Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pattern Mania

Calvin Klein with Diane Von Furstenburg last night at her store opening.

On Wednesday night, Diane von Furstenburg hosted an invitation only soiree in the permanent location of her flagship boutique on the corner of Washington and 14th Streets in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. There was no dress code, however, judging by the amount of DVF signature dresses worn by the crowd, the 2000+ square foot shop clearly held not only long time devotees, but new fans as well.

She has said, “Fashion is a very mysterious thing” and yet, over the years she has mastered the ever-changing moods of the industry, the very concept that so many study in hopes of achieving even a thread of her success. What she has so graciously contributed to three generations of women’s fashion is immeasurable. Her love of the industry is reflected in the newly designed, clean, colorful, and enormous space, built to house her collections of bold patterns and vintage prints, which are updated monthly.

The entrance to the store.

The official store opening drew friends and admirers who reveled in the new space and browsed the latest colorful designs while enjoying strawberry and rhubarb potato vodka cocktails, Moet, and delicate hors d'oeuvres. The well wishers numbered in the hundreds, as wall to wall guests included: Hamish Bowles, Ellen Barkin, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Graydon Carter and wife Anna, Hubby Barry Diller, best friend Ahn Duong, Fran Liebowitz, Marlo Thomas, Ann Dexter-Jones, Peggy Siegal, Meredith Melling Burke, Anderson Cooper, Anna Wintour, and fashionistas galore. Also spotted were a black and white Chihuahua, a Yorkshire terrier, and a Scottish terrier held by Vogue’s Meredith Melling Burke.

The gals of DVF were decked out in her bright and distinctive summer frocks. Some were meeting and greeting while others guarded the merchandise. I parked myself next to a smartly dressed security guard and assisted him briefly with the task of helping partygoers avoid stepping into the curiously placed and difficult to spot pools of water in the store.

Stairway leading up to second floor.

DVF made her way around the crowd and sat for photographers on the shiny white acrylic steps leading up to the forbidden level, the cordoned off second floor that taunted us with its out of reach designs. The flashbulbs reflected in the tiny mirrors strung above each step to the ceiling, creating a waterfall affect.

This must be the Stairway to Heaven.

-Kerri Mullon

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Always Imitated, Never Duplicated: A ‘Blass’ from the Past

To say that Bill Blass is a hard act to follow is an understatement. In fact, those who have tried to fill the late BB’s formidable, perfectly polished, wing tipped shoes, have been unable to successfully continue on the tradition of an iconic design house predicated on luxurious American sportswear while making it their own.

The announcement that after 5 years, Michael Vollbracht was terminating his position as creative director for Bill Blass, should not have come as too much of a surprise, even though the artistic designer (considered to be a "Renaissance Man") came the closest with his last collection for fall 2007, shown this past February. But even by Michael’s admission, it was more of an homage to the archives of both Bill Blass and Norman Norell, than an original interpretation or a major step forward.

Although Michael was a close personal friend of Bill’s, working with his mentor on “Bill Blass: An American Designer” by Helen O’Hagan and Kathleen Rowold as well as the retrospective exhibition of Blass’ career at Indiana University’s art museum (which led to his being named creative director of Bill Blass LTD in 2003), many thought this was a strange ‘fit’ even from the beginning. After all, Michael was known for his exuberant flowing designs which were more like paintings (and decidedly untailored), rather than for his tailoring, which was a hallmark of the house of Blass. And sometimes, let’s face it, such ‘odd couplings’ do work.

But even beyond that, there has always been something lacking: Bill himself, the most important ingredient which contributed in making the house of Bill Blass what it was. The likes of him are long past (unfortunately). He was the essence of a gentleman: debonair, refined, polite, and so confident with his own self and his talent, that he made everyone around feel great. Even me…a young, wet behind the ears fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar.

In the 70’s, after having been given the designer market by the late Carrie Donovan (who was then the Senior Fashion Editor), I routinely met with iconic names like James Galanos, Oscar de la Renta, Arnold Scaasi, the late Pauline Trigere and of course, the late Bill Blass. While they could all be described as class acts, it was the latter especially, who made me feel as important as the top editor. He would not relegate me to assistants or PR people but would always come out and work with me personally. And he was so down to earth and loved to laugh.

Certain things still stick in my mind decades later. I recall how he would examine some of his designs in their early stages…showing them to me long before his formal runway shows (obviously because of who I worked for than because of who I was at that moment). With his trademark suntanned face, elegant bespoke pinstriped suit, and dashing good looks, he was quite a presence. I still remember how he would look at something he liked on one of his favorite fitting models, with that twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes, and exclaim, “Pretty snappy, no?”

Well, suffice it to say, this “snappiness” is precisely what has been missing from collections ‘Post BB’. It was his personal hand in every detail, his love of American classics (often with a surprise ‘twist’), his impeccable taste, his intimate relationship with customers (whether celebrated or private), and his rather humble appreciation of the press. Need I go on? As they say, “Always imitated, never duplicated” indeed!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

‘Two’ for the Road

Spectator ‘Allegra’ pumps from Camileon Heels.

Heavy fall fashions may be hitting the stores, but with the summer season officially underway, it’s a perfect time to think about lightening your load as you pack for upcoming road trips, weekend getaways, and excursions out of town or country.

While packing light may have always been the smart way to go, it’s become a necessity these days, particularly where air travel is involved. Reports of ongoing delays and routinely lost luggage have made checking one’s luggage more of a gamble than ever before. But with strict guidelines (which limit the dimensions of a suitcase you can actually stow on board), downsizing, paring down, and editing has now become a fact of life. Talk about challenging!

Needless to say, the key to success is to select clothing and accessories that are lightweight, versatile, and do double (or even triple) duty (“two for one”). My fail safe suggestion would be to edit one’s color scheme down to black and white. The color combination is so graphic, clean, and statement making, you really don’t need much more. The options are endless: you can wear black with white, white with black, all white, all black; or you can break up the monotony by adding a hit of black and white pattern (stripes, dots, and bold graphics). It all works, you can’t tire of it, and it’s a no-brainer. (Speaking of no brainers and black and white, the color combo is so ‘smart’ and chic, it even made Paris Hilton and ‘partner in crime’ Nicole Richie look uncharacteristically high brow and elegant as they grace the cover of June Harper’s Bazaar, clad in their coordinating black and white Chanel couture outfits. Had to mention it!)

And if you opt for distinctive basics (a crisp white shirt; a lightweight trench, coatdress, blazer, or pea jacket; a tunic; a windbreaker; a knee length pencil skirt; well cut white and black jeans; a pair of white shorts, Bermudas, or capris; a thin cardigan; weightless t’s and tanks, etc.) you will be able make the transition from day to night effortlessly by simply adding or subtracting accessories and by changing shoes.

