Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger"

Christian Dior for John Galliano circa 2000
(All photos Lieba Nesis)
Click on images for larger views
The Museum of Arts and Design held a cocktail party for the opening of the Museum's newest exhibit: "Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger." Berger, a renowned acquirer of costume jewelry possesses some of the most important pieces of designer jewelry of this century. Barbara Berger was born in New York City in 1942 to a father who was an American diamond merchant. At the age of 13, she purchased a pair of Chanel earrings at a Paris flea market-and the rest is history. Berger's private collection features over four thousand pieces from more than eighty designers, and represents over fifty years of collecting.

Miriam Haskell by Lawrence Vrba
circa 1970

Many of the designs were made specifically to be worn with haute couture clothing by premier fashion designers. The featured jewelry designers of this over four hundred and fifty piece exhibition include Kenneth Lane, Lanvin, Missoni, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Miriam Haskell, Boucher, Balenciaga, and Trifari. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum from June 25th through September 22nd (with a portion remaining open until January 11th). The company of Miriam Haskell, the famed jewelry designer who died in 1981, subsidized the show and donated a gilded metal and pearl grape necklace to the Museum's permanent collection.

Barbara Berger & David McFadden

This collection was organized by David McFadden, Chief Curator and Vice President for Programs and Collections at the Museum of Arts and Design, in collaboration with guest curator and jewelry historian Harrice Miller. McFadden said that he and Berger worked on this exhibition for the past eight to ten years. This is the first costume exhibition in the Museum's history and one where fantastic objects and great concepts were seamlessly merged. They chose the best pieces from her collection with meticulous attention to not only excellence in appearance but also to perfection in execution and craftsmanship. While there are no precious stones involved in the making of this jewelry, all the pieces are historical couture pieces with intricate detailing and work.

William De Lillo circa 1972

Barbara Berger reiterated her pride in this presentation by stating, this "is the most amazing day of my life- to see all this effort come to fruition." This has been Barbara's all consuming passion and therefore, she appreciates the Museum's vision of her core collection of vintage jewelry as being highly contemporary. Some of her favorite works in the collection are those of Miriam Haskell who she views as impeccable for her strength and creativity in jewelry construction. This exhibition is Barbara's life work and the beauty of the jewelry mirrored that dedication.

Many of the pieces in the display looked highly familiar, akin to something Madonna, Lady Gaga or even Beyonce might wear. The collection's costumey vibe coupled with its innate beauty gave it a duality; On one hand the collection seemed playful and frivolous and yet on the other, this was a serious, heady collection worthy of attention and exploration. As Coco Chanel said, "costume jewelry is not made to give woman an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful." These pieces are imbued with a fantasy and richness providing an affordable way for women to dazzle with their creativity and daring.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication on the Barbara Berger collection published by Assouline, with a preface by Pamela Golbin, who is the chief curator of Paris’ Musée de la Mode et du Textile; an essay by fashion guru Iris Apfel; and text by jewelry historian Harrice Simons Miller. A wide range of educational programs will accompany the exhibition, including lectures and panel discussions, designer-led exhibition tours, and hands-on jewelry workshops and demonstrations in MAD’s 6th floor Open Studios.

For more info: Claire Laporte
Manager of Public Affairs
 Tel: 212.299.7737

-Lieba Nesis

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ralph Rucci: On the Move & Moving On

Ralph Rucci

I had an appointment to see Ralph Rucci and review Resort 2014 this past Friday, and we met at his soon to be former headquarters in Soho.  On Tuesday, he will relocate his company to a space in Chelsea, (151 West 26th street), that is three times the size (16,820 square feet to be exact) of his current atelier at 536 Broadway. As soon as I walked in, I could sense the palpable excitement on the eve of what is to be a major move; one that is illustrative of the exciting changes, and expansion to come. (Remember "The Eve of Destruction"? I guess you can call this, "The Eve of Construction"!) Quite frankly, everything about Ralph Rucci is expansive these days, not the least of which are Ralph's formidable biceps, a bi-product of his rigourous workouts; and his even greater expansive mood. By Ralph's own admission, "I can work and not worry about the business. I'm in a great place right now -  I never had the luxury of doing that." Rosina Rucci summed it up perfectly with her observation: "There's a new sense of hopefulness we're living at RR".

