Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Arbiters of Style"

From Left: Garbrielle 'Coco' Chanel, Mme Gres & Diane von Furstenberg
(All Photos: Randy Brooke)

Ah….style! It’s something that (in certain circles) is highly sought after, elusive, undeniably hard to define and harder still to possess. To many an ‘expert’s’ way of thinking, it’s something you either have, or you don’t. Style is a favored, almost magical word within the fashion world, where it’s often bantered around, used and abused. To wit, there is a fashion magazine named ‘InStyle’, there’s a highly influential website,, The New York Times has not one but two ‘Style’ sections (one on Thursday and the other on Sunday), and the word ‘style’ is routinely used in fashion advertisements and in fashion magazines, where it’s emblazoned on covers and used within editorial pages.

In fact, “The Secrets of Style” screams out in large royal blue letters on Harper’s Bazaar’s June cover (which features Nicole Ritchie as its ‘stylish’ cover girl) and in the last paragraph of her Editor’s Letter this month, Glenda Bailey observes that “true style is never about the pieces you buy each season: it’s about the pieces you wear every season.” Certainly, if you use this definition as the barometer of what constitutes true style, and see it as the necessary ingredient for being a ‘style arbiter’ (which the Museum at FIT defines as a “tastemaker, whether publicly anointed or self proclaimed, who has the authority to judge and dictate what is fashionable”), there is almost no woman who so epitomizes the idea of a style arbiter as the late rule breaking Diana Vreeland.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that two of Diana Vreeland’s outfits greet you as you enter the Museum of FIT’s galleries, which house their brand new exhibit, “Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion” (For the record, one is a printed and heavily bejeweled Oscar de la Renta caftan and the other, an acid green Mila Schon skirt suit both of which were gifts to the Museum at FIT from DV and illustrate two distinctly different sides of the style icon).

Miuccia Prada's ‘Fairy’ printed silk pajamas

The exhibit’s organizers, Molly Sorkin and Colleen Hill, along with Fred Dennis, Clare Sauro, Harumi Hotta, Lyn Weidner and Chief Curator, Dr. Valerie Steele were on hand for last Wednesday’s morning press preview. Ms. Sorkin and Ms. Hill admitted that when they began assembling the exhibit, they were struck by the way in which everything was “interconnected” (meaning, women designers wore other women designers’ designs, they were inspired by their clients, etc.) and the effects of globalization. They felt strongly about starting off with Diana Vreeland because she was such an “influential woman in fashion” and similarly, they hailed Miuccia Prada as the “quintessential woman designer of today” which is presumably why they ended with Miuccia’s signature ‘Fairy’ printed silk pajamas from spring 2008.

Designs by Andre Courreges & Marc Bohen for Christian Dior

The exhibit, comprised of approximately 70 looks (clothing and accessories) dating from the 18th century up to the present (there are several outfits from fall 2008) has the distinction of being the first chronological survey focusing on female designers (Coco Chanel, Donna Karan, Vivienne Westwood, fashionable socialites (Isabel Eberstadt, Jane Holzer, models (Marina Schiano, Penelope Tree), fashion journalists and photographers (Diana Vreeland, Despina Messinesi, Louise Dahl- Wolfe), 20th century female executives (Rose Marie Bravo), and clientele who have “shaped fashion’s course for more than 250 years”. The works of only a handful of male designers (Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Yves St. Laurent, Courreges, Geoffrey Beene, Emilio Pucci) were included only as a way to view their “important clients and muses”. And so, as you walk through the rooms, you will see a Halston jumpsuit ‘worn’ by Lauren Bacall, a dramatic black Givenchy gown with a ‘frontless’ coat and Courreges skirt suit (from his first collection) ‘worn’ by Isabel Eberstadt, an Yves St. Laurent Rive Gauche ‘power suit’ ‘worn’ by Rose Marie Bravo, a Christian Dior dress and an Emilio Pucci ensemble ‘worn’ by Jane Holzer, etc.).

Collections of Lyn Devon & Ann Demeulemeester

The designs were selected by virtue of their importance, interest, and “significance” and include an interesting mix of names from up and coming talent (like Lyn Devon and the designing duo behind the label Rodarte), avante-garde legends (Ann Demeulemeester, Rei Kawakubo, Vivienne Westwood), American ‘royalty’ both past and present (Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Donna Karan, Carolyne Roehm, Diane Von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang), and of course, some of the most hallowed labels in fashion history (exemplified by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, Mme. Gres, Elsa Schiaparelli). The one thing that struck me as I walked through the exhibit, was the timelessness and modernity of great design. Donna Karan’s draped black jersey dress from 1987 could have easily stepped off this season’s runway, and the same can be said of dozens of other items on view, including the Chanel suit and Madame Gres evening ensemble, which made their ‘debuts’ many decades before the Diane Von Furstenberg gown from fall 2008 that they were standing beside. Great design does not have an expiration date. Much like great style.

