Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Market - by Marilyn Kirschner

March Madness: 'Chaos' and the City

Chaos Storefront
(All photos Marilyn Kirschner)

When I attended the opening night party to celebrate the new exhibit, "Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced", I was especially taken with the exuberantly colorful and playfully color blocked designs that were on display (and worn by some of the Stephen Burrows clad guests), and with the advent of Spring (on the calendar officially, if not exactly weather wise), I found myself overcome with a sudden urge to immediately follow suit. I don't know about you, but as the weather becomes more spring like, I'm suddenly over run with the desire to wear color and bold patterns, and really break out of that all black uniform that so many of us urban dwellers, and fashion insiders favor. Hey, they don't call it "March Madness" for nothing . It was at that party, that I spotted a woman wearing what I thought were the most marvelous statement making cuffs in bold and graphic black & white stripes, each one slightly different. When I asked where she found them, she told me they were from a marvelous store called Chaos (how could you not love that name?), located at 25 East 20th Street,, 212 777 3140, and added that they were light to the touch and "inexpensive" ($32), an added bonus.

The store's whimsical and colorful decor
(Click image for larger view)

I was obsessed and had to pay a visit. I was impressed with both the unique, zany, and colorful décor, and the eclectic, serendipitous, and ever changing assortment of clothing, accessories, jewelry, handbags, home décor, etc. baring names and labels you're not likely to find anywhere else. This makes it gift perfect (even the presentation and wrapping paper- brown with large black polka dots - is unexpected and unique. The store, which is about to celebrate it's third birthday, actually started out with the name Peoria but within this past year, it was changed to Chaos, as it was deemed more apropos.

Tall painted metal giraffe
(Click image for larger view)

It is the brainchild of two women who share an affinity for fashion and art, and the combination is very apparent as soon as you walk in. Patricia Grace Stevens has a career in art and fashion that spans more than 30 years, and Elena Agostinis Patterson. According to her bio, she has a "severe case of 'Obsessive-Compulsive Art Disorder', diagnosed after emigrating to the US in 1976. Color flows through her veins, spontaneously spilling out into the world around her. Chaos NY is a recent recipient of a transfusion of color. Elena’s condition intensifies with frequent travel to exotic destinations, where the magpie in her never fails to find treasures for the store."

Eco graphic bangles made from recycled flip flops
(Click image for larger view)

Among the items that caught my eye on this particular visit: Eco's lightweight, graphic, and statement making bangles in black and white, blue and white, and multi colored stripes, made from recycled flip flops ($32); California based Joy Rich's reversible 100% cotton fringe trim scarves in graphic black and white stars and polka dots (($46); Eldenna's loopy scarves made from cotton t shirts ($79); Circa Sixty Three's massive necklace comprised of sterling silver balls ($595), their chunky necklaces in blue and clear Lucite ($595), and their Lucite bracelets in tutti frutti and pink and red ($129 and $239); the iconic South African company Shine Shine's Obama themed cloth aprons, pillow shams, and bags ($36, $59, $69); the finger paintings on paper which are the work of a schizophrenic female outside artist from Arcata, California ($85); the tall (about 6 feet) painted metal giraffe and antelope ($3900), and the small wall lizards, done by a South African artist.

Joy Rich graphic fringed scarves in black & white
(Click image for larger view)

A party to celebrate their 3rd birthday will take place on Thursday, April 4th from 6 - 9 pm. There will be food, drinks, music, and trunk shows with some of the designers who sell their wares, in attendance (in addition, there will be 60% off on select merchandise).

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, March 22, 2013

Beg, Steal, or Burrows

Say "New York 1970's" and some people might immediately conjure up thoughts of rampant crime, The Son of Sam, and THE Blackout of 1977. But things weren't all so dour and I always prefer to dwell on the positive side of life: The New York Yankees World Series Wins (1977 and 1978), the pulsating energy of Studio 54, the excitement of landing my first jobs in fashion (Seventeen Magazine followed by Harper's Bazaar), the thrill of shopping or just browsing at Henri Bendel (a store that has never been replicated in New York as far as I'm concerned), AND, the joyous youthful exuberance that defined Stephen Burrows (the man and his designs). Unsurprisingly, aside from the Yankees, all the aforementioned are intrinsically related.

