Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. ‘Clean’

I can’t boast that my local dry cleaner is “one of the most recognized and respected cleaning and restoration companies in the world”, or the “finest custom couture cleaner in the world”, responsible for preparing and maintaining Melania’s Christian Dior Haute Couture wedding gown prior to her high profile wedding to Donald Trump in Palm Beach. I can’t brag that they clean and routinely maintain the gold silk upholstered upholstery in Donald Trump’s Boeing 727; restore and preserve “irreplaceable vintage Chanel creations” from the 20’s and 30’s, (and as such, were responsible for the success of the 2004 Chanel exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in 2004), or that they cleaned and restored some of the iconic fashions featured in the Costume Institute’s AngloMania exhibit. And I certainly can’t boast that my local dry cleaner is routinely written up in glossy fashion magazines or that its windows could easily rival that of the best stores and boutiques in town.

However, if you happen to live in close proximity to 1255 Second Avenue, between 65th and 66thh streets, you might be able to make that claim, because you are just around the corner from the famed Madame Paulette, a dry cleaning establishment like no other: so high end, so luxurious, and so out of the ordinary (thanks to the obsession, passion, vision, and hard work of third generation Owner and President, 43 year old John Mahdessian, who turned down a high profile Wall Street job in order to take the helm), it is called the Madame Paulette Organization and it gives new meaning to being “taken to the cleaners”. And it has admittedly come a long way from its beginnings (it was founded in 1958 by John’s great uncle Andy, and named for his wife who had worked as a French seamstress).

This past summer, in celebration of their 50th year in business, Mr. Mahdessian threw a three night celebration at the company's newly renovated flagship (it takes up half a city block,) and it was attended by many of the city’s biggest movers and shakers. It was also the perfect 'excuse' to show off the just completed $500,000‘face lift’ which helps set it apart from ‘similar’ establishments. First, there’s the main foyer, covered in black marble with custom made brass fixtures which bear the Madame Paulette logo. Then there are the dressing rooms that offer an array of different lighting, not to mention a high tech ‘black light setting’ which actually pinpoints invisible blemishes. Last but not least, there are the windows, which are filled with a seasonal, changing assortment of fabulous frocks. A few months ago, it was some of the “most prized” vintage pieces that have been restored by Madame Paulette, including treasures by Yves Saint Laurent, Ossie Clark, Givenchy, Paul Poiret, and Fortuny. Most recently, the offerings include the designs of Maggie Norris, J. Mendel, Pilar Rossi, Marchesa, Cho Cheng, Emanuel Ungaro, and Angel Sanchez. By the way, awhile back, it was reported that Eva Longoria eyed an Angel Sanchez creation in the window that she “had to have” for a red carpet event, and before you could say, “dry cleaner”, it was shipped out to La-La Land.

To find out more about the extensive and global services the company provides (even if you’re not the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Eva Longoria, Anna Wintour, Sting, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, or Barbara Walters, who sang their praises for being able to remove red wine from a prized black and white sequined Armani jacket, after being repeatedly told it would never come out) click on to, or call 212 838 6827.

By the way, I found myself seated next to Mr. Mahdessian at the recent Fashion Group International's 'Night of Stars' Gala at the Wall Street Cipriani. It couldn’t have been more perfect timing, since I was about to put a forkful of cold lobster dripping with dressing, into my mouth, and I was just thinking about the possible stains that would ensue. As I looked to my right, John was sitting there, and he had his convenient ‘Madame Paulette Professional Stain Removal Kit’ at the ready, which is just the thing for getting out seemingly impossible stains from red wine, butter sauce, blood, or anything else for that matter. This is perfect to keep in mind since the holidays, filled with food and wine, are fast approaching.

Just a reminder, if you happen to meet John Mahdessian at some point, please, don’t call him a ‘dry cleaner’ to his face, because he might just punch you in the face. When he was profiled by The New York Observer, ('The Sultan of Stains', June 9, 2009), he told writer Spencer Morgan, "That's a fuckin' insult". That's like calling a world-renowned surgeon a doctor."

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, October 23, 2009

“Have I got a ‘Story’ for you!”

