Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Fashion Notes by Marilyn Kirschner

Get Collared

Karl Lagerfeld

We are all familiar with the magic of a great white shirt. It's a year round wardrobe staple and could not be more perfect right now, with the unofficial start of summer. And doesn't it instantly make everything you're wearing look better? But if you think about it, sometimes, it isn't the whole shirt, but the parts of the shirt that do the trick: the cuffs, and especially, the collar. I love a good, stiff white collar because of the chic, chaste, formal correctness it immediately imparts. And I am hardly alone. Karl Lagerfeld is similarly obsessed, as a starched white collar is his sartorial signature. In fact, during the course of a documentary on him, he opened a drawer in his home to reveal dozens and dozens of crisp white collars.

KARL white poplin collar with cameo

Staying true to form, when the designer launched KARL, a moderately priced line exclusively for www.netaporter.com/ , he offered five collars; the one in white poplin with a cameo sold out quickly. When he launched his inexpensive line for Macy's Impulse, the standouts were the white cotton high collared shirt, a black chiffon dress, and a gray chiffon blouse, (both of which had crisp white collars). Several women tweeted that they thought the latter two were the best looks on the line and wished the collars were sold separately. Luckily, some are.

Eleven Objects gold rattan with wood beads and crystals

Enter Eleven Objects, http://www.elevenobjects.com/ , the brainchild of Linh Thi Do and Christine Rhee, who founded the line upon simultaneously coming to the conclusion that "their wardrobes would be vastly improved by a different kind of accessory." According to their bios, "Linh Thi Do worked in product development at TSE and Alexander Wang as well as production for YEOHLEE and doo.ri. She studied biology and fine arts at Rice University and then received her Associates degree in fashion design at Parsons School of Design. Christine Rhee studied architecture at Princeton University. She designed her eponymous line, CRHEE, which was featured in Marie Claire, WWD, and Teen Vogue, and has also worked as a marketing coordinator for BOYY."

Eleven Objects White Croc embossed leather collar

Unsurprisingly, what initially grabbed my attention was their chic white croc embossed leather collar, $275, which I found on http://www.pinkclouds.com/ . And so practical, I might add, since it can be worn on anything. It doesn't need to be laundered to keep it looking bright white and spotless. While I happen to think that it's almost impossible to improve upon the austere simplicity of a crisp WHITE collar, that doesn't mean variations on the theme are not similarly desirable. Quite the opposite. Pink Clouds has collaborated with Eleven Objects, and is currently offering 9 collars, ranging from about $195 for the relatively simple coral/red or yellow/navy, to a tan pony leather collar with gold studs, $325.

Eleven Objects black silk twill with Swarovski crystals

And if you click on to http://www.elevenobjects.com/ , you will find some really unexpected interpretations, all guaranteed to instantly transform the simplest t shirt into something quite special. The spring 2012 collection ranges in price from $95 - $975, and runs the gamut from unadorned versions in silk taffeta, to those that are more inventive and embellished such as the gold rattan with wood beads and Swarovski crystals; the navy silk twill with semiprecious coral, pyrite and Swarovski crystals; and the peach taffeta with 'beach' embroidery. (FYI, you will also get a preview of their fall 2012 line).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oscar's Hit Parade: Resort 2013

Plain and Fancy

Oscar de la Renta 2013 Resort Collection
checked jacket and shorts
(Photo: Style.com)

When you Google, "What is the opposite of minimalism?", there is a picture of Oscar de la Renta right next to it. And when you Google, "Dapper, cultured, elegant fashion designers with great longevity", you also get the same picture. Undoubtedly, these qualities and his consistent, artistic vision, have not only earned him legions of fans and admirers, but the 2013 Couture Council at FIT's Artistry in Fashion Award, which will be given out in September.

Oscar de la Renta 2013 Resort Collection
 ivory silk chiffon dress with gold and ivory ombre paillette embroidery
(Photo: Randy Brooke)

 Last evening, Oscar de la Renta showed his Resort 2013 Collection to a packed house (the venue was his sprawling West 42nd Street, 25th floor showroom). In attendance were Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Linda Fargo, Annette de la Renta, and Shelby Bryan, Anna's longtime beau. He went backstage several times before the start of the show. (Was the multi-millionaire, telecommunications pioneer, international business executive, and venture capitalist giving Oscar some fashion advice? LOL)

Oscar de la Renta Resort 2013 pink peplum
(Photo: Style.com)

 Even though it was a dismal, cool, and damp evening, it was hard not to instantly get into a resort state of mind.  Each seat had a little shopping bag filled with Oscar de la Renta's new freshly fragranced Moisturizing Sunscreen Cream SPF 30, packaged inside a rectangular box covered with an abstract tropical leaf print. Running throughout the unabashedly dressed up and elegant collection, there was a decidedly casual laid back feeling. A hard to miss Caribbean vibe (not surprising since Oscar's favorite getaway is his magnificent home, Corales, on the Punta Cana Beach Resort on the Dominican Republic's eastern coast) was evident not only in the color palette (pacific blue, carnation, iris, peridot, and evergreen), but in the group of abstract florals -- specifically, a black & white gardenia, and an over-scaled pacific parrot tulip print. Like all other Oscar de la collections, it's all about variety, choices, and options in terms of shapes, lengths, and silhouettes. It's never about just one thing. And that extends to the footwear as well. While glamorous high heeled sandals accessorized many of the dresses, low heeled mules proved just the thing for the sportier ensembles.

