Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The House of Paul’s Caveman Chic

photo: Alexander Erb

Romance was in the air in and around New York’s Bryant Park during this month’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week for Spring 2008. As American designers sent one feminine and flirty look after another down the runways, there was one show that chose to go in a different direction. In a daring departure from this season’s popular trends, the designers for the House of Paul showed an innovative collection of looks that can best be described as "caveman chic".

For those not familiar with the House of Paul, the show takes it name from Paul Soletys, the affable and easygoing leader of the IMG crew of workers who are responsible for some of the less glamorous jobs of Fashion Week. That includes everything from arriving two weeks early to set up the Bryant Park tents, to building runways, to shoveling snow when necessary during the cold winter weather.

One cannot help but be charmed by Mr. Soletys good-natured sense of humor. He describes the House of Paul Fashion Show as a chance to give everyone “a break from the real gig and make fashion fun again.” The models include members of his crew as well as people from every other crew responsible for Fashion Week (tech, security, etc…).

Paul Soletys is described by those who work with him as “a man with a heart of gold.” Each season he assembles his crew from a returning group of free-lance workers, some of whom rely upon Fashion Week to provide a reliable source of regular employment.

The “crew show”, as it is sometimes called, has long been a favorite with Fashion Week insiders. It takes place each season at a time when there is a break in the regular schedule of shows in the Tents. “We try not to plan it too much”, says Soletys, “Because then it seems too much like work.” Designers showing in the Tents often contribute their excess materials to the House of Paul. Sound and video crews help out as well.

This season the ‘crew show” took place on a sunny Monday afternoon. The location, as usual, was an outdoor stage set up on West 39th Street, just off Sixth Avenue. The House of Paul has been offered the opportunity to use one of the Bryant Park venues, for their popular, long running show, but Mr. Soletys has always declined. “I am already in the penthouse, why would I move into the ghetto?” he laughs. Seriously though, he believes, that holding the show on the street gives everyone a chance to attend, and “that’s what New York is about.”

The show was entitled, House of Paul Pre-Historic AC DC BC. The stage was elaborately decorated to look like a cave surrounded by dinosaurs and other pre-historic creatures. A large crowd assembled, both on the street, and in the windows of surrounding buildings.

The designer of the collection was Paul Laird. He stepped in this season, taking over the reigns from jewelry designer Isabelle Lirakis, who has worked with the show for several years and consulted on the caveman theme. Laird, who is known as P.L., was ably assisted in his designs by Juliette Burgess.

P.L., who works as the assistant warehouse manager for IMG, made excellent use of the raw materials available to him (excess carpeting, etc…). Models strutted the runway in Flintstones like attire as the audience responded with laughter and applause. Paul Soletys never models himself, but did make an appearance in the shows raucous finale.

So for those of you who wish that you could attend a Fashion Week show, but you can’t seem to get your hands on an invitation to the Tents, don’t despair. Next season just keep your eyes and ears open and keep a close watch on West 39th Street, and you too may experience the phenomenon that is the House of Paul. You will probably have to stand and I doubt that you will leave with a goody bag, but if you’re lucky, like me, you might leave with a piece of the set.

-Rhonda Erb

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Top Ten

Isn't it the truth that so many internatonal retailers and press all love and look forward to Fashion Week. Isn't it also the truth that these invited industry guests really get into running around the tents, watching the shows, and mixing it up at all of the big week's de rigeur parties and special events, all in the name of simply doing their jobs. Such a blast. And then, on the other side of the coin, there are the "univited" guests at the tents; those obnoxious, over-dressed and over-hyped hanger-on-ers whopop up out of the toaster sans invites; the people who think that they are oh-so-special; the ones who truly believe that they have the right to be apart of Fashion Week and attend the shows and parties, not to mention grabbing every freebie that they can.

You know who you are! But, not to worry too much about the majority of these folks because the boys from Citadel Security (read our interview with Ty Yorio) are always front and center at the tents and it's their job to handle the masses and make sure that the "right" people get towhere they need to be. And, that's when things can really get crazy,according to a pair of Citadel professionals such as Ty Yorio (president & founder) and Michael Carney (site manager), who have the delicate and often times difficult (and thankless) job of separating the Fashion Week wheat from the chafe; i.e., keeping track of who's hot (the industry professionals with invites in hand) vs. who's not (all of those invite-less outsiders).

These guys have seen it all and listened it all, albeit with much style and much aplomb. Now, we're bringing to you - straight from the mouths of Yorio and Carney - the top ten Fashion Week excuses Yorio and Carney have heard most often from the hanger-on-ers. Oh, and in addition to giving a host of lame excuses, Yorio and Carney say that many of these people often do an add-on to their reportoire by appearing drunk or stoned; spitting, screaming, or merely trying to push their way ahead of everyone else on the line and bypass security altogether.

Think you've heard every excuse in the book at the tents. Read on.

#1 "My friend is inside and she/he has my invitation"

#2 "I'm the one who put the bathrooms in this joint"

#3 "The designer asked me to come by today"

#4 "I KNOW I have a seat inside, but I left my invite in a taxi"

#5 "I was e-mailed to be here. It's on my Blackberry"

#6 "We are all employees"

#7 "My friend told me to ask for "her"/"him"

#8 "DON'T YOU know who I am?"

#9 "I'M on the LIST!"

#10 "I am with her...she is with me...DON'T you know who the hell we are?"

-Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Monday, September 17, 2007

One Night in a Lifetime

Fern Mallis, Margherita Missoni, John Legend, Irene Carroll, and Amanda Hearst. (photo courtesy of The Donahue Group)

The scene: Last Monday evening’s "One Night in a Lifetime" party, hosted by socialite Amanda Hearst, Italian model Margherita Missoni, and senior Vice-President of IMG Fashion, Fern Mallis, and sponsored by One Scottsdale. The setting: Cipriani's opulent 23rd street location in Manhattan. A red carpet leads past an abstract display created by co-sponsors Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue and into a visually stunning space, comfortably filled with an international array of "beautiful people".

DJ Stephane Pompougnac (photo courtesy of The Donahue Group)

This was one of Fashion Week’s most exclusive events. Guests mingled while sipping Bellini’s and dining on an endless seafood buffet done in incomparable Cipriani style. Large screens on either side of the main stage displayed images promoting the sponsors. Special guest D.J. Stephane Pompougnac, from the Hotel Costes in Paris, provided music throughout the night. Everyone eagerly awaited the highlight of the evening: a live performance by Grammy award winning singer John Legend.

One Scottsdale in the first real estate development property to sponsor Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The unique luxury retail and lifestyle project spans approximately 120 acres and is scheduled to open in 2009. This is their third time as a Fashion week sponsor and this season One Scottsdale was highlighting its partnership with the Ball-Nogues Studios to create a renewable arts installation in the planned community. According to Irene Carroll, General manager of the development, One Scottsdale will be "a canvas for artistic expression". Its backstage lounge at the Bryant Park tents featured images of Ball-Nogues designs, including a rendering of their vision for the One Scottsdale installation.

Shortly after 8PM, Fern Mallis was introduced and took the stage to speak about the relationship between One Scottsdale and IMG Fashion. She was followed by the aforementioned Ms. Carroll, Ms. Missoni, and Ms. Hearst, who introduced John Legend. The crowd settled into comfortable white sofas as Mr. Legend performed several of his songs, including the hit "Save Room".

After the performance, it was time for more Bellini’s as a selection of sumptuous deserts were passed throughout the crowd. Departing guests received copies of Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue, as well as a goody bag containing a bottle of Cipriani’s sparkling wine, Bellini mix, and the classic Harry's Bar Cookbook. Partygoer Sophia Falleroni of Alitalia summed up the affair:" It was a fabulous night. Everybody had fun. Everybody had a good time."

-Rhonda Erb

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Lion ‘Queen’

Wednesday was ‘curtains’ down for New York Fashion Week. Coincidentally, as I was sitting in Starbucks (the one on 41st street right near the Bryant Park Tents and not far from the theatre district) getting a much needed caffeine fix before taking my seat at the Anne Klein Show, I saw a poster on the wall for the "The Lion King". At first, when I spotted the large lion, I did a double take, thinking it was a cleverly placed ‘ad’ for Anne Klein (the lion has been the company’s symbol since the 70’s, when Anne Klein was gloriously and ably designing).

While I think Ms. Toledo is an amazing talent, I had mixed feelings about her debut as head of design for the famed label (which was shown about 6 months ago for fall 2007). But after seeing her imaginative, wonderfully exuberant, well balanced, well realized point of view for spring/ summer, which successfully marries art and commerce, all I can say is, "The lion has roared".
The collection, built around a neutral color palette of white, shades of gray, brown, rust, and black (jazzed up with bright prints- both geometrics and florals), is definitely not for immature young girls who are looking for thigh high minis and innocent looking frocks. These are clothes for a grown up woman who knows herself and feels comfortable in her own skin.

