Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The National Arts Club Honors William Calvert

William Calvert with Melanie Fraser Hart

This Thursday night, The National Arts Club Fashion Committee will honorWilliam Calvert of  Callulalillibelle with the 2011 Innovator Award. The award was established in 2006 to provide a platform for artists in the fashion industry who are revolutionary and fearless in their approach to fashion. From first time launches to reinventions, The National Arts Club Fashion Committee salutes artists who they believe have a balance of courage, ambition and the potential to become a legend in years to come. Past Innovator Award recipients include Richy Rich & Traver Rains of Heatherette, Sam Shipley & Jeff Halmos of Shipley and Halmos, and Bibhu Mohapatra.

William is no stranger to Lookonline.com, He was our choice for best new young designer of 1997: See our article.  Born & raised in Baltimore, MD, William Calvert obtained his fashion design degree from Philadelphia University and went on to study at Accademia Italiana della Moda in Florence, Italy. After graduation Calvert worked for the legendary design houses of Balenciaga, Balmain, and Rochas.

Upon his return to the United States Calvert was presented with the opportunity to design and develop several collections for American label Diane Von Furstenberg. Calvert launched William Calvert, his couture collection, in 1998. Calvert worked in cashmere, crepes wool and silk jerseys. He was known for his sophisticated one seam narrow columns of fitted construction that spiral around the body. The dresses' were clean, low-key silhouettes that evolve out of complex wrap techniques.

Within the first few years of business, Calvert received the first – ever Moet & Chandon Designer Debut award, as well as Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award. An ensuing documentary on the Metro Channel Runway featured his work and Calvert was also courted by Perry Ellis Woman and J.Mendel to creative consult.

In 2009, Calvert’s great sense of design combined with Melanie Fraser Hart’s encompassing vision spurred the creation of Callula Lillibelle. The collection incorporates the shifting needs and ever-fluctuating landscape of the modern woman’s lifestyle, diffusing Calvert’s tradition of couture into contemporary “Desk to Dinner” silhouettes at an affordable price. For Calvert, this latest installment of sartorial sensations reflects his unique aesthetic perspective and his commitment to elaborating on women’s fashion options.

Featured in WWD, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, O the Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Essence, Real Simple and with retailers including Cusp by Neiman Marcus & Saks Fifth Avenue Dubai, Callula Lillibelle has received the fashion industry’s attention in just a short amount of time. In addition, the brand recently presented its Fall 2011 collection in ‘The Box’ at Lincoln Center during New York Fashion Week in February of this year.
The National Arts Club is located at 15 Gramercy Park South. For more information please contact Dana Bethune at Deborah Hughes Inc: Dan@deborahhughesinc.com or 212-727-2220.

-Ernest Schmatolla

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meet Our New Columnist: Contessa Logan Bentley Lessona

She created the first Italian fashion web site in 1995 http://www.made-in-italy.com/  and is one of the pioneers of fashion on the Internet. She was a freelance writer & photographer for People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Daily News, and AutoWeek. She reported on general news, fashion and auto racing. She has lived in Rome for almost 40 years and was married to the late Count Francesco Lessona. She met him while covering a famous auto race in Sicily - he was driving a red Ferrari Le Mans. She has moved in and among all aspects of Italian life including high society and is on first name basis with many of the great names in fashion. Her columns will be more of a conversation with the reader - sometimes just thinking out loud - but they will be wide ranging, insightful, and always with an "insiders" perspective.

Here is her first article:

Photo: People Magazine/Getty
 Whatever Happened to Darts?

I was curious as anybody about Kate Middleton's THE DRESS and thought that however conceived, it was a job well done. As I looked at more and more photographs of the dress I began to believe I understood what made the dress so distinctive – although very chaste (despite the low V-cut neckline there was no cleavage shown) the bodice seemed to be very form-fitting. Back when I covered the Milan fashion shows regularly I saw the McQueen show several times but it was a long time ago and I really don’t remember much. But I have read about him and how he had a great deal of technical talent.

I also remember my mother telling me many years ago that the most distinctive thing about a French couture dress was that you could step into the dress naked and it would give you a perfect figure. (This was in the days when women wore girdles, merry widows for their waistlines, and very structured pointy bras. I’m not sure but I think it was Rudi Gernreich who introduced the no-bra bra which was all fabric but no structure, and certainly not push-up) The interior of the couture dress was just as carefully constructed as the exterior.

