Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ralph Rucci 'Shrugs' It Off (Resort 2011, that is)

(All photos Rick Guidotti for Ralph Rucci)

Ralph Rucci is arguably one of the most achingly consistent designers in the world, and unsurprisingly, he stayed very true to form for resort 2011, which was recently unveiled at his soho atelier.

It was a study in all the Ralph ‘isms’ his fans (of which there are legions) have come to know, love, and expect. Which is to say that notwithstanding this is a ready to wear collection, it is still more ‘haute couture’ than most haute couture collections. There was the signature and meticulous attention to detail, craftsmanship, and workmanship; the vertical seams and trapunto stitching; beautifully sculptural necklines; the use of insets (sheer, horsehair, patent, and ‘plexi’); the experimentation with shape and volume (especially with regard to the sleeves); the shrugs and boleros (one in particular was so abbreviated it almost did not ‘exist’); tunics; caftans; slip dresses; perfect little black dresses; infantas (one dramatic version was gloriously named a ‘beach’ infanta to make it seem more in tune with the season).

There were the indelibly ‘Ralph’ and very couture fabrics: glazed linen, silk radzmir, silk shantung, double faced wool/silk, rayon jersey, silk organza, gazar and printed gazar, organdy, matte jersey, Ponte jersey (a ‘magic’ thick stretchy rayon jersey fabric with ‘magical’ attributes according to Naji, Ralph's assistant); paillettes.

And then there was the chic color palette: mainly neutral with an emphasis on black, white, ivory, caramel, truffle, almond, hazelnut, with hits of color in the form of coral (orange really), parrot green and shocking pink. When pastels were employed (pale blue, celadon, mauve), they were so muted they were almost closer to pale gray.

Last but not least was the art influence (and I say that because RR is a very accomplished artist himself, with several one man shows under his belt, and art has always figured in prominently to everything he does). And so, there were the art inspired and painterly prints and patterns: graphic stripes, an abstract Dalmatian print, and an abstract circle print that Naji perfectly described as resembling an impression a glass would leave if left on a surface. It was also hard to ignore the one very large wall in Ralph’s atelier, that was literally covered with a massive mural of his own design, the colors of which perfectly echoed those in the resort collection (Naji promised new artwork for the next collection

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ann Taylor Dazzles For The Holidays

(All photos Isabelle Erb)

It was not quite Christmas in July, but last week Ann Taylor unveiled their Holiday 2010 collection in a chic, winter wonderland created in the lower level of their Madison Avenue flagship store in New York City. For years the retailer was known primarily as a place for career women to find wardrobe staples. Although Ann Taylor has not turned its back on that customer, recently the line has grown increasingly sophisticated, providing a range of options for day into evening.

The collection featured a variety of luxurious sweaters, including metallic cardigans, soft cowl necks and lush cableknits. There was even the occasional knit trimmed with faux fur. The color palette was comprised of camel, champagne, blush, black, and some pastels.

Essential outerwear pieces were updated with fashion forward elements. A houndstooth check coat had short sleeves to layer over a sweater and a sleek, satin puffer jacket was shown with a skinny belt. The “must have” black, biker jacket was made of boucle knit, and what is more perfect for the holidays than a red Wool Event Coat? This one was accented with an oversized collar.

There were plenty of dressy looks for evening, like the One Shoulder Cascade Dress and a sumptuous, strapless cocktail dress in a color combination called “ Winter Rose”. The flirty, black Feather Pointe Skirt was worn by the entertainer for the evening, New York based singer Alexa Wilding.

Shoes and accessories figured prominently into the Ann Taylor holiday offerings. There were more than a few pairs of uber, high heels, in spectators, peeptoes, lace and classic black patent. Handbags ran the gamut from a quilted black satchel to a Snow Leopard Clutch. “Vintage inspired” jewels adorned almost every look and guests took home a necklace and bracelet to keep as souvenirs, until this attractively priced collection arrives in stores this fall.

- Rhonda Erb

Friday, June 18, 2010

Douglas Hannant’s Pool Party

Photo: Slim Aarons 1970

It is of the utmost convenience for a designer to hold a showing of his collection in a space above his store. However, few designers are as lucky as Douglas Hannant, who has his store located in New York’s famed Plaza Hotel, and that convenient space is nothing less than the hotel’s elegant Terrace Foyer, just one flight up.

When the crowd gathered on Wednesday afternoon to view Hannant’s 2011 Resort show, there were a requisite number of socialites in attendance and air kisses abounded. The mood on this late spring afternoon was decidedly relaxed and casual. As the fashion press waited patiently for the presentation to begin, the social set was engaged in a warm “meet and greet” session, as they chatted and posed for photos before taking their seats.

