Saturday, January 26, 2008


Keynote speaker Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines

The Fashion Group International held their 11th Annual Rising Star Awards at a new venue yesterday and The Rainbow Room was the perfect locale for the awards luncheon as it has gained considerable momentum and notoriety in recent years. The 420 - plus crowd was wowed by the glam new setting so much so that they chose to linger over the cocktail hour (the Bellinis were a huge hit) but once inside, the awards and award winners were the main attraction.

Holly Dunlap with the Accessories winner Kara Ross

FGI's president Margaret Hayes moved things along at a good pace so guests could enjoy the lunch, gain pearls of wisdom from keynote speaker and newly minted best selling author Cathie Black ("Dress for the job want, not the job you have"), the hear the presenters sing the praises of each finalist in the categories and enjoy the refreshingly brief remarks of the winners.

Peter Som with Jason Wu

Women's RTW winner Jason Wu seemed as happy to have a chance to eat "real food" as he was to be named winner over the impressive finalists Joshua Robert Hupper and Miyako Nakamura for Adept, Alexander Wang, Christian Cota, Gustavo Cadile, Josh Goot, Phillipe and David Blond (The Blonds) and Tia Cibani for Ports 1961. He wrapped things up nicely when he said, "I can't think a better way to go into Fashion Week."

Charles Nolan & Eugenia Ulasewicz

This year's winners were:

Women's RTW: Jason Wu; Presenter: Peter Som
Men's Apparel: Hisham Oumlil; Presenter: Michael Bastian
Retail: Charles Nolan; Presenter: Eugenia Ulasewicz
Accessories: Kara Ross; Presenter: Holly Dunlap
Beauty/Fragrance Corporate: Natasha Cote/Givaudan Fragrances; Presenter: Donna Kalajian Lagani
Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur: Francesco Clark/Clark's Botanicals; Presenter: Charla Krupp
Home/ Interior Design: Gilles-Fleur Boutry for Clodaugh Design; Presenter: Eric Villency
Fine Jewelry: Christine J. Brandt; Presenter: Temple St. Clair

The Rising Star Awards were sponsored by Cosmopolitan and Bebe, who used the occasion to introduce actress turned designer Tara Subkoff as their first design collaborator to the crowd. The company will be launching Tara Subkoff for Bebe in all their stores next month. A far cry from her Imitation of Christ gig, Subkoff is happy to design "sexy, wearable clothes" for the masses she says. The actress-turned-designer turned up in one of the dresses from the line, a flirty number dotted with hearts ("I love them, they're so eighties!") that will retail for $129. "I was excited about designing for all body types and different women" says Subkoff. "Fashion should be accessible and it should be fun." She says she's putting care packages together for her friends Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson and Scarlett Johansson so expect these sure to sell out items on the pages of People and Us Weekly any day.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

FIT Opening of Exhibition
'Madame Grès Sphinx of Fashion'

Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion presents the work of the great Parisian couturiere, Madame Alix Grès. She created gowns of exquisite beauty and dressed many of the most stylish women of the twentieth century. One of the most brilliant dressmakers of the twentieth century, her work is noted for its sculptural quality and innovative construction techniques.

This exhibition, with over seventy garments from both museum and private collections, will present the three most important stylistic elements of Madame Grès’s work: her classically-inspired pleated gowns usually made of matte silk jersey; her simple and geometric designs based on ethnic costume; and the three-dimensional, sculptural quality that was a hallmark of much of her work.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a beautifully designed book, Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion, published by the prestigious Yale University Press. The text of 25,000 words with will be illustrated with over 100 photographs of garments from museum and private collection as well as images from leading magazines

Opening reception Thursday, January 31 at 6PM-8PM
The Museum of FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street.
New York City
RSVP 212-217-4584

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Fashion Intelligence Column

Maybe skipping this year's Oscar fashion derby would actually be good for fashion ... Tina Brown takes on the Clintons for her next book and presidential candidates become the new style icons. Read Diane Clehane's take on the latest news of the moment in her Fashion Intelligence for lookonline: Click here for the full report.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Heroic’ Efforts

