Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Movie Review & Commentary:

- by Diane Clehane

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly
(photo: Brigitte Lacombe/Twentieth Century Fox)

“The Devil Wears Prada” has given the fashion industry its own version of the “The Da Vinci Code.” Although the film isn’t scheduled for release until Friday, squadrons of experts have already weighed in on the ‘accuracy’ of the film and -- big surprise -- cries of heresy abound from every faction. Insiders are lining up to gripe about the film’s alleged fashion faux pas and dead wrong details of editorial office etiquette. Others opine that no editor worth her Manolos would wear a ‘dated’ do like Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly. (Paging Suzy Menkes!!) Judging from the vitriol that has been spewed by a cross section of factions – WWD ridiculously asked “Where are the hip clothes?” and in his “New York Observer” column, Simon Doonan decried “Devil” as “cheesy-ass” and “mediocre” without even seeing it – I have to wonder can organized protests be far behind?

Newsflash – it’s just a movie, people!

And, it’s a very entertaining one at that.

Now, here comes the heresy part of the show: “Devil” is hands down the most accurate portrayal of life in fashion in a long time.

Lest you think I’m just some ink stained wretch with no real experience slaving away at fashion’s altar, indulge me in reciting an abridged version of my resume. I gained entry into fashion by answering a blind ad in The New York Times for an assistant’s job which turned out to be working for the director of public relations at Anne Klein. (I take the fifth on the year of my baptism by fire) In short order I found myself making the daily two-hour each way commute from Long Island to Seventh Avenue to work for Patti Cohen, and by proxy, Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio. (For the record, I loved every minute of it.) Once my euphoria at having gotten the job subsided, I was terror struck by the thought of knowing I had nothing suitable to wear. My last job had been as an assistant buyer at Macys. I was relieved to learn that I would receive a generous clothing allowance and a steep employee discount. I became the lowest paid, best dressed woman on the 7:02 out of Babylon. I never questioned why I was required to wear the latest styles to pack samples, call in models’ books and run errands. I was in heaven.

I quickly graduated to showing the line to editors – I still remember the abject terror I felt the first time I had to do a solo preview for Nina Hyde who was not amused about being passed off to a fashion neophyte. Celebrity obsessed long before it was a required part of the job, I gamely volunteered to ‘dress’ talking heads and actresses whenever they called looking for an outfit they’d seen in Vogue. Here’s a snapshot of just how different things are now versus then: Today, they’d call “Entertainment Tonight” or “E!” and offer an exclusive if Teri Hatcher came calling looking for a dress. I remember having to show fall suits to Candice Bergen at the height of her “Murphy Brown” fame in reception because the buyers from Belk had completely taken over the showroom.

All too soon Donna – and Patti – departed to start Donna Karan New York. Enter the boss from hell. I exited soon afterward.

A few years later I answered another blind ad for a copywriter’s job (alright, it was the eighties – these things just don’t happen anymore). The job was at VOGUE. I’ll never forget my first interview with the headhunter. She was talking to a Conde Nast human resources person about my resume. Then, just before she hung up, she said, “A size six young Jane Fonda.” When I asked her what she’d been talking about just then she replied, “They wanted to know what you look like and that’s what I said.”

I started the same day that Anna Wintour did – and, like “Devil’s” clueless assistant Andy Sachs -- I had no idea I was breathing the same rarified air as a legend. I was also dangerously ignorant of elevator etiquette. On my second day, I found myself on the 12th floor waiting for an elevator with Anna. I have to laugh now at the memory. Feeling naively confident in my Loehmann’s-bought Armani, I stepped inside along with her when the doors opened, smiled brightly and gave her the most enthusiastic “Good morning!” I could muster. She didn’t flinch -- she simply turned and faced the back corner and remained there for the long, silent ride to the lobby. By the time I got back to my desk, there was a message summoning me to my boss’ office. I never made the same mistake again.

About a year later, I hired away by ELLE by the offer of a substantially higher salary. (I could finally move into the city!) The experience was like moving out of the most popular sorority favored by the richest girl on campus into the upstart bohemian house where no one seemed to care much about who you looked like. And the elevators were always crowded.

Since 1995, I have worked as a freelance writer doing profiles on actors, designers and fashionistas of every ilk. I’ve covered countless Fashion Weeks and Oscar seasons and stood on more red carpets waiting for that all-important pull-quote for that story on the starlet du jour. I’ve been to the dark side. I’ve seen grown women cry over their seats at shows and celebrities exhibit the kind of bad behavior that redefines the “you can’t make this stuff up” category. So, in short, I’ve seen the Devil when she’s worn Prada and Gucci – and everything in between.

Okay, so back to the movie.

I’m going on the record stating “The Devil Wears Prada” is one of the most enjoyable trips to theater I’ve had in a long time. Prediction: it’s going to be one of the biggest hits of the summer. Anne Hathaway, you can put away your “Princess Diaries” tiara for good. Your moment has arrived. And memo to Ms. Streep: keep Valentino on your speed dial because come awards season, you’ll be needing him.

