Thursday, September 29, 2011

Model: the Ugly Business of Beautiful Women

"The young models, seated at almost every table, whose names are yet unknown. They don't speak the language. They don't know the ropes...They know nothing about the history of the business or the relentless march of ravaged casualties who preceded them...they look wide eyed at one another, wondering if they'll be the next big thing, swilling Cristal champagne with a rock star boyfriend...They dance with the silver haired men, wondering which one, if any, will give them their big break. They see the menu but not the agenda. The music pounds, the champagne flows. There is brimstone in the air along with Poisen and Obsession and Vendetta. It is the smell of a factory that feeds on young girls."
So begins Michael Gross's brilliant, well researched and fascinating expose on the international modeling business. Where models are little more that a commodity - like pork bellies - to be used, traded and screwed both literally and figuratively. Model is a cautionary tale of beautiful women empowered and subjugated; of vast sums of money; of sex and drugs; obsession and tragic death; and of the most unholy combination in commerce: stunning young women and rich lascivious men.
Originally published in 1995 and updated again in 2000, the book has now been re-released with a new afterword covering the changes that have occurred in the industry during the past ten years. Michael observes:
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Today's models are much better behaved than the 'Supes' were, says one agency owner 'nobody will say she wouldn't get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars today'...Yet hope springs eternal in the muck. 'There still is a mafia' says Barbara Pilling, a model who owns her own boutique agency, Edge...'There are still scuzzy agents and playboys and money made from illicit means. But very slowly, the glamour will come  back. The desire is still there.'
We highly recommend this book. It is "THE" definitive work -- an essential read for anyone interested in the unholy relationship between modeling agencies and the beautiful young women who are fashion's "boots on the ground".

-Ernest Schmatolla

Click here to order the book from

Bernadine Morris reviews Michael Gross's book: Genuine Authentic - The Real Life of Ralph Lauren

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fashion Group International Retail Symposium

Is This: A Recovery? Or As Good As It Gets?

Left to right: Moderator Robin Lewis, CEO & Managing Editor, The Robin Report; Panelist Joseph Gromek, CEO, Warnaco Group Inc.; Panelist Alexis Maybank, CMO & Founder, Gilt Groupe; Panelist Neil Cole, CEO, Iconix Brand Inc. And John Long, Partner & Retail Strategist, Kurt Salmon, with results of a special consumer survey
(Photo: Bruce Borner)

On Thursday, FGI hosted a retail symposium at the New York Hilton for cocktails, lunch and a panel discussion on the nation’s economic outlook and its effect on the apparel and retail industries. This is the first in an ongoing series developed by The Robin Report and Fashion Group International, during which industry leaders participated in a panel discussion moderated by Robin Lewis, CEO and Managing Editor, of The Robin Report.

Opening Comments on the economy were by Andrew Tilton, Senior Economist Goldman Sachs and results of a special consumer survey conducted by John Long, Partner and Retail Strategist, Kurt Salmon Associates. A panel discussion followed, lead by Robin Lewis with the participation of industry leaders: Neil Cole, CEO, Iconix Brand Group Inc; Joseph Gromek, CEO, Warnaco Group Inc.; and Alexis Maybank, CMO & Founder, Gilt Groupe.

Here are highlights from the panel discussion:

The overriding objective of the discussion was framed with the question, “What will it take to win the consumer’s dollar, today, tomorrow and into the future?”

Opening comments from economist Andrew R. Tilton, not only set the stage for today’s trying economic times, but also compared this recession and its rate of recovery to prior recessions that occurred over the last 10 to 15 years. Current activity indicates average GDP growth of 0-2½% while in prior recessions; GDP averaged 2½ - 3½%. Recovery has yet to sustain above-trend growth. Tilton believes that there are three reasons for the slow down of this recovery.

Tilton contends that this recovery is slower due to high commodity prices for oil and gas which are most important to the U.S. consumer. In every economic recovery is different than past cycles as the share of other. Every other recovery less household disposable income was spent on oil and gas during the recovery. At the same time, the dollars pumped into the economy by the government’s stimulus in 2009, led to neutral growth in 2010. At present, the government has made cuts of between 11 to 12% in stimulus. This is coupled with the surplus of housing in the country, built during the housing boom. Prices which were down by as much as 30%, seem to be stabilizing. To be fully recovered, the excess housing has to work through the recovery

Cyclical sectors, such as housing and auto sales, are well below long term norms, however, housing is still well below demographic trend in housing starts and demand for homes. At present, ½ million homes are being constructed each year, but population is growing by one million per year. Over time, there needs to be a substantial increase in housing to keep up with future demand. At the same time, auto sales are still at historical lows, but production is up.

Tilton sees signs of encouragement at the consumer level with households’ indebtedness dropping sharply, less onerous, putting households on a path to a good place financially. Tilton’s forecast is for continued low GDP growth in 2012, predicting 2-2 1/2% next year. Unemployment stays high, with need more geographic. Tilton also contends that inflation is not a problem. The main risk to the U.S. economy remains Europe. He does not see a repeat of 2008, as there is an availability of credit.

John Long, Partner and Retail Strategist, at Kurt Salmon Associates, focused on the two sides of the consumer perspective, the high income household versus the low income consumer and their anticipated spending patterns for holiday and beyond.

Kurt Salmon polled over 8,000 consumers and found that they would spend slightly more on back to school, especially on electronics and back packs. These numbers return to pre-recession back to school spending. In the past, back to school spending has been predictive of holiday sales. Despite better than expected b-t-s sales, all income levels, including $150,000 and up have said they will spend less for holiday. However, while consumers are telling pollsters one thing – that they will spend less - they are, in actuality, spending more.

