Monday, September 30, 2013

"Masters of Fashion" Interview: Eddie Mullon of Fashion GPS


Eddie Mullon CEO of Fashion GPS
(Click images for larger views)

At the age of eight, FASHION GPS founder, Eddie Mullon, found himself “extracted” from his native country, Malawi, Africa, and thrust into Sussex, England, in the 1980’s.   He spoke very little English and until that point in his life, he had spent most of his days, “barefoot and happy” in the Malawian countryside.  For a young boy who had never even seen an elevator before, it was a shock, to say the least, to be immersed in the British culture of the day, complete with Mods, Punks, and Skinheads. 

As a child, Eddie had always possessed an innate curiosity and was extremely interested in the technological devices he discovered in his new homeland.  He found himself fascinated with television and once even unscrewed the back of the TV set (with it still plugged in) and actually put his hands into the television “to see where all the pictures were coming from.”  He was determined to see how it worked and try to understand the electronics of it.  The resulting electrical shock was forceful enough to throw him across the room, with his hair standing on end and his forearms blackened with soot, yet not enough to dim his inquisitiveness about technology. 

Mullon considers himself a born entrepreneur.  At the age of 18 he started his first company, designing screen savers for early PC’s that ran DOS (Disk Operating System).  He went on to create PCB boards and learned CAD (computer aided design) and Auto CAD software, which he used in the development of 3D models.  Intermittently he did a variety of odd jobs on the side, everything from working at McDonald’s to driving an Ice Cream Truck. A number of entrepreneurial forays eventually led him to New York and a chance meeting at the fashion public relations firm, KCD.  As “Dr. Ed”, the computer Doctor, Mullon had widely distributed fliers describing his computer repair services.  A publicist at KCD had picked up a flyer and called him in to repair a computer, and thus began an ongoing relationship that would eventually lead to the development, in 2001, of a legacy computer system to manage inventory for the public relations firm. 

Fast forward to 2006.  By this time, Mullon had developed a web enabled sample inventory business (the first of it’s kind using cloud software), and thus, Fashion GPS was officially established, as it exists today.  The new business offered a modern and efficient way to manage an integral part of the fashion industry, but getting companies to adopt the new technology was not easy. Mullon self funded his company in its early days and had to work hard to sell this new product to some of his earliest clients, among them were Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan. As Mullon’s business grew, so did his understanding of the workings of the fashion industry and public relations firms.  He became curious about how other aspects of the business could be run more efficiently.  For example, why were printed look books used instead of virtual ones and why did fashion shows and events utilize long tables with even longer lists, rather than managing them digitally?



After years of trial and error to develop a technological system to manage the registration and attendance at New York Fashion Week, Fashion GPS partnered with IMG, the producer of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, in 2010. Just as the shows were making their move from Bryant Park, the new computerized system was ready to make its debut at Lincoln Center.  For those in attendance that first day at the new location, the Fashion GPS system seemed to run seamlessly from the start, but, according to Mullon, the reality was somewhat different: “ I remember that first day, it was so nerve wracking, because I could see the crowd coming in, and they’re waiting and the doors are just about to open, and I‘ve got my developer who’s still writing code… and what’s amazing with the way it happened is, we executed everything and it was like when you’re watching a movie and it is right at the edge. It was like, down to the minute and the final ten seconds we pressed a button and everything came up.”  He actually remembers tearing his shirt while making technical adjustments under a desk, in those last few minutes before the doors opened.




 Mullon describes the Fashion GPS system at Fashion Week as a complex series of communications, in real time, between their database and those of all of the pr firms involved, so that when an attendee takes a final scan of their barcode to print a ticket, the system is doing a lot of calculations in the background. Alison Levy, Director of Global Strategy & Partnerships, for Fashion GPS, describes the system as “probably the best example of the Fashion Industry working together.” At this point, the vast majority of New York designers and pr firms have come on board with Fashion GPS, allowing them to turn their attention to further simplifying the workings of the fashion industry for all those involved.  Mullon’s company now consists of four offices: London, Paris and Sydney, in addition to New York.  An office in Milan is planned for 2014. There are four divisions: GPS Samples, GPS EVENTS, GPS RADAR, and GPS STYLES, which recently launched in a new form, STYLES 2.0, integrating it into GPS RADAR.  This latest innovation, will allow editors, buyers, etc., to request images and samples directly through their GPS RADAR accounts.
 