There was a variety of great dresses, (for day and evening), standout blouses and skirts (that had the look of a one piece dress when matched), tailored blazers and natty pantsuits (for which Anne Klein herself was known), distinctive coats (I loved the black and ivory vertically striped coat ‘dandy’ coat which was shown over a 3 tiered skirt in the same stripe but worked horizontally), and superb raincoats (the soft glazed silk coats were wonderfully roomy and almost translucent and would make the perfect travel coat because they appear to be light as air).
But since both she and her husband, Ruben (a famed illustrator), are known as an artistic duo, it is hardly surprising, especially given the fact that prints and patterns were a major trend this past week, that the segments that stood out were those that relied on artistic renderings of prints.

And boy, talk about a season of unconventional inspirations. On Tuesday, Monique Lhuillier admitted that her soft yummy color palette was inspired by her favorite Laduree confections, and today, in her program notes, Isabel explained that Ruben accidentally "smeared one of my favorite dresses with paint. I loved it so much it inspired a series of one-of-a-kind pieces. That’s what I call an "Art-Attack".

The result is a white cotton fabric onto which tiny little colorful squares have been artistically placed. Kicking off the show, and the first number out, was a belted, long sleeved shirtdress, accessorized with a clutch bag in the same print. And at the end of the show, there was a group of colorful hand painted florals on silk which were translated into several broomstick pleated dresses.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Star Spangled Smiles"?

What better way to mark the 6th anniversary of September 11th, (which turned out to be the first gloomy, rainy day since we began marking the horrible event), than with a line up of fashion shows guaranteed to put a smile on our face, make us feel good, look good, (or all three)?

Yesterday, Monique Lhuillier presented arguably her best collection thus far. In her program notes she said the season is "all about embracing your femininity" (what an understatement) and stated that her inspiration for the sublimely feminine, frothy, airborne collection of silk tulles, organzas, and chiffons done in fabulously soft and flattering shades (vanilla, mint, latte, pistachio, butterscotch), was "a box of her favorite Laduree macaroons". (Think about that the next time you feel guilty about having indulged in a high caloric dessert!)

What was notable about the show, in addition to the way Monique un-selfconsciously mixed short cocktail dresses and long gowns together, is that there was no attempt to do simplified, pared down daywear (in an attempt to be all things to all people) as in past seasons. The reason? It became clear to her (while vacationing abroad where she constantly saw customers wearing her dresses) that what her customers want is "special pieces". And so, when she did show a suit, it was not a minimalist menswear suit that could easily be found elsewhere, but an unapologetically couture like, feminine and beautifully constructed suit (like the butter and gold metallic tweed jacket with a draped shawl collar, shown with a matching high waist pencil skirt, and a crème 4 layer organza blouse with an exaggerated ruffled collar).

Another interesting point which speaks volumes about Monique’s talent, is her obvious ability to experiment with volume and make it look flattering. How many designers can create a two, three, or four tiered chiffon evening gown with a modified balloon hem, that doesn't look cumbersome? You know the answer.

It's hard to pick just a few beautiful dresses out of the line up of 34 but among the mind-blowing gorgeous whipped confections were the peach silk tulle strapless asymmetrically draped gown with softly draped tiered skirt; the latte silk chiffon v neck asymmetrical draped cocktail dress; the nude illusion tulle one shouldered draped gown with a 4 tiered skirt and hand printed pistachio flowers that had me wishing I had someplace to wear it; the black silk organdy halter blouse with ruffled collar which was perfectly counterbalanced with menswear inspired black silk and cotton canvas high waisted trousers; the grey and white dot print taffeta corseted gown with asymmetrically draped soft bubble skirt.

Richie Rich & Traver Rains broke tradition with seasons past, and moved their wildly popular and entertaining Heatherette spring summer show, from the Bryant Park Tents to Gotham Hall. And while the smaller space could have been a recipe for disaster (after Monday night’s Marc Jacobs show which was delayed two hours I was sure this would follow suit), the show was well organized, actually started under one hour late and was a fast paced, entertaining (if not campy), romp. And as always, there were pieces that could actually be considered commercial and wearable.

The show, featuring designs for both men and women (though it was heavier on the women’s side) was a tribute to America from start to finish. Called “Star Spangled Smiles” (how could you possibly resist that?), the program itself was done up in patriotic red, white and blue, and the homage to the USA continued on the runway where a group of youthful high energy rappers kicked things off.

The first group out was an assortment in shades of white, ranging from full skirted strapless mini dresses to bicycle shorts (all highly embellished and textural) which was accompanied by the iconic song “Born in the USA”. This was followed by a group of colorful conversation prints (dresses, sportswear separates, etc.), which lead to a group of campy Americana (including several deconstructed ‘flag’ printed dresses in red, white, and blue). The most charming moment was when a group of the most adorable tiny tots (boys and girls) took the runway wearing miniature versions of what was shown for the grownups. The finale, (a curtain call of the red, white, and blue numbers) marched out to the pulsating sound of “American Woman”.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tour de Force

In a season of pretty, attractive clothes, Calvin Klein. or rather his successor. Francisco Costa has produced an earth-shattering, spectacular collection.It goes against the grain. It is lower calf length, almost all white or pale shades like gray, slender .and uncomplicated. It is quite different from everything else being shown. It is a tour de force and people looking for more complicated clothes will have something to get used to. They probably won't get it.

But at a time when modernity has little place in fashion, it is a spectacular achievement. It is comparable to Chanel or Poiret banishing the corset in their day.or maybe Saint Laurent civilizing the pants suit. He is to be commended for having a vision for the twenty first century and making fashion feasible for today's lliving. The clothes are also supremely beautiful. Calvin has found a worthy successor.

-Bernadine Morris

The Simple Life?

photo: Isabelle Erb

Zac Posen does not disappoint. His Spring/Summer 2008 show was an extravaganza, and well worth having my ticket checked six times before being allowed to wait in the large mob outside the velvet rope. And wait we did… in the sweaty foyer, a tight crowd of all kinds mixed together – coiffed, frizzed, young, old, short, tall, casual, decked out – you name it.

From the booklet on our seats, the words of Zac Posen: “My collection is an homage to early American settlers and their insistence on simplicity and craft.” I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it, since his designs clearly require precise tailoring and boast exquisite details; more than a handful utilized feathers, multiple layers of lush ruffles and even a few with grand – yet subtle - ornamentation. He did manage to tie the imagery into the names of the majority of the pieces – windstorm blouse, wheat skirt, crow gown, and so forth.

The show began rather soberly with black straight leg pants, a black hat embellished with long feathers, shaker shirts and skirts, prairie skirts, and a crystal wheat brooch. Glamorous solid colored dresses with flowing ruffles in bright red, yellow, purple, and aqua provided a stark contrast to the smart corporate ensembles of black, cream, white and beige. Dovetail skirts, bandeau tops, bow dresses and a twisted ribbon gown showed his devotees that once again, Zac Posen’s vision provides for diverse essentials and does anything but bore.

There were but a few notable guests behind the first few of celebs and editors in their safety zone: two beautiful pre-schoolers with long, curly hair on one side of the runway; a man with a greenish glittery cowboy hat on the other.

Revelers in the front row included Anna Wintour, Demi Moore, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Lucy Liu, Martha Stewart, Ivana Trump, Veronica Webb, Rachel Zoe, Carol King, Venus Williams, and financial backer P. Diddy, with his small entourage.

- Kerri Mullon

"Flirtation Walk"

photo: Isabelle Erb

The invitation for Betsey Johnson’s Spring 2008 collection showed a picture of a teen aged Betsey with her date on the night of her Junior Prom in 1958. Other photos showed the young designer during her coronation as the “Princess” of the lavish affair which was entitled “Flirtation Walk.”

Thus was introduced the theme of Betsey’s show which took place in the tent in Bryant Park on Tuesday afternoon. The venue was a sea of hot pink shopping bags as the designer presented her “Prom Queen” extravaganza. VIP guests sat at small, round tables lining the runway in the traditional set-up for Ms. Johnson’s shows in recent years.

The show itself was a chronological history of sorts of the last six decades of prom wear, a la Betsey Johnson, with a few playful outfits thrown in for good measure. Each decade was presented against an appropriate musical soundtrack for the period. It would appear that there is no era that cannot be depicted by one or more of the following: a voluminous skirted gown, ruffles, sherbet colors, satin and bows.
Standout looks included the shimmery blue “twinkle twilight dress” from the 50’s, the white “twiggy tulle mini,” and the “coronation queen” dress in white satin with a dramatic red sash. The final dress was a red, white, and blue gown of tiered ruffles and bows called “Miss America.”