This brings me to another point. There is nothing as smart looking, distinctive, and versatile, as black and white spectator pumps. It worked for Gabrielle Coco Chanel nearly a century ago and it still works today. Sometimes I feel as though I never met a pair of black and white shoes that I didn’t like. Well, that goes “double” (literally) for two pairs of spectator pumps from Camileon Heels.

Spectator pumps 'Marta' from Camileon Heels

Not only are ‘Marta’ and ‘Allegra’ (the former is a closed pump and the latter is a sling back) good looking and comfortable, you get two heels in one thanks to a patent-pending adjustable height heel technology which enables a 3 ¼ inch heel to collapse into a ½ heel. The revolutionary idea that was conceived in 1989 (and took a decade to perfect), is the brainchild of Donna Lauren Handel and her brother Dr. David Handel (a practicing diagnostic radiologist with a special interest in musculoskeletal problems and thorough knowledge of the human anatomy).

David couldn’t help but notice all the fashionable New York women on their way to work wearing sneakers and toting their high heels which they would then change into once they reached their destination. Inspired by his two young sons who enjoyed playing with “Transformers - robots in disguise”, he found himself thinking, “If they can turn robots into high performance vehicles, surely there must be a way to transform a high heel into a low-heeled, comfort version of the very same shoe.”

The resulting Italian made styles, (which feature an elastic laced vamp, leather lining, leather sole and a lightly padded foot bed for extra comfort), are available online ( and in specialty stores across the country.

Unsurprisingly (since 90% of almost all women suffer from foot ailments because of their uncomfortable high heels), this new company is getting their fair share of well deserved publicity. In fact, I first heard about them several weeks ago when Ms. Handel and Camileon Heels were the focus of several segments on our local TV news programs.

As Ms. Handel observed, “If ever necessity was the mother of invention, this is it. Thanks to this unparalleled development, women now have a truly viable alternative to prolonged wear of high heels. And for the first time, Camileon Heels offers women the possibility to combine fashion, comfort and convenience -- all in one shoe.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Clothes" Encounters of an Excessive Kind

Luxury inspired lingerie by Pacquin & Chanel

Luxury (noun from Latin, luxus and its derivative luxuria, excess, indulgence), can be defined as 1- The habitual enjoyment of or indulgence in the best and most costly things; 2- An inessential and desirable item that is expensive or difficult to obtain. See also: luxury brand. Other definitions include: “great comfort: expensive high-quality surroundings, and the great comfort that they provide; nonessential item: an item that is desirable but not essential, and often expensive or hard to get; pleasurable self-indulgent activity: an activity that gives great pleasure, especially one only rarely”.

Needless to say, there are many ways to view luxury and many ways to define luxury. (In addition, one person’s luxury is another’s necessity). Luxury has been with us through the ages and it’s a topic of fascination and yet it’s never been the focus of an exhibition…until this week.

Yesterday morning, I attended a press preview for “Luxury - A Close Encounter with Extravagance, Vanity, And Excess” at the Museum at FIT’s Fashion and Textile History Galleries, which runs through November 10th. It could have just as easily been called, “Clothes Encounters of an Excessive Kind”. (Only kidding of course, not all of it was excessive as you will see).

As if to prove just how vast a subject this is, it was curated by museum director Dr. Valerie Steele, with a “little help from her friends” - a veritable supporting cast that included associate research curator Tamsen Schwartrzman, associate curator of costume Fred Dennis, associate curator of accessories, Clare Sauro, in addition to Harumi Hotta and Lynn Weidner from FIT’s textile department.

The 150 garments, accessories, and textiles spanning 250 years, from the 18th century to the present, were selected in order to show how the social climate and cultural influences have impacted on the notion of luxury, and to illustrate the many ‘faces’ of luxury.

Aristocratic fashions like the voluminous, floor length floral yellow brocaded silk taffeta dress from 1735 (photo above) and the 1889 jeweled velvet ball gown by Emile Pasquiere illustrate the obvious, more is more, over the top, in your face opulence and excess of it all.

On the other side of the coin is the softer, paler, more subtle trio of knee length dresses by couture legends Paul Poiret, Edward Molyneux, and Coco Chanel from the 1920’s (photo above). Along those same lines, the exquisitely delicate lingerie and lingerie inspired pieces (Pacquin’s two 1930’s slip dresses and Coco Chanel’s 1932 Couture lingerie inspired evening gown) are proof of lingerie’s appeal as “a personal sensual indulgence”. “Private luxury for your own satisfaction and pleasure” is how Dr. Steele put it. Displayed alongside, is a quote from Coco Chanel, “Luxury is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside”.

"Subway Ensemble"

Speaking of which,Traina/Norell for Nan Duskin’s deceivingly simple (yet not so) camel wool knee length coat lined in gold sequins and shown over a matching gold sequined dress (from the 60’s) was inherently modern (and truly relevant for today) in that the luxury was personal, private, hidden, and safely out of sight, making it ‘urban’ friendly. I knowingly laughed at the name “Subway Ensemble” since it would indeed be a good choice if one were taking a subway to get to that chic, dressed up evening soiree. (Hey, I don’t have a limo or town car and I’ve done that many times. This would undeniably come in handy).

Cristobal Balenciaga’s 1951 black silk jersey, silk faille, sequined and jet beaded lace beauty, (which most of the women in attendance oohed and aahed over since it would obviously be as perfect today as it was back then) is proof positive that certain things never change - such as the luxury of owning a shapely little (or not so little) black dress.

Romeo Gigli’s signature olive cotton velvet cocoon coat and menswear inspired cotton shirt, pinstriped vest, skinny suede trousers were selected to show the haute bohemian, rich hippie side of luxury, while Yeohlee’s 1997 luxury ensemble, comprised of a tunic trimmed with mink cuffs worn over pants, displayed another, surprising side of this architectural and minimalist designer.

Maggie Norris’s white cotton lace up the back elongated “uber luxurious” white shirt, 2007, shown over Acme’s skinny black stretch “uber premium” jeans were indicative of the way in which couture elements can be used to add a luxurious touch to the most simplified basics and classics.

The ‘luxe sportif’ Spyder USA ski ensemble was testament to “experiential luxury”….luxury as lifestyle (“it’s not just about material objects but spending money on interesting experiences…travel, sport, etc.”)