 
As Fashion GPS has expanded abroad, Mullon has learned to tailor his services to the needs of each individual market. “It’s culture”, says Mullon, “and I feel like for myself I’ve lived three cultures and it’s important how you communicate.” In Milan and Paris, where they are reluctant to give up their hard copy invitations, Fashion GPS has been able to imbed RFID chips into the invitations, so there is no scanning of barcodes involved. “The great thing about that”, according to Mullon, “is in Europe, they like their invitations, in a way we’ve adapted the technology in the background, so it still has that elegance.” Levy adds that “It allows the heritage brands to still convey the brand message that they want to send, it’s a good example of how technology can make life easier but it doesn’t have to change the way you manage your brand.”

 So what is next for Eddie Mullon and Fashion GPS?  Mullon confesses, “When I started in the fashion industry, I didn’t know what a show was, but I’ve learned a lot…and now I love the shows, I love everything about it… but it has given me a perspective that it’s not just about the shows. It goes further down, you’ve got all these complex systems you have to maneuver.  You’ve got your contact list, then you have to do a show, you have to do a press day, it just keeps going on.  What we want to do is provide the brand with the administrative tools so that they can really focus on being creative” Mullon also feels that he can use what Fashion GPS has “built” to create bridges into other industries such as art and entertainment (The MOMA and the Guggenheim already use his system for events), once again, learning the business as he goes along.  “Once you understand the process and you start putting the pieces together, that’s the great thing about this industry.” says Mullon.  As he speaks, one detects that innate curiosity that still drives him to this day.

- Rhonda Erb

("Masters of Fashion" profiles are an ongoing series of interviews with some of the most influential people in the New York fashion industry. Past interviews include Iris Apfel, Rose Marie Bravo, Bill Cunningham, Ruth Finley, Elsa Klensch, Grace Mirabella, Arthur Elgort, Bill Marpett, Paul Cavaco, and Charles Froom.)

 Fashion GPS is a major sponsor of Lookonline.com




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala


"The Russians Bring Down the House"

Designer Giovanna Randall in her own design "Honor" & Julie Macklowe in "Honor"
  and Lucia Hwong Gordon in Dennis Basso
(All photos Lieba Nesis - click images for larger versions)


The Metropolitan Opera's opening night gala is the most anticipated society event of the year and this year's performance of Onegin more than surpassed the expectations; there was drama, excitement and beauty on this enchanting night - although, perhaps too much drama. I rarely go to a cultural event at Lincoln Center with protesters outside, but this evening there were activists from Queer Nation NY objecting to the Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, and the Russian soprano, Anna Netrebko, for their continued support of Vladimir Putin despite his antigay legislation. Before the curtain went up, members of Queer Nation NY chanted angrily delaying the performance and eventually being hauled out by security - thank God this is not Russia or they might have been imprisoned. Nevertheless, the opera resumed and a great time was enjoyed by all.


Heather Graham in Naeem Khan

There was such a diverse crowd I nearly gasped when I saw the famous Obama impersonator waiting on line for drinks. There were people from the entertainment industry; Diane Kruger, Brooke Shields, Heather Graham, Jennifer Esposito, Dana Delany, Jill Hennessy, Beth Stern and Mischa Barton; a nice representation from the sports world including Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill; a flurry of designers such as Oliver Theyskens from Theory, Giancarlo Giammetti from Valentino, Prabal Gurung and Rachel Roy; and every socialite from New York to Greenwich wearing their best and brightest dresses with diamonds omnipresent. Furthermore, the top publicity agents - the king Andrew Saffir from Cinema Society, Peggy Siegal and Couri Hay were present with stylists, models and billionaires sprinkled throughout; this was an amalgam of the elite of the United States along with many in the audience who flew in from Russia and Europe to attend this extravaganza.


Diane Kruger in Prabal Gurung dress with Prabal Gurung

The opera sets were beautiful - subtle yet dazzling with great detail paid to the relevancy of the attire. The opening peasant costumes were light and ethereal with the more intricate gowns and dresses appearing later in the opera when the drama unfolds. Oliver Theyskens from Theory said, "I love the costumes because they are so clearly inspired by the nineteenth century, which is the historical era the opera took place in-it is a pleasure to see." Fresh from his recent collaboration with Prabal Gurung on Sarah Jessica Parker's ballet gala dress he was enthused by the praise he received for the design of Parker's skirt with cadet detailing and painstaking custom work. Prabal Gurung was joined by Diane Kruger, a stylesetter, who wore a red, white and black paneled Gurung dress, which was understated and plain in the sea of sequins and ruffles but gave her a sophisticated high fashion edge.