The exhibition runs through November 8th.

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion
The Museum at FIT is located on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays, Mondays and legal holidays. Admission is free. For museum information call (212) 217-4558 or go to For further press information, contact the Office of Communications and External Relations at (212) 217-4700 or Visuals are available upon request via mail or e-mail.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Better Bets #2
Discovering the Best in New York

Mambo Bag by Tagua

Ronda Erb's new bi-weekly column on discovering the new and interesting in New York retail, beauty, fashion, accessories and events. Click here to read here column.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rootstein Mannequins Party

Last Thursday night marked another high moment in the New York fashion scene: the unveiling and exhibit of the world famous British mannequin company Rootstein Mannequins in New York City. This time around, Rootstein has selected British cover girl Agyness Deyn to be the featured model. She follows in a line of famous cover girls used by Rootstein going all the way back to Twiggy.

According to Rootstein Creative Director Kevin Arpino, the choice of Agyness Deyn made perfect sense: “Rootstein has had a long history of predicting the decades most influential visages and we felt that Agyness embodies the look of the first decade of this century. Her style and mannerisms both on and off the runway, as well as her fabulous physique, made her the perfect choice to be immortalized as a mannequin.

The showroom was clad with replicas of Agyness Deyn sporting outfits that highlighted the actual trends in fashion: Doc Martins candy colored shoes were used and it resulted in an odd but fascinating look. Nothing like a pair of pink Doc Martens shoes combined with a neon colored feathered vest and metallic looking pink pants to rethink many notions about fashion style rules. Along with brightly colored outfits, black ones were also prevalent, as was lace, decidedly the most important new trend of the upcoming season.

Platforms were set to display some of the mannequins that, at times, seemed to have a life of their own. They were displayed high and low, some on pedestals, others in neon framed open boxes that matched the color of their outfits. Some of them were dressed in all over black and were either seated or standing, resulting in a strange and beautiful display. Most of the standing mannequins held a neon colored tube or some sort of spear. It made for a very alluring atmosphere, something that was at the same time dark and bright.

MAO Public Relations produced this very well-attended opening party in Chelsea that saw many coming to admire the display of elaborately dressed mannequins set against a very dark and black background (estimated crowd of about 500). Guests were invited to wear plastic rings that flashed intermittent colored lights at the press of a button. With all these rings flashing, it brought a novel twist that helped set a fun and whimsical tone to an already different-from-the-usual party.

Seen at the party were fashion designers John Bartlett, Stephen Burrows, and Bill Dugan (who worked many years with Halston). Of course the downtown divas from Paper Magazine were also there, as well as a reporter from The New Yorker. Diversity and creativity was the modus operandi of the night with this crowd. Overall, the beautiful, interesting and creatively dressed people that were present were as much a part of the decor as the displayed mannequins.

-Muriel Genny-Triffaut

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Makeup Show NYC

The Makeup Show 2008 held in New York City on May 18 and 19 was a perfect occasion to check out trends as well as new concepts and innovative products. The high number of companies present was impressive as was the quality of products offered.

The showroom was filled with many well known brands adorning the floor and newcomers eager to make a difference in a highly competitive market. The booklet available at the entrance listed no less than 71 brands having stands or booths. It also offered high quality workshops and seminars equally interesting to the professional as well as the clients eager to know more about tips and methods to achieve a well sought result: unblemished beauty.

Keynote and business forums were plentiful, with, for instance, Sandy Linter presenting on behalf of Lancome "A Career in MakeUp" (Sunday May 18). Hands-on workshops were also offered each day. Dominic Cruz for Kryolan conducted on Monday a workshop related to "Makeup for the Mature Skin". Renowned makeup star Linda Mason offered valuable tips and techniques to achieve her famous "eye candy" look.

One of the more interesting workshops was the one conducted by Sarah Lucero for Stila Cosmetics that covered what the trend in makeup is all about for the fall of 2008. Ms Lucero said that lipstick is finally back in rich luscious colors such as coral and deep hued pink with a neon twist, a memento of the eighties. As to gloss lipstick, it is bound to take a back seat for the upcoming season. Skin should look natural (hurray!!) and blushes play a major part with highly pigmented colors such as cherry. As for the eyes, it is all about matte, shine, glitter and sparkles are left in the past.

