow printed midcalf dress which were accessorized with purple sneakers (yikes!). And what was up with all those old fashioned, unwieldy bustle back long stiff dresses that made it impossible for the models to walk in? The prints were a bit off, the shapes were forced, and it all looked contrived and not very attractive. Even the coats, traditionally stellar and noteworthy at Tuleh, were lacking in true chic.

By the way, Sunday afternoon marked the Academy of Art University’s first student show held in conjunction with 7th on sixth and Gladys Perint Palmer, the noted journalist and illustrator who also serves as its Executive Director of Fashion came to New York for the occasion. The famed San Francisco institution was founded in 1929 and is the largest accredited private art and design school in America. Highlights from collections of 12 recent graduates who hope to become the next Donna, Ralph, Calvin, Michael, were shown in a 20 minute runway show and it was a wonderful showcase for their creative techniques and innovative designs (particularly in the areas of knitwear and textile design).

Included in the group were Staci Snider who has already won an internship with Sebastian Pons, Jamie Mihlrad , who finished an internship with Marc Jacobs and will fly to Milan to work with Carla Sozzani at her famed store, Corso Como 10 along with Kia Faulkenberry-Lewis, and Jeehyun Shim who was selected by Azzedine Alaia to intern for him in Paris.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day Two

Atil Kutoglu named his 56 piece collection ‘Ottomania’, integrating a line up of fabrics from the top mills of Turkey, Austria, France, Switzerland, and Italy. And he enlisted the runway talents of Naomi Campbell and Theodora Richards (Keith’s daughter) to add (or try to add) some star power to the proceedings. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work. Though interjecting elements of menswear is always welcome, the Turkish designer always seems to always oversized and padded shoulders ( a la the 80’s) which render the blazers ill fitting, not to mention unflattering even on the models. More successful was the groups of silk chiffon stripes (often in bold colors), which were translated into asymmetrical caftans, hooded tops, short and long dresses. Better yet was the crisp lavender cotton pique grouping which included an architectural squared lapel fitted short jacket over corset waisted cropped pants and a midcalf sleeveless coat worn over white brushed cotton Bermudas which looked fresh and modern. Too bad there weren’t more items like these.

This was followed by the much hyped and publicized Project Alabama show which was certainly and charming, and probably as far from say, Baby Phat (showing later that evening) in mood and philosophy, as could be. The approximately 37 piece collection done in shades of garnet, gold, amber, navy, and white featured feminine, graceful lines, fitted and cropped cardigans, narrow coats, sweet petticoated camisole dresses and circle skirts. Almost everything was hand piped, hand beaded, hand stitched, and/or hand sequined and as Cathy Horyn noted in her pre show review in the Thursday ‘Style’ section of The New York Times, some of the made the trip to New York from Alabama (an area that thankfully was NOT hit by Katrina) to see the show and to hold court at Jeffrey New York where they will demonstrate their techniques. Program notes confirmed that “a portion of Project Alabama’s proceeds from the sales will be donated to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims”.

By the way, as if to inject some local color (no Toto, you’re NOT in Kansas, you’re in Alabama), we were treated to the down home Blue Grass music of Ruby Jane Smith and The Rare Jewels, a trio comprised of two men playing guitar and bass, and a darling 10 year old prodigy (Ruby Jane) playing fiddle and mandolin.

-Marilyn Kirschner


Fashion Group International Presents: The Great Divide

The Retail World Continues To Polarize With Mega-Stores & Niche Enterprises. How Do The Davids Succeed In A World Of Goliaths?

NY Hilton, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, at 53rd Street
Thursday September 15th: 11:15am Networking Reception 12:00 - 2:00pm Luncheon and Presentation
For Reservations and Information 212.302.5533

The 21st century retail and manufacturing environment is filled with merger and consolidation stories. The niche market specialty store is now being touted as the one area in retail experiencing growth in market share at a faster pace than the traditional department store. Our panel of experts will discuss how to win the endgame with customers in a retail world polarized with mega-stores and niche
enterprises.

Sponsored by ALLURE and DELOITTE

Moderator & Economic Overview
Dr. Carl Steidtmann , Chief Economist, DELOITTE CONSULTING

Panelists
Carl Barbato , Vice President of Retail, DAVID YURMAN
Stefani Greenfield , Co-Owner, SCOOP
Rebecca Matthias , President and COO, MOTHERS WORK, INC.
Charles L. Nesbit, Jr. , Exec Vice President & COO, CHICO'S

NY Hilton, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, at 53rd Street
11:15am Networking Reception 12:00 - 2:00pm Luncheon and Presentation

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Day one and counting



And we’re off to the races. Friday September 9, 2005 marked the official first day of New York Fashion Week for the spring 2006 collections, and the always politically correct Kenneth Cole kicked things off with one of his strongest, chicest, most polished collections to date AND with his usual reminder that though fashion is big business, there are far more important things in life than superficially dwelling on our clothes, our appearance, and ourselves. Unsurprisingly, the show, which began with the pledge, “We stand Bayou”, was dedicated to the Southland and to victims of Katrina.

