Monday, December 27, 2010

Metropolitan Museum Luncheon to Celebrate Models of the 1973 Versailles Fashion Show

Hosted by Harold Koda, Curator of The Costume Institute & Donna Williams, Chief Audience Development Officer.
Co-hosted by Oscar de la Renta & Stephen Burrows

Monday, January 24, Noon-2:30PM
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street.

When five American fashion designers faced off with five French couturiers at The Palace of Versailles in 1973, the Americans shocked the world by deploying a diverse array of models. These faces of color enlivened the event and the clothing, forever altering the way fashion is presented on a global stage.

The luncheon will celebrate the blend of emerging models who awed the International Set and changed fashion - Billie Blair, Alva Chinn, Pat Cleveland, Norma Jean Darden, Bethann Hardison, Barbara Jackson, China Machado, Ramona Saunders and Amina Warsuma.

All of them made history. Thirty-seven years ago, legendary fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert and Versailles curator Gerald van der Kemp created a benefit défilé at the palace's Theatre Gabriel to restore the aging structure and provide exposure for American fashion. It was a fashion battle between French and American style, in which American designers Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Anne Klein faced the French houses of Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emmanuel Ungaro.

The French designers presented their collections in a two-hour series of elaborate vignettes. Each side had its stars: Josephine Baker performed for the French, followed by the Americans who opened with Liza Minnelli singing "Bonjour Paris" surrounded by a multicultural rainbow of 36 models on a sparse stage. Throughout the half-hour celebration of American ingenuity and minimalism, the audience erupted in mounting cheers, stomping and tossing their programs in the air at pivotal moments. When all the models appeared for the finale dressed in black, the audience rose to its feet at the American triumph. American fashion gained the respect it craved and the world of fashion and modeling was transformed.

Sadly, according to Barbara Summers, former African American model, the foremost authority on the history of black models, and author of 'Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models' & 'Black and Beautiful': "that while the African American models were indeed the stars of the show, their reward was little more than symbolic. After enduring tears, fights, prima donna trips by both models and designers and 11 hours of rehearsing without food and little water, they had some priceless memories, but little else. The models were in fact discussing the formation of a union to upgrade their working conditions and improve their pay. The actual reality was that these fabulous performers received less than fabulous sums of twenty-five dollars per day for spending money and three hundred dollars in salary for the show."

But the models did demonstrated a level of exuberant showmanship that set the international standard for runway presentation and editorial layouts for years to come. Later that year, American Vogue featured an African American model on its cover for the first time, and the success of the Versailles models paved the way for the diverse supermodels who followed.

For more information about the luncheon contact:
Nancy Chilton, 212.650.2123 or

Friday, December 17, 2010

Better Bets: Perfect Holiday Gifts For Him

Paco Rabanne 1 Million Gift Set

Win a 1 Million fragrance package containing a 1.7 oz Eau de Toilette Spray and a 5.1 oz Shower Gel or a Lady Million fragrance package containing a 1.7 oz Eau de Parfum Spray and a 3.4 oz Body Lotion. Click to enter your email address. Remember to put “Million” in the subject line. Register your e-mail before 11:59 PM EST, December 20, 2010. Two lucky winners will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail. Paco Rabanne is providing these products for the purpose of this giveaway.

For more holiday gifts for him go to our latest 'Better' Bets column: "Great Gifts For Guys".

Monday, December 13, 2010

Better Bets: Perfect Holiday Gifts For Her

The Mugler Show Angel Ring from Thierry Mugler:

70 Crystallized Swarovski elements adorn this dazzling, limited edition silver ring. It holds the wildly popular and deliciously sweet Angel fragrance in solid form. Available at Saks Fifth Avenue, $65 or at

For more gifts for her click to our latest Better Bets Column

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Oscar de la Renta Pre-Fall 2011 Show

Spanish Lessons

All photos: Randy Brooke for

For the record, I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Kors who (according to, took the opportunity during the course of his recent informal ‘pre-fall’ presentation, to plead with editors to come up with a better name for this season. In my opinion, it sounds like ‘pre-school’ and there surely must be a better term. As soon as I find one, I’ll let you know. That said, regardless of what you call it, designers both here and abroad are busy staging formal and informal presentations highlighting their newest creations, just months before the BIG FALL SHOWS in February. It certainly does feel as though the seasons are never ending, merging quickly from one to the next.