Oscar de la Renta Resort 2013
 black cotton floral lace knit skirt suit
(Photo: Style.com)

Oscar each season works within his stable of beloved favorites, tweaking them just enough so that his loyal customers will have a reason to buy (not that they NEED a reason). This collection, like all others, was strong on ODLR's tried and true signatures. Artful mixes of black & white? Check. Guipure lace? Check. Cotton crochet? Check. Beautiful blouses? Check. Ombre organzas and paillettes? Check. Tweeds? Check. Cotton Broderie Anglais? Check. Sequined and thread work embroidery? Check. Ruffles? Check. Bows? Check. Platine Lame? Check. Feathers? Check. Sculptural coats and perfectly fitted jackets and blazers? Check. Cocktail dresses and entrance making voluminous ball gowns? Check.

Oscar de la Renta Resort 2013
Pacific parrot tulip printed scuba pantsuit
(Photo: Style.com)

In addition, peplums, which have been going strong for about a year, were a recurring theme (shown as part of separate blouses, and were added to both short and long dresses). Pants, which are having a major moment these days, were given center stage. In fact, the first outfit out was a black & white gardenia printed high-waisted pant shown with a black & white guipure and sequined applique blouse. They were also shown cropped and narrow (scuba pants), and there were several shorts suits.

Oscar de la Renta Resort 2013 sequined baseball t shirt
(Photo: Style.com)

Speaking of scuba, there was an unmistakable sports and athletic feeling to the collection. Well, the London Olympics are coming up in a few months and  it's baseball season (Oscar's good friend is fellow Dominican, Alex Rodriguez). But in Oscar's hands, we're not talking about average, run-of-the-mill sportswear. For example, a "simple" knit pullover was made NOT so simple thanks to the addition of sequins on cotton, and its pairing with a platine pleated lame mousseline skirt; and an evergreen and white baseball t was glamorized in silk and sequins, shown with a full organza gingham embroidered skirt. At the end of the run-of-show, it was explained that this top will be available for pre-order immediately following the show exclusively on TheFancy.com . Fancy that?

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fashion Notes by Marilyn Kirschner

REALLY Impossible Conversations 

Left: Yohji Yamamoto &  Right:  Mme Gres

Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, Curator and Curator-in-Charge, the Met's Costume Institute, admitted that long before Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, they had wanted to do a fashion exhibition featuring the works of two designers (specifically women), one that would take the form of a conversation. They have indicated their interest in doing this again, sometime in the future.

Of course, this current Met exhibit focuses on the almost uncanny similarities between the two creators, (in fact, it is often hard to tell which design is which in some instances). Still, Miuccia admitted she was never inspired by Schiap's work, and they did not necessarily see eye-to-eye on everything (most notably where fashion as art is concerned).

Left: Valentino & Right: Comme des Garcons

This got me thinking about future pairings. I thought it more interesting both visually and verbally (in a wicked sort of way) if the duo to be featured were completely different, or even at odds in their design philosophies and aesthetics (in fact, the more diametrically opposed, the better!) Below are some examples of those I think would make for REALLY "Impossible Conversations" (the ultimate design 'Odd Couples', if you will), as illustrated by their words (a signature quote). And yes, this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek!

Christian Lacroix: “I was often accused — when people did not like my work — of doing couture that was too ‘theatrical, yet when I was a child, I never thought about fashion but only about making costumes.” AND Vera Wang: "Fashion offers no greater challenge than finding what works for night without looking like you are wearing a costume".
Bob Mackie: "We live in a jeans and T-shirt world but we all want to live in a palace ... We're not trying to attract the masses here. We're looking for a special person who's looking for something special.” AND Yves Saint Laurent: "I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity - all I hope for in my clothes".
Tomas Meier (creative director Bottega Veneta): "The It Bag is a totally marketed bullshit crap. You make a bag, you put all the components in it that you think could work, you send it out to a couple of celebrities, you get the paparazzi to shoot just when they walk out of the house. You sell that to the cheap tabloids, and you say in a magazine that there’s a waiting list. And you run an ad campaign at the same time. I don’t believe that’s how you make something that’s lasting—that becomes iconic as a design.” AND Karl Lagerfeld (creative director Chanel): “Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English--but are great in remembering signs.”
Mme Gres: “Perfection is one of the goals I’m seeking. For a dress to survive from one era to the next, it must be marked with an extreme purity.” AND  Yohji Yamamoto: "I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”

Christian Dior: "The tones of gray, pale turquoise and pink will prevail." AND Andre Courreges: "I believe one can make women happier by bringing both more white and more colour into their lives. I’m sure that someday Paris streets will be as full of colour as one can see now on African and Asian streets. It’s ridiculous to focus on hemlines. Wearing my clothes is a question of spirit.”

Rei Kawakubo: "My intention from the start (of Comme des Garcons) was to show what I thought was strong and beautiful. It just so happened that my notion was different from everybody else’s.” AND Valentino Garavani: "I know what women want. They want to be beautiful".

Isabel Toledo: "My jersey dresses seem to drip off the wearer's body yet retain a structure that sometimes appears to challenge gravity. I deliberately build these dresses so that they cut away from a woman's body rather than cling to her. AND Hubert de Givenchy: “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”

Alexander McQueen: "I get my ideas out of my dreams… if you’re lucky enough to use something you see in a dream, it is purely original. It’s not in the world — it’s in your head. I think that is amazing.” AND Helmut Lang: "Fashion is an expression and a reaction. It is a reflection, and even a proposal, on the current situation of our society."

