Friday, June 26, 2009

“To Isabel, With Love”

Vogue's Andre Leon Talley

It’s official. The fashion world is head over heels in love with Isabel Toledo. It’s been impossible not to notice all the love surrounding the talented creator, especially on the heels of FIT’s blockbuster ‘Mid Life Retrospective’, “Isabel Toledo, Fashion from the Inside Out”, which opened to the public on June18th. And just about a week later, on Wednesday, June 24th, Isabel and collaborator/ husband Ruben, were once again the center of attention at Barneys New York, where they made a personal appearance during an all day fall 2009 trunk show, the highlight of which was a Q &A spearheaded by Barneys always amusing and irreverent Simon Doonan.

Chicly and intelligently dressed (what else would you expect?) in a black top, eased up white cotton canvas painter’s pants rolled up at the hem (Isabel claims they are actually Ruben’s and they have a stockpile of the functional and great looking basics which serve as their uniform of choice), navy leather lace up gillies from her short lived but memorable Anne Klein Collection, and topped off with a weightless dove gray silk taffeta coat of her own design, the designer (who admits, “I never had a job in my life; I play for a living”) mingled with guests like Andre Leon Talley, Barneys' Julie Gilhart (also dressed in Isabel’s design), and loyal customers (including social fixture Yaz Hernandez who was literally in fashion heaven as she quickly tried one dress on after another, exclaiming “this is mine”). Mrs. Hernandez has quite an extensive designer wardrobe and when I asked her how many Isabel Toledo’s she owns, she sheepishly answered “a lot”. Isabel concurred that her collection could “fill a room”.

Simon Doonan & Isabel Toledo

At 2:45, Isabel and Simon took their places on stools set up in the middle of the second floor (which is home not only to the designs of Isabel Toledo, but Prada, YSL, and other similarly high end names), and Simon kicked things off by heaping praise on Isabel and congratulating her on the amazing exhibit, noting, “Those who have seen Isabel’s exhibit at FIT are probably still reeling from the majesty of it, and the incredible range of talent on display. Those of you who haven’t, should either kill yourselves, or get over there ASAP!”

Here are some of the highlights of what followed:

SD: I’m assuming that when you saw Michelle Obama in your Inaugural Design, you screamed something, probably in Spanish.
IT: I did it!
SD: What did you say at that moment?
IT: Thank God she looks good! (that got a laugh from the audience).
We (at the studio) were all taken with the moment. It seriously didn’t matter what she was wearing. To think I was part of that history is amazing. Michelle, Barack, Isabel. I’m thrilled, thrilled!

SD: Who would you want to be if you weren’t you?
IT: Frank Lloyd Wright (Actually, it was Ruben who quickly answered for her, and she thanked him and agreed)

SD: Who are your favorite designers, because I’ve heard you mention Claire McCardell?
IT: I love Claire! I love anybody that thinks of a design and can put it into a form. I don’t care what it is. You have a thought…you have an emotion…and it is really difficult to put that into a three dimensional form. Designers are all trying to dissect things, to bring meaning to them. If you’re wearing an Isabel Toledo, you’re wearing my thought; you’re wearing how I solve a problem.

SD: What designers do you admire?
IT: Geoffrey Beene, who was the master of his craft

SD: I don’t mean to be racist, but your work is intensely Latin in a certain way and yet not in a typical ‘Chi Chi’. Your sensibility is Latin but quirky and unique. I want to know where that comes from.
IT: I have no idea. I don’t know that I’m very Latin. (And then she asked her husband if she was ‘very Latin’ and he said yes, to which she replied, “I’m very Latin!”)

SD: You have a flirtatious modesty that is compelling yet alluring.
IT: It’s not revealing. Ever. I’m such a prude. It’s turtlenecks all the time. It’s all about modesty. What you don’t see.

SD: When you see something that’s very revealing and very obvious, what do you think of that?
IT: Well, if the woman is comfortable, it’s wonderful.

SD: Who’s more talented- you or your husband? (Everyone laughed)
IT: Ruben. He’s much more talented. I just make sense of it.
SD: Very diplomatic answer

At this point, Simon invited guests to ask questions.
Member of the audience: I heard that you refer to yourself as a seamstress. Is that true?
IT: Yes. That’s what I do. That’s what I love to do and that’s why I’m doing what I do. I used to make clothes. I can sew. It chose me. Fashion chose me.

