Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Big Picture: A look Ahead to Fall 2014

David Wolfe
(Click on images for larger views)

It's still summer and we have not even gotten into fall 2013. But we in the fashion world are always trying to foretell the future and read tea leaves regardless of whether its an attempt to predict "The Next Big Thing" (upscale and rarefied or mainstream), or to figure out what will be the most commercial and successful of the trends. Indisputably, one of the most seasoned, well respected, entertaining, and highly quotable fashion, color, and trend forecasters is veteran, David Wolfe. The Wall Street Journal has hailed him as "one of the fashion industry's most authoritative sharpshooters"; Earnshaw's observed, "when he talks, a lot of important people listen" and The Fashion Reporter called him "the most astute trend reporter in the business".

David certainly has the impressive resume to bely his expertise: he was creative director at I.M. International, one of the world's first fashion forecasting and consulting firms; he went on to found and manage The Fashion Service, a trend forecasting service; and since 1990, has served as creative director of The Doneger Group ( the fashion industry's leading source of global trend intelligence, and an "essential resource to the retail manufacturing and fashion communities". I have not attended one of the company's trend reports in many years, so I decided to check out Thursday's, "The Big Picture, Fall 2014: A New World" put together and presented by David Wolfe.

Speaking in the decidedly informal, impromptu manner he is known for, and dressed in a vivid pink blazer over a black shirt, David backed up his observations with a video presentation, comprised mainly of runway images from the international fall/winter 2013 ready-to-wear shows (held last September and October), and the Haute Couture fall/winter 2013, shown in Paris early this month. He divided his approximately one hour talk into four distinct sections.

Living in a New World

Iris Van Herpen Haute Couture

David began with the observation, "we are living in a new world, it's a new ballgame, and the fashion world isn't the only world, even if we in the fashion world think it is. Fashion doesn't fascinate the world as it used to, and nothing in fashion is as interesting as what's going on elsewhere. But, it is a reflection of the world and of society".

He talked about (and illustrated), a number of fascinating technological advances in transportation (a new Mercedes without a steering wheel and a nifty James Bond worthy boat); living (cohabiting with robots); shopping (new experiences and conveniences such as the ability to see how an outfit will look on you without having to actually try it on; downloading your design for a t shirt and getting it made in moment). Then he went on to talk about how this relates to fashion: Sci Fi effects (colors and fabrics from the future); Tech Chic (creative digital prints); extraordinary prints ("if it can be imagined it can be printed"); extraordinary floral prints ("old ideas made new again").

Iris van Herpen and Rem D Koolhaas collaborated to create 3D printed shoes that look like tree roots
He showed us images of the first 3D articulated printed dress recently worn by Dita Von Teese, and the futuristic but "un wearable" designs created by Iris van Herpen ( The Dutch fashion designer interned at Alexander McQueen and started her own Haute Couture fashion label, and is now showing during Paris Haute Couture Week.

But the result of all of this, can be fashion backlash, or burnout, where the customer will yearn for fashion that is more real and more related:

Fashion for a Real World!

 It's all about low profile elegance, grown up good taste and a practical yet polished and calmed down approach to fashion. What are the symbols of this? He noted that hemlines are going down ("highly polished adult elegance"), though some designers continue to go to extremes in lengths within one collection, thereby further confusing the customer and scaring her into not buying (she is saying, "how am I supposed to make up my mind when the designers can't?") Other hallmarks: a return to elegant dresses, the reality based pantsuit, tailored suits; and soigne evening wear ("good taste glamour").

As for color, he noted that we're in a black & white moment but while "back & white have staying power", he predicts a welcome return to color thanks to surprising color combinations  He noted that Yohji Yamamoto used shocking color combinations for fall 2013, and said he didn't even think Yohji knew there was anything "other than black out there". In terms of neutrals, which everyone has lots of in their closets, it's all about an expanded palette for subtle shadings, the employment of feminized, nearly naked neutrals (cosmetic colors), and the use of unexpected spring like pastels for fall. And finally, the resurgence in grown up lady bags (even among young women), is indicative of the renewed "highly polished adult elegance".

Streamlined Style...Modern glamour!

There is an unmistakable appeal to a simplified wardrobe comprised of clean, chic, simple, flat shapes, without detail or embellishment. It is wearable and ageless. On his hit list: Simple dresses with simple lines; simple tunics (David noted that "everyone looks good in a tunic, and sweater knit tunics are understandable and flattering to all"); extended sleeveless (no sleeves for bodices cut wide at the shoulders); and clean chic accessories, defined by strong shapes with refined detailing.

Sculptural Shapes...Silhouette Shifts!

Balenciaga fall/winter 2013

Under this large inclusive heading, category, David made note of "melon" and kimono sleeves; rounded shoulders; the new jacket (defined by curvaceous lines); sharp, snappy, defined shoulders (but NOT the exaggeration of the 80's); Dior's New Look Skirts "long and full is renewed"; lady like clutch bags (soft or structured); organic, free form accessories; extravagant effects (elite elegance: "more is not enough for most people, but this is an extravagance that smacks of old money, high class luxury, and not the Kardashians").

 Also decorative fabrics with fancy surface interest; dramatic textural contrasts; toned down twinkle; muted metallics ("gold and silver in the dark"); metallic accessories ("a touch of metallic through accessories"); special furs ("color creating special effects" which will make real furs look like faux furs and will ensure that faux furs will continue to be important); broadtail ("the best investment: a "new again" fashion rage,); luxury skins (fashion's ongoing obsession with leather shows no signs of letting up); feathers ("floating frivolity"); velvet ("lush, plush and soft"); ombre ("the graduating effect of fading in and fading out"); the coat as a completer piece ("an integral part of a specific outfit"); over the top, extravagant, decorative accessories.