Between the brands present and the workshops and seminars, it was a whirlwind of makeup everywhere and accessories such as professional makeup cases, brushes, even wigs that allowed just about everyone, professionals and shoppers to find something worth having and/or knowing about. The big players were there as well, with brands like Mac, Cover Girl, Stila Cosmetics and Lancome showing appealing stands displaying well known and favorite products. Makeovers were offered here and there, making the whole thing a very enjoyable experience.

A number of booths were offering airbrushed makeup products and the necessary machinery to achieve what is often touted as an impeccable result. Companies like Graftobian Make Up Co. showed an impressive and complete array of products geared at just about everyone. From enabling one to create a unique design (as illustrated by a model standing at the booth with only airbrush make up covering her body with beautiful swirls of colors) to achieving outstanding results for every day makeup.

Although the appeal for most is obvious, the covering of just about every inch of the face with airbrushed makeup products raises a question: what is next? Isn't it already enough that many of us are willing to use cosmetic surgery and other methods to look young; do we want now to look like the wax models of Mme Tussaud's museum? The popularity this technique has gained in a short time illustrates how obsessed our culture has become with the impossible concept of everlasting beauty.

Although airbrush techniques can create a vision of flawless beauty, the charm and free spirited abandon that can be expressed through minimal makeup is completely lost with the use of such techniques. The airbrushed face seems somewhat stiff and overly covered with what could be coined as being some type of "camouflage".

Closer to traditional makeup, brands like adesign stood out with beautiful makeup brushes of the highest quality. Offered in many different sizes and shapes, they each have specific uses. The famous Kabuki brushes were omnipresent and showed all the signs of high-end products.

Artist (oil painting on glass), makeup artist and hair stylist Hagen Linss was offering her services to retouch photographs. And array of "before and after" photos was displayed on the wall. Miss Hagen Linss is a very charming and worldly person that displays great artistic skills in many different ways.

Another interesting find was Nurturing Force, a New Jersey based company that offers high quality blotting papers for the skin, among other things. Unlike many other competitors that come with inferior products that can leave an undesirable film on the skin among side effects, Nurturing Force's products are touted (by the company itself) as being the best in that segment of the market: it won't remove or smudge makeup while it absorbs shine with an instantaneous result: a dry and shine free skin.

The company has many professionals using its products, a sure sign of quality in itself. The company's vice president, Ms Linda R. Rothstein-Sosnick took time to explain to me all the qualities the paper has. I personally favor their lavender scented paper: made with the science of aromatherapy, it exudes a delicate and very pleasing fragrance in a dispenser that is most innovative. Instead of paper leaves in an envelope, Nurturing Force has come up with a most ingenious container that holds a roll of paper -- one can simply roll out and cut as much paper as it needed each and every time.

The best of it all had to be a newcomer on the market and a very successful one in just a year: ColorOn Professional is an amazing product: packs of the product contain 10 leaves of papers that have makeup pressed up, each box being of a specific color as well as a specific shape. One has to apply the paper with the makeup color on each eyelid and simply pull out the paper gently. The color stays on the eyelid, a perfectly done eye makeup in no time. Color on is unique and a great product that is so easy to use, with great and long lasting results. The Florida based company is World Cosmetics, and its charismatic CEO, Edward Eberts, was there to promote this outstanding product.

- Muriel Geny-Triffaut

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Amazing ‘Lace’, Part 2

Gold Lace Bag by Prada

If you remember, last week I predicted (or rather stated the obvious) that lace would indeed be ‘huge’ going forward, thanks in large part to Miuccia Prada’s admitted obsession with the age old fabric, which she used for fall 2008 in gutsy, unexpected ways, playing against its normally prissy, dainty, old fashioned associations. I also noted that lace was very much apart of two events I covered last Wednesday (one being Oscar de la Renta’s resort 2008 show).

Black lace shoe bootie front tie from Manolo Blahnik

Indeed, lace (lace hosiery, lace bags, and lace shoes) is on Neiman Marcus’s hit list for this coming fall and as such, figured prominently within last week’s Neiman Marcus Preview of the Best of Fall 2008 Fashion Accessories hosted by Gabrielle de Papp, Vice President Public Relations and Sandra Wilson, accessories Fashion Director 2008.

Valentino lace bow bag

The duplex suite at the Chambers Hotel, which served once again as the venue of choice, was filled with the best of the best shoes, boots, bags, bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and fur pieces from high end sought after labels such as Chanel, Valentino, Prada, Tory Burch, Gucci, Chloe, Vera Wang, Judith Leiber, Larisa Barerra, Jose Barerra, Jimmy Choo, YSL, Badgley Mischka, Manolo Blahnik, Givenchy, Adrienne Landau, Pologeorgis, 6267, Zanotti, Loeffler Randall, Christian Louboutin, David Yurman, Matthew Laurenza, Jude Frances, John Hardy, Ippolita, Emily Armenta (the last six of which have designed exclusive products for Neiman Marcus).

