Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Film Screening: "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's"

A Star Is Born-The Meteoric Rise Of Bergdorf Goodman

Linda Fargo, fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman
(All photos: Lieba Nesis)

The screening of "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" was held at the Florence Gould Hall, by the king of cinematic screenings in New York City, Andrew Saffir.  Andrew, prefers to keep a low profile as he caters to the highest level of celebrity, who value discretion above all else, but I knew he would gather the fashion elite and he definitely delivered. The breadth of the audience he was able to attract was astonishing from fashion luminaries such as Dennis Basso, Christian Siriano,  and Tommy Hilfiger to fashion models such as Michelle Hicks, and Pat Cleveland, to fashion writers such as Amy Fine Collins, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and Jeffrey Slonim and finally numerous actors and celebrities such as Isiah Whitlock Jr., Courtney Love, Amy Sacco and most of the Hilton family. The after party was held at the hottest new restaurant Harlow where food and cocktails were served along with a steady stream of New York's power brokers filing in. 

Amy Fine Collins

 However, the star of the evening was the department store called Bergdorf Goodman with a best supporting actress award going to Linda Fargo who is clearly involved in every aspect of the store ranging from the designers they showcase to the minutiae of the store windows; apparently she eats, sleeps and breathes Bergdorf Goodman, even roaming the store late at night referring to it as the best closet in New York City.  This documentary while obviously being a great advertisement for Bergdorf's also recounts the history of a New York institution which has impacted the lives of so many women and men in the fashion world- setting trends and creating highly influential fashion stars.

Pat Cleveland, model

The documentary features fashion icons such as Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Oscar De La Renta singing the praises of Bergdorf Goodman.  Giles Mendel tells us it took him fifteen years to establish himself as a fashion designer before he was accepted into the hallowed halls of Bergdorf Goodman. Michael Kors, was discovered by Dawn Mello, former fashion director and president at Bergdorf's, doing some windows across the street from Bergdorf Goodman and he now runs a company that has been valued at over three billion dollars-so obviously having a fashion post at Bergdorf Goodman is extremely lucrative and as Isaac Mizrahi so eloquently states, "if you are not in Bergdorf Goodman, you have no future as a fashion designer." 

Betty Halbreich, personal shopper

While all this is hardly headlining news did you know that Bergdorf Goodman was previously a Vanderbilt Mansion and that the Goodman's who bought and built this magnificent edifice lived on top of the department store pretending to be superintendents so they were allowed to live in the building.  More importantly, the average annual salary for a top producing salesperson at Bergdorf is $450,000-$500,000- now that is a "big Omigod aha you gotta be joking" moment! Why did I become a lawyer?  Betty Halbreich, who is featured prominently in the film, has worked there as a personal shopper for thirty six and half years and looks damn good in the Chanel jacket she wore to the screening- apparently, you do not have to be a global fashion star to benefit from the largesse of Bergdorf's.  The movie then recounts the painstaking detail involved in the windows the million and a half people per week glance at so casually.  While the windows are perfection, this part of the movie was a little too detailed and I found myself longing to return to the fashion fairy tale the movie was carefully spinning. 

Rick & Kathy Hilton

 The next part of the documentary was illuminating with an interesting twist- interviewing the various designers who were rejected by Bergdorf Goodman.  This was a brave move on the part of these fashion rejects and one that I both admire and wince at simultaneously.  At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Ally Hilfiger, progeny of none other than the great Tommy, and a friend of Linda Fargo.  Linda recounts how she enjoyed her friendship with Ally and was interested in viewing her collection.  After numerous meetings with Ally Hilfiger she tells her she has some interesting ideas but she does not have the "breadth" required for a fashion designer featured at Bergdorf.  Ally, accepts this critique with graciousness and poise and says she will try harder in the future whereby, they both acknowledge they feel mutually gratified to be on each other's fashion radar- I hope Donald Trump is taking notes on how to essentially fire somebody with grace while simultaneously preserving a longstanding friendship.  The next part of the movie deals with the Madoff effect felt in both the financial and fashion industries, leading to a steep decline in sales and requiring Bergdorf's, over eighteen months, to rebuild its core luxury market business which it heavily relies upon. 