 Ralph explained that they will begin opening up freestanding boutiques to satisfy customers. "We need our own point of sales like other designers, so that clients can see a fuller picture". Retailers are not capable of carrying merchandise the way they did in the past". "I haven't had a retailer carry the clothes in the correct way so that the clients see that the clothes are not just for rich older women, which is what so many people think that is what I'm about, and it's so frustrating". (It's early in the process but the one thing Ralph knows is that the boutique will be located on Madison Avenue).
Ralph Rucci Resort "killer" black matte jersey with tulle inset seams
In addition to the free standing boutiques, advertising is an important component of that, and his new fall ad campaign is certain to be image changing and defining. Coincidentally, on Friday, an article ran in WWD, "Rucci taps Meisel" during which time Rosemary Feitelberg talked extensively about the "dream team" that was assembled to make it happen. According to Feitelberg, "Ralph Rucci didn’t spare any expense for his first major advertising campaign. The designer lined up photographer Steven Meisel to call the shots during Monday’s nine-hour shoot at Highline Stages in the Meatpacking District. True to form, the lensman kept the details about the campaign sealed shut. What was clear was that Johan Svensson served as art director, Edward Enninful was the stylist and Stella Tennant modeled pieces from the fall collection".
Other big changes? In addition to their new CEO, Jeffry Aronsson "who is doing great great things", and a recent collaboration with Holly Hunt on a furniture collection, the result of which is the Ralph Rucci for Holly Hunt collection - it is made to order through the Holly Hunt showroom at . He will start showing Couture in Paris in July 2014 (it will now be called "Made-to-Order" since this is America). Of course, Ralph has never stopped making "Made-to-Order", but it will be completely separate from ready-to-wear, as it should be.  
And knitwear (cashmere and silk), which he has always done as part of his collections, will now be a whole separate entity. "I wanted it to be completely separate so that the customer can buy all knits." "Do you know what I remember so clearly? I experienced it and it's such an impressive memory. Do you remember when Halston had his whole salon on 68th Street and Madison Avenue? The first floor was all knits. That's all they sold on the first floor. Cashmere, silk, ribbed. And I remember people just buying multiples of everything and they couldn't keep them in stock". (Do I remember? Of course, because Carrie Donovan, who was senior fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar at that time, wore only Halston knitwear).
"I had been doing knits on and off for years, but it took us some time to really find the right factory" (which he has). And this relationship has gone beautifully. It's a factory located in Perugia Italy, and they have the capacity to make the quality and to work with us on the price so that a cashmere sweater is not a million dollars anymore. And it's great quality. It's made in Italy. Not China or Turkey". And what, may I ask, is a designer without a fragrance? So I was not surprised when Ralph admitted that he had one in the works... "and then we had the crash of 2008". But it is in the works again and will probably make it's debut before the close of 2015. "I know exactly what I want it to smell like" (he wouldn't divulge the ingredients or the scent). "I designed the bottle in 1987 and never lost the focus on that. Jeffry is now putting that all together. It will be called Ralph Rucci". Which was the perfect segue into what led him to drop the word Chado from the label. "When did you decide to do that?"
Ralph Rucci Resort Taroni snakeskin printed coat
 "Six months ago! People were confused. They would call me "Chado" and there was consumer confusion. But the straw that broke the camel's back but when I was having dinner with a really important editor-in-chief of an American magazine and she said Prada's last spring collection was very Japanese. And since an enormous part of their business is in China, that doesn't work. The Chinese did not accept the collection. I understand that if you are going to start your expansion in Asia, as we are in China right now, then that will be detrimental. I think now we have to approach the second three decades (can you imagine? it's going to be 32 years in October!). We have to approach that with a zest and a spirit that's zeitgeist. So I came and I said to Jeffrey...Jeff, I just want to change everything and call it "Ralph Rucci", and his response was: "Oh, I couldn't wait for you to say that!" But, he was so cool he wouldn't say anything. It was completely my decision".

 I asked him who he would consider his ideal client. "Who would you love see wear your clothes?" He immediately said, "You!" Of course I was terribly flattered (that works for me Ralph). He continued, "Do you know what I mean? It's a question that has evolved the way I've evolved. It's a woman who feels that she is special. I cannot give you the normal fashion talk of Gwyneth Paltrow and all of that. It's the quality of a woman that has evolved, that I find so seductive. She is learned, experienced, and she has her own style, because women with their own style  have a certain eccentricity and you learn so much. So that's who my ideal customer would be. I already have my favorites: Patti Smith (she loves his crisp white oversized shirts), Deeda Blair (the subject of Andrew Soloman's recent profile in "T" Magazine, "Deeda Blair's Elegance of Conviction", which included photos of her clad in several of her own Ralph Rucci dresses), and Elsa Peretti. They are iconic". He also cited Samantha Storto ("talk about inspirational", he said of his design director).

Ralph Rucci Resort embroidered white cotton broadcloth tunic shirt
 and pants with nautilus wrap detail


When I thought about the rather divergent group he mentioned, and the divergent clothes he designs, I quickly noted that his collections could be called "schizophrenic" (and I did not mean that in a derogatory way nor was I making light of mental disorders, and he 'got' it immediately). He literally clapped his hands and said, "I love that". "Can I say my clothes are schizophrenic?" When I noted, "there's nothing wrong with being schizophrenic, he jokingly opined: "we have lots of meds to help them with that". In addition, it was not lost on me that he used a Rorschach print of his own design of course, for resort ("the Rorschach is fun...I did this painting on a Sunday afternoon here and I wanted to put one of my paintings in the collection and I don't know why I did Rorschach, but I was playing"), and there would be full moon on Sunday, so there was something very psychological about all of it. And let's face it, many creative souls, including fashion people, are admittedly a little bit 'crazy', 'off', and eccentric, if not obsessive, me included. Ralph would be the first to admit he has many obsessions (the color black, bias cuts, his new drop grain hem, undulating necklines, tulle insets, etc).

