Thursday, December 28, 2006

An Idea for a New Reality Show

Eric Wilson's column in today's 'Thursday Styles' section of The New York Times reports a number of fashion magazines are opening their doors for behind the scenes footage that is being produced for TV, podcasts and streaming video reports on their magazines' websites.

His report gave me an idea. How about a reality show of a start-up of a new fashion magazine, with weekly episodes featuring events focusing on getting the magazine launched with all of the in-fighting and personalities that ends with the magazine actually being published on the newsstands? It would be a novel way to actually launch a new magazine.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Volunteering for the 7th on Sixth Fashion Shows

Patty Hughes, the volunteer coordinator for 7th on Sixth

Fresh from a summer in Milan spent soaking up Italian language and culture, Peter Migliozzi spotted an ad for a Learning Annex seminar conducted by Patty Hughes, the volunteer coordinator for IMG’s 7th on Sixth. Ms. Hughes was looking for a new crop of volunteers to work at New York’s Fashion Week. Thus, Mr. Migliozzi, who graduated from Hunter College last year with a degree in Anthropology, found himself spending a week in September setting up chairs, unpacking gift bags, and cleaning up backstage at the various venues under the tents at Bryant Park.

Peter Migliozzi

Did he feel that the experience was a valuable one? Absolutely.“I had recently taken a career aptitude test and found that I would be well suited to do something visually oriented. This seemed like an opportunity to consolidate my interests in art and business,” Mr. Migliozzi said. He worked at one show each day during fashion week, which took place from September 8th to September 15th. He was even called upon to serve as a seat filler for a front row VIP at an offsite show (the VIP was a no show).

“What I found most interesting was seeing the whole production come together. I think I might be interested in working in fashion PR or event planning and production.” Mr. Migliozzi said, “It was good to be a part of everything that went on behind the scenes, I just did whatever the captains asked me to do.”

The “captains” are the experienced former volunteers who are lucky enough to land a paid position with IMG supervising the volunteers during fashion week. Ashley Jones, who served as a volunteer during the past two seasons at Bryant Park was tapped to be one of the select few captains during the shows in September. Ms. Jones, a design major, who graduated from FIT last year, was recruited from the school two seasons ago by the aforementioned Ms. Hughes. Although the bulk of the volunteers are FIT students and alums, Ms. Jones has seen people travel cross-country or even from as far away as London, just to spend a week volunteering in the tents.

As a captain, Ms. Jones was stationed in the main venue, “The Tent”, for the entire week. “There are about six captains in all, two in “The Tent”, two in the “Promenade”, and one in each of the other venues, “ said Ms. Jones. She and her co-captain supervise everything that goes on in “The Tent”. That can include anything from assembling press kits to stuffing goody bags, depending upon the show and the P.R. firm running the front of the house.

“I love being in “The Tent” because we get all the biggest shows. We are usually working with a staff of about eighteen to thirty-five volunteers,” Ms. Jones said. Like Mr. Migliozzi, she has found herself particularly interested in the production side of the business. Ms. Jones is currently pursuing various job leads for fashion industry related positions.

Regardless of what happens career wise in the next few months, Ashley Jones will definitely be back as a captain at the shows in February. According to Ms. Jones, “It’s a great experience to be in that environment”. Aspiring volunteers take note: Patty Hughes is always watching to see who might move up in the ranks. One of Ashley Jones’ former captains was promoted to a higher position with IMG.

Patty Hughes, the volunteer coordinator for 7th on Sixth for the past twelve years, was herself a volunteer when she first came to the Bryant Park shows. Her energetic demeanor is almost infectious, and she is entrusted each season with recruiting and managing approximately 450 workers whose performance is crucial to Fashion Week.

A native of Buffalo, Hughes began her tenure with 7th on Sixth shortly after arriving in New York City. She had previously been the host of a late night television program in Buffalo called “Off Beat Cinema”. Ironically, she had no experience to speak of in the fashion industry. “I kept watching the Isaac Mizrahi movie Unzipped and I knew that I was interested in getting involved in fashion and this seemed like a good way to get to know New York.” At the end of Ms. Hughes first season as a volunteer, the job of coordinator became available, she interviewed with Seventh on Sixth’s Fern Mallis and the position was hers.

