Friday, November 26, 2010

Better Bets: Shopping High Tech Gifts

Anyone can be their own personal DJ with this retro styled radio that allows free access to thousands of Internet radio stations without a computer. From November 24th to November 29th Livio is offering a 50% discount to everyone on their e-mail list. Check out their website for details. Available at, $199.99

For more high tech gift suggestions click here

Friday, November 19, 2010

I’ll Take the ‘Fifth’

Part of Bergdorf's holiday windows display.

That little slice of retail heaven right here in New York (I’m referring of course, to the corner of 57th and 5th Avenue), has oft been described as the “crossroads of the world”. And rightly so. This now famous intersection was immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’; but while Tiffany & Company proudly remains in its proper location, the names and tenants of some of the other famed landmark buildings in the immediate vicinity have come and gone (having fallen victim to these dour economic times). Thankfully, the iconic Bergdorf Goodman, a name long synonymous with luxury retail, has remained gloriously ensconced on 5th Avenue between 57th and 58th streets since 1928.

One of the store’s most signature trademarks are its windows; specifically, those fantastical holiday windows. A collaboration of the imagination, wit, genius, and creativity of Linda Fargo, (Senior Vice President, Women’s Fashion Director, Store Presentation), and David Hoey, (Director of Visual Presentation), their combined efforts have truly set the standard and raised the bar for all the others. The dynamic duo were recently profiled in an informative and entertaining article that appeared in the ‘Thursday Styles’ section of The New York Times (“Window-Dressing Warriors”, by Douglas Quenqua, November 3, 2010) and I found myself tickled by a number of David’s observations: “This job is part architect and part cake designer”, and “We take our frivolity very seriously”. Most recently, their work (“Bergdorf’s best windows over the past two decades”, is how it was described), has been immortalized in a pricey ($550), weighty (17 pounds), and limited edition (there are only 1000 copies) handmade coffee table book, ‘Windows at Bergdorf Goodman’, published by Assouline which is only available at BG here in New York and at Assouline Boutiques worldwide.

Linda Fargo autographing copies of the book.

In fact, Assouline co sponsored last night’s fittingly jam packed and festive cocktail soiree held at the fabled store, in honor of the unveiling of its 2010 holiday windows (the overall theme seems to be fantastical journeys, travels and excursions), and naturally, the highly visual collectors items, were for sale. Artfully stacked in a corner of the main floor that normally serves as the Hermes boutique were on sale (what did they do with all those scarves?), a long line quickly formed as Linda Fargo, looking svelte and utterly glamorous in a vintage floor length black, white J. Mendel Fur coat, chic wide black enamel cuffs, and red lips, hurriedly began to autograph copies.

Fashion model Elettra Rosellini Wiedemann

Among those who attended were Joe Zee, Gilles Mendel, Elettra Rosellini Wiedemann, Marsha Mishaan, Judy Licht and Jerry Della Femina, Patrick McDonald, Michelle Harper, Bill Cunningham, Patrick McMullen, and Alber Elbaz (who had just come from his H&M/Lanvin fashion show extravaganza, held conveniently a few blocks away at the Taj Pierre Hotel). The animated crowd mingled throughout the main floor where champagne, wine, and exotic cocktails from an open bar, were being served, as well as hot cider, which was offered to guests both inside and outside as they waited to go into the store (how welcoming on a raw and damp evening), and there were accompanying nibbles to go along with the drinks. There was also a live performance later on in the evening, by Prince Poppycock. (To see photos of all important attendees go to Patrick

What more can I say? It’s now official: the holiday season is off and running!

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Better Bets: Holiday Cooking

Rhonda Erb's latest shopping column reviews fun items for the kitchen. Click here for the article

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Spanish Master (No ‘Bull’!)

I attended Tuesday morning’s press preview for ‘Balenciaga: Spanish Master”, at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, November 19th-February 19, 2011 ( The beautifully done exhibition begins with the famed designer’s iconic 1939 Infanta and ends with his four point silk gazar dress from 1967, and was initially conceived by Oscar de la Renta, Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Directors (of course, ODLR has always made known his reverence for the designer and in fact, his spring show this past September, was one of the most unabashedly ‘referential’ to Balenciaga in recent memory). It is expertly curated by none other than Hamish Bowles, Vogue’s European Editor-at-Large, who is no stranger to high profile fashion exhibitions (he also curated ‘Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years’).

