Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ralph Rucci Draws a Crowd

Designer Ralph Rucci stands in front of his artwork

The Directors of The Chinese Porcelain Company, 475 Park Avenue at 58th Street hosted a private viewing, cocktail party and sale of Ralph Rucci's recent paintings and works on paper (there were 26) this past Thursday night.

Guests enjoying cocktails. Woman on left in an outfit designed by Ralph Rucci.

Many of Ralph's friends were in attendance including Joan Kaner, former fashion director of Neiman Marcus; Lee Radziwell; Martha Stewart; Adolfo; Iris Apfel; Helen O'Hagan; Amy Fine Collins; FIT's Research Curator, Costume Collection, Patricia Mears; former head of Bill Blass Harold Davis; PR maven, Joanne Creveling; and president of Essie Cosmetics, Essie Weingarten; among many other familiar faces.

Patricia Mears wearing a design by Ralph Rucci talking to the designer

And speaking to Patricia Mears, she told us the Museum at F.I.T. is planning a major retrospective of Ralph Rucci's work this coming January. Both his fashion designs and his artwork will be part of the exhibition, and it was one reason why Patricia and Charles Froom, who will be designing the exhibition, came to the event to choose what artwork on display might become part of the exhibition.

-Ernest Schmatolla

Friday, September 29, 2006

Editorial - Six Rows of Separation:

Another New York fashion week has ended. The well oiled 7thonSixth machine cranked out yet another season of smoothly produced shows with cookie cutter precision. After 12 years "Fern & Company" finally got it down to a science. Of course, where the shows will be held next season is still up in the air, but that is the way the cookie crumbles - cookie wise!

Meanwhile, NY fashion week becomes an ever growing spectacle, a circus of sorts, promoted by IMG in much the same ways as the Oscars, US Open, Emmy Awards and the Superbowl. What was once a trade event for the buyers, retailers and fashion press has more and more been taken over by paying sponsors and national celebrity press as a mass entertainment/marketing vehicle. NY fashion week is now part of the annual circuit of entertainment events that are heralded, promoted, cosponsored, hawked and branded. Fashion week is bigger than any one fashion designer's show. Is it any wonder that many of the biggest designers choose no longer to show at the Tents?

There was a lot of talk among editors and retailers this past fashion week about who all is actually attending these shows. Several thousand people during fashion week get a seat or stand at one or more of the shows. Who are they and what do they all do?

OK, I think we all know who are in the front rows - any F.I.T. student can come up with that list. And, for the next two or three rows up at the main "Tent", those seats are surely filled with other "A" and "B" list assitant editors, minor celebrities, freelance writers, sponsors' clients, stylists, minor retailers, retired ex-VIPs, important and unimportant out-of-town press, psychiatrists, favored friends and relatives, boy friends of the models, hairdressers, fashion bloggers -- but what about the rest?

By the time you get to those beyond the sixth row, who are they? Are we all in the industry connected somehow by only six rows of separation? From one show to the next a never ending stream of people walk in through the main entrance. As a casual observer watching this parade, we are hard pressed to find many clues as to who these fashion groupies are? How many of them have anything to do with the fashion industry at all? Our guess is many of them are brought in by the PR firm or publicist who is handling the front of house for each designer. Each publicist has his or her own group of people -- call them "fashion extras" who can be relied on to fill the house with friendly, attractive and eager faces.

We know many legitimate writers and stylists who cannot get into the major shows. People who contribute and participate in our industry and make a valid contribution to it. It is no secret that much of the traditional out-of-town press no longer come to the New York shows because they cannot get enough invitations to make the trip cost effective. In fact, it has been suggested that some designers do not even want informed editors reviewing the collections. Why subject the collection to the scrutiny of an experienced eye who cares for how the dress was made, and whether the seams were sewn on straight? Better just have the likes of a Full Frontal Fashion program run a 30 second clip of highlights while Judy Licht wide-eyed gushes over how wonderful the collection is?

And speaking of fashion "journalists," What is going on with Cathy Horyn? Are we the only ones who wonder if she thinks fashion is beneath her? Her reviews of the recent NY designers' collections reads more and more like a public exercise in creative writing. It is not so much what she says, but how she says it. She can really turn a phrase, no question about it! Ms. Horyn is a great writer, but her reviews seem written more to entertain and impress the reader with their cleverness, and less to inform them with clear and at least some attempt at objective reporting and coherent reasoning.

No one can accuse Ms. Horyn of not expressing her personal opinion in her columns, or of pushing her personal favorites, year in and year out. But backing her opinion up with why she constantly raves about one designer and gives short caustic comments about others seems many times to be beyond her scope of interest.

There are quite a number of informed "others" in our industry who feel when it comes to fashion, she really does not 'get it" and never did. Is she in the right job? We wonder. Maybe Ms. Horyn should consider switching jobs and become a political analyst or something more befitting her obvious talents?

Just a thought...

-Ernest Schmatolla

Friday, September 22, 2006

New York Fashion Week "Swag"

Entrance to the Tents (Photo Isabelle Erb)

Olympus Fashion Week always brings an interesting assortment of sponsors to the Bryant Park Tents and last week was no exception. Once past the throngs gathered around the entrance, fashionistas could enjoy munching on the brownies offered by UPS (I guess that’s what Brown could do for us) and then quaff Moet & Chandon champagne, or Aquafina for the tea totalers among us.

Lycra Lounge (Photo Isabelle Erb)

WE furnished us with their give-away bag of the season, but there was no candy this time around (a blessing for all of our waistlines). MAC had cappuccino at the ready, and in the Denim Lycra Lounge, a small group was always gathered to enjoy refreshments, and for the lucky ones, free jeans.

Delta Booth (Photo Isabelle Erb)

Delta, the travel partner of Project Runway, offered service with a smile. Their flight crew, clad in their Richard Tyler uniforms, served an endless supply of vanilla ice blended coffee. The fashion weary crowds were invited to enjoy this frozen concoction, while snacking on designer cookies, and lounging in first class or economy seats, complete with “in-flight” entertainment.

Since most of us have a weakness for new shoes, who could resist the opportunity to design your own flip-flops? Havaianas offered what had to be the swag item of the season, allowing us to mix and match seven strap colors with five limited edition printed soles to create an endless array of colorful footwear.

Dave Sengstakan (Photo: Isabelle Erb)

According to Dave Sengstakan, President of Style West, the company that sponsored the promotion, Havaianas are now more popular on the East Coast than they are on the West Coast. They’re durable (I bought my first pair four years ago and I still have them) and if they become dirty, you can just rinse them off. Judging from the lines, which stretched from one side of the tent to the other, many of us walked away with more than just one pair. What was the most popular color combination? Mr. Sengstaken said that with fall just around the corner it was definitely brown soles with gold straps.

-Rhonda Erb

Scene and Overheard:

After jumping up onstage and posing alongside the models during the Alvin Valley show at the W Hotel in Union Square, a young woman explained, “I was just having some fun,” as she was gently but forcibly escorted from the room.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New York Fashion Report: Final Day

Ralph Rucci Collection (Photo: Ernest Schmatolla)

Obviously, nobody but the ‘guy upstairs’ has control over the weather (though there are undoubtedly many fashion designers who believe they can ‘walk on water’ and as such, are in an equally authorative position from which they can ‘call the shots’). But regardless…while we luckily enjoyed fabulous weather this past week, contributing to a smooth schedule and good moods, Thursday and Friday were a whole other story and magnified the need for more centralized shows. By everybody….including the ‘Deans of American Fashion’.

To force fashion’s biggest names to trek all the way downtown (for Ralph) and then go uptown to see Vivienne Tam, and then go downtown again to see Donna Karan, and back up to the tents for Erin Fetherston is cruel and unusual punishment, especially on a soaking rainy Friday. While there was a 7th on sixth bus dispensed to take a large group to Greenwich Street for Donna, it was hot, pouring so hard you couldn’t see out the windows, everyone was cranky, and unfortunately from my point of view, it was not worth the miserable commute.