After decades of suffering through laughably bad movies (“Prêt a Porter” among others) that have failed miserably at capturing any real sense of fashion’s caste system and the variously repellent and enchanting personalities that populate it, “Devil” is spot on.

A vast improvement on the infamous snippy revenge memoir disguised as novel by Lauren Weisberger, “Devil” is a modern fairy tale which takes our heroine aspiring writer Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) on Technicolor tour into a world previously unknown to her. Despite her decidedly unchic wardrobe and her disclosure during her job interview that “It’s this or Auto World,” Andy lands the gig “a million girls would kill for” – assistant to Runway’s editor in chief Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep). The film’s screenplay smartly offsets the true to life sniping and widespread paranoia of Runway’s minions with humor and, as a result “First Assistant” Emily (played brilliantly by scene stealer Emily Blunt) and Andy’s mentor art director Nigel (a fey but world weary Stanley Tucci) have some of the best lines in the film. Two of them embody the overriding truths of a fashionista’s life. When Andy tells Emily she looks thin, she beams and replies, “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.” Later, when Andy bemoans the state of her love life to Nigel, he replies “Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke – then it’s time for a promotion.” Sound familiar?

The "Gang" at Runway
(photo: Barry Wetcher/Twentieth Century Fox)

While Andy bemoans the superficiality of her colleagues (“They act like they’re curing cancer”) to her sous-chef boyfriend (“Entourage’s Adrian Grenier), she gets sucked in. Not because of the glamour – and free clothes, she tells herself, but because after logging a year slaving away for Miranda, she will finally be able to work for The New Yorker or Vanity Fair. Still, she makes a wonderful clothes hanger and Patricia Field’s superbly styled montages of Hathaway in full fashionista mode are sure to pop up in tributes to fashion in films for many years to come. Hathaway, who told me she had a ‘working relationship’ with Chanel before being cast in the film, is the ideal mannequin for the house. She lights up the screen every time she walks into frame decked out head to toe. It is pure fashion fantasy – and that’s why it works so well.

Unlike the book’s one dimensional harridan, Streep’s Miranda – however briefly – reveals the wounded woman beneath the sterling façade. Rather than create an over the top cartoonish monster, Streep underplays every scene with a low voice that draws you in and almost imperceptible gestures to signal displeasure or her all too rare approval. In every sense, her scenes with Hathaway are fascinating for their depiction of the relationship between teacher and apt pupil. It’s a battle of wits between Andy and Miranda and in the end, thanks to the performances of both actresses; the two women prove themselves to be worthy opponents.

Not surprisingly, director David Frankel delivers a beautifully shot film. Everything is slick, sleek and shiny. It’s New York City without those annoying teams of t-shirt wearing tourists that are currently clogging up our street corners. Miranda’s office at Runway and her requisite townhouse reflect an idealized version of life at the pinnacle of fashion – at least from an esthetic standpoint. The Paris scenes – while a little too reminiscent of the last few episodes of “Sex & the City” (A coincidence? I think not) – are still a treat.

Perhaps what is most fun about “Devil” is the insider details that (some) fashionistas are sure to enjoy that are somehow made equally appealing to every faithful “Us Weekly” reader who devours the magazine in hopes being able to duplicate the latest trend touched off Olsen twins. Mark my words, this is a movie tribes of fashion - obsessed teenage girls and twentysomethings will see over and over again. The opening montage which depicts the “clackers” – the kind of women who obsessively count out 12 almonds for breakfast and who possess wardrobes worth far more than their annual assistant salaries – will elicit smiles from those who know them (and who doesn’t?) and envious sighs from those who want to be them. Therein lies “Devil’s” appeal – and secret of the film’s success. It’s like a funhouse mirror – the reflection you see, although undeniably distorted, depends solely on who is looking in. And, if you’re looking for a good time, it will make you smile – even if you don’t want to say why.

Diane Clehane is Lookonline.com's entertainment editor. You can email her at dclehane@aol.com
The New York ‘Connection’

Lithograph by Yohji Yamamoto

Le Book www.lebook.com proudly claims to be “the first and only trade publication for the fashion, beauty, design, entertainment, publishing, and advertising industries” and also happens to be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The brainchild of Parisian Veronique Kolasa, its first New York edition was in 1995 and last night the Puck Building proved to be the perfect venue for a party hosted by the CFDA to fete the opening night of Connections by Le Book. Connections is the first of its kind trade show for the ‘creative community’ and on June 27th and 28th, the Puck building will subsequently house 62 booths which will enable photographers (or their reps), illustrators, and hair and make up pros, to show their portfolios to seasoned industry insiders, and hopefully, make a creative ‘connection’.

