Saturday, August 28, 2010

All the (Fashion) World’s a Stage

The summer is finally coming to an end and I, for one, could not be happier (I loathe the heat!) . Like many, I look forward to September for many reasons, not the least of which is New York Fashion Week. I guess you can count me among those who liken the arrival of fashion week, to the first day of school; you know: new books, new pencils, and especially new CLOTHES! FYI, dressing for Fashion Week in September is rather challenging because while you want to dress ‘up’, the weather can be summer like, and who wants to wear dull and boring summer clothes?

For me and many others, September has also come to symbolize the beginning of a New Year, (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, always takes place during this month). Even those for whom fashion is a "religion", will be put to the test this season as the first day of Rosh Hashanah, September 9th, coincides with the first official day of Fashion Week, forcing them to choose between synagogue and fashion shows.

You know the saying, “All the world’s a stage”? Certainly, with the often theatrical runway shows being such a large part of fashion contributing to the business side as well as the aura of it all, I suppose one can say, “All the fashion world is a stage”. As it turns out, the venue and the stage, which have come to symbolize New York Fashion Week for many seasons, is about to change, and the fashion troops will migrate north from Bryant Park to their new home, Lincoln Center, the cultural epicenter of New York - if not the world. One can argue that New York Fashion Week is about to get a bit more ‘glam’, ‘high brow’, and more prestigious this season.

As popular as Bryant Park was (yes, it was familiar and highly accessible, especially to the Conde Nast editors), let’s face it, its close proximity to Times Square made the location a bit seedy and ‘gritty’, and hardly in the same league with Lincoln Center.

Speaking of prestigious, it certainly does not hurt that Karl Lagerfeld, arguably one of the most highly respected, creative, prolific, and iconic designers in the world (who designs for, among other houses, Chanel, the world’s most prestigious fashion house), will lend his Parisian and international aura to the festivities. Luckily for all of us, the Couture Council of the Museum of FIT scored a ‘coup’ when Mr. Lagerfeld agreed to come to New York to accept his Fashion Visionary Award that will be given to him by his good friend and muse Diane Kruger. It couldn’t be more fortuitous that it will take place on September 10th, the second official day of New York Fashion Week, at a sold out luncheon held at Avery Fisher Hall, smack dab in the middle of Lincoln Center.

In the meanwhile, it’s not lost on me, that this is the 5th Annual Couture Council Award, so I suppose you can refer to it as ‘Chanel No. 5’.

Just think of the list of celebrated and creative geniuses who have previously been honored: Ralph Rucci, Alber Elbaz, Isabel Toledo, Dries Van Noten. What this stellar group has in common, other than their artistic creative talent, is the fact that they are decidedly more ‘esoteric’ and ‘under the radar’ than Karl Lagerfeld, who designs for Chanel, and unlike him, they could hardly be considered as ‘household’ names (you don’t see street vendors hawking knocks offs of their designs). The word Chanel immediately conjures up so many identifiable symbols --the quilted chain handle bags and chain belts, the tweeds, the cardigan jackets, the little black dress, the cap toe pumps, masses of pearls, camellias, etc.. These are items (Chanel or not) that many women around the world rely upon as wardrobe staples.

Bill Cunningham once told me that one of the ‘highlights’ of covering the Paris Collections (and we know how much he adores Paris), is chronicling what the women who attend the Chanel shows each season are wearing. I think it’s safe to say that the Couture Council luncheon will be a testament to the enduring and timeless appeal of Chanel, which has been successfully brought into the 21st century by Mr. Lagerfeld. The invited guests will have undoubtedly put a lot of thought into what they will wear to honor the man of the hour and you can expect a sea of interlocking ‘CC’ logos, chain belts, tweed jackets, little black dresses, and quilted bags. Seeing this unfold will be one of the high points of the week.

One very high profile social figure admitted to me that all her Chanel pieces are from winter collections. So, since she doesn’t want to spend a fortune on a new summer outfit just for this occasion, she will be ‘renting’ a Chanel from a shop downtown which offers designer clothing and accessories: they charge 10% of what the item costs --brilliant!