Oscar de la Renta is one designer who has traditionally staged formal runway shows for ALL seasons, including those of interim, mid seasons. And this time was no exception. While he broke with tradition as far as the time, showing at 2:30PM instead of 1PM, there was no surprise in terms of the venue, (583 Park Avenue) for his ‘pre-fall’ (hate the term) collection which was shown on Monday. Also unsurprising, was that the short, (59 pieces), to the point, well edited collection, (which was accessorized to the hilt with gold and onyx resin earrings; gold and topaz in addition to Plexiglas, wood, and crystal rondelle necklaces; gold, garnet cabochon and crystal pave rings; fabulously low heeled pointy toed pumps in addition to more predictable high heeled versions many of which were decorated or adorned with feathers), began at just a few minutes after 2:30PM and was over in approximately 20 minutes.

It was filled with the sort of rich, opulent, feminine, highly textural clothes for day and evening, that have come to define the seemingly ageless designer: open work cashmere butterfly stitch and cashmere silk cardigans; ribbon tweed skirt suits; stretch wool faille embroidered dresses; art inspired dip dyes and color blocks; ostrich and Bird of Paradise feather borders; plenty of gold foil and gold lame but used in rather elegant, sporty ways; the abundant use of threadwork embroidery; silk crinkle chiffon pleated dresses and gowns; sturdy outerwear (one navy and black bi color double face cashgora duffle coat stood out, juxtaposed over a black double face wool crepe, lace, and silk crinkle chiffon dress); and of course, plenty of fur (Chinese lamb, broadtail, sable, and fox), in the form of sleeveless vests as well as fitted coats. And it was colorful.

In fact, it was an endorsement of high voltage color and the show opened with a cashmere silk cardigan and stretch wool skirt in cactus (Kelly) green, followed by a silk crinkle chiffon blouse, cashgora jacket, and skirt in a shade of shocking pink so vivid, it would probably glow in the dark. The same shade appeared several other times, and was quite effective when used for a duo of silk crinkle chiffon dresses (both short and long).

Also not in the least bit surprising, was the unmistakable nod to the unmistakably Spanish themes underlying the iconic works of Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga: the voluminous infantas and dramatic gowns inspired by traditional cota de bolas; the use of cardinal (or scarlet) red and guipure lace; the matador inspired abbreviated bolero jackets; the lavishly embroidered florals; the sculptural outerwear, etc. Especially when you consider that Mr. ODLR worked for the famed designer early in his career, has always considered him a major source of inspiration, and conceived of ‘Balenciaga: Spanish Master’, the exhibit which is on view at the Queen Sophia Spanish Institute located on Park Avenue and 68th Street, just about 5 blocks north of 583 Park, where Oscar showed his pre-fall collection. (Oscar de la Renta is chairman of the board of directors of the Queen Sophia Spanish Institute).

Curated by Hamish Bowles, the exhibition is notable in that it is the first one to explore the impact of the rich history and heritage of Spain on the work of this famed creator. In fact, several weeks ago, I attended a small, intimate, and private showing hosted by The Friends of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the highlight of which was a discussion with Hamish Bowles and Oscar de la Renta, both of whom spoke of the impact that Spain’s rich traditions, culture, and heritage had on the works of Cristobal Balenciaga. The Dominican Republic born designer told me of his unending love affair with Spain, specifically citing the city of Madrid, where he lived and worked for many years. But most poignantly, when I asked him to give me a few words to describe his upcoming fall 2011 line, in addition to noting that his collection has never been as successful as it is right now, he said he hopes to create “pretty, beautiful” clothes.

Mission Accomplished.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Better Bets: Holiday Gift Giveaways!

Gimme Power iPhone & iPod Charger:

The perfect marriage of form and function. This sculpted silver hand charges your iPhone or iPod while plugged into your computer.

Available at:, $250 Win a Gimme Power iPhone/iPod Charger (Click to enter your email address, remember to put “Charger” in the subject line). Register your e-mail before 11:59 EST, December 11, 2010. One lucky winner will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.

For more giveaways and holiday gift suggestions go to "Better Bets Holiday Gifts & Giveaways"

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Lookonline Celebrates 16 Years On-Line

The "Godfather" of Fashion Websites is the longest running on-line fashion publication in the world. Before there was,,,,,,, and even, there was us. We have not always garnered the attention, funding or notoriety of some other of these fashion sites, but those in our industry, who have followed Lookonline's development over the years, know we helped pioneer the use of the Internet in providing real-time coverage of fashion events, regularly scheduled video reports, fashion blogs (DFR: Daily Fashion Report has been in blog format for almost 8 years and is recognized as the first fashion blog), market reports, editorial cartoons and original runway and event photography long before there were sites like or Fashionweekdaily.