After several years as an integral part of New York’s fashion week, Patty Hughes has developed a sixth sense for identifying and training a crew of volunteers who work with nearly perfect synergy. Each season, about one third of the volunteers are new recruits. “I train them for fashion shows with a sense of urgency. You have to get it done and it has to be accurate,” observes Ms. Hughes.

During the off-season, Ms Hughes frequently uses her volunteer staff for other events. “I like to build a relationship with my volunteers. The shows provide valuable work experience and the more dedicated the volunteers are the more they get out of it. I get calls for personnel from companies like The North Face and Glamour Magazine. I tell them (the volunteers) to look beyond Fashion Week.”

There are a handful of ground rules that Patty Hughes insists her volunteers adhere to: no pictures, no autographs, no food or drinking, no taking anything not offered, no networking, no leaving with a model, and be courteous at all times. “I tell them you are here for the designer,” she says. Her favorite moments are those when the designers reach out to the volunteers. “Gianni Versace was extremely generous. He hugged the volunteers and thanked them.” Ms. Hughes has also learned to spot the occasional photographer who attempts to gain access to the shows as a volunteer when a request for press credentials is denied. “They ask too many questions about which celebrities will be attending and it becomes obvious why they want to be there,” Ms. Hughes says with a laugh. Each season only about one recruit simply doesn’t work out and has to be let go.

Patty Hughes most recent project is a website called The site has caught the attention of talk show host Rachael Ray and Ms. Hughes will be featured in recurring segments on the Rachael Ray show, focusing on trends for the curvy girl. Also in the works are more Learning Annex seminars for volunteers. For those of you who want more information you can email IMG on volunteer opportunities at

-Rhonda Erb

Related Article: How to Get Into a New York Fashion Show

Saturday, December 23, 2006

New Exhibition at The Museum at F.I.T.

Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness

A retrospective of the work of the acclaimed fashion designer Ralph Rucci will be on view January 12 through April 14 at The Museum at FIT. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Rucci was the first recipient of the Couture Council's Artistry of Fashion Award. Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of his career in fashion. It includes approximately 100 of his garments – including some suspended from the ceiling.

The first American to show officially during Paris couture since Mainbocher in the 1930s, Rucci also designs ready-to-wear which features extraordinary dressmaking techniques and luxury textiles. The title of this exhibition comes from an article by Suzy Menkes, in which Rucci said, "The whole idea is to take the structure, completely tailored with all the propriety of a suit, but make it weightless."

Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at FIT, said, "Ralph has a profound knowledge of fashion history and he is a true connoisseur of fine art from around the world. Our goal is to present the many facets of his creativity."

Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness has been organized at The Museum at FIT by Patricia Mears, together with Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator; and Fred Dennis, associate curator. Accompanying the exhibition will be a full color catalogue, published by Yale University Press, with more than 150 images and essays by Valerie Steele, Patricia Mears, and Clare Sauro, assistant curator of accessories. This exhibition is supported by The Couture Council of the Museum at FIT.
Opening Night Reception
Thursday, January 11, 2007: 7PM-9PM
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street.
RSVP Required: 212-217-5958

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Walking a ‘thin’ Line

With the latest news that Diane Von Furstenberg, President of the CFDA, has recently met with Anna Wintour, and a group of designers to examine the industry’s responsibility for what appears to be an epidemic of young women who are literally starving themselves, it is obvious that this issue is being taken very seriously. And well it should, the fashion industry’s impact on this growing problem cannot be ignored or underestimated. As she put it, “It is not responsible for members of the industry to ignore the impact fashion has on body image.”

What cannot be denied is that while artistic visionaries may try to promote different visions of beauty, being lean and narrow, especially if it’s stretched out over a long lithe frame, will always be perceived as the ideal form. And it will be worshipped by the fashion industry, particularly fashion designers, whose models and muses unsurprisingly tend to be women with ‘ideal’ bodies (to the extreme). This was exemplified by the long time relationship between Nan Kempner and the designers who dressed, worshipped, and befriended her, like Valentino and Yves St. Laurent.

