Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Where the Fashion Elite ‘Meat’

CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg’s chic and sprawling new studio in the hipper than hip Meatpacking District (448 West 14th street to be exact) proved to be the perfect setting for a cocktail party to fete the 30 brand new inductees of the CFDA (a group that includes Tory Burch, Rachel Roy, Lela Rose, Phillip Lim, Richard Chai, Georgina Chapman, Justin Giunta, Kate and Laura Mulleavy).

Simon Doonan & Glenda Bailey

Among those established designers, retailers, and editors who turned out at Monday night’s jam packed event were a tan and relaxed looking former President Stan Herman, who told me he is busy working on his upcoming memoir, “My Life in Fashion” (he emphasized it will NOT be a “tell all” but c’mon, he must be “telling something”), Glenda Bailey, Simon Doonan, Tommy Hilfiger, Steven Kolb, Cathy Hardwick, Peter Som, Reem Acra, Dennis Basso, Adrienne Landau, Margaret Hayes, John Anthony, Marylou Luther, Ken Downing, Yeohlee, Howard Socol, Fern Mallis, Mary McFadden, Joan Vass.

CFDA Inductees' Jean Yu & Justin Giunta

Speaking of whom…I always enjoy talking with Joan because she never minces words and always says what’s on her mind. The legendary knitwear designer surveyed the room and asked if I happened to see Cathy Horyn. I said I hadn’t (I also did not see Vera Wang, Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley although they might have come later) at which point she said, “Does Cathy ever go anywhere?” She then bemused, “Cathy emails me all the time”. “I design the most wonderful clothes and nobody knows that”. She also told me that she will be “giving away” her dear and longtime friend Mary McFadden when she walks down the aisle for the 12th time (sometime in the future). FYI, Mary was accompanied by her "90 year old fiancé” (in Joan's words), who looked very crisp and summery in his classic blue seersucker suit. .

By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that in terms of dress, the men in general showed more variety and creativity in their fashion statements. While women primarily stuck with the dress in one form or another, the men were a bit more daring (one was bedecked in a massive strands of pearls and Subversive Jewelry’s designer and new inductee Justin Giunta accessorized with vintage coin bracelets). While some looked as though they came straight from the beach in jeans and polos, others took more care and chose just the right straw fedora and short sleeved cabana shirt. On the other end of the spectrum, one dapper dude opted for a very “of the moment” navy crested Ralph Lauren Wimbledon blazer piped in ivory, worn over a preppy blue shirt and crisp white pants. Tennis Anyone? (For the record, Ralph was not present). And Neiman’s Ken Downing looked even skinnier and taller in his very proper and very skinny black suit (worn with shirt and tie) which was fitted to the ‘nth’ degree.

The party was called for 7pm to 9pm and at approximately 7:30pm, the evening’s host, Diane Von Furstenberg, looking appropriately cool and comfy in her airy white cotton dress, kicked off her shoes, perched herself on one of her many upholstered chaises (well, it is her place after all), took the microphone and made an informal, impromptu, and sometimes humorous welcoming speech. She thanked everyone for being there, spoke about the wonderful ‘fraternity’ of designers that defines the CFDA, and proudly observed that this year marked the largest number of applications for membership in the 45 year history of the company, taking the time to name each of the new 30.

She went on to speak about the wonderful opportunities and resources they have available to them as members and since for her, it’s all about giving and receiving, she allowed that those designers who are most successful should be “giving” while those who are struggling should be “receiving”. She also spoke of the “wonderful things we can do together” (such as “buying wholesale”). When she had trouble with some of the names of retailers who were present, without hesitation, she quickly admitted that she is not good at introductions (even with regards to those she knows very well) To further prove her point, she recounted how years ago, she introduced her daughter to the then First Lady Hilary Clinton,, referring to her mistakenly as “Mrs. Carter” Everyone laughed.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"The Perfect Storm (coat)”

Trench coat by Ralph Rucci (photos Randy Brooke)

Having been involved in the fashion business for so many years, I’ve seen a dizzying parade of styles come and go. And while I love nothing more than to be surprised, seduced, dazzled, and captivated by amazing (or sometimes outrageous) design, when it comes to my own personal needs, I find that I am always in search of those pieces which could be considered as classic, timeless, wardrobe ‘basics’ (and all the better when they’re anything but basic). I’m referring to items that are always needed, always depended upon, and always stand the test of time.

