Monday, March 26, 2007

A 'Sweeping' Fashion Statement

Each day, there was Naomi Campbell, staring out (or smiling) defiantly from the front page tabloids, dressed fabulously to the nines, flawless hair and makeup, looking more like she was sashaying down the runways of New York, Milan, or Paris, than reporting to get her hands dirty to serve out her sentence for throwing a cell phone at her maid. And in fact, her in your face fashion style was chronicled by all and made the front page of the Sunday Style section of The New York Times, where she was the subject of Guy Trebay’s article, “La Campbell Proves That Beauty Makes Its Own Rules.”

You know, I’d be the first to admit that when I saw the arresting images of Ms. Campbell unfold daily, I was in disbelief. But after I thought about it, I started thinking this is what fashion is all about. Or rather, this is what personal style is all about.

Isn’t fashion meant not only to be appropriate, but mood enhancing, joyful, expressive, empowering? Shouldn’t it bring joy to the wearer and the observer? Certainly, with the exception of Friday, when Naomi was wearing a red carpet worthy Dolce & Gabbana gown, from Monday through Thursday, her choices (considering her 'down and dirty' duties) were beyond reproach - a timely mix of street and couture, high and low, form and function.

I’m one who believes fervently that life is too short and too precious NOT to dress up every day (regardless of what it is you’re doing or where you’re going). And by ‘dress up’ I don’t mean cocktail suits and gowns. It’s not just about looking good and putting thought into your outfits sporadically, for special occasions (black tie events, red carpet entrances, grand parties, benefits), but expressing yourself through your clothing and accessory choices on daily basis.

The celebrated ‘Best Dressed’ through the ages have always had this trait in common (it had been said of Babe Paley that she never had an un-chic day). And regardless of what you think of Naomi as a person, or her antics, horrible manners, bad tempers, etc. you can’t say she doesn’t always looks every inch the star. Even if she’s a star ‘brat’ (as Guy Trebay would describe it).

In her defense, I have never seen a picture of her having an ‘off’ day in terms of fashion. She knows what is ‘expected’ of her by the public and the press and she follows suit. It’s hard to really squabble with the fact that she possesses a finely tuned, innate knowledge of what suits her best. It’s also hard to fault her taste as she honed in on some of the more fantastic coats, jackets, furs, accessories which were used to comprise her daily 'look' (Gaultier, Burberry, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, etc) as she made her way into the Sanitation Department to do her duty. (What did you expect? Sweats from Old Navy??!)

And what about her wicked sense of humor (or sense of the outrageous) which was evidenced in her choices for the week? Her picks of what she deemed ‘appropriate’ for the occasion (what does one wear to publicly clean latrines when one is a supermodel with a capital S?). With her sporty pants or well worn jeans tucked into combat or high heeled boots, amazingly covetable coats and furs, jaunty hats, paparazzi friendly over sized shades, and designer bags, Naomi looked like she had just come from a photography shoot orchestrated by Vogue Magazine, a portfolio on sporty couture.

Forget about ‘Working Girl’; Naomi really 'worked it'. You gotta hand it to her. The girl has moxie (as Guy Trebay observed) Though, let's face it, not everybody likes moxie. This reminds me of that famous Mary Tyler Moore episode in the 70's when Lou Grant told Mary she had spunk and she smiled and thanked him. He retorted "but I hate spunk!"

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Hofstra Cultural Center Presents
'Defining Culture Through Dress: Individual and Collective Identities' April 19-21, 2007

Featuring Fashion Shows and Some of the Country's Leading Fashion Experts,
Analysts and Trendsetters, Incl. David Wolfe, Harold Koda, Marlaine Glicksman, Summer Rayne Oakes, Steve Davies and James Aguiar.

Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY * An editor of Vogue, the Curator-in-Charge of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; one of the nation's leading bridal retailers and a host of television's Full Frontal Fashion are among the participants in the Hofstra University conference Defining Culture Through Dress: Individual and Collective Identities.

Fashion's impact on culture and society will be the focus of this April 19, 20 and 21 interdisciplinary event. There will be in-depth discussion of fashion in literature, religion, the mass media, ethnic identity and how fashion influences self-image. Participating experts and scholars hail from the fields of sociology, psychology, art, history, anthropology, communication, journalism and business, as well as fashion experts.