One of the funniest moments was when a woman asked Isabel what inspires her as she begins a collection. She quickly retorted, “I’m going to kill you” but then joked, “I take a pill”. This had everyone in stitches. The same woman quickly asked, “Which one?” to which Isabel replied, “A pink one” (FYI, “I’ll have what she’s having”)
IT: That’s the easiest question to ask and the hardest to answer. I have no idea. I just react to life. I really enjoy the process of things. I’m probably the best, most dedicated worker. The working of fashion inspires me.

Member of the audience: How do you want to be remembered?
IT: Lover of Ruben

Member of the audience: What is the most important advice you can give to a young designer that you wish you had when you were starting out?
IT: Patience, patience, patience. If you get it easy, it goes easy. Where you’ve been is who you are.

At this point, Isabel called out for Andre Leon Talley to ask something.
ALT: What is your next big trip?
IT: I’m going to blow glass. Ruben and I are going to Pilchuck, Seattle. We’ll be artists in residence for a month and we’re really excited.
ALT: So, I suppose we can look for glass as inspiration for future collections? Glass ruffles, glass folds, perhaps? (He said this humorously and everyone laughed including Isabel, but don’t be surprised if this comes to pass, as Isabel takes her brilliant inspiration from everything around her)

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love those Big, Buxom Gems

Tournaire’s “Palis Roman” ring handmade in 18karat yellow and rose gold

June nearly always heralds the time for the JIC Jewelry Information Center’s (JIC) Annual Editor’s Luncheon, and this time around, albeit on a drab, dark day that seemed more like a tropical monsoon than a usual New York City rainstorm, some 60 trade and consumer jewelry and fashion editors, reporters, stylists, photographers, and the like, flocked to Vermilion Restaurant (a sort of, kind of cool, very organic eatery, tucked away on the East Side somewhere) for a highly-anticipated afternoon of fun things to enjoy; i.e., cocktails, fine dining, designer jewelry collection previews, raffles and goody bags.

The draw here was obviously not only the de rigeuer luncheon (this time, though, not as delectable as in past events of this kind), but also the chance to get a first peek at some pretty fabulous jewels and related accessories for 2009 from selected “names”, such as Anna Ruth Henriques, Carla Amorin, Denise Solay Eyewear, Diana Vincent, Etienne Peret,Gumuchian, Michael B, Roberto Coin, Sevan, and so on and so forth.

Naturally, the jewels themselves (and the key trends which inspired the design repertoire here) were the stars of this show. Worked around looking good with the new clothing collections on tap, as well as maybe keeping a mindful eye on the economic situation and the fact that many, if not most jewelry shoppers, are all watching their pennies, there seemed to be a very strong point made for beautiful, big, bold, day and night-time jewels.

Robin Koffler’s 18karat yellow gold necklace with aquamarines and rainbow moonstone gemstones

Let us start here with a huge necklace story, which totally harkens back to the good old days – l980’s anyone - when excess and a larger-than-life sensibility were so in. For these jewels, it is all about variety for the ladies and gentleman who go from classical and toned down to way-out, crazy and very, very wild. Think about lots of yellow-gold, chain-link, V-shapes, tough, rock-and-roller spikes and horns, multi-strands and tassels. While some of the necklaces are plain (and this look is OK for a more conservative statement), the best looks in necklaces appear to be embellished with never shy, multi-colored gemstones, charms, and blackened, sterling silver.

Next up are oversized, sexy, swinging hoops, which while all the rage in the l980’s are back now; only this time, more of the pieces are diamond dotted, which makes this trend fresher and timeless in the modern age. OK, now where would all the jewelry lovers out there be without one (or more) loud, brazen, “Epic” rings, in all-metal or layered with several kinds of gemstones, are totally fantastical and seem to be more than just a bit covetable, according to the reactions of several luncheon guests, one of whom noted that it seemed cool to wear one or several of these rings on just one or both hands.

Zapphire by Kanupriya Khurana’s teakwood cuff with black onyx at the center and deep pink quartz surrounding; edged in sterling silver with rhodium finish and a glossy polish.

Last but not least are cuff bracelets, which although maybe viewed as a staple across the wardrobe of many stylistas, are currently as big, better and as layer-ready as anyone would want, mind you, now served up in a range of different techniques and finishes, such as openwork, filigree, hand-hammered or silky and polished. For many of the event’s guests (and this editor included), the sensual, curvaceous wood bracelets, many mixed in with enamel and colored gemstones, totally took the prize.