 
Amare Stoudemire & Alexis Welch in custom Giambattista Valli

Heather Graham was resplendent in a Naeem Khan gown with green beading against a sheer underlay, while Mischa Barton played it cool in a plain Valentina Kova dress with no makeup or jewelry allowing the beauty of her face to be her main accoutrement. Carson Kressley, the television personality and stylist said, " [he] loves the fashion at this event because it is old school classic with a great mix of fabulous modern fashionistas. This and the Met Gala are the two biggest society events of the year."


Dana Delany in Prada & Jill Hennessy in Cynthia Rowley

There were so many different trends in the house it was overwhelming; there were beads and furs, pastels and neons, gowns and minis, black and sheer, flats and heels, ruffles and pleats but it all worked beautifully together creating a richness of environment and feast of colors. Plaudits to Alexis Welch and Tamia Hill, wives of NBA stars Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill, for appearing in custom couture Giambattista Valli and Zuhair Murad, they looked like fashion veterans and comported themselves with elegance and grace.


The Crowd

The conclusion of the opera, four and a half hours later, was greeted with ovations and cheers. Netrebko and Gergiev, had captivated a very busy crowd for a very long time with hundreds of the less fortunate watching the performance on large outside screens. The magic of this night is hard to commit to paper as so much of its allure lies in the setting of the opera house coupled with the vast crowds and resplendent costumes. Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, has done an amazing job in reinvigorating this cultural institution, including selling more than ten million tickets since the start of his tenure in 2006. The choice he made in allowing the opera to proceed without disruption was commendable and necessary; the unadulterated nature of the opera makes it one of the few enjoyments in our tumultuous society that is worthy of preservation.




-Lieba Nesis




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner


Stride "Right"

Spring 2014 Carolina Herrera easy striding in flats
(click on images for larger views)

I think many women simply refuse to believe that being fashionable is not somehow inextricably related to heel height (the higher the heel, the more fashionable?) By the same token, they think that flat, moderate, or low heeled shoes AND having great style, is mutually exclusive. They mistakenly believe that being in pain is part of the equation, and that they have to suffer for beauty (and fashion). They don't appreciate how injurious (to one's feet, posture, etc.) it is to wear shoes with precariously high heels on a daily basis  -- which is why high heel devotee, actress, and mom Sarah Jessica Parker recently gave up wearing them constantly, and is now seen around town in flats.

 Fall 2013 Dolce & Gabbana velvet ankle strap
with low heel

During Fashion Week, I witnessed a veritable parade of women (including well known social and fashion fixtures) wearing shoes that not only looked uncomfortable, they were literally unable to walk in them. Hunched over, they teetered precariously, and many holding on to their companions so as not to fall down. That is just so unnecessary, so modern, and so 'objectifying' (they look as though they are in bondage, which falls into that time old male fantasy). Yes, high high heels are sexier (in an obvious way), they make you taller, they might be more ideal for certain proportions and lengths, and for certain occasions. But they are not a pre requisite; there are options, and thankfully more and more influential designers are proposing and offering great alternatives. And not just for daytime, which is more predictable, but for evening.

Spring 2014 Calvin Klein closeup of black & white
woven brushed calf moulded sandal

The avante garde Japanese designers (Junya Watanabe, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, etc.) never or almost never show high heels, and usually accessorize with "sensible", comfortable, athletic, grounded footwear. The duo at Dolce & Gabbana has long been enamored with elegant, pointy toed kitten heeled shoes, and ditto for the team behind Valentino. Marc Jacobs' graphic black & white block heeled pointy toed pumps and sling backs, (for his eponymous line and for Louis Vuitton, spring 2013) were eye catching, distinctive, and statement making. For fall 2013, Alber Elbaz showed black men's' style oxford lace up flats with his short one and two piece evening dresses. More recently, for spring 2014, Narciso Rodriguez and Carolina Herrera both showed pancake flats (Carolina also used an espadrille like canvas and rope soled wedge). Marc Jacobs showed nothing but flats throughout (sandals, athletic type slip-ons, and boots). From the look of things, there has been a trend for footwear to get a bit heavier with platforms and sturdier heels almost ubiquitous on runways, (such as Calvin Klein). They may not be low heeled, but the platform and heel make them far easier to walk in than spindly stilettos.

