Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lands' End:

American Classics Reloaded

Lands’ End started out in Chicago, Illinois, in 1963; first as a supplier of sailboat equipment for racing sailors, and then, as a mail-order operation, driven by 32-page, quarterly catalogs. While in 2010, the company continues to stay true to its original roots, in terms of “quality, Americana-styled merchandise for men, women, and children at value prices”, the Lands’ End name has also come to symbolize a growing roster of international, brick-and-mortar stores (think about the 300 Lands’ End signature shops at Sears), along with an expanded e-commerce website, first launched in 1995.

In order to continue to play up its name, image, credo, and brand to the fashion and business press, in conjunction with the launch of its newest Fall/Winter 2010 Collections, aptly termed, “A Beacon for What’s Real: Fall in Love with American Classics”, the company recently hosted an event in New York City. Hooking into its own venerable and historic tradition, Lands’ End opted to host its event in the like-wise venerable and historic Rockefeller Center Building, adjacent to the landmark Rockefeller Plaza area.

Arriving at the never-easy-to-find entrance to the building, and then, once inside, having to pass through Security (always a pleasure), guests were welcomed into the airy and brightly-lit space by a plethora of the company’s representatives (PR and otherwise). Sipping cocktails and nibbling on deluxe finger-food; both of which were most plentiful throughout the evening, guests had the chance to view the diverse array of offerings on their own or with one of the company’s people in tow, should there be questions and answers required, during the walk-through.

Generally, the presentation was well done, if not a bit, over the top, in terms of exactly how very much merchandise (and in some cases, way too much merchandise) there was to look at throughout the room. There were separate classifications for each of the company’s categories, and as such, some merchandise was shown styled casually on mannequins (pretty nice in most cases); vs. other types of goods shown simply; folded and laid-out, either on top of and, or inside vintage cabinets. In all cases, the idea appeared to be for guests to be able to have quick and easy, touchy-feely access to all of the merchandise being shown, which is what one would not only expect to find in this type of presentation, but also what Lands’ End wants to serve up to its shoppers in the stores.

In general, the majority of the seasonal goods looked good and are definitely priced to sell. Obviously, this is the company’s raison d’etre, in terms of providing mass market shoppers (singles and families) with a reason to look for, purchase and wear what Lands’ End has to offer. But, this kind of thinking also poses a few problems, most notably, while there surely are many options for the Lands’ End customer to consider; mostly at good prices, there also seems to be a confusing number of pieces, which might be unsettling for shoppers who do not have a strong sense of style. So, unless the shopper has the savvy to pull it all together, some of the merchandise that should not get lost in the shuffle in the stores, might get lost in that in-store shuffle. Worse yet, some of Lands’ Ends’ merchandise could get completely by-passed for other easier-to-shop-and-put-together collections. And, that would be a shame, because overall, there are some really great pieces in the mix here. All that may be needed to pull everything together in a more simple, easier to understand way, could just be a more watchful and mindful eye towards the process of editing and cohesiveness.

When thinking about what looks best and what really works well for the new season, this editor notes the following categories:

Many of the super-casual, mostly covetable women’s pieces, especially the luxury basics (“Cotton a la Mode), and an expanded sweater grouping that is most fashionable in its “look of Cashmere but costs like cotton” theme.

Menswear pieces, which are generally gentlemanly-refined and pulled-together, via eased shirtings for sport and dress-wear; hunky, chunky sweaters that just about every guy will want to own and wear; lots of five-pocket jeans in multiple washes of denim, colored denim and cord; chinos and khakis, rendered in Traditional and Tailored fits.

Expanded Canvas collections for women and men, which broaden out from last Spring’s launch, to showcase more of the category’s signature look of classic, lived-in fashion, which, while mixing what the company calls, “Authentic Inspiration and Modern Interpretation”, begs the question “What will you make of it?” to customers.

Capsule Home line of organic bedding and bath offerings, including, among the best of this category, four cozy throws, priced at under $100. In particular, the knit wool-blend throw, available in five pretty shades, marries well with a matching, decorative pillow, making the whole deal what should be an easy, impulse buy for the shopper who desires this type of look.