Tommy & Dee Hilfiger
 The fur salon, the shoe section, the windows and the great clothing are all elements that make the store so iconic in the fashion world.  Yet how does a former privately owned store acquired by Neiman Marcus in 1972 maintain its exclusivity and a-list stature in the fashion world which is slowly being swallowed up by tawdry big brand stores such as H&M and Target?  While the answer was not directly addressed by the movie it seems obvious to me;  the excellence and perfection Bergdorf's strives for coupled with the kindness and generosity with which its employees are treated produces a loyalty and dedication which ensures its enduring prominence.  As Linda Fargo told me, "Bergdorf's is like a fine wine, which just gets better with age.  Our secret to longevity is embracing history and staying relevant to current trends at the same time."   Linda Fargo, with her downplayed strength and meticulousness, is the perfect gatekeeper to ensure that this fashion institution remains at the top of the fashion pyramid another 111 years.

-by Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New York Horticultural Society Flower Show Dinner Dance


Colorful table design by Renny & Reed
(Click on images for larger views)

Notwithstanding the unseasonably cold weather as of late, (which makes it feel more like fall/winter than spring), it's been hard not to take note of the spectacular flora and fauna blooming all around us. And in a case of life imitating art, flower prints (and often NOT your 'garden variety'), which had been seen all over the runways for Spring 2013 (carrying into fall), have covered many of the coats, jackets, pants, dresses, and gowns worn by women attending the numerous soirees and galas which have dotted the spring social calendar. Unsurprisingly, many of these events have had themes built around nature's beauties, as was the case last night.

Guest matching the table setting

The New York Horticultural Society (www.hsny.org), founded in 1900, with J. P. Morgan, Louis C. Tiffany, and J.J. Phelps among its earliest members, held it's 16th annual Flower Show Dinner Dance. Comprised of a community of 'urban gardeners', it's mission has long been to ensure that "vital connection between people and plants", and to "further the love and knowledge of horticulture through informative monthly meetings, formal lectures, and seasonal flower shows."  Funds raised support their enrichment programs for inner city children who suffer the lack of green spaces, fresh foods, and exposure to the natural world.

Charles Masson

This year's honorees were Charles Masson, owner of La Grenouille, the quintessential master of seasonally-inspired arrangements that fill his restaurant, and Hunt Slonem, internationally-renowned American painter, sculptor, and print maker, who contributed two of his paintings to auction at the event in support of The Hort's education programs.

Barbara Regna in green dress with pink flower bag

Approximately 350 elite guests (including Nina Griscom, Mario Buatta, Peter and Barbara Regna, Robert Ruffino, CeCe Black, James Taffin de Givenchy, Elizabeth Stribling) filled the Altman Building on West 18th Street, which was transformed into a magical setting thanks to 30 one of a kind tablescapes created by New York's finest floral, fashion, and interior designers. Among the standouts: ALARIC Flower Design's over scaled bouquet, Renny & Reed's colorful floral fantasy, Zak Events' magnificent greenery, Plaza Flowers' glorious blossoms,  OCCASION9 INC's whimsical butterfly, and Charles Masson's elegant simplicity. 

While numerous guests were clad in flower printed dresses, carried flower accessories, or were dressed in flower themed hues, it was indeed nature's own that took center stage last night.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Third Annual Fashion Law Institute Symposium

The Importance of Being Well Dressed

Susan Scafidi & Steven Kolb
(All photos Lieba Nesis)

The Symposium entitled, "Well Dressed" was held at Fordham Law School at the ungodly hour of 9 AM.  While most of the fashion crowd is sleeping at that hour, the audience was overflowing perhaps due to the lawyers and scholars in the audience.  I myself am a lawyer (Harvard Law School graduate) and was curious to see how dressing well could be integrated into a scholarly dissertation for nine hours; would the fashion police appear handing out subpoenas and citations to those flouting fashion law?  Actually, the program was informative covering topics such as fashion copyright and trademark, fashion philanthropy and not for profits, labor laws for the fashion industry, and the exciting future of 3D fashion printing.