Ralph Rucci Resort - his "favorite" matte jersey drop grain hem dress
with undulating neckline which is available in black or white

But while he agreed his collections are divergent, he observed that there are inherent qualities that hold the line all together: "cut, quality, make, and whatever word you want to use, but edge". "Even Deeda wants to have an edge. Everyone consciously or unconsciously wants to look desirable and be desired so it never leaves your mind whether it's a platonic or fully sexual relationship" I was also curious as to his thoughts regarding the new crop of talented, young American designers. "Who you think are major talents?" I asked. "Alexandre Wang's work is fabulous. I buy his t shirts and shorts". (Coincidentally, I was wearing Alexander Wang's sleeveless white cotton shirt with a cape back from sring 2011, which is one of my favorite pieces)."What he is doing is superb and I love what he's doing for Balenciaga which is brilliant. I don't know him but I think he is a designer!" He also mentioned Mr. Givenchy, James Galanos, and then he added,"I had the privilege in my life of witnessing Halston"."Azzedine Alaia has his own private secret factory which is unto himself. He's a genius! I am not going on that direction. I'm trying to do our own thing which is another option within that realm. Riccardo Tisci is brilliant and what he has done for haute couture is a whole other level and I'd love to wear his menswear but it doesn't fit. It's too small. They don't cut beyond a size 52" (his muscles again).
Ralph Rucci Resort zipper white canvas jacket with Rorschach print

Of course, getting back to Resort 2014, which was why I was there. His thoughts about resort? He wishes "everyone would be grown up like we used to and have two collections (spring summer and fall winter) and that's it". Though, as he put it, "the confusion is this thing called pre fall, because I approach it as pre fall, but they want it to be less prefill and more lightweight which I will address". Regardless, getting up close and personal with Ralph Rucci (and his designs), is always a treat. While it maybe true that a picture is worth a thousand words, this is certainly one example that dispels that notion, and proves that pictures do not always do justice to a finished product. When it comes to Ralph's work, one really needs to see the pieces and most importantly, feel them and touch them, to fully appreciate the excruciatingly painstaking detail and workmanship that goes into everything this acclaimed artist does. And he an artist in every sense of the word (he had a one man show in December, and each season, his paintings are screened for fabrics which are used in the collections). 
He wasted no time in cutting to the chase and immediately pointed out the most important pieces on the collection: the wider pant that wraps on the leg (nautilus wrap); the new drop grain hem ("the cut is fabulous...the fabric falls on the bias on the side and it is cut away. There's a point that happens and it makes the body look great"); the over sized button front tunic nautilus wrap shirt: "I've done that shirt in various fabrics, from crepe de chine to pique. I've done it in pique and women love that body. I call it the Elsa, I originally made over sized shirts for Elsa Peretti in white pique because she goes through them. It's a staple and we do variations every season, and this is a new version. It's in broadcloth and embroidered very beautifully, but the embroidery is very static. It's based on those wall collages by Louise Nevelson"; the group of cashmere and silk knits that are part of the expansion; the thick white cotton canvas zip front jacket with a Rorschach pattern; a coat in a snakeskin pattern comprised of black, nude, and petrol green made of thick Taroni silk.

Ralph Rucci Resort drop grain jacket with bias cut sides
As for his favorite, favorite pieces? They were unsurprisingly all in black "I could do an entire collection in black" he said.  I, of course, had to touch them all. Included was a perfectly cut double face wool jacket with zippered sleeves; a drop grain bias cut jacket that comes to the front and "makes women look taller and slimmer";  jersey dress with an undulating neckline that is "all purpose, 12 months a year" ("I cut it in chalk and in black"); the black matte jersey dress with seams that are inset with tulle ("a killer, look what it does for the body!", he exclaimed); and the black silk chiffon lame dress that is cut on the cross grain. He literally marveled at the bias cut pieces. "Don't you just love the bias?" he asked. "Just two pieces of fabric. The perfection!"

- Marilyn Kirschner


Monday, June 17, 2013

"In the Market Report": Leopard Prints

Call of the Wild- BARGAIN!

Stella McCartney Resort 2013

Like stripes (the subject of my last blog click here ) leopard prints and patterns are perennial all time favorites beloved by designers and customers alike, and with good reason. They never go out of style; treated like a neutral, they really go with everything. The late great Carrie Donovan once observed: "leopard is like camel; only better"; used as an accent, or small touch, they can make a big impact and are completely seasonless.