A duo of handbags, one by Hermes and the other by Coach were indicative of the ‘old/new’ luxury as Dr. Steele put it. “Hermes is the absolute classic old luxury brand. It became prestigious in the mid 19th century, it was instantly prestigious and became associated with the best in European craftsmanship, artistry, and aristocratic clientiele And then you have the ‘new luxury…which is more style driven, more American, and more accessible”. She mentioned that Coach is setting up a whole new luxury line.

Marc Jacobs

Two pairs of statement making shoes: the Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton 2004 gilded leather, silk, and mink oxfords, displayed in a glass case next to the very “cool” yet awkwardly heavy black leather platform booties from Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga, made the point about the dichotomy of luxury: that which is materially obvious vs. that which is trendy, of the moment, and a flash in the pan.

Rodarte’s spring 2007 customized confection of a dress, decorated with chiffon roses, was selected as a nod to the growing trend in contemporary luxury towards the “demi-couture”.

Viktor & Rolf’s highly publicized ivory silk organza and satin wedding gown created for the chain H & M, was included (it is in the first display area) because it’s symbolic of another growing trend…the democratization of fashion. Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the idea of luxury being made accessible for the masses, without discussing all the inexpensive knock offs and counterfeits which abound (many of which are so good it’s really hard to tell which is which). And as if to prove the point about fabulous fakes, Dr. Steele, accessorized her authentic Dries Van Noten embroidered skirt, with a pair of vintage (and large) ‘paste’ drop earrings that looked just like diamonds. She also admitted that the fascinating subject of counterfeits might in fact be the subject of a future exhibit somewhere down the line.

By the way, joining me at the press preview was The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan. I asked the Pulitzer Prize winning writer (and soon to be recipient of CFDA’s Eugenia Sheppard Award for Fashion Journalism on June 4th) who she thought exemplified the notion of modern luxury. She almost immediately cited Hermes (specifying that she’s not referring to Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs but the House of Hermes) and Rochas (when Olivier Theyskens was its creative director). When I asked if that means she also thinks Nina Ricci (Theyskens is now its creative director) is in the same category, she said no; she sees that more as more ‘ready-to-wear’.

When I mentioned the soon to open Hermes store on Wall Street, she voiced some skepticism observing that “luxury is supposed to be rarified” and exclusive, but since it’s become “more accessible”, there is a “growing contradiction”.
Ms. Givhan is also “skeptical” about “limited editions” and questioned if in fact that necessarily signifies “better”.

Getting back to “modern luxury”, for me that implies a certain subtle, downplaying of it all (adding a touch of throwaway chic). I’m all for the tendency to offhandedly mix the very high end with the very low end: as in the common practice of hi/low (you didn’t see gals mixing their ballgowns with motorcycle boots or their tiaras with blue jeans in the 1800’s but today, women routinely pair their favorite jeans with Chanel jackets or furs). It’s a more realistic, more accessible approach.

Speaking of which, luxury items are far more accessible on a global level (just a click away); and they are being made far more accessible to the masses. So, like everything else in our mass produced culture, it’s even harder and more challenging to find ways to personalize and individualize even the most luxurious and rarified of items.

Perhaps that’s why I agreed wholeheartedly with Agnelli scion Lap Elkann’s take on luxury. (I guess you can say he is well qualified to tackle the subject). Considered to be “possibly the best dressed man in the world”, according to Vogue magazine, he routinely mixes grandfather Gianni Agnelli’s custom suits, which he inherited, with his own “more contemporary pieces” and was the focus of a sprawling 20 page spread photographed by Mario Testino for the June issue. In it, he observed, “I don’t believe in imposed luxury. I believe in built luxury...something you refine with your own taste”.

-Marilyn Kirschner
Gen Art's 9th Annual Fashion Show

Last night, Gen Art presented THE 9TH ANNUAL STYLES 2007 FASHION & AWARDS SHOW, their biggest event of the year, at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. The judges included supermodel Liya Kebede, designer Cynthia Rowley, designer John Bartlett, Bill Blass' Michael Vollbracht, IMG's Fern Mallis, Elle's Style Director Isabel Dupre, designer Reem Acra, and Jeffrey Boutique owner, Jeffrey Kalinsky.

You know summer is coming when you see men wearing white leggings, collarless dress shirts and Capri pants. There were some seriously casual men mixed in with the three piece suited hedge fund trophy dates, yet the women saw the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of colors, lengths, and styles, none of which seemed too tired or boring to be worn to a fashion show such as this. It was a mixed crowd.

My friend Laure wore an updated classic white jacket by Cynthia Rowley (who happened to be seated a few rows in front of us) complementing a vintage black dress. Normally, I wouldn’t think of wearing white over black, but it worked. Laure and I couldn’t help but notice the fabulous Bellinis and cold Peronis being served as the crowd trickled in, posed for photos, and took their places around the runway.

MC Robert Verdi (from E’s Fashion Police”) quickly unleashed his wit and charm on the audience. If the Academy is looking for a new host next year, I hope they give Robert an audition. He began by stating that he wasn’t hosting the awards show as a fashion aficionado, but that he accepted Gen Art’s invitation so that he could flirt with hot guys. He continued by sadly pointing out that he is old, single, and likes naked people. “We all came out tonight to get a date” was his mantra and variations on this topic garnered him the most laughs.

Cynthia Rowley gave Robert his start in the fashion industry. He pointed out that he was half of his current age when they first worked together, so the audience could imagine how old she must be. “She’s going to kill me after the show!” he said, and went on to reveal that he usually shoplifts at judge Trina Turk’s Los Angeles boutique, and that her inventory consists of only sizes 0 and 2 (for the fat girls). According to Robert, judge Jeffrey Kalinsky has the biggest Birkin Bag collection in New York and he’d better watch his stash because now that the secret is out, jet setting socialites will soon be trying to get their well manicured hands on them.

A short film of the Design Vision Award for Accessories finalists was our first introduction to the competition. The winners were the design team Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons from New York. Their rusty yet subtle accessories were the most interesting and inviting, and gave me the impression of finding an old scroll in a great, great grandfather’s trunk and interpreting the contents into different pieces of wearable art. Their collection appeared to be jewelry I would actually be drawn to in a boutique in NoLiTa and take the time to match with pieces in my wardrobe. I could imagine their distressed key piece feeling perfect with a white t-shirt and jeans as well as enhancing the neckline of a cocktail dress. It was no surprise that they were chosen as the winners; however, I was definitely left wanting to see more of the direction they are heading in. The only other accessories I thought might win were the Irish knit sweater bracelets by Yarborough. They were chunky, simple, and very different from the other entries.

The first runway competition was for womens Design Vision Award for Ready-to-Wear. The winner was E.Y. Wada from Astoria, NY who showed a lovely white dress with a loose, short beige jacket.