 The symposium led by Susan Scafidi, Professor and Academic Director of Fashion Law at Fordham University, started with the acknowledgement that fashion is more than skin deep and then delved into the importance of public relations and the media to big brand survival.  Louis Ederer, partner at Arnold and Porter, was lead counsel for Gucci in the case of Gucci vs. Guess where Gucci was suing for copyright, trademark and trade dress infringement.  He recounted how pivotal it is to have a media strategy in advance due to the rapidity of the press's access to court information. Moreover, the need for quick reactivity time to counter negative and often inaccurate press reports becomes more crucial in our society which quickly deciphers information.  However, he also felt it key not to get distracted by the reporters which can cripple your ability to adequately address your clients' needs and focus on the case. 
Harley Lewin, a partner at McCarter and English, and a leading intellectual property lawyer, who represented Christian Louboutin in its case against YSL, said he felt it critical to create a narrative that would become the press story for Christian Louboutin; the story, which the press quickly adopted, was of a guy who came from poverty and built his business over twenty two years becoming both a shoe mogul and a person who gave back to the impoverished during the course of his career.  Lewin stressed the importance of being mindful as to which news outlet you are addressing; the way you tailor your message to Page Six and CNN have to be different as they both have different agendas to spin.  Louboutin lost its case in the district court which ruled that a single color can never serve as a trademark in the fashion industry.  However, the appellate court demurred and ruled there is no trademark on a monochrome shoe with a matching sole however, when the red outsole contrasts with the remainder of the shoe Louboutin's trademark would be upheld.  This was a landmark case which the fashion industry and worldwide media covered closely. 
Jyotin Hamid, a leading lawyer in intellectual property, who represented YSL against Harley Lewin and was also on the panel, stated that the case was a victory for both Louboutin and YSL.  Paradoxically, YSL was pleased that they preserved, in part, the red sole trademark of Louboutin since YSL has a personal interest in protecting and conserving brand owner rights from trend followers who steal ideas.  Hamid said a big strategy for his team was to ensure that the YSL brand was not degraded and viewed as a copycat by the press; in fact, they were able to achieve this as the press spun it as two huge prestigious brands fighting over their integrity allowing each company to maintain its status.  At the conclusion of this lecture, most of the panel concurred that there was no such thing as off the record in the media. 
The symposium then explored the connection between fashion and philanthropy.  Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, informed the audience that his background was in not for profits and not in fashion.  He said the CFDA works on intellectual property issues, supporting emerging designers, supplying designers with global opportunities, and charitable work in the fields of AIDS, breast cancer and disaster relief.  Additionally, the CFDA awards scholarships to those who excel creatively regardless of their economic needs.  Rachelle Stern, senior counsel at Macy's, recounted how important it is for a company which trades publicly "to do well and do good" at the same time since at the end of the day Macy's has to answer to its shareholders.  Macy's has given more than sixty million a year to charitable organizations over the past couple of years and continues to place charity giving at the forefront of its agenda.

Mihael Schmidt, a clothing and jewelry designer

 The next panel discussed ecoconscious fashion with most of the panel agreeing that even if a company has a certification for being green or organic it is still necessary for individuals to conduct their own due diligence.  The panel on fashion and labor addressed the problems fashion labels were incurring as they move their factories from China to Bangladesh and Pakistan due to the cheaper supply and labor costs.  Poor factory conditions and numerous fires have led fashion companies to hire third party monitors to control the situation.  Most of the speakers confirmed that fashion labels, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren try to maintain adequate labor conditions for their workforce and most of their employees have high job satisfaction.

Dita Von Teese 3D gown

The last panel was both fascinating and frivolous and I enjoyed every minute.  The panel discussed 3D printing and how it is currently being used in the construction of high end dresses.  The 3D printing allows designers to create dresses through futuristic means in forms previously uncreatable through handiwork alone.  Michael Schmidt, a clothing and jewelry designer who has designed costumes for Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Cher, exhibited the 3D dress he made for Dita Von Teese.  He partnered with architect Francis Bitonti, and using complex digital code and lasers, completed a dress four months later which had length, width and also depth making it malleable and wearable at the same time.  The cost of the dress was easily over one hundred thousand dollars however, 3D printing is quickly becoming the future of fashion.  Eventually, 3D printing will allow people to print their own clothing from home enabling laymen to copy clothing and accessories in vast numbers.  Therefore, design patents will be needed to protect designers from mass imitation as reiterated by the entire panel.

Fashion show of digitally printed dresses

The day concluded with some martinis and champagne in the Atrium of Fordham Law School.  A procession of models paraded down the balconies in digitally printed dresses, designed by Mary Wang and Jenna Fizel, and 3D jewelry designed by different artists.  Many of the panel members stayed to talk to students, eat some chocolate, and discuss the day's events.  There was so much information to process I realized then why I was so happy I no longer practice law; while being well dressed is not that hard a feat to achieve, studying the law and artifice behind being well dressed is indeed exhausting.