The venue (All photos: Randy Brooke)

Last evening was Fashion Group International’s annual Night of Stars Gala, which was held, for the second year in a row, at Cipriani Wall Street. As FGI President Margaret Hayes recounted, this event was a rather low keyed affair when it started out 26 years ago. It was a far more intimate gathering, attended by a correspondingly small, intimate group of fashion insiders, and for many years it was held in a small elegant room at the Pierre Hotel. Boy, how things have changed. Without doubt, each year, the super star quotient seems to be upped a bit more (‘stars’ not only from the world of fashion, beauty, etc., but from every area of the entertainment industry including Academy Award winners) and this time, it was positively ‘ablaze’ in the star power of such musical legends as Jon Bon Jovi, Michael Stipe, Mary J. Blige, and Gwen Stefani, who served as presenters. But while a hip, plugged in, rock musical theme was hard to ignore, the title this year, and the umbrella which linked the 11 “stellar honorees whose generous spirit and creativity have made a significant impact on design and culture” (in the words of Margaret Hayes), was “The Storytellers”.

Simon Doonan

And how fitting that once again, Simon Doonan, irreverent ‘host with the most’ outrageous, politically incorrect, ad libbed quips and comments, and story teller extraordinaire, should serve as host for the festivities. And boy oh boy, did Simon have a story to tell! During cocktail hour, I asked if he had a good story planned; he said, “Yes, and you’d better laugh”. And laugh I did, as did most in the 550 strong who filled the grand and stately venue. He started out by saying “I’m not quite sure what Margaret was smoking when she came up with the idea of “storytellers”, telling Margaret, “I have my own ‘story’ to tell. And it’s not very pretty”. But quite frankly, by the time he was through, he had me wondering what he was ‘smoking’! While it was impossible for me to write it all down, I will say that what followed was a very detailed and fantastical story linking each and every one of the evening’s honorees in an utterly absurd way, as only Simon could have possibly pulled off.

Lookonline's Marilyn Kirschner

Some of the highlights of the evening:

Gwen Stefani taking the stage and admitting “I hate doing this….this hurts me” (prior to her introduction of Catherine Walsh)

Iman observing that Michael Kors stands for relaxed luxury; “when I think of glamorous people who jet set around the world, I think of Michael”. “This man is a story teller on the runway, and he uses cashmere, silk jersey, etc., to tell his story”.

Michael Kors: “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

Mary J. Blige: “It’s all about Frida’s giving…her generous heart’ (in reference to Gucci's Frida Giannini)

Jon Bon Jovi crediting his pal Kenneth Cole with having “chutzpah” when he began selling shoes in 1982 (so much so that he wound up selling 40,000 pair in two days); “He always thought out of the box…the shoe box in his case”. “Kenneth always takes a position and makes a stand…he’s fearless and at the forefront “It’s great to be known for your shoes, but it’s better to be appreciated for your soul.” (This play on words was very much in keeping with Kenneth Cole's love of puns)

Victoire de Castellane: “I want to thank the women who wear my jewelry and the men who buy it”. By the way, what was this celebrated jewelry designer wearing? No, it was not a big necklace, which might be the trend du jour, but two amazing rings, one very pronounced bracelet, and a black hair band that resembled something a Playboy Bunny might have worn serving cocktails decades ago.

Hamish Bowles: “Oscar is the most unruffled designer we have”

Grace Coddington: “Oscar, you’re totally awesome!” (Her comments took the prize as the shortest of the night)

Oscar de la Renta: “It’s amazing to be able to do for so many years, what I love to do most- this is an extraordinary industry” (The dapper and ageless designer was visibly moved by the award)


SUPERSTAR AWARD: Oscar de la Renta Presenter: Grace Coddington, Hamish Bowles


Frida Giannini / Presenter: Mary J. Blige and James Franco

Stephen Jones / Presenter: Dita Von Teese

Michael Kors/ Presenter: Iman

Victoire de Castellane / Presenter: Dennis Friedman

BEAUTY: Catherine Walsh / Presenter: Gwen Stefani


Bravo Accepted by Andy Cohen and Frances Berwick/ Presenter: Glenda Bailey

ARCHITECTURE: Clodagh / Presenter: Fern Mallis

SUSTAINABILITY AWARD: Paula Wallace for SCAD Presenter: Andre Leon Talley

CORPORATE LEADERSHIP AWARD: Renzo Ross/Diesel Presenter: Michael Stipe

HUMANITARIAN AWARD: Kenneth Cole Presenter: Jon Bon Jovi

-Marilyn Kirschner

“All in the Family”

