Monday, July 28, 2008

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Blame it on the heat, or perhaps I’m just having one of those ‘senior moments’,(LOL I’m kidding of course, I'm not that old but the subject of age has been on my mind as of late), I realized that I left a couple of things out of my most recent blog, “Aging 'Grace’fully”, which are boldly empowering for different reasons and I wanted to share them with you.

While I quoted some of what Tonne Goodman said, in her August Vogue pictorial (regarding the advantages of getting older and tips for looking chic forever), she made some smart, intelligent observations that I thought were ‘right’ on and worth keeping in mind (not just now as we head into the fall shopping season, but always) and so I am reprinting the entire text:

“Once you are comfortable in your own skin, which ideally you are by the time you are a little older, and you have gone through being fashion-conscious, you can freely decide exactly what you want to wear whenever you want to wear it. You can choose classic clothes day and night, and you never have to feel the need to embellish yourself in something that you don’t believe in. What you put on is an expression of who you are and how well you know yourself. If you need to have a covered arm, you should wear a covered arm; if you prefer to wear a flat than a heel, then there are great sandals to wear all the time - and a sandal with an evening gown that’s a minimal, simple sheath exemplifies a certain elegance that is understated and confident. Style becomes more important than fashion. What’s the famous thing that Diana Vreeland said? “Elegance is refusal.” It is important to appreciate current events and to be involved, to support the environmentally sound practices going on now, from the fabric used for clothes, to shopping organically and locally, to refusing to use plastic shopping bags. I guess once a hippie, always a hippie. After all, what were we doing back in the sixties? We dressed to make a statement. And it is still vital to do that today".

Secondly, one of the more interesting and compelling (actually, titillating would be a better description), columns in Vogue’s August issue, “The Other Woman at 75”, written by Jane Juska, really has nothing to do with fashion; unless you equate sex with fashion. And, on second thought, of course the two are inextricably related. In fact, Bill Cunningham’s latest ‘On the Street’ column this past Sunday, ‘Altitude’ focused on the popularity of the overtly sexy toweringly high heel and in this particular pictorial, a few of his subjects (how shall I say this delicately?) seem to have more in common with Ashley Dupre (aka Kristen, the woman who brought down Eliot Spitzer ) than say, Anna Wintour, what with their barely there ensembles and teetering heels.

Bill would probably be the first to admit that he has somewhat of a foot fetish, as he can often be seen ‘studying’ and photographing woman’s shoes, and it’s something that has obviously piqued his interest through the years. On The New York Times website (www.nytimes.com/style), there is an audio visual slide show of the weekly column, narrated by Bill himself (one of the paper’s more inspired ideas since he is always amusing, animated, and very natural as he explains in his owns words, the story of the week, and singles out best examples). In this week's installment, he bemusedly describes one of his subjects, (coincidentally striding past 'The Pleasure Chest' in Greenwich Village, with a 'Sex and the City' poster in clear view) clad in a hot pink coat over a black fishnet bodysuit and wearing a pair of very exaggerated black patent platform stilettos. I had to chuckle when he 'diplomatically' theorized that she is "probably a performance artist". FYI, the store was cropped out of the shot used in newspaper.

Anyway, getting back to “The Other Woman at 75”, written by Jane Juska, this is required reading for anyone who balks at the idea that an ‘older’ woman can possibly fall giddyingly in love or who bristles at the notion that a septuagenarian can enjoy a “strong sexual drive”. Juska, (“old enough to know better” in her own words), is disarmingly candid as she goes into detail about her affair with someone else’s husband. She recounts how, after a failed marriage at the age of 37, and a “crushing” affair with a married man which ended at 50, she began advertising for sex in The New York Review of Books at the age of 66. (Talk about a late bloomer). This led to numerous “passionate encounters with all kinds of men”; her liberated exploits became the subject of a memoir, “A Round-Heeled Woman”.

It was at her first book signing in Berkeley, that she met an older, handsome, married man, who has been her bed mate, and most importantly, soul mate, for the past 5 years. She does not seek to glorify, rationalize or condone her actions (the picture she paints has warts and all and she is forthcoming about the disadvantages of such a relationship), nor is she trying to convince others to follow her lead. This is a situation that happens to work, meets her specific needs, and fulfills her life. In case you’re wondering, and no, I am not encouraging you to go out and find someone else’s husband. But in the same way that enjoying fashion and living a stylish life does not have an ‘expiration date’ which ends at a ‘certain age', finding love and passion is not something that is only for the young.