Necklace by Barerra

As Ms. Wilson explains it, the most important elements that define the coming season are: color, sophistication, feminine glamour, modern evening glamour. “You will want to feel glamorous, you will want to be sophisticated, and you will want color” she predicted. To set the stage and to set the mood, a video of “Breakfast at Tiffany” (with Audrey Hepburn in all her chic, bedecked and bejeweled glory) was playing on a screen downstairs and “To Catch a Thief” (starring the always elegant Cary Grant) was playing upstairs.

What does Sandra feel strongly about for fall?

All shades of deep reds (wines and berries)

Patent leather (especially “car paint patent”)

Metallics (gold never dies but newer still is copper and bronze);

Surface interest details on leather

‘Killer’ stiletto heels, open toes, open back, high vamps, platforms (Notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Hepburn was synonymous with ballet flats and elegant low heeled pumps, Ms. Wilson declared the ‘fierce’ stiletto heeled, open toed, open back, open sided shoe boot as the “shoe of the season”)

Medium sized day bags (forget lugging around back breaking oversized totes)

Evening bags in unique shapes

Art deco, vintage inspired paste jewelry (particularly large oversized costume jewelry in crystal)

Pearls (especially gumball sized pearls)

Lace (used in unexpected ways as illustrated by the black lace Manolo Blahnik stiletto shoe booties, Miuccia Prada’s gold lace handbag, Valentino’s bow and double handle lace bags.

-Marilyn Kirschner
Gen-Art Styles 2008

(Photo: Isabelle Erb)

On Monday night, Gen-Art Styles 2008 was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom in mid-town Manhattan. It was the 10th Annual Design Awards and Runway Show presented by the renowned arts and entertainment organization. The capacity crowd was comprised of members of the fashion press, invited guests, and ticket-buying spectators.

For the second year in a row, Robert Verdi served as the host of the evening. Verdi explained that he had been called in with only a few days notice, when someone else backed out at the last moment. He jokingly referred to himself as “everybody’s first, second choice”. Verdi went on to entertain the audience throughout the evening with his witty, and frequently off-color remarks. No one was spared as he poked fun at himself : “Botox, gas up those needles and come jack up my face” ;the audience: “fashion fags and sassy socialites” ; and celebrities such as Isaac Mizrahi and Nicole Kidman.

30 finalists competed in 6 categories: Ready-to wear, Menswear,Accessories, Avant Garde, Eveningwear, and the Fashion Vision Award for Design. Winners were determined by a distinguished panel of judges, including: Mark Ecko, Carlos Falchi, Michael Fink, Douglas Hannant, Barbara Kramer, Rebecca Weinberg, and Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann. Each finalist presented two looks from their collection during the runway show. The winner in each category was presented with a trophy (a pair of silver scissors mounted on a black cube) by Kara Saun, the first runner up of Project Runway’s season one. Sophia Bush served as a special guest presenter of the Fashion Vision Award. A total of $35,000 was awarded during the event.

The evening’s winners were:

Ready-to wear: Yujin Song, London

Menswear: Timothy Franklin, London

Accessories: NINAKI, Los Angeles

Avant Garde: Marie Potesta, San Francisco.

Fashion Vision Award for Design: Jolibe, New York

Eveningwear: Louisa Parriss, San Francisco.

When all the awards had been handed out, it was time to celebrate. Mr. Verdi closed the evening, reminding everyone that there would be an open bar at the after party, which was held in the ballroom. Within minutes the chairs were cleared away and guests began to mingle, each one was carrying a goody bag filled with gifts from Tone, Ecru, Sonu, and other sponsors, and a Botox bubble umbrella.

-Rhonda Erb

Monday, May 19, 2008

F.I.T. Museum Opening Exhibition - Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion
May 21 to November 8, 2008

Press Preview May 21th 10AM- 12Noon

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion celebrates an array of female creators, promoters and clientele who have shaped the course of fashion. This fashion exhibition features work by female designers as well as clothing and accessories worn by female department store executives, influential clients, magazine editors, muses and models. Women have played a significant role in the history of fashion and they continue to be a driving force as tastemakers and industry leaders.

Featuring over seventy looks from the Museum’s permanent collection, Arbiters of Style includes designs by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Sonia Delaunay, Jeanne Lanvin, and Claire McCardell and features clothing worn by influential women such as Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, photographer Louise Dahl Wolf, and actresses Lauren Bacall and Rosalind Russell. The historical importance of these women and many others will be revealed in the display of garments from the eighteenth century to the present.