I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed in Donna Karan's show. In a season which has emphasized cut, shape and structure, athletic wear, luxe sportif, and a streetwise, utilitarian feeling underlying almost everything including eveningwear…Donna’s ode to “Urban Diversity” relying on silk charmeuse, viscose, silk georgette looked a bit droopy. The 50 pieces seemed redundant and much of it didn’t seem especially flattering, easy to wear, or particularly modern (though the first several fluid, draped charmeuse and viscose crepe jersey dresses looked promising). Speaking of dresses, there was an emphasis on the dress (no surprise there since this is a dress season) and Donna made a statement with her ‘kaftan’ dresses both long and short, for day and evening. There was a group of trompe l'oeil jackets and coats (they were 1-piece but had the effect of a vest worn over.

When she finally sent out an elongated and easy petrol blazer in hopsack over a jersey wrap shell and viscose linen and satin twill jodhpur, the more structured muslin cotton jacquard hooded jacket with the appeal of an anorak, layered over a short patchwork panel dress in voile, a gray viscose and linen satin twill hooded coat with drawstring waist over a layered tank and pleated short skirt, and black/incense over scaled ‘cracked earth’ printed linen coat, things started to look up. An ‘incense’ and bone ombre dyed silk charmeuse plunge wrap evening gown was simple, arresting, and dramatic. Too bad there weren’t more of those.

Back at the tents, the highlights of the day (and the week) were to be found in the consistency of last two shows, both of which were at the Tents: Doo.Ri Chung (who just won the Perry Ellis Award for Women’s wear), and Ralph Rucci, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary.

I just loved Doo Ri. It was short (only 28 pieces), beautifully conceived, well thought out, detail oriented, and a complete evolution of what has come before. As always, there was an emphasis on gray, white, cream, black (with a touch of celadon and green), gathered jersey and draping, beautiful blouses (many with draped hip details), the trench (this time a grey summer wool trench that was softed through gathering and had a trompe l’oeil layered sleeve), and graceful chiffon or jersey gowns. It was predominantly short and leggy, with a modern sportswear vibe underlying it all. But no spandex leggings here.

Instead, Doo.Ri introduced a wonderful quilted fitted jersey pant with Lycra that was an elegant version of a legging and offhandedly paired them with pretty tops including a cotton tuxedo halter on Cecilia that looked young and fresh. Nothing looked forced, over designed, unflattering. Geoffrey Beene’s influence (she once worked for the designer) was palpable (yes, that’s indeed a ‘good thing’) but she benefits from her young woman’s perspective which helps to feminize it. FYI, Anna Wintour was sitting in the front row wearing an off white Burberry trench over dark, drainpipe jeans. It was a great look for her and a welcome departure from her more dressed up and elegant visage.

To an audience including customers like Iris Apfel (still the coolest one in the room wearing a colorful vintage Gianni Versace printed leather tunic over stiff dark jeans and Mongolian lamb accessories), Tatiana Sorokko, Joan Kaner, Casey Ribicoff, Martha Stewart, major retailers and editors, Ralph Rucci showed both spring ready to wear and fall 2006 haute couture. All the usual signatures, magnificent details, volume, extraordinary mixtures, and drama were there - just what you would expect. Drop dead evening gowns like the copper hammered satin blouson gown with trapunto satin duchesse sleeves, or the nude matte alligator satin duchesse gown embroidered with Ralph’s own script, which closed the first portion.

While the show was consistently exquisite and mind numbingly executed that doesn’t mean there were no surprises. But perhaps since the runways were filled with sportswear and athletic influences, many of the items that stood out were those that were simpler, more subtle, or had an underlying sportswear sensibility.

For example, the brown matte python jacket with the ease of a baseball jacket, was worn with white leather jeans; a tent shaped copper silk rain jacket was paired with a narrow ‘jean’; the belted ‘Barnett Newman’ raincoat in tan with a graphic wide band of black inserted with red trimming the sleeves and hem, was shown over ‘practical’ black silk taffeta pants and a jaunty black flat boot, the way Iris Apfel would actually wear it. (No scratch that; she would probably add her cheery red and brown duck shoes like she did last evening); a little twin set (covered with his scribbly script), paired with an a-line brown matte python skirt was indeed Ralph’s couture vision of that classic standby. An easy knee length coat and skirt was fashioned from natural python.

The active sportswear feeling continued into the haute couture portion: there was a chocolate brown paillette ‘jogging suit’ worn under a brown silk gors de longres and alligator raincoat; a black Russian broadtail ‘shirtwaist’ dress with ivory noh cufflinks; a black computer chip ‘athletic halter’ worn beneath the black embroidered Russian broadtail and barguzine sable coat and skirt.

But still, who could forget that parrot green satin skirt suit with barguzine sable lining worn on Alek Wek, or the black velvet gown whose skirt was entirely covered with feathers, or the finale: the black moiré suspension infanta with the arrestingly cut out back?

-Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Bernadine Morris...

Vaudeville shows always saved the best entertainer for last. So it was with the New York spring shows. Chado Ralph Rucci, the last show on the last day (it even started an hour late), was the prize. It followed headliners like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, and still the audience managed a thunderous standing ovation.

It was worthy. The clothes were all of couture quality, and so was the workmanship. They would have been impressive in Paris or Milan. There were coats in sable and Persian lamb, but not everything was over-the-top. Shift dresses made an impression too, though they featured inserts of leather and embroideries to enhance the often-black exteriors or all-over embroideries for evening. Almost half the styles were listed as couture, which should save couture fanciers the expense of going to Europe.

But the regular ready-to-wear collection also had its gems, which included calligraphy prints,white leather jeans, and intricately cut-out bodice tops. Cinnibar was a featured color, lending its warm glow to a raincoat as wello as a suit and dresses, but every style was worthy. II is an extraodinary collection and a tribute to dressmaking.

Ralph Lauren continues his immutable way. This time his clothes are neatly divided into three segments. The first focuses on black and white stripes for his casluar styles which include shorts and vests. A series of dresses in allover black and white prints and festive gold and lame styles are proposed for evening all within the simple Lauren framework. Ever so often a 1920s chemise appears in a contemporay collection. Lauren has one of the best ever. A conemporary touch: it is worn over a white T shirt.

There is hardly a straight line in Donna Karan's collection. Everything is draped within a inch of its life. Some are draped to one side. Others take the form of coats over pants. For variety, there are straight long dresses in colors darkening to the hem. Patchwork effects are also seen. Karan is an individual who goes her own way.

Pale shades in brocade and linen are the majos thrust at Vivienne Tam. whose styles look particularly wearable.l To add variety, there are many decorative effects, including pailletes, crochet work and appliques. Lime is one of her favorite colors after the pale ones.

Friday, September 15, 2006

New York Fashion Week - Day 7

J. Mendel got off to a late start at the tents (with many empty seats having to be filled in at the last moment) thanks to the flooding and heavy rain wrecking havoc with the schedule and public transportation. But notwithstanding nature, some of the city’s most visible social swans (who are major customers, and as such, are constantly being photographed at high profile social events clad in J. Mendel, AND big fans of both the company and the dashing French born head of design, Gilles), managed to get to their seats in order to view the latest creations for spring (and figure out early on, what they will be buying).

There was Lauren Davis, Helen Schifter, Jennifer Creel, et al., taking in designer Gilles Mendel’s embrace of architecture, volume, structure, and play of hard and soft, thanks to his new use of ‘hard’ fabrics such as mikado, gazar, and organza, now playing off the house's signature silk chiffons. The crowd pleasing finale, (a group of diaphanous, entrance making silk chiffon and silk organza gowns in shades of steel gray, anthracite, espresso, opal), were not the only things which had the front row social set swooning over.