The event’s benefit committee included some of the most well respected and recognizable fashion names today (Narciso Rodriguez, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Vera Wang, Julie Gilhart, Reed Krakoff), and among the attendees milling around, enjoying the champagne and hors doevres were Yeohlee, Stan Herman, Steven Kolb, Betsey Johnson, Joseph Abboud, Jill Stuart, Mary Ann Restivo, Ruth Finley. (By the way, Ms. Finley told me that she is working on the Fashion Calendar scheduling of shows for the upcoming spring 2007 collections in September and as I looked around the open space of the Puck Building, I couldn’t help but note (and mention to her) that this was a great place to stage shows).

The highlight of the evening was a silent auction (at 9:30 sharp) of 25 lithographs by Yohji Yamamoto entitled “Talking to Myself”, some of which already appear in the Yamamoto designed 2006 edition of Le Book. All proceeds will be donated to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, a worldwide charitable initiative of the CFDA, www.fashiontargetsbreastcancer.org.

In the meanwhile, “The Devil Wears Prada” has not even opened to the viewing public yet, but there appears to be no shortage of opinions surrounding this movie - and I’m not even referring to the acting (how bad could it be with Meryl Streep as the star?), but rather the eye candy - the fashions. It seems almost every fashion writer (worth her weight in Prada) has weighed in on just how successful (or not) Patricia Field was in her clothing choices for the movie’s characters.

In an article in Sunday’s New York Post, “The Devil is in the Details”, writer Danica Lo wrote, “The devil wears Prada and her assistant wears ...Chanel. That's just one of the many details leaving some top magazine editors flabbergasted when it comes to the accuracy of the highly anticipated film set to hit theaters Friday”. Well, I guess you can count me as one of those who is not “flabbergasted”. And as a former fashion assistant at Seventeen Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar (where I subsequently became a Senior Fashion Editor), I feel qualified to voice my opinion.

Ms. Lo quoted Diane Salvatore, editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Home Journal, "If I had an assistant who was dressed that well, I would assume she was involved in an online identity theft scam." The point being ( according to Ms. Lo), is that given an assistant’s lowly salary, she could never possibly look as good, be as well dressed, or stylish, as her highly paid boss. I beg to disagree. Actually, when I was an editor at Bazaar, there was a fashion assistant who wore Chanel (head to toe) on a daily basis, and whose boss also wore Chanel quite frequently. And may I add that this assistant managed to pull it off in a much more youthful, offhandedly stylish way. While I’m not suggesting that all assistants outshine their bosses, there certainly are cases (and not few and far between) where assistants have more personal style and savvy than their higher ups.

In addition, everybody knows that “dressing better” (whatever “better” is) is not a function of how much money one spends, or what designer label one wears. There are plenty of high ranking magazine editors (you know who you are) wearing the top labels and trends du jour, who still never seem to get it right. A young stylish woman clothed in H&M, vintage, or flea market finds has the ability to look as good if not better than her designer label clad boss.

And let me point out that even though fashion assistants don’t make a great deal of money, they are not exactly from deprived, low income households - some are even from families wealthy enough to buy and sell Conde Nast or Hearst if they wanted to. (Well, almost). Vera Wang was once a fashion assistant at Vogue (and she routinely flew to Europe to fill in her amazing wardrobe and buy her Fendi furs), and Tory Burch was a fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar. Need I say more?

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, June 23, 2006

"The Devil Wears Prada" Review:

Don't miss entertainment editor Diane Clehane's sure-to-be-talked about report on "The Devil Wears Prada" coming next week. We already told you that Diane has the polar opposite view of the film that WWD took when they saw it. She's predicting it's going to be one of the biggest films of the summer -- and maybe even garner a few Oscar nods. Now, read exclusive details on behind the scenes goings on from cast and crew and get Diane's take as a former Vogue staffer on how cinema stacks up against reality.

FishbowlNY on Patrick McMullan: 'Writer, Can You Stand Somewhere Else?'

Mediabistro.com's fishbowlNY column reported today: "Well, someone's had the temerity to say with a byline what others have whispered for some time: That fashion and celeb photog Patrick McMullan can be, um, difficult to work around. Diane Clehane, who has written for our parent mediabistro.com, wrote in fashion rag LookOnline.com after the CFDA awards earlier this month" (click here for the entire report on the CFDA awards by Diane)
"I know it is heresy to say anything less than glowing about Patrick McMullan but here goes: It's not enough that he always gets the first shot -- literally and figuratively -- at every event. It's a given and every reporter I know gets it and works around it. Last night, while three of us waited to talk to Heidi Klum and were trying to figure out how we also might get Janet Jackson who was coming up the stairs at the same time, McMullan bumped into me from behind. Clearly annoyed, he looked at me with distain and said, and I quote, "Writer, can you stand somewhere else?" My answer: "No, I can't." I've got a job to do too. Give me a break. Then, while other reporters were trying to talk to Terrence Howard he interrupted the 30-second interview that they had patiently waited for -- and cleared with his gatekeeper -- to grab the actor for a photo with Janet Jackson. Nice." - Diane Clehane