In fact, this relationship was explored by Cathy Horyn in her front page review of the Nan Kempner exhibit in last Thursday’s Style section, (“A Woman Who Wore Couture Like a Second Skin”). The late Mrs. Kempner’s impossibly tall and skinny frame was as much a part of her entire chic persona as was her amazing wardrobe and there is almost no article that has not made reference to the fact that she was a walking ‘clothes hanger’.

As Ms. Horyn describes it, “While Saint Laurent’s tailoring -- the sharp shoulder line, the slight drape in the front, the natural waist of the pants -- owed much of its rightness to his sense of proportion, it helped that his favorite American client had long legs, a 26 inch waist and narrow, boyish shoulders. When you see the posse of Saint Laurent clad mannequins, you realize as well that Nan played a more vital role in his career than merely wearing his clothes well. In Paris, the equally thin Betty Catroux, the designers’ friend and muse, represented rock n’ roll, decadent Saint Laurent. But Nan- was the Americanized ideal.”

Being fit, lean, athletic, and healthy are all desirable traits. When thinness is unsightly, unhealthy, and life threatening, there is absolutely nothing chic or fashionable about it. But it is impossible to separate fashion from thin or to overstate the connection, and unfortunately, as long as it is held up as an ideal standard (in the same that being tall is perceived as such), it is human nature that some will take it to an unhealthy and even dangerous extreme. “One can never be too rich or too thin” is apparently a mantra which is taken literally by more than a few.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nan's 'Costume' Party

Michael Gross

Monday morning’s press preview for “Nan Kempner: American Chic” was very low keyed but last night’s fete was far more celebratory. About 200 New York ‘swells’ (friends of Nan, supporters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, fashion designers, fashion ‘lovers’, social fixtures, etc.) turned out to see the approximately 75 pieces of haute couture, ready to wear, and accessories, culled from the closets of the late Nan Kempner, which are now on display at the Costume Institute. The Temple of Dendur served as a dramatic setting for a glass of champagne and something chic (what else would you expect?) to nibble on, with a musical interlude providing the right mood.

Lynn Yeager

Mingling in the well heeled crowd were Best Dressed List Hall of Famers (as was the late Mrs. Kempner): Amy Fine Collins (in a leggy short slip of a dress with a leopard jacket thrown over her shoulders) and Deeda Blair (clad in a beautiful black Christian LaCroix dress); colorful and fashionable individualists: Paper Magazine’s Mickey Boardman (adding a punch of color with his green sequined vest) and The Village Voice’s Lynn Yeager (doing the layered look to the max and topping it off with a chic sable cocoon jacket); fashion designers: Yeohlee Tang (clad in all black of her own design- natch!), Jackie Rogers (still looking wonderful and ageless), Lars Nilsson (he got to know Nan when he designed for Bill Blass and told me he is currently busy working on a number of ‘projects’ including some fashion); best selling authors: Dominick Dunne (who writes about murders) and Michael Gross (who writes about the beautiful, rich, and famous and who was busily surveying the scene and the crowd). FYI when I asked Michael, who used to be the fashion scribe for The New York Times if he misses the fashion business, he laughed and said, “no”! When I asked what the subject of his next book would be, he said he is working on something but swore me to secrecy.

Dominick Dunne

When I spotted Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, Harold Koda, I couldn’t resist asking him if there will be a third “Closet Case” (the first one was last year’s celebration of Iris Barrel Apfel, followed by this year’s Nan Kempner exhibit). While several others at the Museum told me there are no more being planned, he confirmed that there will indeed be another installment but said it’s simply a coincidence and not an indication that this will be an annual theme. He also would not divulge whose closets the Met will next be raiding next. Or, if the person is living or deceased.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Closet Case", Two