It seems that with each season, J. Mendel becomes less about fur and more about ready-to-wear (great suits, sportswear separates, dresses). This time, there was more of an emphasis on the sportif and utilitarian (but naturally, it was hardly your ordinary pedestrian approach). A white cotton canvas pea coat with pleated back was accessorized with a silver disc necklace; a straw silk file windbreaker was trimmed with pearl and mink, paired with a gold paillette t shirt and cotton canvas short; a cotton denim coat dress was worn over denim shorts.

And the innovative Gilles has been successful in making fur seasonless and lightweight by applying mink and sable to layers of organza, enabling him to treat fur as just another luxurious fabric, and making a case for showing fur for spring. We saw several furs on Bryan Bradley’s runway for Tuleh, however, who else but Gilles would so convincingly design a fur sweater that looks like a Fair Isle pullover, and show it with denim shorts?

While other runways may have had their fill of appealing short tulip shaped dresses, little black cocktail dresses, tunics, prints (dots, florals, graphics), sleeve interest, patterned sweaters, brocades, Cynthia Rowley was the only one to offer each attendee a tasty 3 course lunch in a basket, complete with printed menu (I kid you not). On each seat at Gotham Hall, there was a straw basket filled with a can of Tab ‘energy’, prosciutto, watercress, arugula and chile ricotta cheese in a fresh tortilla; watermelon, Jicama and bean sprout salad with Yuzu vinaigette, and lonesome dove white chocolate/dark chocolate. It was yummy and courtesy the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, which is opening on 9/19 at 29 west 21 street. All I can say is that I don’t envy the people who had to clean up the absolute mess that was left.

Ballet and dance are proving to be major influences this season, but naturally, each designer approaches it differently. Vera Wang, an athlete herself (ice skater, dancer), who has been running around town in leggings and sweaters before almost anyone else, admitted that the romance of the dance life, the ballerina’s rehearsal layers, and the ”emotionally charged space of the geisha’s wardrobe” were the basis for her collection.

But in Vera’s romantic, artistic vision, a legging is hardly just a legging, and ballet inspired layering is not going to look like something out of the Capezio store. For example, a black dancer’s warm up wrap was shown over a mouse grey silk tunic dress with sequined sleeves, and layered over black charmeuse cropped pants; a steel cashmere zipped cardigan was thrown over a blush waffle organza dress with baroque embroidered pockets and layered over black drawstring chiffon warm up pant. Everything had the designer’s dreamy, ethereal touch, and was an evolution of what she has been doing up until now. All her signatures were there: the neutral color palette (and the ‘mouse gray’), couture like fabrics (chiffons, washed organzas, silk taffetas), and of course, the often billowing, voluminous shapes, beautiful backs, fabric manipulation. However, sometimes, her artistic efforts became a bit overwrought and there appeared to be too much going on. Many of the outfits had so much fabric in the front, that even the models looked pregnant. It’s not something too many of us mere mortals could pull of.

On a sad note, one page inserted within the run of show read, “Dedicated to the memory of C.C. Wang”, her father who had just passed away that morning. When she took to the runway, she was understandably in tears. We express our deepest, heartfelt sympathy to Vera. I can’t think of anything more difficult than putting finishing touches on a collection right after your father passes away. That she was even able to go through with it, and take her bow at the finale shows what a professional she is.

Like last spring, and this fall, Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa is making a case for sheer and layering. And like last spring, the emphasis is on white, hits of yellow, midnight navy, and black (though this time he added a palest mint green); shape, and construction. But unlike last spring, (where the clothing was spare and clean, even though the fabric was artfully manipulated), this season, there were too many tricks and the result was often forced and contrived. It appeared the designer who has just won the CFDA Award for Womens Wear, was trying too hard. And I was not the only person who noted vestiges of Helmut Lang in the artsy approach to street wear and sportswear. Francisco had more success when he stayed away from too much gimmickry and tricks, and focused on the shapes and construction.

The collection was predominantly based around short dresses (sheer stiff organza airly layered over athletic white tank dresses, or sportswear inspired mesh and techno ribbed fabrics), voluminous short dolman sleeved trench back blousons (in stiff silk taffeta or organza); short dolman sleeved coats, short skirts (just above the knee) and slouchy cropped pants. One of the best and most appealing looks was a black silk taffeta short full sleeved cropped jacket worn over a tank and the slouchy cropped black silk taffeta pants that hit just above the ankle. Worn with a heavy platform sandal it expressed perfectly the notion of luxurury sportswear (with a streetwise vibe).

It’s also about luxurious fabrication and texture mixes, as exemplified by the white crocodile trench coat, and the navy alligator short sleeved blouson jacket. A heavy platform sandal balanced and grounded the voluminous shapes, and large structured box shaped bags accessorized some of the day wear.

By the way, on each seat there was a pair of Calvin Klein oversized sunglasses in a wonderfully sculptural small black patent leather bag that zipped on top. The glasses are perfect for hiding your face (especially on those days you go out without make up and don't feel you look your best), And the small bag is so chic, it could easily do double duty as an evening bag.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Bernadine Morris...

Elegance has surfaced in recent shows. One was by Vera Wang who began by making bridal gowns a few years back and soon advanced into evening dresses which had her own personal style. They are light and floaty and do not resemble other clothes around.

Francisco Costa has been applauded for taking over the Calvin Klein collection. He has given it his own stamp and they to are gently conceived. He starts with white and some other pale shades in sheer fabrics, plus linen. He then moves on to black. including a flyaway jacket with a full skirt and some attractive leather styles. Mr. Costa look as if he will make a success of the Klein look and he does it judiciousl without recourse to tough chic.

Notes from Rhonda Erb...

Zac Posen Spring 2007 (Photo: Isabelle Erb)

Zac Posen presented his Spring/Summer collection in the Tent at Bryant Park last night. The crowd swelled to capacity as a steady stream of A-list celebrities filed in. The front row faces included Kate Bosworth, Kanye West, Emmy Rossum, and the legendary Lauren Hutton, to name a few.

The collection, entitled Japanese Royale, featured frothy skirts, over sized bows and cravats, billowy sleeves and blouson dresses in neutral hues of white, gray, and sand punctuatedwith bright aqua orange and pink. The final look was a magnificent
gold and silver confection called the Gilded Gown, which floated down the runway and was almost as wide as it was long.

All seated attendees were treated to a shiny black shopping bag filled with make-up and other cosmetic goodies.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 6

Yeohlee Teng's Spring 2007 Collection (Photo: Ernest Schmatolla)

Peter Som said he was inspired by the mid 18th century paintings by Boucher and Vigee-LeBrun which is not surprising since the collection had an old world feeling. Colors were mainly neutral with an emphasis on burlap, putty, oyster, different shades of yellow (his favorite color this season which he used for his favorite frock: the pretty yellow cotton and taffeta ‘watteau’ back dress), cherry red and cerulean blue. He focused on very short dresses (many with bell shaped skirts), shorts (one shorts suit featured cuffed full shorts and a matching cropped flyaway jacket with pronounced buttons and multi pockets), cropped jackets with cropped sleeves, and of course coats.

He threw a Prussian blue taffeta coat over a white organdy top and organza frosted damask pleated skirt and showed a parchment burlap coat over a bold floral linen radzimir bell skirt and matching chiffon top. One charcoal cross hatch cloth pantsuit with a brief peplumed jacket and skinny pants recalled Guesquiere for Balenciaga but hey - everything’s been done before…no? The washed organdy gowns at the end of the show, in soft shades of blush, white, cerulean blue featuring bare backs, slightly raised waists, and very long, graceful, skirts that ended in dramatic trains were certainly dreamy.

By the way, Peter designed apartments in a residential condominium located just steps away from the tents at 485 Fifth Avenue, billed as “The Peter Som Collection of Residences”. I was just thinking how nice and convenient it would be to have an apartment there; especially this time of year.