The article goes on to report:
LookOnline editor Ernest Schmatolla says some other folk, including "major editors" agree: "In response to Diane Clehane's article referencing Patrick McMullan and his attitude toward writers, we have received a few emails that essentially agree with Diane's comments," he told us today, adding for good measure: "That is the truth and I have seen it." Patrick we haven't met you. We're sure you're swell. We know you don't need to take our photo because we're neither fashionable nor celebrities. Kiss-kiss.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Generation ‘Next’

It may be the lazy hazy days of summer, but not everybody has vacation or taking it easy on their minds. That the fashion world is hungry for discovering and singling out new talent is an obvious state of affairs, and much has been made of the bright, young generation that will inherit the mantle from Donna, Ralph (Lauren and Rucci), Calvin, Narciso, Et Al. So with that in mind, and because all of us seasoned pros love the idea of finding the next big star, I relished the notion of meeting a talented, ambitious, and focused young lady like Ardeana Kirckof who has her eyes on the big picture.

The San Francisco native who is fluent in French attended the prestigious L’Ecole Nationale Superior des Beaux Arts in Paris, received her BA in Art, Emphasis in Textiles from the University of California Los Angeles, and spent two years at the Canada College School of Fashion in Redwood City, California, where she received an AS in Fashion Design with Certificates in Dressmaking, Patternmaking, Apparel Industry.

Since 2000, she has been involved in her own business venture, Ardeana Couture, www.ardeanacouture.com which specializes in exclusive custom made clothing. Everything is made by hand. Her trademarks are an amazing attention to detail, couture details and a love of texture and interesting fabrics. The designs are frothy, light and airy, and unapologetically feminine, but done with an inherently modern twist. As owner and designer Ardeana has worked with her clients from “concept to creation” and has overseen the entire process from beginning to end. As ‘Jack of all trades’, she started her own website, performed administrative and marketing duties, created logos, and promotional materials. In addition, she is the freelance designer and patternmaker for Fabuloid, a San Francisco based company, (she recently designed and made patterns for Spring 2006).

Based on the illustrations, sketches, and photographs she presented to me, I feel strongly this is a talent to watch. And with the current ‘trend’ towards ‘young couture’ and the renewed appreciation of couture - worthy details and handwork by the young, (Ardeana admitted her design ‘God’ is Charles James), I would say that her timing couldn’t be better.

Ardeana just moved to New York (the West Village) from Palo Alto in order to pursue her dreams, knowing that New York is THE place to be if she wants to gain invaluable experience in the fashion industry, knowledge of fashion production, and perfect her design and patternmaking skills. She is interested in working for an established designer in order to make this happen. If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more about Ardeana, contact her at contact@ardeanacouture.com.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New York Fashion Industry Video Report for June/July 2006

This month's video report by Marilyn Kirschner covers the fur shows. Click here to begin video report.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

(35th) ‘Street Smarts’

Silk Taffeta skirt that converts to a gown from Fall 2006

A dramatic, perfectly cut floor length black skirt in the thinnest tissue weight silk taffeta that ‘converts’ to an entrance making, face framing sculptural ball gown; a graphic ankle length black and white double face wool and angora cape that can be worn front to back, back to front, arms through slits, or not, depending on mood or whimsy; a length of double face wool angora fabric in ivory and black ‘twisted’ into a waist length short cape (with its own built in arm rest at just the ‘right’ place), which can be ‘manipulated’ to become a shawl, a shoulder cover, or used as the ‘The Ultimate’ airplane accessory where it becomes a pillow, headrest or a mini blanket to ward off the cabin chills; a black silk faille dress that can serve as a bare midcalf gown or a jumper layered over t shirt, shirt, or pants (or all the above); a pristine white jacket curved and molded to the body coated with Teflon to insure that it’s stain proof; a belt sewn onto the back of a jacket at precisely the right spot to guarantee that it won’t get lost; pockets slanted and placed in just the right spot for optimum practicality, ease of motion, comfort, and to create an elegant streamlined form.

The above silk taffeta skirt now converted to a gown

These are just some of the smart, laboriously well thought out ideas Yeohlee Teng has had (and continues to have) up her sleeves and in her head since 1981, when she graduated from Parsons and launched her eponymous business. Always thinking, always conceiving, always creating, the architecturally influenced designer comes by her association honestly (her father and two brothers trained as architects). Her “deceptively simple” (in her own words) intellectual designs which naturally evolve from one season to the next, prove she has more than just looking great on her mind (although that’s always the beautiful bi product). She has a permanent spot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and the late Richard Martin, former Chief Curator, referred to her as “one of the most ingenious makers of clothing today.”

It was precisely for her “seasonless efficiently, striking geometry, and concise functionalism”, that the Malaysian born designer received the prestigious National Design Award for Excellence in Fashion Design, in October 2004, which was given out at a black tie event at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in Manhattan.