Betsey Johnson: "Take a leotard and add a skirt" AND Donna Karan: "For me, starting each collection is always about what I really want, what I really need, and I was personally dying for sensual comfort. I think when you think of Donna Karan, you think of sensuality, but it's a different kind of sensuality. A kind of comfort sensuality that is one with your body and the way clothes feel (when they're) on. "

Arnold Scaasi: "My idea of sportswear was a sable lined coat" AND Ralph Lauren: "People ask how can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes? Does it have to do with class and money? It has to do with dreams."
Ralph Rucci: “One thing stands out in my mind forever. Years ago I was at an event in New York filled with women in couture and jewels, and Elsa Peretti walks in wearing a black cashmere toga and a jumpsuit, carrying a small brown paper bag as an evening bag (and wearing, of course, 85 carats of ‘diamonds by the yard’). But the brown paper bag stands out as a symbol of individuality.” AND Zac Posen: The media is constantly redefining what luxury is. Luxury can be a dirty sock if dressed up in the right way.
Marc Jacobs (one of fashion's most notable quick change artists) "The only time anything ever changes is really when you're respectful and disrespectful at the same time". "As part of a group of designers, we are all as passionate about change in fashion as ever…we trust our whims, and maintain integrity in our approach to make stylish clothing for now! AND Geoffrey Beene (one of the most consistent creators of all time) :"This change of seasons, change of silhouettes, it's so dumb to me because a woman's wardrobe should be just like a man's - you keep adding to it good pieces. If you change every season, it simply implies that you didn't have much faith in last season, so you leave it and go on to something else. It's a very discouraging thing."
Giorgio Armani: "I design for real people. I think of my customers all the time. There is no virtue whatsoever in creating clothing or accessories that are not practical." AND Rudi Gernreich:, "It was just a whimsical idea that escalated when so many crazy ladies took it up.
As you can see by the last two quotes, regardless of the degree to which one designer may seem to radically differ from another, there will always be profound, basic points of agreement. Each is tapping into his/her creative soul, and seeking to address the needs, dreams, and desires of their customers. Or at the very least, they are striving to CREATE those needs, dreams, and desires.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diane Clehane's New Column

Lookonline's entertainment editor Diane Clehane is now a contributor to Forbes.com. In her new blog, The Parent $$$ Trap, she will cover the business of parenting. "I'm writing about all of it -- the good, the bad and the expensive products, services and cultural trends that are shaping parenthood today," says Diane. A long time chronicler of the worlds of fashion and entertainment, she finds her seven year-old daughter and her own experience as a mother juggling work and family life the greatest source of material. In her first post for her column Diane writes about "The One Question To Never Ask An Adoptive Parent."

Find out what that is here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dianeclehane/2012/05/15/the-one-question-never-to-ask-an-adoptive-parent/

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Notes on the Costume Institute Exhibition

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

Shala Monroque in Prada & Delfina Delettrez brooch
(Photos: Style.com,  firstView.com & Randy Brooke)

During the course of the press conference on Monday, Thomas P. Campbell, the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art promised the Costume Institute Ball would be the "most spectacular" in the museum's history. It certainly lived up to the hype and was more high profile than ever, subjected to more press and media coverage than in past years, and boasted a first ever live video streaming made possible by Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. While I think enough has been said about it, I still want to add my two cents.

To say the Red Carpet on this night is not your average, run-of-the-mill Red Carpet, is an understatement. This is not only "fashion's biggest night" (as everyone likes to say), but the entire event represents fashion at its highest pinnacle. It is attended by some of the biggest stars on the planet, not to mention those from fashion's constellations. As for the latter, this is a group that is well-informed and knowledgeable, and one expects more than just another parade of predictable, clone like, garden-variety, borrowed gowns -- formfitting or fishtail  -- varying only in their necklines and color. In other words, the kind one normally sees at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes. etc. Boring!

Farida Khelfa in vintage Schiaparelli

 Given the subjects being honored are two strong, influential, innovative, rule breaking women (Schiaparelli and Prada), and their unique perspectives on fashion, I was hoping to see more of that glorious subversion reflected in the choices made by many invited guests. Specifically, those who really did their fashion homework and had enough creativity and moxie to put this to good use. (Let's just say that my 'best dressed' list varies from most others and does not include the same names you are likely to see elsewhere). I was not looking for stars but for fashion individuals who did not look like anyone else. And especially, for those channeling the late Schiaparelli, who up until now has been under the radar for most people outside of fashion. However, this is  about to change thanks to the exhibition and to Diego Della Valle, who is reviving the label. By the way, he arrived with Farida Khelfa who looked fabulous in a vintage Schiaparelli red chiffon gown, worn beneath a black leather biker jacket.

Lizzie Tisch in Mary Katrantzou

Among those opting for something in trompe l'oeil (a Schiap signature): Lizzie Tisch in Mary Katrantzou,, Diane von Furstenberg in her own creation, and Lauren Santo Domingo in a white Oscar de la Renta gown, covered with black trompe l'oel bows.

Karlie Koss in Jason Wu with Jason Wu

A few opted to pay homage to the late designer by wearing something in shocking pink (her signature hue). Hamish Bowles chose a shocking pink Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo; Dee Oclepo wore a shocking pink gown (designed by hubby Tommy Hilfiger); Karlie Kloss looked gorgeous in a shocking pink and black lace gown by Jason Wu; and one duo, designer Chris Benz and Julie Maclowe, dyed their hair shocking pink. Since Schiaparelli was known for her elaborate embroidery,

Biana Brandolini d'Adda in Dolce & Gabbana

I was happy to see Bandolini d'Adda's amazing Dolce & Gabbana gold embroidered floor length cape and matching dress. And, just in terms of over-the -top visual eye candy, it was hard not to notice the glorious Giovanna Battaglia in a Dolce & Gabbana colorful floral gown with a shocking pink satin headpiece. It reminded me of something Anna Della Russo would wear. By the way, where was Anna Della Russo when we needed her?