Center: Roberta Freymann

And speaking of ‘I’ll have what she’s having’, last week, Roberta Freymann was the 'Hostess with the Mostess' as she opened up her sprawling apartment in a landmark building on the Upper West Side, to members of the press for a 'Christmas in July' champagne breakfast and holiday/resort press preview.



The merchandise, from Roberta Freymann, Roberta Roller Rabbit, as well as a new division that will not launch for several months (and so I will remain mum on what that is), all bore Ms. Freymann's unmistakable luxe eclectic well traveled stamp and ranged from ready to wear and accessories to a wide range of furnishings for the home (votive candles, bamboo placemats, horn dragonfly napkin rings, heart shaped espresso spoon sets, bold and graphically patterned textiles, etc).



Standouts included updated, more graphic, modern art inspired versions of her now famous wine drop bejeweled collars (Roberta was wearing one herself), jewel toned jewel-encrusted belts (both of which are made by the same Argentinian artist), luxuriously massive fringed scarves,



and a duo of suede fringed 'Flapper' dresses in chic gray and tobacco which were an editor's favorite (since many seemed to be eyeing them enviably). But while the selection was enticing for sure, from my New York point of view, nothing was as personally covetable as Ms. Freymann's own grand, art filled apartment.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Aging ‘Grace’fully

"The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be"; "Long in the tooth"….If I appear to have horses on my mind, you’re right (and if you read my upcoming Member’s Report, you’ll learn why). As for the age issue…it’s on everyone’s mind these days and that includes Vogue Magazine, who has traditionally turned their August issue into an ‘age issue’. Sandwiched in between the thin July book, and right before their giant September blockbuster, Anna (nearing 60 herself) has apparently decided that there is no better time to focus on the subject of age while hawking new fall clothes and accessories.

Undoubtedly, dressing ‘age appropriate’ (whatever that means), and choosing clothes that flatter and look stylish, if you are over a certain age, is a challenge for many (though I for one, don’t think it’s as challenging as finding amazing items at affordable prices). Aha… Vogue wanted to tackle that too, judging by their cover lines which read, "The age(less) issue..Vogue’s guide to looking amazing at every decade, on any budget, through every season". Tall order.
But I will say that I found the issue to be well done, and one portfolio was particularly inspired. After the fall collections were over, Anna Wintour asked five Vogue fashion editors, each with her own look and style, and each representing a different decade (Grace Coddington, 60’s; Tonne Goodman 50’s; Elissa Santisi, 40’s; Marie Amelie Sauve, 30’s; Tabitha Simmons, 20’s) what they will wear this fall, how they’ll wear it, and why. They were then asked to style models in their own image.

Hands down the best spread was Grace Coddington, "Graceful Elegance’ (photographed by Steven Meisel). With the help of a glorious wild mane of red hair, her zany cats (Coddington’s admitted favorite accessories), and an almost all black ‘fuss free’ wardrobe which included a chic Balenciaga cocoon coat, a Marni embroidered dress, a Junya Watanabe Comme des Garcons long gown, and a Proenza Schouler gray coat, model Karen Elson was transformed into an almost spitting image of the celebrated editor (maybe a bit younger but very believable nonetheless and I have to admit that I initially thought it was Grace herself, courtesy amazing makeup).
The second ‘runner up’ was Tonne Goodman, (‘Clean Conscience’ also photographed by Meisel), who selected model Tanya Dziahileva to portray her in the signature minimalistic yet luxurious basics that remain very true to Goodman’s aesthetic.

There are many ways to tackle the problem of dressing for one’s age, and no wrongs or rights, (this is not an exact science and in the end, one has to follow one’s own instincts and stay true to oneself). Having said that, you could do a lot worse than to take some helpful hints and pointers from pros who admittedly spend their professional lives looking at clothes. For example: Grace Coddington says she "doesn’t feel obliged to buy a lot of new things" but always gets "a coat" each season; Elissa Santisi strives for "the perfect balance between youthful attitude and grown up glamour"; Marie Amelie Sauve claims she will "never wear anything that’s overtly sexy" and prefers "sexy in a conceptual way" (hence, she will pair a sexy dress, like the fetching Martin Margiela which is shown on the Vogue pages) with flats; Tabitha Simmons admits the "only rule in your 20’s is that there are no rules" (ah…to be 20 again!); and Tonne Goodman believes in buying clothes that "will last an eternity" and observes, "there is an intelligence to classic, enduring design. It is never superficial". But perhaps her best remark was, "once you are comfortable in your own skin, which ideally you are by the time you are a little older, and you have gone through being fashion-conscious, you can freely decide exactly what you want to wear whenever you want to wear it."