- by Lieba Nesis

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fashion Group's Fall/Winter 2013 Trend Report

FGI Fashion Director Marylou Luther & Diane von Furstenberg

Yesterday, Monday, April 15, may have been "Tax Day", but there was nothing taxing about the way I spent a good part of the afternoon. I attended The Fashion Group International's Noon time presentation of the fall/winter 2013 runway shows highlighting the "Best of the Best" from New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

Alyssa Manning (Instyle) & Evie Evangelou (President and Global Chair of Fashion 4 Development)

Held at the Time Life Building, the audio/visual presentation was edited and narrated superbly by FGI's Fashion Director Marylou Luther. And it was a sold out event, according to Margaret Hayes who made her welcoming remarks, during which time she announced that the FGI launched a new partnership at this year’s Fall/Winter Ready-to-Wear Trend Presentation, with "Fashion 4 Development", a private sector global platform whose mission is to harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries and implement sustainable strategies for worldwide economic growth.

Designs by Ardistia Dwiarsi

The joint initiative, "created to celebrate and advance the globalization of fashion and its positive impact around the world", kicked off with a celebration of Indonesian textiles and design at a VIP reception after the noon panel discussion.The invitation-only reception featured live models and mannequins showcasing the country's woven cloth textiles, and the work of Indonesian designers Auguste Soesastro and Ardistia Dwiasri, who were both in attendance.

Ana Maria Pimentel, Fashion Director, Women’s Accessories, Neiman Marcus & Colleen Sherin , Fashion Director of Saks Fifth Avenue

To sum up the themes that were singled out by Marylou Luther as key to the season: "Man/ Woman Dualities" and the new gender bending; "The New Generosity"; "The New Modesty"; a color palette which is strong on black, white, black & white and shades of gray; the trans-formative magic of fabric thanks to fabric manipulation by designers;  "Fashion Gets Religious" ("Ecclesiastica is in the air"- 'think' papal conclaves); "Plaid, Checks & Prints" (this includes everything from grunge inspired plaids and tartans, to florals, nature inspired prints, dizzying digitalized prints, art inspired prints, brain scans, cockroaches, beetles, and butterflies; "Fur-Fer-All" (yup, furs were indeed, all over the runways, shown in every incarnation); Leather: it was truly all about leather for fall: python, cowhide, sheepskin, pigskin, lamb, pony, lizard, tooled leather, eyelet-ed leather, embossed leather, quilted leather, distressed leather, ostrich and alligator (both fake and real).

Nicole Fischelis (Group VP, Fashion Director and Global Forecasting of Macys) & Bryanboy (Fashion Blogger)

In the accessory arena: "his" shoes for her; pointy toe pumps, second skin boots, rocker boots, and the color white, which looks fresh for fall (forget about the idea that you can't wear white after Labor Day). As for bags, look for double duty versions, fur bags, carpet bags, camo bags, backpacks that go uptown, and bags that match the outfit. The belt is accessory that "makes everything look new", caps "cap it off", the cloche has never looked better; the hot jewels of the season are ear wraps and message necklaces (epitomized by Lanvin's statement necklaces that spell out words like "Love", "You", "Cool", "Help", and "Happy"). As far as Ms. Luther is concerned, the best accessory of the season is the "return of the smile", as seen on the happy faced models at Betsey Johnson and Diane Von Furstenberg.

Diane von Furstenberg & Amy Synnott D’Annibale of InStyle

Speaking of which, DVF was the special guest moderator at the Noon time presentation and when she was introduced by Margaret Hayes, she immediately complimented Marylou Luther on the great job she did, saying "Marylou is the REAL star". Members of the panel included Bryanboy, Fashion Blogger; Nicole Fischelis, Group Vice President, Fashion Director and Global Forecasting, Macy's; Ana Maria Pimentel, Fashion Director, Women's Accessories, Neiman Marcus; Colleen Sherin, Fashion Director, Saks Fifth Avenue; Amy Synnott D'Annibale, Beauty Director, InStyle. Diane kicked things off noting that "anything goes" and "just about anything is allowed", but there is always a thread. She asked panelists, "What is fashion?":