No Betsey Johnson show would be complete without the parade of models carrying balloons heralding the arrival of Betsey herself. Ms. Johnson appeared carrying her granddaughter, Layla, to the delight of the audience. The crowd rose to its feet in expectation of the moment that everyone was waiting for. Betsey was happy to oblige with not one but several cartwheels down the runway.

-Rhonda Erb

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Roger and Me"

The day belonged to, not Vivier silly...Roger Federer, the U.S. Open champ and number 1 tennis player in the world, who graced Oscar de la Renta’s 1 p.m show held at 583 Park. When Roger walked in with Anna Wintour just as the show was set to begin, everybody stood to their feet and clapped and whistled and shouted yay!!!!! It was quite the scene even for a jaded fashion show goer. And looking around the room, you could see that the females were taken by the adorable, fashionable, and amazingly talented tennis star (who had a sweet smile on his face as though he was shocked by the reception). Oh, and Posh Spice (yawn!) was there as well, causing a paparazzi feeding frenzy of her own.

The Oscar de la Renta show was notable not only for its change in venue, this is the first time the designer has not shown at the Bryant Park Tents since their inception), or for Roger’s presence (he showed up last year as well), but for the rousing inspirational music and vocals of a rather unique musical group called The Polyphonic Spree. The traveling band is a self described "choral symphonic rock" group (I would describe it as ‘White Gospel’) consisting of 24 young men and women from the Dallas area, ranging from vocals to organ to tubular bells. Dressed in colorful, loose long dresses (even the guys), their look was diametrically opposed to the refined uptown elegance of Mr. de la Renta’s aesthetic, which made it kind of cool. (FYI…I’m not sure what it implies when I would rather spend my time talking about tennis stars and musicians than fashion…but you can draw your own conclusions).

As for the collection, let’s just say it was lovely, familiar, and vintage Oscar all the way, hitting upon all of the designer’s trademarks (matched and unmatched suits, in shantung, faille and stretch faille, viscose, boucle; sportswear pieces; hand crochet knits; dresses in a myriad of silhouettes; and of course, cocktail dresses and evening gowns). Instead of staying in the back, as is usually the case, the designer was visible to the audience as he stood in the main room, right outside the door as the models came out, observing the scene first hand. A beige linen viscose skirt suit (with a belted jacket and rounded shoulder and sleeves, worn with a pencil skirt) kicked things off. It was accessorized with an alligator belt, beige lizard clutch, beige high heeled perforated sandals and a pheasant turban for lack of a better word. (It’s hard to describe because it wasn't a hat and it wasn't really a turban, but it was very chic indeed and part of a whole feather ‘moment’ on this runway and elsewhere).

The predominant silhouette was a feminine one, with focus on the waist as belted jackets were called into play topping skirts (pencil skirts or fuller versions) and trousers (cut classically full), as well as belted dresses. Though a navy wool boucle dress, which could be described as a modified ‘sack’ made a case for something looser. The color palette was predominantly beige, cream, olive, navy and black with welcome touches of turquoise, and especially red. (The latter stood out in the form of a red fitted boucle sheath, and a simply beautiful red silk sponge crepe gown which was looked just great from the back due to soft shirring).

Oscar has always loved the casual elegance of knitwear and so it’s not surprising that his sweaters were standouts. Several, in white, seemed to be an ode to Roger as they were couture takes on the classic tennis sweater. One sleeveless navy silk and cashmere sweater had an outline of beads, onto which real beads were added for a bit of 3 d texture and whimsy. Other notable examples were the cream and brown hand tie-dyed cashmere silk cardigan (tie- dye is shaping up as a big trend this week) shown with a brown tortoise shell silk embroidered pencil skirt, and the copper silk sleeveless sweater which was shown with a white pleated silk georgette skirt. Since Oscar cited "bold geometric prints in earth tones with bright accents" as being at the heart of the collection, it was not surprising (especially since we are in a season of prints and patterns), that graphic Ikat prints (and ODR standby) would form the basis for day and evening.

And then there were the glamorous swimsuits. One in particular (a black cut out maillot) was arresting by virtue of its accessories: an enormous straw hat which seemed to be decorated with long colorful feathers (but upon closer inspection turned out to be long colorful pieces of straw) and a fabulous oversized tote bag. In terms of evening wear, there were as many short dresses as long, but one still cannot beat long for drama. My favorites include the gold tulle embroidered gown with bejeweled bib, and the group of black and white organzas: one featuring a mermaid skirt and a feather trimmed hem, and the finale, worn by Agyness (doesn’t it seem the blonde Brit gets to wear the best clothes?)…a silk organza gown with a petal embroidered black strapless top and a floor length white skirt decorated with one huge feather that went from the waist up.

Earlier in the day, Carolina Herrera showed her colorful, feminine and highly ornamental collection that was inspired by the watercolors of Jeremiah Goodman, and the "many layers of paint used to work in this medium". This was a statement about special pieces and evening wear, and there was really no daywear to speak of save for a few sundresses. The painterly mood paying homage to Mr. Goodman, was apparent not only in the color scheme (pool blue, pear green, brick red, peony pink and Clementine orange) but in the highly textural 3 D quality found in many pieces, which was made possible by raffia embroidery, oversized pailletes, and sculpted feathers. In a season of prints and patterns, there were plenty on this runway (dots, stripes, florals, often mixed together). Let’s put it this way, there was a lot going on (maybe a bit too much in some cases). The primary fabrics used were devora organza, printed gazaar, and lacquered chiffon, which were employed for full skirted cocktail dresses (many with full skirts), and long gowns.

Among the more successful themes was the employment of a casually elegant elongated cardigan (in solid or stripe), which was shown over printed dresses and separates. What didn’t work for me were the ‘cocktail shorts’. Not that shorts are a bad idea but making them unflatteringly full..well, not so much; they even made the models look fat. Actually, many of the ornamental embroidered tops shown with these shorts were quite pretty and would have looked far better if they were shown over anything else…a Jodhpur, a full or pencil knee length skirt, a full trouser. And in the end, it’s the simpler pieces that often manage to stand out. In this case, the pear green silk crinkle chiffon gown and the striped embroidered ivory georgette gown with pleating, both devoid of any fussy ornamentation.

It was strange attending an Anna Sui show so early in the evening. Like almost everyone else this season (except for Marc Jacobs who was back to his usual time (9 pm) and place (the 26th street Armory), Anna’s show was moved down from her usual Tuesday at 7PM to Monday at 5PM. In any event, I have to say this was not one of my favorite Anna Sui collections. Blame it on the era of her admitted inspiration ("The rehearsal clothes worn by the chorus girls in backstage scenes from Busby Berkeley musicals") and all the Andrew Sisters musical soundtrack…but somehow, it just didn’t do it for me. Too many tap pants, flutter sleeves, and gaudy sequins. The best pieces were menswear inspired, highly graphic, or just plain pretty. Among the standouts were the glen plaid menswear inspired suits; the cream pinstripe jacket and wide legged trousers; he black and white ‘Ziggy’ stripe sateen ¾ coat shown over a multi abstract checkerboard print crepe de chine blouse and white linen shorts; the red and cream block stripe short sleeved blouse and matching skirt; the tomato red and flesh deco scallop scarf print halter dress; and the finale (on who else, but Agyness again): a silver paillette long plunge front gown whose hem was trimmed with feathers.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marc Jacobs: Record "High" or Record "Low"

It is a record "high" or a record "low" for New York fashion, depending on who is talking and who will take it. The new record is 2 hours and 4 minutes which surpassed last season’s delay. The much anticipated Marc Jacob s’ fashion show started at exactly 11:04 p.m. In a town that prides itself be ‘on time’ and professional, this is quite alarming. At 9:00 p.m., the time the show is slated to start, the buzz was that the clothes were not there yet. It is reminiscent of the Parisian shows in the 80’s, like Mugler and Montana without the grandeur nor the drama.

Still, Marc Jacobs’ many fans were entertained by the arrivals (some late) of his celebrity invitees. Courtney Love, Kelly Klein, Russell Simmons, Gilles Bensimon were some of the early ones. Padma Laksmi of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef" wowed the crowd in silk chartreuse coat and dress, while Carmen Electra made an entrance in a magenta cocktail dress. I was hoping that when I see Anna Wintour of Vogue, Jacobs’s staunchest supporter, the show would start shortly. I spotted Miss Wintour in a short vanilla trench coat dress at 10:20 p.m. However, it did not start then. At this point, the venue was still half full. The standing rows filled up much faster than the seating section as celebrities trickled in- Sheryl Crow, Heath Ledger, Tori Spelling and Victoria Beckham.
The production of the fashion show by KCD, held at The Armory, was indeed beautifully executed. Noteworthy is the ingenious set design of Stefan Beckman. The backdrop is a collection of prints by the German designer and architect Andrea Van Der Straeten. A pickled dark gray wooden runway was constructed and the stage had many panels artfully placed that resembled silver-gray window frames or picture frames. There were 3 video screens that projected the reference number of the garments (as in the French couture shows) and they simultaneously showed images of the models walking on the runway in their undergarments while the models were actually walking on the runway in their garments.

