Saturday, October 27, 2007


So, what does one wear to a black tie gala -- Fashion Group International’s 24th Annual 'Night of Stars' to be exact-- when it’s in honor of "ten stellar honorees whose generous spirit and creativity have made a significant impact on design and culture"?

While the popular fall event, attended by more than 500 movers and shakers from the worlds of fashion, beauty, cinema, architecture, the arts, finance, and politics (yes, even Mayor Bloomberg was there) went by the title, ‘The Rule Breakers", the trend was not about breaking rules as much doing one’s own thing or simply looking pretty darn good. Short (meaning not floor length) definitely overshadowed long, and dresses overshadowed pants, but personal style has less to do with a particular style or length, and is more about choosing something that is in harmony with oneself. This was epitomized by Lauren Bacall, who turned out in her signature black pantsuit, accompanying Superstar honoree Jean Paul Gaultier, and proving one need not be a fashion victim in order to make a statement. In the end, perhaps that’s the definition of ‘rule breakers’…those who do their own thing and follow their instincts, no matter what.

Other standouts from my point of view included Anna Wintour in a full skirted ankle length floral dress (Prada?) with of course, nary a hair out of place; Constance White, in Alber Elbaz’s signature full sleeved black knee length dress (you know the dress…the one that’s been photographed everywhere ); Tilda Swinton in a black long toga like dress by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin as well; Julie Gilhart, looking very minimalist in her black dress, black opaque tights, and black suede tall boots (Tom Meier for Bottega Veneta?), Isabel Toledo in a beautiful white long sleeved dress by her own design (of course); Linda Fargo, looking glamourous in a form fitting knee length black dress, which boasted an asymmetrical one shouldered top entirely outlined with a silver metallic snake; Sally Singer, a vision in architectural white by Hussein Chalayan; and FGI’s Creative Director, Marylou Luther in a vintage Geoffrey Beene architectural black satin clutch coat.

And as for the guys….well, even though the invitation said ‘Black Tie’, interestingly (or not), many of those being honored, either disregarded the directive, or they did it their way (hey, the night is all about breaking the rules, remember?) And so, while Howard Socol and Hussein Chalayan, went traditional in their white shirts and black or dark suits and ties, Alber Elbaz accessorized his dark suit with a white shirt and his signature oversized white bow tie; Jean Paul Gaultier and Tomas Meier were monotone and tie less in their black shirts and black suits; Rick Owens was decked out in his trademark all black, via a dramatic, black sculptural coat, and André Leon Talley made the most colorful grand entrance in a voluminous red floor length Valentino couture dressing gown, thrown over a white shirt and worn with a red tie. Barneys’ Simon Doonan, the evening’s ‘host’ who practically wrote the book on breaking rules, wore a traditional dark suit, white shirt, and black tie, but added an unexpected touch with his black and white Adidas running shoes.

As for the actual awards and speeches, well, let’s just say it was a grand old ‘love fest’ on stage, a time to gush and the sing praises of those being honored. Of course, there were also some interesting words spoken along the way. After Josie Natori received the Humanitarian Award from Sandy Weill, she announced that her ultimate fantasy would " to BE Brooke Astor, or Sandy Weill if I was a man".

Vogue’s Sally Singer hailed Hussein Chalayan as a "creator of some of the most beautiful clothes" which also happen to be practical and factor in the social and political landscape. For his part, Hussein said that he’s not used to these awards since he’s always felt like an outsider in fashion ("which makes it a real honor be the recipient", as he put it). He also said that he "appreciates longevity.. which is not normal for fashion". (No kidding!)

Carolina Herrera labeled Beauty Award recipient Dr. Patricia Wexler (her friend and doctor) "A Magician", "The Magical Doctor". For her part, Dr. Wexler said she was always considered eccentric even as a child and "Barbie was my first patient…though sometimes we lost her". She also noted, "I was one of the first women dermatologists to do cosmetic procedures" and said, "Great skin is not a luxury but a necessity. It’s wonderful to have a dream and break rules."

Julie Gilhart introduced Tomas Meier and told the assembled crowd that he is "on his way to creating the single best luxury house in the world". "His designs are as understated as they are extraordinary and exhibit a commitment to craft, authenticity and integrity". "It’s all about pursuing only the best". When Tomas came up for his award, his 3 second speech, "Thank You" (the shortest one of all), met with thunderous applause, proving that one rule award winners should keep in mind, is to keep their speeches short and sweet.

Marylou Luther described the first time she laid eyes on Rick Owen’s almost all black collection ("Goth Heaven") and introduced him as "the one, the only, THE original, Rick Owens". Rick truly seemed in awe of the event, and truly surprised at having been selected to receive an award and called himself "lucky", a word that was used by several honorees during their thank you speeches.