Despite the steep drop in consumer confidence, Long finds that consumers still use retail as an escape, and as therapy.

Kurt Salmon polled over 100 retail executives regarding future sales and 60% expect holiday sales to increase, with continued growth over the next five years due to online sales, viewing their on-line channel of distribution, as the one with most growth. At the same time single businesses plan to remodel stores, enhance online presentation and build new stores.

What to expect in 2012?

Retailers are focused on their core customers, how they will spend, what they can do to get customers to spend more and how to enhance the shopping experience, both online and in-store. At the same time, retail managers are aggressively managing costs, rewarding teams at being for efficiency.

Where are retailers and manufacturers planning for growth over the next 5 years?

Retailers are focusing on expanding to emerging marketplaces China, Brazil and the Middle East. They are innovating, looking for new retail concepts, targeting new customers via social media and focusing on mobile commerce. One in ten on-line retail sales comes from a mobile device. If you’re not equipped to handle mobile retail sales, you can’t make it in the future retail environment.

The Panel Discussion

Joe Gromck, CEO Warnaco: Warnaco is a two and a half billion dollar company. Sixty percent of their sales are outside of the U. S. They see growth potential in expanding their own retail stores, currently 100 million dollars from just 2 stores. Calvin Klein is important segment of their business.

Warnaco CEO, Joe Gromek:  Believes that this new low of GDP is the new norm. The first half of the year was strong, so far the second half less so. Housing, dysfunctional government, and high energy prices are squeezing low end value consumers. Middle income shopper is trading down and the high end customer looks at the stock market dropping along with their wealth. These are the failures compounding the current situation. He sees growth for Warnaco in Europe, which is currently under served, Asia and South America.

The Gilt Groupe CM0 and founder, Alexis Maybank: Their customer is in their 20’30s, wants greater value, quality. They value fashion, spending not as determined by lack of disposable income. Due to recession, Maybank finds that they are keeping product longer, trading with friends. Consumer wants product to stand for something – civic responsibility of customer. Customer is directly affected by recession and difficulty with job search coming out of college.

Neil Cole: Iconix Their business is casual attire, licensing brands. Sell all retail segments, broken out by sector.“Three years ago, I formed my perspective suppliers.”Sees long, slow recovery. Higher commodity prices, bumps in the road. Economy now a world economy. The hiccup is Europe and its financial woes. “The consumer has been remarkable in the last 2 years.” He sees consumer as incredibly resilient. Most are suffering due to gas and housing. Iconix gives great brands to both wholesalers and retailers. They have great partners in acquiring great brands.

What advice to Fashion Group and industry at large? How to grow through this economy?

Joe Gromek: Focus on brands, and incredible product. “Creating the want”. It’s not just about price.

Alexis Maybank: The Gilt Group has had growth even in the recession. Less overhead in their business, need fewer people to sell the product. They can pass that savings along to their customer. More flexibility with product. Fast pace of sales, items can sell out within an hour. Constantly introducing freshness at a fast rate. Can service customer faster. Respond to trends faster and greater flexibility in their margins.

Neil Cole: First 15 years in business, I tried to do it all – sell, merchandise, etc. Had to find new way. How to improve your business? What are you good at? How do your distinguish yourself and your company

Q White space, expanding next, inflationary pricing on retail. Is that a factor affecting the consumer?

Neil Cole: Doesn’t think so. Have exciting product. Give consumer great stuff. The rise in cotton and gas prices is bump in the road.

Joe Gromek: For commodities, consumer shop price to death for example, Calvin Klein 3 pack underwear, for Calvin Klein fashion product the consumer may have to pay ten percent more. Be true to who you are as a brand. Price will be less of an issue.

Q. E commerce?

Alexis Maybank: Pricing trends for The Gilt Groupe are tied to retail. The key difference, they can move through inventory in 36 hours or even one hour. Product is priced as “insider pricing” More inventory available for fall as retailers bought more. Model is real time from inventory standpoint.

Joe Gromek: Retailers are controlling inventory.

Q There is new business like Groupon and other new big deals. Is this pricing index aggregate? Is this not leading to a deflationary effect?

Neil Cole: If the customer has $100 to spend, he may buy one shirt, not four. Customer is affected by gas prices, etc. but looks to value when purchasing.

Joe Gromek: Look at it geographically. The U.S. Europe, Latin America the Far East - price inventory by geographic area. They are more aggressive in pricing in developing areas.

Alexis Maybank: The Gilt Group is not a liquidation platform. They are offering exclusive, limited, exciting merchandise in a unique shopping environment. They are an easy place for customers to shop, they offer information, “how to”, with a purchase. They provide “editorial” information on what the product stands for, which drives customer to buy every day.

Q Pricing affecting multi-brand department stores. Customer can look on line to find the product cheaper. How to remedy that?

Joe Gromek: Warnaco does suggested retail pricing.

Neil Cole: Iconix’s business model – exclusive branding for retailers. 80% of their product unique. They offer exciting brands, good value. There’s less competition in their business model (licensed product). There’s demand for their brands, which are more than half their business.

Q Social media an issue?

Alexis Maybank: Social media is an opportunity, not an issue. The website is the new flagship. It is responsive to both negative and positive feedback. When using social media, the firm needs to respond immediately. Social media humanizes brands. You are connecting with consumer. Newest is Mobile commerce. It allows product and service at any time of day on his or her turf. You go to customer at all levels at all time periods. Product has to be available whenever the customer wants it. One in 10 shopping transactions online is through a mobile device.