To the tune of Ravel’s Bolero, the show finally starts. This time though, everything was backwards. Marc Jacobs walks out first (almost running) and does his final bow, then the parade of all the models, then model number 56 wearing a gown and so on and so forth until we get to number one, the opening number with a dark aqua green chiffon padded denin cape. It is a clever way to de-construct the audience’s psyche.

If last season’s collection was an homage to YSL, Marc Jacobs 2008 spring-summer collection is a homage to all the other important designers collectively. There were references to Madame Gres, Chanel, Yohji Yamamoto, Chloe, to name a few. Ensembles on the runway might not be wearable by the everyday woman but some separate pieces certainly will appeal to them. This collection is in tune with the new trends of fashion. Marc Jacobs is indeed an artist; more so, he is a designer of ideas. The designer who brought grunge to fashion reinvents himself by doing creative spinoffs of classic garments giving them names like ‘A Quarter of a Satin gown’ or ‘Sequined Scrap Top’. And by the way, the ‘sequined scrap top’ with ‘sequined skirt" is a stunner.

In a former interview with New York Magazine, Marc Jacob says, "I love that reaction of love or hate. It's indifference that bores me to death." He will get his wish this time. People will love him or hate him for having them wait 2 whole hours. But record ‘high’ or record ‘low’, he is still a ‘fashion darling’, as of the moment.

-Anna Bayle

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Color Purple

Photo credit:

No, not the movie or the play, but Narciso Rodriguez’ 2008 breezy spring-summer collection.

The color purple, associated with royalty, was prevalent in Narciso’s collection shown last night at 547 West 26th. Many shades of violet (lavender, plum, lilac, purple) appeared in this totally fresh and crisp collection interspersed with timeless classics in white, black, cobalt blue and ecru. The collection was well balanced with his architectural pantsuits, easy day dresses and sensual evening numbers that still showed his signature design construction. Known for his geometrical designs, dresses had simple geometrical details and some with touches of…, you guessed it, shades of the color purple.

Slim ankle length pants with peplum jackets and asymmetrical skirt lengths on day dresses cater to his young and chic clientele. For evenings in spring, he came out with 2 precious "rose dresses" - an ecru shift and a black coat dress filled with 2 inch rosettes. There was a splash of burnt orange in one of his silk dresses for the eyes to feast on while model after model came out wearing modern basics. It was a very mature collection from Narciso whose company was recently bought by Liz Claiborne. (The first time in American fashion history that a mainstream clothier had bought a niche luxury brand.) Narciso Rodriguez has a good command of working different fabrics and he certainly showed his craft in this 51-piece collection.

The color purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, and creativity. Here is a veteran designer who embodies those traits and in his noble sensibility has created a collection of garments that can be used season after season. That is the mark of a good designer and for his first major collection with his new partner, it was a success. That is something you can ‘take all the way to the bank’.

Actresses Juliana Margulies and Rachel Weisz, David Byrne of the ‘Talking Heads’ and Ivanka Trump were some of the celebrities present to support him. Bottles of Narciso Rodriguez men's fragrance named "For Him", made by Shiseido’s Beaute Prestige International unit were given to the audience.

-Anna Bayle-
"Here Comes the Sun"

For the past several days, it has seemed as though the Bryant Park Tents were the setting for some rather lackluster if not disappointing shows and the more significant fashion moments have been off site (WAY off site). Well, the Bryant Park Tents redeemed themselves today. They were not merely centrally located and convenient, but proved to be the place to be for some rather satisfying shows.

I have never really been much of a Peter Som fan, but I was interested to see what he was doing because as of next season, in addition to designing his own collection, he will be head of design for Bill Blass. After viewing his well done 35 piece collection with its decided (whether by accident or not) nod to Mr. Blass via its attention to "snappy" smart tailleur (far more than in previous seasons), my first impression is that this design marriage should be a good fit. The word 'snappy' always comes to mind when I think of Mr. Blass because he used it quite often in describing his own designs (those that he found to be especially wonderful).

My second impression is that we now know where the tailored day clothes that were deliberately left out of the Blass spring 2008 installation, in favor of couture like evening wear, went. They found their way onto Peter's runway. Among them were a group of natty, shrunken and piped Eton blazers which were paired with white cotton ‘boy shirts’ and counterbalanced with the femininity of a knee length full skirt. These also showed up in ice blue washed brocade, pale grey seersucker, and best of all, a silk and cotton faille pixel-tweed (the most ‘Blass- like of the bunch). In this group, there was also a knee length redingote paired with a grey linen Donegal sweater dress.

Interestingly, I've noticed that Peter has been wearing his tie a la BB (i.e., loosely knotted in that studied/nonchalant way) ever since being named head of design for the iconic label. Perhaps he hoped that Bill’s ‘soul’ and spirit would rub off and inspire him. I suppose it has worked. (The one thing that was missing from both Peter’s runway and the runway of Bill Blass was COLOR. Don’t forget, Bill made the observation years ago that rich women don’t wear black and favor color. So I suppose color will be in the future).

There was no lacking of color at Michael Kors’s energetic, and exuberant collection yesterday morning. When the first outfit came out (the lemon and white double face wool tricotine tennis dress with Eugenia Kim's visor cap with yellow plastic beak), followed by the rainbow striped cashmere sweater dress, all I could think of was that the Beatle's upbeat anthem, "Here comes the Sun" which opened Vera Wang's collection a few days ago, was far better suited on this runway. This was obviously a crowd pleasing collection (most people I spoke with had nothing by high marks for the designer who was doing what he does best). One need not dissect and analyze clothing that is understandable, relatable, and universal in its appeal ("Sexy American style with a sporty edge" is the way MK summed it up in his program notes).

To me, it also ‘smacked ‘ of Palm Beach and as I looked over the runway at the front row across from me, I saw Aerin Lauder and Melania Trump, both of whom have homes there. Come to think of it, the collection was very Melania and I could definitely imagine her boarding hubby Donald’s private jet wearing many of the pieces, including the ¾ length natty navy crepe duvatine captain’s coat with large gold buttons (shown over a matching skirt and a white cashmere turtleneck), or the white double face wool gabardine trench, shown over white stretch wool gabardine trousers and white cashmere sweater. (There is nothing that looks as crisp as navy, white, and gold and I personally think it’s almost impossible NOT to not look amazing in the combination).

I could also imagine Mrs. Trump in the floor length violet cashmere t shirt gown with the matching cashmere cardigan coat (she has the height, the body, and the money to afford it). And speaking of money...bold gold accents were everywhere. There were pronounced gold buttons and gold hardware on coats and jackets; chunky gold chains on bags; there were gold bags, clutches and oversized satchels gold jewelry (gold chains, cuffs, and pendants from M&J Savitt); even gold hats (the large brimmed sunhats by Jacques Le Corre were fabulous). There were also gold tunics and gold dresses (the gold bullion brocade tunic worn over crisp white cotton shorts was an especially very Michael combination). Graphic stripes were a major statement, whether in navy and white or in saturated color. The finale was a group of graceful long silk chiffon and jersey gowns (one in a guava and apricot ombre with an empire waist, one in sunshine silk chiffon, and a strapless number in apple green)

Richard Chai’s well edited and well styled collection, based around a soft neutral color palette of pale gray, steel, silver, powder, ecru, khaki, ivory, and white had two ongoing themes: active sportswear (anoraks and bomber jackets that worn often unexpectedly paired with floor length skirts and dresses) and menswear (elongated blazers, trench coats, trench jackets, balmacaans, chesterfields, sleeveless vests, waistcoats, tuxedos).

Richard’s fresh idea for a new suit (suits, both matched and unmatched were all over the runways by the way) is a pale gray single breasted jacket made from men’s suiting fabric, worn over a matching sleeveless fitted shirt and tailored "biker trouser shorts" (which were more like Bermudas). Two steel cotton /linen ribbed sweaters (one with a deep v and the other with a mock turtleneck) looked just great with their sleeves pushed up over a crisp white shirt and a shirtdress (respectively). Everything was accessorized with high heeled silver pumps or booties.