For the Design Vision Award Menswear competition, the winner was A3. The looks he presented were the most eclectic, but hardly the street wear it was striving to be. The highlights were a sleeveless, light pink faded hoodie with light beige pants on the first model and a jacket with the left sleeve coming out of the back on the second model. I spoke with the designer after the show and he was genuinely surprised at the attention. In his brief acceptance speech he exclaimed, “I Love New York!”

For the Perrier “Bubbling Under” Award for Design, five finalists were chosen from the US and Canada and each designer was asked to interpret the word “Pop” in their collection and then explain what it means to them. The winner was Wanda Marie Sanders who created dresses inspired by pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Kelly Miller from Nestle Waters was on hand to present her with the check for $10,000 and a tacky green plastic trophy with a bottle cutout. Other ideas presented included eye popping graphics on a multicolored palette (think African prints), Pop music from the 80s influence on rock and roll fashion, a bubbly pop infusion similar to the carbonation of Perrier, and clothing as a pop up item from 2D to 3D using pulleys and wires to transform the body with human power.

For the category of Design Vision Award for Avant Garde, the most experimental ideas came to light. Black vinyl/latex super shiny leggings on impossibly thin legs, 60s inspired French maids from outer space, a stylish long. black general jacket and layers of gathered winter fabric gracefully assembled to make a black top and grey skirt. Jolibe’s navy jacket and dress with royal blue shadows didn’t seem to match the purple stockings on one of the models. The jacket had interesting pockets that caught my attention; however, the overall feel of these two pieces was that they were not fully realized. Dragana Rikanovic’s long white dress with an exposed back and sheer bubble shapes on the front right chest and shoulder was so unique; I almost didn’t notice the tan lines on the model’s back. Rikanovic’s second experimental concept was sheer and open on the right arm and shoulder, and covered the majority of the body and extended over the left shoulder into a form that balanced out the empty space. Her white designs wowed the judges and she was the winner in this category.

The final category was Design Vision Award for Eveningwear. Designer Julianna Bass chose to go with two strapless short dresses, one white and one black, each with delicate detailing. H. Fredriksson’s long, flowing dresses were sleeveless and similar in shape, but not color. The first dress was white with a swirl of thin black flowers and the second consisted of fall colors in large vertical chunks of silk. Form presented a sleek, short grey silk dress and a double deep V black mini, two very dissimilar designs. Patrick Cupid’s ideas for evening consisted of a tight black stretch satin dress (that didn’t hide much) and a flowing black cocktail dress, both accented with gold belts and shoes. The final flash of sparkle was from designer Julia Clancy. Her golden links and detail shimmered on the runway and was hip yet elegant. And the winner was…. Form!

All in all, this was a light and fun evening.

- Kerri Mullon

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Rage" of the Age

It seemed that the main topic of discussion this past Thursday, was aging and the age issue. I began the day reading Cathy Horyn’s front page New York Times Thursday ‘Style’ section article, "Older, Better, But Harder to Dress", which dealt with (what she and others) perceive as the challenges facing ‘mature’ women as they shop for clothing these days. Say what??? Of course, I was not asked my opinion but if I had, I would have gladly given my opinion. And to all those women over a “certain age” who complain that they cannot find suitable clothes for them, I have two words for you (to paraphrase Joan Rivers), “Grow Up”!

The suggestion that the majority of styles 'out there' are only suited to the very young is like complaining that you can't lose weight or stay on a diet because the restaurants only serve “fattening food” or that the stores only stock high caloric items on their shelves. I say, "Seek and ye shall find"! As a consumer over a ‘certain age’ myself I can attest to the fact that my problem is not finding 'age appropriate' stuff (whatever that means) but being able to pay for all of it.

We’re at a moment in fashion which is marked not only by variety in terms of styles, but variety in terms of how to buy clothes (in retail and thrift shops, vintage stores, online, at auction, etc.). If anything, it’s a perfect time NOT to be an adolescent because the 'growing' trend has been towards the decidedly ‘ladylike’, more grownup, and sophisticated, as well as for covering up rather than baring. (It’s all about fabric these days). And that includes arms (admittedly, one's upper arms and going sleeveless has long been an issue for the older woman). Not only are there many designs that feature sleeves, but sleeves have become an obsession with designers who continue to focus on their shape, length, silhouette.

And if you feel as bad about your neck as Nora Ephron, (who penned the entertaining book about aging, “I Feel Bad About My Neck”), not to worry, there are mock turtlenecks, high turtlenecks, dramatic sculptural collars, a variety of interesting necklines, and a myriad of scarves in every length, width, fabrication, and color which would make both the perfect camouflage and fashion statement.

In addition, fashion designers have been enamored with experimenting with proportion, and playing with volume, which by definition contributes to a wide range of creations that could easily be considered supremely suitable and flattering for the more mature body.

As for the complaint that there are far too many baby dolls, minis, low rise skinny jeans, prepubscent pinks, etc., the way I see it, for every babydoll, there's a chemise or shift; for every low-rise skinny jean there's a high waisted full cut trouser; for every cloyingly sweet pastel there’s black, navy, tan, white, and gray; for every mini dress there's a knee length shirtdress. (As for that mini dress, put one over a pair of pants and you've got yourself a chic tunic!). And it's positively 'democratic'. The article's focus on very expensive labels (like Lanvin, Marni, Dries Van Noten) and the contention that the cut and fit (that can only be found in high end design names), is the key to looking good, is ridiculous. Sure it's nice if one can afford the best but there are smart trench coats, neat safari jackets, crisp blazers, great white shirts, knee length pencil skirts, a plethora of 'tailleur', matched and unmatched suits, great knitwear, little black dresses, evening gowns, etc. at every price level, from couture down to mass chains like H &M, Target, and The Gap.

While I'll be the first to admit that looking smart and chic in the summer (a time that's more difficult to cover up), is more of a challenge to those over a certain age, my suggestion would be to take a lesson from octogenarian Iris Barrel Apfel, a woman whose amazing personal style was the focus of a last year's exhibit at the Costume Institute of the Museum of Art, "Rara Avis". (And a woman who also single handedly negates Linda Well's observation that “The choice is to wear something juvenile or be a total killjoy”). She is far and away t he best dressed, most modern, and hippest looking woman in the room, and she usually chooses solid colors and unfussy, clean, architectural lines (which are a perfect foil for her statement making accessories).