One such enduringly perennial staple is the trench. It is not only a perfect mix of form and function, but depending on the fabrication, it can work year round, go effortlessly from day to night, and with its no nonsense, ready for business, gutsy menswear overtones and faultless military precision, it’s irresistibly flattering and chic. In addition, there are so many variations on the theme, from the most basic to the most distinctive.

Trench coat by Carolina Herrera

There are dramatic floor sweeping styles and there are teeny, tiny, abbreviated cropped incarnations. There are trenches that are cut very close to the body and others which are voluminous and slouchy. They can be found in every shade (from basic tan, black and white, to sweet pastels and eye popping primary colors). There are solids and there are prints and patterns. There are trenches which are completely waterproof and there are others which are so precious, you would most definitely not want to get them wet. There are trench coats in cotton, satin, nylon, patent leather, fur, snakeskin, metallic, and chiffon.

And by the way, while my last Daily Fashion Report noted the obvious (that ‘new’ is not necessarily ‘improved’), there are always exceptions, and new takes and updated versions of the classic trench are always welcome. Simply put, one can have an entire wardrobe of trenches and never be bored, and more importantly, and one can arguably never have enough in one’s closet. Well, that’s how I see it, anyway!

Perhaps that explains why, as I recently checked out the smattering of new fall merchandise hitting stores and boutiques around – and out of- town, the ONE item that was a constant in terms of catching my eye was trench (in one form or another). And unsurprisingly, none were in basic tan.

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I stopped by the designer laden Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase (301 652 2250), where in a sea of dizzying styles and a riot of colors (vestiges from summer on sale), I was drawn to Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga’s decidedly severe, spare and minimalist black viscose and rayon knee length trench ($1,995) which was shown over a crisp white shirt and narrow black pants. A perfect working woman’s uniform if ever there was one.

Back in New York, I checked out Bloomingdale’s on Lexington Avenue and 59th street (212 705 2000), where I was immediately drawn to the mannequin in the window of the Burberry department on the main floor. ‘She’ was wearing the iconic trench coat but with a difference: this was not the familiar tan or khaki cotton model but transformed in metallic (platinum) leather trench, decorated with distinctive nickel hardware (buttons and buckles). Priced at $2,995, it was surprisingly soft, supple, and light (though not exactly waterproof).

Trench coat by Marc Jacobs

Up the escalator to the second floor, I found myself in the Marc by Marc Jacobs department (Marc always has great coats) and quickly found his very structured and couture- like heavy ribbed cotton ottoman ¾ length trench ($545) in a navy so dark it could easily pass for black. (I fell in love with the fabric which I deemed perfect for almost all year round, considering that Global Warming has indeed become a reality). Boasting handsome dark brown leather covered buttons, and all the smart trench details one would normally expect, it also features a slightly raised belted waist and the surprise of a white and navy menswear stripe lining in the sleeves and a small geometric navy and white print lining the body.

Across the aisle, I couldn’t resist trying on Theory’s very newsy and au courant crinkle black patent (we all know how ‘hot’ patent is right now) cropped trench jacket ($885) which is soft and light (not stiff at all), has a roundish collar, epaulets, two large patch pockets, traditional trench flap detail, cropped ¾ sleeves, and a wonderful flyaway shape. It’s also available in a rich and very neutral shade of antiqued cordovan red.

At Barneys Co-op, located at 2151 Broadway (between 75th and 76th streets, 646 335 0978), a mannequin wearing Alexander Wang’s black and ivory wool fingertip length trench jacket ($795) greeted me as I entered the hip shop. A young newcomer who has only shown two formal presentations in conjunction with New York Fashion Week (he was first known for his cashmere sweaters), Alexander has already caught the attention of the fashion cognoscenti with his “clean, pure, and luxurious” aesthetic. His highly detailed, beautifully constructed and great fitting (yup, of course I had to try it on) version stands out for its gutsy menswear fabrication, flattering and practical length, traditional military inspired epaulets and trench back, two prominent zippered breast pockets, two side pockets, and ‘uber’ long sleeves. It looked just great exhibited as it was over super skinny and elongated black jeans, white shirt, and a bag worn as a hat (very Simon Doonan-quirky).

Of course, these are only a few offerings (and pricey ones at that) but needless to say, the trench can be found at a price to fit every budget and there are many which are well under $100.

Coincidentally, the trench (its history, its importance as an outerwear icon, its stylish evolution from military uniform to a “cornerstone of the twenty-first century wardrobe”) is the subject of an upcoming 320 page flexi bound book (due out in September), featuring 250 photographs, aptly called “The Trench Book”. Published by Assouline, it is written by Nick Foulkes who has impeccable credentials. He is a widely published British journalist who was associate editor of ES Magazine and is currently the luxury editor at GQ Magazine, editor of Vanity Fair’s On Time, and a columnist for Country Life and The London Magazine.