Kenneth enlisted Whoopi Goldberg to ‘star’ in his traditional pre show mini film, and the comedian was perfectly cast as a ‘convicted’ fashion victim who was having the ‘book’ thrown at her. Of course, the book in question was not just any book, but the hefty phone book sized issue of September Vogue, and Vogue was alluded to several times throughout the opening segment. This appeared to delight Anna Wintour, who you could see smiling beneath her trademark oversized shades as she sat front row center flanked by Virginia Smith and Sally Singer.

Speaking of Anna Wintour, though fall 2005 may well be the season of black, as noted by every major publication, including Vogue, Anna Wintour, who has been wearing black recently, ignored the funereal trend when she chose her outfit for the first day of shows. In fact, she was positively upbeat and glowing in her beige glittery tweed cardigan jacket and matching dress (which sported a bra top and was layered youthfully over a white t shirt). And she didn’t stop there, even her multiple strands of beads shined. It was quite some statement!

As for my first impression of the Bryant Park Tents the centralized location where many of the shows take place. Well, there’s good news and bad news. First the good news. New are the polite, attractive, well heeled and well dressed ‘English Gents’ standing on 6th avenue with their umbrellas, ready to hail a cab for you or perhaps lend you an umbrella should it rain. Then there are the edibles….instead of that concession which had been set up to provide the meals, we now have Wichcraft, a sandwich chain which was just reviewed in The New York Times ‘Dining In’ section. The prices may be high, but at least the quality is good and the selection is more interesting. And instead of the watery, anemic coffee that was being served last season, there is an Italian espresso and cappuccino bar which serves free steaming hot, strong, dark java (and you can even order a decaf).

Now for the bad news. Kohler’s invitingly chic and appealing designer show house-worthy latrines are now history and in their place are the familiar porto sans that we all came to ‘love’ and expect with little room to hang a bag, a jacket, or anything else for that matter. Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything. And quite frankly, vis-a-vis what’s going on the in the world, with nearly 250,000 of our fellow American citizens from the gulf coast having lost their lives, their loved ones, their jobs, their homes, and their way of life, this hardly seems like an unbearable or insurmountable inconvenience.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mommy ‘Dearest’



Summer may now officially be ‘history’, but one of the most popular and ubiquitous item of this past season, the caftan tunic, will no doubt live on. Why? Well, like all other fashion trends relegated to classic status, they are practical, flattering on many different body types, work well with shorts, pants, skirts of every length, easily go from day to night, or summer to winter (just layer it under a blazer, cardigan, coat, or fur), and are available at every price point. In addition, they can be worn by both sexes and adapted by ages, and thanks to one young designer, Carolina Zapf, they are now a ‘family affair’. Ms. Zapf has created a wonderfully classic, clean and un-ethnic-y version in crisp 100% cotton sized for baby girl, baby boy, and mommy, (talk about ‘All in the Family’!) The only one left out (thus far) is daddy. But hey, who knows what this children’s wear designer has up her sleeves.

Ms. Zapf, a young, chic and attractive German born woman with great taste, and a background in fashion design, was admittedly influenced by her mother’s “amazing sense of style” (she collected 60’s and 70’s haute couture). After the birth of her daughter, Lily, she was inspired to launch her own line of high end baby clothing and gifts, Baby CZ (www.babycz.com) which she likes to describe as “classic with a modern edge”. She was intent on filling what she saw as a gap within the children’s wear arena and wanted to fill that gap by creating understated yet distinctive pieces that were about high quality and timelessness. She started with cashmere because she felt that nobody else was using this luxurious fabric in such a great way. Her line is now carried in stores across the country including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, and Gumps but one can also order online or over the phone.

Wholesale prices for these tunics (which are from the spring 2006 collection) are as follows: CZ Style #455 (mommy tunic), $40; Style #444 (tunic for kids) 3 -24 months, $23; 2t- 4t, $25; 5Y-8Y, $28.

FYI: Good news for those who relish the idea of keeping it all in the family…..for fall 2006, Carolina promises to add more ‘mommy’ styles. If you want more information, e-mail: cz@babycz.com, or telephone, 212 580 5190, 1- 877- 8- BabyCZ

- Marilyn Kirschner