Equally nice, in addition to everything else that this event showcased, was the fact that once again, World Gold Council was on hand as a co-sponsor; ditto for a new co-sponsor, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, which provided gratis jewelry cleaning for guests who toted along a piece of personal jewelry that needed some extra zing and bling. Making the pot sweeter was a nice gift bag for all guests (not just the luck raffle winners, among whom this editor was not one of those fortunate one’s) to take home. While not filled to the brim with the usual amount of goodies found at previous JIC events, there were, aside from the several press kits, two, cute designer bracelets nestled inside a colorful, l960’s-inspired, flower-power tote. Right on.

– Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

“Holy Toledo” (yet again!)

(All photos: Randy Brooke)

"Tonight is about the creative side of fashion" - Bill Cunningham

I know I know…this phrase has been worked to death at this point, but there is no other heading that best describes how blown away I was by FIT’s brand new blockbuster exhibit, “Isabel Toledo, Fashion from the Inside Out”, (‘a Mid-Career Retrospective’, June 17 – September 26.) To say that Tuesday morning’s press preview “made my day”, is an understatement. ‘Made my year’ is more like it. The fact that it was preceded the night before by the CFDA Awards, (about which The New York Times’ Eric Wilson observed, "It would have been disingenuous to declare anyone a real winner this year, though awards were handed out for best designers in several categories during what felt, at times, more like a pep rally than a glamorous event"), made the 100+ items on display, look even more brilliant and served as a reminder of what true creative genius is, what well thought out and intelligent design looks like, how special and unique Isabel (and Ruben) are, and just how lucky we are to have them as part of our fashion universe. Oh, and I forgot to mention….how nice they are…yes, ‘nice’ as in, warm, open, and decidedly attitude free. How refreshing is that?

The exhibition is a must see for anybody who is interested in fashion, and for anyone who has become disillusioned and disenchanted with the overhyped, run of the mill, rather ordinary (if not positively demeaning and insulting) ‘stuff’ being pawned off as ‘great’. The name, “Fashion from the Inside Out” was born out of the fact that Isabel works so closely with her husband, all she has to do is “describe an idea or even a feeling to Ruben, and he’ll sketch it.” (Sounds like your husband, right?! No, not mine either).

I was happy I decided to attend the morning event, even though I knew I was going back to FIT for what would undoubtedly and unsurprisingly be a high spirited, festive, packed to the gills cocktail party later on that evening. The press preview on the other hand, was small, intimate, and low keyed (much like the Toledo’s themselves), and I had a chance to study images, sketches, illustrations, read press clips, and it provided a wonderful opportunity to speak with the unduly modest designer (who claims she never “thinks of herself as a designer” but rather a “seamstress”). When I asked about her design philosophy, she explained that her beginning “was very elementary, which was very modern for the times” (the 80’s) and it was and still is “all about 3 dimensional, amorphic shapes, circling around the body”. When I suggested that was her defining signature, she noted, “The work process of what it takes to make a garment- that is definitely what I have to offer”. “Many times I don’t know what it’s going to look like but I know that by working with the garment it becomes what it’s going to be because I work so closely with the fabric, and that speaks to me. It’s not as simple as just sketching a nice look; it’s how do I express this fabric emotionally.”

Isabel with the ensemble she created for Michele Obama

And of course, it’s always great to have an opportunity to speak with the Museum at FIT’s deputy director Patricia Mears and director and chief curator, Valerie Steele, the latter of whom was busy fielding questions from the press, especially with regards to the by now famous yellow ensemble (which Michelle Obama chose to wear on Inauguration Day and which has a special place in the exhibit- it’s literally the first item on display).

Everything about the exhibit is perfect, conceptual and informative: its location the vast high ceilinged space down in the lower level); Ruben’s utterly magical illustrations and drawings which decorate the ceilings and appear to ‘speak’ to the dress forms below; the corresponding patterns showing the thought process behind the designs; the way it’s divided and organized into groups representing the major themes that define Isabel’s body of work ‘Origami’, ‘Sculptural’, ‘Suspension’, ‘Liquid Architecture’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Shape’, ‘Manipulated Surfaces’).