Nicole: "It can be an emotion. It's our role to analyze what we see on the runway".
Bryanboy: "It has to be relevant for a woman's lifestyle, and it must be  practical and comfortable."
Amy Synnott: "The wear-ability factor is key for us. It means different things to different people. But the Internet has democratized fashion.  Everything is available in an instant. Everyone is a stylist now".
Colleen Sherin: "It's all about comfort and relevance, but as for purchases, there needs to be that emotional response, and the WOW factor has to be there as well".
Diane asked for the panelists to ask questions. Colleen Sherin wasted no time: "What did everyone think about the controversial fall 2013 collection of Saint Laurent (designed by Hedi Slimane)?
DVF: "I knew Saint Laurent (who was the first to bring street to fashion), and I know Hedi and while I was in Paris to see his first collection, I did not see the last one in person (I saw it on-line). It made me laugh because it was modern and provocative. Exactly what Saint Laurent stood for".
Nicole: "The first show was an homage and the second...well, I was kind of annoyed when I first saw it but when I looked at it again, I thought that it was really in sync with Saint Laurent's design philosophy. All the codes of the house were there (the chubby, the black leather, the printed dresses, the pea coat, etc.), but it was modernized. It was new, fresh, contemporary. It had a new attitude with the old DNA."
Bryanboy: "It was relevant and provocative but the spirit of the house was still there."
Ana Maria Pimentel: "I agree with all of you. It was cool and grungey. I had mixed emotions during the show but when I went back and saw the clothes in person,  all the codes of the house were there."
  Then someone asked what everyone thought of the Celine and Geoffrey Beene jacket debate (Geoffrey Beene showed a jacket with the sleeves folded across, back in 2003, and Phoebe Philo showed almost the exact same piece on Celine's fall 2013 runway show. Was it a case of 'copycat'?)
Ana Maria Pimentel: "Fashion is so cyclical that past designs always influence others. There is so much of that. It is not new."
DVF: "Designers all go vintage shopping now. Everything is common property and everything is instantly available. Everybody is a thief."
Bryanboy: "It's similar but different enough...it's not a complete knockoff".
At one point, Diane remarked: "The fashion shows are made for one thing and one thing only: A good picture". But she asked, "do you all believe fashion shows being produced basically to sell handbags?"
Ana Maria Pimentel: "There were the It bags of the 90's, but that has changed. It's not as much about here today and gone tomorrow, but more about having a core collection that doesn't change each season. She cited Fendi's Toujour Baga and Celine's iconic designs as good examples. "Functionality in bags is essential".
Ana went on to say that she was excited about boots for fall as swell as oxfords and the menswear influence. This prompted DVF to remark that "the shoe decides what you wear. It's not an accessory but a decider".DVF then invited attendees to ask the panelists questions. Someone asked her if she designs differently for different markets around the world. Her response: "A woman is a woman everywhere. Fashion is so global. A best seller is a best seller everywhere. And something that is not a best seller is NOT a best seller everywhere."

Then someone asked about John Galliano's controversial presence during New York Fashion Week.
DVF: "John is an enormous talent. I was at his first fashion show. It was beautiful, poetic, extraordinary. He is an artist. Very fragile. He was bullied and laughed at as a young boy and then he became a big star, and he didn't handle it very well (like many others). John didn't mean what he said. As the daughter of someone who went to a death camp (her mother survived Auschwitz), I can attest to the fact that he is not an anti Semite. He is sincere and truly upset about what happened."

- by Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, April 12, 2013

Calvin Klein Fall 2013 Presentation

Splendor in the Grass

Click on images for full size view

I attended the Calvin Klein Fall 2013 presentation for its men's and women's apparel, jeans, performance and accessories on Friday morning. As in the past, the venue was the main floor of 205 West 39th Street, and as usual, it was shown tableau vivant style to members of the press (among those who attended were Fabien Baron and Freddie Lieba). This season, the models (men and women) lounged around or stood on 'sand dunes' complete with tall blades of grass(okay, they were actually tall weeds or reeds but grass sounds better). This evoked a natural organic ambiance in keeping with the effortlessly cool yet classic designs, and mimicked the color palette of the collection, which is primarily a study in monochromatic pales: chalk, alabaster, and marble punctuated with black and a rich wine hue.

For Fall 2013, it's all about a softened minimalism with curvilinear, architectural elements, and the use of textural fabrics, column shapes, elongated silhouettes, and lowered hemlines. As for the latter, this is indeed the big news, exemplified by the crystal pleated skirts (they fell from below the knee to floor length), and the extra long pants (including their new rocker kick jean - "RCRK Kick") which extend the body. Along one wall, clothes, arranged by color story, were hung on racks so that attendees could get a better look, with coordinating accessories near by (bags in soft supple pebbled leather, hair calf or structured in textured saffiano leather; ankle booties or pumps in combinations of leather, suede, and a lizard skin print).