It’s been widely observed that CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg has been “aggressive” in her desire to increase the number of new members being admitted to the organization. While in the past, it was 15 to 18 new members added annually, this year, that ‘magic’ number is 31:

Chris Benz, CHRIS BENZ
Kevin Carrigan, CK CALVIN KLEIN
Susie Cho, INHABIT
Lyn Devon, LYN DEVON
Erin Fetherston, ERIN FETHERSTON
Tim Hamilton, TIM HAMILTON
Christina and Swaim Hutson, HUTSON
Alejandro Ingelmo, ALEJANDRO INGELMO
Christopher and Nicholas Kunz, NICHOLAS K
Marcella and Johan Lindeberg, PARIS 68, J. LINDEBERG, WILLIAM RAST
Deborah Lloyd, KATE SPADE
Jenna Lyons, J.CREW
Deborah Marquit, DEBORAH MARQUIT
Stefan Miljanic, GILDED AGE
Irene Neuwirth, IRENE NEUWIRTH
Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, ELIZABETH & JAMES, THE ROW
John Patrick, ORGANIC
Maria Pinto, MARIA PINTO
Jill Platner, JILL PLATNER
Lorraine Schwartz, LORRAINE SCHWARTZ
Michael Smaldone, TALBOTS
Simon Spurr, SPURR
Koi Suwannagate, KOI SUWANNAGATE
Albertus Swanepoel, ALBERTUS SWANEPOEL
Alexander Wang, ALEXANDER WANG
Jason Wu, JASON WU

Although these names were announced back in July, the formal celebration did not take place until this past Wednesday. Instead of honoring the inductees at the not so ‘humble’ abode of one of its celebrated members (Vera Wang’s fabulous Park Avenue apartment, Reed Krakoff’s amazing east side townhouse, or Elie Tahari’s sprawling Soho loft for example), this year, the festivities took place in the Grill Room of the storied Four Seasons Restaurant. Actually, it was a ‘two for one’, since the cocktail soiree also marked the CFDA’s 50th anniversary. By the way, it wasn’t lost on me that the just the name, Four Seasons, made it more than appropriate for a fete involving fashion designers, who seem to endlessly churn out 4 seasons worth of clothing (though on second thought, these days, it’s more like ‘endless’ seasons, than just 4 seasons).

In addition to Diane’s obvious zest for adding new names to the fold, there’s the familial aspect to it all; she’s been known to lovingly refer to the CFDA as her “extended family”. And as if to echo the sentiment, when I asked Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, who were among the new inductees in attendance, what being a member of the CFDA means to them, they said, “As Diane has stated, it’s all about being part of an extended family”. Coincidentally, it’s obvious that family is very important to the talented and precocious 23 year old twins; they named one of their labels, Elizabeth & James, after two of their siblings.

Speaking of families (many or most of which are somewhat dysfunctional); there is that feeling that we in fashion, are part of one big ‘happy’, (or sometimes, ‘unhappy’ family, as the case may be). But regardless, one of the fun aspects of attending these periodic get togethers, (‘family reunions’), is not only meeting and greeting the ‘new’, but seeing ‘old’ faces from the past; and when I do, it’s as though time has not passed.. On Wednesday, that included names like Sal Cesarini (who also spoke of how great it was to celebrate the young and the ‘new’); Mary Ann Restivo, and Cathy Hardwick, among others.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tenth Annual National Design Awards

Francisco Costa winner of the fashion design award

New York is arguably the most eclectic and exciting place in the world. In this city, we expect to see a variety of interesting and unique people and celebrities. However, it’s not every day that one witnesses a gathering of such a diverse group encompassing the likes of an actor, an artist, a newscaster, a CNN anchor, a chef, a world renowned physicist, a broadcast journalist, a hotelier and fashion designer all under one roof. Last night, Cipriani on 42nd Street provided the venue for these and other fascinating attendees of the Tenth Annual National Design Awards. Champagne and Bellini’s circulated throughout the crowd as did hors devours which all seemed to be set atop a small piece of toast – goat cheese and asparagus, tuna tartar, etc. David Stark Design & Production created the giant number “10” which was graphically patterned with the names of all the winners and hung just inside the entrance.

Launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, The Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum celebrates outstanding achievement in design in various disciplines. First Lady Michelle Obama serves as the honorary patron of the 2009 Awards. This year, Francisco Costa (for Calvin Klein Collection) was selected as the winner in the Fashion Design category. Finalists in this category included menswear designer Thom Browne and sisters Karen and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte. Francisco has twice been named Womenswear Designer of the Year (in 2006 and 2008) by the CFDA and when I asked him how this award compared, he replied, “It’s an amazing honor to be recognized by the Smithsonian for design… it’s different than being judged by my peers in fashion, it’s quite a humbling experience.” He added, “You don’t do the work to get awards, you do it because you love it. If awards come, of course, it’s nice.” While two CFDA awards are certainly nothing to sneeze at, when it comes to the National Design Awards, the process, requirements and judging are intense.

The 2009 nominations were solicited from a committee of more than 2,500 designers, educators, journalists, cultural figures and corporate leaders from every state in the nation. Nominees must have at least seven years of experience to be eligible and winners are selected based on the level of excellence, innovation and public impact of their body of work. Mr. Costa’s award was presented by actress and face of Calvin Klein’s latest ad campaigns, Eva Mendes who did not show up on the red carpet with Costa. I was standing next to a reporter from US Weekly who was hoping to get a quote from Mendes. “She NEVER talks,” the girl said. Who cares? Costa was more than gracious and quite obliged to chat and after all isn’t that who we’re interested in? He is the talent being recognized, not Ms. Mendes. Costa said, “The demographic of America has changed and we are able to reach a more diverse customer through Eva.” He talked about a sense of Americanism returning to fashion and that Calvin Klein was the master of Americanism. “That’s the essence of Calvin Klein,” he said “it’s a tremendous lifestyle brand. I’ve been looking through the archives and he (Klein) was such a visionary.”

In addition to Fashion, several other design categories were recognized. The winners and presenters are as follows: Corporate and Institutional Achievement Award to Walker Art Center, presented by artist Chuck Close; Product Design Award to Boym Partners presented by actor/writer/director/producer John Waters; Interaction Design Award (new this year -- celebrating exceptional work using digital technology) to Perceptive Pixel Inc. presented by CNN’s John King; Design Mind Award to Amory B. Lovins presented by broadcast journalist Charlie Rose; Lifetime Achievement Award to Bill Moggridge presented by industrial designer Niels Diffrient; Communication Design Award to The New York Times Graphics Department presented by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller; Design Patron Award to Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy presented by Katherine Farley of TishmanSpeyer; Interior Design Award to TsAO & McKOWN Architects presented by architects Machado/Silvetti; Architecture Design Award to SHoP Architects presented by architectural expert Reed Kroloff; Landscape Design Award to Hood Design presented by Professor and Architecture Program Director Achva Benzinberg Stein; People’s Design Award presented by chef Tyler Florence. People’s Design Award to Hans Eckholm, senior industrial designer for Trek Bicycles presented by chef Tyler Florence. The People’s Design Award allowed the public to vote for their choice of design between September 21 and October 20. The winner (Trek for the Lime - a coasting bike for the casual rider) was announced live at the National Design Awards Gala. Paula Zahn was the evenings emcee and other notable attendees included; Gala Chair Richard Meier, Gala Vice Chair Lauren Zalaznick, Ralph Rucci (last year’s winner in the fashion design category and 2009 jury member), designer Eileen Fisher, hotelier Ándre Balazs and John Maeda, Chair, President of Rhode Island School of Design (and also a 2009 jury member).