Joe Gromek: In the past Calvin Klein spent between $60 – $70 million on marketing, most of which was print. They are making a significant move to social media.  Warnaco is using social median in Hong Kong train stations."

Neil Cole: Iconix checks in with over 1,000 consumers and interacts with them before they go to market with product, for a two or three week period, through their marketing companies. Sees bloggers as the new critics, gaining favor with consumer is important.

Q How do you overlap with retailers like Kohl’s and their interaction with consumers?

Neil Cole: Iconix supplies celebrities for product. Celebrities tweet about product and selling. There are celebrity cults.

Q You hear a lot about localization?

Alexis Maybank: The Gilt Group gives business calls to members regarding restaurants, stores, connecting them with partners,through localization.

Joe Gromek: Macy’s is doing a very good job with localizing merchandise, 10 to 15% of product. Kohl’s segments by attribute, geography or climate.

Q How does it affect Calvin Klein?

Joe Gromek: Each retailer wants different merchandise. We create a brand for them. While Chaps isn’t totally exclusive to Kohl’s, it’s an example.

Neil Cole: Taking brands around the world, changes product a bit, for example in the London Fog raincoats made for China, there are more pockets than in the same U. S. product, as the Chinese like more pockets.

Audience Questions

Q What are the three most important things to open a business?

Joe Gromek:  Brand, product, make it innovative, like Apple.

Neil Cole:  Exciting product.

Alexis Maybank: Inspire the consumer with fresh, new and changing product.

Q Which of their product will sell for holiday?

Joe Gromek: Calvin Klein

Alexis Maybank: Heritage product

Q What product will lead for holiday selling?

Electronics, yet apparel will be strong.

Q What are you spending on marketing for 2012?

Neil Cole: More efficient marketing

Joe Gromek: More growth – double digit

Alexis Maybank : Social media, for more insight. Beautifully shown product and presentation. Availability – 75% of inventory sells in first 90 minutes. Show customer the intrinsic quality of product.

Q Is this the end of fast fashion?

Alexis Maybank: It’s here to stay, but with a change in meaning. Shorter lead time to customer reaction to purchase. Now 2 week lead time. Gilt Groupe can react to trends and prices. They can find capsule collection at the Gilt Groupe.

Q What about the consumer experience with traditional retailers?

Joe Gromek: It’s incredibly important. They demand great product, service. In Hong Kong, CK Jeans is #1 in China.

Alexis Maybank: Not an issue of need but want. When she started the company with co-founder, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, they invested in photography and elevated how the product would be shown. It’s all shot on models. They show models with appropriate makeup and hair and accessories, inspiring the customer. You want the customer to see themselves in your product.

Neil Cole: If you don’t do it right, there are 10 other companies who want your spot.

Q Will Amazon surpass brick and mortar store selling?

A There was a yes and a maybe answer.

- Tricia Kenney

Tricia Kenney is an independent fashion editor, writer and marketer whose work has appeared in national consumer and trade publications. For ten years she was a creative director at Creative Marketing Plus, where she won two Communicator Awards. She has been a fashion editor at Glamour Magazine and a Fashion Director at Macy’s. A native New Yorker, Kenney is a frequent commentator on fashion, lifestyle and culture.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

Fashion Week Redux:

Nighttime Sparkle

Photo: Isabelle Erb
Click images for larger view
 Multi-faceted designer, Kati Stern, has a background in art, architecture, and music. These influences are ever apparent in her collections for Venexiana. Her designs are always on the cutting edge, impeccably structured and undeniably elegant. Among the 71 looks in the Spring 2012 Venexiana show, were abundantly sequined gowns that seemed to radiate light with each step the models took.

The Colors of the Universe

Photo: Isabelle Erb
At the Custo Barcelona Spring 2012 Runway Show, colorful patterns were indeed the new black. The color palette included kaleidoscope like graphics, that were somewhat reminiscent of a patchwork design. For evening, the pieces featured a chromatic fusion of graphics created with a unique 3-D technique.

Pizza Party

Photo Isabelle Erb
Cosmetics brand, Urban Decay, partnered with The Eddies Pizza Truck to bring “Pizza with an Edge” to Lincoln Center during Fashion Week. For 3 days, a high fashion pizza truck was parked curbside at 63rd and Columbus. The special menu consisted of four chic pizzas: The Smokey, The Naked, The Red, and one daily special, because “Contrary to popular belief, a girl’s gotta eat.” Editors, bloggers, and “fashionably worthy” passers-by were treated to pizzas for one and a bag of urban decay cosmetics.

Up on the Roof


To present its Spring 2012 Collection of menswear, Nautica staged a poolside spectacle on the rooftop of New York’s Empire Hotel. The looks included brightly colored pants, shirts, jackets, and swimwear mixed with classic neutrals. Guests enjoyed cocktails and a spectacular view of the New York City skyline.

Click here for a video:

Kirstie on the Catwalk

Photo: Getty Images
The newly svelte Kirstie Alley (she is reported to have shed 100 lbs.) took to the runway for the finale of the Zang Toi Spring 2012 fashion show. The designer’s new collection was inspired by North Africa and featured stunningly exotic creations, many of which were accessorized with elegant bags. Alley also accompanied Zang Toi as he received a standing ovation from the audience and she was not shy about showing her affection for her dear friend.