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion is organized by Molly Sorkin and Colleen Hill, along with Fred Dennis, Clare Sauro, Harumi Hotta and Lynn Weidner.

The exhibition begins with objects that illustrate how women were active as designers, stylists and promoters of fashionable trends as early as the eighteenth century. Included will be a gown circa 1770, made from a sumptuous Spitalfields textile designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite. Historic trendsetters such as Empresses Josephine and Eugénie will be represented by dresses that reflect their influence on the fashions worn by women in Europe and America.A gown designed by leading Parisian couturiere Jeanne Paquin and donated by Mrs. William Rockefeller exemplifies the increasing influence of female designers in the early twentieth century.

The exhibition also will feature a suit by the English couturiere Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, known professionally as Lucile, and will introduce the Oregon-based dressmakers May and Ann Shogren, who brought elements of Paris couture to their American clientele.Female designers, such as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin and Elsa Schiaparelli, dominated fashion between the two world wars. A Chanel suit worn by legendary fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe will be shown alongside several of her original photographs from the Museum’s collection.

Dresses from museum donor and Vogue editor Despina Messinesi exemplify the role of the industry woman as an international style setter.By the mid-twentieth century, female American designers and department store executives played increasingly prominent roles in the fashion industry. Designer Claire McCardell, retail pioneer Hattie Carnegie, and fashion executive Rose Marie Bravo will be featured, as will a dress by Irene of Bullocks Wilshire, a designer favored by the Hollywood elite.

Donations from Diana Vreeland, Isabel Eberstadt, and Lauren Bacall highlight their roles as fashion leaders, while designs by trendsetters such as Vivienne Westwood and Rei Kawakubo emphasize the continued importance of female designers.

The Museum at FIT is located on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays, Mondays and legal holidays. Admission is free. For museum information call (212) 217-4558 or go to For further press information, contact the Office of Communications and External Relations at (212) 217-4700 or Visuals are available upon request via mail or e-mail.

Friday, May 16, 2008

FIT On the Catwalk 2008
(All photos by John Pringle )

"Fit On the Catwalk", which regroups the creations of the senior students of the Fashion Institute of Technology, was a presentation of different and varied talents with one thing in common: the school that taught them.

Starting with an opening party laced with chocolate, the runway show was preceded with a speech by Colette Wong, Chairperson, followed by Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of the FIT. After having been reminded of the excellence in education provided by the school, the runway show finally started.

Danielle Breitenbach's winning brown velveteen coat & dress

It was an incredible flourish of flair and genius all together. First were shown the Sporstwear collection created by 26 designers, then followed the Knitwear collection, Childrenwear (13 designers), Special Occasion (26 designers) and Intimate Apparel.

Ruveyde Oder's winning expresso aviator pant with matching bustier & jacket

From a beautiful cream colored perforated leather dress with a textured cream colored coat, to a "in-your-face-and-it's-beautiful" design of a magenta trapeze motorcycle jacket with color blocked tunic dress and skinny jeans, the sportswear collection deserved the long applause it received from guests.

The two industry critics were Anna Sui and Dennis Basso. They selected as winners Ruveyde Oder won with an amazing Expresso aviator pant with matching bustier and jacket, the result of an elaborate work on leather and the body movements. It was my favorite as well.

Kelsy Zimba is the other industry winner with a fur coat with rope detailing, texture black leather skirt and black crepe pleated blouse

The Knitwear collection regrouped 25 designers whose creations are a magnificent combination of beauty, practicality and finely thought out detailing. All the fabrics for the knitwear designs were hand or machine knit by the students. A wine merino hand knit coat with haze trim was simply smashing. A brown ombre knit dress with fringe and back detail was amazing.

The result was a succession of beautiful and elegant designs. They each had fine details, some of them unexpected, very often details not seen elsewhere before.

Risa Kambe's winning sweater & cashmere flared dress

The two industry critics in this category were Michelle Antonelli and Jerry Dellova. They chose Risa Kambe was selected as one of the two winners by the industry critics and by The Cotton Student Sponsorship Program Winner with a multi grey cotton and alpaca oversized sweater with grey cashmere flared dress, a beautiful construction in itself.

Yoojin Lee winning black montana bubble dress

Yoojin Lee won as well with a splendid merino weave detail black montana bubble dress with jersey turtleneck and leg warmers. The punch of bold colors had to make this design a winner.