Tilda Swinton spoke of the "transforming power of Alber Elbaz’s clothes" as well as his wonderful human nature ("he’s the Real McCoy"). When Alber came on stage, he gave one of the most heartfelt speeches, ending it with the astute observation, "Success is like a bottle of perfume; if you just smell it, it’s wonderful, but if you drink it, it will kill you". It was the best quote of the evening.

Anna Wintour introduced Corporate Leadership Award winner Howard Socol saying "he presides over the chicest show in New York…he’s a wonderful asset to the wonderful world of fashion." Howard summed up what makes Barneys different from other stores ("We don’t buy stuff. We buy great designer ideas and imagination"). He also noted that at the famed retail outpost, "Imagination and creativity are cherished. We’ve proved that we can be different AND successful. Humor is in our DNA. I’m lucky to have a job that is not a job but a gift. I’m a lucky guy." (You see, there’s that word, ‘luck’ again!)

Jennifer Hudson introduced Lord & Taylor Fashion Oracle Award recipient André Leon Talley who thanked his "friend and boss" Anna Wintour for allowing him to "oraclize".

When Jean Paul Gaultier took the stage to receive his Superstar Award from Kerry Washington, he humbly observed, "There are many superstars here. Maybe they gave it (the award) to me because I’m the oldest." Talk about a class act.

And speaking of class acts - awaiting each guest as they exited Cipriani 42nd Street, was a rather generous gift bag: a very smart looking black quilted nylon oversized tote with black patent handles and trim, made exclusively for Fashion Group by Wathne and filled with a variety of products (which also made it quite heavy). One gentleman who tried leaving with two, one in each hand, (he was stopped at the door), apparently knew what he was doing.

The bag was more than worth its ‘weight’, filled unsurprisingly, with products and goodies from the evening’s sponsors and from designers being honored. You could do a lot worse than receiving a beautifully packaged Ebel ball point pen trimmed with luggage leather, a black and white chiffon scarf from Rick Owens, eau du partum from both Lanvin and Jean Paul Gaultier ("Rumeur" and "Gaultier 2"), skin beautifying products from Dr. Patricia Wexler, gift certificates from Lord & Taylor and Madame Paulette, an Assouline coffee table book ("So Far So Goude" by Eric Goude), a bottle of wine from Ecco Domani, etc. It made me think that the letters FGI (Fashion Group International) could easily stand for "Fabulous Gift Initiative".

And a final note of praise for Margaret Hayes who was in charge of putting the event together, And for Diane Clehane who did her usual fine job of wrangling the press.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rules TO Thumb

We're just days away from Fashion Group International's 24th Annual Night of Stars (, which this year, as you already know, is dedicated to "The Rule Breakers" (how could you NOT love that one?). In fact, the subject matter so peeked my curiostiy, (I for one, have always been drawn to anything that is not traditional, by the books, or predictable), I decided to go directly to the source (FGI's inscrutable and highly revered Fashion Director, Marylou Luther) to find out what how she and the organization defines the term "Rule Breakers" and how they made their choices for this year's honorees.

And so, in Ms. Luther's own words (who could say it better, after all?): "The honorees all "did it their way." And in most instances that meant breaking rules.

If any designer ever broke the fashion barriers, it's Jean PaulGaultier (the recepient of this year's Superstar Award). Bernardine Morris, then the fashion reporter for The NewYork Times, once scolded him for his collection referencing orthodoxJews. And his torpedo-like bustiers for Madonna helped secure him aplace in feminist history.

And the rules that say you can't move from Paris (Rick Owens) and find a receptive audience; or that you can'tcreate clothes that change shape with some presto-chango circuitry(Hussein Chalayan); or that you can't be a nice guy and make clothes thatare both runway-worthy and wearable (Alber Elbaz); or that you can'tinvolve a couture sensibility for fabric, workmanship and details incommercially viable ready-to-wear couture (Bottega Veneta designer, Tomas Maier)."

The aforementioned are all Star Honorees in the category of Fashion and in addition to this group, Dr. Patricia Wexler is being honored in the Beauty category, Zaha Hadid is being honored in the Architecture category, Steven Klein is being honored in th Media category, and Howard Socol, Barneys New York, is being honored in the Corporate Leadership category. Josie Natori will receive the Humanitarian Award and Andre Leon Talley will receive the Lord & Taylor Fashion Oracle Award. The host of the evening will be (very fittingly I might add), Simon Doonan, Barneys' visual guru and perhaps one of the most celebrated 'rule breakers" of all time .