When I asked what her urban summer uniform is, without hesitation she said, "a crisp white shirt and a pair of jeans" (men's jeans in fact). Add a fabulous necklace and great bag and simply put, the age less, timeless look is hard to beat. And let’s not forget that we're at a moment when accessories 'rule'. They can be used to dress up, add personality, and literally transform the simplest, most classic basics.

I think one of the biggest mistakes older women make (and perhaps most women in general) is that they often complicate their lives and their fashion by trying too hard to be ‘fashiony’ while they overlook the obvious: that it’s most often the simplest, most basic elements that not only stand the test of time, but are the least aging and look the best.

And speaking of looking the best and aging both subjects, including “The Anti-Aging Phenomenon”) were served up along with fresh fruit, chicken breast, and chocolate dessert at Fashi on Group International’s “The Con vergence of Health & Beauty Luncheon” held at the New York Hilton. The Moderator was Gregory Stock, PhD, CEO and President of Signum BioScience who has appeared on such high profile TV shows as Charlie Rose, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King. His passionate and upbeat introductory speech was fill ed with hope and optimism about what the future holds and he observed that “we yearn to defy aging, and we can almost b elieve it’s possible here and now. We’re in a very amazing, special time and entering unchartered territory.”

Two major unprecedented events which he singled out as contributing to the “watershed moment we’re living in right now”: 1- The Silicon Revolution (thanks to technology we’re actually “animating the inanimate”; 2- The Biotech Revolution (“life has begun to understand itself”). He promised that in the future, we’ll be talking about reworking our biology, slowing down and reversing the aging process, managing our emotions, and changing human reproduction.

He then addressed the three highly credentialed and equally qualified panelists who sat on stage, and engaged them in discussions which focused on the connection between nutrition, health, beauty, and skincare; customer loyalty to brand and customer expectation (is it greater these days? you bet!); the connection between the skin and the rest of the body; what we can expect in the future and pondered whether or not the “new status symbol” was “aging well without surgery” (the jury is out…it’s a matter of choice).

For her part, Nicole Fourgoux, AVP, Garnier Nutritioniste stated that “we are what we eat” and noted that “we want our products not only to be attractive but consumer friendly and down to earth.”

Howard Murad, M.D., CEO and founder of Murad, Inc. talked about the connection between the skin and every organ in the body and emphasized how important it is to find what can be done to minimize damage. He attributed his success to the know ledge that “understand ing the person is as important as understanding the product”. He also stated that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “our goal is to get you to believe you are beautiful”. “It’s not about perfection but about feeling good about yourself.”

Lynne Greene, Global President of Clinique ( who received perhaps the most rousing applause when she was introduced) described her company’s products as “Hope in a J ar” (and there’s “more and more hope”) and went on to talk about the part illusion plays in the business. “We’re at an interesting illusionist place…the feeling seems to be, “If I look young than I am young” (a thought process similar to “I think therefore I am”). She said women “expect to look good as long as they can and they don’t care HOW (and she emphasized HOW) they achieve that”. “We are in the world of beauty” and it’s all about “the quick fix”. “The ability to quickly change one’s appearance is where it’s at right now.” In terms of customer loyalty, she had no delusions about what the most important factor is: “The claim vs. the reality of what it is BETTER be there.”

Speaking of ‘Hope in a Jar’, in addition to the delicious three course lunch, each attendee received his or her very own “Hope in a Jar” goodie bag filled with the following samples: DDF’s Cellular Cleansing Complex; Murad’s Energizing Pomegranate Moisturizer SPF 15; Garnier’s Nutritioniste ‘Skin Renew ’ daily regenerating serum and their ‘Nutri-Pure’ detoxifying wet cleansing towelettes; and Pearl Ice’s Cooling Eye Mask. I intend to try then all. Where there’s hope there's life.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

‘Feather’ Weight

Adrienne Landau pink feathered hat on Buddha

The only thing that’s ‘light’ about feathers is their weight; their impact is always ‘heavy’. Like furs, feathers are a perennial favorite and have been used decoratively since the dawn of time. So it’s hardly surprising that as the weather turned warm, women (well, most women - Anna Wintour has been spotted out and about this past month wearing small pieces of fur) would replace them with feathers. I suppose one can look at feathers as a spring or summer ‘fur’.

It seems that all around town as of late, women are turning up at parties and galas bedecked in feather trimmed coats, dresses, gowns, bags, hats, and shoes. And because feathers were very much a signature of Paul Poiret, and they are prominent throughout the “Poiret: King of Fashion” exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, feathers could not be more timely.

May 7th’s Costume Institute Gala, which celebrated the feather loving couturier, was a true case of life imitating art, as 4 proud peacocks encased in a 20 foot cage served as part of the over the top, exotic and elaborate décor. And it didn’t stop there; many guests apparently did their homework and dressed to pay homage by adorning themselves with feathers as well. Notable examples: Rachel Roy wore a white satin kimono coat with lavish ostrich trimmed sleeves over a canary yellow gown (her own design); Miuccia Prada in her own neon orange ‘plasticized’ feathered skirt (made possible by modern technology); Annette de la Renta wore hubby’s black feather trimmed evening gown; Vogue editor Meredith Melling Burke made a perfect choice with her vintage Poiret feather trimmed short cape thrown over a custom designed Brian Reyes gown; Vogue contributing editor Lauren DuPont opted to accessorize her Thakoon dress with a feathered turban; and fashion designer/art collector/philanthropist Lisa Perry ‘capped’ off her graphic lampshade tunic dress (another Poiret signature) with a feather trimmed headband. Talk about a ‘feather in her cap’.

At this past Monday’s American Ballet Theatre Gala at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, Rachel Roy looked supremely modern and of the moment in an ecru satin windbreaker worn over a white shirt and black knee length skirt trimmed with feathers while Amy Fine Collins gave new meaning to ‘Fine’ feathered friend (sorry I couldn’t resist) as she made her entrance looking positively swanlike in a fluttery white strapless feathered Chado Ralph Rucci creation. By the way, what could be more appropriate attire for enjoying a performance of the “White Swan”?

Iman & David Bowie at Costume Institute Ball (photo: Randy Brooke)

If the idea of frou frou feathers ruffles your feathers a bit (admittedly they are NOT for everyone), the good news is that in fashion, for every action, there is a reaction. You can always do what many other fashionable gals have done recently…opt for the timeless appeal of a menswear inspired tuxedo. At the aforementioned Costume Institute Ball, Iman turned out with husband David Bowie wearing a natty white custom made Stella McCartney tuxedo pantsuit (and holding a dapper cane) while, Julianne Moore escorted YSL’s creative head, Stefano Pilati clad in the designer's short white tuxedo dress. They stood out because they went against the grain and didn’t look like too many others.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, May 14, 2007

Color my World

Marilyn Kirschner wearing vintage Pucci for More Magazine profile September 2003.