Click here for a video: 

Click here for more Better Bet Columns

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fashion Editorial by Marilyn Kirschner

Bravo, Bill!

Bill Cunningham's "On the Street Column"
(Click on image for larger version)

Bill Cunningham said it all with the 32 pictures (and accompanying copy) which comprised "Reality Check", his On The Street pictorial that followed on the heels of New York Fashion Week for spring 2012, and ran in Sunday's The New York Times. Once again, Bill Cunningham captured the essence of a week filled with countless runway shows and informal installations, and addressed the burning question: Where WERE all the day clothes????? (Not that they did not exist, but generally speaking, daywear, or work clothes, were few and far between).

There is almost no one who appreciates over the top flights of fancy and individual creativity as much as Bill. But he's seasoned enough with his fashion historian knowledge, and smart enough to understand that this is not where it's at; nor is it relevant for most women's daily needs. As he put it: "Of course, there is room for the glorious kaleidoscopic diversity of designer visions shown last week on the runways. But then again, I can't tell you how many women pulled me aside during Fashion Week and said, 'Beautiful clothes, Bill, but nothing to wear'".

Quite frankly, the most appropriate use of the word "day", as it applied to designers showing in conjunction with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, would have to be "day dreaming". They were fantasizing  about what women want to wear, while not addressing their true needs. Let's face it, most women are not looking for a wardrobe filled with pieces best suited for the Red Carpet or high profile fashion events, for the sole purpose of being noticed and photographed by one of the various street photographers.

As I have said countless times, it's not about trends, but about what is good. Editors, bloggers, self professed fashion 'experts', and stylists can compile endless lists of as many trends as they want; it does not add up to a hill of beans if it does not look good or, if it doesn't address the real needs of real women.

Bill's decision to highlight Ralph Lauren's impeccably tailored suits (the very pieces I thought were his most signature and outstanding), which were shown on Thursday morning, was spot on. As were the 9 pictures of Melissa Kuba Lederer on her way to work on 5th Avenue. I don't know Ms. Lederer; I don't know what she does for a living, or what business she is in; but she apparently did not attend New York Fashion Week. Yet, she all but upstaged those who did, (well, in Bill's opinion any way), clad in a rigorously pared down yet hardly boring uniform of flattering, well fitted, beautifully cut blazers (all of them two buttoned with double vent backs), crisp shirts, narrow pants, menswear inspired two tone flat oxfords or mid high heels (high enough but not too high that she couldn't walk!), and timeless bags (not a flashy 'it' bag in the lot). She knows what suits her best, and she obviously understands proportion and color. The overall effect was smart, chic, age appropriate, and thoroughly modern.

I'm not proposing that the only way to dress is in tailored menswear inspired clothing, (variety is the spice of life and there is a time and place for almost everything), but all too often, the most simplified, basic, and obvious ways to think about dressing, are all but overlooked. As Bill pointed out, "Certainly, as Chanel knew when she slipped into the clothes of her lovers, man-tailoring can be terrific on women". The fact is, beautiful tailoring is always desirable, and always the right thing, even for an avante garde fashion icon like Daphne Guinness. As I previously mentioned, while there are enough over the top statement pieces on display at her just opened exhibit at FIT, the majority of the collection is predicated on perfectly tailored jackets and coats.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stacy Lomman's Spring 2012 Show

 "It's a Dangerous World...Dress Accordingly"

Stacy Lomman Spring 2012 Collection
Photo: Randy Brooke
Stacy previewed her new capsule collection titled Biohazard  last night in front of a enthusiastic crowd of over 100 fans and sponsors at The Cutting Room, a soon to be opened hot spot for live music on East 32nd Street. A live band, NWSPR - New Wave Solar Powered Robots, provided music before the show, during a cocktail hour and after the show.

Stacy Lomman Spring 2012 Collection
Photo: Randy Brooke

This is Stacy's third season. Funding for her collections comes from donors, many of whom became aware of Stacy's designs from social media sites like Facebook, then continued to follow her progress on her blog

Stacy Lomman Spring 2012 Collection
Photo: Randy Brooke

Contributions were made via, a website that specializes in helping new businesses obtain funding. This season, Stacy raised over $11,000 from 67 different backers.

Stacy Lomman Spring 2012 Collection
Photo Randy Brooke

The show featured 12 edgy but highly wearable looks. Hard lines, raw edges, synthetic and surface treated fabrics served as the foundation for the collection. Outstanding were the motorcycle vest in white neoprene with white latex hot pants & white athletic mesh tank; cobalt jacket & cigarette pant in polyurethane coated nylon rip-stop; and strapless dress with black liquid bodice & fireball red cire skirt.
Stacy Lomman Spring 2012 Collection
Photo: Randy Brooke

Bright white, neon pink, fireball red, vapor blue and atomic orange underscored her message of "hazmat chic". This collection is not for the timid. It is bold and brash - designs that serve as aesthetic reminders to both natural and man-made hazards that threaten our lives.

-Ernest Schmatolla

Friday, September 16, 2011

New York Fashion Week Notes by Marilyn Kirschner

The Finale (Or Should I Say, Finally!)