Hooking into all of the above is the new “Flight Wise” luggage collection, featuring a host of colors, and centered on soft, lightweight items, such as a trip tote, backpack, soft-sided travel bag, expandable duffle bag; 22-inch wheeled duffle and 22-inch upright wheeled bag; all under what the company says are the TSA’s federal guidelines for carry-on items. Putting itself top of mind with invited guests at the event, the company allowed each attendee to choose a piece of luggage, in a desired color, from among several pieces and color-ways available during the evening. As a special bonus and really nice touch, each guest had the option of selecting a particular, hand-embroidered monogram style, which was then added to the front of the chosen piece of luggage.

Not content to merely serve up a myriad of fashion items for its customers, Lands’ End also beyond the fray, in order to show that it has another, more charitable side, apart from just the company’s business face and profit margin, be all and end all. To do just that, Lands’ End created the “Way To Grow” Campaign, which ran from April through May, 2010. The initiative, which celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, additionally offered nationwide schools the opportunity to win money to fund a particular gardening project or science initiative. The fifteen schools receiving the most votes received between $500 and $2,500.

“Way To Grow” was hyped on the company’s website ( where those who entered within the deadline period were eligible to receive a packet of organic, Russian Mammoth Sunflower seeds, with their online orders of any Lands’ End childrens’ merchandise. Additionally, there was a cool, “Way to Grow” party on Twitter, featuring gardening tips and fun giveaways, such as organic seed collections, gardening totes, gardening books, and of course, Lands’ End gift cards.

– Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Van Cleef & Arpels:

 Press Preview of the "Perlée" Collection

“Perlée” large ring set in 18K white gold with diamonds $10,400

On Wednesday May 5 the company hosted a 3 hour cocktail reception at their Fifth Avenue location. Over 70 top editors and stylists were invited for champagne and hors d’oeuvres to preview the collection and to meet the new President, CEO and Worldwide Creative Director Nicoals Bos.

The latest Perlée collection is composed of 20 styles, the group features delicate rings, earrings and bracelets in rose or white gold and diamonds. Prices begin at $600 for a beaded band ring and go to $35,100 for a diamond pavé bangle. The collection will be available for purchase beginning in September 2010.

The company was founded in 1896 by Salomon Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. They opened their first boutique in 1906 at 22 place Vendôme, Paris. Van Cleef & Arpels are renowned for their expertise in precious stones and have won particular acclaim for a groundbreaking gem-setting procedure known as the Mystery Setting.

For more information about the collection contact: Sarah Vickland, Manager of Public Relations at

- Ernest Schmatolla

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Go with the ‘FLO’: The 28th Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon

Lisa Marie Falcone wearing a Graff diamond butterfly pin on her Suzanne large brimmed hat which accessorized her floor length vintage Valentino dress

You know the old adage: “You can set your watch by it” (whatever ‘IT’ is). Well, similarly, you can literally forecast the weather by the scheduling of the annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, (the first Wednesday in May), now in its 28th year. I never get tired of reiterating that it not only NEVER (or almost never) rains on this wildly popular and always highly anticipated New York event. In fact, the day is usually picture perfect in every way. The legend lives on...

Fabiola Arias in her own rope hat

Yesterday was in fact, as good as it gets. Low humidity, plenty of sunshine (it was quite warm in fact), and blue blue skies. All the better to appreciate the lush beauty of the glorious Central Park Conservatory Gardens, which has been the signature location for as long as most of us can remember (at its beginnings, which started with a group of 75 women who wanted to “increase awareness from the private sector to support the restoration of Central Park”, it was held at Tavern on the Green). While this is not a ‘fashion’ event, it has nonetheless become a fashion spectacle of other worldly proportions and I don’t have to point out that there could be no better setting for a fashion parade, especially one in which hats take center stage. Actually, I’ll go a step further and say that you almost feel obscenely ‘naked’ if you go hatless. Ascot Schmascot! The Easter Parade? Amateur night. Kentucky Derby? Feh!