I think it’s safe to say many women out there would be interested to know what fashion editors select for themselves, and personalizing the pages- which included illustrations, photographs, quotes, etc. - was compelling. What was missing was Anna Wintour herself. Though I don’t think she would have agreed to take part in a portfolio where she dressed a model in her own image (LOL), I think her readers would have liked to know what her fall choices might be.

Another standout portfolio was ‘The Firecraker’ photographed by Jonathan Becker, featuring the fabulous looking Roberta McCain, the rule breaking inspirational 96 year old mother of John McCain. It is really hard to believe she is nearing 100 and quite frankly, she looks more youthful than Gwyneth Paltrow, who appears in a double page spread, for a Tod’s advertisement. I had to look twice to make sure it was indeed the actress.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, July 18, 2008

Better Bets! Number 4

Rhonda Erb's new bi-weekly column on discovering the new and interesting in New York retail, beauty, fashion, accessories and events.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

“I (Don’t) Feel Bad About My Neck”


Roberta Freymann's stone encrusted bib

Nora Ephron humorously pointed out that the neck is one part of the body that does not age too well and let’s face it, most of us don’t exactly resemble Audrey Hepburn in that - or any other - department. But if you seriously don’t love your neck, you’re in luck.

How could you possibly feel bad about your neck when there are so many fashionable ways to hide, cover, or camouflage it? Of course, why just stop at the neck? If you, like myself, tuned in to the Miss Universe contest this past Sunday night (which amounted to watching a two hour parade of the world’s most glorious creatures with impossibly perfect bodies) it would have been hard to wake up on Monday morning and feel good about any part of yourself…. but that’s another story.

Long before Nicolas Guesquiere seduced an entire generation into totally obscuring their necks with tightly wound long lengths of decidedly ethnic fringed and sometimes coin decorated scarves (which he made all the more hip and au courant when paired with shrunken schoolboy blazers and skinny jodhpurs for fall 2007), I was covering my neck with mufflers, scarves, turtlenecks, starched shirt collars, etc. And while this is not only easy, practical, and necessary in the cold winter months, I have been known to apply the same tactics year round, raiding my drawers for favorite vintage Hermes and Pucci silk squares, long, narrow Missonis, and YSL cotton voiles. And then of course, there are the necklaces and neck pieces.

Unless you’re living under rock, you already know that multi strands of pearls, bold chains, and especially, statement making necklaces, are de rigueur as of late. Designers (not the least of whom is Miuccia Prada) are even creating clothing (dresses and tops) complete with jewel encrusted collars, necklaces, and necklines. In fact, Richard Chai’s debut collaboration for www.target.com next month features a wonderfully graphic cotton tunic with a jewel encrusted top, which will sell for about $50.



All of the above examples are an easy way to add instant pizzazz and surface interest (particularly to simple classic pieces), and they do wonders for a neck that can use a bit of obscuring. And as luck would have it, there is a shopping destination right here in New York where one can find some of the most distinctive examples around: Roberta Freymann, 153 East 70th Street, 212 585 3767, http://www.roberta-freymann.com/ .

Ms. Freymann’s colorful, richly bohemian, and thoroughly addictive eponymous shop, has an unapologetically global, Eastern (particularly India) flavor. It’s filled with surprisingly well priced caftans, paisley print silk scarves, resin bangles, etc., and shopping there is like taking a trip to an exotic locale without having to leave town or spend money on airfare. A passionate world traveler and collector with an amazing eye, she boasts an impressive resume and is lucky enough to be doing what she loves most. She not only has an ever growing and loyal customer base (including some of the city’s most glamorous and high profile gals around town), but an ever growing empire. In addition to her two story east 70th street shop (which is housed in a landmark building), she opened Roberta Roller Rabbit, (1019 Lexington Avenue) a few years ago (it is stocked with apparel and linens made from Indian block print fabrics), and several years ago, she added an outpost in Easthampton (66 Newtown Lane, 631 329 5828).