So, after looking carefully at the photos of THE DRESS on the web it appeared to me that the bodice of the dress was constructed so as to mold to (and possibly uplift slightly?) the breasts so that they were very evident, contributing a sexy look to the dress while the overall impression remained chaste. And then I thought about bust darts, of which I can see many examples in clothes that belonged to my mother which I keep in the closets of my guest rooms upstairs.

I’m pretty sure that most women’s dresses and blouses and jackets in the late thirties, forties, and fifties had darts at the bust line. I am wondering if the darts began to disappear around the end of the fifties when the “sack” dress became popular. I think it might have been Balenciaga who first showed such a dress. And when Emilio Pucci began to be famous in the early sixties he let the woman who wore his finely-knit silk printed dresses give her form to the dress and they certainly didn’t have darts. I have some upstairs. In fact, Pucci is so well known for his bright colored prints, but I think he had even more influence in getting women to get rid of their girdles and shape the dress themselves.

So I would love to ask some fashion historians (FIT? Central St. Martins?) when and why the dart disappeared. And do any designers today use them?   Do they know anything more specific about the construction of THE DRESS? (McQueen was often cited for his technical expertise) I also noticed the skirt, which appears to have been cut on the bias to allow fullness. But instead of gathers its flat pleats rather rendered a more streamlined effect. Years ago when Gian Franco Ferre (an architect) did his first couture collection shown in Rome there were beautiful ball gowns that had huge (but soft) skirts.  If I remember correctly, he told me that he used layers of tulle underneath to give them volume. His cousin, Rita Airaghi, would definitely remember. I believe it was those dresses that convinced Dior to hire him for their couture line, as Dior had always been famous for their ball gowns.

Of course I could be completely off-base about my theories, and I would like to hear from others who might be more knowledgable.

I think the next time the best-dressed list comes out  in Vanity Fair I should write an homage to Eleanor Lambert. It’s a shame that people don’t more remember and credit those who helped them on their way up. The other day I happened to come across some sketches I made when Gucci first started offering clothes in their shops, designed by Paolo Gucci. I was their first publicist,  beginning in September 1968 and suggested that they make dresses from the necktie prints and the scarf prints.  I persuaded Aldo Gucci to give me some printed fabrics and took them to my dressmaker. She made four evening dresses from my sketches (with scarves of the "flora" and seascapes prints) and two day dresses (with necktie fabric).

They were shown at a charity event held the following year at the Waldorf Astoria. I wore one dress myself (I still have it) and hired four models (each at $80 an hour) including Suzy Chafee and Dorothea McGowan  from Eileen Ford's agency to spend two hours walking around the ballroom wearing the dresses. Gucci bought a table and I invited Nancy White, then editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, to come as our guest. When I suggested that Aldo Gucci hire me to do PR he was not aware of the concept of getting free space in the newspapers. I promised him that in the space of a year I would convince Eugenia Shepard to write about Gucci every time she came to Rome for the Haute Couture fashion shows. And she did!

- Logan Bentley Lessona

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Royal Watch Column: The Countdown

Five Things You Need To Know Right Now

President & Mrs. Obama meet the royal couple

With the royal "wedding of the century" behind them, Prince William and his new bride, the former Kate Middleton, have assumed their rightful place in the pop culture landscape. While the couple has certainly captured our attention, we are just as intrigued by the supporting players who have emerged from the spectacle as bona fide media stars in their own right. (Harry! Pippa!) All of this is good news for royal watchers since William and Catherine aren't keen to live in the media fishbowl. Even when the royal lovebirds aren't front and center, there is always something interesting happening with their sexy siblings. And, of course, the upwardly mobile in-laws and those randy royals have been fascinating from the get-go.

Lookonline.com's entertainment editor Diane Clehane will be reporting on all things royal for her new weekly column, The Royal Watch. This week's installment offers a crash course on the five most important things you need to know about the royals right now. Check out the countdown here:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jane Pratt Is Back!

Shades of "Friday the 13th". Her new e-zine xoJane.com  just launched. This e-zine is the latest reincarnation of the Jane Pratt brand. The articles are about what you would expect. An old formula that smacks of the 1980's Cosmo headlines - heavy on the sex. XoJane writers go to such extreme lengths in trying to be so "now" and "hip" you can almost feel the pain! Sort of like running your nails down a blackboard - ouch! One thing for sure, Jane Pratt is no Clay Felker.