 By the way, when I left, I started thinking about the "future of fashion" and the one collection that immediately came to my mind, is Alexander Wang's first outing for Balenciaga, fall 2013. To my way of thinking, it perfectly sums it up.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"In the Market Report" by Marilyn Kirschner

The Last 'Straw'

Smiling through the heat with a whimsical vintage rattan purse
(click images for larger views)

I've officially had it with this hot sweltering weather! Just about now, I'm anxiously awaiting the end of summer and the advent of fall. But since it's not happening any time soon, I'll have to make do and figure out how to survive the next month or so. In addition to wearing lighter, lightweight clothing (duh), accessories are another important part of the equation: specifically, the choice of one's handbag. I understand that leather is season less and year round, but when it's been in the mid to upper 90's for 5 days in a row, there is nothing cooler (literally and psychologically), than wicker, straw, and rattan. Quite frankly, there is nothing like a great straw bag; it can almost trick you into thinking you are on vacation in the South of France, or on an island in the Caribbean; whether it's the dead of winter, or you're stuck on a hot crowded New York subway.

Audrey Hepburn wearing a mink pullover and carrying an embellished straw bag

Straw bags have figured prominently into the wardrobes of the best dressed women past and present, through the years: Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin, and Ines de la Fressange just to name a few. (FYI, I love the picture of Audrey Hepburn wearing her signature mink pullover and carrying an embellished straw bag. I'm an advocate of using them in the wintertime as well, when they are far less predictable and unexpected). The good news is that they are readily available all over, and at every price point. But like everything else, there are straw bags and then there are straw bags, and not all straw bags are created equal.

Crab shaped vintage wicker bag

I have always been drawn to vintage versions that are highly distinctive, rare, and collectible. While I love the classic ones, I am always taken with those that are whimsical, put a smile on my face, and make for an amusing conversation piece (all of which are completely in sync with the playful, carefree, and non serious nature of summer). The best examples are the 3D figural animal figural straw, rattan, and wicker bags from the 1950's and 1960's. I've seen them in the shape of horses, donkeys, elephants, frogs, pigs, crabs, alligators, fish, etc. Last year, Kate Spade was selling a wicker shoulder bag in the shape of an armadillo. They are getting harder to find, but they are available from time to time. I recently found one on, in the shape of a crocodile with a long snout, a swirling tail, four short legs with wicker stick feet, and green eyes made of strips of coated plastic, and another two on one is in the shape of a pig, and the other is equine.

My vintage black & white striped oversized wicker bag

While I don't own any of the aforementioned versions, I have been seeking out and collecting vintage wicker and straw bags for many years and have amassed quite a collection (several are vintage Koret, one is Magid, but many are unlabeled). They range in color from natural to white and black (plus one in a graphic black and white stripe); they are in a variety of shapes and sizes, from teeny tiny to oversized; many have handsome leather trim and distinctive hardware. But my favorites right now, are those that are zany, highly embellished, lined in red felt and covered with colorful pom poms, metallic appliques, bells, gold coins, braids, and mirrors. They add just a right touch of Boho Chic to anything classic, and what's great is that they are so decorated, they obliterate the need to wear any jewelry or other accessories, (this is especially relevant right now, when you want to put on the least amount of anything). Plus with the mirror, you don't need to carry a compact to check out yourself out.

Tuk Tuk Tote

While these are, alas, not available to purchase, as they are vintage and one of a kind, there is a real dead ringer: the handmade Tuk Tuk tote, $395, which is currently available on Created by founding Tory Burch design director Stephanie von Watzdorf, Figue is a relatively new "travel inspired artisan-centric luxury collection with a global gypsy-meets-jet-set spirit". In addition to her website, she has wisely and conveniently set up shop in Southampton, through Labor Day (68 Jobs Lane, 631 488 4487). By the way, speaking of Tory Burch, the large structured Rattan Tote with leather handles, made of natural woven material, and embellished with bright pom poms and beadwork, is on sale from $450 to $315 (

- Marilyn Kirschner 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"The New Best Dressed List" by Marilyn Kirschner


Gloria Guinness
Eleanor Lambert, the late style arbiter and founder of the Best-Dressed List, called Gloria Guinness "the most elegant woman in the world."
(Click on images for larger views)

The International Best Dressed List was founded by Eleanor Lambert in 1940. It was her "brilliant publicity ploy to boost the drooping American fashion industry at the outset of World War II" and it soon became a highly visible and well respected barometer of style, a "Who's Who" of the most glamorous women in the world. The first lists mainly included wealthy society women who were famous for "spending entire fortunes every year on haute couture" while movie stars, who were dressed by their studios, were rarely named to it.

Past Best Dressed CZ Guest at home

Of course, the mantle was eventually passed to Vanity Fair Magazine, and the International Best-Dressed List has been revealed there exclusively since 2004. The International Best- Dressed Poll keepers are Amy Fine Collins and Reinaldo Herrera, both of whom have been inducted into the Best Dressed Hall of Fame. Their annual September Issue includes their "Mega List", which has evolved into a highly coveted placement that includes every sort of public figure, from socialites and models to movie stars and politicians. This year, for the very first time, they opened up their annual Best Dressed List to the public, inviting readers to send in their choices, and even vote for themselves, enabling them to win a spot on their 2013 International Best-Dressed List.  