Highlights include:

Thursday, April 19:
Opening keynote address by Harold Koda, Curator-in-Charge, Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Performance of an original show Fashion Statements!, conceived of and directed by Bob Spiotto, Hofstra's artistic director of community arts programs.

Panels on "Men and Women of the Cloth"; "Middle Eastern and African Identities"; "Communicating Fashion"; "Fashion and a Sustainable Environment" with eco-fashion model and activist Summer Rayne Oakes and Steve Davies of Natureworks (manufacturers of Ingeo* fiber, the first manmade fiber created from 100% annually renewable resources, not oil); "Latin American Identities"; "Fashion Dynamics and Brazilian Identity"; "Fashion and Image" with David Wolfe, a creative director with Doneger Creative Services (Doneger is the leading source of global market trends and merchandising strategies to the retail and fashion industry); and "The Arts and Literature."

Friday, April 20:
Panel on "The Influence of Movies on Fashion" featuring Marlaine Glicksman of Vogue magazine and Deborah Landis of the Costume Designers Guild; Panel on HipHop fashion and a fashion show presented by Rocawear.
Cocktail party at the Hofstra University Museum to celebrate the opening of the exhibition What We Wear
Banquet featuring address by James Aguiar, co-host of Full Frontal Fashion

Other panels include "Fashion Uniforms and Uniformity"; "European Women: Twentieth Century Fashion Statements"; "Asian Identities"; and "The Gender? of Fashion."

Saturday, April 21:
A fashion show of Ladies' Church Hats, modeled by The Women's Ministry of Union Baptist Church in Hempstead, NY
Bridal fashion show, sponsored by David's Bridal

Panels include "The Rich and Famous: Upperclass European Women's Fashions" with Isabella Campagnol Fabretti, curator of the Rubelli Textile Collection in Venice, Italy; "Dress as Spatial Entities"; and "Fashion Identities: American Experiences."

For a complete conference itinerary, for conference registration and fees and for other information visit or call the Hofstra Cultural Center at (516) 463-5669.

Press contact:
Ginny Ehrlich-Greenberg
Director, University Relations
(516) 463-6819 /

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Court-ture '07

Manhattan's NBA store was the scene of Wednesday evening's Court-ture '07 event, presented by GQ magazine and the NBA. It was the perfect setting for the lavish affair, which allowed fashionistas to mingle with sports fans while dining on finger foods and beverages and enjoying the musical stylings of DJ Beverly Bond.

Walt Frazier on the runway

The highlight of the evening was a fashion show featuring menswear from the collections of Rochester Big & Tall and Jared M. Custom Clothing. NBA players, including Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Jared Jeffries, Channing Frye, Antoine Wright, and David Lee, strolled the runway to the delight of celebrity guests, like Carson Kressley. The show featured styles by several designers including Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Bahama, Burberry, and Ermenegildo Zegna. The looks ranged from classically tailored suits to casual athletic wear.

The evening was co-hosted by Access Hollywood correspondent Tony Potts and supermodel Frederique Van Der Wal. Guests received a Jared M. shopping bag filled with a Court-ture '07 T shirt, various cosmetic goodies and the current issue of GQ magazine.

-Rhonda Erb
-Photos: Isabelle Erb

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gilding the ‘Lilly’

One well dressed woman who I can guarantee will NEVER (repeat, NEVER) cover her trademark newly highlighted bob with a hat is Anna Wintour. But she is apparently in the minority, as hats are continuing to take off as a major accessory. And it’s been a banner year for hats.

First there was Miuccia Prada reviving the turban with her spring/summer 2007 collection which was shown last October. Who would have thought? To this day, whenever I see a turban, I can’t help but think of the late great Carrie Donovan, who I had the pleasure of working with when I was at Harper’s Bazaar and who made the chic turban a signature accessory, along with her Halston wardrobe and Elsa Peretti cuffs. She knew what many smart, well dressed, fashionable, women are beginning to learn: hats can be an indespensible and integral part of a woman’s wardrobe. They not only serve a purpose and a function, but can be great looking and statement making to boot. Just think about it: you don’t have to worry about having that Bad Hair Day, and you don’t have to be a slave to your hair colorist. How modern is that?