Last year the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute saw to it that we all get a sneak peek inside the amazing closets of fashion iconoclast Iris Barrel Apfel, when they mounted “Rara Avis”. This year, it’s the late Nan Kempner’s turn.“Nan Kempner: American Chic” opens December 12 and runs through March 4, 2007, but the press preview was Monday morning. It drew a steady, curious, and obviously impressed crowd. I took a brief look around and read the first quote on the wall (Diana Vreeland’s assessment that “There is no such thing as a chic American Woman; the one exception is Nan Kempner”), at which time I spotted Robin Givhan. I was curious to hear her ‘take’ on this sentiment (we both agreed it was a rather ridiculous statement even for Diana Vreeland)

Nan Kempner's Closet

The word ‘chic’ is a favorite within fashion circles; it’s constantly being bantered around, and it’s practically lost its meaning (it seems that if someone can’t think of another positive description, they say “it’s chic”). So with that in mind, I was curious as to how the well regarded and astutely observant Washington Post journalist defines the over used term.

After thinking for a second, she quickly said, “Having an effortless sense of style”. But first and foremost, it’s predicated on having a “personal sensibility”. “No stylists!” When I remarked that it obviously rules out movie stars and celebs then, Robin shook her head and said, “I guess that means the stylists are the chicest”. She continued her definition of the ‘C’ word: It means having “integrity.” “Bought not borrowed.” (Well, once again that rules out movie stars, celebutants, and countless social fixtures, right?). Certainly, that applies to the late Nan Kempner, who famously bought her extravagant haute couture treasures. And it certainly applies to Iris Apfel, who told me in our 'Masters of Fashion' Interview, that she personally loathes the idea of ‘borrowing’ which is so rampant in our culture.

FYI: What did Ms. Givhan choose to wear to a press preview on an exhibit called, “American Chic”? A beautiful Dries Van Noten patterned coat. Robin seems to personally favor Dries (when it comes to her own wardrobe), so I guess it’s fair to say she finds his unpretentious, elegantly "untrendy", understated designs to be the height of ‘chic’. She would be right. Now, I selected a vintage leopard printed velvet trench since for me, nothing is more chice than leopard. Speaking of which, the best description of leopard came courtesy Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus’s Fashion Director. At the recent NM Accessories Preview for spring 2007 which was filled with leopard and other animal patterns, he observed that leopard is so neutral and so ubiquitous, it isn’t even thought of as a print anymore but as something that goes with everything.

By the way, Robin is not the only one who defines chic as effortless. In fact, the word, “effortless” was used by Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, to sum up Mrs. Kempner’s chic style, in addition to “Classic sensibility, elegant taste, and vivacious personality”. When I asked him which pieces or vignettes on display were most symbolic and illustrative of her trademark elegance, he had no trouble singling out the two outfits that are at the foot of the stairs that greet you when you enter the Costume Institute Galleries: a decidedly sporty crisp white full sleeved cotton Valentino shirt worn with all American blue jeans and red velvet slippers, and an Yves St. Laurent floor length gown with the ease of a shirt dress.

Mr. Koda acknowledged that while the public may have known her for her dressed up, ball gown persona, her uniforms of choice were the shirt (especially the knotted shirt which was a Kempner signature), sweater dressing, (both of which pointed to another Nan-ism, “relaxed and throwaway”). Her daytime urban uniform was the tailored suit culled from names like Yves St. Laurent (her “designer of choice”), Valentino, Balmain (when Oscar de la Renta designed for the couture line). Indeed from my perspective, it was the low keyed, sporty, simpler items rather than the more predictable fussy and over-the-top pieces that were not only the most appealing but modern and defined the notion of "American Chic".

Nan Kempner was as celebrated and well known for her tall skinny “clothes hanger” frame (she was about 5’10”, 110 pounds), which allowed her to wear anything and look great, as she was for her amazing wardrobe. And since eating disorders and unnatural, unhealthy thinness are so much in the news as of late, I couldn’t help but ask Mr. Koda if he thought she may have suffered from an eating disorder. He said she was a good eater but acknowledged that she was a “careful eater” and above all, was “disciplined”. In fact, he said the word discipline applied to every aspect of her life; she had so much self control, she never understood others who had none and were unable to keep their weight down.