Here are some of her lead articles: "My Rapist Friended Me on Facebook (and All I Got Was This Lousy Article)"; "I'll Try Anything Once: Nude Bodysuit"; "5 Things That Happen When You Quit Masturbating"; "It Happened to Me: I Slept With Terry Richardson"; "Finally! An Accessory You Have to Water" and our personal favorite: "All Reality Shows Should Be Like 'The Real World'". What more could any self respecting hipster from the meatpacking district want?

Who was it that said "bad taste is better than no taste"? Well in the case of xoJane.com tasteless has triumphed.

It seems once again Jane Pratt is publishing her very public struggle for others to think well of herself. Who next? Maybe Diane von Furstenberg can come out with a e-zine called "DVF" and talk about all the wonderful things she is doing for herself? Oh wait, she is already doing that with the "CFDA"?

-Ernest Schmatolla

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

KCD: A Cautionary Tale...


(Noun: A dilemma from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.)

Now here is one for the book. As everyone who works in fashion news media knows, access to the shows and events are the bread & butter of fashion news coverage. Many of us who work in online media are always butting heads with the pr firms and inhouse publicists to gain access to the shows and events that demand our attention. We have been online for almost 17 years now, and way back in the early years the fashion industry cared little about the Internet, so being ignored was SOP for most publicists.

Of course, everything has changed now. To say that the Internet has revolutionized fashion coverage would hardly be an overstatement. You only have to look at what goes on during NY fashion week with the hundreds of bloggers that inhabit the center pit at the Lincoln Center venue to understand what a  central role online coverage means to this industry.

Now, with hundreds of fashion sites both large and small, access to the major fashion events in NYC can still be "iffy". Obviously, there is an A-list of major online outlets like Style.com, WWD.com and other online versions of  fashion magazines and newspapers  that enjoy total access. And this is as it should be. I will never forget having Grace Mirabella, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue, at my home to meet the then editor of British Vogue online Abigail Chisman being amazed that people actually had a hard time getting into shows and events!

For the rest of us, there is the continual competition as to who is "perceived" important enough to warrant invites to such events as the CFDA Awards. In the case of the CFDA it is the powerhouse pr firm KCD (Orginally know as Keeble, Cavaco, & Duka) who handles the press.

So once again, we put in our humble request to have our reporter and photographer cover the event - we have been covering the awards since 2000 ( click here for that first article ). In addition, our editor-in-chief Marilyn Kirschner also votes on who is to receive the awards and has even attended the event as a paying guest.

Souri Kim of KCD emailed us yesterday the following after we emailed him our report from last year:
"we can offer a photographer. the link you sent through really isn't the type of coverage that warrants a red carpet reporter as it was comprised mostly of information from the release (except for the addition you added to the header)"
Last year KCD would not give our writer a red carpet credential so we were forced to use their extensive and well written press release as the basis of our report - with pictures by our photographer Randy Brooke. See our article here. KCD is not credentialing our reporter this year. Why? Because we did not have a reporter present last year! Am I missing something here? Yossarian, where are you when we need you?

If that is not "Catch-22", I don't know what is?

- Ernest Schmatolla

Monday, May 16, 2011

Upcoming Events in New York

2011 CFDA Awards & Resort Week

Oscar de la Renta is having a resort show today at 6PM. Then in June, resort week in New York is a busy time. Leading off on Monday, June 6th are presentations by Donna Karan and Jason Wu followed by a formal show by Diane von Fursternberg. Of course that evening, all eyes will be on the 2011 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center.

Then on Wednesday June 8th at 10AM, Calvin Klein will have a formal show at their showroom on West 39th Street. Also Jason Wu, Doo Ri, Badgley Mischka, and Louis Vuitton will be having by appointment previews of their collections. On Friday, Vera Wang will be showing by appointment. Monday night June 13, Stella McCartney will have a 90 minute presentation at a place to be announced. Tuesday June 14 Jimmy Choo, Luca Luca and Nicole Miller will be previewing.