Past Best Dressed Jacqueline de Ribes photographed by Richard Avedon

But, let's face it. What is "best dressed" for one person may not be for another. There are many ways to define it. It's all so subjective and arbitrary and hardly an exact science. And anyway, "best" lists, which lay claims to the "best in the world" for a specific category, are not only kind of ridiculous, they are theoretically impossible, because no one person or organization can possibly say they scoped out the entire world in search of the ultimate candidates. Undoubtedly, there are many more worthy souls yet undiscovered - they just haven't made movies, paraded on red carpets, found themselves in gossip columns, been subjects of fashion websites, mugged for the paparazzi outside fashion shows, or enlisted the aid of pr mavens to get their mugs photographed here there and everywhere. So it's all to be taken with a grain of salt.   

Past Best Dressed Diana Vreeland

While Vanity Fair is the gold standard, they are hardly alone in this crowded playing field, and there are many best dressed lists out there, with unsurprisingly, many of the same obvious names being mentioned. Regardless, I still wanted to compile my own list and put my own spin on it. I selected 21 women, with different styles, who consistently stand out for me, each in their own way. This is a representational sampling; it's not possible to list everyone, and while I kept thinking of other names I wanted to include, I knew I had to stop at some point. (FYI, just as I was done, I read the August Issue of Bazaar, their "Personal Style" issue, which includes a portfolio "Most Stylish Women"; among their 12, 3 were on my list).

Past Best Dressed Babe Paley

I did not adhere to any hard and fast rules, nor was I looking for some unattainable ideal of perfection (quite the opposite in fact). Long gone are the days of Best Dressed fashion icon Babe Paley, who was dubbed “America’s Most Elegant” by Women’s Wear Daily. Truman Capote once wrote of his dear friend: "Mrs. P. had only one fault, she was perfect, otherwise, she was perfect". And it had once been said, "she never had an un-chic day". But, what the heck IS "Chic" anyway? Who gets to decide? And, what's wrong with being imperfect, and being un-chic from time to time? Nobody is perfect, everyone has an off day (well, almost everyone) and anyway, I happen to think that imperfections, or flashes of bad (or unquestionable) taste, are what make the overall look "perfect".  

Past Best Dressed Slim Keith was named "Best Dressed Woman in the World" in 1946

While all those who made my list may not necessarily pass the Babe Paley "Chic" test 24/7 (well maybe a few ), they do possess other commonalities. They are confident and self assured and all have a strong sense of self. They all understand cut and proportion and are good editors when it comes to their own choices, and they seem to intuitively know what will work for them. They are not fashion victims who blindly follow trends. They "own" their personal style: it's organic.

Past Best Dressed Audrey Hepburn on the set of Charade 1963

They have an undeniably consistent personal, individual and recognizable personal style, day AND night. It's not about just looking great when you're dolled up for special occasions,but having great style, period. I was hardly looking for, nor was I interested in, red carpet glamour "babes" (and certainly not the ones who routinely show up in borrowed and predictable strapless, boob pronounced, figure hugging fishtail gowns) because that is artificial and manufactured. If I did include several red carpet habitués, it is only because they consistently stand out from the pack, they break the mold, and they exhibit strong personal style in every other facet of their lives.  

Past Best Dressed Grace Kelly with her Hermes Kelly bag

I also think that looking comfortable (comfortable in one's skin and comfortable literally), is a crucial element. While there's a time and place to wear sky high heels that might be difficult to navigate the streets in, I can't imagine any of these women hobbling along on stilettos while running errands during the day time and quite frankly, women who embrace flats and great looking low heeled footwear, get special kudos from me. I completely agree with Coco Chanel who opined: “Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.”    

Past Best Dressed Jacqueline Kennedy with her iconic Gucci shoulder bag

I have tried to select pictures for each woman that best illustrate why she was chosen. Obviously, I had to rely on existing images that were available to me and in some cases, I used pictures that went back several years (when I deemed them as 'defining'), but I always made sure to include the most up to date pictures as well. And anyway, my list is not "Best Dressed for 2013", but "Best Dressed" period! Great style is great style, but there is no expiration date and, quite frankly, I think it's interesting to record the natural evolution of their looks through the years.  

In random order:

2013 Best Dressed Stylists/Muses/Fashion editors
Vanessa Traina

Vanessa Traina attends Paris Fashion Week Spring Summer 2013
Photo: See Vanessa Traina in Balenciaga

  What sets her apart: Vanessa's chiseled features, angular good looks, and long lanky frame, are in perfect harmony with her rigorously pared down, edgy, minimalistic (if not severe), fashion persona. She dresses almost entirely in black, or in graphic combinations of black & white, and you will almost never see her wearing color or pattern. It's easy to understand why she is not only a sought after stylist, but has been labeled a muse to a new breed of young influential fashion designers like Joseph Altuzarra and Alexander Wang. Even her wedding gown was out of this world, a custom- made creation by Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy.  

Giovanna Battaglia

Giovanna Battaglia in Junya Watanabe black leather biker coat 2012
Photo: See Giovanna Battaglia with Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld

What sets her apart?  This former model and muse to Dolce & Gabbana, was Fashion Editor at L'Uomo Vogue and currently works in New York as a contributing fashion editor at W. She exudes such chic energy and wears clothes (day and evening), with such confidence, that I must admit she is probably at the top of my personal list. She experiments with every proportion, loves color and pattern as much as black and white, and is a WOW. She has such innate elegance, she can pull of even the most daring style, and she always puts her own youthful, glamorous, and modern stamp on the trends du jour (which she loves to stay on top of with a vengeance, arriving at all the top fashion shows in every city, looking as though she stepped off the runway- sometimes literally). But to her credit, she never looks like a hopeless fashion victim, owing to her amazing sense of style. While she can probably get away with almost anything, she is a great editor when it comes to her own wardrobe choices. I've never seen her not look enviably fantastic, regardless of what she was wearing, or what the occasion.   