Michael Kors was having an 80’s moment, but it did not evidence itself in the same way it did at Marc Jacobs. Focusing on “re imagined basics” as he refers to them, the kind of pieces that transcend trends, never look dated, are always needed in one’s wardrobe, and can always be relied upon, the influence this time (and you gotta have an influence, right?) was dance, ballet, and movement, urban movement to be exact. It was leggy (yes, as in leggings which didn’t look especially newsworthy, and anyway, everyone is already wearing them) and ‘waisted’ (as in wide belts cinching the waists of everything - including draped matte jersey gowns.

The collection, which could have been called, “Michael’s Greatest Hits” was predicated on a neutral, (ballet inspired) color palette (white, black, nude, pink, beige; body conscious jersey pieces, and knitwear, both of which were often layered. The slouchy off the shoulder tops had me thinking about “Flashdance” and I found myself humming “What a Feeling” under my breath. But luckily, Michael didn't rely on that overdone tune.

In general, what looked better to me than the outfits predicated on black spandex leggings and high heeled lace up shoes were the chicer, slouchier, sportswear inspired pieces (a suntan linen tank layered beneath a white linen pullover worn with black slouchy pants and a long cashmere scarf was elegant and effortless; the truffle nylon anorak worn belted over a cashmere sweater dress with another sweater thrown over the shoulders hit the right sporty streetwise note).

In the meanwhile, what would a MK show be without a trench or two? In this case there was a rather straightforward putty serge wool trench and one more inventive nude cotton eyelet with crinoline underneath for added fullness. Evening ran the gamut from a diamond jeweled cowl back mini to a group of simply beautiful draped jersey gowns with beautiful backs that fell gracefully away from the body.

Sometimes a girl just wants a great looking, simple, yet distinctive and beautifully constructed blazer or coat, crisp white shirt, and well cut can’t do better than Richard Chai, whose architectural seams, precision cuts, and hand pick stitched detail seemingly (or should I say, ‘seamingly’) transform the basics. His sand cotton/linen petal jacket worn with a white cotton poplin shirt and perfectly cut pale blue denim jeans could easily be one’s spring ‘uniform’ (a new, modern suit), as well as a long black cardigan with arc seaming, which was also paired with a white cotton shirt with ruched bodice, and wider legged pale blue jeans.

Richard’s white shirts (some of which flare, have petal collars, or ruched detail) are hardly run of the mill and in one case, he transformed this classic into a shirtdress. A chocolate brown eel skin bomber jacket paired with sand cotton and linen shorts looked cool and hip, and the black white silk linen basket weave side snap car coat would be a wonderful addition to any woman’s closet.

Douglas Hannant is in love with white this spring; almost every piece in the collection shown at Gotham Hall (where there were many empty seats that had to be filled in at the last moment) was white, and very short. In fact, one in particular, which featured a pleated skirt, resembled a tennis dress. Strange considering Douglas’s customers are not necessarily teenagers or even young ladies in their 20’s but rather…a more mature woman. Since it’s a sure bet the hemlines will lengthen when they hit the stores, what’s the point of showing them so brief? In addition, it gave the expensive clothes, a rather a junior look.
That said, the soft and cloudlike evening dresses at the end especially the opal grey pleated gown and white accordion pleated chiffon halter, were beautiful.

One of the very best things I can say about the Carmen Marc Valvo show is that the designer known for special occasion wear, cocktail dresses and evening gowns, left one front row seat empty “to put the focus on who is NOT in the front row — instead of who is.” Both he and Soledad O’Brien (the CNN anchor) are working to raise awareness for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Yeohlee Teng was inspired by her visit to the Schindler House in Los Angeles and the upcoming exhibition, “Skin & Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture” at the MOCA in Los Angeles, which 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.

For spring 2007, almost all the spare, pure, and simplistic designs, (many of which rely more on innovative cut and structure of fabric, than construction and sewing) were done in different shades of white - which was Teflon coated to insure practicality. Including the finale, a white Teflon coated Egyptian cotton harness dress, which could be considered the bridal gown and can be worn in several different ways: as a strapless gown, or by just lifting up the sides, one can fashion a ‘wrap’. How’s that for smart design? Yeohlee designs pockets to not only look good, but to function properly and what that in mind, their size and placement is of utmost importance, In addition to white, there was black (again, different shades) and in some cases, black was used as piping on white dresses.

Cotton, linen and silk were the fabrics of choice and the emphasis was on dresses (mainly short dresses), hi waisted skirts, shorts, lean pants, and distinctive coats (such as the white wide wale cotton funnel neck coat or the white cotton denim belted trench shown with shorts and a jersey catenary tank. There was a general feeling of lightness and ease throughout - everything skimmed the body gracefully and effortlessly; volume was achieved through cape like pieces that wrapped the body.

I was seated beside Joan Kaner and thank goodness because she helped clear something up. We were talking about the ‘new’ cropped pant with fullness around the hips, tapering to the cuff, which was seen at Marc Jacobs and then at Derek Lam. I couldn’t remember what the pant is called (one problem with being around the fashion business for a long time is that you’ve seen it all - but the problem is that you can’t necessarily remember it all) Joan recalled having a pair of Calvin Klein’s from the 70’s and they were referred to as zoave pants. Whew! Thank goodness I got that straight.

Seeing Milly by Michele Smith is like taking a quick trip to Southampton or Palm Beach…preppy, upbeat, happy, fun, and feminine, the pieces are generally vintage inspired, more often than not, feature exuberant graphic patterns (a la Pucci), bright colors, and of course, white. This season is no exception. Swimsuits, bikinis, cover-ups, separates, and dresses (on their own or shown with a jacket or under a coat) form the basis of the spring line…though they were very short on the models, I’m sure they will be lengthened a bit when they reach the stores for spring. But even if they aren’t, one can always wear them as a tunic over shorts, leggings, skinny (or wide) pants. Many of the outfits were shown with coordinating printed oversized totes.

Included with the show program was a colorful montage using photos, illustrations, book jacket covers, and retro ads from simpler times, showing carefree, smiling, beautiful women in their bikinis (Gidget, Doris Day in polka dots, Annette Funnicello hugging Frankie Avalon). On the bottom it said “Enjoy the pictures”. Why not?

- Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg...

It was the usual mob scene at Cipriani, as the fashion crowd showed up for the Diesel show. Once inside, everyone sat on white bleachers, where sounds of sea breezes and the ocean wafted through the air, perfectly befitting the "Beyond the Blue Horizon" theme.

On the runway, Diesel presented its "Creative Denim" story, by way of lots of jeanswear, bomber jackets, dresses and tops in a plethora of white, gold, embroidery, beading, and red, white, and blue. Nifty accessories, such as oversized handbags and poufy gold foil caps gave an extra kick to the clothes. Patty Wilson's styling was so evident here.

Seated front row - Suzy Menkes, Corrine Roitfeld, Hal Rubinstein, Kim Hastreiter, Ingrid Sischy, Avril Levigne, Heather Graham, et al.

Special thanks to Trina Morris for getting us a hard to come by invite.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 5

The day began with Monique Lhuillier who said in her program notes: "This season's woman is strong and confident”. Oh, so you mean to say that last season she was weak and insecure? Or that she will be next season? Be that as it may, these descriptions are just words and quite frankly, designers would be better off not writing such prose and instead concentrating on making great clothes.

But Monique can be forgiven because her clothes are consistently beautiful and the shows are always so appealing. Working in a predominantly neutral color palette and making a statement with green (moss, forest, muted jade) she experimented more with tailleur than in the past, as seen in the form of several narrow military inspired pantsuits which looked great. A greige linen taffeta trench coat paired with a black cocktail dress also looked modern. But the collection is always more about evening than day so the majority of the 36 pieces consisted of cocktail dresses and Grecian goddess inspired evening gowns, with features such as bubble hems, pleated bodices, open - or interesting backs, oxidized crystal embroidery, jewel encrusted collars, or jeweled sashes. Monique also used this show as an opportunity to launch her new hand bag collection comprised of luxurious clutches fashioned from exotic skins.