And notwithstanding the trend towards global warming, hats, which undisputedly serve the practical use of keeping you warm (since you lose most of your body heat from your head) were the surprise star accessories on the runways at the recent round of international showings for fall/winter 2007. Some collections were notable for their headgear and others were ‘saved’ by the addition of whimsical and wonderful hats. British star milliners Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones provided the hats for Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs respectively, hats were abundant on the runway of Proenza Shouler, and at Isabel Toledo’s launch for Anne Klein, the witty, eccentrically knitted hats added a welcome punch of individuality and whimsy. Coincidentally, in a case of life imitating art (or visa versa), because of the positively frigid weather during the entire 8 days of New York Fashion Week, hats also stood out as the surprise accessory on show goers, who showed up in eye catching hand knitted hats (many with whimsical pom poms), and especially, fur hats (the bigger and taller the better).

So, with this in mind, I would say this couldn’t be a more fortuitous time for The Museum at FIT to launch a brand new exhibit “Lilly Dache: Glamour at the Drop of a Hat”. Curated by Pamela Roskin and Kristen Shirts, it runs through April 21 and highlights the extraordinary designs of the late French born Dache who was a true rags to riches story, rising from a hat sales girl at Macys’ to the “foremost celebrity hat designer in the US during the 30’s and 40’s”. It illustrates her wit, humor, and personality, chronicling her work from the 30’s through the 6o’s and includes non hat designs, photographs, magazine covers, and famous quotes (“More than anything else, I wanted to be beautiful”, “If one did not have dreams, life would not be worth living”, “In this so-big and beautiful American, women can do anything”).

Among the selection of hats that caught me eye since they would undoubtedly look as good today as they did decades ago: a tall yellow felt hat with violet grosgrain ribbon band and bow (1937), a silk jersey ‘Coiffure Hat’ made from feathers, grosgrain, ribbons (1959), which according to the museum, illustrated her sense of humor since it was meant to ‘mimic’ hair at a time when the emphasis was more on hairstyles and the trend was going away from hats; and of course, the timely turbans (the gold velvet turban draped into a large bow at front, 1940; the pale green raffia turban, 1944, and the chic and sporty black wool jersey knit turban cap, 1945. Oh, I can just see Carrie Donovan smiling now.

Oh, by the way, if you check out Ebay, you will routinely find Lilly Dache hats offered at great prices. thought I’d mention that since I love finding a good bargain. And these days, good bargains (like good men) are hard to find.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

FIT's Couture Council Honors Susan Tabak

From left, Jade Dressler, Susan Tabak’s publicist; Patricia Mears (deputy director, the Museum at FIT), Susan Tabak, author; and Vanessa Vasquez (The Museum at FIT)

(Press Release) The Couture Council of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) held a luncheon and book-signing recently at Doubles Club in the Sherry-Netherland hotel honoring Susan Tabak, author of CHIC IN PARIS - Style Secrets and Best Addresses. In her book, she reveals the style secrets and favorite places that enable eight glamorous French women to achieve their special elegance.

Herself a style icon, Susan Tabak, born in New York, has long admired the French sensibility and love for life, “Parisians have more imagination. They play with fashion and they are themselves not just a walking advertisement from a magazine—the total look from one label is out.”

Patricia Mears, deputy director of the museum, hosted the event, which was attended by Couture Council members and guests, including journalist Elizabeth T. Peek, Cece Black, Mariana Kaufman, and Coco Kopelman.

Formed in December 2004, the Couture Council is a membership group designed to help enhance museum exhibitions, conserve FIT’s extensive, world-class costume and textile collections, fund acquisitions, and improve facilities.

Benefits of membership include invitations to exclusive events and private viewings, admittance to museum educational programs, acknowledgements in exhibition galleries and printed materials, and complimentary publications.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for those with a passion for the fashion arts to support the only museum in New York City dedicated entirely to fashion,” said Dr. Valerie Steele, museum director and chief curator. “It’s also an excellent way to meet and become part of a circle of informed fashion enthusiasts.”

The Museum at FIT houses one of the world’s most important collections of fashion and textiles. It is the first museum in the United States to offer a permanent exhibition of 250 years of fashion and textile history. Every six months, approximately 100 new objects are chosen. The museum’s costume collection encompasses 50,000 objects dating from the 18th century, with particular strength in 20th-century fashion. The textile collection includes 30,000 textiles from the 6th to the 21st centuries. The museum also presents changing thematic exhibitions, both scholarly and artistic.