Reem Acra is known for her eveningwear and the 40 piece collection (whose common thread was an "emphasis on the waist and the refined feeling of luxury"), was entirely comprised of evening coats, evening separates, cocktail dresses and gowns. She cited Old Hollywood glamour with a "young, modern twist" as inspiration but unfortunately, I couldn’t help but think it looked a bit old fashioned. That said, highlights include a narrow knee length iris (purple) satin strapless dress; a white off the shoulder cotton blouse worn with a black chiffon skirt with plisse ruffle detail and another white ‘confetti lace’ blouse shown with a black knee length skirt; the gold sequined slip dress with chiffon hem; and the tulip (bright yellow) chiffon corseted top gown.

Diane Von Furstenberg is a bona fide Princess (she was married to the late Prince Egon Von Furstebnerg) but known more as the Princess of Prints. While the 44 piece collection, was not entirely prints they were certainly (as always) the main focus. Because the collection was called "Under the Volcano" (it’s "every woman’s fantasy to escape daily life for the exotic adventures of faraway shores") and the rousing song "Bali High" from "South Pacific" played as the first model came out, it was hardly surprising that the prints and patterns (many of which were oversized, bold and graphic) had a decidedly exotic, island feeling. There were printed wrap dresses, sundresses, shirtdresses, caftans, tunics, and even printed safari suits. Patterned headscarves in matching or complimentary motifs carried out the theme.

I just loved Tuleh. I thought it was wonderfully edited, perfectly proportioned, fabricated, and colored (there was no black), it did not look studied but rather personal, (actually, most of the pieces looked like something you would ‘score’ at a rarified couture auction). Above all, the models looked just great in their outfits. And at a time when tailoring and structure is beginning to look mighty good, Bryan Bradley went back to his roots and instead of a collection that was high-mindedly intellectual and deep, he gave the gals what they initially came to love him for.
Based on the cover of the show program, which was written in Italian, ("Alta Moda- in vacanza- A Nuova York"), it’s a sure bet that Bryan is having a love affair with Italy and must have vacationed somewhere fabulous (of course I think anyplace in Italy is FABULOUS) prior to conceiving the collection. Broken up into 7 passages, the 36 pieces were classic Tuleh.

Classic Tuleh Girls was all about chic, refined, elegant knee length coats, like one in an oversized bronze houndstooth lined in hot pink satin and shown over a hot pink satin dress, or the fabulous zebra printed beauty with full elbow length sleeves; The New Couture was all about the suit, as exemplified by the red skirt suit featuring a fitted jacket, ¾ sleeves and shown over a knee length pencil skirt; Le Studentesse had a chic collegiate vibe (the bias plaid knee length belted wrap coat shown over crisp white pants and fitted navy cardigan with a pearl belt sewn onto the waist and shown over an a line white skirt were perfect examples; Le Festaiole was all about dresses…cocktail dress like the tiered purple pleated knee length number or the colorful abstract face printed dress; Intermission (Beach Girls) was what else…all about swimwear (and not Speedo maillots but glamorous dressed up swimwear of the sort one would find in Capri or Portofino.

I loved the first one out…a hot pink bikini which was shown under a moss green and white abstract printed chiffon caftan coat and accessorized with a mind-blowing oversized brown leather shoulder bag with long fringes made from colorful scarves (bellissimo!); Le Principessine Borghesi was an ode to special, dressed up structured pieces, like the midnight sequined coat edged in white satin; and the finale, BB was, well, I suppose Bryan Bradley’s personal best (I coveted the ivory brocade coatdress printed with pink, silver, and gold birds and sporting an amazing jeweled belt with chiffon ties).

Philip Lim is such a hot label and was such a highly anticipated show (it was held at the Celeste Bartos Forum) that apparently, many of those with invitations and assigned seats did not make it inside. (Ironically the invitation was made to resemble an official navy blue passport so in this case, I guess you could say it for many, it was a passport to ‘nowhere’). A source told me that she showed up very early (the show was called for 6 p.m. and she arrived at about 6:05) and the people at the door were instructed by security that they could only let a specific number inside as it was already filled to capacity. And as if the Red Sea was parting, a hand went into the crowd and plucked out the likes of Hamish Bowles, Paul Cavaco, Neiman Marcus’s crew, etc. as the less important onlookers stood idly by.

Marilyn Kirschner


photo: Isabelle Erb

Nicholai Olivia Hilton, better known to the world at large as Nicky, debuted her namesake collection, Nicholai, at the tent at Bryant Park on Sunday night. This is not the first foray into fashion design for Ms. Hilton, whose other labels include the more casual "Chick" line of denim wear. Although sister Paris was nowhere to be seen, the audience of adoring Hilton fans included parents Kathy and Rick and friend Russell Simmons.

The Spring/Summer 2008 collection was playful and easy-going, featuring several outfits with short shorts and bikinis. There were bright whites as well as jewels tones and a great deal of sparkle and fine detailing in the form of beading and embroidery.

Ms. Hilton was at her best with her dresses, many of which were as interesting from the back as from the front. These looks would photograph perfectly on someone who walks the red carpet, very much like Nicky Hilton herself.

-Rhonda Erb

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Talk about ‘HOT’

Unfortunately, I’m not referring to the fashion shows. Or the shows at the Bryant Park Tents which in general, have been pretty abysmal thus far.

That said, the day got off to a rather upbeat start at the morning’s Lacoste's spring summer 2008 show, which was a celebration of its 75th anniversary (is it my imagination, or does it seem as if everyone is having an anniversary of one sort or another this year?) To fete the occasion, each seat had a complimentary oversized ‘Summer in the City’ large canvas beach bag in a wonderful, graphic, and very of the moment black and white golf ball print (which looked like large white circles). Featuring chic black and white striped handles and piped in black, it is so roomy and light, it would make a perfect travel bag, or a bag to use during fashion week. It had me speculating what Ralph Lauren might be planning as seat gifts for those in attendance at his 40th anniversary shows later in the evening. Perhaps each seat will have a Ricky bag in alligator. (Don’t laugh..if anyone can afford the generosity, it is RL).

The crisp, clean, timeless, sporty (and often unisex) collection for men and women was a tribute to the origins of the brand, and the creative director, Christophe Lemaire was admittedly inspired by the "chic, sporty elegance of the Lacoste lifestyle". It began with a group of white fitted blazers shown with pants (or skirts), wide red cummerbunds encircling the waist, and ended in a blaze of color as the company’s iconic pieces took the runway in solid eye popping shades ranging from orange, Kelly green, yellow, red, fuchsia, turquoise. In between there were great striped polos shown with high waisted trousers or shorts, some wonderful swimwear (many with cover ups), little white tennis dresses, and variations on that first cotton pique polo with the alligator logo (which had been enlarged in homage to Renee Lacoste). Lace up espadrilles (high wedges for the girls and flats for the guys) were the footwear of choice. By the way, considering the heritage of the company, could there have been a more perfect weekend to stage this show than on the weekend of the finals of the U.S. Open?

I usually find several things to like at a Twinkle by Wenlan show (the designer is known for her whimsical open weave knits). The show program promised new takes on knits, statement making prints, and a playful, sportif collection full of energy. It sounded promising but suffice it to say that none of the above were anywhere in sight.

The Temperley show (dubbed "Plage Prive") was an ode to the 20’s and the 30’s, specifically, the French seaside scenes from Deauville to Biarritz. It was not only a rather amusing ‘scene’ boasting fellow Brit front rowers like Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon (minus Yasmin) and Nick Rhoades, bona fide celebrities like Demi Moore and Molly Sims (seated next to bona fide celebrity stylist to the stars, Rachel Zoe) but the clothes were rather interesting, highly visual, graphic, and had a point of view. And as the program notes pointed out, there was far more emphasis on daywear (in the form of tailoring and innovative knitwear) than in past collections.

And the styling was right on cue. Instead of using high heels or platform wedges with everything, flat shoes (innocent MaryJanes, cap toed Chanel inspired low boots, or athletic lace ups with the look of a couture sneaker), were employed to exude the right feeling and mood. And of course, the reason Demi, Molly, Rachel, etc. were there was presumably, to scout future Red Carpet selections (which the company is known for). In that category, there were a number of elaborate, ornate, and magical evening gowns that would make quite a statement owing to their complicated handwork techniques and opulent embellishments.

Speaking of magical….the Rodarte sisters certainly took us on a magical mystery tour of sorts. And that’s even before the very first outfit came out. Showing in a vast second floor gallery in Chelsea at the hottest hour of the day, the air conditioner apparently broke, forcing them to rely on huge fans to cool the crowd (many clad in Rodarte designs). It was still a sauna with everyone fanning themselves to get some relief. At one point, someone had the brilliant idea (NOT) to add water to the fans…which is great if you’re dressed in a swimsuit…but since I was in vintage Pucci (velvet no less)…I ran from the water as fast as I could.