2013 Best Dressed Creative Director for popular fashion label
Jenna Lyons

Jenna Lyons at the Met Gala 2012
Photo: See Jenna Lyons at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week March 19, 2013
What sets her apart? Not everyone can be 6 feet tall, like Jenna, or claim an annual salary of somewhere around $2 million a year with bonuses (Jenna's take home pay as creative head of J.Crew). But we can easily adapt her uptown/downtown, high/low, boy meets girl, sense of style; one which is based on separates and predicated on playfully and irreverently mixing things up (she has said, "I like a sense of luxury mixed with humility. I'm not a huge fan of all one thing"). And happily, most of us can readily afford J.Crew's clothing and accessories, which have become somewhat of a cult phenomena in the last years with fans including Michelle Obama and her daughters. I count myself in that group as well, and each season, I find a satisfying selection of updated classics and cool basics that go a long way to revving up my closet, with price tags that don't insult my intelligence.  

2013 Best Dressed British Supermodel
Kate Moss

Kate Moss wearing her trademark tuxedo jackets
Photo: See Kate Moss in leopard

What sets her apart? Kate is the definition of hip, modern, cool, and it really does not matter what she is wearing. She can be casually dressed in a tailored blazer or vintage leopard coat, paired with her trademark skinny jeans and ballerina flats (a ubiquitous look that has been attributed to her in the first place). She can be clad in THE perfect tuxedo (her go to wardrobe staple). She can be hitting the festivals in her Hunter Wellies and threadbare denim short shorts (there is not a soul on earth who can look as amazingly chic or divine in mud caked Wellies by the way). She can equally rock a moto jacket or a pale blue dyed mink and tasseled necklace like nobody else. Or, she can slip into something more appropriate for an evening soiree: be it a monotone mini, or a languid jersey movie star perfect gown. The result is always organic, effortless, and natural; "comme il faut" (as it must be).  

2013 Best Dressed Iconic Vogue Magazine Creative Director
Grace Coddington

Grace Coddington at the 2011 CFDA Awards
Photo: See Grace Coddington at Rag & Bone Spring 2011 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

What sets her apart? When you're as talented, highly influential, and iconic, as Grace Coddington, you have nothing more to prove, and you can afford to be, and should be, above the trends (which she is). The former model and Vogue's Creative Director, who has become a reluctant star after the release of "The September Issue" and then went on to pen her memoirs, "Grace: A Memoir", has very strong opinions regarding what women, especially women of a certain age, should and should not wear (she is 72), and she embodies that (she has said that she hates to see older women trying to look too young, and she "loathes the word fashionista"). Her signature look, both day and night, has remained the same through the years and she is wise not to tamper with a formula that works perfectly and suits her so well. Her chic wardrobe, almost entirely in black, offsets her flame red hair brilliantly. It is sometimes enlivened with touches of white (in the form of crisp white shirts or demure peter pan collars), and the flash of red nail polish. Flats (she has given up on wearing heels in the last 6 or so years), her trusty notebook, and her beloved cats, are her favorite accessories. Everything about her visage says, "I'm above it all". And she is.  

2013 Best Dressed Nonagenarian Style Icon
Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel at the 2011 CFDA awards

What sets her apart? What doesn't set her apart? I don't really have to explain, do I????? Okay, well, if I must. What can you say about this inspiring, ageless nonagenarian that has not been already said, and who had an exhibition dedicated to her extensive wardrobe in 2005 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel ( She is always the coolest cat in any room and she always stands out owing to her signature look: close cropped white hair, black framed owl shaped eyeglasses, her bold use of color and pattern, and her magnificent, statement making, and over the top accessories, which personalize even the most simple, classic pieces, which form the basis of her wardrobe.  

2013 Best Dressed Luxury Brand Ambassador and Author
Ines de la Fressange

Ines de la Fressange at Rizzoli May 2013
Photo: See Ines de la Fressange at the Cannes Film Festival May 2011

What sets her apart? This former model, former muse to Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and iconic figure in France, is unapologetically non trendy. With her rangy, naturally tomboyish look, she not only epitomizes "Parisian Chic", but wrote and illustrated the book. She effortlessly accessorizes her classic wardrobe staples (nobody can make a Lacoste polo look as divine) with an enviable and seemingly never ending selection of Roger Vivier shoes and bags and as such, could not be a more fitting ambassador for what is arguably the chicest label on the plant. Nobody looks as good in Roger Vivier as Ines, and it doesn't hurt that at approximately 6 feet tall, there is nobody who looks as good in their distinctive flats, which she favors for both day AND night. She gets bonus points in my opinion, for wearing flats to the fanciest and most high profile galas, as she memorably did when she attended the opening night of the 64th Cannes Film Festival in 2011: that image is forever ingrained in my memory.   

2013 Best Dressed MD
Dr. Lisa Airan

Dr. Lisa Airan wearing Rodarte at the Met's 2011 Costume Institute Gala
Photo: See Dr. Lisa Airan in Marc Jacobs at the Marc Jacobs fall winter 2013 show.

What sets her apart? Dr. Lisa Airan ( is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City who runs a busy dermatology practice that caters to the needs of women and men seeking outstanding skin care services. Best known for her 5 points to good living, Dr. Airan advocates balance through a healthy diet, regular exercise, spirituality, stress reduction, and cosmetic dermatology. She is as passionate and as knowledgeable about fashion, as she is about the health and beauty of her patients' skin. While I happen to think she always looks great during the daytime, it is undoubtedly at night that she really shines (and no, she does not have a stylist and she buys her clothes). Favorite labels are J. Mendel, Rodarte, and Marc Jacobs all of whom she is close friends with. At high profile fashion events such as the Met's Costume Institute Gala, she really does her homework and takes great pains to factor in the theme of the evening when making her selection. Her drop dead gorgeous gowns can best be described as ethereal and dreamlike.