Jamin Puech leopard printed raffia bag

Quite frankly, while one normally associates leopard with colder weather, I almost prefer it in the summertime, when it is perhaps a bit more unexpected. Leopard printed scarves, shoes, and bags, regardless of the fabric, are perfect year round, but I especially love their juxtaposition with denim (any and all washes including bright white). And really, is there anything that looks better with a khaki trench or safari jacket? A few of my favorite leopard printed accessories as of late: Jamin Puech's handsome, oversized leather trimmed leopard printed raffia bag, which was featured in Lucky Magazine, $485,, is available at 14 Prince St  New York, NY 10012, (212) 431-5200.

J.Crew Janey calf hair leopard flats

Figue's ( "Art of the Ruler" (love the name) silk and Shabano wool scarf in a leopard print design with bold black border and tassels on the corners is $395 and beautifully sized at 40" X 74". J.Crew's ( leopard printed calf hair chunky heeled Etta pump, and low heeled Janey flat (its small gold metal heel makes it more interesting and far more distinctive than a typical ballerina) are reduced (from $350 to $249, and $298 to $239 respectively).

leopard printed straw clutch

But who doesn't love a real bargain? While I wouldn't call myself a regular customer at H&M,, the popular chain known for its low prices and on trend merchandise, I will say that whenever I find myself near one of the stores (since they are conveniently located throughout Manhattan, that's quite often), I stop in. And I almost never lead empty handed (even if it's something small).

H&M bag in leopard printed thick weave cotton

 Coincidentally, my last 4 purchases have been something in leopard, with prices ranging from $12.95 - $79.95. The leopard printed straw clutch (6 3/4" X 11") has a flap and magnetic catch, $12.95; the large (51" X 59") printed leopard scarf with a black border is so versatile, it can be used a sarong, swimsuit cover-up, or a dress, depending on how you tie it; their roomy (13" X 20") leopard printed tote made of thick weave cotton has gold metal buckles and a detachable coin purse inside, $24.95; and their 100% cotton leopard printed collarless jacket may bear more than a passing resemblance to Stella McCartney's resort 2013 version, but at $79.50, you can't go wrong.

-Marilyn Kirschner


Friday, June 14, 2013

Michael Kors hosted Couture Council Event

Jean Shafiroff, Cindy Rinfret, Michael Kors, Jieun Wax,
Shelly Lynch, & Patricia Shiah
(Photos courtesy Couture Council)

Michael Kors last night hosted a private event at his Madison Avenue store (790 Madison Avenue) for members of the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT. Michael Kors is an alumni of the Fashion Institution of Technology and has been very supportive of the school throughout his career.

Liz Peek, Valerie Steele, Yaz Hernandez

As the 60 guests spilled into the Kors’ Madison Avenue store, the women all seemed to be on a mission to find an outfit from the collection. Before the Pre-Fall 2013 Presentation started Liz Peek (Chairman of FIT’s Board) introduced Michael and congratulated him on behalf of the board for upcoming honor. Michael Kors will receive the Artistry of Fashion Award at the annual Couture Council Luncheon on September 4th at the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

2013 Luncheon Chairs - Jieun Wax & Kamie Lightburn

 A lot of the guests came to the event wearing the designer’s clothes. To name a few: both 2013 Couture Luncheon Co-Chairs Kamie Lightburn & Jieun Wax wore pieces from the Pre-Fall 2013 collection; Yaz Hernandez (Couture Council Chair) wore a two-tone contrast –Panel Ponte dress; Alexandra Lebenthal wore yellow zipper dress; Kay Facatselis wore a black Off-The Shoulder top; Nancy Shaw wore an emerald green featherweight wool shrug with a sleeveless Wool-Crepe dress.

Cindy Rinfret, Aundrea Amine, Nancy Shaw, Elizabeth Galt,
Nicole Reynolds, Jieun Wax, Emma Pennington, & Shelly Lynch

Other guests that attended included Kate Allen, Aundrea Amine, Deborah Chatman, Dina DeLuca Chartouni, Carole Divet Harting, Webb Egerton, Nikki Erlick, Jim Erlick, Landy Erlick, Paige Ethington Hardy, Olivia Flatto, Joele Frank, Michele Gerber Klein, Jamie Gordon, Catherine Gund, Celia Hegyi, Chiu-Ti Jansen, Laurie Kasowitz, Eleanora Kennedy, Lance LePere, Stephanie Loeffler, Julie Macklowe, Christina McInerney, Chesley McLaren, Laura Mitchelson, Roseanne Morrison, Peter Panagiotopoulos, Emma Pennington, Arielle Picheny, Barbara Prawolzik, Barbara Regna, Nicole Reynolds, Cindy Rinfret, Joseph Roloyn, Wilbur Ross, Hilary Ross, Jean Shafiroff, Patricia Shiah, Valerie Steele, Jacqueline Togut, Mary Turano and Debra Wasser.

Pre-Fall 2013 Collection

Michael Kors gave a 30-minute presentation of his Pre-Fall 2013 Collection about what inspired the collection. He also talked about what its means to true sport-wear designer. While explaining the 25 looks he also interjected with how the women could incorporate a piece of the look into their year round wardrobes. After the presentation Michael spent some time shopping with the ladies and gave some style tips on how to wear his clothing.