Linda Fargo in custom Naeem Khan

But hands down, my favorite was Linda Fargo (who said she "always loves a good theme"). She wore a custom-made black velvet Naeem Khan cape elaborately embroidered with gold, thrown over a shocking pink gown and accessorized perfectly with black evening gloves that had gold embroidered finger nails (her favorite Schiaparelli touch, as she put it). Her other accessories included birdcage earrings and an oversized diamante 40's costume jewelry pin watch, which she attached to a little satin evening bag.  In addition, her cape perfectly mimicked the black velvet embroidered Schiaparelli cape which is in the exhibition.

Carey Mulligan in Miuccia Prada

Among those in Miuccia Prada camp who looked fabulous were co-host Carey Mulligan in an ultra modern and youthful knee-length dress entirely covered in oversized gold and silver pailletes; Angela Lindvall, in a sleeveless, ankle length geometric coat dress with prim white collar; Mia Wasikowska, in a ruby short sleeved long gown with fitted waist (the prim collar and waistband entirely covered in black beads);

Chloe Sevigny in Miu Miu

Chloe Sevigny in a very short and very mod Miu Miu mini dress that was covered with mirrors and was almost all see-through. (she wore it over what looked like a black bikini and, I must say that not too many could get away with it, but she did!); Shala Monroque in a divine knee-length draped jersey Prada dress accessorized with a one-of-a-kind crustacean brooch by Deflina Delettrez (or was it a big insect of some sort --  I guess you could say it was a mix of Prada with a touch of Schiaparelli?).While I usually think Gwyneth Paltrow can do no wrong, I did not especially love her short Prada dress (too short perhaps?). As for Anna Wintour, while I liked the white custom made Prada gown with an embroidered lobster (an homage to Schiaparelli and Dali), I hated the matronly white fox stole she wore at the start of the Red Carpet. Enough of the fur already Anna. I know it was cool on Monday but it's almost summer. You don't have to give PETA more reason to hate you.

Mia Wasikowska in Prada

For the record, I disliked Sarah Jessica Parker's Valentino Haute Couture gown (too prim, too pastel, too prissy, and it had nothing to do with the mood of the evening). And her long unruly hair did not help. I also did not like Melania Trump's short white Marc Bouwer with its scarily exaggerated shoulders (it was too short, too tight, and it resembled something out of a bad Sci-Fi movie). I thought Kristen Stewart's short, strange Balenciaga dress was better suited for an afternoon (It was far too casual, and I don't care that it was designed by Nicolas Guesquiere). As for Beyonce's sheer, suggestive Givenchy haute couture, it was just TOO TOO TOO (and her body stocking was not the color of her body). She is so beautiful, she truly does not need to wear something so completely over-the-top and almost too costumey in a Las Vegas sort of way. Just a note, just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Rachel Feinstein-Currin with Marc Jacobs

Finally, I have to say that I really thought this was one night where nothing could be too over-the-top, too tasteless, too anything, and one could not go too far (I'd prefer flashes of bad taste to those dull boring gowns any day). However, after seeing Marc Jacobs in his black lace coat (or was it a dress?), white Brooks Brothers boxers, black socks, and black pilgrim pumps, I think I changed my mind. Though, on second thought, it did make me smile!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Notes on The Costume Institute Exhibition

On The Red Carpet...

Anna Wintour
All photos: Copyright 2012 Randy Brooke
(Click on image for larger version)

Miuccia Prada does not like to be photographed – or so it would seem. The trailblazing designer discreetly and stealthily sped across the red carpet up the stairs and into the museum entrance, not pausing once for a photo-op. On Monday May 7, 2012, the Costume Institute Benefit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrated the opening of Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations – a retrospective exhibition that explores the likenesses between Italian designers and Miuccia Prada and the late Elsa Schiaparelli, both pioneers of “ugly chic.”

Miuccia Prada

Prada, the honoree of the evening arrived just seconds after Anna Wintour -- who smiled and took her time walking the red carpet and posing for pictures. Vogue’s leader looked glam and polished in a streamline, long white Prada dress and a fur capelet. Prada updated Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1937 Dali painted lobster dress by incorporating a lobster motif that was embellished with chunky amber jewels and gold detailing – which proved to be a trend on the red carpet. In fact, gold beading, sequins and embroidery shimmered on several of the gala’s gorgeous guests including: Cameron Diaz; Camille Belle and socialite, Bianca Brandolini d'Adda.

A misty rain fell on Fifth Avenue which was jam-packed with people caged in by police barricades desperately trying to catch a glimpse of celebrities and fashion “A-listers.” Their screams indicated big arrivals like; Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Tom Brady and Giselle or Tim Tebow. But the crowd remained quiet when someone a little more obscure and fashion-oriented stepped onto the carpet.

Cary Mulligan

I, for one, was thrilled by Suzy Menkes’ fun fascinator and I was excited to see Hamish Bowles in a bright magenta, square patterned tonal jacquard tuxedo jacket, but the crowd was pretty silent. It helped a little that Bowles’ date for the evening was young actress Lena Dunham -- the break out star of the new HBO show, Girls. Dunham was wearing an emerald green satin Wes Gordon gown and pink Louboutin shoes.

Milla Jovovich

Obviously, a large number of celebrities were wearing Prada which only seemed fitting, but I was disappointed there weren’t more hats on the red carpet paying homage to the great Schiaparelli. Model and actress, Milla Jovovich dazzled in a red satin dress with gladiator-like strips of studded fabric, a la Prada’s Fall 2009 collection. Actress Carey Mulligan was one of my favorites of the evening. The fashion-savvy Brit wore a gold and silver, slightly A-line Prada shift dress made up of graduated sized metallic paillettes -- very futuristic yet sexy and chic.

Diane Kruger

Others to proudly wear Prada included: actress Diane Kruger in a gorgeous flowing iris colored dress decorated with dyed ostrich feathers at the hem; actress Kate Bosworth in an ombre feathered mini halter dress and actress Jessica Biel in a very feminine, ivory color fitted deep v-neck dress embellished with green beadwork forming tiny diamond shapes. And then there was Gwyneth Paltrow in a short little silver “Judy Jetsoneque” number that showed a lot of skin – she looked unbelievable and she is probably the only person who can get away with revealing a little “side boob.”