Ralph Lauren shorts suit

But most importantly, the ‘FLO’ Awards Luncheon is the ideal combination of looking good AND doing good. The approximately 1200 well heeled and dressed to the nine guests (who were seated at 120 tables), raised just under 2.5 million dollars, which will go to further the Conservancy’s work throughout Central Park, continuing to make it beautiful, safe and clean.

Yankee cap and Hermes bag

As usual, the attendees (not just New Yorkers by the way) represented a true cross section of society including major philanthropists, prominent social figures, screen legends, business and real estate tycoons, etc. While it is undeniably a heavily female group, each year it seems there are more and more men and in fact, for the first time, there was a man’s table organized by Jeff Peek.

Black & white and very Chanel

Among those who attended: Deputy Mayor Patti Harris; New York State’s First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Sigourney Weaver, Susan Newhouse, Hilary Geary Ross, Susan Gutfreund, Amy Fine Collins, Fe Fendi, Martha Stewart, Somers Farkas, Peggy Siegel, Grace Hightower DeNiro, Karen LeFrak, Tara Rockefeller, Evelyn Lauder, Doug Blonsky (Central Park Conservancy President), Gillian Miniter (the Women’s Committee President), Betsey Messerschmitt, Patsy and Jeff Tarr (the latter three were this year’s honorees). Co-chairs were Noreen Buckfire, Anne Harrison, Marcia Mishaan, and Sarah Robertson; the Corporate Chair was Thomas Glocer, CEO of Thomson Reuters.

Yuta Powell and her bagel bag

There were corporate tables sponsored by Bloomberg, Thompson Reuters, Graff, Dior, and Chanel, and looking at the last three names might explain why Lisa Marie Falcone affixed an amazing Graff diamond butterfly pin to her Suzanne large brimmed hat which accessorized her floor length vintage Valentino dress. And it certainly explains all the Chanel purses (if it wasn’t Chanel it was Hermes), Chanel or Chanel inspired black dresses, tweed jackets, and ropes of pearls (especially some in exaggeratedly oversized proportions).

Patsy and Jeff Tarr

But because of the opening of the new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity”, I have the free spirit of American women with style on my mind, and so, I found myself especially drawn to those who stood out because they did not go for the nice but rather predictable ‘garden’ variety safe little dresses or skirt suits, but instead, asserted their independence. Good examples include Patsy Tarr wearing an Isaac Mizrahi black and ivory dress and jacket, a hat by Suzanne (a popular milliner who was also an attendee), and carrying a Lanvin handbag adorned with large flowers.

Suzanne Newman in Prada and L'Wren Scott

The milliner Suzanne Newman who paired a printed Prada dress with a sequined cardigan by L’Wren Scott, and wore a hat of her own design; the young milliner Fabiola Arias, who wore an unusual and very summery hat made of ropes; Madison Avenue boutique owner Yuta Powell who carried a wood bag in the shape of a bagel (how New York is that???); two young women in Ralph Lauren: one who wore a khaki utility jumpsuit and another in a white Ralph Lauren tailored jacket and short shorts (her legs were great and she definitely carried this off with aplomb); and because I’m a Yankee fan, I truly appreciated the brave soul who eschewed a traditional chapeaux and opted for a Yankee baseball cap which she wore with a navy pinstripe pantsuit and a red alligator Hermes Birkin bag.

Amy Fine Collins

But in terms of pure chic, nobody compared with Amy Fine Collins who turned up in a fitted and very narrow pale lilac skirt suit which had a pronounced leopard collar, that matched the leopard turban like hat (designer unknown). All I can say is she that must have been sweltering in the 90 degree heat but she sure looked great.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, May 03, 2010

Opening of Exhibition American Woman

 A Vote of Confidence for American Women

All gallery photos: Randy Brooke

I attended the Monday morning press preview for ‘American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity”, the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibit (May 5, August 15, 2010), organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, and Harold Koda, Curator in Charge.