No, ‘intelligent fashion’ is NOT an oxymoron. Yes, there are designers like Yeohlee who approach fashion from the perspective of ‘problem solving’ (vis a vis modern life), and who strive to make women look and feel great without resorting to gimmicks, unflattering, insulting, insulting, demeaning tricks. Her highly conceptual museum quality collections have been showcased by some of the world’s most prestigious institutions and museums including FIT ("YEOHLEE : Supermodern Style", was an exhibition curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, which opened at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in October of 2001), and MIT (“Intimate Architecture” in 1983).

Taking over from there is the upcoming show, “Skin & Bones, Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture”, at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), 9/24/06-1/08/07 (www.moca.org).

It promises to be the definitive exhibit showcasing the correlation between fashion and architecture, mixing the fashion avante garde with the architectural avante garde. Along with others who exemplify this oeuvre (Viktor & Rolf, Hussein Chalayan, and Alexander McQueen), Yeohlee will be represented by her white cotton hoist dress from spring 2006.

I’ve always admired Yeohlee and her work and when I showed up at her 35th street showroom to view resort, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try on some of her more recent creations (which I was able to do without ever having to change out of my shirt and jeans, mind you). By the way, this is not as much a statement about my narrow frame as it is a testimonial to her exquisite tailoring and the inherent versatility within her designs. I was immediately drawn to the graphic black and white midcalf Catenary cape from fall 2006 which can be worn in a myriad of ways, in addition to a voluminous floor sweeping black silk skirt that appeared to be ‘only’ that until I was instructed to lift up the two side pieces and put it over my shoulder thereby instantly transforming it into a sculptural, entrance making black gown. Then there was the silk faille harness dress which was meant to be worn bare but when I tried it on over my black cotton shirt and rolled up jeans, it still looked great and took on a whole other ‘life’.

When I asked Yeohlee to describe her take on resort 2006 and the inspiration behind it, she explained, “The beginning of it had to do with moving the inspiration of fall - which was Italy of the 30’s - and trying to maintain a 30’s inspiration”.

“We were looking at expat communities and I was in L.A. (because of the upcoming Skin & Bones show at the MOCA) and I visited the Schindler Studio House and BINGO! This light bulb went off in my head, because they are an expat community. So instead of going to Vietnam and doing the French or Indonesia and doing the Dutch, I ended up doing the Viennese in L.A. which I think is hysterical”.

The "Schindler" dress from Resort 2006

“The hoisted concrete blocks (of the Schindler house) reminded me of last spring when I did suspension bridges. The ‘hoist’ dress (which she brought out to show me) is going to the MOCA. The soul of the resort collection is all of this plus L.A., the weather, resort”. And to further illustrate the subtle references to the Schindlers (and to those who were part of their intimate circle), Yeohlee has even dubbed pieces within the collection the ‘Pauline’ dress (Pauline was Rudolf M. Schindler’s wife), the ‘Schindler’ collar, the ‘Galka’ top (Galka Scheyer was one of the people who hung out with the Schindlers).

Tuxedo jacket and harness dress from Fall 2006 layed over my jeans

It’s worth noting that the Neutras were another brilliant architectural family who lived with the Schindlers for awhile, and Dion Neutra is now carrying on the storied name and keeping their philosophy alive through the Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design in Los Angeles. Survival through design? Sound familiar? Once again, it all goes back to the idea of smart, well thought out design - design for life - whether it relates to one’s home environment or to the protective ‘environment’ one covers the body with. This is always a thread through Yeohlee’s work. Who could forget her 1997 Urban Nomad collection whose premise of protective layering and functional pieces that are meant to enhance modern life, is at the heart of Marc Jacobs’ highly regarded, layered to the max, fall 2006 collection for which he received a nomination for Women’s Wear Designer of the Year by the CFDA?

Teflon coated curve jacket and dress from resort 2006

The colors for resort are pared down to black, white, cream, and navy (a navy so dark it’s almost hard to tell that it’s not black), and fabrics include a white Egyptian cotton with a bit of stretch and coated with Teflon (which Yeohlee says is “More important than ever because white is such a staple now”), cotton canvas backed with twill, white/navy/black cotton silk frangipani, nylon taffeta, navy cotton canvas, paper cotton, deco-print silk, duchess satin, and silk faille.

I was anxious to hear what Yeohlee is thinking about for spring 2007, which will be unveiled at a formal runway show during New York Fashion Week in September, and how much resort is a harbinger of things to come. As the designer put it, “It evolves. There’s a thread of the bridges I did for spring 2006 through fall into spring 2007. And the circular cuts will continue. Some of the fabrics like Egyptian cotton, will permeate throughout. As will Teflon coating. I’m also doing seersucker (in both a cotton and silk). But the colors will switch from black, navy, white, and cream to beige, browns, and greens. Very earthy.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cruisin’ Right Along

Monique Lhuillier Show

Because Monique Lhuillier strongly believes in making clothes that won’t go out of style from one season to the next, Resort 2006 is an evolution from fall/winter; and an evolution of the collection before that. And it’s certainly a harbinger of things to come for spring 2007 which will be unveiled at the tents during New York Fashion Week. The Los Angeles based new mom (baby Jack was born right before the fall shows in September) is not only adept at multitasking (she is finalizing licensing deals to do a collection of handbags, shoes, and perhaps items for home décor in the future), she knows her customers well and knows what they need and want. She has a consistent design philosophy and that is evident in the following observations (“It starts with something I wish I had in my closet and goes from there”, “It’s all about modernizing old world elements”, “I like texture and I like to play with fabric”, “You should be happy with the way the dress looks on the inside as well as the outside” (therefore, the linings are buttery soft, perfectly detailed with sewn in undergarments to make for perfect fit).