I spent only a little over an hour yesterday morning, but when I left, I felt newly energized, and surprisingly upbeat and positive about the future of fashion, (especially the future of American fashion). I was so inspired, I found myself wanting to really get dressed up and celebrate at the party later on that night.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Models wearing a selection of designs from this year’s nominees, and positioned on platformed bleachers

That the venue for the 2009 CFDA Awards, held last evening, was changed from the New York Public Library where they had been staged for many years (and just steps from where the Bryant Park Tents had been erected for many a season), to Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, could be seen as symbolic, a ‘teaser’ of sorts. Because, beginning in February 2010, IMG New York Fashion Week, will find a new home in Lincoln Center. And from my point of view, it’s not only a perfect fit, but hopefully, it will serve as a harbinger of positive things to come. Not only is the location still convenient (although admittedly not as convenient as 42nd Street), but in the same way that the Tents were a perfect metaphor to symbolize the ‘Big Top’ circus like atmosphere surrounding fashion week, Lincoln Center, the epicenter of the performing arts in New York City, speaks to the drama and theatre (and hopefully, the productive creativity) that is, or rather, should be, inherent in fashion. In addition, the space is also much more open, light, and airy with its high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, and city views, and not as claustrophobic as the New York Public Library, which always seemed overly crowded, and over hot.

President of CFDA Diane von Fürstenberg
(photo: Randy Brooke)

Boy, speaking of theatrical and being right on cue, the skies opened up to a first class downpour just minutes before the festivities were to begin. But moments before the first guests arrived, (at 6:30 to be exact) the rain ended, and the sun actually came out. And thank goodness, because otherwise, the models, (wearing a selection of designs from this year’s nominees, and positioned on platformed bleachers right outside the entrance to Alice Tully Hall), would have gotten completely soaked. By the way, it was amusing to hear the comments from puzzled onlookers, as they took in the ‘view’ and tried to guess what was going on.

Linda Fargo, Fashion Director of Bergdorf Goodman

In addition to the new, slightly more artsy and decidedly more uptown locale…there were other things that were just a little bit different for the CFDA Awards this time around. The ‘Pre Show moment’, a time when the guests left the red carpet to enter the theatre for the awards show, was really edited this year, allowing members of the press only one hour to mingle with guests over a glass of Champagne. In addition, reporters were warned they could not cover both the red carpet and the cocktail hour as they “happen simultaneously”. At precisely 7:30, there was an announcement (well, sort of a musical ‘gong’) to formally announce that the show was to begin. It was also the time when many if not most of the evening’s high profile guests arrived.

Fern Mallis, Senior Vice President of IMG Fashion
(photo: Randy Brooke)

Unsurprisingly, while the invitation called for Black Tie, how that is interpreted these days, especially within fashion circles, where people make their own rules, is open for interpretation. Certainly, floor length gowns were completely overshadowed by short dresses - and I mean dangerously SHORT, though there was a smattering of tuxedos and even a few jumpsuits. One standout was EBay’s Constance White, who looked fantastic in a black Ralph Lauren tuxedo jumpsuit, accessorized with Charles Nolan’s oversized pearls. Speaking of which, this year, it seemed it was all about statement making accessories (no surprise there since the category of accessories could not be ‘hotter’ at the moment). Statement making necklaces, jeweled bibs, and golf ball sized pearls were the order of the evening. And when it wasn’t a fabulous accessory, it was a frock that was jeweled and embellished, so that there was no need to add accessories, other than a bag and a pair of great shoes. Actually, come to think of it, with short dresses being the order of the day (or evening, I should say), my vote for the most important accessory would have to be great pair of gams!

AND the winner is…
Board of Director’s Special Tribute
First Lady Michelle Obama

Womenswear Designer of the Year
Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy

Menswear Designer of the Year (tie)
Calvin Klein’s Italo Zucchelli
Band of Outsiders’ Scott Sternberg

Accessory Designer of the Year
Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez

Swarovski Award for Womenswear
Alexander Wang

Swarovski Award for Menswear
Tim Hamilton

Swarovski Award for Accessory Design
Justin Giunta for Subversive Jewelry

International Award
Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton

Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award
Anna Sui

Eugenia Sheppard Award
Women’s Wear Daily editor-in-chief Ed Nardoza

Eleanor Lambert Award
GQ’s Jim Moore

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let The Sun Shine In

(All photos: Gerard Gentil)

Judging by the look of many of Douglas Hannant’s current Resort pieces, it appears to this editor that perhaps the designer might have gone straight to inspirations such as the current Broadway revival of that old fave, “Hair”, along with some cool vintage and retro boutiques, vintage and retro books, magazines, photography and the like.