Yeohlee's Trilogy (The Three Elements of E's)

Okay, so I guess I am just a tad obsessed with the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s upcoming spring exhibit, “Super heroes: Fashion and Fantasy”. Continuing on with that train of thought, what could possibly be more valiant, noble, or heroic (from a customer point of view), than an innovative fashion designer who strives to make our lives just a little bit easier while helping us look a whole lot better? (Talk about the perfect mix of form and function). One whose design credo is based upon “a trilogy of e’s” (“efficiency, energy, effective”). One who understands that getting dressed quickly is one thing; looking “pulled together” is another. One who always keeps in mind the needs of an “Urban Nomad” (a term she coined by the way). One who is so focused and so beautifully consistent in her aesthetic, it prompted noted author Bradley Quinn ,“Fashion and Architecture”, (who also curated the January 2007 AIA Show on Fashion and Architecture) to observe that her last four collections appear to be “one layer”. One whose signature architectural designs are thoroughly eye catching and arresting without being so obvious and over the top that they literally hit you ‘over the ‘head’ (these are not ‘costumes’ for fictional ‘heroes’ but beautiful, thoughtful clothing for modern day heroines: intelligent, modern women). One who strives to give women “what they want” while continuing to experiment with shape, texture, fabrication, and proportion so as to keep herself “engaged”. Oh, and the fact that she routinely Teflon coats her white fabrics to ensure that they are stain resistant doesn’t hurt either. (For anyone living the city, who tries to keep that pristine white coat clean, that’s practically a ‘life saver’).

By now, I guess you’ve figured out that the designer I am referring to is Yeohlee Teng (, who, since 1981 (when she started her eponymous collection), has ‘quietly’ honed and perfected her craft (and aesthetic) while gaining respect, praise, and kudos, from members of the press, retailers, and her loyal fans. On second thought, I guess “quietly” is the wrong word since Yeohlee is hardly a well kept secret but a well respected and admired designer who has been lauded, applauded, honored and awarded. She’s also been the focus of major exhibits at some of the most revered museums and institutions in the world, not the least of which is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, where one of her dresses is currently on display at their newly mounted exhibition, “blog.mode: addressing fashion”.

I recently visited Yeohlee at her sleek and architecturally chic (what else would you expect?) west 35th street showroom loft to view her well edited pre-fall collection dubbed, “In Transit”. It’s only her second time showing pre fall, further proof that this season has become more and more important. A study in black, cream, shades of gray, deep plum, and purple, it’s also a study in texture and surface interest, as well as contrasts, (another trademark, along with the use of geometry “which never goes away”.) This duality is seen in the use of both all natural and all tech fabrics, the use of both shine and matte, the use of texture and the very sleek.

Yeohlee’s outerwear is always ‘simply’ sensational (what “Urban Nomad” worth her salt does not constantly need a great coat to shield her from the elements and environment?) Two standouts from pre fall which I enviably eyed, are the black quilted funnel neck ellipse coat (quilting is a major theme), and the black nylon taffeta catenary coatdress, both of which are beautiful from every angle with their focus on an interesting hemline. Yeohlee revealed that the focus on hemlines will continue for fall, via her use of a “dowdy length”.

As for color, while the use of neutral shades (especially black, gray, white, and cream) is signature, strong vibrant color makes it appearance when it’s in keeping with the “mood of the collection”. And speaking of moods, Yeohlee is well aware that clothing can “change how you feel” and be “magical”. I’m looking forward to Yeohlee’s next “Magical Mystery Tour” – her fall 2008/2009 collection which will unveil during New York fashion Week in February.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, January 03, 2008

‘Hero’ Worship

On many levels, 2007 was a rather interesting year for fashion, and depending on one’s involvement with and/or attachment to the world of fashion (professional, personal, emotional, sentimental), the past year can be dissected and examined in many different ways. As it already has been ad nausea.

The beginning of a New Year signifies many things; a brand new fashion cycle is one of them. More so ever since the show schedule has been moved down. This year, New York Fashion Week which begins on February 1st through February 8th is earlier than ever and so it’s a natural thing to begin focusing on ‘what’s next’.