Michael Vollbracht seems to be getting more comfortable in his role as head of design for Bill Blass and certainly, his fans (and those customers in attendance) have remained loyal. The well liked and talented illustrator is obviously listening to criticism and taking it seriously. For one thing, the shows (which used to be too long and in need of serious editing) have shortened and tightened up immeasurably. This time, only 48 pieces were shown. Everything has become more fast paced (including the musical soundtrack). As for the clothes...let’s just say there were no surprises, Michael knows his customers’ needs and is trying to fill them. The collection as usual, ran the gamut from day (soft skirt suits, tailored pantsuits, trenches, clutch coats) into evening, focusing on dresses (as is the case on many other runways). There were brocade dresses, chiffon dresses, jersey dresses, and tulle dresses. There were puff sleeved organza blouses and skirts as well as long gowns with dramatic trains and an especially pretty wedding gown which served as the finale.

But after looking at Michael’s expressive illustrations ("Famous shoes in history") for his just launched shoe collection which was included within the show program (done in his familiar and signature red, black, and white), I was reminded that more than anything, Michael is an artist. Once an artist, always an artist.
Derek Lam's strong earthy 38 piece collection had all the hallmarks of what could best be described as “Great American Sportswear”. Easy, unforced, yet polished, many of the highly wearable pieces translated into gutsy fabrics, recalled designs from sportswear icons like Cashin, Beene, and McCardell. In fact, Derek used those names to identify specific looks in his run of show. He was not trying to hide the reference point - he was celebrating it.

The slouchy, cropped “utility” pant (something that was also shown at Marc Jacobs), has replaced leggings (been there, done that), and as usual, it’s all about beautiful construction, standout coats, trenches, jackets, and the interesting mix. For evening, Derek proposed going low keyed and sporty (as in the floor length navy paper taffeta anorak gown) or perhaps opting for one of his graceful, color blocked and pleated silk chiffons in shades of green, black, and brown.

Betsey Johnson is obviously obsessed with her new granddaughter. She dubbed her show, “babycakes”, and at the show’s end, she cradled the adorable Leyla in her arms. Eric Clapton’s famous song of the same name was the perfect accompaniment. Almost all of the 57 pieces were one form or another of the dress (the item of the season)…though there were swimsuits, jumpsuits, briefs, and assorted other play clothes. If I have one gripe, it’s that the lighting was so dark it was impossible to write notes or read the show list. But all was forgiven at the finale, when Betsey did her famously spirited cartwheel. Some things never change, and maybe that's not such a bad thing! You go girl!

The young Mulleavy sisters (Laura and Kate), the duo behind the label Rodarte, showed fittingly at the Dia Center for the Arts. (Fittingly because the duo are inspired by art and have an artist’s approach to fashion design). The talented newcomers who were nominated by the CFDA this past year for Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear (alas, they did not win- the honor went to Doo. Ri) seem to be far too young to be churning out such amazingly sophisticated, dramatic, and rigorously designed pieces that mirror couture. Heavy hitters like Anna Wintour and Julie Gilhart were treated to 26 outfits (mostly dresses although there were several fitted pantsuits) that were mind boggling in their ambitious concept and execution. Working in a mainly neutral color palette (black, white, grey) with hits of fuchsia and flamingo pink, the focus was on volume, (most often controlled), shape, construction, and artistic decoration which took the form of stiff bows, life like flowers, organza ‘waves’ (a signature) that decorated bodices, hips, and backs of dresses and tops, antique lace, ostrich silk tulle. Sometimes all the aforementioned were used together. To describe the collection as special, would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, because we were not confirmed at the Narciso Rodriquez show until the last moment, we were unable to cover the show. We still want to thank Pierre Rogier for trying to accommodate us.

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire concession set up offering variations on what has been my favorite yogurt for the last 5 or so years: Fage Total Authentic Greek Yogurt. Quite frankly, after I discovered it, it was hard for me to eat any other brand; it’s that good. When I asked the woman behind the booth, who inspired idea it was to bring this treat to the tents, she said, “mine”. The woman, Julia Stambules, just happens to be the company’s public relations director. She told me that they will be back again on Thursday, offering the same assortment of flavors (including 0 % fat for those who are watching their calories), along with individual bowls of honey and granola (and plastic spoons) so you can make your own yogurt ‘Sunday’. Yum!

FYI: I also love the MAC Cosmetics corner…it’s comfortable and inviting, offers great free espresso (any way you want it), wonderful notepads and the best black felt tipped pens. And the people in charge are so accommodating and friendly. Okay…enough about the extraneous things….back to the clothes.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Bernadine Morris...

Forget Karl Lagerfeld and his success with continuing the Chanel name. Usually big fashion names disappear with the founders. Two big American fashion houses, Norman Norell and Claire McCardell, vanished after a few seasons.

Michael Vollbracht just might be an exception. This season, after a few earlier tries, he seems to have grasped the Bill Blass spirit. His collection was a big success, especially highlighting the two categories of clothes that Blass did best: suits and evening dresses. The suits were trimly tailored, many in pale shade for a spring-like air and the best dresses were mostly long with moderately full skirts and strapless tops. The skirts were often embroidered for a festive look. The collection as a whole was satisfying and did not look derivative. Vollbracht is doing well with his assignment.

Notes from Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg...

Heatherette's 'Passport to Paradise' was one hell of a show, the theme of which was "Will you marry me?". Starting with the fantastic styling of Patti Wilson to the lollapalooza atmosphere on the runway provided by "models" such as Paris & Nicky Hilton, Tinsley Mortimer, Nathalie and Theodora Richards and Lydia Hearst all decked out in the funnest get-ups we've seen this week.

The packed house went wild as the colorful clothes hit the runway. The shoes, created by Irregular Choice for Heatherette couldn't have been more fabulous. "Vacation" music a la The Beach Boys pumped up the volume and made the usually morose and somber models come to life and really show off what they were wearing. Kudos to Babydaddy and Sammy Jo who did the soundtrack.

Other celebs on the runway were singers Julia and Mya who looked real cute in the clothes. And if all that was not enough, designers Richie Rich and Trevor Rains sent out a rockin' dance troupe that brought down the house. The finale of the show gave us Miss P. Hilton and a real cute guy as the wedding couple. When he picked her up in his arms and carried her off the runway, everybody thought it was the end of the show. That's when Rich and Raines came out to take their final bows. Oh, and yes, there was the a special appearance by Heatherette muse, Amanda Lepore, dressed in a barely there, little black something, holding up a white Holy Bible.

For A-listers only, The colorful "hatbox", chock full of goodies, seems just right for travel and every girl's boudoir.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 4

Marc Jacobs Collection (Photo: Carlos Buscemi)

Just before noon, the headline for the day could have been “7th Avenue falls flat”…No not for that reason (necessarily) but because all of a sudden, pancake flats replaced wedge soles, platforms, and stilettos heels (for the day portion anyway) on several runways including Carolina Herrera (in the form of Manolo Blahnik flat sandals) and Oscar de la Renta (who opted for elegant pointy toed patent leather flats), making a case for a new ease and more subtle, unforced glamour.

And of course, I don’t think I have to point out that the 18 year old models who walk the runways, are so beautiful AND tall, that they are still taller than most of us mortals, even if they’re wearing flats and we’re in towering heels. Who said life is fair? The headline could have also been, “All about Ease” because it seems if designers aren’t using the term “effortless” to describe their collections, they are using the word, ‘ease’.

In fact, in Carolina’s run of show, she cited “effortless chic” as the effect she was going after and focused on luxuriously fabricated, highly detailed yet unfussy shifts, sundresses, cocktail dresses and evening wear. One crowd pleasing evening gown in particular (which had the front row social set enraptured), was not an overdone, overworked, voluminous creation but a deceptively simple (but hardly homespun) re-embroidered hydrangea jacquard gown with rough piping and captivating back that had the look and ease of an elongated shirt. And as if to drive home the point, she did not end the show with an expected and predictable long gown but chose instead, a short cocktail dress in chalk with black ribbon embroidery.