2013 Best Dressed Founder of Eponymous Fashion Book, (whose initials are enough)
Carine Roitfeld

Carine Roitfeld wearing Givenchy
Photo: See Carine Roitfeld in Azzedine Alaia photographed by Bill Cunningham, February 18, 2007

What sets her apart? When you look up "iconic editor in chief of major French fashion magazine", there's a picture of Carine Roitfeld next to it. After departing French Vogue as editor-in-chief, she launched her own bi annual glossy, CR Fashion Book. With her keen eye for cut, fit, and proportion, and her understanding of enduring style as it relates to popular culture, she looks French to the bone, whether she is in the simplest of ensembles, or wearing something highly experimental and on the cutting edge (which is more often than not). Her defining moment (for me anyway), had to be the winter of 2007, when she wore her incredible Azzedine Alaia black patent leather shearling coat ("with a "bold sculptural silhouette suggesting the line of a Degas ballerina") all during New York Fashion Week. It was such an unforgettable fashion moment, Bill Cunningham devoted an entire well deserved 'On the Street' column to her. As he succinctly put it, "she made everyone else look archaic".  

2013 Best Dressed Perennial Spectacle
Michelle Harper

Michelle Harper in Victor de Souza at Casita Maria 2009
Photo: See Michelle Harper at the Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall Winter 2013 Show
What sets her apart? Consistently experimental and unique, her fashion and trans formative beauty statements are not for the faint of heart. Eric Wilson of The New York Times aptly described her as "a perennial spectacle" and that pretty much sums it up (though there are times when she wisely takes it down a notch). I'm not sure anyone else has so much fun dressing up, accessorizing, and getting ready for outings (whether it's attending fashion shows or going to high profile soirees). I can still remember the first time I really took note of her. It was 2009 and she showed up at the Casita Maria Gala wearing a vivid pink Victor de Souza gown with an exaggeratedly tiny waist and voluminous floor length skirt. When she walked into the room, she literally drew audible gasps from other attendees. And talk about DIY (do it yourself), which has been on everyone's minds thanks to "Punk: From Chaos to Couture", (the exhibition focuses on the DIY aspect of the movement). Some of her more memorable looks have involved an aspect of DIY. She is adept at taking pieces from her enviable closet (many of which are designer vintage), re designing them as she sees fit, or as the mood hits her.  

2013 Best Dressed "Art World It Girl"
Shala Monroque

Shala Monroque in Prada and Deflina Delettrez brooch at the Met
Photo: See Shala Monroque wearing Prada in Milan

What sets her apart? She may have not been a household name prior to December 2011, but all that changed for Shala Monroque when Town and Country Magazine put her on their cover (proclaiming her as the "Art World It Girl"), with an attending profile on her inside. The St. Lucia born 34 year old is the girlfriend of art world impresario Larry Gagosian, and a friend of Miuccia Prada, (for whom she functions as a sort of muse and "unofficial" ambassador), so it's hardly surprising that she wears a lot of Prada (and some of the more directional pieces of course), and that her individual and statement making aesthetic and look, is extremely artistic and art inspired. She is joyful and exuberant, loves to experiment, does not shy away from unusual patterns and colors, and exhibits many different fashion sides, all of which she carries off with aplomb. And she accessorizes with authoritative abandon: statement making sunglasses (some of which are sculptural), Hermes and Chanel bags, and her beloved kitten heel shoes are part of her style equation. And who can forget the larger than life Delfina Delettrez bejeweled beetle brooch that she had been wearing on almost everything last year, so much so that it became somewhat of a signature!

2013 Best Dressed Fashion Legend
Lee Radziwell

Lee Radziwill Paris Fashion Week 2011
Photo: See Lee Radziwill in Azzedine Alaia portrait by Mario Sorrenti for T Magazine

What sets her apart? There will never be another Jackie O, but like her iconic sister, Lee has mastered the art of making easy look elegant, AND elegant look easy. The notion of paring down is at the heart of her aesthetic and has served as inspiration for such designers as Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors, who once dedicated an entire collection to "the Lee Radziwill look". This past February, at the age of 79, she graced Deborah Needleman's first redesigned cover of "T": The New York Times Style Magazine, which bore the appropriately stark cover lines: "True Elegance". Lee is undeniably one of the chicest women alive and she manages to look completely of the moment and relevant without looking like she's trying too hard, or trying too hard to look young. Not an easy feat (try that if and when you reach her age!)  

2013 Best Dressed American Television and Movie Actress
Leelee Sobieski

Leelee Sobieski in Dior at Dior Paris Fashion Week Fall Winter 2013
Photo: See Leelee Sobieski at Women Filmmaker Brunch 2012 wearing Balenciaga and Alaia
What sets her apart? This ex-model, actress, and wife of menswear designer Adam Kimmel has the height (5' 10") and lean frame to pull off virtually anything, and I've always thought she has a strong sense of style (minimalist and androgynous). But in the past few years, she has really upped her fashion game with a vengeance, uncannily turning up in THE most important looks from THE most important designers of the moment at just THE right time. Her real strength lies in her ability to select minimal, perfectly tailored, fashion forward pieces with strong silhouettes, that are not only of the moment, but will be classics years from now; AND they all happen to suit her, enabling to tap into her slightly tomboyish side, or look as though she stepped off the runway at a couture show in Paris. Among the standout moments that caught my eye: when she wore THE Christian Dior red coat with fitted waist and full skirt during Paris Fashion Week Fall Winter 2013; THE floor-length white shirt dress by Raf Simons for Jil Sander, which is not exactly the easiest thing to pull off, and which she chose for the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012; the Azzedine Alaia flouncy black skirt paired with an Adam Kimmel white shirt and Prada's boyish brogues, which she wore to a luncheon during the Tribeca Film Festival this past year.  