Upon leaving, each attendee was given a goodie bag  - what was inside was dependent on ones sex. The women received an assortment of Calvin Klein makeup, handsomely packaged in graphic black and white (who doesn't need great make up?), and were given a choice of a bra or camisole (black or white), and a pair of the brilliant new rocker kick jeans in either a pale or dark wash.


-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Fabulous Event...

Cocktail Party to Celebrate the 2013 FIT Gala Honorees

Stefano Tonchi, Amy Fine Collins, Richard Lambertson

Last evening, I attended a cocktail party that had it all:

Click here to see photos of guests on Patrickmcmullan.com

A fabulous venue: Liz and Jeff Peek's spectacular Park Avenue duplex apartment which boasts a magnificent landscaped terrace. And because it felt like the first day of summer (forget spring), the 100 or so guests were able to sip champagne (which the waiters kept re-filling) and nibble on delectable hors d' oeuvres while taking in the swoon-worthy view.

Jean Shafiroff, Alexandra Lebenthal, Valerie Salembier, Julie Macklowe

A dynamic and varied guest list: Stefano Tonchi, Kay Krill, Jonathan Marder, Amy Fine Collins, Richard Lambertson, Jonathan Pomerantz, Larry Leeds, Teri Agins, fashion designers Maria Cornejo, Angel Sanchez, Yigal Azrouel, Dennis Basso and Jill Stuart; Hamish Bowles, Linda Fargo, Valerie Salembier, fashion photographer Albert Watson, iconic decorator Mario Buatta, Tamara Mellon, Julie Macklowe, Jean Shafiroff, Alexandra Lebenthal, and China Machado (who was senior fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar when I was first hired as an assistant fashion editor). By the way, from a fashion point of view, two of Spring's biggest trends were on display amongst some of the guests. Julie Macklowe wore a fitted Balenciaga dress with a short full skirt rendered in a beautiful floral print (when she was on the terrace, she not only blended in with the glorious flowers, but attracted one very large bee). And both Alexandra Lebenthal and myself, opting for bold jailbird horizontal stripes in black & white, looked as though we were escapees from a fashion prison. Ha!

Minty Mellon & Tamara Mellon

A perfectly FIT-ing raison d'etre: The cocktail reception, hosted by Joy Herfel Cronin, Julie Grenier, Yaz Hernandez, Jane Hudis, and Liz Peek was in honor of the 2013 FIT Gala Honorees: longtime supporter George Kaufman (chairman, Kaufman Organization), Kay Krill (president and chief executive officer, ANN INC.), and Stefano Tonchi (editor-in-chief, W magazine). Of the trio, FIT president Joyce F. Brown said, “Each brings a wealth of experience, expertise and creativity to their respective fields.”

Angel Sanchez & Liz Peek

Co-chairs of the event are Liz Peek,(Liz chairs the Couture Council, is dedicated to supporting the Museum at FIT, serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Fashion Institute of Technology, and became chair of FIT's board of trustees last year), Pamela Baxter, Julie Greiner, Yaz Hernandez, Jane Hertzmark Hudis, and Joy Herfel Cronin. The event raises money for the FIT Educational Development Fund. The annual gala will be held on Monday, June 10, 2013 at Cipriani 42nd Street. (Cocktails start at 6:30 pm, followed by dinner at 7:30 pm). http://www.fitnyc.edu/

I had a chance to chat with the always impeccably turned out and dapper Florentine born Stefano Tonchi, who was the creator and Editor-in Chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine (which was introduced in 2004), prior to assuming the role at W. When I asked what was next, he quipped: "in addition to ascending the alphabet"? Of course, when I thought about it, if he wanted to create a style magazine called X, that would be very appropo, since he certainly has the X Factor in spades. His editorial roots are in what he refers to as "niche" publications, and he has said that "tradition and 'good taste' are the enemy of change and evolution."As far as what it is about fashion that most interests him, he told me it is it's context within art culture, and society.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Ballet Hispanico Annual Spring Gala


Latinos and Hispanics comprise more than 16.7% of the total population of the United States and while I don't have the statistics on the overall world population, I do know that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. Is the Pope Hispanic? (you bet!) The rich, multi layered, and colorful heritage that defines the Latino and Hispanic culture could not be more perfectly suited for fashion and, in fact, it has long served as inspiration for some of the world's most influential fashion designers (many of whom unsurprisingly, boast Hispanic backgrounds).