On Wednesday May 25 at 6PM The Highs Schools of Fashion Industries will hava a student fashion show following cocktails and a award ceremony with a salute to Isabel and Ruben Toledo. Tickets are a hundred dollars. For more info contact: KGarcia.HSFi@gmail.com.

-Ernest Schmatolla

'The Royal Watch' Column:

Was Diana Murdered? A New Documentary Says It Was An 'Unlawful Killing'

Just two weeks after the world saw Prince William and his new bride Catherine usher in a glowing new chapter in the lives of the reinvigorated British royal family, a new documentary premiered at Cannes alleging that Princess Diana's death may have been the result of a sinister plot originating inside Buckingham Palace. Director Keith Allen re-examines the events of that fateful night in Paris in 1997 and concludes Princess Diana died an 'Unlawful Death.' Lookonline.com's entertainment editor looks at both sides of the story and draws one undeniable conclusion -- we just can't let Diana go. See the trailer for the film and read her entire report here:

<<<<<Click here for the full article >>>>>

Friday, May 06, 2011

New Column! 'The Royal Watch'

THE ROYAL WATCH: The (Media) Honeymoon is Over

Photo: Bruce Adams/Daily Mail

 Lookonline's entertainment editor Diane Clehane is introducing a new weekly feature, The Royal Watch, where she will report and offer her own insightful commentary on the British royals -- and those colorful commoners aka The Middletons -- that have entered their orbit. In this first installment of The Watch, Diane explains why the honeymoon is already over between the media and the royal newlyweds. Exhibit A: the photos of the Duchess of Cambridge pushing a shopping cart in her hometown of Wales made all the papers in the UK complete with snarky headlines.

Read Diane's latest post here:

FGI Presents "Transformational Beauty" Event

"Reinventing the Beauty Business One Great Idea At A Time"

The BobCar Mobile Beauty Boutique

Transformational beauty was the focus of a luncheon held by The Fashion Group International at the New York Hilton Hotel last week.  The presentation and panel discussion addressed the rapidly changing needs of the modern beauty consumer.  Gone are the days when women allowed themselves to be told what to buy at the cosmetics counter.  Today’s woman is more knowledgeable about her choice of products and much more aware of herself.  Case in point, royal bride, Kate Middleton reportedly elected to do her own makeup for her wedding to Prince William. 

Among the topics discussed: the ‘Post-Recession’ consumer, the future of brick & mortar retail in the face of a virtual onslaught and the importance of keeping the consumer interested by creating the newest and most exciting products that produce real results.

"Beauty is like your cell phone, it is now expected to do so much more than before"Caroline Pieper-Vogt

The discussion was moderated by Karen Young, CEO, The Young Group. A market review entitled “The New Beauty Curator” was presented by SELF Laura McEwen, VP & Publisher and Elaine D’Farley, Beauty Director. Other speakers included Maureen Case, President Specialty Brands, Bobbi Brown, Kathleen McNeill, President, Beauty.com, Marc Speichert, Chief Marketing Officer, L’Oreal USA Caroline Pieper-Vogt, CEO, Fusion Brands.

Laura McEwen &Elaine D'Farley of SELF Magazine with Coty Prestige's Carlos Timiraos

During the reception, the BobCar Mobile Beauty Boutique, an eco-friendly vehicle hosted by a brand ambassador, was on view to allow attendees to experience an interactive product demonstration showcase.

-Rhonda Erb

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon

Don’t Rain On Our Parade

Neoprene Watering Can Bag

 On the heels of last Friday’s Royal Wedding, (with so much non stop focus on all things British leading up to the event for weeks if not months), it was hard not to pick up on a decidedly British vibe continuing in New York this past week.

On Monday, it was a veritable British invasion (and a welcome one at that) as the late Alexander McQueen (and of course his successor Sarah Burton) were feted at the Met’s Costume Institute, thanks to the opening of the appropriately mind boggling exhibition, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”. Prior to the Gala (better known as the "Party of the Year"), British accents were the order of the day, what with Thomas Campbell, Sarah Burton, Stella McCartney, and Andrew Bolton, making their remarks during the course of a morning press preview (Fellow Brit, Anna Wintour, seated in the front row, did not get up to speak, but she was lauded by all for her efforts on behalf of the Costume Institute).