Photo: Isabelle Erb

For his 2011 Resort Collection, Hannant was inspired by the American photographer, Slim Aarons’ iconic photograph of a poolside party at a Palm Springs desert house designed by the architect, Richard Neutra, for department store mogul Edgar Kaufmann, in the mid 20th century. Aarons was famous for capturing “ attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places”, and although the photo in question (see lead photo above) was taken in January 1970, it still embodies the essence and style of the 1960’s.

Photo: Isabelle Erb

For his part, Hannant pays homage to the heyday of the Palm Springs leisure class with an assortment of brightly colored dresses and suits mixed with numerous ensembles in black and white. His figure flattering jersey dress was in an eye-catching shade of turquoise. The White Raffia Tennis Dress was shown with a black and white wide brimmed hat and a black and white geometric print tote. The tweed pieces were fresh and feminine with a pink tweed dress paired with a one-button jacket and a mint green mini dress in tweed and jersey cinched with a narrow belt. Another dress and jacket in black and white tweed was trimmed in zigzag Guipure Lace.

Photo: Isabelle Erb

One of Hannant’s most striking looks was the Black Jersey/White Gazar Splattered Cocktail Dress, which had a skirt reminiscent of a ballerina’s tutu. The Cerulean Strapless Column gown and the Fuschia Organza gown with black accents were exquisitely tailored and the colors were stunning.

Photo: Isabelle Erb

After the show, guests were invited to Hannant’s boutique to sip champagne and mingle with the designer. Judging from the reception his collection received from devotees like CeCe Cord, who smiled throughout the presentation, Hannant’s tribute to the beautiful people of a bygone era was a modern day hit.

- Rhonda Erb

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ralph Wondrous

Ralph Rucci's signature fur "Spiral Coat" (Photos by Ernest Schmatolla)

Akin to the character - Gloria Wondrous - which Elizabeth Taylor played to the hilt of fabulousness in "Butterfield 8", the provocative, sensual, abundantly gorgeous film, which portrayed Taylor's character, as a chicly coiffed, well-dressed, high-priced "escort", Ralph Rucci's Fall/Winter 2010 fur grouping immediately brings to mind, by its very nature, all of Taylor's pure beauty, coupled with all of her blatant sexuality and sexiness, not only on the big screen way back then, but for the most part, how she looked and lived, in her off-screen life.

Still, in 2010, viewing Ralph Rucci's lush pieces in the serenity and lavish environs of his SoHo, NYC atelier, all of the designer's thoughts about developing the collection - "bouyant, intoxicating, and seductive" - bring to mind not only more than just a few beautious, moderne coats and jackets in the new line, but also the best of Miss Taylor's characteristics in "Butterfield 8", which in one pivotal scene, showed her looking otherworldly and gorgeous, as the camera panned from her blue-black hair, blue-velvet eyes, and red lips, to her tight, white slip, worn underneath a very stylized, mid-calf, fur coat.

Comparable to Taylor's overt femaleness in this scene, some of Rucci's furs are just as "female"; just as free and just as exhilerating, best noted for their irreverent and carefree qualities, which in Rucci's hands are well done and wide open. Detail and texture, which of course, are always prevalent across the designer's ready-to-wear grouping, are equally as visible and key for the furs. Rucci's signature "Spiral Coat", made up of dyed black Russian sable, combined with just the right touches of stiff, yet billowing nylon horsehair, and worn with a pair of thigh-high, high-heeled boots, is at once cool and hot. Ditto for the mink coats and jackets, which are either bleached or knitted togehter with fox, as in the case of the Degrade knitted mink and fox tunic. More great Rucci looks: Softest champagne, belted shearling and western-inspired, rich-girl, Cameron shearling, shown with sleek black top and pants.

As for color, it seems only fitting that there is a a strong palette of super-dark, black and grey. But, also, as one would expect from a designer whose career spans nearly three decades, there are a few surprises going on, one of which is most fun, in terms of Rucci's sudden, unexpected splotches of day-glo pink, which pop up from time to time across the grouping.

Overall, there seems to be something here for just about every luxury fur client, particularly those well-heeled ladies who love the look of glamour and charm à la the ilk of a Hollywood star, such as Miss Taylor, as she was when she played, looked and dressed the part of Miss Wondrous.

- Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

5 Easy Pieces


Diane Von Furstenberg is not only President of the CFDA and a veteran fashion designer, but a renowned globe trotter. In fact, she is a self avowed expert packer who has written many articles on the subject, and quite frankly, she has gotten the art of packing down to a science. Let’s face it, she put herself on the map with her original jersey wrap dress and nothing could be more perfect for packing. I can attest to that fact having worn mine on that first trip to Europe in the early 70’s and it was perfect.

(Photo: Randy Brooke)

She once made the astute observation, “When you figure out your suitcase, you figure out your life” and if you think about it; it’s so true! She has her own line of stylish suitcases, briefcases, and travel bags and always calls her cruise/pre-spring collection La Petite Valise because it’s all about creating the kind of weightless, versatile, packable, desirable must have ‘essentials’ that could easily fit into a ‘petite valise’.

(Photo: Randy Brooke)

For the short (literally and figuratively), sweet, and well edited 33 piece 2011 collection she showed Monday morning at her headquarters in the Meatpacking district, DVF eschewed some of the more riotous color schemes she has been known for in the past, and instead, focused on a very chic almost tone down palette of black and ivory (the duo was especially effective when they showed up as bold stripes and graphic patterns often mixed together), nude, grey, white, navy with touches of lime and coral (mainly seen in the sueded mules, straw visors, and several cashmere cardigans).

(Photo: Randy Brooke)

The focus was definitely on the leg thanks to ‘hot pants’, short shorts, boxers, abbreviated dresses, and of course, swimwear (both swimsuits and bikinis) and while the collection was quite feminine, thanks to her signature georgette chiffon and jersey wrap dresses and several standout blouses with balloon sleeves, it nonetheless had a sporty, ‘boy meets girl’ vibe. In fact, the ‘heart’ of the collection was to be found in variations of what one could call the perfect, essential ‘5 easy pieces’ ( maybe it’s more like 6 or 7) one would need to take away on a trip to a warm weather climate, most of which are predicated on basic menswear inspired staples: 1- The classic button down shirt (hers were done in gray and white chiffon, maze cotton voile, black jersey); 2- shorts (hers came in denim, twill, dot jacquard, striped boucle, black leather, beaded chiffon); 3- the trench (shown in both a graphic black and white tropical maze chintz print as well as classic beige); 4- the t shirt (DVF’s were in silk jersey); 5- the blazer (shown in black cupro and in a jaunty navy twill suiting fabric); 6- the swimsuit (Diane offered a variety of bikinis and swimsuits, both solid and patterned), 7- and of course, the Little Black Dress which was shown in both black silk and black open work crochet knit. I guess you could say the only essential item missing were a pair of jeans but as I mentioned, the legs were on display throughout and there was not one pair of pants.


Oh, and by the way, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most standout pieces on the runway were Diane’s fabulously oversized versions of the eternally chic and traditional canvas tote bag (hers were in bold black and ivory stripes and patterns and trimmed with luggage leather).

“Have bag will travel” -- indeed!

-Marilyn Kirschner
Oscar’s French Kiss

Photo: Randy Brooke

Hours before many of the fashion flock would show up at Lincoln Center to celebrate the annual CFDA Awards in high style, there were several resort/cruise 2011 presentations held at different parts of town. Oscar de la Renta apparently had France on his mind (down to Worth & Worth's jaunty straw boaters) when he conceived of resort 2011, which was presented at 583 Park Avenue on Monday afternoon. Simply put, it was pure ‘Oscar’ in that unmistakable way that is très chic, très rafinee, and très elegant, with new takes on many of the tried and true staples, signatures and favorite standbys that have come to symbolize Mr. DLR. And hey, what's wrong with that formula?

Photo: Randy Brooke

Relying on a predominantly, très French, seaside inspired color palette with an emphasis on navy and white, (with touches of black, khaki, espresso, cinnabar, burgundy, kelly, coral, and azure), there were also plenty of prints and patterns (Oscar's signature ikats, a jigsaw print, a kaleidoscope print, a black and white 'melange' print, a graphic ‘Matisse’ inspired pattern that was called 'Henry', and polka dots). It was quite textural with plenty of surface interest, and it was happily anything but minimal (which seems to be the ‘buzz’ word these days).

Among the 55 pieces shown were abbreviated and boxy cardigan jackets (many of which were embroidered and trimmed with ribbon or guipure), ribbon knit sweaters (both of which were shown over dresses or pleated skirts), narrow black and white diamond tweed skirt suits, white silk crepe de chine and crinkle chiffon blouses, navy and white striped cashmere knits, full skirted silk faille dresses with silk organza and chiffon ruffles, graphic border trimmed dresses, multi colored 'Henry' print silk georgette strapless gowns, floor length silk taffeta and organza strapless flamenco gowns, silk organza ribbon embroidered gowns with tulle underlay, metallic embroidered dresses.