In keeping with the evening's tempting theme, I'm still trying to figure out what would be the most 'rule breaking' attire for the night. And since I am usually not the one wearing a long gown, or anything else that is traditionally 'evening attire' or 'black tie', this is, as they say, "right up my alley".

--Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, October 15, 2007

Opening Reception for "Chic Chicago" at the Museum of F.I.T.

Elsa Schiaparelli, evening dress and jacket, silk crepe, embroidery, and beading, embroidery design by Jean Cocteau, 1937 France

This past Friday evening was the opening reception for Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum at the Museum at the Fashion Insititute of Technology. Over 200 invited guests enjoyed cocktails and gourmet treats with Dr. Valerie Steele and Timothy Long, the co-curators of the exhibition, who played hosts for the evening.

Cocktails dresses: left is Christian Lacroix; right is Christian Dior

The Chicago History Museum has one of America’s finest collections of fashionable dress. Chic Chicago provides the rare opportunity to see 50 of the greatest couture treasures from the collection of the Chicago History Museum, ranging from Gilded Age gowns by Worth, Doucet and Pingat to modernist masterpieces by Chanel, Schiaparelli and Vionnet, and what might be termed postmodernist designs by designers as varied as Cristobal Balenciaga, Jacques Fath, and Gianni Versace.

Emile Pingat, formal afternoon or dinner dress. 1878

Naturally, there are also important fashions by Chicago’s own great designers, Charles James and Mainbocher. Only a few individual pieces from the Chicago History Museum have ever been shown in New York City (most recently in the Poiret exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Indeed, even in Chicago, there has never been a comparable exhibition of couture masterpieces from the permanent collection.At a time when museum fashion exhibitions arouse tremendous popular interest, Chicago’s emphasis on provenance provides important and fascinating information that is not always available in other exhibitions, which are often drawn primarily from the designers’ own archives. Among the ensembles that testify to Chicago’s sense of style are Mrs. Robert McCormick Adams’ Lanvin wedding dress, lavishly embroidered Callot Soeurs dresses from the wardrobe of Mrs. Potter Palmer II, and a Balenciaga evening gown worn by Clare Booth Luce.

Design by Charles Frederick Worth - photo Anna Bayle

Indeed, the entire exhibition is a testimony to the great women of style who supported innovative fashion designers and then donated their clothes to a museum that would preserve them for future generations.A true museological collaboration, Chic Chicago has been organized by Timothy Long, curator of costumes at the Chicago History Museum, and Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT. Chic Chicago will travel back to the Chicago History Museum from The Museum at FIT and be on view in Spring 2008. This exhibition is made possible by the COSTUME COUNCIL of the Chicago History Museum and the COUTURE COUNCIL of The Museum at FIT.

Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum: October 12, 2007 – January 5, 2008. For more information contact: Brenda Perez, Director of Media Relations 212-217-4700

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wag the "Tongue"

Marc Jacobs Spring 2008 show in New York - Photo: Randy Brooke

I don’t really understand why anybody should have been shocked or surprised that the reigning ‘Bad Boy of Fashion’ Marc Jacobs (who must feel as though he is at a point where he can get away with just about ANYTHING), ended his Louis Vuitton show in Paris by taking a walk down the runway and playfully (or defiantly) sticking his tongue out. It had been reported initially, that his specific ‘target’ was The International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes, who gave Marc’s New York show, which started two hours late, a scathing review; but apparently, this was a misunderstanding and it was not directed at anyone in particular. (Perhaps it was just directed at all of us in fashion- editors, retailers, or the world at large. But Marc, don’t forget that they say: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”).

I mean, really, could I be the only person who remembered that among the statement making surrealist headband/hats (created by the brilliant British milliner Stephen Jones exclusively for Marc Jacobs’ show in New York,) there was a fetching one prominently displaying a tongue sticking out of a model’s mouth while she’s making a face. This is precisely what Marc did about one month later on the final day of the Paris Collections. Talk about ‘From runway to reality’!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All The News That's Fit to 'Print'

New York designer Ralph Rucci showing his Spring 2008 rtw & couture collections in Paris
photo: Randy Brooke

The month long, bi-annual round of shows, which have officially ended, are akin to a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, with each city (New York, London, Milan, and Paris) filling in a section of the puzzle as the collections there unfold. Undisputedly, Paris, which is the last stop (save the "best for last"?), is also the city where everything comes together; the place where trends that first begin to crystallize in New York, are truly validated.

It became immediately apparent during the first few days of New York Fashion Week that THE BIG STORY for spring summer 2008 would be prints and patterns of all kinds. This subsequently played out internationally. There were geometrics, scribbles, graffiti, dots, circles and stripes. Perhaps newest of all, were the hand painted abstracts inspired by famous artists (the sort that Ralph Rucci has long been known for), and of course, florals. In fact, there were seemingly so many floral prints (often worked together in mismatched combinations as seen at Dries Van Noten) and floral accessories presented this time around, the world will likely resemble one big botanical garden if the designers have their way. If nothing else, I can promise you that if you are headed to a large gala or a cocktail party at some glorious garden, you will easily find something to wear.