But he also pointed out that she was “athletic” (she skied, played tennis, etc.) and “you always saw her racing around” She led an active life and was blessed with a high metabolism and discipline.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, December 08, 2006

On Thin Ice

It certainly goes without saying that unnatural or unhealthy thinness or skinniness should not only be avoided, but should not be celebrated, fostered, or encouraged.

But it also goes without saying that (like being tall) possessing a thin, lithe frame (which by definition is going to be thinner than the average or ‘norm’) will always be considered an ‘ideal’ within many circles, not the least of which is fashion. Particularly for those who seek out a career in fashion modeling (be it fit, runway, or print). Clothes simply look (and hang) better on those who are statuesque and sleek. This is not a matter of opinion or subjective but a widely held aesthetic, a statement of fact.

Given the highly publicized death of a Brazilian model last month due to complications stemming from anorexia, (not to mention the constant sightings of so many unhealthily skinny actresses, celebrities, and models), it is understandable that there would be a reaction (to wit, all the articles being written on the subject such as Eric Wilson’s in yesterday’s The New York Times) and an outcry for some sort of guidelines and regulations. But let’s be real. How can this possibly be enforced? It is all very personal, subjective and can be invasive and intrusive.

Yes, there are cases where models are obviously putting their health in jeopardy. But there are other cases which are highly subjective and simply beg the question. Other than the ‘Man Upstairs’, who is really in a position to decide who is too thin, who is naturally thin, and who is literally starving themselves?

And like it or not, thin will always be in where the fashion industry is concerned. Coincidentally (or not), many of the most iconic fashion figures past and present conceivably could be poster girls for unnatural skinniness, and could be considered too thin. I can’t tell you personally how these women keep their figures, but let’s just say that it is highly possible some may (or may have) bordered on anorexia at some time in their lives. The list of fashion heavyweights (pardon the pun) includes Anna Wintour (I think she looks great mind you, but she has been the topic of much scrutiny in terms of her weight), Audrey Hepburn (who was about 5’7” and weighed much less than 110 pounds), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the late, great, Best Dressed Hall of Fame-r, Nan Kempner, who was 5’9” in her stocking feet and that proverbial “long drink of water” if ever there was one. In fact, Mrs. Kempner was so impossibly thin, the phrase ‘Social X-Ray” was coined to describe her.

And as it happens, her personal style is the subject of a highly anticipated exhibit which opens next week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute (, “Nan Kempner American Chic”.

By the way, Mrs. Kempner was a Contributing Editor at Harper’s Bazaar when I started as an assistant fashion editor. I can personally attest to the fact that being thin can undeniably be considered as an advantage especially if one wants to pursue a career in fashion. Before you get your noses out of joint, I don’t mean to imply that ALL one needs to get ahead is a small frame. It simply opens the door and gets people to take notice. There has to be talent to back up ‘The Look’. And yes, there are many highly influential fashion figures that are not thin (Suzy Menkes, Lynn Yaeger, Kim Hastreiter, and Glenda Bailey among them). But in a superficial world like fashion, which puts a premium in certain physical attributes, looking the part doesn’t hurt.

Remember when The New York Times’s Cathy Horyn became suddenly svelte and went on record with the many ways it changed her life and how she was perceived?)

When I was a fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar in the early 70’s, I probably weighed 105 pounds and was 5’6”. Carrie Donovan, the Senior Fashion Editor at the time, routinely used me as a ‘model’ to try samples on. And when ‘us’ editors made group pilgrimages to designer showrooms, it was the tall, thin editors who were always selected by the likes of Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Michael Kors, to do the trying on ‘honors’.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, December 04, 2006

‘Clash’ of the Titans

As I strolled Madison Avenue this past weekend, most of the store windows lining the elegant streets seem to have been filled with merchandise and decorations redolent in black, white, gold, silver, and maybe a touch of forest green and Christmas red. It was only when I happened upon 69th street that I really had something to smile about.

I was instantly drawn to the exuberant and joyful explosion of fuchsia, chrome yellow, parrot green, royal blue, orange, and lacquer red nylon bags ($500 - $1500), silk nylon anorak dresses ($1995), and bi color cap toe ballet flats ($430 -$450) from resort and spring 2007, filling the windows of the Prada store at 841 Madison Avenue, (212 327 4200).