I found myself seated beside Marylou Luther and I couldn’t resist asking her what show (or shows) she thought was the best thus far. At first she drew a blank but then quickly said…"Yeohlee", citing its artistry AND wearability..and she singled out the group of diamante sprayed chiffon dresses (a departure for the designer who usually steers clear of embellishment).

When I asked what she thought of Proenza Shouler (shown the night before), she said she never got there because she fell and hurt herself at the Doo.Ri show (where she was sitting in the bleachers). She also told me she contacted KCD’s Ed Fillipowski (they handle Doo.Ri) to let him know her feeling about the venue (the Milk Studios) and how potentially dangerous it could be. Let me just say that I could not agree more. I cannot stand the Milk Studios for a number of reasons. The first is that it is so far West (and nowhere near public transportation) that unless you have a car and driver at your disposal, it’s impossible to get to the next show, or anywhere at all, quickly (unless of course you live in the Meatpacking District). And I too had a near accident seated in the bleachers. It was dark and the back step was black, and I lost my footing and fell as I tried to make my way to my seat. I initially thought I had broken my middle finger. Fortunately, I am fine but my finger is bruised. Nonetheless, I wish designers and pr firms would stay away from these locals.

Getting back to Rodarte…boy…the young innocent Mulleavy sisters (known for their youthful approach to elegant couture creations) have certainly grown up. Actually, they have not only grown up, they are now displaying a deliciously naughty side and have apparently lost their innocence (I guess that’s inevitable when you’ve been exposed to the fashion business after awhile).

The best way to describe the collection is that it was Punk Rock meets Couture and it was a bold move for the duo whose clothing had always been very elegant.To say it was wildly imaginative and beautifully conceived is an understatement. There was not only a fantastical side to it all, but a very dream like side (or nightmarish depending on how you see it). Styled by Camilla Nickerson, it was accessorized with Christian Louboutin’s wicked, almost scary looking sky high spiked heels covered with silver grommets (boy, if ever a shoe could be used as a weapon, this is it), and the models all sported long ponytails whose ends were dyed pink and blue courtesy Odile Gilber and the Aveda Team (this interestingly mimicked some of the pink and blue subtly tie dyed confections).

There was lots of tulle, net, chiffon, and organza and a lot of see through and lace (in one case, a sheer dress left nothing to the imagination). In fact, lingerie and underwear was another theme throughout. Slouchy spider web cardigans shot with lurex and shine, were thrown over see thru sheer tops and skin tight shiny pants, or broomstick pleated skirts. In an apparent effort to create a ‘new suit’, there were several that could only be described as deconstructed subversive takes on Chanel, including one tweed suit that was shot with lurex, and featured a slightly blouson elongated piped cardigan jacket over a full skirt. Another similar suit was done in striations of charcoal and ivory and featured a pleated skirt.

For the finale, a large metallic painted door opened and three models emerged, each wearing a sheer, voluminous floor length gown, one in black, one in a very cloud like tie dyed blue, and one in pink. In all fairness, without going back and seeing the collection up close and personal, it would be impossible to know or guess the fabrics because it was so intricate and the construction was so complicated. In addition, the models strode out quickly and there was no run of show. One thing is for certain, these young girls are major talents and are destined for success.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hurray…Things are looking up…

There were some substantial collections shown on Friday…things are definitely looking up. And of course, the gorgeous weather hasn’t hurt the first few days of New York Fashion Week. Though I myself would have preferred a bit more chill in the air. But hey…I won’t complain. It’s all about choices and options, and I am hardly going to propose just one look or just one style philosophy… As a whole, the designers who presented today did their ‘thing’ and stayed true to their design aesthetic. Which is not a bad thing.

Vera Wang’s collection was ‘very Vera’ (that would be a good name for another secondary line should she launch one) in its high/low, artsy, “nonchalant” (her words, not mine) approach to luxury. As she stated in her program notes, spring is all about the “celebration of the beauty and love of nature so prevalent in ancient Rome” with a focus on experimentation with “sensual takes on the toga”, color, and a continued emphasis on proportion and volume. Her fascination with the masterful couture cuts and details which defined the work of Madame Gres and Vionnet, was illustrated in the blousy backs (a big trend on the runways by the way), pleated bibs, and jerseys. While Vera made a point of stating that spring is more about cut and texture than ornamentation, ornamentation was very much in evidence nonetheless, finding its way on bibs decorated with colorful engineered stones and metal bouillon thread as well as chain mail that has been draped and “swagged like fabric”.

But I must say that as I looked at the 49 piece collection filled with such singular pieces as a silver lurex cotton and silk basket weave draped toga dress; an ink duchesse satin coat with brown raglan sleeves worn over a purple techno poly silk New Look skirt; a purple duchesse satin ocean blue lurex paint stroke two piece New Look dress; a sheer bronze metallic oversized cardigan worn over a silver lurex cotton and silk basket weave asymmetrically draped dress with gold paneled hem, I couldn’t help but speculate exactly how Vera plans to translate these rarified pieces for her very moderately priced Kohl’s line.

I thought Tracy Reese’s collection was charming and very well done. Concentrating on ebony and ivory, with hits of bright yellow, peacock, hydrangea, cobalt, cherry, standouts included the feminine takes on menswear (pinstripe jackets, skirts, vests, pleated skirts), an ivory blouse worn with high waisted sailor pants, the ebony sequined cardigan jacket worn with an ivory frilled shell and ebony grosgrain striped half circle skirt; the ebony sequined trompe l'oeil chemise that had the look of a separate vest and t shirt). And of course, the group of glamorous swimsuits and dresses that were shown with matching oversized fringe trimmed parasols.

As for the face framing (or face shielding) big brimmed hats (courtesy Jennifer Ouellette for Tracy Reese) which accessorized much of the collection….either Tracy is taking heed of dermatologists’ warnings about the harmful rays of the sun….or perhaps she was inspired by Marc Jacobs’ fall line which focused on statement making large brimmed chapeaux. Of course the one thing that’s obvious is that Marc will have abandoned them when he shows on Monday night and will be on to something completely different. C’est la vie!

Cynthia Rowley showed her upbeat and spirited 36 piece collection dubbed ‘Le Sportif’ at Gotham Hall on 6th avenue and 37th street (active and spectator sports were an underlying theme throughout and the show even ended with the designer and the models coming out on bicycles down the runway). While the venue is large and grand, I always find it to be a horrible place to show because the seats never seem to be graduated. Therefore, unless you were sitting in the front row, you basically could not see anything below the waist or below the knee (which was the case for me yesterday). In addition, those even with invitations were forced to wait on line outside in the heat until 1:20 (the show was called for 1 p.m.), and once inside, it was rather disorganized to say the least. But at least, each show attendee was treated to a snack of popcorn and bottled water.

By the way, several of the necklaces used caught my eye and had me checking the credits to see where they were from. I found a note card within the miniature show program stating that the jewelry featured in the show will be available on EBay starting November 15 ( . The 7th on Sale is the fashion industry’s “landmark fundraising event to benefit HIV and AIDS Organizations". For more information, contact Laura Thomas at or 212 221 1713.

FYI, thought I’d mention that perhaps one positive aspect of showing at Gotham Hall (or the Bryant Park Tents for that matter) is it’s close proximity to the ‘granddaddy’ of all notion stores, M&J Trimming, (, located at 1008 on 6th Avenue between 37th and 38th streets. Whether you have a last minute ‘wardrobe malfunction’, need to replace a button, want some colored ribbon, are beset with the sudden urge to make over your outfit du jour, or just want to buy a great looking blazer crest (they are hotter than hot these days as you know)….you will undoubtedly find what you’re looking for (and then some) at this vast store.

Gilles Mendel labeled his spring collection a “study in sophisticated contrasts” and cited “the polished sexiness of a Guy Bourdin photo mixed with the couture sophistication of the New Look” as his inspiration. And of course, since he is a furrier first and foremost (and a pioneer at that), and one who believes strongly that fur is just another fabric…there will always be furs (broadtail, mink, dyed lamb)…even for spring and summer. Where else are you going to find a degrade lamb sleeveless tunic paired with camel suede shorts? However, I have to say that I didn’t love the day portion of the line as much as I normally do, and found some of it to be a bit too contrived and over worked. That said, Gilles never disappoints with his Red Carpet worthy graceful, and floaty organza, mousseline, tulle, satin faced chiffon and Chantilly laced evening gowns (some were smocked or pleated) which also look beautiful from any angle (front, side, and back).. Which also happens to be a ‘trend’ on the runways thus far.