Spring 2014 Narciso Rodriguez

The best quote I read about flats vs. high heels, is courtesy Ines de la Fressange from her book, "Parisien Chic". Yeah, I know she is not only drop dead gorgeous, she is at least 6 feet tall, so she is always taller than almost everyone and can easily make a case for just wearing flats day and night. Regardless, she is one of the all time chicest gals around and wisely dispensed with these words of wisdom: "Many women think they look better in heels but this is quite wrong. Just ask any man. No man would ever say "I'd love you more if you were four inches taller!" Nothing looks worse than a girl tottering about on unmanageable heels! The key to sex appeal is a feline walk, not a precarious wobble."

I could not agree more. The women who look the absolute chicest running around the city, are those wearing shoes comfortable enough to allow them to gracefully and effortlessly stride down the streets and sidewalks of New York (gee, what a novel idea LOL). For mobility, efficiency, comfort, and ease of movement, a more moderate, lower heel or a flat, is the way to go. I actually think many women don't realize that they have become slaves to their high heels, and their lives are impacted by this habit. They basically can never walk and always need a cab, a chauffeur and limo or town car, to transport them from place to place.

Tieks Assortment

This past Tuesday evening, I was sitting near Stan Herman and Fern Mallis at the Thom Browne show, and the topic of MBFW and Lincoln Center as a location, came up (it was THE topic of the week it seems). I asked her what she thought other good options would be, going forward, and she mentioned the Chelsea Piers. When I noted they were deemed unpopular, she shot back that it was actually a great space with a lot going for it. The reason so many women bellyached about it, she thought, was that they had a hard time navigating on their high heels. Earlier that day, as I have already mentioned, I bumped into Michael Gross at the Tents, after the Vera Wang show, and he noted the sourpuss unsmiling faces on so many fashion people. I was subsequently on Facebook, and saw an advertisement for Tieks, http://www.tieks.com,  billed as the "Most versatile designer flats in the world. Made of the finest Italian leathers and designed to fold and fit in a purse. Wearable all day, every day." Ranging in price from about $175 - $295, they come in a wide variety of appealing colors and materials, and there was a picture of a happy looking model kicking back with her feet up wearing a pair.


Kushyfoot Flats to Go Assortment

A light bulb went off over my head. Aha! Maybe the reason so many show goers look miserable is that they are in constant pain owing to their uncomfortable shoes! I would be miserable if I was in uncomfortable shoes all day long, and I know firsthand how foot pain and uncomfortable footwear can alter one's mood. The first day of shows, I stubbed my toe on the steps going up to the Tents, and was in immediate pain, with swelling to my foot. I was only able to wear certain pairs of shoes during much of the week, and what saved my life were my foldable, packable Kushyfoot ballerinas (http://www.kushyfoots.com/), which I always stowe away in my bag just in case. (Their only drawback is that they don't offer much support for really extended walking). They are available online and at Duane Reade, and are available in a leopard print, black 'patent', gold and silver metallic, black and white snakeskin and zebra, and are only $9.99.

CitySlips black contrast toe ballerinas

Along those same lines, but a step up is CitySlips (http://www.cityslips.com/) which offers a good looking, fold able ballet flat in an expandable carrying case at $33.95. They are available in a leopard print, gold leather, silver leather, and ivory leather with black cap toe. And I'm a huge fan of Yosi Samra (http://www.yosisamra.com/) and their portable, fold-up style Samara Ballet Flat that started it all. Available in more colors and textures than one could imagine -- including always chic white with a black cap toe, they range in price from about $66 - $79.

The bottom line is, these portable styles are great, and handy, especially for a quick change; when you can't bear one more moment in your high heels. But as I have already pointed out, the comfy flat shoes I saw many women changing into, were often times better looking than what they were changing out of, and hopefully, more women will get the picture, that they can just simply opt for shoes that are great looking, AND comfortable at the same time. And save a lot of discomfort.




- Marilyn Kirschner


 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Better Bets: Special Feature Report


Lounging Around At New York Fashion Week

These were the places to unwind, relax and recharge during the week that was:

Samsung Galaxy Blue Room

Janelle Monae
(Click on images for larger views)

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week returning sponsor, Samsung Mobile, once again established their Samsung Galaxy Lounge in the center of the lobby at MBFW, where members of the press could work and enjoy refreshments.  In addition, this season Samsung also created The Samsung Galaxy Blue Room, a backstage area for designers, models and other VIPs to relax and prepare for shows.  Singer Janelle Monae stopped by after her performance at Rebecca Minkoff’s fashion show.