And then there was the eccentric British brewery heiress, fashion icon, McQueen muse and longtime friend, Daphne Guinness. As someone who is hard NOT to notice, she all but ‘owned’ Monday, and gave new meaning to ‘window dressing’, as she literally ‘got dressed’ in Barneys Madison Avenue windows on Monday evening right before the "Party of the Year" (in McQueen of course) with a throng outside who gathered to view the happening.

Carole Bryant wearing flower pot hat

Yesterday, fabulously eccentric headgear (sculptural hats and yes, those fascinating ‘fascinators’), many bearing an undeniable similarity to (though totally outshining) those normally seen at Ascot and more recently, perched on the heads of the guests at Westminster Abbey, were out in all their glory at the 29th Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon. Hats have always taken center stage at this wildly popular and highly successful money raising event, which takes place in Central Park’s lush Conservatory Gardens, but Matt Lauer didn’t seem to know that (and why would he?).

As I reported, during the course of last Friday’s Royal Wedding telecast, upon seeing Victoria Beckham in her Philip Treacy ‘fascinator’, the Today Show host was prompted to ask, “Do you suppose this will start a hat revival?” FYI Matt: wonderful hats never go out of style and are totally appropriate for many occasions (the FLO Luncheon is one place where you almost feel ‘naked’ if you don’t don some sort of hat).

Carol McDemott hand made house hat

Coincidentally, while it’s been said that “It never rains” on the FLO Awards Luncheon, it did this time around, throwing a beautiful, moody, and damp cast (though spirits were anything but damp) over the glorious Central Park Conservancy and invoking an even more typical British feeling. And you had better believe the folks in charge were prepared. While the luncheon itself has always taken place under a massive tent, this year, the entire entryway into the fabulously bedecked Conservancy was covered similarly, protecting the designer threads and spectacular hats worn by the almost 1000 guests. There was even a thoughtful coat check area for guests who wanted to rid themselves of their cumbersome or wet outwear.

Floral Bouquet hat

While I can’t say I welcomed the unseasonably cool and inclement weather (it felt more like March than May), I was looking forward to seeing how the guests would brave the elements, so speak. One inventive woman bucked the trend of carrying a status Chanel or Hermes bag, and opted for a hot pink neoprene bag in the shape of a watering can (how apropos was that?) And instead of an expected tan trench and rubber wellies, Sharon Coplan Hurowitz wore a see through plastic Fendi raincoat (all the better to see the Chanel dress beneath), matching shoes, and a quirky Chanel headpiece that resembled mouse ears. More than a few women actually wore furs (mainly abbreviated shrugs although one woman pulled out her floor length shearling vest).

Julia Koch, Anne Harrison & Gillian Miniter

But by in large, most chose to ignore the weather altogether and celebrate the theme of the day and Mother Nature in all her glory. Amy Fine Collins opted for a huge butterfly headpiece which she wore with a lilac sheer trench, and there were many out there, over the top headpieces resplendent with trees, plants, and flowers. Standouts include the witty hat worn and made by Carole McDermott, complete with a house decorated with sailboats, trees, and a park bench with a placard that read, Adopt a Bench; Carole Bryant’s flower pot hat which she toned down with a subdued menswear inspired navy pinstripe pantsuit; and one guest whose large hat resembled a huge floral bouquet still wrapped up in the paper. Sandra Lee, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ‘companion’, known for dressing in white almost all the time (she always seems to be going to her own wedding), arrived in a tailored white suit and huge white floral headpiece. FYI, some of the male guests managed to stand out by virtue of colorful hats or in the case of PR Guru James LaForce, with his bright orange tie, and not surprisingly, some of the more interestingly dressed guests were milliners (Lisa Hoenshell Boone and Satya Twena for example), who were more than happy to hand me their business cards when I asked for more information. (Ms. Twena told me she made hats for 7 guests).

Lisa Hoenshell Boone in large floral hat

But the beauty of this event is that it is not just about looking good, but doing good, and the Women’s Committee (which was founded in 1983 by four ‘visionary’ women), is dedicated to the beautification and preservation of Central Park, raising almost 20 percent of the Conservancy’s $37.4 million annual, park- wide budget. This luncheon has already raised almost $3 Million (100% of the ticket sales go to the Park).