Seeing the collection, though, really brings to mind, clear images of more than just a few of those beautiful, fabulously dressed hippie chicks of the l960’s; the girls who shopped hard, played hard, partied hard, and always wore flowers in their hair, no matter if they were in San Francisco, New York, Woodstock, London, Paris, Cannes or Milan.

Hannant’s final result played out in a groovy, new-wave spin across nearly all of the cool, personality-packed clothes; the majority of which should really warm up the designer’s clients for the new season. But, even with all of this joy and stylized fashion, there was an obvious downside here. Most unfortunately, the line was shown in a rather drab, lackluster, no-fun-at-all, showroom presentation. Think about an environment which did little, if anything at all, to further punch up to the max, the kinds of colorful, fantastical and whimsical pieces created by Hannant, and you get the picture.

Generally, there is much to love in the 22-piece grouping. While the sexy “Gypsy Style” and opulent “Rich Bohemian” themes win for coming across as highly covetable and best-looking, the more toned-down and somewhat staid“Traveler” pieces do seem to take somewhat of a bit of a back seat to everything else across the line.

Overall, the designer’s key silhouettes embrace flowing, easy-to-wear blouses and tunics, slim, low-waist embellished pants (the beaded, sequined and feathered pants are to die for), multi-print jacquard sheath dresses and sequin print gowns. For those who are loving color, Hannat does not disappoint, especially when he concentrates on shades such as Aqua, Cobalt Blue, Coral, Paprika and Tangerine. Always a stickler for intricate detailing, the designer opts for raffia trim, trapunto seams, crochet, and stone and jewel beading in all of the right places, along with mixes and matches of colors, textures and prints, seen most predominently across the “Gypsy Style” grouping.

Addressing the overall look and flare of this freewheeling collection, it is quite right to say that everything is hip, hot and happening over at Douglas Hannant. Addressing the showroom presentation and what that did (or did not do) for the clothes, well, that is quite another story.

– Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Friday, June 05, 2009

‘Wu’ ing the Crowd

(All photos: Randy Brooke)

Jason Wu has admittedly had quite a year, thanks not only to the press (he is up for the CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear, along with Thakoon Panichgul and Alexander Wang, the results of which will be announced on June 15th during the festivities at Lincoln Center), but of course, the ongoing support of Michelle Obama. The First Lady is not only an avowed fan and customer, but helped catapult him to worldwide fame when she selected his long white gown for the Inaugural Ball. Among other ‘endorsements’, she appeared on the cover of the March issue of Vogue wearing a fuchsia dress by the designer, and selected one of his coat and dress ensembles for that now famous trip to Europe with the President back in April.

He was also one of a handful of designers to present a formal Resort 2010 show this past week. But instead of using his showroom, a well known hotel room, or a predictable hall, as his venue of choice, he wisely opted for two rather intimate (if not downright ‘civilized’) back to back showings at the decidedly out of the way, under the radar, Greenwich Hotel. Located on a quiet cobblestone street in Tribeca, it is only a year and a half old, but boasts old world charm, elegance, and European ambience (all of which were apparent in the room he used for the showings, which was adjacent to a beautiful courtyard, where waiters served guests drinks and elegant hors doevres; it made me think I was in Paris). It was apparently selected by the designer because (as he told Fashion Week Daily), he likes “the environment down there - it’s like the city away from the city.”

I must admit I was especially intrigued when I read that the collection was inspired by Iris Apfel, the fashion icon whose eccentric, colorful sense of style was immortalized when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute mounted ‘Rara Avis’ several years ago. I am a huge fan and had the pleasure of interviewing the fab octogenarian for our Masters of Fashion Interview Series awhile back.