So, for this designer with quite a loyal following of celebrities and socialites (her ‘date’ for the CFDA Awards was Jamie-Lynn Sigler who wore one of her gowns), that by definition means a signature palette based on black and white (“black and white is a great starting point”) which is given a jolt through hits of color (for resort that happens to be an especially wonderful shade of chartreuse); a continued experimentation with volume (the use of couture like light and airy fabrics such as silk taffeta, silk organza, cotton pique, silk chiffon assures nothing is overwhelming or overpowering). As always there are what could easily be some of the most beautiful and refreshingly feminine white blouses on the planet (worn with one of her short black silk taffeta skirts that becomes the perfect ‘uniform’); new takes on the shrug or abbreviated bolero; ‘mini’ and entrance making floor length ball gowns.

The attention to detail is always noteworthy (there is pleating, ruching, bustling, knotting, and twisting) but Monique also adds new elements each season and this time, she’s especially proud of the hand painting on silk organza that turns up on a group of dresses in white hand painted with an off black abstract floral design. And in a season where many designers are going ‘dotty’ Monique translates this trend into a group of white cotton voile dresses and blouses with tiny black ‘raised’ dots.

The collection wholesales from about $1,000 to 3,000 and will be available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and specialty stores across the country. For more information contact Jennifer Nilsson-Weiskott at Paul Wilmot Communications.

Oscar de la Renta Show

Apparently not everybody who was going to the CFDA Awards on Monday night was primping and preening at about 1 p.m. on the same day, because many of fashion’s heaviest hitters were at the recently refurbished Morgan Library on Madison Avenue and 36th street to view Oscar de la Renta’s short and sweet 59 piece resort collection. Those filling the double rows in the beautiful high ceiling’d hall which boasted floor to ceiling windows (all the better to see the lush vegetation in the garden outside) included Vogue’s Anna Wintour (with Olivier Theyskens in tow), Andre Leon Talley, Grace Coddington; Elle’s Isabel Dupre and Nina Garcia; Allure’s Linda Wells; Harper’s Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey; Neiman Marcus’s Ken Downing; and former Bloomingdales chief Marvin Traub.

It was a perfectly elegant and civilized way to see Oscar’s very ‘Oscar’ collection which was predominantly white, sand, navy, black enlivened with hits of green, orange, red. Though most everything was femininely fitted through the torso and accessorized with waist defining wide belts, there were also his favorite voluminous shapes- full bell shaped skirts, trapeze shaped dresses- not to mention a handful of cuffed Bermudas and wide legged trousers. Folkloric touches refreshed classics; there was plenty of crochet and embroidery; soft, pretty blouses, shirt dresses, coatdresses, and shifts were given full attention; and that ‘uniform’ of a shirt and blouse is being offered again and again.

It all had an up-to-date, modern, and youthful vibe thanks to the models’ long ponytails which now replace the traditional bun, the body defining shapes, the perfect proportions, and the wonderful accessories - great oversized totes, big straw hats, and especially, the au courant wedge soled sandals that appeared in everything from metallics to straw to fabrics that matched the outfits. Speaking of which, the pattern loving designer made a statement with ikat patterned oversized totes which were made to match the ikat patterned skirts and dresses.

Oscar is apparently going ‘dotty’ this season - large polka dots in black and white or navy and white were proposed for both day and evening. And Oscar is apparently in love with backs, and wants his ladies to make as beautiful an exit as an entrance, as evidenced in the arresting backs on many dresses.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Listing with our New York Fashion Events/Party Schedule

Lookonline.com produces a monthly fashion events schedule that is e-mailed to over 850 fashion editors, magazine and newspaper fashion reporters, website publishers, fashion bloggers, fashion retailers, designers, stylists, publicists and more. This is an 'A-list' of some of the biggest names and most influential persons in American and European fashion. Our mailing list includes both our paying subscribers as well as opt-out members who also read our DFR: Daily Fashion Reports.

E-mailed out the first of every month, this schedule highlights the most important shows, presentations, and parties going on in New York for that month. It is a very selective list of events. Each listing includes the date, time and address of the event along with phone, fax and or email contact information as to who is handling the invitation list.

Unlike other schedules, we will begin to include additional info - up to 50 words - further explaining the event and promoting it to our users. We encourage you to take advantage of our schedule - which is of no cost to you and/or your client - and send us your listings of your planned events and include us on your press release lists.