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum is hosting National Design Week which takes place October 18-24. During this time, they will offer free admission to all visitors and provide a range of online resources celebrating design. National Design Week aims to promote a better understanding of the role that design plays in all aspects of daily life. Target is the sponsor for The National Design Awards and National Design Week. To find out more you can visit

-Stacy Lomman

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beautiful Is As Beautiful Does

More than just a few authentic followers of status fashion labels, especially when it comes to those followers of vintage status fashion labels, know well the name of Fratelli Rossetti, the venerable European brand, whose advertising tagline – “A Certain World Walks In Fratelli Rossetti” – originally caught the attention of chic, well-heeled, international women and men, across a myriad of glossy magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Today, the iconic company continues to serve up specialty collections of beautiful, wearable footwear and accessories for the well dressed and most fashionable client.

Most recently, New York City editors were treated to a private presentation of the company’s latest trend offerings – think Exotic Travel or Out Of Africa, and you get the point - at a most fitting address and location for this type of merchandise. In other words, what better place than the historic and grande, Italian Consulate on Park Avenue, in which to showcase an abundance of rich shoes and handbags for Spring/Summer 2010.

For all of the discerning and chi-chi women out there, the company offers up in its program notes, “A word of advice for ladies everywhere: open your umbrellas when the sun is out!” In this way, the company is touting a new addition to its line, a sandal called, “Emma” - all done up in pink suede and natural leather, with a cone-shaped heel, of course, - which, according to the company, is “inspired by women with a sense of adventure, who in the early Twentieth century abandoned the Old Continent, crossed oceans to follow their dreams, decided to start a new life far away”. For those who want to go a bit further by matching the footwear, the parasol is proposed.

Moving on to the rest of the women’s line, there are many of the company’s de rigeur sandals, courts, lace-ups, ballerinas and slip-ons - many adorned with coquettish, wide and flat bows - from which to choose; just about everything is rendered in multiple heel, material and color choices. Flats, wedges and platforms make the message of the moment, primarily seen in leather as the leitmotif, juxtaposed with calfskin, suede, tumble tanned and hammered effects with patent leather and laminates. Natural colors are most important, but for this editor, the tonals of black-and-white, alongside cornflower blue in glittery versnios, along with soft pink, olive green, coral red, dark brown and a groovy Prince of Wales check embossed onto suede totally did the trick for something different on the horizon. A definite standout across this collection is the summer-time suede boot, featuring a knubby, knitted leg; totally sexy, cozy and quite wearable.

Fratelli Rosetti’s bags, which are big, bold and touchable, make for a wonderful accouterment to the footwear. Done up in streesed-out and tumble-tanned leathers, canvas and lavish skin, this part of the collection is designed in shades that range from natural leather to a burnt color, and from ivory and cornflower blue, to green tea and cinnamon.

The men’s grouping, done in smooth and textural leathers and materials, in a bunch of colors that go from rough and rugged to hip, cool and sexy, follows suit, serving up a masculine array of sport, business and dress shoes – the slip-ons and deck shoes are great – that just about every guy out there will want to own and wear.

Taking into account the company’s message of “This man is made for that woman”, there are classic and cool, medallion on the toes oxfords, in textural leather; some vegetable dyed, applied by hand-patina. Next, there are desert boots with a new fashion spin this season, alongside glove-leather loafers (seen in classic styles and in an assortment of wild and acid-y, techno hues), thick, Goodyear Welt constructed, lace-ups (quite the l950’s look and feel of “Mad Men’s”, Donald Draper), as well as boating shoes with terry lining and classic Rossetti ribboning. The outrageous, mixed skin grouping, showcasing the most deluxe combinations of croc, lizard, python, in addition to solid croc is pretty groovy.

Proof that Fratelli Rossetti offers fashion and price for every man, The “Rossetti One” secondary collection, gives another dressing option, via a totally casual and quite affordable approach to breezy sneakers and shoes.

– Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thurgood Marshall College Fund Benefit Fashion Show

Saturday, October 24th 8PM at Roseland

Honoring Naomi Campbell, International make-up artist Sam Fine, Emmy award winning hairstylist Andre Walker. Dr. Joyce Brown and Jermaine Jackson will be accepting the 2009 Garde Award being presented posthumously to Michael Jackson. The designers participating in the runway fashion show include: Byron Lars, Russell Simmons Argyle Culture, Kai Milla Designs, Amsale and other very talented designers.

Click here to see our report on last year's show

For more information contact Judith Agisim Associates at