Annie Nicholas winning plaid skirt with cropped plum jacket

The Childrenswear collection received a welcome applause with the angel-like faces of beautiful little girls who were dressed with trendy, edgy, colorful, - even sumptuous - designs. The collection a well deserved resounding success with its audience. From delicate, flowered and pleated dresses to sharp pants and jackets, nothing was not cute. The Industry Critic was Ms. Nancy Sommers and the winners are Annie Nicholas with a purple plaid skirt with red taffeta pleats and cropped plum jacket with red ruffle shell.

Sarah Boardman's winning cape & dress

Sarah Boardman is The Cotton Student Sponsorship Program Winner with a red wool cape with mushroom dots, ruffled dress with multiple prints. That one outfit was absolutely adorable, everyone in the audience seemed to have loved it as much as i did.

Misin Kim's winning white cotton gown covered with voile roses

The Special Occasion collection was a whirlwind of lavish display of fabrics, veils and long trains that oozed glamour and opulence. Baby doll dress or pleated gown, the creations stood out with the same unique and brilliantly designed evening wear. Very well tailored dark satin tuxedo-like jacket and pants were a counterpoint to a gorgeous gunmetal crinkled organza corseted gown. As for the strapless white cotton gown covered with cotton voile roses, it is a magnificent gown. It also is the winner of The Cotton Student Sponsorship Program , designed by Misin Kim.

Anna Rasinskaya's winning strapless lame dress

The industry critics were Arnold Scaasi and Angel Sanchez. As winners, they selected Annie Rasinskaya's design of a strapless lame dress with back peplum, cording detail and Swarosky crystals.

Lisa Le's winning blanc chiffon swirl dress

Lisa H. Le with a blanc chiffon swirl dress with hand painted ombre satin ruffles and Swarosky crystals is the other winner. That dress is simply amazing, intricate construction and right placement of the ruffles make for a magnificent gown. It got all my vote as well, what is not to like?

Kaitlin Wilbur's winning black corset & long robe

In Intimate Apparel, 15 designers came with luxurious outfits nonetheless. Sheer fabrics and intricate work made for a superb and sensuous parade of lingerie. An ecru embroidered corset with black Chantilly lace was as beautiful as was a lavender hand pleated corset.

The industry critic was Tina Wilson and the winner she selected is Kaitlin Wilbur with a black corset with beaded cream heart embroidery, panty and matching long robe.

Jennifer Ostrosky's winning robe with lace bra & high waisted panty

The Cotton Student Sponsorship Program chose Jennifer Ostrosky with her design of a mauve crinkle chiffon robe with black Chantilly lace bra and high waisted panty. It is a very beautiful outfit most women would enjoy wearing, not to mention that the high waisted panty make it accessible to many, quite a difference from the thongs and other skimpy panties seen nowadays.

It must have been very hard for the critics of each category to decide on a winner. For the most part every design was the result of talent, craftmanship and imagination. Some designs were better left forgotten in my opinion but then again, not everyone is a Ralph Rucci or Norma Kamali.

The runway show was the result of talent and skill very well combined. Congratulations to the students and the school. Among these students are the next great fashion designers, ready to bloom and expand their creative flow. We can only wish them all the best in their emerging new life.

-Muriel Geny-Triffaut

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Amazing ‘Lace’

(Photos by Scott Gries)

It was a no brainer, after Miuccia Prada unveiled her lace laden fall winter 2008 collection in Milan several months ago, that lace would quickly find its way back into fashion’s favor and have a rebirth, if you will. Not that lace was in danger of disappearing, mind you, but let’s face it, when arguably one of the most influential designers in the world breaths new life into what is normally a demure fabric, dusts off the cobwebs that are normally associated with it, and basically builds an entire collection around it, it’s obvious that lace would find itself the center of attention. And as it turns out, lace (in a variety of incarnations) figured prominently in two events I covered on Wednesday.

Oscar de la Renta staged his 66 piece resort 2008 show, at what has become his new favorite spot, 583 Park Avenue. Looking relaxed and tan, he could be seen meeting, greeting, and mingling beforehand with a crowd that included editors (seemingly all of Vogue was there and Anna Wintour looked uncharacteristically sporty in a crisp white shirt, printed skirt - by Oscar I presume - and high heeled sandals), retailers, and social fixtures (though I have to report that the second row in one section had to be filled in at the last moment since apparently, a handful of guests did not show up).