In the meanwhile, if the move to Lincoln Center does not serve as an energizing and inspiring catalyst for the New York designers, and doesn’t help to ‘up’ their game (many designers have gone on record admitting this is an upward move and highly ‘inspirational’), I don’t know what will.

Stay tuned...

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FIT’s ‘French Connection’


Fashion designer Gemma Khang with Lookonline editor Marilyn Kirschner

It’s the Dog Days of August. Many, if not most of us, have been ‘en vacance’, or at the very least, taking it slower and easier. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that things are about to change quickly: New York Fashion Week, (which will ‘inaugurate’ its exciting new home, Lincoln Center), is just weeks away. Quite frankly, who can think about fashion (or even contemplate getting dressed to the nines for that matter) with the stifling heat we’ve all been subject to this summer? (This has been the hottest summer on record).

Thankfully, the fashion starved fashion crowd was given a mid summer’s jolt on Tuesday evening, somewhat of a ‘jump start’ to the upcoming season, thanks to the Couture Council of FIT’s Summer Party which was held at the tres elegant French Consulate on 5th Avenue and 79th Street. Quite a fitting venue considering that Karl Lagerfeld, (“one of the most important designers in the world” in the words of FIT President Joyce Brown, who along with Dr. Valerie Steele, addressed the crowd midway through the soiree), will receive the Couture Council’s special ‘Fashion Visionary’ Award (the award was created solely for him) at a benefit luncheon at Avery Fisher Hall on Friday, September 10th (the day before New York Fashion Week officially begins). Indeed, he is a highly influential, true creative genius, who has taken the house of Chanel into the 21st Century. And after all, Chanel is one of the most consummately French fashion houses around. N’est pas?

The well attended cocktail party (200+), held on two floors of the beautiful building, was festive, highly spirited, and colorful (thanks to more than a few true ‘fashion statements’ on display), and it was the perfect ‘New York’ mix (classic and edgy; uptown and downtown). Well known faces from the world of fashion: The New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, dandy Patrick MacDonald, Lynn Yaeger, Linda Fargo, Francisco Costa, Ralph Rucci, Cathy Hardwick, eccentric fashion designer Gemma Khang, wearing a scarlet red satin cocktail dress and headpiece of her own design), etc., hobnobbed alongside social fixtures like Deeda Blair, Cece Cord (looking chic in a white pantsuit), Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Barbara Tober, Michele Gerber Klein, and Couture Council members Liz Peek, Alexandra Lebenthal (who was literally ‘pretty in pink’ thanks to her hot pink Tory Burch shirt and pants) and Yaz Hernandez (giving a nod to the ‘French’ theme in her J. Mendel dress). There was even a politician on board: Representative Caroline Maloney (the French Consulate is located within the boundaries of her 14th District).

By the way, I had a chance to chat with first time author Alexandra Lebenthal, who is President and CEO of Lebenthal & Co. and a regular on the benefit circuit. Her new novel, ‘ The Recessionistas’, which just made it’s debut on August 9th, chronicles the lives of four upper east side socialites whose worlds have turned upside down on the heels of the economic collapse in 2008. Though she did state that it is a work of ‘fiction’, it is obviously based on some real characters, and she has even woven the world of fashion (naturally) into the mix. I look forward to reading it.

It was a wonderful evening; even the weather cooperated (it was cool enough to mill around outside the consulate on 5th Avenue and take in the breezes of Central Park, right across the street). Actually, the only thing missing was Karl Lagerfeld himself.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fashion Designer Uses Social Media to Finance Show


Stacy Lomman, the former head designer for Joan Vass and a contributor to Lookonline is launching her first signature dress collection during the upcoming New York fashion week using funds raised from supporters on Facebook and followers of her blog taffetadarlings.blogspot.com/. So far, she has raised as of August 25 $14,000 in individual contributions from 56 sponsors and is set to show a 12 piece collection on Monday, September 13 at 8PM at a venue on the West Side.

For additional information about the collection and to make a pledge for any amount starting at $5 go to kickstarter.com

-Ernest Schmatolla