And while it was undeniably all about the 'luxe' quotient (lots of embroidery, guipure trim, the use of exquisite jewelry, alligator belts, etc.), it was tempered with the 'humble'. And so along with white leather which appeared in the form of a wrap dress that was shown under a white double face wool crepe coat with espresso embroidery, there was the 'surprise' of denim: a white crepe de chine banded dress with navy blockprint was shown beneath a white denim tweed jacket with black denim tweed trim, and a below the knee length navy dip dyed cotton madras ikat sundress was worn under a cropped chambray and denim jacket. Another interesting combination was the use of khaki and bronze degrade silk on a narrow dress that fell just below the knee and boasted a bra top, which was worn under a bronze silk cropped cardigan.

Photo: Randy Brooke

While legs were on display in the kaleidoscope and woodblock printed swimsuits and in several white cotton sateen short shorts (one was paired with an easy dolman sleeved white and navy striped cashmere silk cowl knit top and another, with a menswear inspired black and white diamond tweed blazer), the skirt lengths for daytime were noticeably longer this season, hovering just above the knee or longer (several skirts and dresses were midcalf), and Oscar, who has never been one to endorse heavy, clumpy footwear, made a case for the return of the ladylike and elegant pointy toed shoe, whether in the form of a kitten heeled pump, or sky high sling back.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2010 CFDA Fashion Awards Presented in New York

Marc Jacobs Wins Top Prize (Yawn!)

Vogue Editor Anna Wintour (All photos by Randy Brooke)

New York, NY, June 8, 2010 – Last night, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) paid tribute to the winners and honorees of the 2010 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. The top honors went to Marc Jacobs for Womenswear Designer of the Year, presented by Jessica Biel. The award for Menswear Designer of the Year was presented by Anthony Mackie to David Neville & Marcus Wainwright for Rag & Bone. Alexis Bittar took home the Accessory Designer of the Year Award, presented by Dakota Fanning. For the ninth year in a row, the evening was underwritten by Swarovski.

The model Iman

Alexa Chung and Ed Westwick presented all three Swarovski Awards which honor and recognize emerging talent. The Swarovski Award for Womenswear was given to Jason Wu. The Swarovski Award for Menswear was presented to Richard Chai. The Swarovski Award for Accessory Design went to Alexander Wang. Recipients in each category will receive generous financial support from the company as well as exposure to the company’s vast and innovative crystal products and applications for fashion.

The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Michael Kors by Anna Wintour,Editor in Chief of Vogue.

The late Alexander McQueen was honored with the Board of Directors’ Special Tribute Award by Sarah Jessica Parker for his indelible contribution to international fashion. A live presentation of his final sixteen looks were shown on models who appeared on a custom-built stage by Tony-Award winning set designer Scott Pask. This presentation was the first time the collection has been seen in its entirety since its original presentation in Paris in March 2010. The set featured the “Schonbek® Olde World Chandelier”; a glass-arm chandelier with the most number of Swarovski crystal pendants in the world due to its special design and patented methods.

Betsey & Lulu Johnson

Christopher Bailey for Burberry was recognized with this year’s International Award presented by Donna Karan. The Eleanor Lambert Award was presented to Vogue Fashion Director Tonne Goodman by Caroline Kennedy. Paper magazine’s founding Editor & Publisher Kim Hastreiter was honored with the Eugenia Sheppard Award for excellence in journalism, presented by Brooke Shields. Iman was presented with the Fashion Icon Award by Isabella Rossellini. As part of the CFDA’s commitment to design education, the Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship winner Carmen Chen Wu, the Liz Claiborne Fashion Scholarship winner Jusil Carroll, and the CFDA/Teen Vogue Scholarship winner Nicole Goh were acknowledged from the stage by CFDA executive director Steven Kolb.

Sarah Jessica Parker

This year also marked the second annual Popular Vote Award sponsored by L'Oréal Paris. Through a website hosted by, the public was given the opportunity to vote for its favorite fashion designer. An overwhelming number of votes were cast. L'Oréal Paris Spokesperson and CFDA Health Initiative representative Doutzen Kroes announced the winner of this year’s Popular Vote Award to Ralph Lauren.

CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg told the sold-out theater "Tonight is the night we designers and members of the industry salute our peers and celebrate their talents. We are a family." She then went on to speak about the organization’s accomplishments over the past year, including raising $1 million for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, launching the CFDA Fashion Incubator, working with the Design Trust on the Garment District, lobbying for copyright protection through the establishment of the Fashion Law Institute, and the continued growth of services for CFDA's 350 members.