The upbeat collection was pretty, it was ‘ladylike’, it was colorful, and it was filled with all the dashing designer’s signatures and favorites...,in other words, it was ‘very Oscar’. Among the recurring themes were matched and mismatched suits (many in silk shantung, wool and silk, cotton and silk); a myriad of blouses (some had attached scarves, some were sleeveless, others boasted interesting sleeves); the use of islandly shades of Caribbean blue, coral, emerald green along with more neutral ochre, eggshell, black, and white; prints (there was a phoenix print, a tweed print, woodblock prints, ikats, florals, abstract brushstrokes); wide legged pants; caftans; jewel like embroidery on dresses and sweaters; hand crochet knits; one shouldered cocktail dresses (little black dresses and printed dresses); the use of highly textured 3-d organza ribbon and pleated organza.

And there was lace: guipure lace, Chantilly lace, colored lace, lace overlay, and embroidered lace. (Of course, don’t forget that images of Oscar de la Renta’s ivory lace wedding dress, worn by Jenna Bush for her nuptials last weekend, were seen the world over). Standouts in the collection include a short white guipure lace empire dress; a white silk taffeta blouse with black Chantilly lace trim worn with a knee length Caribbean guipure lace peplum skirt; a short black guipure lace dress with a silk woodblock print embroidered skirt; an entrance making full skirted black silk organza and tulle gown with guipure lace bodice.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, May 12, 2008

‘Fur’ Sure

Design by Chris Benz

To say that Fur Fashion Week ‘aint’ what it used to be is an understatement. But then again, what is? Having covered the fur market for Harper’s Bazaar decades ago, I can remember jam packed fur weeks that easily spanned one week, were comprised of ambitious runway shows (many of which took place in elegant hotel ballrooms), and were attended by editors-in-chief like Anna Wintour. That was then and this is now. But still, notwithstanding Global Warming and the downward turn of the economy, furs are still going strong: the customer (men and women alike) continues to embrace fur and recent runways (for fall winter 2008) which were filled with innovative and creative ways to use fur, were a testament to the designers’ continued interest and their ongoing desire to view pelts as, well, just ‘another’ fabric.

This year, fur fashion week, organized by FICA (Fur Information Council of America, will take place over the next two days, May 13 – 14, during which time there will be 17 presentations, including those by Michael Kors, Bill Blass, Ralph Rucci, Isaac Mizrahi, Peter Som, Zandra Rhodes, Zac Posen, Angel Sanchez, Carmen Mark Valvo, Kati Stern for Venexiana. (Other fur houses to show: Cassin, Orlando New York, Saga Furs, Helen Yarmak, Byte).

To kick things off and to name the winners of the first annual Emerging Fur Designer of The Year Award, I, along with other members of the press, designers, and manufacturers, were invited to a lovely champagne luncheon at Sapa, 43 West 24th Street. (Speaking of Global Warming, it was so cool and damp on this late spring day, that the idea of looking at furs, or even wearing one, did not seem so far fetched. And in fact, one of my colleagues wore a short vintage astrakan coat with a fur collar to this luncheon and just recently, I’ve spotted many of this city’s best dressed social figures, wearing little fur pieces over their cocktail dresses and evening gowns to brave off the chill as they arrived at soignée events and galas).

Winner Chris Benz with FICA Director Keith Kaplan

There were opening remarks from Keith Kaplan, the FICA executive director, a short video which introduced the 12 nominated designers (96 editors received ballots and voted, factoring in creativity, wearability, and salability), and still another highlighting furs shown at designers’ shows. At the end, two winners were named: one for ‘Accessories’ (the honor went to Doo.Ri who was not present), and one for ‘Full Garment’ (the winner was Chris Benz who was there to pick up his award).

'Future of Fashion' winners: From Left, Paulina Bui, Sara Shahbazi, and Alisha Moten

In addition, there were three dress forms featuring the innovative fur designs of three young designers representing the ‘future of fashion’ (Sara Shahbazi and Paulina Bui from Parsons and Aisha Moten from Virginia Commonwealth). I was particularly impressed with Ms. Shahbazi, (she graduates this month), who handed me a very professional booklet which was filled with black and white photos (which she took) of her ultra modern, luxurious yet streetwise fall/winter 2009 collection, which is “based on her fascination with Richard Serra’s sculptors”. She explains that she was “inspired by the modern lines and curved hems of Richard Serra’s sculptors”, and to that end, she concentrated on an urban and neutral palette of shades of gray, silver, teal blue, and black.

Sara Shahbazi with her blue iris coat

Her work emphasizes fabric mixes and rich textures through the use of fine wool, cashmere, sequins, knitted stitches, leather, and of course, fur. In fact, two standouts in her collection which speak volumes about her talents, are the black lamb leather cropped jacket with over the shoulder curved panels and quilted detail, and the blue iris coat with mixed sheared and long hair curved pieces which was on display at the FICA luncheon. Mark my words; Sara is a name to watch.