Emilio Pucci is turning 60 and doing it in high, colorful style. What else would you expect from an iconic, legendary house that is synonomous with joyful explosive color, exuberant pattern, and intrinsically linked with the jet setting good life?

It was reported in yesterday’s,“Pucci’s Cosmic Celebration” that about 250 guests will descend upon Florence for a two part “event-filled weekend” hosted by Laudomia Pucci and Delphine Arnault which will include an artistic installation, black tie dinner at the Palazzo Pucci, and culminating in a new signature fragrance launch at Marchesi Pucci’s country estate at Villa di Granaiolo.

As someone who has been involved with the fashion business for decades, I have seen styles come and go. Like leopard prints, trench coats, pearls, black and white, and other classics that stand the test of time and always look great, there is a ‘forever’ appeal that is associated with Pucci. In addition, the joy that comes from wearing Pucci cannot be underestimated, particularly in these days of dull mass produced sameness. Especially when the reigning mood and ‘look’ of the moment is dark and brooding, there is nothing more upbeat and life affirming than donning a colorful and boldly patterned Pucci, (many of which can be framed and hung on the wall and easily qualify as arresting works of art). Plus, you know you will most assuredly stand out in a crowd.

My mother’s Picasso-like velvet dress

Most people who know me, associate me with Pucci. In fact, I became a vintage enthusiast in the early 80’s when I began searching high and low for vintage Pucci’s. At that time, (before the vintage ‘craze’), they were surprisingly rare and hard to come by. In the 60’s, my mother (who had and still has amazing taste), accumulated some of the best Pucci’s I’ve ever seen and luckily for me, I’ve ‘inherited’ them (silk shirts, jersey dresses, and a few velvet dresses). While I’ve amassed many more since then, my mom’s ‘cache’, and my very first jersey dress purchased in 1968 at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Bal Harbour Florida (which I was photographed in for More Magazine, September 2003), are still the best I’ve seen anywhere. By the way, my mother’s Picasso-like velvet dress in shades of pink, purple, lavender , gray, and white, is a true work of art and never fails to illicit oohs and aahs. In fact, when I wear my vintage pieces, I’m usually met with exclaims from older women (with a visible twinkle in their eyes) who exclaim, “Oh, I had such a great time in my Pucci’s. How wonderful when a fashion house has the power to illicit such strong memories and emotions.

At a time when so many companies are striving for an enduring identity, brand recognition, and a loyal customer base (including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Maria Callas, and Marilyn Monroe who asked to be buried in her favorite Pucci shirt), it is no small feat that this house has been so successful at all the above for so many years. And let’s not forget that most of the pieces that are decades old not only hold up today but look as wonderful and modern now as they did back then. Of course, the late Emilio, (who was born Marchese Emilio Pucci in Naples, 1914 and died in 1992), was a scholar, an athlet e, a member of the Italian ski team and received a masters degree from the University of Portland. He was a trailblazing, jet setting, bon vivant who loved women, wanted them to look beautiful, feel beautiful and comfortable, and wisely translated his maximalist color and pattern onto supremely spare, minimalist, and sporty silhouettes (which kept them from being completely over the top). On top of that, they pack and travel like a dream.

All I can say is that I’m glad that I was never tempted to give away or sell my ‘treasures’. I hope to wear and enjoy them for many years. While I’ll probably request that I be buried in one, I haven’t quite figured out which and naturally, I’d rather not dwell on such a morbid thought. Happy 60!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Kmart Launch Event

Kmart staged “a celebration of all things blue” Monday night at Blue Fin in the W Hotel in new York’s Times Square. The event marked the launch of Kmart’s first all new, integrated marketing campaign since 2003. Like some other discount retailers (Target, for example), Kmart is seeking to position itself as a place where shoppers can find, trendy, stylish, quality merchandise that is value priced.

The new ad features an animated character called "Mr. Blue Light”, a talking light bulb that will probably remind long-time Kmart shoppers of the legendary blue-light specials of the 70’s and 80’s. The new Mr. Blue Light is designed to go beyond highlighting deep discounts and instead to act as a resource to customers, offering friendly guidance for their shopping needs.

The first television ad featuring Mr. Blue Light debuted on Monday night during the programs Dancing with the Stars and Deal or No Deal. Guests at the launch event were invited to preview the ad while enjoying blue cocktails and nibbling on finger foods. The blue theme extended to all aspects of the evening, including the lighting and the blue beach towels found in the goody bags.

Kmart customers will continue to find familiar brands like Route 66, Jaclyn Smith, and Martha Stewart. Later this year, according to one of the Kmart representatives, the Joe Boxer brand will be moving to the chain’s sister retailer, Sears. When asked if Kmart will eventually look to supplement its in-house design team by reaching out to other designers, as the Gap did recently, no definitive answer was given. We can, however, count on seeing them back again in September, along with Sears, as a presence during New York’s Fashion Week.

-Rhonda Erb

Friday, May 11, 2007

Positively ‘Shocking’

What a strange week this has been for fashion and how ironic life is! First off, there’s been all the publicity surrounding three Fairchild Publications editors- one former and two present…(and not exactly the sort of publicity Fairchild would welcome). On a daily basis, we’ve been ‘treated’ to the sordid details involving a former psychotic W writer, Peter Braunstein, on trial in lower Manhattan for impersonating a firemen and starting a fire in order to gain entry to the apartment of a fellow W writer whom he proceeded to bind, torture, and sexually exploit for about 13 hours.

Taking the stand these past few days was his former flame, Jane Larkworthy, the beauty director of W, who was forced to give her account of the steamy, seedy, and intimate details of her relationship and sex life with this deranged defendant. (Ironically, W Magazine routinely uses sex, bondage, and other steamy props for their fashion editorials, but so do many others).

Monday morning, hours before the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Ball, arguably the biggest, most celebratory night of fashion (and we’re talking HIGH fashion with a capital H), one of fashion’s brightest stars and biggest, most well respected names, Narciso Rodriguez, was the focus of a front page article written by Cathy Horyn for The New York Times, “Fashion Industry Rallies to Aid Designer in Trouble”.

And no, it was not about who his ‘date’ would be for the event, or which stars he was dressing. The subject was Narciso’s well documented business problems culminating in the formal announcement that he had entered into a partnership with the $4.99 billion “apparel giant” Liz Claiborne. Ironically (with all due respect), this is a company whose name is more synonymous with middle class, Middle America, than the rich, exclusive, and rarefied world one would normally associate with this master architect and minimalist.