2013 Best Dressed Haute Couture Designer and Client
Ulyana Sergeenko

Ulyana Sergeenko Paris Fashion Week Fall Winter 2013
Photo: See Ulyana Sergeenko at Haute Couture Fashion Week 2013 Paris

What sets her apart? Not too many fashion obsessed women (with a penchant for haute couture) can boast a billionaire hubby who not only supports their 'habit', but finances their business, as - what else - an haute couture fashion designer (Ulyana's first collection, shown in Paris, was for Fall/Winter 2011, ). The beautiful and statuesque 32-years old Russian couture shopper turned fashion designer has a strong signature style that is ultra feminine: a mix of 1950's and 19th century. She is known for her over the top, highly theatrical, and dramatic ensembles that make her look as though she just stepped off the runway (and sometimes that is literally the case). She almost always adds something typical for Russia to every outfit - such as colourful patterns, long or full skirts, flowers or a head scarf, and she makes no apologies for her love of native dress. Her own fashion persona and her label's signature, are one in the same, and often times, more than a tad costumey (needless to say, the best looks downplay that side). Regardless, she sure knows how to make a grand entrance, and her fashion exuberance is almost unmatched: she always delights and surprises and you never know what you will see next. It's hardly surprising that she is a favorite of the street style bloggers and photographers.

2013 Best Dressed Petite Russian Fashion Icon
Miroslava Duma

Miroslava Duma in Valentino trench during Paris Fashion Week March 2013
Photo: Miroslava Duma attends Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall 2013
 What sets her apart? I think it's obvious to say, that having great stature is a bonus for someone who wants to wear great fashion. But that is not always a pre-requisite and it hasn't thwarted Miroslava Duma. Born in Surgut, raised in Moscow, the former Editor of Harper’s Bazaar Russia and founder of Buro24/7, may stand at only 5 feet tall, but you would never know it. She has a larger than life fashion persona and can (and does) literally pull anything, and any proportion, off. She adds an almost unmatched sense of whimsy and playfulness to her fashion choices (which seem to be endless), and you never know what to expect. I love that she can be downright classic and elegant one moment; zany and completely over the top the next, and it always looks completely natural.  

2013 Best Dressed Global Humanitarian/Academy Award Winner
Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie at the Golden Globes in 2012
Photo: See Angelina Jolie with children New York October 2012
What sets her apart? Easily one of the most visible and most photographed women in the world, Angelina is an Academy Award winning actress, busy 'wife' (though she is not legally married yet) and mom (she and Brad have 6 children between them: 3 are adapted). She spends much of her time on humanitarian efforts, and has recently made a much publicized and bold decision regarding her own health. Fashion is hardly her number one priority, and yet she never fails to look amazing (and amazingly appropriate), regardless of whether she is out and about with her family, having a quiet romantic dinner with Brad, traveling the globe on one of her humanitarian jaunts, or turning heads on the red carpet. Of course, I don't have to point out that she is so drop dead gorgeous, she can wear that proverbial paper bag, and still stand out. She wisely favors clean, unfussy lines, eschews prints, and normally dresses in neutral monotone shades (black, black, and more black). She is minimalistic day and night, but during the daytime, it's pretty much about paring it down, and the combination of form and function. At night, particularly when she is on the red carpet, you will often see her in bold shapes and/or bold color.  

2013 Best Dressed White Shirt Advocate
Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera in uniform
Photo: See Carolina Herrera photographed by Arthur Elgort December 2012

What sets her apart? It's almost impossible to NOT look good-and ageless- in a crisp white shirt, and fashion designer Carolina Herrera, (74 years old) who has already been inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame, knows this better than anyone. They have become part of her uniform and her trusty "security blanket" for both day and evening, not to mention when she takes her bow after a fashion show. Her signature, non-fussy look, is comprised of a skirt (knee length or floor length, either narrow or full), mannish trousers, and a tailored shirt, always accessorized with one of her many pairs of Manolo Blahniks. It is so finely honed, that she claims it takes her only 10 minutes to get ready for even the grandest occasion. Now, that's what I call elegant, chic, and modern, and totally ageless!  

2013 Best Dressed ABC News Anchors: Diane Sawyer,  Baderinwa &  Liz Cho
Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer at Time 100 Most Influential People of the Year Gala
Photo: See Diane Sawyer's TV studio press shot
What sets her apart? Okay, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but there ARE a few who distinguish themselves, and consistently stand out from the pack of stiff, ill fitting, poorly tailored blazers; overly fussy prints; and other just plainly misguided sartorial staples that are the usual fare. They are so chic and beautiful, they would not look out of place sitting front row center at a major fashion show, and coincidentally, they are all affiliated with ABC News: Liz Cho, Sade Baderinwa and Diane Sawyer, who is "numero uno" in that group. She is a class act: intelligent, beautiful, and poised. She knows her body, factors in her age (65!), she understands her role, and she manages to look the part AND flawlessly fabulous, whether she is in the studio, on assignment, on the red carpet, or just out and about with hubby Mike Nichols.

It doesn't hurt that she is very tall and has fabulous gams, which she maximizes in knee length pencil skirts and high heeled pumps. She is a classic American beauty who eschews anything fussy, favoring solid colors (black, navy, camel, red, and white with unexpected touches of yellow, red, blue). Crisp white shirts, sleek black turtlenecks, fitted long sleeved t's, beautifully tailored jackets, and chic trench coats, are her uniform by day; distinctive separates and movie star worthy, dramatic, often asymmetrically draped black jersey gowns are standard fare by night.The only prints or patterns I've seen her wear are graphic color blocks (in the form of a top worn beneath a strong shouldered jacket), and classic stripes (nobody looks as good on air, wearing a Breton striped top with a beautifully tailored navy blazer; or a black and white striped skirt offset with a simple, fitted black top for that matter).