As always, there was an 11AM press conference held in the glorious Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court. After guests helped themselves to the pre-requisite coffee and danish, Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, took to the podium and addressed the crowd, acknowledging that it was a “great pleasure to be here today to inaugurate ‘American Woman, Fashioning a National Identity’, which focuses on the 1890’s to the 1940’s and explores archetypes of American femininity through dress.”

“It’s a celebration of independent, elegant and resourceful women who initiated revolutions of style to mirror a social, political, sartorial emancipation”. “How those women were perceived has effected how American women are seen today”. Another noteworthy aspect is the fact that this is the “first exhibition drawn from the newly established Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum ”. (Most of the pieces on view, which haven’t been seen in public for about 30 years, were transported from the Brooklyn Museum Collection to the Met in January 2009). “Together, the two collections are truly greater than the sum of their parts” he observed.

Mr. Campbell also thanked and praised Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, for her unwavering support and for being a longtime and passionate advocate for the Costume Institute. “For more than a dozen years she has generously applied her support to the spring costume institute exhibition on behalf of Conde Nast and has also co-chaired the accompanying benefit gala which supports the Costume Institute year round. Tonight’s benefit has been sold out for months”.

He then introduced Patrick Robinson, “a signature talent” who is Executive Vice President of Design for the Gap (a sponsor of the exhibit). Patrick, looking chic in a crisp white shirt and black blazer (by the Gap I presume), said the Gap is “honored to be a sponsor of the exhibit, which is a celebration of the style of the American Woman”.

“Throughout our 40 year history, the Gap has been an avid supporter of the arts and our sponsorship of this year’s exhibition is another testament of our commitment. The theme of the exhibition is a natural fit for the Gap. We are proud of our legacy: offering accessible American design and helping to shape the lifestyle of the modern American woman. And being able to take that sensibility to the wardrobe of the modern American woman. Our clothes speak to who the American woman is: an independent spirit who wants to be comfortable, look good, and be her own true self. We’ve been part of her everyday wardrobe since 1969, with timeless pieces reinvented in keeping with the times.”

Last but not least was Andrew Bolton, always a wealth of information, who thanked his colleagues at the Costume Institute. He didn’t waste any time talking about the significance of the transfer of the distinctive, distintinguished and diverse Brooklyn Museum Collection, (curated by Jan Glier Reeder), to the Met’s Costume Institute. He said when they began mounting the exhibition, their initial focus was on “women of style” like Millicent Rogers and Mrs. Austine Hearst, and their goal was to provide a sequel to Diana Vreeland’s 1975 ‘American Women’ exhibition at the Met. As they continued to research the collection, their focus shifted from ‘icons’ of American femininity to ‘ideals’ of American femininity. He noted the significance of the fact that by the 1940’s, the fashion ‘gaze’ turned away from Europe towards America and internationally, the American woman began to be recognized as an ultimate symbol of progress and modernity. Their challenge was to “convey a timeframe in a way that reflected the American women’s increasing emancipation and her gradual involvement in public life”

By the way, as I previously mentioned, while the exhibition was ‘made possible’ by the Gap (with additional support provided by Conde Nast), I can assure you there is nary a pair of jeans, a t shirt, white shirt, or safari jacket from this moderately priced American brand in sight. But of course, the Gap was founded in 1969 and the timeline of this exhibit if from the 1890’s through the 1940’s.

In fact, the approximately 80 pieces on display (“the archetypes of American Femininity” symbolic of the “emancipation of American style” in the words of Andrew Bolton) represent some of the most important examples of haute couture and high fashion from the 1890’s through the 1940’s, bearing labels from celebrated houses such as Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Charles Frederick Worth, Vionnet, Lanvin, Molyneaux, Jessie Franklin Turner, Charles James, Madame Gres, Callot Soeurs.