Granted, the designer warned Fashion Week Daily that his collection is not “literally taking the way she wore things but making spirit and the mood in a way that’s very much in line with what I do”. But based on his admission that he has always loved her “style of piling everything but the kitchen sink”, I assumed there’d be more of an apparent connection. While I thought the collection was beautifully executed and very much in keeping with the mood of the moment (and Mr. Wu’s feminine aesthetic), quite frankly, it was a bit of a stretch for me to really find any parallels between Wu and Apfel within the 20 piece lineup which was filled with wispy chiffon, tulle, jersey, crosshatched tweed draped separates, tulip skirts, coatdresses, trenches, envelope sleeved tops, corseted and peplumed waists (much of it very very short and rendered in soft, barely there colors, sometimes hit with strong ‘highlighter’ shades of yellow, green, cobalt, fuchsia, and red). There certainly wasn’t a “random pileup of accessories”, as aside from the chic customized Bruno Frisoni high heeled sandals (in arresting and graphic combinations of black with gray, cobalt, yellow, and red) the only jewelry shown was the ‘real deal’, courtesy from Van Cleef & Arpels. And no, Mrs. Apfel was nowhere in sight.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, June 04, 2009

“Blame it on Rio”


To say that Diane Von Furstenberg is a seasoned traveler, is an understatement. The fashion icon’s jet set life has always revolved around “hitting the road” in style but if you think she’s one of those pampered fashionistas who can’t travel without 10 Louis Vuitton steamer trunks, think again. The woman who invented the packable, travel friendly, versatile, wrap dress, has long extolled the virtues of packing light (which is the way to go particularly these days, since nobody wants to check their baggage if they don’t have to).

The designing woman, (who is Mrs. Barry Diller and the CFDA President), has not only put her name on a line of travel inspired bags, La Petite Valise, but has lent her expertise to travel magazines, giving advise on how to pack and really edit down. In one article that ran in the October 2008 issue of Travel & Leisure, “Pack like a Pro: Diane Von Furstenberg”, she referred to herself as “the best packer in the world” and went into detail within the following 5 suggestions: “Go lightly”, “Include a splash of color”, “Carry a big handbag”, “Mix it up”, “Bring jersey”. (I especially liked the tip about packing couture: “Roll up ball gowns and put them in stockings. You can actually squeeze them down to the shape of a salami. They are perfect and unwrinkled when you unpack them.” Who knew?!)

She once observed that what you whittle yourself down to, (after rigorously editing your travel wardrobe), speaks volumes about ‘who’ you are. If you think about it, it’s so true, because we all have too much ‘stuff’, yet there are those core, indispensible, favorite items that we know we can’t live without, those things that need to be near us no matter where we go, whether it’s a favorite scarf, piece of jewelry, pair of shoes, or an item of clothing. And those are the pieces that really stand out when you have to chose and be selective.

The Cruise/Pre-Spring 2009/2010 line that DVF unveiled yes
terday at noon, during a formal showing at her shop on west 14th street (smack dab in the middle of the Meat Packing District), was dubbed “Her Name is Rio”. In her own words, it is all about “the freedom to travel lightly…to go through customs with nothing to declare but colors and optimism” and finding those ‘perfect-to-pack essentials’. Unsurprisingly, the collection was filled with travel- friendly, lightweight fabrics, many rendered in strong vibrant colors and bold patterns (though she chose to begin the show with a duo of chic black plisse dresses, one worn beneath a black silk crepe satin blazer).

Also unsurprising, (since the practical yet ultra feminine Mrs. Barry Diller has always been ‘all about’ the dress), is that out of the 35 pieces shown, 24 were dresses. There were wrap dresses, strapless dresses, tank dresses, tee dresses, dresses made of printed chiffon, dresses made of printed cotton, dresses made of printed georgette, dresses made of paper leather, dresses made of stretch denim, dresses made of dot sequins, and dresses made of colorful pailletes (and most of them were short and kicky). When it wasn’t a dress, it was a roll cuffed short short, a skinny jean type pant (both of which were sometimes shown beneath a boyfriend blazer), a full legged jumpsuit, or a knockout swimsuit (which made a statement when shown underneath an eye catching, printed coat). And of course, everything was accessorized with killer high heeled sandals. My suggestion? ‘Lose’ the heels when running through the airport to catch that plane!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Last Resort

photos to follow this morning

I know that it’s not exactly a revelation when I say that many of us online fashion editors are often treated like second class citizens, but this one takes the cake. Several weeks ago, when it occurred to me that I had not yet received my invite to the June 1st Oscar de la Renta Resort 2010 Show, I emailed Paul Wilmot just to double check and make sure that I was in fact on the press list. When I didn’t hear back, I emailed the appropriate person, saying I understood if they are packed to the hilt but I would take ‘standing’ if they had it, and received this response: “I just double checked with the team at ODLR and unfortunately, we are not going to be able to accommodate you for the show this year”. Say What? A resort show I can’t get into? I can’t even get ‘standing’? I weigh probably not much more than 107 pounds, so I hardly take up much room. Do you mean to tell me they can’t find a place to ‘accommodate’ my thin body? Nonsense! Actually, it wasn’t that surprising, since they were unable to accommodate my request to cover the fall winter show back in February (and there were two back to back presentations no less).