Rooney Mara

Model Coco Rocha was a stand-out not only because she was wearing pants, but brightly colored pants. The lanky Rocha chose a vintage Givenchy canary yellow silk suit that she wore with a “Schiaparelli Pink” top. She said that she had fun coloring the lower portion of her curled tresses to match. One of the most anticipated dresses of the night was actress Rooney Mara’s. Mara, who has been called “a fashion designer’s dream,” seems partial to Givenchy and the actress went with Riccardo Tisci yet again in a sheer black lace dress baring one shoulder and baring most of her legs – there was a very short under piece covering just the right parts. Model Gisele Bündchen was another starlet who joined “Team Tisci.” Bündchen was beautiful in a black fitted and heavily beaded Givenchy Haute Couture dress.

Rachel Feinstein Currin & Marc Jacobs

It seems that everyone, whether they’re a fashion lover or not, knows Marc Jacobs. Marc took the evening’s event as an opportunity to once again push the fashion envelope by donning a sheer black lace Commes de Garcon dress. His “tighty whities” and his sculpted pecs were both easily detectable. I heard him say to someone nearby, “Fashion is expression. There are no fashion faux pas -- not if you are true to yourself.” Words to live by. Marc’s date for the evening was artist Rachel Feinstein Currin who wore a black Marc Jacobs dress and one of those magnificent Stephen Jones fur hat creations for Marc’s Fall 2012 collection.

Karolina Kurkova

Tom Ford has also become somewhat of a recognizable face outside the world of fashion. Tom looked great as usual and his date, model Chanel Iman, was radiating haute couture in a black and white Ford creation. Another stunning beauty, and perhaps the most photographed of the night, was Karolina Kurkova wearing an open back, rose gold sequined Rachel Zoe dress and matching turban-like headband. Styling is Zoe’s specialty and she used Kurkova’s statuesque figure to help turn a fairly simple design into something amazing.

Although actress Rene Zellweger didn’t exactly take any fashion risks, she looked absolutely amazing in her custom Pucci. It may have taken her an inordinate amount of time to climb the stairs since she couldn’t move her legs in the black ultra form fitted gown, but it was worth it. Black can be tricky on the red carpet, but actress Rosario Dawson made it work in a Calvin Klein floor length, sleeveless leather dress with a funnel collar. And Bergdorf’s Linda Fargo wore an exquisitely embroidered black Naeem Khan cape which was definitely a show stopper.

The peplum proved to be a trend with a bit of staying power. Actress January Jones’ Atlelier Versace and Solange Knowles’ Rachel Roy dresses were both bright yellow and both had peplum treatments. Actress Eva Mendes donned a strapless orange peplum dress by Prada. Sofia Vergara’s pretty strapless Marchesa dress had a cascading peplum and model Linda Evangelista’s peplum surrounded the waist of her simple black column dress.

Tiny actress Christina Ricci was nearly swallowed up by the gigantic bow on her Thakoon ensemble proving that bigger isn’t always better -- but in Zac Posen’s case it is. The extravagant designer’s dusty mauve strapless creation for actress Amber Heard had a sizeable train that was worked into a paper mache-like sculpture gently resting on the back. And his midnight blue gown for actress Leslie Bibb was enormous. Still, she moved about quite gracefully with volumes of fabric and even navigated the entire staircase by herself. The tall slender blonde was a force to be reckoned with.

Anja Rubik

While several people tripped up the last step before reaching the top platform (those dresses can be a handful!), more people tripped over their tongues when model Anja Rubik walked by. The slim and strikingly beautiful Rubik wore an ivory silk dress, by Anthony Vaccarello, that was sliced and diced across the middle and up the side. This dress blew away Angelina’s right leg. The slit went so high that the model’s hip bone was exposed and it made us wonder, “Where were her panties?” Hey, if you got it, flaunt it! Its fashion not rocket science, have a little fun. And speaking of fun, the Clarins girls -- all four decked out in Thierry Mugler – looked flirty, theatrical and tall!

As the evening moved along, the big names still had yet to grace the red carpet. L’Wren Scot and Mick Jagger showed up – she towered over him and his black sneakers. SJP arrived and she was covered head to toe in floral printed Valentino. Actress Elizabeth Banks wearing a not-so-flattering peplum ensemble by designer, Mary Katrantzou, hurried up the stairs and answered with a stern, “No” when one reporter asked for a quick comment. Poor Brooke Shields hobbled with a cane, but still managed to look pretty and somewhat graceful. Where was Rihanna? And Beyonce?

Suddenly, mass hysteria broke out on Fifth Avenue and Rihanna stepped into the spotlight. Though she looked glamorous and very haute couture in a backless long sleeve, black Tom Ford crocodile textured dress, I was hoping for something a little more. Rihanna has been a fashion risk taker and I thought that she would have been a little more daring at the Met Gala.


So, now it was up to Beyonce to “save the day.” And she was going to make us wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, Beyonce showed up and she delivered the drama -- her Givenchy Haute Couture dress was sheer, beaded and featherd – just what the fans wanted. While it may not have been the best dress of the night, it seemed like Riccardo Tisci was the man of the hour -- and Miuccia was definitely the woman of the evening.

- Stacy Lomman

Notes on the Costume Institute Exhibition

Taster's Choice

Elsa Schiaparelli insect necklace

In the best case scenario, a great fashion exhibition will not only serve as tantalizing eye candy, but will be transformative, provocative, enlightening, controversial, inspiring, and will challenge conventional perceptions of fashion, beauty, good taste, chic, and style. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's ground breaking Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit last year, accomplished all those things and, in my opinion, so did Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Barrel Apfel Collection, 2005/2006.