For more information about joining the Couture Council contact:
Brenda Pérez
FIT Director of Media Relations (212) 217-5967.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

“Was It Good For You, Too?”

In addition to covering one’s body for social protocol, and keeping one warm and protected, one BIG reason people spend so much money on clothing is to insure that they will be attractive to the opposite (or to the same) sex.

Sex makes the world go ‘round; it saturates our culture, and is very much a part of the fashion equation. Even so, I’ve been struck by the amount of sexual innuendos infiltrating fashion coverage at The New York Times. It appears that the powers that be at The Gray Lady are intent on injecting some playful sex (or at least, innocent sex talk) into their fashion content, perhaps in the hopes that it will ‘steam’ things up in terms of advertising revenues or readership gains, and make them seem au courant and relevant.

This recent ‘T’ Magazine for spring summer 2007 bore the cover line, “Adult Content” beneath a blown up picture of actress Robin Wright Penn (perhaps it should have been wrapped in brown paper to further get the point across). But alas, it was really just a ‘tease’ after all. There was hardly anything of a naughty nature to be found within those 288 pages unless you consider their portfolio “Graphic Material” starring an “x rated girl in her summer dresses” as they describe it, (it was hardly x rated), or a pictorial of exotic skinned accessories (page 242, “Barely Legal”) to be titillating in that way.

And could I possibly be the only one who notices that Cathy Horyn has sex on her mind? (Perhaps as much as - if not more than - fashion). Of course, one can argue that perhaps it’s me who has sex on MY brain and so that is why I notice.

Regardless, I’ve always thought that the conservative (on the surface at least) and low keyed The New York Times fashion critic has a decidedly ‘kinky’ side, and will use any opportunity to link fashion and sex whenever possible (whether or not it’s called for). This was apparent throughout her recent reviews of the Milan and Paris collections for fall 2007.

In her column on Monday, February 26th, “At Versace, a Testament to Genius”, Cathy wondered what fashion would be like if Gianni Versace (who was killed 10 years ago this past summer), were around today. She observed, “no doubt, Mr. Versace would have responded to a culture tipping toward pornography. After all, he agitated critics in the 1980’s by alluding to sexual bondage.”

Certainly, the most obvious place to mix sex and fashion is at Versace, a house founded on sex with a capital S. But that was hardly the only instance.

In her Feb 20th column, “In Milan, Raf Simons Sends a Message to Paris”, she summed up her thoughts on the rather controversial Prada collection by noting, “In a strange way, the collection seemed intended to attract you and then, like love, repulse you”.

In her Friday, February 23 fashion review, “When Seeing Isn’t Quite the Same as Believing”, she dished about Gucci, noting that it’s designer Frida Giannini is “is a very good designer” and observed that she “tried doing sexy clothes” (which Ms. Horyn speculated were done to “please editors”). Upon reflecting on Giannini’s broad shouldered 40’s evening dresses, she said, “Here you’re dying a little for sex.” (Oh, really?????). When she went on to talk about Marni, she said, “In the hands of Consuelo Castiglioni of Marni, sex-shop latex quickly loses its furtive associations (if they still exist).”

On Saturday, March 3rd, Cathy spoke of Stefano Pilati's capability of “giving a sense of surprise and eroticism” to his work for Yves. St. Laurent and Rei Kawakubo for Comme de Garcon’s “almost erotic use of padding (imagine tennis-ball-size mounds and doughnut-shape rings) that suggested the feeling of being pinched by a stranger.” Pinched by a stranger? Hmmm. See what I mean? Though I think she’s probably closer to being ‘pinched’ (verbally and otherwise) by Nicole Miller’s chief executive officer, Bud Konheim, more than anything else at the moment. As everyone knows, Horyn was banned from attending Nicole Miller’s shows after she incorrectly reported that PETA was protesting outside a Nicole Miller show awhile back, and Konheim has been very vocal about his negative feelings regarding Horyn ever since. He has gone on record with his view that she is lacking in fashion knowledge, exhibits insecurities and inconsistencies with spelling and cannot even pronounce certain words (like jodhpurs). Well, I bet she can pronounce ‘sex’.

--Marilyn Kirschner