In addition to Gillian Miniter, the Women’s Committee President; Co-Chairs Virginia Apple, Anne Harrison, Julia Koch, and Lizzie Tisch; Corporate Chair Robert E. Diamond, Jr. Chief Executive, Barclays PLC; Honoree Judith-Ann Corrente; and Central Park Conservancy President Doug Blonsky, Benefit Committee; Benefit Committee members and guests included Martha Stewart, Muffie Potter Aston, Michelle Patterson, Noreen Buckfire, Wendy Carduner, Lois Chiles, Suzanne Cochran, Grace Hightower De Niro, Somers Farkas, Jamee Gregory, Dina Merrill Hartley, Rachel Hovnanian, Prudence Solomon Inzerillo, Suzanne Johnson, Daphna Kastner Keitel, Karen Klopp, Sheila Labrecque, Alexandra Lebenthal, Karen LeFrak, Kamie Lightburn, Cynthia Lufkin, Betsy Messerschmitt, Muffy Miller, Marcia Mishaan, Nancy Missett, Sue Newhouse, Elyse Newhouse, Nancy Paduano, Liz Peek, Jenny Paulson, Betsy Pitts, Allison Rockefeller, Tara Rockefeller, Janet Ross, Hilary Ross, Susan Rudin, Alexia Hamm Ryan, Donna Day Schwartz, Daisy Soros, Elizabeth Stribling, Rene Syler, Patsy Tarr, Thorunn Wathne

For more information, call 212-310-6675 or e-mail wcommittee@centralparknyc.org); www.centralparknyc.org/about/womens-committee

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Costume Institute Red Carpet

Honoring McQueen on the Red Carpet

Anna Wintour
(All photos: Randy Brooke)

Attendees on the red carpet at last night’s Costume Institute Benefit opted for intricately designed and dramatic outfits that paid homage Alexander McQueen’s legacy.

Jennifer Lopez

Fewer guests than one would have expected wore McQueen because many of his pieces are archived. Sarah Jessica Parker and her date Andy Cohen, VP of Programming at Bravo, were some of the lucky few who were able to wear McQueen’s designs. Parker wore a beaded floor length gown from McQueen’s archives, which as a result she was not allowed to modify at all. Luckily, it fit perfectly. Of McQueen, Parker simply said that she “adored him” and felt honored to have known him.


Honorary Chair Salma Hayek wore one of the evening’s most lovely McQueen creations. She walked the carpet in a nude dress that was simultaneously curve hugging and flowy. The dress highlighted McQueen’s talents in artistry and designing for the female figure.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Designer of the moment, Sarah Burton, did indeed attend wearing a romantic and whimsical white McQueen design. In contrast, Giselle Bundchen arrived in a flame red McQueen gown with a dramatic pleated long train that accentuated her figure while featuring intricate detail.

L' Wren Scott & Mick Jagger

Many other guests also demonstrated their love of McQueen’s attention to detail in outfits from other designers. Crystal Reen, who praised McQueen’s silhouettes and shapes, wore a black ruffled dress, with a full skirt, from similarly dramatic designer Zac Posen. Beyonce Knowles also wore black, opting for a floor length Pucci gown with gold embroidery. Doutzen Kroes walked the carpet in a head turning red dress with a faint polka dot design on the skirt.  Also worth mentioning was Jennifer Lopez’s striking fuschia Gucci dress with floral sleeves.

Kate Hudson

The museum celebrated McQueen’s Scottish heritage by positioning men in tartan kilts and sashes at the foot of the red carpet to greet guests. A few male guests chose to wear tartan plaid as well. Marc Jacobs wore a red tartan plaid Comme de Garcons kilt. Rock legend Paul McCartney wore a green tartan blazer.

Jessica Stam

Although the evening was all about McQueen, co-chair Stella McCartney was one of the most popular designers at the event. Speaking of the Costume Institute’s Exhibit, Stella McCartney said the exhibit “reflects him (McQueen) well.” She chose a gorgeous black dress of her own creation for the night. Her dress was particularly note worthy because of its sculpted bodice and skirt, and a hem that turned upwards in the back to reveal the dress’ white lining.

Christina Ricci

Other McCartney fans included Iman, Rihanna, and Madonna. Iman wore a shimmery gold jumpsuit with a plunging neckline and flared pant legs. Rihanna stunned the crowd in a black lace flamenco inspired dress with an eye popping sheer cutout down the entire right side of the dress. Madonna wore a glamorous teal dress, inspired by old Hollywood, and embellished with silver stars on the back and along the train. When asked how McQueen would have handled all the attention his clothing received at the gala, Madonna joked that he “would have said something politically incorrect.”