I dare say that legions of women left the museum finding themselves overtaken with the urge to dust off their most fantastical, over-the-top accessories and, following in the lead of the daring Iris Apfel, pile them on with abandon. Of course, Ms. Apfel's unapologetically unique, eccentric, holds no bar individual style is not for the faint of heart and may not be everyone's cup of tea. However, nobody can question her well-informed and high taste level, or her dazzling sense of style. For her part, she has stated, "Taste you can learn, but style is like charisma. You know it when you see it.”

"Ugly Chic" Schiaparelli 1930s

So what is good taste, and who gets to decide if something is, or isn't? According to the dictionary, it means "satisfying generally accepted social or aesthetic standards", but there are many points of view. A while back, Azzedine Alaia criticized Vogue-taste-maker Anna Wintour, saying, "When I see how she is dressed, I don't believe in her taste one second." And, last summer, Giorgio Armani took jabs at Miuccia, saying she was "clever for her irony ... and bad taste that becomes chic, but that her creations are sometimes ugly". For her part, Miuccia once admitted,"I make ugly clothes from ugly material; simply bad taste but they end up looking good anyway", referring to 1995's "bad taste" collection. It featured such styles as Formica check design, which evokes the look of 1970s polyester.

Well, speaking of Miuccia, great fashion exhibitions, good taste vs. bad taste, and beauty vs. ugly, I attended the morning press preview for Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, and it promises to give us something to think about particularly where aesthetics are concerned.

"Ugly Chic" Miuccia Prada fall/winter 2012-2013

Anna Wintour was turned out in a striking geometric coat ensemble by Prada (no surprise there), and Miuccia, while known for her skirts, opted for a brown pantsuit accessorized with a golden hued turban. The best way to describe the color would be to call it a rather odd, if not ugly shade of brown, which is not one bit surprising, since she has always championed "Ugly Chic", and it just happens to be one of the themes in the exhibit.

There were comments by Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as Curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton. We learned that the latter two had wanted to do an exhibition that would pair two designers (particularly women) for quite some time. Thanks were given to the brilliant Australian director Baz Luhrmann whose stunning videos (casting actress Judy Davis in the role of Schiaparelli) made the "impossible possible", and allowed for this 'conversation' between two strong and influential innovators to play out. Baz Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin, was lauded for creating the Schiaparelli inspired outfit worn by Ms. Davis, as well as the "moody and mysterious ambiance" of the dinner party. (This was described by Andrew Bolton as a "female version of  My Dinner with Andre except that in the movie the subject was theatre, and in this exhibition the subject is fashion). 

While Schiaparelli and Prada do not see eye-to-eye on everything (the late Schiaparelli felt that fashion WAS art, and Miuccia does not agree), one commonality which plays throughout the exhibit is the way in which they both "used fashion as a vehicle to prove, to confront, normative conventions of taste, beauty, glamour, and femininity" and to "provoke", in the words of Andrew Bolton. 

Schiaparelli played by Judy Davis and Miuccia Prada

There are many trademark, telling quotes which are blown up and emblazoned on the walls and one of the most definitive, touches on the 'ugly' aspect of it all (neither woman could be considered a conventional beauty, and both subverted traditional ideals of beauty)

Prada:" If I've done anything, it's to make ugly appealing. In fact, most of my work is concerned with destroying, - or at least deconstructing- conventional ideas of beauty, of the genetic appeal of the beautiful, glamorous bourgeois woman. Fashion fosters cliches of beauty, but I want to tear them apart."

Schiaparelli: "I was always being told I was ugly ... so I thought up ways of beautifying myself. To have a face covered with flowers ... would indeed be a wonderful thing ... with some difficulty, I obtained seeds from the gardener, and these planted in my throat, ears, mouth ... alas, the result was merely to make me suffocate!"

Some of the decidedly offbeat, unusual elements which were inherent in both their designs, which many would not necessarily deem beautiful, chic, or tasteful in a traditional sense are the employment of surrealism and trompe l'oeil; the use of irreverent, playful prints featuring everything from over-sized ruby red lips and lipstick, to matchsticks, bananas, monkeys, carousels, circus horses, and cherubs (sometimes in garish colors no less); a penchant for innovative, often plasticized fabrics, some with the appeal of a common shower curtain; and the use of bugs and insects on clothing and accessories. Hands down the most macabre has to be Schiaparelli's Insect Necklace, made of clear Rhodoid (cellulose acetate plastic) with pressed metal ornaments, which features a transparent foundation that creates the illusion that the insects are crawling directly on the skin of the wearer’s neck. (It had been pointed out that while this was macabre indeed, Schiaparelli was never "too heavy-handed: her choice of brightly colored, toy-like ornaments tempers the repugnant effect").

Prada rats nest hair fall/winter 2009

Among other things, this exhibition perfectly illustrates that beauty, in all its forms, is not only subjective and indeed in the eyes of the beholder, but is quite democratic and comes in many guises. And it should serve to remind us that we needn't be so hard on ourselves when we invariably fall short of unattainable ideals where physical beauty is concerned. The next time you think you're having a Bad Hair Day, and can't be seen in public, take a look at the runway pictures from Miuccia Prada's fall/winter 2009 collection. She loved the unruly rat's nest 'undo's' so much, they were shown throughout.

As for my opinion about good taste vs. bad taste, let's just say that I think Diana Vreeland said it best when she observed, "Bad taste is better than no taste". Too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing. While something that smacks of universally accepted good taste, might be just the thing for that job interview or board meeting (an Armani pantsuit for example- LOL), there are times when you want to add an element of 'bad' or 'questionable' taste. Surprising, unexpected mixes (high and low, day and night, soft and hard, masculine and feminine, street and couture, etc) help create an individual, personal look, and good taste/bad taste can be perfect together.