If ever there was ever a designer who could single handedly make clashing primaries colors look instantly chic it is Miuccia Prada. With one wave of her magic wand, arguably the most influential designer in the world can alter the direction of fashion and point the fashion faithful in a new direction. And mark my words, it will happen.

After seasons of ‘tastefully’ subdued, intellectual black and brown, and pale neutral shades of white, ivory, and beige, the shock of ‘in your face’, naïve, almost juvenile primary colors, (used in bold clashing combinations no less) suddenly looks novel and interestingly inviting. Isaac Mizrahi, a designer who has long admitted to a love affair with color, recently unveiled his color saturated couture line, admitting to WWD, “I have an obsession with color that keeps me awake at night. I always want it bigger, brighter, bolder.”

And Raf Simons, the well respected designer behind the label Jil Sander, added punches of shocking color (in addition to silver) to his minimalist spring 2007 collection when he showed in Milan this past September.

What ties the aforementioned names together along with that of Miuccia Prada is that the appeal and sophistication of their colorful clothes comes from the unfussy, spare, clean lines. Certainly, the inherent modernity of Utilitarian Chic bares the unmistakable stamp of Miuccia Prada.

By the way, in addition to the bold colors and brash color combinations, the other thing that was impossible NOT notice at Prada are the newly over scaled triangular logos which are affixed to the bags.

Remember the decades old Bottega Veneta advertising campaign (“When Your Initials Are Enough”) featuring the label’s chic logo free bags at a time when logos were running amok? I guess the way Miuccia and friends see it, their initials (or their name) are definitely something worth shouting about. As Neiman Marcus’s intuitive Fashion Director observed, “Isn’t that the whole great idea about luxury goods?” Mais Oui!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pomellato Store Opening

On Thursday night, the Italian jewelry company Pomellato celebrated with a cocktail party the opening of its first flagship boutique in New York at 741 Madison Avenue in a turn-on-the-century mansion. The company now has 25 free standing boutiques worldwide.

The 1800 square feet space was designed to showcase the unique vertical structure of the building. And while the store is narrow, the 16 foot high front windows, and a large transparent metacrylic chandelier by Jacopo Foggini provides an exceptional view of the inside of the store.

The 2 hour party attracted a well-heeled crowd of jewelry and beauty editors, friends, and a number of others whose faces always seem to be out-and-about at these kind of openings. We estimate a couple of hundred guests made an appearance. There was plenty of persecco flowing and the hors d'oeuvres were fabulous.

Of course, the star attraction of the evening was the fine handmade Italian necklaces, rings, brooches that gleamed out at the viewer from beautifully designed cases. Price range was from $700 to over $20,000. Francesco Minoli, the CEO of Pomellato SpA, stated in a press release that was included in the "goody bag" about opening the store: "This inauguration is an important part of the development of our business in the United Stares. where we plan to open four more stores --two on the East Coast and two on the West Coast by 2010..."

For more information about the store please contact PR Consulting, Sheila Santos (212)228-8181.

-Ernest Schmatolla & Anna Bayle
Té Casan Launch Party

Té Casan is taking on the New York retail footwear market with the launch on November 30th of its first outpost in the US, its Soho boutique at 328 West Broadway. The name té casan means “Women’s Way” in Old Gaelic. This new global brand is the brain chilled of Yaron Kopel and features handcrafted, limited edition shoe collections from seven emerging designers, providing a fascinating array of styles priced from $200 to $500. The designers include Gaetano Perrone, Manuela Filipovic, Hector Rubio, Gianluca Soldi, Zoe Lee, Fay.B, and Niki Robinson.

The capacity crowd at the launch party enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oevres while entertainment was provided by aerialists from Arial Artistry performing in the store windows. The three level shoe boutique, said to be New York’s largest shoe store, features cocoon-like areas in which to try on footwear. The evening was hosted by Amy Sacco, Mary Alice Stephenson, Lucy Sykes, Zani Gugelmann, Marisa Brown, and Sarah Bailey in support of Free Arts NYC, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting abused, neglected, and at risk children and their families though creative and artistic outlets.