Sara Shahbazi's black lamb leather cropped jacket

In the meanwhile, (while I’m on the topic of furs) it’s ‘that’ time of year again. If you are searching for the best all inclusive fur storage company, one that offers a wide variety of services, expert leather cleaning and conditioning, top notch customer service, and will help you to restyle or transform any of your treasured pieces, look no further than Anne Dee Goldin’s GoldinStyle, For more information, call 212 239 0512 or email,

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, May 08, 2008


As a fashion spectacle (where hats take center stage), almost nothing compares to The Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, organized by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. The 26th FLO luncheon took place on Wednesday, May 7th, spearheaded by chairwomen Memrie Lewis, Gillian Miniter, Nancy Missett, and Tara Rockefeller, boasted a guest list which included some of New York’s biggest movers and shakers (Mayor Bloomberg and Martha Stewart among them), and best dressed social fixtures (Jamee Gregory, Amy Fine Collins, Somers Farkas, Susan Fales-Hill, Muffie Potter Aston). Those honored “for their outstanding commitment and contributions to preserving the park” were Nancy Paduano, Margaret and Ian Smith.

In fact, this annual rite of spring (which is the Central Park Conservancy’s largest benefit), has become known as the “Hat Luncheon”. And for a good reason. What began as a small intimate gathering for a few hundred is currently a popular ‘see and be seen’ date on one’s social calendar, which now draws well over 1200 guests, most of whom apparently use the theme and location of the event as a perfect opportunity to ‘cap’ off their spring finery with a hat. And as everyone knows, hats are ‘big’ these days. In fact, the millinery industry has been getting a real boost from the fashion world these past few seasons what with influential designers such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Proenza Schouler, Carolina Herrera, Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan, featuring hats prominently on their runways.

While some of the headgear worn by guests at the FLO luncheon could admittedly best be described as ordinary, run of the mill and ‘garden variety’ (pardon the pun), and not every woman (or man) wore a hat, (no, that was not Mayor Bloomberg wearing a flower laden chapeau), there were many guests whose inspired, whimsical choices proved they put a great deal of thought and planning into their outfits, and were obviously inspired, as usual, by the enviable natural setting of the location, (the breathtaking Conservatory Garden).

Right: Amy Fine Collins
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

And so, it was not surprising (and somewhat predictable) to find flowers everywhere; flowers decorating hats and floral printed dresses and coat ensembles. Perhaps it was a case of floral overkill in some instances where guests mixed the two…yikes! And it was hardly surprising that everywhere I looked there were guests clad in colors that mimicked flowers: pink in every shade was a crowd favorite and I noticed a lot of shocking pink worn with black (a real trend this spring), in addition to lilac, purple, yellows, red, and greens. And then there were the feathers….which are obviously not just ‘for the birds’ and continue to be a perennial favorite with both women and fashion designers. Feathers of all kinds, in all sizes and colors adorned every imaginable style of hat. And then there were butterflies: one huge butterfly (no, not a real one) was sitting atop a garden of flowers on one woman’s large hat.

Okay, so it didn’t always work and quite frankly, taken out of context and away from the gorgeous surroundings, (walking around in mid town for example) many of the guests would have looked downright silly if not preposterous. But in the most glorious spot in Central Park, with the lush greenery, breathtaking flowers, and the sun shining brightly on a gorgeous spring day (they say “it never rains on the FLO Awards” and this year was no exception…the legend continues!), everything takes on a life of its own.

Mayor Bloomberg with the Conservancy's President, Douglas Blonsky
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

I know this is not a ‘fashion’ event per se, the guest list is not solely
comprised of fashionistas and fashion insiders (could it be that Mayor Bloomberg was the only one present at the FLO luncheon who also attended Monday evening's Costume Institute Gala?!?) so you must temper my comments with a grain of salt. From my perspective, I would like to see more women show some individuality and not look so Garden Party-ish, and wearing hats that look like bad cast offs from last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Somers Farkas
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

Which is why my vote for 'Best in Show’, has to go to statuesque social fixture Somers Farkas, who literally put everyone else to shame arriving in a dramatic starched white floor length shirtdress, accessorized with a messenger bag slung over her body, low heeled sandals, and a jaunty staw fedora adorned with a spray of white ostrich feathers. Of course, being almost 6 feet tall, rail thin, perpetually suntanned, and great looking doesn't hurt (who said life is fair?) and admittedly not too many others could have pulled that off. That said, I can’t think of a better excuse to "go with the 'FLO'", let loose, lighten up, dress up, have fun, smile, and most importantly, raise money ($2.4 million to be exact) for a great cause.

-Marilyn Kirschner
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