Fashions set against a photograph from the Balenciaga Spanish Master exhibit

The work of Spanish born Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1986), considered to be fashion's "Picasso" by Cecil Beaton, was very much rooted in Spanish culture, tradition and regional cues. Santo Dominican born Oscar de la Renta, trained by Cristobal Balenciaga and Antonio Castillo, has been similarly inspired by his cultural heritage throughout his illustrious career. He in fact, conceived 'Balenciaga: Spanish Master', the exhibition which was curated by Vogue's Hamish Bowles, and was on view at New York's Queen Sofia Spanish Institute from 11/19/2010 through 2/19/2011.The exhibit was notable in that it is the first to illustrate the strong hold and powerful spell which Spain’s rich culture, history, and art, apparently cast over one of its most revered, creative, and legendary ‘sons’.

BH Students Perform at Cocktails
Photo: (c) Julie Skarrat 

Isabel and Ruben Toledo's Cuban roots are always apparent within their work (hers as a fashion designer and his, as a fashion illustrator) and Cuban-American Narciso Rodriguez, has from time to time referenced his cultural heritage. A Spanish subplot wove through the fall 1995 couture shows in Paris, and Yves Saint Laurent admitted to having been inspired by the paintings of Goya and Spanish toreodors. Most recently, Ralph Lauren traveled (if not literally, then in his mind) to Latin America and Mexico for inspiration for his Spring 2013 collection and for the past few months, full page Ralph Lauren ads have run in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times, many of which have featured the line's Spanish themed heavily embroidered vests, full sleeved white cotton shirts, ruffled black organza boleros, jaunty fringe trims, and tooled leather bags.

Honoree Randy Falco, President and CEO of Univision Communication

While the Hispanic and Latino culture and heritage has served as a jumping off point and inspiration for all the arts, of all its rigorous disciplines, perhaps none captures its inherent flamboyance, and expressive, joyful exuberance, as dance, as exemplified by Ballet Hispanico, www.ballethispanico.org . Based in New York, it is widely recognized as the nation's premier Latino dance organization. Now in its 42nd year, it was founded by Tina Ramirez in 1970 and is currently under the tutelage of Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro. What originally began as a dance school and community based performing arts troupe, has morphed into a world class institution whose divisions (the professional Company, the School of Dance, the Education and Outreach programs), work in unison to uphold its mission to explore, preserve, and celebrate the diverse nationalities that comprise Latino cultures (Venezuela, Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia) through dance.

Young student dancers

Last evening, Ballet Hispanico held its annual Spring Gala and celebrated the legacy of its School of Dance and honored Randy Falco, President and CEO of Univision Communication, the leading media company serving Hispanic America with its Civic Inspiration Award. Held in The Plaza Hotel's Grand Ballroom, the celebration featured cocktails, dinner, live music from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and performances by the Ballet Hispanico Company and students of the Ballet Hispanico's School of Dance (some as young as 9 years old). The unique performance choreographed by Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro showcased a variety of works from Ballet Hispanico’s repertory over the past 40 years.

Judy Arnhold, Eduardo Vilaro, Tina Ramirez, Kate Lear

Among those in attendance: Event Chairs Emilio Estefan, Kate B. Lear (Chair of Ballet Hispanico's Board of Directors), David Perez (Managing Director, Palladium Equity Parnters), and Herb Scannell, (President BBC America); Eduardo Vilaro, Tina Ramirez, Jody Gottfried Arnhold (Chairman of the Board of Ballet Hispanico, a dance educator and advocate for the arts), Jacqueline Hernandez (Chief Operating Officer, Telemundo Media),  Gale A. Brewer, New York City Council Member, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (CNBC News Anchor), Jacqueline Hernandez COO, Telemundo Media, Maria Elena Salinas (Co-Anchor of Noticiero Univision), Sonia Manzano, Susan McGreevy-Nichols (Executive Director, National Dance Education Organization), Victor Elmaleh (Chairman of the World Wide Group), Raul Pineda (Morgan Stanley), Rafael Toro (Director of Public Relations, Goya Foods), Charles Wortman (Managing Director, JP Morgan).