The observation in an article in Monday’s WWD that “Rodriguez is at a higher price tier than other Claiborne divisions, which include Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Sigrid Olsen” has to be one of the week’s biggest understatements. Though Narcisco’s admission to Cathy Horyn months back: “This is not my dream, to sell my company to Liz Claiborne” is a definite runner- up.

Who would have guessed that in past months, the award winning designer, whose customers include the late Caroline Bessette Kennedy (Narciso became a household name after he designed Caroline’s simply beautiful wedding gown), Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Jessica (Mrs. Jerry) Seinfeld, would be telling close friends he had “no money”? But life is nothing if not ironic and filled with contradiction, and one should hardly be surprised by anything. Though history, artists in every field, has struggled and Narciso is hardly the only talented visionary catering to a wealthy clientele who has had monetary problems.

Ironically, Paul Poiret, the subject of the just opened exhibition, “Poiret: King of Fashion”, died penniless.

And talk about ironic. On Monday, just as members of the press and special guests gathered to preview this exhibit, at the heart of which was the extraordinarily creative relationship between Paul and his wife and muse, Denise, (an “audacious” fashion iconoclast who was widely credited with his ultimate success), word spread that one of the fashion world’s reigning audacious iconoclasts, Isabella Blow, had passed away.

We are at a time which is increasingly more and more about mass produced, copy cat (‘faux’) style, and hype, (exemplified by all the recent articles chronicling the clothes borrowing done by socialites and celebrities), and true ‘creative’ individualists, like Ms. Blow are few and far between. She was a bold rare bird indeed and all the recent tributes to her this past week (WWD, The New York Times) were well deserved.

And since this week is all about the ironic, another irony that crossed my mind was that more than anything else, Ms. Blow was known for her exotic headwear and was almost never photographed without something fabulous and over the top covering her head. As I looked around the displays that made up the Poiret exhibit, it was hard NOT to notice that there was nary a mannequin that did not have a head covering of some sort (whether it was a hat, a turban, a headband, a headdress). Coincidentally, we are in a fashion moment where hats of all kinds have suddenly become the focus of attention.

And speaking of attention….and positively ‘shocking’…attention grabbing shocking pink, the bold shade which came to symbolize another late fashion individual and maverick, Elsa Schiaparelli (it was the name of her signature fragrance and the name of a book, “Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli” written by Dilys E. Blum) seems to be all around town as of late.

At the Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO) Awards luncheon last week, shocking pink was not only to be found in some of the beautiful flowers making up the glorious Central Park Conservancy, but was seen on a number of invited guests who were dressed in the color from head (hat) to toe: matching their skirt and pantsuits to their fancy headdresses.

More recently, at the Metropolitan of Museum’s Costume Gala on Monday, the arresting color was selected by Cameron Diaz who wowed the paparazzi with her shocking pink and voluminous John Galliano for Christian Dior creation and Tinsley Mortimer, who opted for a leaner floor length Versace. And interestingly, it was not only seen on the gals. Chuck Price, Candy Pratts Price’s husband, wore shocking pink pants to offset his traditional black tuxedo jacket (it even matched Candy’s clutch bag), and Lanvin’s creative director and lover of color, Alber Elbaz enlivened his tuxedo with a shocking pink satin bowtie.

Later on in the week, Elizabeth Edwards paired hot pink (in the form of a jacket) with black- always a popular combo- when she and her husband John were guests at Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2007 (as did Mrs. Elie Wiesel). And famed food critic Gael Greene, the guest of honor at a Benefit for the American Hospital of Paris Foundation, celebrated by wearing a shocking pink satin Oriental style jacket with toggle closing.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Parade of Peachocks

Rose laden 35 foot high birdcage with peacocks
A bevy of the most beautiful women and accomplished men paraded on the red carpet of Metropolitan Museum for the annual black tie dinner to benefit the Museum’s Costume Institute. The gala evening celebrating the landmark exhibition, Poiret: King of Fashion, was a tour du force event successfully executed by the chairs of the event, Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Nicholas Ghesquiere (Balenciaga’s creative director), Cate Blanchett and Honorary Chair, Francois-Henri Pinault (CEO of PPR, the world's third largest luxury conglomerate) in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum.

Anna Wintour, Cate Blanchett & Nicholas Gesquiere
(photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum)
This inaugural exhibition is the first major exhibition about Paul Poiret’s work in more than thirty years. In keeping with Poiret’s penchant for glamorous excess and sumptuous entertaining, the lavish gala evening launched the exhibition with a resounding exclamation point. The impressive and colorful array of guests (750) arrived at 7:00 p.m. onwards and ascended the tented red carpet of the magnificent steps of the museum. Four live peacocks (one completely white) spreading their tail feathers in an enormous birdcage spanning 30 feet tall surrounded by cascades of roses (5000 roses) greeted the guests as they entered the museum doors.

Red carpet leading to the exhibition.
(photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum)
The red carpet was an exclusive parade of movie stars, television celebrities, music business icons, power brokers, fashion designers and their muses. Since it is the biggest fashion event of the year, the women most definitely strutted in their beautiful evening gowns. Like resplendent peacocks spreading out their tail feathers into fans, the women arrived with colorful, elaborate gowns with long trains. They elegantly displayed their plumage (some of them, proudly) and they did not disappoint the numerous members of the press who were shouting out celebrity names in a surging cacophony of noise on the red carpet.

The red carpet entrance to the gala.

Red Carpet Photos by Randy Brooke:
Jean Paul Gaultier and Coco Rocha
Zac Posen and Lucy Liu
Rose McGowan
Christy Turlington
Claudia Schiffer
Hamish Bowles and Caroline TrentiniIvanka Trump
Karl LagerfeldKelly Ripa
Molly SimmsMichael Kors with Eva Mendes
Valentina Petrova
Bee Schaffer
Sandra Bullock
Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller
Jennifer Lopez
Zi Yi Zhang and Georgina Chapman
Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave
Camilla Belle
Francois-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek
Donatella Versace and Hilary Swank
Naomi Campbell in Azzedine Alaia
Renee Zellweger
Angie Harmon
Jessica Simpson
Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy
Lindsey Lohan
Kirsten Dunst
Valentino and Jennifer Gardner
Cate Blanchett
The most stunning gown of the evening – Jessica Stam

(All photos copyright c Randy Brooke for Pictures may not be used without permission.)

The guests were led to the exhibition - a series of tableaux with 50 ensembles on view for the inaugural viewing and then off to the cocktails in the Museum’s Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture court where four enormous wall hangings reproducing prints by Leon Bakst (designer for Ballet Russes and one of Poiret’s influences) are displayed.