More about the Couture Council:
The Couture Council of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) will honor Michael Kors with its 2013 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at a benefit luncheon at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, New York City. The event will be underwritten by American Express. As has become the tradition, this luncheon heralds the arrival of Fall Fashion Week.

The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT is a membership group dedicated to supporting The Museum at FIT, a specialized museum of fashion.  The Couture Council helps make it possible for the museum to mount world-class exhibitions of fashion, to acquire important objects for its permanent collection, and to organize public programs, such as the annual fashion symposium.  The Couture Council accomplishes these goals through collecting membership dues and by organizing fundraising events such as the annual Couture Council Awards Luncheon, which presents a chosen designer with the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion.

Couture Council annual membership is $1,000 per individual or couple, or $350 for Young Associates (under the age of 35). Membership is tax deductible to the extent provided by law. Please make checks payable to the FIT Foundation. Mail checks to The Museum at FIT, attention: Couture Council, 227 West 27th Street, Director's Office, Room E304, New York, NY 10001-5992.

Members of the Couture Council receive invitations to at least five special events a year, including behind-the-scenes tours of the museum’s collection and exhibitions, opening receptions, and visits to the ateliers of fashion designers in New York. Couture Council members are also the first to receive notice of the annual Couture Council Artistry of Fashion Award luncheon.

Catherine Petree-Biron
Director of Sponsorship 
Jonathan Marder + Company 
D: 212.907.6484
M: 917.306.0865

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In the Market Report: "Line Drive"

Marc Jacobs Breton striped fur pullover.

 I hate the word "trend" and I hate the notion of trendy. I feel these are words and concepts that are much abused, over used, and overrated. I'm old enough to know that everything old is new again and nothing is ever out of style. That being said, I can't fight City Hall. In  the world of fashion, there are so called trends, and then there are super TRENDS. They are perennial favorites that defy the vagaries of ins and outs and are always on fashion's radar (sometimes they are just more in your face, of the moment, and exaggerated than at other times). Case in point: stripes.

Audrey Hepburn in Saint James Breton

Whenever  I see this image of a young Audrey Hepburn in her classic Saint James Breton striped pullover, I'm reminded that there are some things that simply cannot be improved upon (though designers will keep trying- more on that later). I mean really, why would you wear a boring plain t shirt when you can wear a jaunty striped top? Certainly, it's easy to understand why stripes are always so popular. They are season-less, appropriate for all ages, and completely unisex (well, I guess everything is nowadays). They can 'read' classic, nautical, and preppy, as well as zany, fashion forward, and avant garde. They can be sporty and casual, or dressed to the nines. And for those who don't like busy prints or patterns, stripes are composed of clean lines, and in the best case scenario, are akin to modern art.

Chanel Iman in J Mendel at the Met Costume Institute Gala

Stripes have seemingly been everywhere,  especially since Marc Jacobs presented his almost entirely black and white, mod inspired spring 2013 collection, which was a study in graphic stripes. While he was not alone, his undiluted vision shown early on in the season, seemed to be THE defining moment. Not only were they seen all over runways for spring, but the ubiquitous sighting of striped clothing on men, women, children, pets, etc. both here and abroad, is testament to their ongoing popularity. While they are always a favorite, especially when  used for casual day wear, it's been hard not to notice that stripes have turned up (in one form or another), at many high profile parties and galas this season, including the Met's Costume Gala in celebration of 'Punk, from Chaos to Couture'.

Fan Bingbing in Oscar de la Renta Spring 2013
at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Chinese star Fan Bingbing made quite an entrance when she wore Oscar de la Renta's midnight blue and white striped strapless ball gown from Spring 2013, to the Oscars; Giovanna Battaglia could not have looked more perfect in her pink and black striped Christian Dior dress, which she wore to the dinner celebrating the new Dior boutique at Bergdorf Goodman;

Alexandra Lebenthal at the New Yorkers for Children's Fool's  Fete

Alexandra Lebenthal looked terrific in a vintage horizontally striped black and white jumpsuit which she wore to the10th Anniversary of New Yorkers for Children Fool's Fete at the  Mandarin Hotel back in May. Most recently, Katie Couric wore a graphically black and white striped short dress to a the Wildlife Conservation Society gala for The Wonders of Southeast Asia at New York's Central Park Zoo, and Beyoncé made the headlines last week, in Topshop's horizontally striped two piece knit ensemble. FYI, neither Alexandra, nor Beyoncé, looked like prison escapees LOL, and they did not look fat in their horizontal stripes, which many feel can be difficult to wear.

Giovanna Battaglia in striped Dior dress with Julia Restoin Roitfeld

And no, stripes are not showing any signs of letting up or  fading from fashion's view, if the resort 2014 collections, now under way, are any indication. ( Resort is a harbinger of spring, can we expect to see them come September.) There has been a hard to miss linear, graphic element, throughout many of the presentations and formal runway shows, and if anything, designers are approaching stripes more creatively, inventively, and artistically than ever. Stripes are turning up horizontally, vertically, and diagonally (sometimes in combination); they are sometimes mixed with other prints and patterns; they are being proposed for day and night; and while the combination of black and white reigns supreme, stripes in traditional navy and red, in addition to other colors, have appeared.