I found it interesting by the way, that Oscar de la Renta was the only designer to recognize the date, 9/11, as he did with his personal message in the program notes. And he used the opportunity of his show to reveal a brand new look (he is completely bald). When he was waiting in the wings to take his après show bow, I caught him looking at people in the audience who were looking back at him, and he smiled, self consciously patting the top of his head with his hand. Coincidentally, the ‘designer’ cookies given out later in the day at the Delta booth featured a picture of the ‘old’ debonair Oscar (the way we know him)….hair and all. Either way, he looks great!

Speaking of Oscar, I saw Anna Wintour on TV, watching the tennis matches at the U.S. Open on Saturday clad in Oscar’s black and white silk faille polka dot dress from resort, and again at his show yesterday wearing Oscar’s short printed dress with modified bouffant skirt, paired with a little cardigan, She looks so well in his clothes, and is so perfect, she could easily be a ‘poster child’ for the designer.

At a time when volume still continues as the message (certainly nothing new for Oscar, who has always loved the drama, exuberance, and elegance of it all), Oscar’s taffeta bouffant confections appear to be so light and airy, I’ll bet they could keep you afloat in the ocean. But what struck me was that in a sea of big dresses, what ultimately looked the most beautiful was the navy silk sponge crepe long narrow drink of water that boasted a beautiful modified bubble back for interest.

Cynthia Steffe is another designer going after “ease” and “effortless” and she stated that she was thinking about Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot “frolicking in St. Tropez” as she put together her spring line. Unfortunately, while there certainly were some sweet dresses (like the white ‘deneuve’ dress in cotton voile) and some wonderful coats as always (notably the first one out - a pale celadon cotton damask abbreviated trench and the crisp cobalt a line coat with white stitching and statement making white pearl buttons), much of it looked too ordinary to be shown on a runway.

Marc Jacobs being interviewed after his show last night. (Photo: Ernest Schmatolla)

But it’s Monday, and that means Marc Jacobs. And that also means that the day belonged to Marc Jacobs who showed only one hour late at his usual venue - the New York State Armory. All I can say is that the show was worth the wait. Of course, to bide the time you can always people watch (Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Rachel Feinstein, Mischa Barton); listen to the pounding musical soundtrack which is usually a pretty fair indicator (or not) of what will come down the runway (in this case it was everything 80’s- from Earth, Wind, and Fire to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. And yes, the show was a thriller and Marc incorporated several of those famous 80’s style jackets into the collection.

You can also study the run of show to prepare for what will come down the runway. And while it seemed obvious to me that the collection would prove to be a rather glittery, shiny, and lightweight continuation of fall’s layering (which it was), and it would be very sports inspired or at the very least, sports inspired a la Jacobs (after all, the program listed crocheted and metal headbands, jeweled hair nets, tulle bombers, gazar jumpsuits, metallic kangaroo caps, tweed bomber jackets, metallic pea jackets and trench coats, jeweled bags), that was only a small part of the picture and would ultimately prove misleading, because it was hardly sportswear in a traditional sense.

It was pure Marc Jacobs and it was brilliant (though I also saw vestiges of Helmut Lang in the slashed and appendaged athletic wear, and in the overall feeling of couture street wear). It was all about slouchy layering, light and airy movement (it’s hard to forget Karen Elson looking every inch a butterfly in flight, in her short, striped silk chiffon dress with ‘wings’), volume, and more than anything else: sparkle, shine, glitter (gold and silver).

So keeping that in mind, I now understand why Meredith Melling Burke saw fit to wear that silver sequined tank top layered over a t shirt and slouchy gray menswear inspired pants. She obviously knew something I didn’t. And after last night, Cindi Leive might have to re-think her dos and don’ts and modify the notion that wearing sequins for day is a “don’t”. Because ‘Marc’ my words…that will be the Next Big Thing.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Bernadine Morris:

"Regal" is not the first word that comes to mind when viewing the Seventh on Sixth spring shows. But Carolina Herrera, who was herself a couture customer before she began designing ready-to-wear, often has a gracious touch. Lace details, contrasting stitches and ribbon trimmings contribute a glamorous look to clothes that are elegant and stylish. Her clothes have a sense of glamour which should appeal to women who like fine dressmaking.

A group of short, full skirted evening dresses at Oscar de la Renta should encourage young women to go out dancing. The dresses have brief, short bodices above the bouffant skirts. Colors include bright red and black and there are some prints. Not to worry: the supple long dresses. and short, sweater dresses that have long been part of Oscar's repertoire are still there, looking quietly comfortable.

Cynthia Steffe doesn't try to astound. She makes clothes that are in the current fashion spirit but are always easy to wear. So expect Capri pants and shorts with soft blouses, loose light coats and plenty of sundresses. Cobalt blue is a color she handles well.

Monday, September 11, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 3

Tuleh Collection (photo Ernest Schmatolla)

All in all, Sunday was an upbeat kind of day, beginning with Lela Rose’s youthful and sweet early morning presentation, which was built around the idea of controlled volume, touches of homespun and the folkloric, plays on proportion, dressmaker details, muted earth tones, short dresses (including pinafores) and short shorts which echoed the mood and tone elsewhere over the weekend. What other trends have crystallized over the weekend? Stripes, sheer, layering, balloon and bubble hems, balloon and lantern sleeves (there seems to be a continued fascination with sleeves which has continued from fall), tucking, ruching, pleats (box pleats and sunburst pleats) standout coats (including new takes on the trench- as if there could possibly be any other versions designers have not yet tried).

Brian Reyes and Sari Gueron, two of the 10 “emerging talents” being sponsored by UPS, showed at the UPS Hub at the Tents yesterday. The 25 year old Reyes has always been admittedly inspired by his world travels and strives to experiment with interesting fabrics and mixes. Among the beautifully designed pieces were his abbreviated dresses (a slate woven chenille strapless lanterns dress, a black and white striped tank dress, a black taffeta moiré short sleeved obi, and a black strapless box pleat radzmire). Sari, who is after a look that is cool, low-keyed and underdone concentrated on shorts looks and dresses featuring box pleats, pintucks, or quilted yokes (though her use of crystal flower corsages reminded me a bit of Doo Ri last season).

Tracy Reese is obviously in a Latin mood these days. The popular designer’s collection was upbeat, sexy, spirited and had the effect of taking a quick vacation to a warm Caribbean Island - without having to actually go anywhere. Citing the tango as inspiration, the models walked the runway to the beat of tango music and she even had a couple doing a very energetic tango on the runway at the end of the show. Maybe Tracy is taking tango lessons herself. The run of show was even divided into three passages: Tango, Samba, Barrio and within each group, there were appealing neutral and spice toned ‘frocks’, shifts, blousons, shirtdresses, Bermudas, shorts, and coats (including a fabulous trench with tucked sleeves and a rose ruched coat with kimono sleeves).
Want to know what Diane Von Furstenberg is up to these days? The designer and new President of the CFDA is obviously busy because the spring collection (which was unsurprisingly quite the scene with hubby Barry Diller greeting and schmoozing with the guests, and all the chairs at the Tent venue slip covered in yellow, green, and red just for the occasion) was a little bit of this and a little bit of that and was sort of all over the place (florals, graphics, geometrics, solids, little black dresses, leggings, tunics, crochet knit ensembles, printed trench coats, chain mail sweatshirts, coatdresses, etc.) The show was dubbed “All about Eve” and the program featured an image of the designing woman looking gorgeous and young, taken by Francesco Scavullo in 1970.