Oscar de la Renta & Penelope Cruz

We will never know what McQueen’s response would have been, but it is hard to imagine that he would not have been pleased by the overwhelming support he received last night.

- Caroline Erb-Medina

Monday, May 02, 2011

Costume Institute Press Preview

Fit for a (Mc)Queen

click for larger image

All Photos: Randy Brooke

In the best case (and admittedly all too rare) scenario, fashion can be elevated to an art form, and the designer, through his or her creative vision, serves as a catalyst to help us rethink conventional boundaries and the commonplace, see unforeseen possibilities, and of course, delight. The word ‘genius’ as it applies to fashion designers, is often overused and abused; but not so in the case of the late Lee Alexander McQueen (1969 – 2010), whose “dazzling creativity and startling originality was expressed through the technical virtuosity of his fashions and the conceptual complexity of his runway creations”, and whose life was tragically cut short.

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His legacy is alive and well and in now the hands of Sarah Burton, with whom he collaborated for approximately 15 years. It was timely indeed, that just days prior to the opening of ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ (May 4 – July 31), she can now lay claim to being a bonafide household name. The creation she designed for Katherine Middleton’s royal nuptials, was truly fit for a queen - or should I say, princess or duchess, KM’s official titles. And similarly, the new dazzling, emotional, and quite moving exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’, (located in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor), is a fittingly ‘royal’ homage and tribute to the work of a true creative genius.

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FYI, that’s pretty much were the similarities end because let’s just say that out of the approximately 100 outfits and 70 accessories (including many of Philip Treacy’s hats of course) on display (culled mainly from the designer’s London Archives), there were not too many, if any at all, that were as tame, classical and elegantly subdued as KM’s wedding gown. Make no mistake about it: this is a gloriously over the top exhibition, showcasing the definitive, iconic pieces that could easily be considered as the most “powerful” examples of McQueen’s work. It is highly visual and touches all the senses, and I would suggest you go when you enough time to take it all in. I especially loved the way Alexander McQueen’s quotes were used effectively throughout (appearing next to outfits where they best applied), adding context and personal insight. And yes, isn’t it romantic?

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The first quote we see upon entering the first gallery, pretty much says it all, “I’m a Romantic Schizophrenic” because the galleries are divided as follows: The "The Romantic Mind" explores Lee’s technical know how, his way with precision tailoring, patternmaking, draping and dressmaking; "Romantic Gothic" highlights the designer’s infatuation with the Victorian Gothic, and the dualities of life and death; "Romantic Nationalism" delves into McQueen's patriotic side, his obsession with British history and his love affair with his Scottish heritage; "Romantic Exoticism" explores the influence of other cultures (especially that of China and Japan) on the designer's imagination; "Romantic Primitivism" deals with the idea of the "noble savage"; and "Romantic Naturalism" touches on yearning for raw materials and his interest in nature themes.
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Getting back to the Royal Wedding and THE DRESS….while the festivities were all over by Friday afternoon, they continued to make front page news and it seemed it was still all anyone was talking about through the weekend (it finally ended Monday morning, when news of Bin Laden’s death became the topic du jour). But within the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alexander McQueen and Sarah Burton were the Man (and Woman) of the Hour. I attended Monday morning’s Press Preview during which time there was a press conference held at the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court with remarks by Thomas P. Campbell, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Stella McCartney; Sarah Burton, Creative Director, Alexander McQueen; and Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute. (Talk about a British Invasion!)

Among the highlights:

Thomas P. Campbell: “The world seems to be “experiencing a McQueen Moment’ and we are thrilled, for this exhibition to be part of it, however accidentally. It seems so apt that this exhibit is at the Met, because his work fits so easily within the discourse of art”.