I’ve known Oscar for decades, and have covered him since the 1970’s, when I was a young fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar (he is not only a gentleman and a class act, but a wonderful designer with great taste). I have never had difficulty getting into one of his shows until just recently. It’s hard to imagine, especially in these troubled times with so many divisive factors out of our control, (not to mention far more serious problems and issues around the world than the superficial ones routinely found in fashion), that there are those within the fashion community, whose thoughtless and selfish exclusionary actions (or inactions), can result in unnecessarily sabotaging one’s ability to simply do one’s job. Shouldn’t we all be trying to help one another out????

Be that as it may, I decided to show up at 583 Park Avenue (Oscar’s venue of choice) yesterday morning, since I have always noticed that regardless of what the powers that be might have you think, there are invariably empty seats at ALL fashion shows, including highly anticipated high ticket ones. Upon entering the lobby, I was warmly greeted by an old colleague from my Harper’s Bazaar days, who didn’t even ask to see a ticket, (just assuming I had one), and whisked me in just minutes before the show started. I looked around the room and low and behold, there were not just a few, but plenty of empty seats all over, and not only in the last row, where “Reserved” signs were posted to the backs. (I don’t know who they were ‘reserved’ for, but they never showed up).

And so, the first show kicked off what will invariably shape up to be a surprisingly full blown (Recession be Damned!) resort week in New York (with many formal showings all around town). Of course, the term ‘resort’ is a throw back and really doesn’t mean clothes to take away on a cruise, or vacation, as it did eons ago. Nowadays, ‘resort’ is just another reason to show yet another collection of clothes, and hopefully, they will be seasonless enough, classic enough, wearable enough, fabulous enough, special enough, and “gotta have it” enough, to entice the customer to reach into her wallet. Mr. de la Renta’s was a decidedly chic, dressed up, sophisticated, yet youthful approach to resort dressing, (with an emphasis on the interesting rich mixes and accessories that define ‘Parisian’ style).

It was hard not to notice the nod to Coco Chanel, and an underlying maritime theme which came courtesy all the navy, navy and white, graphic and crisp stripes, (often punched up with red accents), and of course, knockout swimsuits, some shown with matching embroidered coats or hand painted trenches. Familiar territory for sure, and not exactly the first time Oscar has gone this route, but it happened to look especially good this time.

In addition to boucle, tulle, ribbon and checked tweed jackets (some of which were cropped and boxy, others lean and elongated), tweed dresses, and tweed skirt suits (which were often accessorized with berets to emphasize the notion of French dressing), there was lots of dark crisp indigo denim (including a wide legged jean), beautiful and ‘important’ white rose ruffle front blouses, an abundance of prints (landscape, brushstroke, block, tie dye), and of course, embroidery throughout. With the exception of about 9 or 10 floor length mousseline, sponge crepe, double georgette, silk organza, silk faille dresses which comprised the finale, (and several pants outfits mixed in to the 49 piece collection) everything else was sassy and short (meaning, above the knee), and dresses, especially, were emphasized in an assortment of shapes, bearing a variety of necklines (one shoulder, strapless, etc.)

To further the youthful and unapologetically ‘je ne sais pas quoi’ French spirit, Fogal’s sheer black or white stockings, seemingly cut off and rolled down at the ankles, were worn beneath high heeled black or white water snake embroidered, satin pearl encrusted, suede studded, gold metallic leather, or patent leather open toe slingbacks or sandals. Speaking of bling….….the ubiquitous use of the rather over the top and fancy footwear, bejeweled and mirrored belts, massive stone encrusted bibs, wide cuffs, and metallic python clutch bags, resulted in a blurring of the lines between what was day and what was evening (an ongoing trend).

-Marilyn Kirschner