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection
(click on images for larger view)

The last day of New York Fashion Week is traditionally saved for the heavy hitters, or at the very least, those names who have become synonomous with American Fashion. I guess you can say that Ralph Lauren has always owned the morning, with his two back-to-back shows at the Skylight Studios. It was not until Ricky Lauren took her seat in the front row, that the show I attended began. Dressed in bright kelly green trousers, a navy polo (with an oversized white polo player), natty navy blazer, and high heeled black and white spectator pumps, she was carrying the huge Ricky bag (named after her), in black crocodile. She looked just great and she is almost always dressed to mimic what her hubby is showing on the runway. Well, not this time. In fact, far from it.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection

Ralph is in a decidedly soft (and light) mood these days, and almost his entire collection was rendered in what one would call traditional spring colors (easter egg, jordan almond shades). There was robin's egg blue, citron, celery, daffodil, celadon, blush (which was really pink), ivory, white, and coral. There was no navy, no black, and the darkest color used was probably olive drab. Fabrics included georgette, crepe de chine, hammered satin, tulle, silk chiffon, and beaded chiffon, and bouquet florals showed up as accents (mainly accessories: scarves and bags). As usual, there were a variety of lengths, proportions, and silhouettes. Ralph's aesthetic is always about the play of boy meets girl, soft and hard, day and evening, and while the overall mood was romantic and feminine, that flip side of the coin (the expert tailoring, the menswear influences, etc.) are always in place.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection

There was a decidedly Gatsby-esque feeling throughout and the show opened with separates in a mix of colors and fabrics: cashmere or mohair 'vintaged' cardigans that were made to look moth eaten (I kid you not), were shown over soft floral georgette skirts, and short sleeved cashmere sweaters were paired with crepe de chine culottes, for example. Straw and raffia wedge sandals, jaunty hats and caps, and fabulous bags (floral scarf bags and beaded bags with exaggerated fringe trim) accessorized everything.

One of the strongest, and most signature groupings was in shades of ivory and white and this is when I feel Ralph is at his purist and best (the simplicity of an ivory hi gloss silk tank dress or one of his superb double breasted jackets and wide legged menswear inspired trousers). At one point during the show, right after the group of pastel hued georgette dresses, the feathers really began to fly, (literally), as ostrich feather capes, boleros, jackets, (in the pastel shades shown throughout) were thrown over everything from chiffon and beaded dresses to wide legged trousers and lame tops.
Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection

As usual, his finale of long dresses never disappoints: there were languid gowns of intricate beaded ivory georgette, tulle, chiffon, and panne velvet and a silver grey organza beaded bustier and ivory jersey long skirt looked especially good. But for dramatic simplicity, nothing can beat the graceful ivory jersey gown (which would make a beautiful wedding gown by the way).

A Blass from the Past

Bill Blass Spring 2012 Collection

The Bill Blass collection, designed for the second year byJeffrey Monteiro, was shown at the Union League Club on 37th street between Park and Madison Avenues. It's very traditional, conservative and old world, down to the wood paneled reception area where mimosas were served to waiting guests and a piano player was providing background music. It felt more like a cocktail party than a fashion show, and I thought it seemed very 'Bill Blass'. As for the clothes well, yes, they to were very Blass (in a way) and I'm sure Bill would think some of the pieces were "snappy" (an expression he used quite frequently). Among them: the natty navy serge twill gold buttoned blazer, pea coat, and the black and white stripe suiting double breasted blazer, shown with a black and white dot georgette bow top, and white cuffed tuxedo pant. A red long sleeved georgette gown with accordian pleat skirt was perfectly pretty and a yellow double face hooded mackintosh was in keeping with the sporty mood. That said, it was all rather predictable (it's spring so let's do nautical: navy, white, red, yellow, black, and stripes), a tad too straightfoward, it lacked a point of view, and there was nothing in the clothes to show anything of the designer.The t shirts with the double b logo were a bit corny, and did they really need to show white knit short shorts that more closely resembled underpants?

In the Flesh

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

I was scheduled for the 3PM show and when I arrived at 39th Street at approximately 3 PM, the 2PM show was not yet over. There was quite a paparazzi feeding frenzy when Uma Thurman came out of the venue looking unbelievable in a Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein blue dress. It was not until I got home later that day, that I saw an email forwarning me that the show would start at 3:30PM. Regardless of the snafu, Francisco Costa's shows are always a wonderful way to end the long week because you are sure to see fashion in its purist form, with everything whittled down to the barest minimum.

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

This season, the term "bare minimum" is especially apropos, because there was a hard to miss feeling of lingerie throughout (including the color palette of barely there, whisper soft nudes, flesh tones, and soft make up shades). Slips and slip tops were seen throughout the collection and transparent mesh added another dimension. The predominant silhouette throughout the 26 pieces, was elongated, languid, and lean. While the clothes followed the lines of body, they never hugged or constricted it. There was nothing tight.

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

The basis of this line is the dress, specifically, a slip dress in layered tulle, metallic silk, or silk crepe; dresses with peplum details; jersey or viscose dresses that were fluted and pleated in back. While they stood on their own, they were the perfect compliment for a narrow shawl collared jacket or coat (Francisco is taken with shawl collars this season and some of them were exaggeratedly low). The juxtaposition of something so feminine and soft, against something a touch masculine, was especially effective. Francisco also offered new suits and proposed wide legged pants. He also showed wide legged cropped culottes which are sure to be controversial as they are hardly the most flattering or easy to wear.

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

When Francisco did not use blush, nude, pale wisteria, or gardenia, he opted for black (which he called lacquer), and it looked particuarly good. Standouts were the lacquer double faced silk crepe reverse seam slip dress; the lacquer viscose crepe pinch pleat jacket worn over a fluted tank dress; the silk crepe long sleeve t shirt and reversed satin jacquard sculpted pleat skirt; the black double faced silk pinched waist jacket, long sleeve t, and wide legged pant, and the black silk satin shawl collar jacket, silk mesh long sleeve t, double faced silk crepe wide leg pant.