“His work fits so easily within the discourse of art: his references to history, his fascination with the grotesque, his exploration of unorthodox beauty. These are themes we see throughout the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Collections chronicling 5000 years of artistic expression. Great art challenges us, introduces new narratives and recasts old ones. It inspires. Under those terms, McQueen can be considered no less than a great artist. Our curator, Andrew Bolton, has organized an extraordinary tribute to McQueen’s particular genius and he’s been very lucky to work with a team that collaborated with McQueen for so many years (including of course, Sarah Burton, his graceful and highly accomplished successor who provided valuable insight into McQueen’s creative process). Even the mannequins were transformed into a McQueen ideal. I congratulate you all on creating what, quite simply, may be the most spectacular Museum Costume Exhibition ever mounted anywhere”. He then thanked François-Henri Pinault, American Express, and of course Conde Nast and Anna Wintour who helped make this happen.

Stella McCartney: (looking chic in a pale tailored pantsuit of her own design) was next up and said she was “proud to be here to pay tribute to the spectacular mind, hand, and artistry of this unique talent”. She wanted to share a few memories: “When I think of him I think of red roses, our years at Saint Martins School, his 40th birthday, jumping into swimming pools at parties.”

“And the night he asked me to introduce him to Domenico De Sole in the South of France about 10 years ago. He said, “Come on Sir..Let’s start my empire”. And he did!”

“We came from such different backgrounds but being British, we both shared a respect for Savile Row and British tailoring, a similar sense of humor, and similar friends.”

“I think of Lee’s creative soul. His shows were always such events (dramatic, subversive, so beautiful, and much discussed by everyone in the industry). As designers we had much different approaches; while we agreed about some things, there were other things we disagreed about… but and we always shared a laugh: CHEEKY and FILTHY in the best sense of the word. I am so happy to be here to celebrate his magnificent work, to tell him how much I’m blown away by his designs, how much I admire him, and proud I am that he has arrived here- at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City! It’s a very far journey from the East End of London and this is his moment and it’s very well deserved.

Sarah Burton: followed and to say she was short, sweet and to the point is an exaggeration.

Last up was Andrew Bolton who thanked Thomas Campbell, Harold Koda, Sarah Burton and her design team, all those who worked on the galleries, the head treatments of the mannequins and their ‘masks’ which served to humanize them. He thanked Stella McCartney for her helpful and invaluable insights into the London fashion scene in the 90’s when McQueen was establishing his reputation as a designer. And of course, he thanked Anna Wintour.

He went on, “When I began working on this exhibition, it was always my intention to present an interpretive rather than a chronological understanding of his fashions.” He said he was inspired by a tattoo on McQueen’s upper right arm that read, “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind”, a direct quotation from Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream: the idea that love has a power to transform something ugly into something beautiful. “To me, the quotation captured McQueen’s vision of fashion. Love (the agonies and the ecstasies) was the most exalted of human emotions for McQueen. He once said, “What you see in my work, is my person, myself. My heart is in my work.”

“It was this exposure of himself, this vulnerability that imbued his fashions with a dignity, humanity, intensity, and poignancy. He saw fashion as a catalyst for generating a heightened sensitivity to feelings. Through the sweeping imagination of his runway presentations, he validated powerful emotions.”

“Many predominant themes of a romantic movement are reflected in his collections and the exhibition is structured around them: historicism, nationalism, exoticism, primitive, naturalism. These themes unfold like chapters in a book, intended to evoke a Gothic Fairytale. These romantic yearning propelled this collections. He once remarked, “I am hopelessly romantic” and it was romantic yearnings that propelled McQueen’s fashions in directions both unimagined and unprecedented.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

'The Final Word' by Diane Clehane

God Save the (Future) Queen

The newly titled Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may be the brightest stars in the overcrowded celebrity galaxy and are sure to sell a lot of glossy magazines and newspapers in the coming months and years, but that is not their most important job -- although it is clearly part of it. The future of the British monarchy rests squarely on the couple's shoulders.

It is an unenviable task but one, judging from the couple's masterful handling of public relations for their nuptials, they are clearly up to handling. Now that their 'fairy tale wedding' has passed into history, William and Catherine can now focus on the task at hand -- working to ensure the affection of the British people returns in full measure. To do that, Catherine must take the lead. In doing so, she must not, contrary to everything that has been written up until this point, become Diana 2.0. For her greatest likelihood of success, argues Diane Clehane, Catherine must become the anti-Diana. Lookonline's entertainment editor explores what the commoner-turned-HRH must do so that monarchy finds its footing into the future and she and her husband eventually become history's most modern king and queen.

Read the full article here