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

"Stir, Splatter + Roll" Benefit

Color My World

"Stir Splatter + Roll" students from Martin Luther King Jr. High School
(Photo: Gregory Partanio)

As a passionate lover of fashion, art, and design in all its guises, to my way of thinking, the only thing better than something that combines fashion, art, and design, is one that is for a good cause. This pretty much sums up Publicolor (www.publicolor.org), the non profit organization which was founded in 1996 by Ruth Lande Shuman. It's mission: "To counter inner-city public schools’ alarming dropout rate by engaging disconnected youth in their education through a continuum of design based programs and academic support. It directly addresses two of the root causes of poverty in America: the under-education of inner-city public school students and their lack of preparedness for the workforce. Central to their mission is the "beautification and revitalization of public and civic spaces through the affordable medium of paint and collaborations that students and the community as a whole."

Designer Michelle Smith at her station

Publicolor's most important fundraiser is their annual "Stir, Splatter and Roll" gala, which took place last night at the Martin Luther King Jr. High School, fittingly located right behind Lincoln Center (it's a Publicolored school of course). Even by New York's standards, this is a unique party, where guests, including high profile, civic minded New Yorkers representing the worlds of business, fashion, politics, design, education, and philanthropy, (Sherry Bronfman, Hannah Bronfman, Doria De La Chappelle, Kyle DeWoody, Mark Di Suvero, The Honorable Robert Doar, Councilman Robert Jackson, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Harold Koda, Charlotte Neuville, Stan Herman, Renee & Jeremy Saltzman, Robin Swid, Nan & Steve Swid, Pat Schoenfeld, Perri Peltz & Eric Ruttenberg, Lizzie & Jon Tisch, Leila & Massimo Vignelli), are asked to "dress in colorful and festive attire" and paint alongside some of the city’s leading artists, designers and architects. Over one million dollars was raised last night and all proceeds will go to Publicolor's mission to "engage disconnected students in their education, while teaching them strong and transferable work habits so they are prepared to be productive in both college and career."

Honoree Gene Kohn, Ruth Lande Shuman, & Honoree Jeffrey Banks
 Photo: Gregory Partanio

This year, the co chairs were Fern Mallis, the Creator of New York fashion week, and the designer Michael Kors. Honorees were award-winning fashion designer Jeffrey Banks and renowned architect Gene Kohn, both leaders in their fields and huge Publicolor supporters. The evening began with cocktails and painting. Tyvek jumpsuits were provided for guests who wanted to paint limited edition pillows alongside notable artists and designers (there were 18 different stations set up) including Nicole Miller (her theme was flowers) and Milly's Michelle Smith (whose theme was geometric patterns).

The Michael Kors station a study in black & white

At Michael Kors (Michael could not attend, but his design team was on hand), the theme was graphic black & white animal patterns. All the paint used was donated by Jacquard Paint. At the end of the evening, these pillow covers were for sale at $100 each, along with Silent Auction pillow covers designed by a group that included Angela Cummings, Carlos Falchi, Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta, Kenneth Cole, Cynthia Rowley, Elie Tahari, Jonathan Adler, John Bartlett, Stan Herman, Tracy Reese.

Dinner tables

A seated dinner was held in the school's vast auditorium, which was wonderfully transformed in keeping with the festive and colorful theme of the event (fyi, even the restrooms were filled with colorful artwork). Ruth Shuman came onstage to make her welcoming remarks during which time she shared some powerful statistics- proof of the amazing success rate her organization continues to have when it comes to turning the lives of young students around through art. Simon Doonan was the Emcee and was his usual comical, entertaining self. But he was quite serious when it came time to speak about Publicolor. "We're all so happy to be involved with this organization which teaches students to develop creativity, and has provided the wonderful opportunity to turn adversity into creativity. Each and every one of us has a chance to be a mentor...to give these children a brighter future".

Silent Auction Pillow designed by Betsey Johnson

He introduced the two honorees: Jeffrey Banks, who brought his beautiful 92 year old mother to the event (she still drives, is quite a dynamo, and looked amazingly chic in her Manolo Blahnik pumps), and Gene Kohn who noted, "what Publicolor does is important to us and to all these kids. But the Award should really go to Ruth". By the way, among my table mates Scott Bromley, the architect who designed Studio 54, veteran jewelry designer R.J. Graziano, (who was proudly describing his fall collection, comprised of chic oxidized metals and spikey necklaces), and the very busy Fern Mallis, who just back from another one of her exotic trips abroad. Fern's next interview, (as part of her very popular Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis lecture series for the 92nd street Y), will be with The International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes, on Tuesday, May 7th. When I asked her which designers from the past, she would have most liked to interview, she quickly rattled off: "Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass, Halston". Knowing Fern, don't be surprised if she somehow makes it happen.

- Marilyn Kirschner