Members of Stephen's 'commune' in the first collection
of Stephen Burrow's World for Henri Bendel
Not soon after catching the eye of the legendary Geraldine Stutz,  Stephen opened his boutique, "Stephen Burrows World", in 1970 at Henri Bendel.  He became an instant sensation, using his fabulous space as a venue for his fashion shows, which I recall quite vividly. His design trademarks were the "lettuce hems", exaggerated red stitching, vibrant colors and use of color blocks. His unapologetic-ally groovy, sexy, body conscious dresses, made mainly of slinky stretch jersey, wool, or chiffon, allowed for freedom of movement and seemed to be tailor made for dancing the night away. This could not have been more in step with the disco days (he and his entourage were fixtures at Studio 54). As Gina Bellafante of The New York Times observed, “The most distinctive element of Mr. Burrows clothes is that they looked as if they left the house around midnight to wind up the next afternoon."

Color block coat dress 1971 & studded leather coat 1968
The first African American designer to achieve international acclaim, Stephen was the recipient of three Coty Awards (1973, 1974, 1977) and was chosen as one of only five American designers to show his creations at the prestigious and ground breaking fashion show in Versailles in 1973 (this literally put the United States on the fashion map). The industry honored him with a star on the Seventh Avenue Fashion Walk of Fame and in 2006 the Council of Fashion Designers of America bestowed him with "The Board of Directors Special Tribute."

"When Fashion Danced" - Pat Cleveland wearing a dress by Stephen Burrows
1972 Photograph by Charles Tracy
He is now the subject of a retrospective which has been mounted by the Museum of the City of New York, 'Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced', (March 22 - July 28, 2013). It is the first exhibition to focus on Burrows as an American design force, and features original sketches, photographs, video, and over 50 garments, ranging from his first fashion collection to slip dresses that twirled on the floor of Studio 54. "The exhibition focuses on a pivotal period in the designer’s career—the years between 1968 and 1983—when Burrows’ style epitomized the glamour of New York’s nighttime social scene". The book, Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, written by Glenn O'Brien,  published by Rizzoli, will be out in April.

Colorful appliqued designs from 1969-1971
To celebrate the opening, there was a press preview on Thursday morning, followed by a well attended, high octane cocktail reception on Thursday evening, during which time the museum was transformed - if not into Studio 54 exactly - back into another time and era. Even the steps leading up to the building were covered in a colorfully patterned carpeting. Disco era music filled the halls, and suspended from the ceilings, were colorful bags custom designed by Stephen himself (they were actually departing gifts for guests).

Pat Cleveland in Stephen Burrows
For me, it truly felt as though I had turned back the clock and revisited the era that represented my coming of (fashion) age. In addition to seeing the 'man of the hour' Stephen, and Pat Cleveland, his longtime friend, muse, and model, (both of whom continue to retain their youthful spirit and their youthful appearance), one of the first people I saw was the legendary Harper's Bazaar fashion editor Ray Crespin (who hired me to be her assistant). Alo there was Jade Hobson, who was fashion director of Vogue in the Grace Mirabella era; designer DDDomick (Dominick Avellino) whom I covered as a market editor; longtime fashion rep Jeffrey Schwager, Bethann Hardison, and Stan Herman. Other notables in attendance: Iman, Diane Von Furstenberg, Catherine Malandrino, James La Force, Anna Sui, Fran Lebowitz, and Carmen D'Alessio, the pr maven who claims she created Studio 54.