Displayed in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall on the second floor, the clothing is arranged chronologically in circular galleries decorated with Nathan Crowley’s marvelous hand painted panoramas (sound and video are effective in that they seem to bring the clothes to life) and divided as such:

1- ‘Heiress’ (1890’s ballgowns); 2- ‘Gibson Girl’ (1890’s sports themed bathing ensembles, equestrian gear, and cycling sets; 3- ‘Bohemia’ (the early 1900’s); 4- ‘Suffragist’ (1910’s) and ‘Patriot’ (1910’s); 5- ‘Flapper’ (1920’s); 6- ‘Screen Siren’ (1940’s); 7- ‘American Women’ A montage from the 1890’s to the present). My favorite galleries are the ‘Flappers’ with their so very modern, bejeweled, fringed, and fur accessorized chemise dresses by Patou, Lanvin, Molyneaux, and ‘Screen Siren’ which is made to resemble a 30’s cinema (complete with the larger than life Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant on the big screen) with its selection of chic, soignée, and utterly timeless bias cut gowns (Chanel, Vionnet, Lanvin, Jessie Franklin Turner, Travis Banton) played out in predominately black and white. By the way, during his speech at the press conference, Andrew Bolton acknowledged the enduring ideal that sums up the ‘Screen Siren’. A quick look at the images from the Red Carpet arrivals for last night’s Gala, confirmed that as well as it seemed to me that many guests (screen stars or not) wanted to conjure up that image.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Red Carpet Report:

Anna Wintour in Chanel (All red carpet photos: Randy Brooke)

Last night at the gala, white and metallic gowns were the most popular on the red carpet. Most attendees I saw opted for classic eveningwear, although a few dared to show their wild sides. The evening’s co-chairs Anna Wintour and Oprah Winfrey were some of the first to arrive. Gap’s Executive Vice President of Global Design, Patrick Robinson, also served as a co-chair. When Wintour described her choice of a rouched Chanel silver gown and overcoat for the evening, she said that it was "Karl’s design and she obeyed. He’s the master".

Meanwhile, Winfrey arrived with the designer of her gown, Oscar de la Renta. Her navy blue dress showed off her figure beautifully thanks to a ruffled skirt and a fitted top that accentuated her curves. According to Winfrey the night was about encouraging people to see the exhibit. She also said she was pleased that the evening was a celebration of the glamour of the American woman.

Doutzen Kroes wearing Zac Posen
There were a number of standout looks from the evening. Jennifer Lopez walked in a stunning silver strapless Zuhair Murad gown with a lovely metallic overlay. Zac Posen accompanied his muse Doutzen Kroes, who wore a fanciful pale blue tulle creation from the designer, complete with a full skirt. Eva Longoria Parker joked that she knew her dress was a good fit because she couldn’t breathe. She wore an elegant strapless silver Marchesa gown with metallic floral embroidery and a long train. Jessica Alba wore a lovely asymmetrical one shoulder blush rose-colored Sophie Theallet for Gap gown. Brooke Shields wore a floor length body hugging gold gown created by her escort Michael Kors. She described the gown as extremely comfortable and remarked that "it doesn’t get better than this" when Kors adjusted her train for her.

Renee Zellweger in Carolina Herrera
Although Lady Gaga was the performer for the night, she opted not to walk the red carpet. This left Katy Perry to take the place of most flamboyantly dressed attendee. She arrived in a white and pink striped dress with a sky-high slit and rotating LED lights. The gown was designed by British fashion company CuteCircuit. Whether you loved it or hated it, it was definitely the most memorable outfit of the evening.

Sarah Jessica Parker wearing Halston Heritage
Two other much talked about looks included Andre Leon Talley and Whoopi Goldberg’s coordinated Chado Ralph Rucci outfits. Goldberg wore a white unstructured ensemble that was fashioned to look like a two-piece, while Leon Talley donned a signature white cape with black trim. Gisele Bundchen also turned heads in an Alexander Wang black braided leather mini dress with a fringed border. Her outfit stood in stark contrast to husband Tom Brady’s classic tuxedo.

Stella McCartney, Liv Tyler, Kate Hudson
Of course, the men of the evening cannot be forgotten. While many of the male attendees opted for standard black tie, Tom Ford wore a pale pink tuxedo jacket. Jimmy Fallon also skipped a black tuxedo jacket in favor of a white one from Tommy Hilfiger.

Although some looks were far from tame, for the most part, timeless elegance reigned supreme.

- Caroline Erb-Medina

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