Bryan Bradley’s Tuleh collection was another fast paced romp featuring 33 outfits which came out at breakneck speed. Styled by his former partner Josh Patner, the show was called, “American Spectators”. But while Bryan used the word “American”, in an effort to describe the well designed collection based primarily on the notion of sophisticated sportswear, and the timeless appeal of the always chic and elegant black and white, (and spectator pumps), I couldn’t help but surmise that Yves St. Laurent in the 70’s must have also been a reference point. And one printed silk cocktail dress, with a surrealistic red hand recalled Elsa Schiaparelli. Bryan is obviously in love with 3-D texture (to wit: the all over ‘fish scaled’ cocktail dress and the two frothy black and white confections in chiffon - one black, one white - with short ruched skirts).

By the way, looking at the audience was almost more fun than looking at the runway today and proof of how schizophrenic fashion has increasingly become. There was Andre Leon Talley in a white crocodile trench coat (which he never took off, even while seated); Lauren Ezersky (in a nod to neo grunge?), looking very casual, comfortable, and ready for work in her faded denim mechanic suit (or at least it appeared to be), brown heavy ankle boots, and a brown bandana tied around her forehead; and Vogue’s Meredith Melling Burke, wearing an almost blindingly shiny silver sequined top layered over a white tee, wide gray cuffed menswear pants, and thick platform wedge sandals. I guess she didn’t get the memo about NOT wearing ‘night for day’ (though wearing ‘day for night’ is perfectly ‘acceptable’) according to Glamour Magazine's editor-in-chief Cindi Leive. Ms. Leive just wrote “Glamour’s Big Book of Dos and Don’ts: Fashion Help for Every Woman” and when she was asked to apply it to dressing for Fashion Week, she was quick to say, “No sequins for day”! Now, I’m not one to pay much attention or adhere to someone else’s notion of ‘do’s and don’ts’ but in this case, I’d have to say I agree.

Speaking of which - one of the biggest don’ts is baring legs that have no business being bared. One of the best ‘new’ (actually old) trends is the idea of layering tights and skinny pants or jeans beneath baby dolls, mini skirts, and abbreviated shifts. I cannot understand why so many women (of all ages) insist on baring legs (legs that quite often would be better off hidden or camouflaged), particularly since we are at a time when there are so many creative, practical, and inexpensive options to cover up for modesty, warmth, or just the fun fashion of it. And while it is technically still summer…it’s hardly the time of the year when hoofing around town in minis and flip flops (unless you’re just going to the grocery store or to get a newspaper) is considered appropriate attire.

And without a doubt, one woman who not only ‘gets’ fashion but understands the idea of what is “appropriate” is Joan Kaner, who I had the pleasure of seeing last evening prior to the Tuleh show. The former fashion director of Neiman Marcus now divides her time between New York and Sarasota, and is attending some shows this week (including Bill Blass, Yeohlee, and Ralph Rucci). Looking relaxed and chic as usual, she admitted that while she is still very interested in fashion and wants to know what is going on and what’s new, she is happily retired and loves her leisurely life. I am sure she is not in the least bit unhappy that she does not have to worry about covering each and every show this week and next month in Europe. And as one of fashion's loudest voices about the need to modify the schedule, she observed that New York Fashion Week is as packed as usual (if not more so). She is one class act!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 2

The day began with a highly professional, impressive showing of the famed San Francisco based Academy of Art University’s second annual MFA graduate’s fashion show (of which the famed illustrator Gladys Perint Palmer is Executive Director of Fashion). The designs of 14 mind blowingly talented students (fashion designers who worked in collaboration with textile designers) who have traditionally gone on to much bigger and better gigs, were not only on par with but transcended much of what has been shown up until now. Highlights were the Balenciaga inspired designs of Laurie Browne in collaboration with Young Jun Ryu; the structured denim sportswear by Li-Jen “Alan” Lee (which is being sponsored by Cone Mills); the colorful knitwear of Vietnamese Quyen Nguyen; the painstakingly hand detailed and feminine designs of Swedish and African American Shanti Rose Markstrom. Kudos to all.

Alice Roi’s show was refreshing, sweet, and charmingly consistent in mood, tone, and execution. The young talented designer is admittedly taken with short dresses, structure, jumpers, vests, chic neutrals, layering, ribbed knits, and sleeve treatment (not to mention a hefty dose of the Courreges 60’s and the utilitarian functionality of the 90’s). It was well designed and looked wearable and relevant.

One can always count on Alexandre Herchcovits to go his own way and go his own way he did. While fall 2006 was all about hard edged black, in what thus far seems to be a very neutral spring, AH made a stand with a short and sweet showing of his signature eye popping, almost cartoonish primary colors, pattern mixes (bold awning stripes, florals, plaids, abstracts), creative layering, plays on proportion and volume. And while much of what was shown was admittedly difficult to wear, Alexandre’s simple, deft tailoring always shines through and saves the day.

Speaking of stripes, bold color (and especially the color red), all the above stood out at Atil Kutoglu, the Turkish designer with quite a fan base, who seemed to be far more inspired by the honest simplicity of American sportswear than in seasons past (though he said he was inspired by the “Wiener Werkstaette mixed with the clothes my mother wore at parties in her house in the summer of ‘78”). The result was a collection far more wearable and less contrived which certainly did not suffer from the formidable modeling talents of top gals like Karolina and my favorite, Cecilia (she of the boyishly long skinny frame, and close cropped black straight bob) who not only looks great in everything but makes everything look amazing!

The UPS sponsored newcomer, Russian designer, Alexander Terekhov unveiled his Terexov collection in the afternoon at the UPS Hub. With the exception of the first look out: a black coated cotton trench coat worn over a white top and black mini, almost everything else seemed to be a variation on one theme: a draped jersey self belted wrap dress: knee length or floor length, in either white, gray, or black. Sometimes the dress was belted high for an empire effect, sometimes it was sleeveless, and more often than not, it was full sleeved and worn seductively off the shoulder.

In the meantime, the most powerful woman in fashion, Anna Wintour, was sitting front row center, clad in a chic black and white sleeveless polka dot dress from Oscar de la Renta’s upcoming resort line (gee, I wonder how she managed that??!!!). But she was not at the Bryant Park Tents. She was at the U.S. Open, cheering on her good friend Roger Federer as he won his men’s semi final match. I guess she won’t be attending any late afternoon fashion shows on Sunday because Roger will be battling against Andy Roddick in the men’s finals. Speaking of which, congratulations to the very young, tall, beautiful, and stylish Maria Sharapova, who not only won the women’s finals against Justine Henin- Hardenne, but looked amazing in her Audrey Hepburn inspired little black tennis dress.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Day 1:

Gottex Show (All photos Ernest Schmatolla)

Well, barring a jolt of java, I certainly could have used some of Kenneth Cole’s signature comic antics and satirical political commentary early Friday morning to get me going. But for the first time in many seasons, Kenneth was a no show – and the honors this time went to John Bartlett at 9 am). Not that it was a gloomy and rainy morning (as it traditionally has been on kick off day). Far from it. The first day of Olympus Fashion Week for spring 2007 was met with positively summer like weather…warm and sunny. And it was warm and sultry inside the tents as well, which is a departure (it usually feels more like winter since the air conditioning normally goes at full blast). Well, I suppose this makes it all the more fitting to view the parade of warm weather clothes, barely there evening gowns, and skimpy swimsuits that will inevitably parade down the runway in the days to come.

Gottex Show

Speaking of which, there were plenty of sexy swimsuits (maillots, bikinis, 1-piece bandeaus) at Gottex (what else would you expect?), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season (though interestingly, my favorite group was the graphic black and white swimsuits shown with covered up ‘trench coats’ in contrasting patterns). And there were certainly plenty of both (swimsuits and evening gowns) at Marc Bouwer, where many evening gowns seemed like elongated versions of swimsuits and many of his decidedly glamorous swimsuits featured details normally found in evening gowns. Although, there were no sexy bathing suits or drop dead Hollywood type evening gowns at Verrier, where relative newcomer Ashelgh Verrier, always influenced by early American sportswear, continued with her highly detailed, young couture- like approach, and illustrated her formidable dressmaking skills, and signature mixes (day and evening, fabrics, textures). The effect was unforced, sweet, young, and modern all at the same time.