This exhibit is notable in that it is the first to illustrate the strong hold and powerful spell which Spain’s rich culture, history, and art, apparently ‘cast’ over one of its most revered, creative, and legendary ‘sons’. Indeed, while Cristobal Balenciaga (1895 – 1968) opened his fashion house in Paris in 1937, and Paris remained the city in which he would effectively perfect his craft, his work was always an homage and love letter to his native Spain, and it was hard not to notice the myriad Spanish references which echoed throughout the approximately 70 items of clothing and accessories filling two galleries of the beautiful building located on 68th Street and Park Avenue. In addition to a playlist of Spanish music playing in the background (including John Williams’ interpretation of 19th century Spanish guitar music), the items shown were grouped according to 6 major Spanish themes which pervaded the work of the Spanish Master: ‘Royal Court’, ‘Relgious Life’, ‘Spanish Art’, ‘Regional Dress’, ‘Dance’, ‘The Bullfight’.

And thus, there was a duo of short sculptural dresses inspired by the abstract motifs found in the art work of famed Spanish painter Joan Miro, as well as a long black gown with a dramatic silk gazar “chou” wrap, which was an ode to Goya. A beaded metallic tunic dress, with the look of armor, was shown alongside an 1825 costume comprised of gilt-foil, embroidery, and sequins. Similarly, coats and capes which referenced the priestly vestments of the Roman Catholic Church, numerous gowns which took their cue from the traditional flamenco dance costumes of flamenco dancers (‘Bata de Cola”), and abbreviated Matador inspired boleros which looked as though they came right off the backs of very fashionable bullfighters, were in many instances, effectively arranged next to the real McCoy. In the case of the latter, a blown up photograph of two famous matadors taken in 1959, was in the background, bringing the display to life.

Paintings were also put to good use. In one splendid corner of the gallery, a silk floral evening gown was juxtaposed next to the lavishly embroidered fringed shawl, (indigenous to the Basque region), which it echoed, and the colorful oil painting, ‘Vision of Spain, Sevilla, The Dance’, 1916, by Joaquin Soralla y Bastida which hung on the wall right beside them, stunningly continued the theme. Goya’s 1800 oil on canvas portrait of Cardinal Luis Maria de Borbon y Vallabriga, resplendent in a clerical red caped coat, was right next to a voluminous scarlet silk ottoman coat by the designer. A cocktail ensemble in horizontal off white mink, which looked as though it could have walked off the recent runways, was, according to the caption on the glass wall, a ‘luxurious’ take on the practical and warm sheepskin vests worn by Basque shepherds (believe me, there was nothing at all ‘peasanty’ about it).

FYI, when I asked Hamish Bowles if he had a ‘favorite’ look in the exhibit, he admitted (and not surprisingly I might add) it was the black silk crepe gown with the dramatic “black silk gazar “chou” wrap. And when I asked Mr. de la Renta the same question, he initially said “not really” but then motioned to the gorgeous ivory silk shantung 1957 wedding gown with silver metallic embroidery which is truly fit for a queen - or should I say 'princess' based on the news that Prince William is engaged to his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, November 12, 2010

Victoria's Secret 2010 Fashion Show

Victoria's Secret 2010 Fashion Show at the Lexington Armory (All Photos: Randy Brooke)

You can bet there is always a big crowd for Victoria's Secret annual fashion show. Offer supermodels marching down the runway in designer underwear, free booze, food for all, the glitz of a fancy location and you have an event that requires the talents of not one, but two public relations firms! A lot is going on, but little of it has to do with real fashion. About every video crew from the western world lines the back of the room, but there are fewer members of the real fashion press in attendance. Then again who cares? It is fun and still a great spectacle - something very "American" about it. Sort of like the Superbowl.

Victoria's Secret hired in the past several of the top New York fashion PR firms to handle media relations in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to lure top fashion editors to the event. For the first 3 shows it was Rogers & Cowan - but then they lost the Victoria's Secret account 9 years ago to Desiree Gruber, one of their own vice presidents who took the account to start her own agency called 'Full Pictures'. A second New York agency is still used to handle press relations. In the past, it was first Kevin Krier & Associates, then Loving & Weintraub, and for the past eight seasons it has been KCD.

But it is important to note it was the first Victoria's Secret show live video streaming on the Internet almost 10 years ago that proved just how powerful the Internet could be in promoting and selling apparel on line. With millions trying to view the video, that show's influence cannot be over estimated. It was a watershed event for both fashion and the Internet.

The Victoria's Secret Angels this year included Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Rosie-Huntington-Whiteley, Candice Swanepoel, Chanel Iman, Erin Heatherton, Lily Aldridge, Behati Prinsloo, Selita Ebanks, Karolina Kurkova, and Jessica Stam modeling on the runway. The runway show also featured the $2 million 'Bombshell Fantasy Bra' designed by renowned Italian jeweler Damiani and worn by Supermodel Adriana Lima.

Our photographer Randy Brooke was once again shooting the show from the runway. We have 15 beautiful photos selected by Randy from the show.

Click here to see the photos

-Ernest Schmatolla

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Better Bets Holiday Shopping Guide

Editor Rhonda Erb's latest column highlights her choice of "Festive Foods" for the upcoming holiday. Click here for the article.