"I'll Have What She's Having"

Photos courtesy the Museum at FIT

For me, the week could not have ended on a higher note. Nor could it have been more 'fit'-ing. I attended the opening of 'Daphne Guinness', the new exhibit at the Museum at FIT which runs through January 7, 2012. There have been many exhibitions celebrating the work of great designers, but not many have had as their subject, an individual collector. The Honorable Daphne Guinness, known for her dramatic coif and her impossibly towering platforms, is a style icon extraordinaire who has inspired countless designers, not the least of whom was the late Alexander McQueen (the two were extremely close friends who collaborated together for many years).

In this exhibit of approximately 100 extraordinary pieces, about 40% are by the late designer and about 24 of those are garments that have never been displayed until now. Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel makes up the next biggest grouping, and there are designs by Valentino, Christian Lacroix, Dior, Givenchy, Tom Ford, Rick Owens, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gareth Pugh. Co-curated by Daphne herself and Valerie Steele, the exhibit is carefully divided into groups which really show the depth and breath of her amazing, enviable collection, and it tells quite a story.

Daphne is almost always seen around town in a beautifully constucted uniform of black and white (favoring fitted suits with crisp white shirts with pronounced collars and cuffs - just like her friend Karl Lagerfeld) and she has a 'thing' for uniforms. So it really should not have come as a surprise that while there are certainly some over the top pieces, the majority of what is shown (much of it in black, white, gray), could best be described as classic, beautifully tailored, and very elegant, and if you take away the extreme shoes and accessories, the look would be ladylike, if not a bit dowdy. (I myself would kill to have some of the chic suits and coats, and judging from the admiring guests, they felt the same way). Note to self: go back at a quieter time and have a better look.

The only bad thing about seeing this exhibit right after fashion week ended, and in retrospect, almost everything shown paled by comparison. For more information, visit

The Daily Bet by Rhonda Erb

The Angelica Jacket from NILS

This is the perfect down jacket for après ski or everyday. The chevron quilting gives it a sleek appearance and it is made of waterproof, breathable fabric, so it will keep you dry and comfortable. The removable hood is trimmed with faux fur (a real fur option is also available), and it comes in six colors.
Available at: faux fur, $385.00; real fur, $565.00

The Coco Coat and Down Trooper Hat from SKEA

Here is a down coat that is contoured to your shape, so you won’t have to look like a puffball to stay warm this winter. It is available in black, white and an iridescent Tahitian Pearl. Pair it with the cozy Down Trooper Hat and you will be ready for the coldest of days.
Available at: Pepi Sports, Vail Co. and Pedigree Ski Shop, White Plains N.Y.; Coco Coat, $636.00; Down Trooper Hat, $108.00  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New York Fashion Week Notes by Marilyn Kirschner


Chado Ralph Rucci Spring 2012 Collection

Ralph had a few surprises up his beautifully sculpted sleeves this season. He left his Soho atelier, came uptown to Lincoln Center for the first time since it has been the venue for New York Fashion Week, and presented his spring collection. It was also his first midday show in memory (his usual time slot had been 7PM or 8 PM).

Chado Ralph Rucci Spring 2012 Collection

RR is in a class by himself and has always gone his own way; so it was hardly surprising that, in a season filled with so much color, so many dizzying prints and patterns, his palette was whittled down to black, white, silver, oyster, and nude with a few hits of wisteria and yellow (which he referred to as latex). The best pieces were really the most reserved and pared down in both shape and detail, and what stood out was the grouping in white wool and white matelasse with tulle or satin inserts which had the effect of cleansing the palette. His only print, an abstract in white, gray, and black, showed up only twice.

Chado Ralph Rucci Spring 2012 Collection
Photo: Ernest Schmatolla

And then there was the use of plastic (I kept thinking of that famous line from 'The Graduate', when one of Ben's well meaning family friends takes him aside to give him some advice; he said "I have only one word Ben, "Plastics"!) Clear plastic was used throughout, resulting in a space age, futuristic effect. There was a white faille dress, a white ultra suede coat, an oyster gros de longre raincoat, and a nude faille coat, all with clear plastic insets; a clear plastic trench coat was shown over a silver paillette pants ensemble, and clear plastic was used as cuffs encircling the models' wrists. Peplums have been spotted all over, but Ralph found another way to add interest to the waist and hips:with an 'apron' (his was in white satin and shown over a white caviar beaded shell and pants). 

Chado Ralph Rucci Spring 2012 Collection

But perhaps the best surprise was the duo of elongated dresses that looked plain, rather severe and covered up in front, but when you saw the back, it was a different story (the surprise of a paillette 'tube' ). The black matte jersey gown with nude paillette tube and the white wool version, with its cerise paillette tube, both drew a round of appeciative round of applause. Another crowd pleaser was the short white beaded fringe dress, which had such wonderful movement, I would think it to be the ultimate dance dress. (FYI, Ralph dedicated the spring show to the memory of Mrs Casey Ribicoff, a friend and a longtime client who epitomized chic and who passed away last month).