For all press inquiries, contact Mimi Crume, Managing Director, HL Group, 212 529 5533, ext. 228, E-mail: mimi@hlgrp.com; or Amanda Graber, Account Manager, HL Group, 212 529 5553, E-mail: agraber@hlgrp.com.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

“New and (not necessarily) Improved”

It’s hardly news that as a society, we are far too obsessed with youth, beauty, and perfection. Just consider all the plastic surgery and non invasive cosmetic procedures being performed on members of both sexes, (from the very young to very old), and even pets, in record numbers these days.

Whereas in many other cultures, the elderly are honored and revered, here in the U.S. that is hardly the case. Quite the opposite in fact. Beauty is generally (and mistakenly) measured by how youthful, unlined, unmarked, unflawed, and unwrinkled one is. And this doesn’t only apply to people, faces, and bodies. There is a national obsession for what is young, fresh, and new as those properties pertain to ‘things’.

As someone who has long appreciated and collected vintage clothing, accessories, and items for the home (years before it was considered ‘in’ and ‘acceptable’ to a wider audience) I must say that I’ve never minded little marks, dents, lines, flaws, scratches, and other ‘imperfections and have never considered them to be ‘negatives’.

Quite frankly, I have always looked upon the above character laden attributes (which happen to be the outward manifestations of aging) as something positive: a reminder of a well lived life with a captivating story, a romantic history, an interesting past, and in a world of mass produced sameness, proof of honesty and authenticity.

Of course, I realize that I am hardly alone and there many others who prefer, if not purposely seek out, well worn items. What I didn’t realize is that there is actually a name given to this practice. As I was thumbing through the Sumer 2007 edition of “Washington Spaces”, www.washingtonspaces.com (my sister’s family room was photographed in a 5 page spread), I came across an article, “The Way of Wabi-Sabi”, written by Kelli Rosen. Ms. Rosen references author and wabi-sabi expert Robyn Griggs Lawrence who penned, “The Wabi-Sabi House”.

Wabi-Sabi refers to the Japanese art of imperfect beauty (what’s old is new again). According to the article, it’s “all about honoring the beauty of the imperfections that occur with age- like scratches or decay- and revering the authenticity of items made by hand, rather than those mass produced by machinery, especially those ubiquitous pieces purposefully dented and sanded to resemble antiques”. And, as Ms. Rosen explains, “It’s all about letting go of the belief that imperfections are undesirable and instead accepting them as perhaps comfort food…”

While the term “wabi- sabi” is being used vis a vis home décor within the context of this article, it obviously has far reaching implications and can be applied to all facets of life as well as fashion. With fall fast approaching, that means new store windows, a dearth of ads for new merchandise, and of course, major fashion magazines will be coming out with their BIG fall issues.

While I’m hardly trying to dissuade you from buying retail, or buying in general, I simply want to suggest that there are options and I’d like to remind you that most of us buy too many unnecessary things. Should you find yourself being seduced by persuasive ads and editorials that suggest you ‘have to have’ that brand spanking new bag, pair of shoes, coat, etc.; or if you’re being ‘bullied’ into thinking that your older, time worn versions are not up to snuff, maybe you want to consider Ms. Rosen’s observation, “As for me, I’m learning that imperfection translates to character and every scratch, nick and dent tells a story, whether it’s from the artisan who handcrafted the piece or from my daughter who thought it would be fun to throw her sippy cup at the coffee table. Indeed, these are all stories worth telling…”

And by the way, you may want to relate the practice of “wabi-sabi” to aging (as it pertains to you). The next time you look in the mirror and see a few more lines and wrinkles than you’d like, simply consider that they are indeed telling a wonderful story. And remind yourself, “You’re not getting older…you’re getting better”!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fashion Intelligence Column
-By Diane Clehane

A review of Tina Brown's new book on the late Princess Diana by our Entertainment Editor Diane Clehane. Click here for the article.

Diane Clehane is the author of several national best sellers including Diana The Secrets of Her Style (GT Publishing) and I Love You Mom! (Hyperion). Her work appears in Variety, People, The New York Post and other national publications. She also writes the popular "Lunch at Michaels" column for Mediabistro.com. If you have news, gossip, an event, or a new product you would like to tell her about please email her atmailto:dclehane@aol.com