To post a listing on our schedule simply email us at publisher@lookonline.com or fax us at 212-744-8279 before the end of each month with the information about the event for the coming month. Again, we need the date, time, title of event, address, contact info and up to 50 words describing the show, party or other press event.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here

Left: Adrienne Landau; Right: Louis Dell'Olio

The CFDA Awards dinner cocktail party held in the New York Public Library’s Astor Hall (where one not only gets to see the guests walking into the Library, but see them blown up on screen as they make their way up the red carpet), was as animated, lively, crowded, and STEAMY as ever. It’s also another one of those fashion events where (as former Anne Klein designer and CFDA member, Louis Dell’ Olio noted) the women always tower over the men. Of course, it should be pointed out that Louis’s statuesque wife, Jacques, a former model who was always seen on the Anne Klein runways, towers over him. She stills looks great and is almost always dressed in something black and something from the rich archives of the fashion house (one of the ‘perks’ of being married to a fashion designer).

Left: Stan Herman; Right: Bernadette Peters

The evening was also testament to the fact that, “Anything Goes” in terms of fashion and when an invitation reads ‘Black Tie’, that is being interpreted in many different ways. There was long, short and everything in between; some guests looked as though they were dressed for cocktails, others looked appropriately decked out for the grandest of occasions, and well, quite frankly, others looked as thought they had come from work (and I’m not just referring to the women). For example, while Dennis Basso wore a traditional tuxedo and the always dapper Stan Herman (accompanied by Bernadette Peters who was presenting him his Lifetime Achievement Award), was in a formal white jacket and black bow tie, Joseph Abboud wore a chic but somewhat wrinkly double breasted white linen tuxedo jacket, no tie, which, given the steamy conditions, seemed to have been getting a bit more rumpled by the minute; Ralph Lauren opted for a black tuxedo jacket, black shirt, no tie, black jeans; Andre Leon Talley chose a short white coat, black shirt, black pants and white tie; and an unidentified gent was in a brown leather motorcycle jacket - apparently sweltering.

Marilyn Kirschner

As for the women, there were tunics and pants (like Dana Buchman’s colorful combo); knee length dresses (a standout was Julie Macklowe’s red and white striped and pleated cotton Bottega Veneta that she “bought off the rack” after having seen it in a magazine); knee length black dresses (a la Cathy Horyn and Candy Pratts Price); knee length tulle concoctions (like Eliza Reed Bolen’s black and white Oscar de la Renta from the just shown resort collection); floral balloon hemmed skirts in taffeta (like Carol Smith’s Oscar de la Renta); frothy tulle mid-calf numbers (like Donna Karan’s black ballet length dress); and floor length entrance makers. In the last category, there were sleek columns AND more voluminous numbers, many in stand-out-red, which when paired with something black, seems to be an unmistakable trend.

Pat Cleveland

For example, Janet Jackson wore a Michael Vollbracht for Bill Blass red plunge front gown with wide black belt from fall 2006, and Alva Chin (who was part of the Stephen Burrows entourage) wore the designer’s red and black jersey gown. By the way, Stephen (there to receive his Board of Directors’ Special Tribute) and friends made for one of the more interesting and colorful photo ops of the evening. Surrounded as he was, by pals Bethann Hardison (in striking flowy red, black, and yellow silk coat worn over a long black dress) and a towering Pat Cleveland clad in an eye popping turquoise and lime tiered gown with matching coat and wearing a black Josephine Baker type wig that had her resembling Chita Rivera (on stilts).

Right: Anna Wintour wearing Olivier Theyskins

Other notable ‘trends’ of the evening were ‘wearable art’ (like Chloe Sevigny’s Proenza Shouler ‘scribble’ printed mini and Amy Fine Collins’ hand painted Chado Ralph Rucci; his and her matching outfits (Karl Lagerfeld and Lindsay Lohan arrived together in corresponding black and white); elegant trains (as seen on Anna Wintour’s ink blue floor length body skimming Olivier Theyskens for Rochas and on Joan Kaner’s Chado Ralph Rucci dramatic black gown).

Right: Joan Kaner

FYI, when I asked the obviously relaxed and happy former senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, who was in town to receive her Eleanor Lambert Award how ‘retirement’ was going and if she was feeling any pangs or had any desire to come back to work, she laughed and said no, she LOVES her new life in Florida, having recently had her grandchildren as houseguests. And as for her ‘replacement’ Ken Dowling? For his part, he couldn’t be happier where he is. He told me it’s a dream job, “the best job in the world” and he knew 15 years ago that this is what he wanted.

--Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, June 01, 2006

‘Four’ Play

Colorful golf shoes for men and women ($85-$95); structured wicker bags $125 all from Patina, 451 Broome Street.