Michael's Desert Storm

Michael Kors Spring 2012 Collection

Included in Michael Kors' run of show at yesterday morning's presentation, was a bio which opened with this quote, "From the very beginning, I was convinced you could be sexy and sporty at the same time", Women's Wear Daily, March 2011, (on the occasion of his company's 30th anniversary). As if we really needed to be reminded (at a time when everyone else seems to be referencing sports) that Michael has been championing luxury sportswear, making it look effortlessly chic and sexy, since the company's very inception. A luxe sportif feeling has been the thread throughout his collections, and it has defined his aesthetic, regardless of what the overall theme of the line might be, from one season to the next.

Michael Kors Spring 2012 Collection

Michael has been inspired by everyone from Ali MacGraw to Jacqueline Kennedy. He has visited Palm Beach, Palm Springs, Aspen, and Capri, among other places. He has been consistent (and has remained true to himself) whether proposing a polished wardrobe in urbane black and white, or endorsing off the charts, high octane acid brights. But somehow, one gets the feeling that Michael is in his element, at his most convincingly best, when he is on neutral territory, working within a range of his beloved desert shades; perfecting his signature trenches, safari jackets, ponchos, anoraks, capes, caftans; offering up his fantastic knits, rugged boots and belts, and doing it in eased up, elongated proportions..

Michael Kors Spring 2012 Collection

Such was the case yesterday with his 'Now Voyager' collection, inspired by a recent trip to the Lebombo Lodge in Africa. By the way, when I was going through the list of recurring themes from the runways the other day, I left out a big one: "Out of Africa", and that was the major connective thread that ran throughout Michael's fabulous morning show. I loved when Michael did prints. Always in keeping with the mood, they were based on nature - culled from the animal kingdom: zebra stripes, leopard spots, antelope markings and snakeskin. The hands down best was the trench coat covered in antelope markings closely resembling a graphic check.

Michael Kors Spring 2012 Collection

The models as usual, looked enviably gorgeous, tanned, and fit, with their hair pulled back in long thick braids, sauntering down the runway to the tune of Adele's thumping "Rolling in the Deep", and they couldn't have looked any more comfortable thanks to their gutsy flat sandals which laced up the legs, and were finished off with buckles. The show ended with Michael taking his bow to Willie Nelson's "On the road Again"; but wherever Michael's travels take him, (and I guess, eventually take us), the one thing that won't change: his consistent aesthetic.

 Ronaldus Shamask Returns to the Runway

Shamask Spring 2012 Collection
Photos: Courtesy Shamask

Speaking of nice surprises, I was Ron Shamask's editor when I was at Harper's Bazaar in the 80's, and when I think of him, in addition to being a genuinely nice guy and a true talent, I think of his minimalistic, architectural designs, zippers, and the colors black, white, and gray (at the time, he was considered to be fashion's reigning 'monk'). Ron has not exactly been in hiding, he has a thriving business with sales totally approximately $7 million a year, a loyal clientele, and his collections are sold at stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, etc..

Shamask Spring 2012 Collection

 But his show yesterday afternoon at Lincoln Center, marked the first time he has shown in conjunction with New York Fashion Week in quite some time (ten years to be exact). And his 54 piece collection for men and women, was quite a nice surprise. While black and white were hardly in short supply --notable were the black and white pleated dresses, a textural off the shoulder quilted gauze long dress in black, and a black leather long shift with infinity zipper), there was a lot of strong exuberant color throughout, and it was hardly gratuitous. It looked good and it looked convincing, and jelled perfectly with the youthful, sporty, modern vibe. The footwear of choice was a flat thong with a white sole (the colors on top varied with the clothes they were shown with).

Standouts were the “Desert Zen Spa” group, comprised of tunics, dresses, and gowns in desert tan dipped in gold hues; the terrific ecru knits shown in eased up proportions; a red double face wool carcoat shown over a lemon chiffon top and silk taffeta shorts; and what he referred to as “Piet Mondrian doing Superman". The finale featured a black dress in leather, suede, and chiffon, with graphic splashes of cobalt blue, red, and yellow.

If I had one criticism, it was the music, which I found to be rather distracting if not annoying.

- Marilyn Kirschner

The Daily Bet by Rhonda Erb

The Dream Chenille Throw from Lands' End

The forecast calls for cooler weather ahead. This plush chenille throw will keep you warm and cozy on a chilly fall evening. It’s made of soft polyester and acrylic yarns and is a generous 50” by 72”. The throw comes in seven colors and it’s machine washable.
Available at:, $69.50

Win a Lands' End Dream Chenille Throw in Cream! Click  to enter your e-mail address, remember to put “Throw” in the subject line. Register your e-mail by 11:59 PM EDT September 22, 2011. One lucky winner will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.

TheraTOES and TheraPED

Fashion Week is over and long days in high heels have probably taken a toll on your feet. TheraTOES and TheraPED relieve your tired, achy feet with FeetTherma gel that can be heated or cooled for a comforting, at home spa treatment. They come in a fun zebra print and the TheraPED also has spacers to help realign toes.

Available at: , TheraTOES, $7.99: TheraPED, $9.99


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New York Fashion Week Notes

Bits and Pieces by Marilyn Kirschner

Narciso Rodriguez Spring 2012 Collection
(click on images for larger views)

The shows are nearing an end, and there have been many themes which have played out over and over, sort of like fashion's version of Groundhog Day. It always happens, after a few shows, you begin to think (seen one, seen them all) in terms of trends. Among some of the more ubiquitous this season: the use of strong color (sunshine yellow is emerging as one of the favorites), graphic color blocking, asymmetry, the use of transparency, sports influences, shirtdressing, and  prints.