Guest in yellow shag rug worn as a dress
Suffice it to say that some of the guests (designers, stylists, members of the press, publicists, friends, etc.), a number of whom wore Stephen Burrows (if they were lucky enough to have it), or in vintage pieces, perfectly captured the mood and the energetic vibe of the colorful, freewheeling, 70's during the heyday of Studio 54 in their creative choice of dress (one young man wore a belted coat made out of what appeared to be a yellow shag rug, and he was seen dancing with Pat Cleveland). But while the evening and the exhibition felt like going back in time, the clothes on display could not have seemed more modern or of the moment  (especially when you consider recent runways and take note of  the exuberant use of color, art inspired color blocks and collages). Quite frankly, I would kill (well not exactly) for some of the amazing coats and knits in the collection - including one entire group that Pat Cleveland told me, were actually made for the boys (even though many of his designs could not be more feminine, Stephen believed in unisex dressing and this was certainly represented).

Let me put it this way, even if you are a die hard minimalist with an intellectual bent in terms of fashion, if you don't leave this exhibit with an urge to wear something exuberantly colorful, or, at the very least, it didn't put a smile on your face, you don't have a pulse.
-Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

American Ballet 2013 Winter Ball

Cocktail Party
(Click image for larger view)

The School of American Ballet held its 2013 Winter Ball: A Night in the Far East at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater last evening. This glamourous annual dinner dance, was sponsored for the sixth consecutive year, by the legendary French Maison Van Cleef & Arpels. In keeping with the theme, the decor evoked the colors and ornaments of the Baron Alexis de Redé's 1969 Le Bal Oriental, held at the Hotel Lambert in Paris. The promenade was transformed with splendid décor, and Van Cleef & Arfpels evoked the ambiance of the Far East with a vivid tableaux vivant featuring extraordinary pieces from their collection.

Tableaux vivant  featuring pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels' collection
(Click image for larger view)

There was music and a singular performance by the advanced students of The School of American Ballet choreographed by Silas Farley, who was selected by Peter Martins, Artistic Chairman of the School of American Ballet. And unsurpsingly, many of the 500 guests (including the School's board members and alumni as well as leaders from the New York corporate and social sector), considered the theme of the evening, in their sartorial choices.

Julia Koch, Julia Paulson, Silas Farley, Laura Zeckendorf, Nicolas Luchsinger,
Diana De Menna, Marjorie Van Dercook
(Click image for larger view)

The event was headed by Honorary Chairs Coco Kopelman, Elizabeth R. Miller, Liz Peek, and Betsy Pitts; Event Chairs Diana DiMenna, Julia Koch, Jenny Paulson, and Laura Zeckendorf; and Young Patron Chairs Amanda Brotman, Brie Bythewood, Ann-Marie MacFarlane, and William Yang. The Corporate Chair was Nicolas Luchsinger.

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lisa Rinehart

 Other notables who attended: Jock Soto, Darci Kistler, Ashley Bouder, Jared Angle, Rebecca Krohn, Kay Mazzo, Mikhail Baryshnikov & Lisa Rinehart, Kyle Blackmon, Darci Kistler, Ashley Bouder, Rebecca Krohn, Fe Fendi, John Galantic, Carolina Herrera, David Koch, Arie L. Kopelman, Alexandra Lebenthal, John Paulson, Al Roker & Deborah Roberts, Kelly Rutherford, Will Zeckendorf, Amy Fine Collins, and Jean Shafiroff. Proceeds from the Winter Ball are used to award scholarships, maintain world-class studios and residence halls, and offer vital student programs beyond the ballet studio.

Julia and David Koch

The Encore is the Winter Ball after-party. Following dinner, 200 of the city’s most sophisticated philanthropic young professionals joined the Winter Ball for dancing and dessert. Dinner tickets include admission to The Encore and after-party-only tickets were also available.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, March 08, 2013

Domenico Vacca Spring 2013 Collection

Domenico Vacca
(All photos: Lieba Nesis)
Click images for larger views

The Domenico Vacca Spring 2013 Collection presentation was held yesterday at his store at 59th Street and 5th Avenue. Who is Domenico Vacca and why do so many celebrities choose him as their designer when they have an important event to attend? Domenico Vacca was born in Andria, a city in the South of Italy, where he learned, at a very young age, about designing from his grandmother a top seamstress in Italy. Despite having a successful career in law, Vacca found himself drawn to his roots, pursuing a career in manufacturing clothing for various designers and brand names before designing his own label.