With the unofficial start of summer, (not to mention the sultry summer like weather) the focus has instantly shifted from fashion to outdoor activities… (that’s not to say that the two are mutually exclusive - hardly). But let’s put it this way, this is the one time of the year when the word ‘sport’ conjures up a whole lot more than just shopping, for a large segment of the population who may hibernate inside their abodes during the cold winter months.

Tennis has always been popular (as a personal and as a spectator sport, in fact, the French Open has just begun and it’s being televised worldwide). It’s also been thought of as somewhat sexy and glamorous (with its share of sexy, glamorous, high profile, colorful, and controversial players – both men and women). ‘Think’ Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournakova, James Blake, Andy Roddick, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Roger Federer, Ilie Nastase, Boris Becker, etc. Golf, though an ancient sport steeped in folklore and tradition, has never quite been perceived the same way and it has not exactly had a lion’s share of ‘matinee idol’ like players. But that has started to change, particularly after the 1996 hit movie ‘Tin Cup’ starring Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, when the sport began to take on a ‘hip’ aura.

Vintage golf ties $45-$55; scarf $25; all from Patina

And then, there are the two talented, charismatic, telegenic/photogenic golf stars, with plenty of fashion and accessory endorsements under their belts, who have not hurt the cause. I’m referring to Tiger Woods and newer on the horizon - the young and beautiful Michelle Wie. The over six foot tall 16 year old has “defined success” since winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at the age of 13, she’s the youngest champion of a USGA title for adults. She is currently represented by the William Morris Agency, and has signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony which will pay her approximately $10 million a year. The photogenic athlete is all over the place, even gazing up at you from full page color ads in the most prestigious fashion magazines like the current Elle Magazine, where she endorses Omega Watches.

Golf has been on my mind as of late, especially after attending last month’s Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion. In the course of my conversation with Steve Tatar (whose Ohio Knitting Mills Company was a recent subject of my Daily Fashion Report), he revealed that about two years ago, he came up with the idea of launching a company, Golf Barefoot, which mixed surf culture and West Coast beach culture with golf (“an interesting hybrid”, he allowed). But his involvement and interest in golf was not traditional, (meaning it was not about the Waspy Country Club side of things), but rather the ability to be outdoors in that beautiful setting, commune with nature, and walk around barefoot, hence the name.

Steve knew he needed a partner and spoke with Nike and Levi’s and they both expressed interest, but it never took off. In the end, he couldn’t figure out how to manufacture and handle all the production, but he still feels “there’s money to be made in golf”.

Hermes vintage scarf from Patina

And at the same show, one of the booths that caught my eye, Lenore Newman’s Patina, did so because of the hard to miss orange silk Hermes vintage scarf decorated with life sized 3d golf balls all over, ($210), displayed on the table in its original box. And that wasn’t the only thing that was golf themed: there were also several classic yet whimsical wool cardigans appliquéd front and back with golf symbols. It seems Lenore is an avid golfer herself (she plays in the Berkshires and in Florida), and personally hates golf clothes (“not nearly as good as tennis wear”). Though she admits it’s getting better, Ms. Newman told me she is contemplating designing a golf dress and that may well happen in the future.

If you visit her Soho store, Patina, 451 Broome Street, 212-625-3375, in addition finding a wonderful assortment of vintage clothing and accessories, you will discover more golf items dating from the 40’s through the 70’s. She currently has about three sweaters ($85), ties emblazoned with golf motifs ($45-$55), graphic and colorful golf shoes for men and women ($85-$95), structured wicker bags which carry on the sporty theme ($125), a small hankie size scarf with images of a golfer ($25), plus golf skirts and shorts. By the way, the ties and the golf shoes would make a great Father’s Day gift for that golfer in your life.

Vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag from Vintage Collections

And while I’m on the topic of great Father’s Day gift ideas for golfing dads, further uptown at Vicki Haberman’s shop, Vintage Collections, 147 East 72nd Street, 211-717-7702, www.vintagecollectionsnyc.com, you will find a vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag (from the early 90’s). Just the thing if you have an extra $3500 and are trying to figure out what to do with it!

And speaking of sports and the unbeatable combination of form and function, it’s no secret that there continues to be new and improved takes on the once lowly sneaker. Several weeks ago, the first ever compass sneaker, ‘Compass by Isaac Daniel’, which actually has a GPS embedded in its sole, made its ‘debut’ to the press at the Mickey Mantle Restaurant on Central Park South.

Mr. Daniel has wisely merged his talents as both a scientist and trendsetter and the result is something quite unique, practical, even life saving. This revolutionary personal security measure has many applications - for the young and the old - not the least of which is helping those with memory issues or dementia, find their way home should they get lost. Family members can track the person through Quantum Satellite Technology, by plugging the GPS into their computer. If there is an emergency, the appropriate security systems would be notified immediately. The approximately $325 sneakers are available in a selection of styles and fashion forward colors and will be in stores soon. For more information, contact: Bonnie Bien La Presse T 212-567-8900 F 212-567-8999 or Email Lapressepr@aol.com.

-Marilyn Kirschner