Finally, there is a time and place for everything. A time to be sober and serious, and a time to have fun, be amused, be amusing, and evening shocking! Life is too short not to have fun and fashion provides us with the basic ingredients to do just that. But as style icons past and present - Coco Chanel, Gloria Guinness, Babe Paley, Diana Vreeland, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Iris Apfel, Kate Moss, etc. - well know, the key element is having a sense of the appropriate. In the end, knowing when and where is fundamental.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, May 07, 2012

Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

The Grooveshark Kit from Livio Radio

Here’s a great gift idea if your Mom (or Dad) is a music lover. Simply plug The Kit into the 12-volt adapter of a car to enjoy on-demand streaming music through Grooveshark. It can also be connected to an Android smartphone to make hands-free calls as well as charging phones and other USB powered devices.

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Click here for more Better Bets Mother's Day Gifts

Friday, May 04, 2012

Let's Fool Around...

All photos courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

When you go to the highly anticipated exhibition, "Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations"  www.metmuseum.org/ , you will find that it is divided into seven thematic galleries:
"Waist Up/Waist Down", exhibits Schiaparelli's use of decorative detailing as a response to restaurant dressing in the heyday of 1930s café society, while showing Prada's below-the-waist focus as a symbolic expression of modernity and femininity. An accessories subsection of this gallery called "Neck Up/Knees Down" will showcase Schiaparelli's hats and Prada's footwear.

"Ugly Chic" will reveal how both women subvert ideals of beauty and glamour by playing with good and bad taste through color, prints, and textiles.

"Hard Chic" will explore the influence of uniforms and menswear to promote a minimal aesthetic that is intended to both deny and enhance femininity.

"Naïf Chic" will focus on Schiaparelli and Prada's adoption of a girlish sensibility to subvert expectations of age-appropriate dressing.

"The Classical Body," which also incorporates "The Pagan Body," explores the designers' engagement with antiquity through the gaze of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

"The Exotic Body" will explore the influence of Eastern cultures through fabrics, such as lamé, and silhouettes, such as saris and sarongs.

"The Surreal Body" in the final gallery will illustrate how both women affect contemporary images of the female body through Surrealistic practices such as displacement, playing with scale, and blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion, as well as the natural and the artificial. This last category is of particular interest to me as I studied art and have always appreciated the playful, surrealist side of fashion. It also explains why I have a fondness for the art of trompe l'oeil, which literally translates to 'fool the eye'.

Tear Dress by Elsa Schiapareilli

Elsa Schiaparelli was well known for her iconic and highly influential trompe l'oeil designs. It has been said that she was "not merely mimicking surrealism's visual play nor was she trying to be trendy, she was exposing the surreal aspect of her own medium: Fashion". In fact, the group of sporty and graphic trompe l'oeil sweaters she created in the 1920's including the Bowknot sweater, which is considered to be the most popular woman's sweater of all time, launched her career. There was also the Tear Dress, from her celebrated 1938 Circus Collection. The trompe l'oeil  Tears print was specially designed by Schiaparelli's friend, the artist Salvador Dali, and savage rips and tears cover the slender evening gown and head-veil.

Micuccia Prada Fall 2011 Collection

Her creative counterpart in this exhibition, Miuccia Prada, has made effective use of this technique as well.  For her decidedly mod inspired fall winter 2011 collection, she accesorized with calf length trompe l'oeil boots made of leather or contrasting animal skins, which cleverly mimicked Mary Janes worn with long socks. (What is IT about Italians and trompe l'oeil anyway?) Venetian born, Roberta di Camerino, (1920- 2010), who opened her fashion house in 1945, was not only known for her fabulous plush velvet handbags, but her employment of interesting trompe l’oeil effects that not only appeared as pleats, buttons, buckles, saddle stitching, pockets, and other details, but were printed on the textiles of accessories and cloth. In my opinion, hers are some of the best and most cleverly done incarnations.

Roberta di Camerino dress made to look like
a belted cardigan, shirt, and patterned skirt

Among her most signature pieces from the 1970's are the short and long dresses, some of which appear to be three piece ensembles (a belted cardigan or blazer, white shirt, and skirt), while others are printed to look like pleated, wrapped and draped silk jersey evening gowns. Brilliant and oh so clever, not to mention, highly functional. Just think: you can have a cardigan that will never get lost or misplaced, and a belt that will never fall off! If you are lucky, you can periodically find these rarities at vintage shops, on vintage websites, at the numerous vintage shows around town, and at auction.

 1960's Fabiani surrealist dress

Speaking of which, in November, 2002, I had my eye on a 1960's Fabiani surrealist dress which was being auctioned at Doyle New York and graced the cover of their catalogue. It featured a trompe l'oeil design of two attenuated hands, one adorned with a large teardrop emerald glass stone ring with rhinestone baguettes and was estimated at pulling in somewhere between $1,000 to $1,500. It eventually found a home at $3,250. Sadly, not mine!

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons

Other world class designers who have been similarly inspired by this theme through the years, include Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, who layered trompe l'oeil chains at the waist of a sleeveless black wool dress (1985), and Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons. Rei Kawakubo not only featured trompe l'oeil ready-to-wear for fall/winter 2009, she extended the theme to the coordinating footwear as well.

Most recently, Michael Kors employed a trompe l'oeil design on his sturdy cotton canvas Hamilton tote, $80 (http://www.netaporter.com/ ). FYI, speaking of all things surrealistic, the Red Carpet for the Costume Institute Ball on Monday evening will be even more over-the-top than usual. With a first ever live streaming of the event and given the honorees and their unique ground breaking designs, I suspect the attendees will be similarly inspired to rise to the occasion with their own outfits and accessories. Or at least, I hope they will?