Narciso Rodriquez Spring 2012 Collection

The one runway show which seemingly touched upon all the above, (though it was devoid of any prints or patterns), was  Narciso Rodriguez, who always takes his craft to another step, exploring and pushing the boundaries along the way. Inspired by the work of Korean tattoo artist Kim Joon, the collection was quite ambitious, and daring.

Narciso Rodriquez Spring 2012 Collection

There were some amazing pieces (Narciso artfully pieced together fabric collage style, to create his own patterns). While sportswear and athletic influences are seen elsewhere, they were far more subtle and sophisticated on this runway. Athough subtle is not a word I would use to describe Narciso's often jarring use of strong color, (and that includes the hair, thanks to Dick Page for Shishedo). FYI, I had mentioned that in a season of shirtdresses, NR's artistic color spliced interpretations were standouts.

Vera Wang Spring 2012 Collection

Who else but Vera Wang could make active sportswear and athletic wear look so couture like; who else but Vera Wang could boast an eclectic front row with names as diverse as Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, and Madeleine Albright. In a season of prints, who else but Vera Wang could conceive of what has to be the most inspired print of them all, her 'psychedelic 18th century French wallpaper print which was distorted to abstract effect; and who else but Vera Wang, could successfully combine outsized hoods, eyelet mesh, utility vests, cutout pockets, parachute drawstrings, sheer silk chiffon, drawstring waists, and peplums (sometimes all in one outfit), and have successful results. Speaking of the latter, peplums were used throughout the collection, and I didn't realize there were so many ways to use them.

Vera Wang Spring 2012 Collection

Vera is known for her fondness of mousey colors - shades of gray, brooding inks, and black. Perhaps the more surprising elements of her spring 2012 show, dubbed 'Alice in Wonderland', was her exploration of tailoring and transparency; the emphasis on active sports and utility shapes, collages of texture and details;  a reliance on optic whites and acid brights (which showed up as accents), and the use of soft pastel shades inspired by the iconic Laduree macaroons. In fact, there was not one piece in black on the entire runway; that is, until Vera took that traditional bow on stage, dressed in her signature black second skin jerseys (you didn't really think she was going to be dressed in hot pink - did you?).

J Crew Spring 2012 Collection
Photos: Randy Brooke

Yesterday morning J. Crew held its first presentation in conjunction with New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. Half womenswear and half menswear, it was shown installation style on great looking models, all of them right out of central casting.  Jenna Lyons, their famed head of design, got it right with her easy, relatable mix of ladylike, preppy, downtown, uptown, country and urban, crossing age lines and doing it at price points that are thankfully not insulting. The colors, silhouettes, and the styling were spot on, and the bags and shoes, the perfect exclamation point.

J Crew Spring 2012 Collection

Among the standouts were the denim workshirt and horizontally striped sequined skirt shown with a bright green clutch; the kelly green and navy color block sweater, kelly green narrow pants, and orange patent sandals; the bubble gum pink chiffon button down shirt and red wool pants; the khaki safai shirt paired with pink thin wool pants and accessorized with an orange patent loafer; and the ivory sequined tennis cardigan (a take off on Chanel), worn with a faded denim jean jacket, striped shirt, and khaki shorts.

J Crew Spring 2012 Collection

Disclaimer: I've been a huge fan of J. Crew for quite some time, and some of my favorite pieces date back 15 years or so. In fact, I hadn't even realized that yesterday, I was wearing an old pair of J.Crew black stretch velvet narrow pants with zippered hem (they are still going strong), until woman asked me if I would mind being photographed, and then asked what I was wearing.

Stepping Out with Oscar

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2012 Collection

Set in a raw, unfinished space, miles away from the haunts of his uptown ladies, Oscar de la Renta’s spring 2012 collection stripped away some of the establishment formality, resulting in a collection that was, at once, both younger and modern. Juxtaposed against the raw setting was the colorful gowns, suits and day dresses that his customers crave. This time around in addition to the ruffles, sequins and prints that the designer is known for, there were feathers, fringe and off beat colors. Case in point, a multi-color space dyed suit tied up with a chartreuse bow blouse.

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2012 Collection

De la Renta is in love with lace this season, offering up Chantilly and Battenberg styles, an of the moment fabric. Some of his best paired black and white, notably a black Chantilly embroidered lace gown with tulle-embroidered border and a white threadwork embroidered blazer with a contrasting skirt, a fresh take on the season’s tuxedo.

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2012 Collection

In addition to ladylike suits, woven throughout the collection were the signature pieces that the designer is known for. Chic sheaths, shifts, shirtdresses and gowns this time turned out in colorful florals, often with intricate needlework details. The piece de resistance was a silk faille gown in a soft daffodil embroidered with a field of poppies. The combination of florals along with the models’ hair dressed in Pre-Raphaelite style, evoked true innocence and youth.

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2012 Collection

Easy, breezy glamour was presented in scene stealing, sequined and embroidered shifts, chemises and trapezes, often embellished with ostrich feathers, offering his ladies a clear, simplified alternative to evening.

- Tricia Kenney 

The Daily Bet by Rhonda Erb

HTC Flyer

This season, busy editors have added one more item to their arsenal of high tech products. Tablets are popping up along the runways to record video, snap photos and take notes. The HTC Flyer is small enough (7") to fit easily in a tote bag, but it has premium features like 16GB of expandable memory, rear (5MP) and front (1.3MP) cameras and Android 2.3, HTC sense. Plus, HTC Scribe Technology and HTC Notes allow you to record your thoughts and even sketches and keep everything organized with ease.
Available at: $499