Thom Browne

Standouts include Marc Jacobs' riff on the traditional Breton striped top: he added embroidery to one elongated top, used fur to fashion an over sized pullover and short coat, and added striped fur pillows as a backdrop, as if to exaggerate the point. Thom Browne, (fresh off his CFDA Award for menswear designer of the year) imbued his signature and stellar haberdashery, and unique eye catching mixes, with a more feminine approach than in past seasons, and he was one who deliriously worked stripe on stripe, down to the great looking bags and tights. Narciso Rodriquez was in a relaxed mood and the collection, predicated on graphic combinations of black and white, utilized lines and stripes artistically: the result could not have been more appealing or chic.

Narciso Rodriguez

There was a hard to miss tom boyishness to Vera Wang's resort lineup, as exemplified by her silhouettes, and the group of black and white pin stripes with contrasting seersucker waistbands. Lisa Perry, a fashion designer known for her love affair with the mod 60's, is an avid and serious art collector, and she is always inspired by works of art. This season, her jumping off point was a Tom Wesselmann still life with its mix of primary colors. Her collection was one of the few to make use of bright colored stripes.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

FIT Annual Benefit Gala

George Kaufman, Dr. Joyce Brown, Jane Hudis,
 Tony Bennett, & Mariana Kaufman
(All photos: Patrick McMullan Company)

The weather last night might have been "fit" for a duck, but inside Cipriani 42nd, it was "FIT" for a king (actually, two kings and a queen to be exact). The FIT annual gala benefits the Educational Development Fund, which provides scholarship, technology, and student services support. Last evening more than 1.1 million dollars was raised. This year's stellar honorees  were Kay Krill (president and chief executive officer, ANN INC.), Stefano Tonchi (editor-in-chief, W magazine), and George Kaufman (chairman, Kaufman Organization), a long-time supporter of FIT. Kaufman and his wife Mariana were honored for their $4 million gift which helped transform a former book bindery and office building located at 406 West 31st Street into a 320,000 square-foot residence for FIT students. The addition of the George S. and Mariana Kaufman Residence Hall, which opened in 2006 and houses 1,100 students in 497 private suites, doubled the college’s student housing space, helping to ease a shortage of on-campus housing.

Stefano Tonchi & Jessica Chastain

Gala Chairs included Pamela Baxter, president and CEO LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics; Joy Herfel Cronin, group president, Menswear and Childrenswear, Ralph Lauren; Julie Greiner, chief merchandise planning officer, Macy’s, Inc.; Yaz Hernandez, trustee, FIT Board of Trustees; Jane Hertzmark Hurdis, global brand president, Estee Lauder; and Liz Peek, trustee, FIT Board Chair. The Gala Honorary Committee includes Reem Acra, Giorgio Armani, Dennis Basso, Edmundo Castillo, Maria Cornejo, Francisco Costa, Peter Dundas, Tom Ford, Monique Lhillier, Gilles Mendel, Narciso Rodriguez, Ralph Rucci, Angel Sanchez, Jill Stuart, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, and Vera Wang.

Ralph Rucci & Jean Shafiroff

Cocktails began at 7PM, and the celebrated guests who filled the room were testament to the star power of the honorees, among them: Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lefrak, Jack and Susan Rudin, Iris Cantor, Liz and Jeff Peek, Dr. Joyce Brown, Larry Leeds, Jean Shafiroff, Julie Macklowe, Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Ross, Ari and Coco Kopelman, Tony Bennett, Jessica Chastain, Stan Herman, Steven Kolb, and fashion designers Alber Elbaz, Francisco Costa, Ralph Rucci, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Peter Dundas, Maria Cornejo,  Dennis Basso, Gilles Mendel, Jeffrey Banks, Nanette Lepore, and Lisa Perry.

Joan Small, Peter Dundas & Yaz Hernandez

During the course of the evening Nanette Lepore, clad in a floral printed dress of her own design, recalled that something I selected from her line back in the 1980's (she had a store called Robespierre) made the cover of Harper's Bazaar. Lisa Perry, who just put the finishing touches on her pre Spring 2014 collection yesterday, is excited about Spring, which will once again be presented in her Madison Avenue flagship in September. I also had an interesting conversation with Tatijana Shoan, editor-in-chief of As If Magazine,, a large-format (12" X 17") quarterly luxury publication, who was there with fashion illustrator Bil Donovan, who is featured in their upcoming issue. Created by Ms. Shoan and Scott Fishkind, As If  focuses on "the realms of artistic expression and the visionaries behind them" and features "individuals who have made a creative mark in our society in fashion, art, design, and architecture, music, film, and business". (This seemed especially apropos considering that the attendees last night were culled from all these worlds).
Anh Duong & Francisco Costa