By the way, speaking of Ralph Rucci, while I was sorry to have missed Ralph Rucci’s stunning show (he showed both ready to wear and haute couture in Paris this time, foregoing New York), I cannot think of a New York designer whose aesthetic, workmanship, and artistry are more befitting the prestigious Paris ‘stage’, than he.

When it comes to prints, I have always gravitated to bold graphic patterns, finding florals to be a bit, well, prissy, saccharine, and old fashioned. Michael Kors, for one, channeled the masters of French Impressionism through his small scaled soft, pale, poetic florals which were usually translated onto chiffon. Though they were pretty, they did not personally excite me. And more importantly, they can be ‘aging’.

There are notable exceptions of course. One runway where florals took on a life of their own and were given a whole other dimension was unsurprisingly in Paris, at Balenciaga, where Nicolas Guesquiere continued to cement his place as one of the most highly revered and influential designers on the planet. No soft, prissy, florals for him. His are neither pale, sheer, floaty, wispy, or for the faint of heart. They are strong, big, bold, and translated onto gustsy stiff fabrics and rendered as short, taut, body hugging, architectural, molded shapes.

Although admittedly prints may not be for everyone, there is no denying that they can go a long way in revving up your wardrobe and even a small dose packs a wallop. There is something to be said about a flash of uplifting joyful color and/or pattern.

In the meantime, no discussion of color, prints, or patterns, would be complete without mentioning Pucci. The runways have been ablaze with geometrics, abstracts, and florals that bear more than a passing resemblance to the distinctive and signature prints that put Emilio on the map more than 50 years ago. In fact, one might have assumed from the look of things that this season would have been a perfect time for yet another Pucci ‘revival’. But unfortunately, in a veritable city to city sea of prints and patterns, the ones that were suggested in Milan by Matthew Williamson, the current head of design for Pucci, were rather lackluster and uninspiring to say the least. Even with the giant conglomerate LVMH spearheading the iconic label, they just cannot seem to find a designer who successfully moves the collection forward while honoring the amazingly rich archives. Although, when I saw pictures of Christian Lacroix’s latest efforts for his eponymous French label (he had been head of design for Pucci several years back), many had a decidedly Pucci ‘vibe’ and I couldn’t help but think this exuberant print and color loving designer was truly the most perfect ‘fit’.

Somehow, I always feel that the new stuff cannot hold a candle to the vintage, archival pieces (stains and all). Needless to say, I’m happy I’ve been prudent and smart enough to hold onto most of my distinctive vintage pieces. Right about now, I’m sure, scores of women are scratching their heads and thinking how crazy they were to have given away all their vintage Pucci dresses, blouses, skirts, and pants; mistakenly thinking they’d never wear them again. As they say in fashion, "Never say never".

And for heaven’s sake, please don’t listen to those so called ‘fashion experts’ who wish to remind their audience that there are certain fashion ‘rules’ to obey: like not wearing white after Labor Day; or the one that says if you wore a trend the first time…don’t wear it again.. What a laugh and what a stupid rule. Any way, rules are meant to be broken, n’est past?

What with Global Warming and other practical issues, there ARE no rules any more. Actually, there are almost no seasons anymore (look how positively summer like it is in October). White after Labor Day? You bet! Black in the summer? Perfect! Bare legs in the winter? Why not? Boots in the summer? You see it all the time. Cotton in the winter? Certainly! Fur in the summer…touché! And mark my words…the flowers that budded for spring will continue into the next fall season as well. As will other prints and patterns. Why? Because, while women always need simple, chic, and straightforward clothing, they also crave ‘special’ pieces, pieces with some excitement and pizzazz. What better way to add interest than through printed matter?

Oh, and before I forget, as if to perfectly illustrate the beauty inherent in breaking rules, Fashion Group International’s Annual Night of Stars, (, to be held October 25th at Cipriani 42nd street, is called, ‘The Rule Breakers’. On that evening the organization will honor ‘Superstar’ rule breaker Jean-Paul Gaultier with a supporting cast of celebrated rule breaking ‘Star Honorees’: Hussein Chalayan, Alber Elbaz, Tomas Maier, and Rick Owens. My suggestion for perfect attire for a night of cocktails and dinner? Well, let’s put it this way, I would probably opt for something other than that trusty yet plain little black dress.
On second thought, go for it!

-Marilyn Kirschner