But still, Friday has always been all about the guys, and this time was no exception. In addition to the lineup of menswear designers which included John Bartlett, Perry Ellis, and Duckie Brown (who primarily focused on updated preppy/classic with a twist/techno/utilitarian looks in pleasing neutrals not to mention lots of lots of great knitwear), Friday was also about another guy: Nicolas Guesquiere, the man of the hour, who is credited with bringing Balenciaga back to life and who was the guest of honor at a cocktail party given by Barneys New York last night.

FIT Exhibition 'The Weaponized Woman'

Also last evening was the opening night reception for Love & War: The Weaponized Woman at The Museum of FIT. It was curated and hosted by Valerie Steele, who was appropriately attired for the evening. The exhibition was - as promised - both visually stunning and intellectually daring in its unprecedented look at the influence of armor and underwear on contemporary fashion. There was a good size crowd in attendance considering so many other events were going on at the same time, with early visits by Hamish Bowles of Vogue and the ever present Bill Cunningham of The New York Times.

Dr Valerie Steele "weaponized" for the opening.

By the way, among the very useful little ‘gifts’ I received at the shows (things that are always welcome and always come in handy) were the sugar free mini Altoids (we always need those, don’t we?), Aveda all sensitive cleanser, and Boscia fresh blotting linens (to keep the shine off your face so you’re ready for your ‘close-up’) given out at Marc Bouwer, and the Redken anti frizz shampoo and conditioner given out at Gottex (because I have curly hair!) In the category of “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”…..I would have preferred the Hue footless tights with control top (which were dispensed outside on 6th avenue) in black rather than purple

-Marilyn Kirschner with additional reporting by Ernest Schmatolla

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

“Good Night and Good Luck”

Here we are, just days away from New York Fashion Week for spring 2007. While there are undoubtedly and undeniably more important things in the world than clothing and fashion (the ongoing war in the Middle East, the threat of terrorism, the recent 1st anniversary of Katrina and the upcoming 5th anniversary of 9/ll), what one wears and how one chooses to present oneself to the world is something that cannot be underrated. Like it or not, it sends a message to the world and announces who you are, and how you want to be perceived. Need more proof that clothing makes the man (or the woman)?

Last night’s preview of Katie Couric as the new and highly paid anchor ‘person’ of the CBS Evening News (historic if nothing else, in terms of the unprecedented hype and publicity that preceded the event), was proof positive. Out of principle, I almost did not want to watch. Not that I dislike Katie, (I always watched her on the ‘Today Show’) but quite frankly, I liked Bob Schieffer (highly competent, likeable, natural. A no ‘bells and whistles’ kind of guy). In addition, I thought the whole thing had gotten a bit out of hand and was more about hype and promotion than anything else. But, curious as I am, watch I did.

Months before last evening’s telecast, (in addition to everything else), there had been much attention focused on Katie’s on screen persona, and speculation on how her wardrobe would most likely be reflected in her newfound position. It was obvious the nightly audience would not be seeing any fussy prints, florals, polka dots, or cloyingly sweet colors which may have shown up in the early morning hours of the ‘Today Show’. And you can bet that a lot of thought went into planning that very first outfit, since all eyes would be watching and it would surely set the tone.

So, how did she do? While I felt she looked a bit stiff and seemed a bit nervous (and who wouldn’t be?), as she hurriedly read from the teleprompter, after seeing Katie in her well tailored, form fitting, high buttoned, narrow shouldered white jacket and knee length black dress (Donna Karan perhaps?), my feeling is that her stylist (or stylists) were spot on. Who says you can’t wear white after Labor Day? I liked that she was not wearing a drab, all too business- like black or navy suit with pearls (as seen in her pre show ads and promos), and went instead with the graphic, eye catching, season less and always elegant black and white combo.

I also liked the unfussy, minimal accessory statement (she wore nothing but tiny earrings). It was very ‘Diane Sawyer’. Katie’s famously well toned (and suntanned- thanks to her Hampton’s summer) gams, were chicly bare (no hose) and were revealed several time throughout the segment. Her footwear of choice were simple and classic high heeled black pumps. Nothing fashion-y. The overall effect was no-nonsense, authoritative, severe, serious and grown up! I kept thinking of Joan Rivers’ signature mantra: “Oh, grow up!” Well, ‘America’s Sweetheart’ appears to have grown up overnight. Only time will tell how she handles her new position. But in terms of her fashion and grooming, from my point of view, she is off to a good start.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Double Your Pleasure

Here I am sitting around on a soggy Labor Day weekend, contemplating the unofficial beginning of fall (yay!), the upcoming New York Fashion Week for Spring 2007, and trying to figure out exactly what I will wear, which always brings me back to vintage. Buying vintage as far as I’m concerned, is still the best way to get the most bang for one’s buck, and is still the best way to find unusual, beautifully made, pieces with loads of personality, that are not part of a commercial collection, sitting on a rack alongside others like it, which will eventually turn up on the backs of countless others. In other words, the one of a kind aspect of vintage clothing is perfect for those who don’t want to look like anyone else.

While I agreed with some of what Lynn Yaeger touched upon in her recent article written for “T”, The New York Times Style Magazine, Fall 2006 (“Age Appropriate?”), where she mused out loud whether or not she was a bit too old to wear vintage, I hardly think that vintage clothing is the only category that begs the question. Every woman has to approach her fashion choices keeping in mind the concept of ‘appropriate’ as it pertains to her (age, body, lifestyle, occupation, geographic location, etc.)

And, with all due respect (I admire Ms. Yaeger as a writer and as a fashion individualist), since when did she become overly concerned with looking appropriate or ‘modern’? I mean really, this, from a woman who by her own admission, invites stares and comments from passers by, owing to her trademark ‘kewpie doll’ rouged cheeks and accentuated lips.

Be that as it may, if you are like me, and can’t get enough of vintage shops and online websites, I have great news. One of my favorite fashion insiders is the multi-talented Pinky Wolman, (someone I’ve known for many years, having met her decades ago when she was half the designing duo, Pinky & Dianne). These days, in addition to having her own label in Japan where she is a ‘brand’ (Pinky Wolman New York, which boasts 20 licensees), she has managed to turn her passion for vintage and fashion historian-knowledge/expertise, into a thriving side business.

Her right-on-target vintage website, Mid Century Chic, located on, has been filled with wonderful collectibles, disarming finds, and seasonal must haves for many years. And this weekend, Pinky has just launched her new ‘baby’, which is totally independent of the yet conveniently linked to it.

So, what sets her new venture apart from the established website? According to Pinky:
“I plan to concentrate on the higher end, unusual, rare and collectible Designer/Couture Vintage items on my new site. On Fashiondig my shop will probably contain more accessories and less expensive, but this just depends on the season’s trends and what I come up with. I am adding many new things including some new finds from Andre Couregges and Roberta di Camerino. Vintage Gucci & Pucci are still as popular as ever, plus I am looking for more American Designer Couture - big names and unknowns (from the 60s & 70s) which I believe to be undervalued and under appreciated. And of course, any thing and everything in animal prints (leopard and black & white zebra are my favorites)...all kinds of clothing - coats, dresses, shoes, handbags, gloves & hats.

As for accessories, I have amassed a major collection of items form Whiting & Davis. I think it’s wonderful, original & American, and also often is underappreciated. So you shall be seeing more & more of that on my new web site. I am always hunting where ever I go and will continue to do so”.

In addition, there is a page in Japanese (because she is famous there, has a huge fan base, and the Japanese are not only huge vintage fans, but have more fun and more expertise combining vintage with modern than almost any one else) and she hopes to add some interesting content pages as well as a blog in the future.

-Marilyn Kirschner