2013 Sade Baderinwa

Sade Baderinwa at the 2011 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Opening Night
Photo: See more Sade Baderinwa

The co-anchor of Eyewitness News at 5:00PM is blessed with the perfect features and enviable cheekbones, to pull off her ultra short hair. She looks as good in impeccably tailored jackets worn with crisp shirts, as she does in the sleeveless dresses that have become a signature. Like Ms. Cho, she is extremely stylish, but is not a fashion victim and chooses wisely. She also favors minimalistic, clean lines, and solid colors. FYI: both Ms. Cho and Ms. Baderinwa have fabulously well toned arms and sleek figures, and unlike many others in their position, who would be better off covering up, they both look perfect in the sleeveless dresses that have become somewhat of a signature, almost year round. The network seems to want to capitalize on their talent and their obvious attractiveness, as both are often shown standing up, not just sitting behind a desk.

 Liz Cho

Liz Cho attends Argo premier, October 2012
Photo: See Liz Cho in red dress posing at her TV studio

What sets her apart? The co-anchor of WABC's Eyewitness news at 6pm and 11pm was recognized as one of People Magazine's 50 most beautiful in 2003. Her trademark long straight dark hair is parted in the middle, and her signature accessories are the oversized silver hoops she always wears. More often than not, the 5'9" beauty is the epitome of minimal feminine sophistication favoring fitted sheaths or dresses with defined waists and full skirts that hit at the knee. While she normally opts for solid colors (black is a go to favorite), she does experiment with color and has fun with prints from time to time.

2013 Best Dressed American screenwriter, director, producer, and actress
Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola in Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton July 2012
Photos: See Sofia Coppola in Marc Jacobs at the Fall Winter 2013 Fashion Show
What sets her apart? The daughter of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, she received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation in 2003. She is the epitome of effortless chic. She is never trendy and never looks as though she is trying too hard, and her well edited choices, day and night exemplify this. More often than not, you will find her wearing something by Marc Jacobs (she is his BFF and muse), and the result is natural, organic, and perfect.

(Photo credits:,, Getty Images, Arthur Elgort, Horst, Bill Cunningham, Harpers Bazaar, & Garance Dore)

-Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, July 12, 2013

Better Bets: "Fete Paradiso" on Governors Island

The Bumper Car Pavilion
All photos Isabelle Erb
(Click on images for full size views)

This summer, take a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan and you will find yourself immersed in French culture of a bygone era.  Beginning this weekend, and every weekend through September 29th, Nolan Park on Governors Island will be transformed into Fete Paradiso, a classic Parisian street festival featuring vintage carnival rides and attractions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The Pipe Organ

Opening just in time for Bastille Day weekend, the festival includes rare carnival artifacts, previously never seen before in the United States, from the collections of Frances Staub and Regis Masclet.  Mr. Staub originally considered creating a museum to display his treasured collection, but decided that a collection of this kind could not be truly appreciated in that type of venue.   After he met Mr. Masclet, another avid collector, the two men conceived the idea of a travelling festival that would allow the public to interact with the rides and attractions.  According to Mr. Masclet,  “Each carousel represents the technical innovations of a specific era,” so that visitors experience a “technical evolution” from 1850 to 1960.

The Bicycle Carousel

One of the classic rides dates back to 1897 and was previously installed near the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  The purpose of the carousel, one of only two of its kind in the world, was to familiarize the public at large with the bicycle.  At that time, bicycles were a new mode of transportation, primarily used only by the wealthy, who could afford riding lessons.  Like all carousels in France, the bicycle carousel runs counter clockwise. Other attractions at the festival include an automated pipe organ made in 1910 by the Limonaire brothers in Paris and the Great Horse Carousel, which was constructed in 1850, making it the oldest ride on display.  A wooden bumper car pavilion from 1900 serves as a beer garden and event space, serving food by New York’s popular French bistro, Le Gamin.

Fete Paradiso opens Saturday, July 13, and will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 AM until 6:30 PM.  Admission is free and rides and games cost $3.00 each.  To celebrate the opening night of the festival, a Parisian Ball, presented by Babel New York, will be held on July 13th, beginning at 4PM.  For tickets, visit

More Better Bets columns: Father's Day Gift Suggestions

- Rhonda Erb

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Conversation with Rose Marie Bravo & Fabrizio Freda

Rose Marie Bravo & Fabrizio Feda at the 21 Club
Photo credit: E. Bruce Borner

Fashion Group International ( held  "The Tastemakers" Breakfast & Conversation yesterday morning. The sold out event featured a sit down breakfast at the iconic 21 Club, followed by a conversation with Rose Marie Bravo, CBE Retail Brand Consultant, and Fabrizio Freda, CEO Estee Lauder Companies. Following the delicious breakfast, FGI President Margaret Hayes introduced the dynamic pair (both are legends within business circles for sure), and recited their impressive resumes (not that we needed to be reminded of course).  Rose Marie Bravo is the former CEO and Vice Chairman of Burberry Group Plc. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Tiffany & Co., Estée Lauder Cos. and Williams-Sonoma, which she joined in 2011.

Bravo blazed a trail in the retail industry during the 1980s and 1990s. She held a number of positions at R.H. Macy & Co., culminating as Chairman and CEO of subsidiary I. Magnin from 1987 to 1992. Her success there helped her land the job as President of luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue with responsibility for merchandising, marketing and product development. Then in 1997 she became CEO of Burberry, where she oversaw a bold reform of the British classic brand, expanding the line of products and boosting sales and profits in the process.