Interior of store

In 2002 he and his wife Julie launched a lifestyle collection for both men and women. Vacca was recognized in 2004 and 2006 by the Robb Report magazine for the Best Italian Collection and in 2006 the Best Life Magazine recognized his tie collection as the finest in the world. He has ten stores throughout the world and has three stores located on Fifth and Madison Avenues on the Upper East Side. His lists of loyal customers includes top musical stars such as Kanye West and P. Diddy, top actors, such as Ashton Kutcher and Denzel Washington, and top business men such as Ronald Perelman and Pepe Fanjul. This is clearly a man working his way to the top of the fashion ladder and I was determined to find out why.

Vacca's pant suit

Upon entering the store the mood was one of calm solitude - elegant yet cutting edge. The winter storm prevented many from attending this event however, this was an exciting opportunity for me to converse with Mr. Vacca. This is a man who takes great pride in what he does yet is very approachable and humble-a novelty in the fashion world. He said, "the spring summer collection is all about colors. I am using a lot of pastels for both men and women and it is all about leisure and comfort and resortwear." Mr. Vacca, is planning on opening thirty more stores in the next five years. Many of his clients are European and when I asked him what differentiates the European client from the American one, he stated, "the Europeans are more into fashion and they recognize quality but the Americans are more willing to learn and educate themselves. " He recounted the painstaking detail taken to produce every item of clothing which is handmade even showing me the real crushed diamonds he uses in some suits.

Vacca'sdeconstructed women's blazer

He uses high end super 180 wool in his collection and is currently using a lot of purple and gray and orange and red for the men's collection. This year he is focusing on the men's collection but not to worry ladies, his bags, shoes and jewelry are breathtaking. Morever, he has a fantastic deconstructed men's blazer fashioned out of the lining of a men's jacket that is now being shown for women in many different styles and colors which is both fashion forward and highly innovative. However, what astonished me the most, and compelled me to quickly call my ex husband, who purchases six thousand dollar Kiton and Brioni suits, was the relatively cheap price for this handmade clothing - $2,900 for a woman's suit and $3,900 for a man's suit.

Vacca's shoe collection

I inquired how a suit with such high end materials imported from Italy and Scotland could be so modestly priced (let's not forget the rent on Fifth and Madison Avenues). Since Mr. Vacca owns all the stores himself he has no corporate overhead and does very little advertising as much of his customer base is word of mouth. Now if Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James, the kings of sartorial style in the sports world, choose you as their designer, and you help them become style icons, and still conservatively price your garments you deserve heavy plaudits from the fashion industry.

Vacca's "Julie" handbag
Price: $14,500

As the precipitation outside became heavier I made my way to the exit yet I felt the need to inquire about the beautiful suit in front of me. What kind of tuxedo was this and why was it receiving such a prominent display in the store. "Ahh," Mr. Vacca stated, " this is a replica of the suit I produced for Daniel Day Lewis for his recent Oscar win." I wondered why in the hour I spoke to Mr. Vacca he never mentioned this to me. I realized then why all the celebrities seek him out- his quest for excellence is obvious yet his desire for subtlety and discretion is equally as great and that is a rare combination in any business environment. On that note, Mr. Vacca and his beautiful wife, Julie, left and I followed shortly thereafter with the answer to my question as to why Valentino Garavani, and so many others, use Domenico Vacca to make their clothing.

- Lieba Nesis

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Marilyn in Bill Cunningham's Column


March 3 The New York Times "Sunday Styles" Section
(Click on image for larger version)

Without a doubt, our editor Marilyn Kirschner is one of Bill's favorite subjects. We have lost count how many times Marilyn has appeared in his New York Times column "On the Street".