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, May 03, 2012

New Designs on Fashion Studies

Eugenia Paulicelli
(Photo: Isabelle Erb)

The study of fashion has traditionally been regarded as a creative pursuit. Those lacking an artistic spark were encouraged to cultivate their own niche by exploring the business aspects of the fashion world. But just as the popularity of fashion continues to soar to new heights in everyday society, the demand for academic options has followed suit. The City University of New York’s Graduate Center has answered the call, becoming the only school in the United States, that is neither a design or fashion school, to offer a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Fashion Studies.

“Clothing is like our second skin,” says Eugenia Paulicelli, Co-Director of the Concentration in Fashion Studies at the Graduate Center and author of the book, Fashion Under Fascism: Beyond the Black Shirt. “Throughout history it has been a symbol of status and personal identity.” The interdisciplinary program explores the role of fashion as a cultural and economic force. Students are expected to take full advantage of New York City’s resources as an international fashion capital.

On May 4th and 5th, the department of Fashion Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and The Costume Studies Program at NYUSteinhardt will jointly host an international and multidisciplinary conference, Fashion Studies Today, History, Theory & Practice. Participants from the worlds of journalism, film, and academia will discuss the evolution of fashion studies. Co-sponsors include the CUNY Baccalaureate, the University of Stockholm, Sweden (Fashion Studies), and the London College of Fashion.

The conference is open to the public, but pre-registration is required: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/art/costume/conference/register .

- Rhonda Erb

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Fashion Law Institute 2nd Annual Symposium

Yeohlee Teng (L) and Susan Scafidi
All photos: Henry S. Dziekan III 

On April 20, fashion industry professionals and attorneys came together at the home of the newly defined field of fashion law to discuss current issues and participate in a Q&A with designer Yeohlee Teng on the theme FASHION=ART+COMMERCE. The Fashion Law Institute’s second annual symposium kicked off with a panel of financial experts addressing the question, “IPO, Yes or No?” – a tantalizing option for many fashion houses in light of the stunning success of the Michael Kors IPO and the Brunello Cucinelli and Tumi roadshows in anticipation of their own public offerings.

From left to right, Valerie Steele; Yeohlee; Nancy Prager, Esq.;
Susan Scafidi, Professor & Academic Director, Fashion Law Institute

Speakers including John C. Kennedy of the law firm Paul Weiss, which handled the Michel Kors offering, cautioned against being overly optimistic in approaching any form of fashion financing, however. Hilldun Co-CEO Jeffrey Kapelman reminded attendees, “Hope is not a strategy.” From the perspective of Roberta Karp, former General Counsel of Liz Claiborne, the answer to the IPO question was an emphatic, “No.” While all of the panelists acknowledged benefits to becoming a public company, Karp noted that the pressure of answering to a board can be an unwelcome experience for creative designers.

Turning to the issue of fashion counterfeiting, the second panel invited brand protection experts to share cutting-edge research and approaches to the problem, which has increased with the growth of online retail. Te Smith of MarkMonitor noted that 30 percent of internet sales begin with a brand name search, which can pull up more sites advertising fakes than genuine merchandise.

Part of the audience at the event

Traditional enforcement measures are often compared to the arcade game Whac-a-Mole – counterfeit retailers pop up on the street corner or a website, brand owners shut them down, they pop up again elsewhere. In the “Beyond Whac-a-Mole” session, speakers suggested new solutions ranging from the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition’s new payment processor initiative to New York City Council Member Margaret Chin’s proposal to outlaw the buying (and not just the selling) of fakes to the International Trademark Association’s upcoming campaign to educate teens about counterfeit goods. Attorney Michelle Marsh of Kenyon & Kenyon suggested starting even younger, telling the audience that her six-year-old was devastated when he believed he’d received a fake.

Model wearing a dress by Yeohlee

On the next panel, speakers from around the world addressed the role of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – in the current fashion equation. Intellectual property enforcement issues, economic pressures, and the global distribution of manufacturing topped the list. Sao Paulo-based Financial Times reporter Vincent Bevins noted that the increased interest in the fashion industry in Brazil is complicated by a lack of manufacturing capacity, which results in extremely high prices. “I was happy to be invited to speak,” he added, “because I come to New York to buy socks.”

The “Admonishments” session focused on whether the law should regulate digitally manipulated or potentially offensive images of models and celebrities, in particular the fashion photos that provide unrealistic “thinspiration” to impressionable adolescent girls. Seth Matlins of Off Our Chests urged federal regulation to require advisory messages on all altered images, a measure that would be akin to cigarette labeling.

Dartmouth computer science graduate student Eric Kee has developed a numeric scale to measure how much a human image has been manipulated, ranging from minor alterations like eliminating a blemish to a complete Photoshop facelift. Seeing a potential application of Kee’s work, Model Alliance president and founder Sara Ziff noted that models like herself have little control over their images, but envisioned a future in which contracts might include not only no-nudity clauses but also limits on the degree to which an image could be altered.

End of Yeohlee's fashion show

The symposium closed with a conversation between designer Yeohlee Teng and Professor Susan Scafidi, founder of the nonprofit Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, followed by a runway show featuring Teng’s spring collection. Teng is renowned not only for her architectural designs but also for her commitment to manufacturing in New York City’s Garment District, an industrial neighborhood where she has deliberately located her elegant retail boutique. When asked about the FASHION=ART+COMMERCE equation and whether her dual roles as a creative designer and small business owner ever conflict, she deadpanned, “Yes. My brain is black and blue.” Scafidi replied, “Oh, dear. Let’s not make those next season’s colors.”