 Mr. Fabrizio Freda has been the Chief Executive Officer of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., since July 1, 2009 and its President since March 2008. Mr. Freda served as the Chief Operating Officer at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. from March 2008 to July 1, 2009. Mr. Freda served as the President of Global Snacks at Procter & Gamble Company from 2001 to February 2008.

 While I have met Ms. Bravo in the past (and in fact, she was the subject of one of our Masters of Fashion Interviews, conducted by Grace Mirabella), I have never had the pleasure or meeting Mr. Freda, who showed himself to be wise, witty, and humble (and, THE perfect boss, I might add) during the informative and entertaining several hours.

These are the highlights:

Ms. Bravo (RMB): What were the challenges when you first started?"
Fabrizio Freda (FF): "I didn't expect to find the strength that I did. In 2008 it looked like the world was collapsing. There's nothing like a big crisis to make you re-think business".

RMB: "How did you get everyone integrated and working together"?

FF: "Learning to share knowledge was THE challenge. As well as creating a team of people, creating a new strategy, and one common vision. We are collaborative; a company of very distinctive brands"

 RMB: "How do you keep the vision fresh?"

FF: "The vision is THE single most important thing in any company. It's all about how you form a vision today. You have to know where you want to go and what to do to get there. It's all about the compass: the next 10 years. What the picture of the future will look like 10 years from now. Reverse engineering is what we have to do. It's all about determining the future and then reverse. Reverse engineering makes it happen".

 Ms. Bravo noted that they both share an Italian heritage, where family is key. She started talking about the idea of family values and how important that element is in business.

FF: "Yes, my Italian experience teaches you to lead, and it has helped in making things happen. Italy is very challenging. You know the song "New York, New York" and the line, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere"? Well, I think, "If you can make it in Napoli, you can make it anywhere" (this got a lot of laughs and having traveled to Naples, where Mr. Freda was born, I understand exactly what he means).
Ms. Bravo spoke of the famed Lauder Family, and their "amazing values".

FF: "Yes, I value that the Lauder Family is a blue-chip family. They are passionate and have an obsession with quality".

"Leonard (Lauder) always reminds us: "My name is on the door" (this got laughs as well).

"Family companies are investing in the future and are much more for the long term. There's an obsession for the long term''.

 Then Ms. Bravo, who is a board member of Estee Lauder, recalls her first encounter with Mr. Freda at a board meeting that was held at Vassar College. They shared memories and laughs about the cozy, coed dorm - like living situation.
FF: "Meeting the board members in shorts is a challenging moment" he joked. "Can you imagine that the first time meeting my board members, it  was early in the morning and I was wearing shorts?"

 He recalled seeing Vassar's motto which was emblazoned in front of the school, "Semper Novis" which means, "always new" and related how that held a lot of symbolism for his company. "It's something that must always be kept in the minds of those who work in a company. But the wisdom and challenge for the leader of a company, is to have the wisdom to decide what to change and what to accept, and that is a key point for management."

Ms. Bravo recalled that challenge when she first took over as CEO of Burberry, quickly turning the iconic British company into a global fashion mega brand. "At Burberry, I was labeled a workaholic. How do you balance your life and encourage balance in the workplace?"

FF: "The key secret? Take care of your health, get good nutrition, and manage your energy".

"At some point, we have to take a break from work and take care of our selves". "Take your time, organize your day, and take your holidays. I separate work time from family and holiday time".

RB: "What about the importance of (ethnic and gender) diversity"?

FF: "Diversity is the strength. It's important to create teams that collaborate and to leverage strength. We work together and collaborate to create winning teams so we can win. Building on strength is important".

RMB: "How do you manage creative talent, and how does that lead to innovation?"

FF:  "Creativity is the sparkle of everything. Creativity is in everything and it is the key. We need to put creativity in the center of everything we do. Inspiring creativity is THE most important thing".

You need to identify and to know the biggest opportunities, and focus your attention on that. You have to create something the consumer doesn't know they want, but subsequently, cannot live without."

 RMB: "A good merchant went with their guts in the old days. I didn't have a vision for Burberry until I got there. How important is branding and luxury?"

FF: "The world of luxury and branding is key. Image building at the top is key. We are selling experiences and entertainment, and not just a product".

RMB: "What is a great leader?"

FF: "To be a great leader is all about having a vision. Leonard Lauder once said, "If you cannot see your future, you will never get here and you will never lead".

""If you don't see it, invent it. That's the definition of a good leader. And you have to inspire the others to get there. The leaders today have to set the vision and serve the organization and inspire leadership."."

RMB: "It's not lost on me that the new tagline at Estee Lauder is 'Be an inspiration' ".

"What is the future of beauty? The world has changed!"

FF: "Beauty is the MOST exciting market of the future. Women are becoming wealthier and have more money to spend. Their three important things are food, fashion, and beauty."

RMB: "What is the best advice you ever got?"

FF: "The best advise I ever got from William (Lauder): Don't give me any solutions right away. Just listen, understand, and then create."

RMB: "My biggest failure in business is that I couldn't turn around I.Magnin, which I knew had so much potential, no what matter what I did. I learned a lot from that experience."

FF: "I always tell my people, "You have the right to fail". But I always say, "Fail fast and fail cheap!" (this got a lot of laughs)

At the end, members of the audience were invited to ask questions and someone inquired: "What are your goals for Estee Lauder?"
FF: "To keep it a high growth company. We are and want to continue to be the fastest growing company focused on prestige cosmetics".

1 - "We want to bring prestige super high quality products; 2 - offer aspirational brands, and 3 - provide high tech services".

When a man observed that Proctor & Gamble (Mr. Freda's former company) has not been doing that well in the past few years , Mr. Freda quipped: "that's because I'm not there anymore".
-Marilyn Kirschner