Because I am always on the lookout for amazing necklaces and clothing with unusual neck ‘treatments’ (especially those that are cleverly designed and highly wearable), I was immediately drawn to the ornate semiprecious stone-encrusted bib necklaces which are made in India and strung on a gilded silk cord (they range in price from $200 - $250). Not only are they beautiful and eye catching but they are available in many different varieties and colorations and I can attest to the fact that it’s virtually impossible to pick just one. Because they are very lightweight, and imminently packable, they are perfect for taking away for a summer weekend jaunt (or on any trip at all). And since they are adjustable to choker length or a bit longer, they can be worn in a dizzying variety of ways: to dress up a simple cotton t shirt, add interest to the neckline of a simple shift or chemise, or tied under the collar of a shirt or shirt dress. Talk about versatile!



Similarly, I was taken by the $250 sleeveless heavy stretch satin top whose neckline is embroidered with tiny pearls, beads, and sequins. Available in red, yellow, royal blue (my favorite), and gray, this would not only look great paired with white jeans (or any jeans for that matter), but worn with shorts, Bermudas, or a skirt in any shape or length. For press inquiries: contact Dennis Gleason, Company Agenda at dennis@companyagenda.com.



Collectibles by Madge Novel

Speaking about statement making necklaces, if your penchant is unique, one of a kind collectibles (with an art deco flavor), have I got a vintage dealer for you! Madge Novel is a native New Yorker who resides in Washington D.C. She has always been both creative and good with her hands and originally wanted to be a fashion illustrator. She attended the School of Visual Arts and the Traphagen School of Fashion in Manhattan. At one point, she dabbled in making (and selling) her own line of jewelry (which landed her in New York Magazine’s Best Bets). She also knitted her own sweaters (in the 80’s, Joan Vass invited her to knit for her after seeing her wear one of her unusual designs).


Collectibles by Madge Novel

An incurable collector with a discerning eye, she, like Ms. Freymann, has turned her hobby and her passion, into a business and has amassed loyal customers and fans along the way. Her enviable collection of whimsical and iconic Enid Collins bags, was spotlighted in last June’s issue of “Country Home” Magazine, but Ms. Novel admits that jewelry is the major focus of her collection (prices range from about $100 - $400). Last year, she collaborated with good friend, Julie Wolfe, who designs interesting jewelry for Barney’s and Harvey Nichols (she did some “picking” for her and sold her a number of her own rhinestone pieces which she incorporated into her designs).


Collectibles by Madge Novel

Recently, Julie sent the photos of some of those pieces to Vogue, and they are considering using them on the resort pages in the November issue. In addition, the manager of Ralph Lauren in Washington, D.C. “flipped over” some of Madge’s deco turquoise necklaces and has been trying to convince the Ralph Lauren General Manager to do a trunk show with some of her things.


Signed pieces by Mirian Haskell & Elsa Schiaparelli

While she has a fondness for Miriam Haskell and Elsa Schiaparelli, Ms. Novel says she is “not at all concerned whether pieces are signed or by well known designers or even from a particular period”. “I buy what I love. I go by my own aesthetic instinct and it seems to work. It's the mix of pieces that I find exciting and that creates the look.”

For the time being, she can be contacted via her e-mail address: madgenovel02@comcast.net, but will soon be establishing a website and has plans to open an online store on "Trocadero" an online mall. If someone is interested in seeing her collection (which she describes as “ever-changing”) she can send pictures or meet with them whether in Washington or New York.

Right now, she is doing the FIFI venue in Washington but will eventually do other shows in New York. In addition, Madge will do personal shopping for pieces and is always interested in buying.

So, in the same way that you don’t need to resort to a surgical neck lift (if you don’t like your neck you can simply indulge in some pretty fabulous accessories), you don’t need to resort to a painful and expensive boob lift you can simply buy a new fashion gadget. Bralief (www.bralief.com) promises to “provide an alternative to surgery” while improving posture, while giving you an instant breast lift, and preventing the straps from falling off. All for the low price of $9.95 each or $22.95 for a pack of three. Available in black, tan, white, and pink and white, the proceeds of the net sales will be donated to Breast Cancer Research.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, July 07, 2008

Panel Discussion: Why Are So Many of Today's Fashion Editors So Young?

Several of the editors and writers at LOL were taking a coffee break in between shows during NY fashion week a number of years back, when one person suddenly asked,"Why are so many of today's fashion editors young? Is this good or bad for fashion?" LOL decided to investigate. We surveyed members of the fashion community to get their take. Some of them have been in the business for as little as three years and others for more than 20. The one thing they had in common: interesting, bold opinions. So, are young fashion editors good or bad for the fashion industry? Go to http://lookonline.com/panel.html and judge for yourself.

(Editor's note: This discussion was held in 1998. It is as true today as when we first wrote this article.)