Something that Nancy Aronson Chilton, press director for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, said (on the evening of December 13th), has stayed on my mind and is worth keeping in mind as we make the rounds of the upcoming fall 2008/2009 collections. Not surprisingly, I knew I would eventually blog about it.

At the cocktail soiree to celebrate the launch of a new exhibit, “blog.mode: addressing fashion”, I spoke with Ms. Chilton about the inherent challenges that went along with mounting an exhibition that was a ‘first’. Eventually, the subject changed to the coming year’s major spring exhibit, “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy”, which will run from May 7th through September 1, 2008 and will kick off in high style with a very high profile Gala Benefit on Monday May 5th. (The Honorary Chairman is Giorgio Armani, who is ‘sponsoring’ the exhibit, and the Co-Chairs are George Clooney (talk about ‘hero worship’), Julia Roberts, and Anna Wintour.)

In discussing the premise behind the exhibit which is “all about using the idea of the superhero as a metaphor for fashion”, Ms. Chilton keenly observed, “What does a superhero do? He/she goes and changes into clothing that empowers them -- and they can do anything.” I have not been able to shake that imagery from my mind.

When you think of the word hero, what comes to mind? Undoubtedly, Wesley Autrey, (last year’s subway superhero and brave father of two who saved the life of a perfect stranger by literally throwing himself over the man as hey lay on the subway tracks), firefighters, soldiers fighting on the front lines overseas, or those who came to the rescue on 9/11 are universal examples. But that said, there are other definitions of the term. And while nobody with a sound mind would be as bold or crazy as to draw parallels between true heroes (those who risk their lives to save their fellow man) AND something as superficial or frivolous as fashion, our clothing certainly has ‘heroic’ or empowering qualities which should not be overstated.

Regardless of how ‘into’ fashion one is, or how important a role it plays in one’s life, we all wear clothes. It’s one of the first decisions we make in the morning before we head out the door. We not only make a variety of wardrobe changes throughout the week, but some of us even make several wardrobe changes throughout the day (I keep thinking of Nancy Chilton’s description and conjuring up images of Superman as he went into that tiny booth to shed his suit and become a true hero in his iconic uniform).

In many cases, our choices are not just based on how to best cover our naked bodies (required by law), but also, how we wish to project ourselves based on a number of factors and situations. Sometimes, the right choices have the ability to empower us to “do anything”, just like Superman (well, sort of). We might not be given X-ray vision, or the ability to leap from tall buildings in a single bounce, but the right clothes can turn us all into ‘heroes’ of one sort or another (heroes in the work place, in the social arena, or wherever one wants or needs at that moment in time). Clothing can be magical and empowering and that quality cannot be overstated.

What could be more ‘heroic’ than reliable, fail safe, wardrobe ‘basics’ that (regardless of vagaries of fashion’s ‘ins’ and ‘outs’) truly ‘save’ the day…or night (depending on the situation)? Items that you can always count on through thick and thin (perhaps literally)? Such as that impeccably tailored jacket that instantly molds your torso, takes 5 pounds off automatically, give you a waistline or shoulders that you don’t really have, looks good over anything and everything, can be worn in a myriad of ways? Or that great dress, skirt, tunic, etc. which you can always rely upon when you need something to wear for a cocktail soiree, party, special event? Or how about that perfect white shirt of trench that goes from summer to winter, can be worn east, west, north, south, day or night? And what about that striking necklace, cuff, or ring that you know can make anything look amazing.

There is no denying that one’s clothing and accessories can be life affirming, if not necessarily life saving. Undeniably, great fashion designers (like Coco Chanel and Yves. St. Laurent, both of whom perfected wardrobe ‘staples’ and elevated them to another level), can be viewed as ‘superheroes’. They are the ones creating articles of clothing and accessories that not only cover us but protect us from the elements and environment, keep us warm, cool, dry, make us look and feel good, and empower us by helping us as we venture forth in the world.

- Marilyn Kirschner