The inclement weather did not put a damper on the fashion choices made by guests.  It was all about variety: there was long, short, and everything in between. Yaz Hernandez wore a long sleek, form fitting,  navy jersey gown with asymmetrical cut out top by Peter Dundas for Emilio Pucci; Karolina Kurkova was in a simple yet dramatic royal blue long halter dress; Jean Shafiroff chose a green and pink strapless full skirted gown by Oscar de la Renta, Spring 2013; Lisa Perry was in a 60's mod inspired (what else?) short white dress and jacket featuring clear plastic insets, of her own design; Anh Duong looked chic in a white skirt suit featuring a sculpted jacket: it was a riff on the tuxedo and she was there with Francisco so I assume it was a Calvin Klein design.
Karolina Kurkova & Kay Krill

But the hands down winner was actress Jessica Chastain, who seems to be everywhere these days . She was at the CFDA Awards looking fabulous in a black Ricardo Tisci dress, and is always looking perfect. She may not have taken home the Oscar for her role in Zero Dark Thirty, but she looked every inch a gold statue in her one shouldered knee length gold dress. She was there to present the award (which was done after dinner), to Stefano Tonchi. The legendary Tony Bennett did the honors for his longtime friend, George Kaufman, but while he did not surprise the crowd by reprising his rendition of  "I left my heart in San Francisco" (it's New York anyway), that doesn't mean there were no wonderful surprises. Model Karolina Kurkova presented Kay Krill with her award, during which time she announced her commitment from Ann Inc. to endow a full year scholarship annually (and forever) to an FIT student with a "passion for design".

- Marilyn Kirschner   

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Better Bets for Father's Day by Rhonda Erb

Toshiba L4300 Cloud TV Series

This affordable range of LED backlit, 1080p HD TV’s features Toshiba’s Cloud TV media apps and services. The series is available in 32, 39, and 50-inch class screen sizes and   is perfect for a first apartment.

Available at: : 32-inch, $449; 39-inch $549.00; 50-inch, $899.00

Click here for more Father's Day gift ideas

Friday, June 07, 2013

New York Botanical Garden Conservatory Ball

Receiving line of Gillian Miniter, Cosby George,
Patti Fast and Ann Johnson
(All photos Lieba Nesis)
- click on photos for larger views -

The Conservatory Ball held at The New York Botanical Garden is lauded as one of the best parties of the year in New York and despite the inclement weather it was a spectacular event.  This event is the culmination of the society season in New York before the well heeled crowd heads for the Hamptons to mingle on Gin Lane.  The theme of the night was, "An evening in the Italian Renaissance Garden of Padua." There was a stunning recreation of Europe's first botanical garden with a lush landscape of Mediterranean flowers that included exotic, endangered and medicinal varieties.  The event is an amalgam of the high powered elite of New York and Greenwich with a mix of entertainment figures and fashion divas. 

Somers Farkas in Maggie Norris dress and
Fe Fendi in Carolina Herrera

The excitement surrounding this event is palpable; upon entering the garden there were six trumpeteers heralding the arrival of these luminaries.  There were lines of chaffeured cars driving through the entrance to make their way to the Perrenial Garden for some cocktails and hors d' oeuvres.   The crowd was filled with socialites in floral couture such as Somers Farkas who wore a floral Maggie Norris dress to "conform to the botanical garden theme of the night and to hide those areas that she felt were a little bulgier than she would like."

Jean Shafiroff in Zang Toi Dimondo in
Alexander McQueen tux and actress Lydia Carlston

Fe Fendi in a flowy floral Carolina Herrera dress and Jean Shafiroff in a beautiful pink Zang Toi confection made grand entrances while a band played in the background and hordes of photographers snapped pictures.  Diane Tierney, vice chairman of the event said, "I have been preparing for this event for one year.  The garden helps everybody by bringing joy, peace and relaxation, to everybody who visits it."

Ann Costa in Monique Lhuillier

There was a red carpet with a receiving line where the cochairs of the event, Gillian Miniter, Patti Fast, Cosby George and Ann Johnson greeted guests with warmth and laughter.  The crowds enthusiasm was reiterated by Ann Costa, in a Monique Lhuillier sequined gown, who said she loves this event, "because as a Texan, the lavish and elegant dressing of the women is reminiscent of the grand dames of Houston."  Moreover, she is an avid gardener so it is heavenly for her to be in the same place as this resplendent plant life.  Lydia Carlston, a theater and film actress who has appeared in Sex and the City and Star Trek, wore a rainbow floral concoction and echoed the sentiment of the pulchritudinous of the setting by stating, "this is the most beautiful event in town.  The visuals inside the garden coupled with how the people relate to its beauty makes this event unique."