The Colgate Optic White Beauty Bar

Kelly Rutherford & Mom

New York’s Salon Ziba was the location for Colgate Optic White’s beauty oasis where guests could have their hair, make-up and nails done while enjoying treats and samples from Tim Horton’s Café & Bake Shop, 16 Handles, Gardein, Bantam Bagels, Satya Jewelry, and Skinnygirl Daily.  Celebrity sightings included Kristin Cavallari, Nina Garcia, Alysia Reiner, and Kelly Rutherford, who visited the Beauty Bar with her mom. 


HSN Fashion Week Fall Fashion Lounge

Giuliana Rancic

At the Empire Hotel, HSN’s first Fashion Week lounge featured hair and make-up touch ups by Blowpro and Trish McEvoy.  There was also an opportunity for a close up look at the HSN fall collections by Hal Rubenstein, Dee Hilfiger, David Meister, Iris Apfel, and Giuliana Rancic, to name a few.  E Television’s Rancic even came by to try on some pieces from her line, G by Giuliana Rancic.


Zappos Recharge Experience

Photo: Isabelle Erb

Everyone’s favorite on-line shoe retailer took to the streets of New York on two sunny afternoons during Fashion Week, offering passersby BluePrint Juices, massages, charging stations, and giveaways of clothing, handbags, and more.  Designer Betsey Johnson stopped by to take photos and mingle with her fans and Man Repeller blogger, Leandra Medine, conducted a live Tweet chat on site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZt-i9ZLdeo&feature=youtu.be

 
Birchbox Local

Photo: Isabelle Erb

In the Meat Packing District, just across the street from the Milk Studios fashion show venue, the Birchbox Local Suite was a one-stop shop for weary fashionistas.  Guests enjoyed beauty treatments, free wifi, make-your-own candy bags, and, of course, samples galore.  Besides making their own complimentary Birchbox from an array of samples, attendees could also purchase full sizes of many of the products featured.  Beginning on the last day of Fashion Week, Birchbox Local began a four-day run (September 12th-16th) as a pop-up shop, open to the public.

-Rhonda Erb


11edetthkkk.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New York Fashion Week Notes: Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein & Marc Jacobs


FI-NAL-LY!

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week finally came to a close yesterday, and what a great close it was. Three iconic American designers presented their collections. Each was completely different and they were thankfully all (way) off site and away from the (really) maddening crowds.


Spring 2014 Ralph Lauren black white cady volute plaid coat
black double faced wool pant

Ralph Lauren held three back-to-back shows at the St. Johns Center Studios at 560 Washington Street. He always goes his own way and marches to his own beat, and these days, he's apparently feeling Mod. If it didn't necessarily advance the cause of fashion, the collection, with its school girl undertones (black knee highs, crisp white collars and cuffs, and 'schoolbags'), abbreviated lengths (minis and shorts), and gleaming patent accessories in black and white, was fresh, clean lined, pretty straight forward, and quite youthful. Though maybe too youthful at times, and let's just say that some of it would be better left to the young. (I also had to wonder if the skirt lengths would moderate a bit when they hit the selling floor).

There were two color stories. The first 25 outfits (out of 52), were all in combinations of black & white, with patterns (tattersalls, cricket stripes, a greek key pattern, a plaid, and a mod floral) often mixed. A black white tattersall three piece suit, and a black white cady volute plaid coat worn with a black white cotton tattersall shirt and mod floral tie floral had a Carnaby Street feeling. There was wool crepe, knit jersey, cotton canvas, leather, and patent. It was a mix of timeless classics, with more novelty pieces, like the two trench coats: a black white greek key pattern in leather, and a black white mod floral in patent. But let's call a spade a spade. Ralph's absolute undeniable strength lies in his impeccable tailoring, and nobody cuts a pantsuit like Ralph Lauren. So I would have to say my favorite pieces were the white, off white, and black pantsuits with elongated jackets and double vent backs, shown with long, slightly flared pants, and crisp white shirts.