Dining room view from above.
(photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum)
Dinner started at 8:30 p.m. in the American Wing. The Engelhard Court was completely transformed into a beautiful room of color and exciting patterns designed by Poiret that were recently rediscovered in archival photographs and reinterpreted. The wall coverings, astute incorporations of Poiret’s designs, encapsulated the dining room in excitement and color.

Rose bushes and ottomans decorated in colorful fabrics divided the courtyard into a series of intimate dining areas, and the tables were covered by eye catching silk cloths that have been handpainted with Poiret’s designs. Each table had chairs covered with an array of Poiret inspired fabrics.

(photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum)

Linen napkins fashioned in the shape of roses adorned each plate. This was a most beautiful room under the stars and the ‘icing on the cake’ were seven gigantic, organically shaped, hanging silk lampshades that tied it all together. As I previewed the exhibition in the morning, I was fascinated by Poiret’s attention to detail. The dining room encompassed that spirit, and amplified that sense of ‘fun and flimsy’ in a very exciting way.

The menu was inspired by a 1928 cookbook complied by Poiret. The meal began with rosette de saumon fume aux perles noires (rosettes of salmon with caviar), accompanied by Chassagne Montrachet 2003. The entrée was escalope de veau aux morilles (scalloped veal with morels) and galette de pommes de terre aux truffes (potato galette with truffles) served with Les Forts de Latour, Millesime 1999. For desert, gateau moka and crème anglaise. Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, who won the Academy Award in March for her role in Dreamgirls performed 3 songs.

For a party held in honor of the man who liberated women from the corset, who pioneered the concept of fashion as a lifestyle, consequently establishing the blueprint of the modern fashion business, and the first designer who believed designing dresses is an art - it was indeed a beautiful night graced by an unprecedented number of luminescent celebrities. This parade of peacocks, reminiscent of Poiret’s lavish ‘One Thousand and Second Night’ befits this homage to a king. Even the Metropolitan Museum was dressed up in modern grandeur and preened to open its showy plumage. This night was the biggest party of the year - a night of unforgettable extravagance and style. Long live the King of Fashion!

-Anna Bayle

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Every Cloud has a ‘Silver’ Lining

It’s been said that “It never rains on the FLO (Frederick Law Olmsted) Awards”. But rain indeed threatened and clouds stubbornly hung over Central Park’s Conservancy yesterday on what was the celebratory silver anniversary of this organization. And so, as a precaution, (rain had been predicted for the early part of the day), a sprawling see thru tent was erected over the paths and walkways at the entrance, to insure that the approximately 1,240 philanthropic, designer clad, and fabulously hat attired movers and shakers (women and men) would stay dry. As luck would have it, it never did rain and in fact, peaks of sunshine eventually broke through. The legend lives on!

Referred to as America’s answer to the ‘Ascot’, this important, high profile, and popular fundraising event, hosted by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, ($2.3 million was raised this year from FLO for the Conservancy’s “ongoing mission of restoring and maintaining Central Park for generations of New Yorkers”), is the city’s annual ‘rite of spring’ and considered to be a fashion spectacle where hats take center stage and mix harmoniously with the incredibly lush gardens and beautiful flowers that serve as the piece du resistance.

Admittedly, this is not a ‘fashion event’, (there was nary a turban - Prada or otherwise - in sight) and the majority of women in attendance are (shall I say) involved in more high minded matters and not necessarily the same ones who occupy front row seats at runway shows in New York, Paris, and Milan (though there are some of those as well: Amy Fine Collins, Somers White Farkas, Jamee Gregory to name a few). Having said that, mixed in with the predictable face framing ‘garden variety’ large brimmed hats and saccharine sweet pastel skirt suits, there were some creative individualists who stood out (some even ‘dared’ to wear menswear inspired fedoras and natty pantsuits), and a number of interesting trends on view.

Liz Tremain wearing white faille & black polka dress from Oscar de la Renta

While flowers (flowers on hats, flower printed coats and dresses, flower corsages) are always de rigueur since the Conservancy is ‘all about’ flora and fauna, there were more than just a few women who decided upon graphic polka dots (red and white, navy and white, and black and white). One of the best dressed women, Liz Tremain, daughter of Corporate Chairman Ira Milstein, (Senior Partner at Weil, Gotshal and Manges, LLP), was wearing what could arguably be considered ‘the dress of the season’ in a season of dots: Oscar de la Renta’s sleeveless white faille and black polka dot dress to be exact. Covered with a tiny black sweater to keep away the chill and accessorized with a dramatic large brimmed black and white hat and black and white shoes, she was proof that certain things, like polka dots and especially black and white, never lose their appeal. (By the way, the year’s chairwomen were Serena Boardman, Betsy Messerschmitt, Hilary Geary Ross, Blaine Trump, and Thorunn Wathne).

Another woman who opted for smart black and white did it in the form of a Chanel boucle tweed skirt suit, but because she modernized it by wearing black dancer’s tights and a somewhat heavy black shoe (instead of bare hose and delicate pumps), she kept the look from being dowdy or too precious.

Dr. Valerie Steele

Then there were my two favorite fashion ‘oracles’ from the Museum of FIT, Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator, and Patricia Mears, deputy director. The former was wearing an artistically deconstructed black Yohji Yamamoto skirt suit with a whimsical vintage hat, and the latter opted for a green and black Isabel Toledo coat and dress combination with a jaunty vintage hat worn tilted to the side.

One guest who didn’t look like anyone else and who caught my eye with her hard to miss architectural silver hat (the shape reminded me of something Cher wore or might have worn to the Academy Awards). What made this interesting was her choice of silver…When I asked her if she chose this because the color was symbolic of the group’s 25th (silver) anniversary, she amusedly said she didn’t even think about that, but thanked me for explaining the coincidence. CBS News Anchor and gal about town Katie Couric looked surprisingly lean and chic in her minimalist khaki coatdress, high heeled pumps, tan legs, but the choice of pale blue ‘lampshade’ straw hat made her look ridiculous. Hats are tricky and if you look like you feel silly wearing one, you probably look silly as well. The rule of thumb in selecting a hat is that it must fit the personality and ‘look’ of the wearer.

But hands down my vote for the most whimsical and original hat (and terribly apropos at that) was a small yellow and black cap decorated with (what else?) bumble bees that sat atop the wearer’s head. And no, they were not real bees but darn good likenesses. The woman ‘accessorized’ with a graphic yellow and black piped skirt suit and faded quickly into the crowd before I could ask whose creation it was. No word on whether or not any real bees ‘bugged’ her.

-Marilyn Kirschner