Since our official launch was on December 1, 1994 as a BBS dial-up service (does anyone even remember what a BBS service is or was?), the Lookonline has been on-line "officially" for 16 years. However, we were already a BBS service by subscription in early 1993 (our first subscriber was Harper's Bazaar), and it was not until December of 1994 did we began a website (hosted under another domain name) in addition to our BBS site. Later in 1995, we discontinued our BBS service and concentrated on developing our website using our own domain name ''.

For the record, our official launch was as a party/benefit called "CyberTaste" for the "Charge Against Hunger" program from American Express and Share Our Strength on December 1, 1994 (see above copy of invitation) The event was held at Sony Plaza at 550 Madison Avenue in New York. Over 850 members of the public and a small group of press (WWD did not show up) attended the opening that featured 13 chefs from top New York restaurants serving their signature dishes; a designer auction, wine tasting, desserts, and a live 20 man jazz orchestra. According to officials at Sony, it was one of the largest, if not the largest event ever held to this day at the Sony Plaza's Atrium. (Rhonda Erb put the whole event together for us). Major sponsors for the event included American Express, Food & Wine Magazine, Tourneau, Romana Sambuca, Coca Cola Bottling Company of NY, Georgette Klinger, Colorite, and Sony Plaza.

Does anyone besides our company remember the event? Sixteen years on-line is like a century in the development of the Internet. It was a struggle during the early years to gain recognition, much less respect for our site. I can still remember the days when fashion designers and publicists would look at me in disbelief, if they looked at me at all, when I talked about the importance of fashion websites. I was like the invisible man. I would be running around among them, but no one really knew or cared about fashion websites or, for that matter, even the Internet. Well, as the song says: "the times they are a changing", the Internet is now a force to be reckoned with, and fashion sites and blogs number in the many hundreds.

I want to personally thank our many contributors who, over the past 16 years, have helped support our site. First and foremost my editor-in-chief, Marilyn Kirschner, whose fashion expertise and determination has set the tone for our editorial coverage; and senior editor Bernadine Morris, who lent her name, expertise and a guiding hand. Also special mention goes to Randy Brooke, an exceptional photographer who was always there when we needed him; and Diane Clehane for providing us with first class coverage of major fashion and entertainment events. Also special thanks goes to Susan Sommers for her timely suggestions, Adrienne Weinfield-Berg and Rhonda Erb, both good friends of lookonline, whose special assignment reporting gave our editorial greater depth; Stacy Lomman, Isabelle Erb and Muriel Geny-Triffaut for their contributions, and Grace Mirabella for hosting our first three 'Master of Fashion Video Interviews'.

-Ernest Schmatolla

Friday, December 03, 2010

Ruth Finley Receives "Lifetime Achievement"

Ruth Finley poses for a picture celebrating with her 65th anniversary cake at her office
Fashion Calendar publisher Ruth Finley received "The Medal of Honor" from The National Arts Club last night in New York after a cocktail party and dinner for over 250 of her family, friends and associates. The award was presented to Ruth for her 65 years publishing the Fashion Calendar, which is called by many the "bible of the fashion industry"

Both Carolina Herrera and Mary Lou Luther spoke during the formal presentation and the award was given by Aldon James Jr. the President of the club. Some of the guests included Stan Herman, Steven Kolb, Peter Arnold, Mary Ann Restivo, Christina Neault, Owen Davidson, and Gayle Dizon. Past recipients of the award have included Geoffrey Beene, Carolina Herrera, Oleg Cassini, Arnold Scaasi, and Betsey Johnson.

The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by Charles deKay. He was the literary and art critic for The New York Times for 18 years. He and a group of distinguished artists and patrons conceived of a gathering place for artists, patrons and audiences in all the arts. The club is located in the historic Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park. The building was first built in the 1840's and then was given a massive overhaul in the 1870's by famed architect Calvert Vaus, who was also one of the designers of Central Park.

Lookonline's Marilyn Kirschner spoke to Ruth in a video interview a number of years ago as one of our "Masters of Fashion" interviews. Click to play this very interesting and extensive video interview with Ruth Finley on the founding of the Fashion Calendar.

- Ernest Schmatolla