Jason Wu & Rachel Weisz

In addition to the nominees and honorees, some of the most influential names in American fashion were in attendance including CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg, Albertus Swanepoel, Alexander Wang, Michael Bastian, joseph Altuzarra, Ashley & Mary-Kate Olsen, Behnaz Sarafpour,Betsey Johnson, Brian Atwood, Carolina Herrera, Catherine Malandrino, Chris Benz, Cynthia Rowley, David Chu, Derek Lam, Deborah Lloyd, Donna Karan, Doo-Ri Chung, Elie Tahari, Francisco Costa, Gilles Mendel, Isabel Toledo, Italo Zucchelli, Jenna Lyons, Jill Stuart, John Bartlett, John Varvatos, Kate & Laura Mulleavy, Kenneth Cole, Max Azria, Narciso Rodriguez, Nicole Miller, Norma Kamali, Oscar de la Renta, Patrick Robinson, Peter Som, Philip Crangi, Phillip Lim, Prabal Gurung, Rachel Roy, Rafe Totengco, Rebecca Taylor, Reed Krakoff, Richard Lambertson, Sam Shipley,Sophie Buhai, CFDA’s Executive Director Steven Kolb, Stan Herman, Thom Browne, Tory Burch, Tracy Reese, Vera Wang, Yeohlee Teng, Yigal Azrouel, and Zac Posen.

Doutzen Kroes

They joined VIP’s such as Aerin Lauder, Alexa Chung, Alexis Bledel, Alina Cho, Alison Pill, Anna Wintour, Anthony Mackie, Bernadette Peters, Brooke Shields, Caroline Kennedy, Daisy Lowe, Dakota Fanning, David Bowie, Devon Aoki, Ed Westwick, Emilie de Ravin, Fabiola Beracasa, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hayden Christensen, Iris Apfel, Isabella Rossellini, Jessica Biel, Joan Collins, Josh Beech, Kate Mara, Liya Kebede, Maggie Grace, Matthew Modine, Mario Testino, Max Ryan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Molly Sims, Nadja Swarovski, Paz de la Huerta, Rachel Weisz, Rachel Zoe,

Harpers Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey

Sarah Jessica Parker, Vanessa Traina, Victoria Traina, Whitney Port, and Zachary Quinto. Models included Anja Rubik, Carmen Kass, Doutzen Kroes, Dree Hemingway, Irina Lazareanu, Hilary Rhoda, Heidi Mount, Hana Soukupova, Jamie Bochert, Jessica Stam, Joan Smalls, Ling Tan, Lara Stone, Natasa Vojnovic, Sara Ziff, Stella Tennant and Sasha Pivovarova. Many guests arrived in the Jaguar XJ Sedan, which was also featured in the Accessory Designer of the Year Award film. As guests entered Alice Tully Hall, they were greeted by an assemblage of 45 models staged across the grand outdoor staircase in front of the atrium, with each model wearing a design by the three nominees for the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award.

Molly Sims

"The diversity and originality of American fashion is demonstrated by those honored with CFDA Fashion Awards,” said CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb. “The collective work of this celebrated group reflects the depth of accomplishment and enduring influence of American fashion."

"Swarovski is once again honored to have been a part of such an incredible evening,” said Nadja Swarovski, Vice President of International Communications, Swarovski. “We send our most sincere congratulations to all the honorees and winners. In keeping with Swarovski’s commitment to foster fashion’s brightest emerging stars, we are especially looking forward to working with this year’s Swarovski Award winners.”

Jessica Biel

With the announcement of the 2010 Swarovski Award nominees in March, Swarovski approached each designer with an opportunity to create the ultimate Swarovski piece to celebrate the category for which they were nominated. The designers went to work, utilizing Swarovski’s crystals, trims, and beads to evolve their ideas for what is now part of an exclusive compilation entitled: The CFDA Swarovski Award Collection. The collection will be sold with proceeds benefitting the CFDA’s educational initiatives. As each designer turned their sketch into a reality, Swarovski and film directors Josh Melnick and Xander Charity documented the process by creating a short film, BRILLIANT, which debuted during last night’s ceremony.

KCD produced the event, and the journal and graphics were designed by Trey Laird of Laird +Partners.Nominees, honorees, and winners were determined by a selection committee comprised of CFDA members, leading fashion journalists, stylists, and top retail executives. Ernst & Young LLP was the official accounting firm of the Awards.