Speaking of which….Award winning designer, Doo.Ri Chung ended her show with several beautiful and graceful gowns (in satin organza or jersey, all with net overlays…her signature) that were also beautiful from any angle. In fact, the backs of her dresses, long or short (like those at Vera Wang and Gilles Mendel), were so arresting that in one case, Bill Cunningham (who never lets a good shot get away) quickly moved from his front row seat in one part of the room to another just to get the perfect angle. Of course, the gowns were just a small part of her beautiful 36 piece collection which was shown on the ground floor of the Milk Studios. Refined, inventive and elegantly modern, it perfectly illustrated her adeptness with draping, and innovative fabric combinations. Relying on a soft neutral color palette (pale lilac, bone, khaki, aubergine, blackberry, boysenberry, and black), she easily went from abbreviated and lean to long and languid as she played with length, proportion, and volume.

While Doo.Ri is apparently taken with a high waisted wide legged pant this season, she also showed high wasted shorts. Skirts also ran the gamut in terms of length and silhouette. Many tops had built in bra or corset details, and layering was used throughout. A bit of shine came in the form of Swarovski crystal embroidery and accessories. What would a Doo.Ri show be without a trench coat? Nothing of course (she showed a beautiful version in bone cotton which appeared to have layered sleeves, throwing it over a short strapless dress).

-Marilyn Kirschner

Snoopy in Fashion

All photos Isabelle Erb

As the fashion set converged on the Tent at New York’s Bryant Park Friday night to attend the much anticipated snoopy in Fashion Show, everyone was ready for some fun. I dare say no one was disappointed. After all, this is not the first time that the venerable beagle (he is 57 years old, that’s 399 in dog years), has had a brush with fashion. A previous collection of miniature garments designed for Snoopy by some of the world’s most famous designers (Armani, Versace, Lagerfeld) continues to tour museums and galleries throughout the world. The current collection of designs for the “world’s most famous beagle” and the rest of the Peanut’s gang, was created by a group of more than 20 designers and celebrities, including Isaac Mizrahi, Kristen Chenoweth, Betsey Johnson, and Whoopi Goldberg.

The show, presented by MetLife, began with the voice of Jeanie Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, who gave a brief history of the comic strip. Then the ever-familiar Vince Guaraldi music was heard against a backdrop of classic images of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the others, before the switch was made to a more modern soundtrack. The looks that followed were interpretations of the familiar characters, in whimsical, exasperated, melancholic, reflective, and exuberant moods. The production was staged with just enough whimsy to keep everyone entertained, and the designs were not only fun and playful, many were attractive and quite wearable as well.

Isaac Mizrahi’s shimmery, yellow Charlie Brown dress, which started the show, featured the classic zigzag stripe, and was long on sex appeal. As was The Blonds bright magenta Charlie dress, which was slit high on the leg. Kristen Chenoweth depicted Sally with a short, frothy, empire-waisted tulle dress. Who knew that Charlie Brown’s little sister was a party girl?

Of course, the Beagle of the hour himself made an appearance to close the evening. A plush costumed character walked the runway with model Omayra, who was dressed in a short wedding dress by Heatherette, replete with tiny stuffed Snoopys.

All the original designs will be available to the highest bidders in an eBay ( auction to be held from October 1 to October 31, 2007. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to Dress For Success, a ten-year-old non-profit organization that assists women in entering the work force and gaining financial independence. Guests who attended the show, left with a big shopping bag full of Peanuts’ goodies, including a camera, a journal, and everyone’s favorite Snoopy Sno-Cone machine.

-Rhonda Erb

Friday, September 07, 2007

Where oh where are the clothes to wear?

Yeohlee collection (photo by Anna Bayle)

Day two and all I can say is….where are all the chic, ‘wearable’, flattering, and desirable clothes? As a woman who wants to look smart, chic, pulled together, individual, and not dull or matronly, I haven’t really found much thus far that I myself deem appropriate, or that I would personally care to wear…with a few exceptions…but more on those later. Unfortunately, I did not go to Thom Browne’s show (whose location was alas, one of the ‘best kept secrets’ on the planet). But since I love his aesthetic, and I’m very into menswear inspired tailoring at the moment (and the no nonsense, non fussy, and non fashiony aspect of menswear), I’m sure I would have found something there…even though it was all for the boys.

Quite frankly, after looking at the runways…and the show attendees, these past few days, I find myself going back to what Ralph Lauren, soon to celebrate his 40th anniversary, told Elle Magazine (in the September issue): "It may sound strange, but I’m somewhat anti fashion. Overly stylish people sometimes look wrong. I’m more about living- how great people look in the right clothes, in the right environment"! That my friends….is ‘it’ in a nutshell!

Interestingly, as I walked up 5th Avenue from the Bryant Park Tents the other day, the ONE woman who caught my eye, was not wearing a tricky, contrived outfit, while teetering around on unwieldy high heels, but was turned out in an impeccably tailored black pantsuit with a crisp white shirt. The jacket had double vents in back and her pants were slightly rolled up to above the ankle…all the better to reveal the black ribbon from her flat black espadrilles that encircled her ankles and enabled her to easily stride along the avenue.

The look was unstudied, chic, timeless, seasonless, and comfortable. And she made it her own. I do not understand how women can go to shows or work all day wearing very high heels or platforms all day long (nor do I find it attractive to see a woman who can’t walk in uncomfortable shoes). I think the notion of chic implies comfort. As Geoffrey Beene once said, "a woman must be able to do headstands" in his clothes (or something along those lines).

Well, in any event, comfort is probably not THE most important ingredient for Miss Sixty, (the first show of the day I attended) but there was plenty of sportswear, knitwear, easy dresses, etc. within the lineup. They bill themselves as an "Italian lifestyle brand famous for its trend setting denim" and boasted Demi Moore, seated front row center. I actually did not think it was Ms. Moore at first, since she looked far skinnier and far younger than I had thought. But when I spotted her red Kabala bracelet, I knew it was her. And of course, the paparazzi feeding frenzy was a dead give away.

According to the show notes, spring summer 2008 is all about ‘duality’, and Creative Director and Co-Founder, Wichy Hassan, drew inspiration from Andy Warhol’s 1966 cult art-house film. But the best way to describe the 49 piece collection is "Ghetto Fabulous"…sexy, out there clothes (mini dresses, short shorts, skinny jeans, high heels, lots of skin, lots of gold chains, lots of lame, lots of shine, lots of ‘everything’) that are not for the timid or the faint of heart.

In fact, many of the outfits had J.Lo ‘written’ all over them, particularly the large brimmed hats with clear plastic brims. Best pieces were the patterned jersey knits that recalled Missoni’s zig zag, flame stitched sweaters from the 70’s; the simple, abbreviated, two tone chiffon dresses; the graphic and oversized circle prints and patterns that were a recurring theme; and interesting use of their over scaled logo…found in one OVERSIZED shoulder bag (it bigger than the model who was toting it) and a nylon trench.

I think the best thing that could be said about the Bill Blass collection, shown informally from 11-1PM at the Celeste Bartos Forum at The New York Public Library, is that it was short, to the point, well edited and certainly looked more youthful than seasons past (no jarring colors or patterns…nothing forced, obvious, over the top, or ‘in your face’).

The 28 pieces (which were shown on models vignette style), were admittedly inspired by the Bill Blass archives and were selected for their "subtle embroideries and couture techniques". ‘The Bill Blass Design Studio’ as they call themselves (they apparently don’t want to ‘advertise’ their names since the label has had such bad karma with past designer collaborations) collectively made the decision to leave the daywear and impeccable tailoring (a signature of Bill Blass), to the showroom and make a statement with the frothy, feminine "party dresses" which recalled the "remarkable women who wore them" and paid homage to the PYT’s (Pretty Young Things). Certainly, there was no denying that the models were all PYT’s themselves. But let’s face it, Bill Blass the brand was all about Bill Blass the man. How long can the company survive on archives alone?

The Cynthia Steffe collection, entitled, ‘Sonic’, marked the debut of Waleed Khairzsada (formerly of the now defunct label Naum). Waleed stated that his inspiration was "energy, vibrant colors, sport motifs and movement and the collection was all about "vitality and shapes, new proportions and reworking of classics" but unfortunately, it just didn’t add up and the clothes did not merit a runway presentation. One does not need to stage a fashion show to present a line of long droopy dresses and lifeless prints. The high points were the abbreviated, art inspired color blocked dresses which had some energy and pizzazz but there were not enough of those pieces.