The tent at the "Garden"

As the cocktail hour came to a close the guests were beckoned, through the use of deafening trumpets, to the Conservatory tent for dinner and dancing.  As the guests proceeded to the tent they were surrounded by lush plant life and gargantuan trees. The tent was decorated with a purplish hue and dotted lights draping down.  The guests were not even seated before Jacqueline Weld Drake broke out into a rowdy partner dance with a handsome young man. One guest complained that one side was New York and the other was Greenwich Connecticut but nonetheless, people seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Somers Farkas summed it up best by stating, "this annual event is one of my favorite events of the year because it is chaired by passionate philanthropists."  The effort attended to beautifying every element of this night helps ensure that the New York Botanical garden will continue to succeed as an environment for horticulture to both survive and thrive for many years to come. 


- Lieba Nesis

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

CFDA Awards Red Carpet

Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback

 Tao Okamoto, in 3.1 Phillip Lim, with designer
(Photos: CFDA)

  So, we all know who went home with the CFDA awards last night. Now its time to talk about the fashion worn by attendees. After all, isn't it all about the clothes and what one is wearing? Which, by definition, takes on a whole new meaning when the subjects are serious fashion pros and fashion insiders. Thankfully, the red carpet for an event such as this is not your average run of the mill red carpet. One expects to see interesting variety and individualism, rather than the usual, boring, and uninspiring parade of long gowns and borrowed jewels which are routinely seen on other red carpets.  Even if, (or should I say, especially if), the results are not so great and beg the question of good taste. Who needs good taste anyway? As Diana Vreeland said: "Bad taste is better than no taste".
In any event, there were a number of themes which stood out, and these are some of my observations:

Tuxedo Junction:

Stella Tenant in Joseph Altuzarra
(Photo: CFDA)

This unisex sartorial staple never gets old and looks as good on the gals as the guys (if not better). Actually, after seeing so many frothy dresses and bouffant ballskirts at parties and  galas as of late, I find it particularly refreshing to find women opting for severe tuxedos (or white pantsuits, which always look just right). Some good examples from last night: Steven Kolb, Tim Blanks, Stella Tennant, Kembra Pfaher, Tao Okamoto, and Thom Browne (who put his own spin on it by substituting shorts for pants).

(Not so) Mellow Yellow

Kerry Washington in Jason Wu
(Photo: CFDA)

It's been a favored hue worn by many high profile party goers (whether they opt for long or short, or everything in between). Last night, Jessica Stam, Kerry Washington, Michelle Ochs, and Jennifer Meyer, were those who hopped on the yellow bandwagon. FYI, it's worth noting that this color not only looks good on its own, but used as an accent, and nothing adds more of a punch to black & white (which is another ubiquitous favorite these days).

Cut it Out

Rachel Roy and Jessica Hart
(Photo: Randy Brooke)

Sculptural, architectural, body revealing designs, with strategically placed cut outs, are attention grabbers and not for the faint of heart (and should only be worn by those whose bodies are well toned). Fortunately, last night, they were, and seen on the likes of Linda Fargo, Erin Wasson, Rachel Roy, and Jessica Hart.

A league of Their Own

Michelle Harper
(Photo: CFDA)

There are those who always stand out and manage to distinguish themselves from the pack: good, bad, or ugly (or all three). Michelle Harper is at the top of my list and she did it again last night. She is very intuitive and always surprises, putting together outfits that defy description. I don't know exactly what she was wearing last night, but it was black, accessorized with rhinestones, diamonds (or crystals), and she capped it off with a vertiginous headpiece. 

Vera Wang
(Photo: Randy Brooke)

Others who always 'look' like themselves: Vera Wang, who accepted her award wearing a long dress (in her signature mousey gray color), layered over black trousers; Ralph Lauren, (he presented Vera with her award), opted for a formal tuxedo jacket paired offhandedly with well worn jeans and cowboy boots: a style he is known for; and Anna Wintour who marches to her own drummer. Though I personally was not crazy about her choice last evening, you have to hand it to her: she manages to get her signature fur collar in, regardless of the fact that it's almost summer. 

Proud as a Peacock

Michael Kors with Karolina Kurkova & Cody Horn,
 both in looks by the designer
(Photo: CFDA)

It's becoming more and more routine to see men actually stand out at events these days. In addition to Thom Browne, who is in a class by himself, and Zang Toi both of whom love to show off their legs apparently), Cameron Silver always makes an individual, unique, and eye catching personal statement.
 And once again, Michael Kors proves that a man can make a grand entrance on the red carpet even though he's a minimalist when it comes to his sartorial choices. This was exemplified last night: he wisely 'accessorized' his classic tuxedo and signature dark aviators, with two long stemmed beauties (Karolina Kurkova and Cody Horn) flanking him on each side. Both were wearing Michael Kors, of course, and resembled dazzling bookends.

The Long and Short of It

Rafé Totengco with Mary Alice Stephenson
(Photo: CFDA)

Sometimes, a gal doesn't know whether to go long or short. Which is why it makes perfect sense that one of the more ubiquitous fashion statements around,  is a dress that is both long AND short. Mary Alice Stephenson, clad in Bibhu Mohapatra,  pulled this off with aplomb last evening.

- by Marilyn Kirschner