-Rhonda Erb

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hi-Ho Silver!

I always love attending Neiman Marcus’s bi-annual Accessories Preview hosted by Sandra Wilson and Ken Downing. Held in a terraced duplex suite at the Chambers Hotel, it is always highly visual, informative, and filled with exceptionally well thought out and well edited merchandise: a collaboration of Sandra Wilson, the store’s Accessories Fashion Director, and Ken Downing, the longtime visual guru who has recently added another title to his resume, that of Senior Vice President, Fashion Direction, replacing the beloved Joan Kaner.

(Who else but Ken would add turquoise color extract to the toilet water in order to create a perfect visual setting in which to showcase jewels and things?)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reviewing NM’s picks for spring 2007 and given the very un-fall like balmy weather, it felt as if we were in the throes of spring even though the calendar says it’s December.

So, what is the most important message of the coming season? According to Mr. Downing, it is silver. “Silver and silver metallic were all over the runways. Gold and platino were seen in New York but by the time we got to Italy, silver was really the strongest message.” What else? “Shine! Not only in metallics but in patents, and satin for day. There is less embellishment on clothes but more surface interest in fabrics used for clothing or as accessories.”

“And definitely, what every fashionista is going to have is a clear bag. The newest bag shape is the clutch. It’s so important and works with all the dresses we saw on the runway. I love the idea of a clutch in a tote. That’s really the way to do it! We also like the elongated tote, the ‘North- South’ shape.”

Other items on the Neiman Marcus ‘hit list’ (from highly sought after brands like Gucci, Chanel, Manolo Blahnik, Ferragamo, Prada, Stella McCartney, David Yurman, Christian Dior, Jose Barrera, Stephen Dweck, Fendi, Be & D, Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana) include peep toed and snub toed shoes, thick heels with architectural interest, wedge soles, the pointy toed flat, ‘statement’ rings, larger and shorter (double strand) beads, the wide belt, black and white.

Of course, it was hard not to notice that the very first room was filled with my favorite: animal patterns (leopard, zebra, and snakesin). As Ken sees it, “Leopard is a neutral. It’s always chic. It’s great on everything (home décor, clothing, accessories), and animal patterns will carry into the fall season.”

Speaking of fall, I was glad Ken brought it up since the fall 2007 shows are only a few months away and that’s certainly what is on my mind. Ken believes that the entire range of saffron and yellow will be big. “Yellow looks really new to me.” Also, blues to greens. “Resort was really defined by all the sea glass colors that took on the appearance of washed glass when it arrives on shore after being out to sea.”

He continued, “Silver is the story for spring (everybody needs SOMETHING in silver), but as we head into the fall season, look for new metals and metallics in the form of bronzes, rose gold, copper.”

We are feeling that charcoal gray, pewter, gunmetal, copper, and rose gold will be huge for fall. Rose gold is a beautifully flattering tone and works well with chocolate and brown.”

“From what we’re hearing early on, I think the dress is going to continue and we’ll see a return of the dress and coat combination. I think there will be a real sophistication and polish on the runways which is what we saw a lot of for spring. The idea of the suit, matched pieces being worn together”. In a word, ‘ladylike’. It was very much defined by what we saw at Oscar de la Renta for spring, the way he showed those short dresses with a flat shoe. It’s all about the idea of effortless chic.”

Coincidentally (or maybe not), the upcoming exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, which opens on December 12th, revolves around the style of American fashion icon, Nan Kempner, and is called “Nan Kempner: American Chic”. Ken agreed that this would prove to be highly inspirational for many designers going forward. Of course, I noted that Nan was known to wear a lot of European haute couture (including Yves St. Laurent and Valentino), but Ken allowed that she did so with an American attitude.

Speaking of ‘all American’, what about jeans. Is there life after the skinny jean now that it’s been done to death? Ken believes that the skinny jean will not disappear but look for the ‘boyfriend’ jean to emerge. Although in his opinion, the newness in denim has less to do with silhouette than color. Look for colored, even brightly colored denim.

-Marilyn Kirschner