Badgley Mischka was a rather joyless collection to say the least. While the popular and dapper duo cited "easy languor with precise tailoring inspired by American expatriates like F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, traveling the world on Art Deco ocean liners" as inspiration, these were just words. Face it guys, you are not sportswear designers (the khaki cotton gabardine trench dress was alright but do we really need to go to Badgley Mischka for a khaki cotton gabardine trench dress?) The suits (matched and unmatched) looked old fashioned and contrived and hardly modern, the hats were silly, the swimwear was tacky and the models looked like amateurs. As for evening (the place where the guys made their name), among the standouts were a group of ombre chiffon dresses and gowns in shades of white, Aegean, cobalt, peppermint and ultramarine…some with jeweled straps.

Getting back to Yeohlee, she is arguably one of the most consistent designers today. Her collection, shown at the elegant W Hotel in Union Square, was quite frankly, one of Yeohlee’s best, making perfect use of her architectural vocabulary that relies on arcs and ellipses.

Citing inspiration from "A post-apocalyptic world, with a nomadic lifestyle influenced by conservation and the environment", it was simply chic and deceivingly simple and the designer experimented with crafting a square box from cloth. The color palette was rigorously edited down to white, ivory, mocha, stone, straw, midnight, and shades of gray. The latter made quite a statement, and was most effective when shades, from light to dark, were mixed together, and when fabrics and textured were mixed. This was exemplified by Yeohlee’s smoke silk chiffon ‘oval’ blouse and silvery gray double face duchesse satin ‘pyramid’ skirt (which had the dramatic effect of an ankle length narrow column), and most notably, her face framing, narrow ¾ sleeved silvery grey double face silk duchesse satin ‘crescent’ jacket worn over a smoke silk chiffon ellipse blouse and her signature high waisted, lean charcoal Egyptian cotton pants.

One of Yeohlee’s strengths has always been her coats, and this season, was no exception. My favorite was the luminous ivory and stone gloss cotton ‘arch’ coat (3/4 length and collarless) which was worn over an ivory cotton jersey and sandstone Egyptian cotton high waisted narrow pants. And by the way, it was not surprising that the Museum at FIT’s chief curator, Dr. Valerie Steele, wearing an architectural textured black cotton coat by Yeohlee, accessorized by crisp white pants, flat sandals, and a large red bag, was one of the best dressed women in the room.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, September 06, 2007

If it's must be Friday?

Time was, you could automatically tell what day of the week it was during New York Fashion Week by simply consulting the show schedule. That was then and this is now. …
Because the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is falling very early this year- it begins at sunset Wednesday, September 12th - instead of running from Friday to Friday, the shows were moved down (Wednesday to Wednesday) in order to accommodate the faithful.

‘Oy Vey’…talk about disorienting! Especially when you consider that Fashion Week started just days after the Labor Day weekend, forcing show goers to acclimate themselves and abruptly deal with the rude awakening that summer has ended and kids are going back to school (business as usual). And on top of that, when you factor in that even though Fashion Week formally began yesterday, at Bryant Park, from the look of things, it appears to have really started last Monday, at Flushing Meadows to be exact. "Tennis, Anyone?"

An impeccably tailored black tuxedo, an $800 haircut, a crystal embellished short bias cut red dress worn with black waist length jacket sporting billowy mesh sleeves, a little black dress trimmed with pink satin bow, statement making gigantic bags in high gloss patent, enormous gold hoops, pearls. No, I'm not describing the clothing, accessories, or grooming of models sasyhing down runways during fashion week, but rather, top seeded tennis players making their way on center court.

While fashion and athletics is hardly a new ‘marriage’ (especially as it relates to tennis), I don't think I've ever seen so much focus and talk directed at the fashion statements ON the court as this year. There have been countless articles on the subject and last week, during his on air commentary, the ‘bad boy’ of tennis, John McEnroe & Company pulled a little ‘Cathy Horyn’ as they critiqued the clothing and accessories worn by the world’s most glamorous and top seeded players (both men and women). As they pointed out, not only are these great looking amazons (yeah…the women are generally 5’9" and over, making them perfect mannequins) at the top of their game in terms of sport, but they’re at the top of their fashion game. It’s not just about playing good but looking good!

John even mentioned Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour, her appearance at a Roger Federer match (which was the subject of a full page picture in The New York Post), and her apparent crush on the world’s number one player. By the way, while I didn’t spot Anna at Wednesday’s BCBG Max Azria show, where the run of show announced that it’s "A Lifestyle Brand" and "A Growing Retail Presence" (several of Vogue’s top editors did sit front row center), nor did I see her at Alexandre Herchcovitch where first and second row seats had to be filled in at the last moment (where was everyone?) and show attendees were treated to gifts of comfy pillows made from colorful Brazilian cotton (which had nothing to do with the almost red, black, and white menswear inspired clothing), she did show up at the Erin Fetherston show with not ONE but THREE bodyguards in tow. Now, can anybody explain why the fur loving Vogue editor, (who may well need bodyguards in the winter, to shield her from PETA protesters), requires a squad of burly bodyguards in September? Is she really concerned her little silk printed dress and cardigan sweater will incite the ire of the group?

Getting back to tennis, John also spent several minutes speaking about Roger Federer’s ‘black tie’ tennis duds (at night he's been playing in urban chic all black, with tuxedo striped Bermudas, jazzy up black tennis shoes, and oversized high gloss black patent bag slung over his shoulders) and his Sally Hershberger $800 haircut).

Certainly, it was hard NOT to notice that the Williams Sisters have been making quite a splash as usual (in their own designs), and Maria Sharapova, who played at night in a little red dress with jewel encrusted bib, went on record with the admission that when she puts on a great looking dress and some lipstick, and looks at her reflection in the mirror, she says to herself, "I’m the bomb!". Well, so much for great clothes being a panacea for everything….Maria was outplayed nonetheless, and Serena (little black dress and all) fell victim to a rather style-less but talented Justine Henin.

Oh, and by the way, speaking of fashion and tennis, Polo Ralph Lauren is a sponsor of the U.S. Open (as if you didn’t know). Could the designer’s signature embroidered polo pony be any LARGER on the t shirts worn by the ball boys (and girls)? And apparently, some fashionistas would rather attend a tennis match than a fashion show. A well respected high profile fashion insider (who shall remain nameless) told me she was going to the U.S. Open finals on Sunday and she would be missing some ‘important’ fashion shows. It’s obvious that Anna will also miss certain key shows if and when Roger Federer lands in the men’s final. (If you recall, Anna missed Diane Von Furstenberg’s Spring 2007 Show last year when she attended the men’s final which Roger Federer was playing in and won).

And on another note…we are embarking on yet another round of shows and yet another fashion cycle and so it’s not surprising that many of us will ponder the meaning or importance of fashion. Regarding, "Admit it. You Love It. It Matters" by Guy Trebay, in the Sunday ‘Style’ section of The New York Times, September 2. Whenever the subject of fashion comes up (vis a vis its inherent superficiality, materialism, vanity, and unimportance in light of more important issues)...what never fails to come to mind is the decades old television commercial for Barneys New York which speaks volumes about fashion’s universality. It ‘portrays’ a young Barney Pressman (the store’s founder) as a little boy (impeccably dressed and groomed even then) and is shot in black and white, as if to mimic New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the century, When asked by a friend, "What do you want to be, Little Barney, when you grow up?" His immediate response is, "I don't know but we're all gonna need clothes!"

-Marilyn Kirschner

Y & K (photo Isabelle Erb)

Y& Kei Water the Earth

Y & Kei Water the Earth described 2008 spring/summer collection as "a modern, sophisticated interpretation of the core ideas of the ’60s (rebellion, love, peace, and freedom)". Foregoing the traditional runway show in favor of a presentation in the elegant Celeste Bartos Forum, located in the New York Public Library, their "Urban Hippie" collection was filled with tailored and blouson dresses, long flowing silk skirts and delicate tops. Colors and fabrics were a study in contrast as bright yellow and hot pink linen mixed with subtle silver and grey cotton and black silk chiffon and crepe. Equally noteworthy were the brightly colored, wide strapped, ultra high wedgies that the models wore on their feet.

Zang Toi

One of the A list parties of Wednesday night was the Zang Toi Charity Fashion Show for the Lance Armstrong Foundation "Uniting People To Fight Cancer". Guests paid from $300 to $1000 per ticket to attend the event that was held at the Bo Concept store in Midtown Manhattan.

The highlight of the evening was Zang Toi’s presentation of his sumptuous "Chinoiserie Garden" collection. There was also a live auction and a performance by legendary singer Patti Labelle. Ms. Labelle paid tribute to the ever-charismatic designer while the adoring crowd looked on.
After the show, those in attendance were invited to "meet and greet" Zang Toi, Patti Labelle and the models while Team Toi members (clad in black Team Toi T shirts) passed sweets by Daniel Boulud and savory hors d’ oeuvres and champagne. As the party wound down, guest could be found dancing, lounging on the BoConcept beds and sofas or posing for photos with Zang Toi himself.

-Rhonda Erb