Ralph Lauren red cady evening dress

The show then sequed into strong (and I mean STRONG) jolts of color (lime green, bright green, cobalt blue, neon orange, yellow, and red). If you were not fully awake prior to the show, the color would have jolted you into consciousness. Sometimes the color was mixed with black, and sometimes, it was shown head to toe. (Needless to say, a little bit goes a long way, and head to toe color may make for great pictures, but it's hard to wear and not very realistic). There were leather jackets, coats, dresses; ribbed sweater dresses; and a group of dresses, long and short, in silk gazaar with petal like skirts (one in acid green stood out). There were also dresses and skirts in white silk gazaar and silk organza (a 'signature' Ralph look would be the white cotton canvas jacket juxtaposed with a white charmeuse shirt and a white silk organza mini skirt). But proving that simple is often the best, was the show's finale: the red cady evening dress with a dramatic cape back. By the way, Ralph and Ricky are always dressed in sync, and their choice of attire is indicative of the mood of the season. When Ralph came out, he was wearing a simple black top and white pants, and Ricky was wearing a white shirt and bright green pants.


Spring 2014 Calvin Klein white double faced jersey emerald tweed wrap top
 and double faced cotton twill skirt

Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein is celebrating his 10th anniversary as head of design for the label, so he decided to change things up this season, and instead of showing at 205 West 39th Street, he showed downtown at the Spring Street Studios, at 50 Varick Street (not too far from where Ralph showed earlier). In addition, instead of having two shows, he had one, and a celebratory party last night, was held at the same venue. It was an interesting loft like space with high ceilings and maybe 20 foot windows, but the windows were darkened glass, which made it seem as though it was the middle of the night (it was disorienting since it was only 2 pm).

Calvin Klein patched printed snakeskin strip coat

But while it might have looked dark looking out, it was light on the runway. Not just light in color, but in tone and mood. And en-lightened (in terms of advancing fashion design). The fully realized anniversary collection, one of Francisco's best, was illustrative of his desire to move fashion forward through his ongoing experimentation with architectural shapes, experimentation with volume, and his continued application of innovative fabric technology. There was a hard to miss Japanese feeling throughout, and it was quite artisanal, if not tribal at times (as exemplified by the duo of patchwork  leather and silk dresses). This wasn't flat one dimensional minimalism: the clothes had surface interest, dimension, depth, soul, and personality. It was highly textural, a study in texture mixes, and it looked a bit unfinished with frayed edges, fringe, threaded mesh, and mesh feathers. The end result was modern and cool and not self consciously put together.

Calvin Klein black threaded woven leather jacket sleeveless
 knit tank cotton nylon lattice skirt

As for the color palette, the entire opening segment was in sand, a color practically synonymous with the label Calvin Klein (and THE man Calvin Klein). A double faced canvas wrap tank and wrap skirt opened the show and there was a canvas wide cuff jacket with wrap skirt, and a silk intarsia split waist short sleeve t shirt with sand cotton twill wide cuff painter's pants (the exaggerated cuffs were shown again in white). And while black was not forgotten (there was an amazing coat in silk nylon twill with an open back, a black silk twill crepe threaded slashed dress  and a black silk twill threaded slashed top shown with wide cuff painter's pants), and of course, plenty of white, and black and white, this was perhaps one of Francisco's most colorful collections to date. There were hits of red (a red hand-woven Japanese cotton tweed sleeveless dress), emerald green (an emerald/black hand-woven Japanese cotton tweed coat), and multi colored leather and snakeskin.

Calvin Klein snakeskin fringed oversized clutch bag

Among the standouts were the patched printed snakeskin strip coat, and the black threaded woven leather jacket and black cotton nylon lattice skirt, the latter of which seemed like an uncharacteristic explosion of color on a Calvin Klein runway. Both leather and snakeskin were used throughout, and brilliantly. At one point, a marble snakeskin patchwork skirt and woven tank were further accessorized with python woven molded sandals, and one of the most amazing bags I've seen: an enormous fringed python clutch (I think I heard Andre Leon Talley gasp when this came out).

Here, as elsewhere, the footwear of choice was a sturdy platform sandal on a chunky high heel. Francisco's were moulded sandals and sneaker sandals, and they were made of brushed calf, brushed calf/shearling and rubber, and woven python. They were shown in graphic black and white, solid black, solid white, green, and carnelian. While I myself do not love platforms, I have to admit that in this collection, they offset the voluminous and structured coats and jackets, the over sized t shirts, and exaggeratedly wide cuffed pants. A dainty heel and pointy toe would have looked wrong.

 
Spring 2014 Marc Jacobs

It's quite symbolic that Marc Jacobs is now officially ending Mercedes Benz Fashion Week since nobody puts an exclamation mark on the week, quite like Marc. His conceptual collections are not only highly visual, but are food for thought; they give you something to think about. Just when you think minimalism is the way to go, Marc Jacobs effectively makes a case for more is more. But of course, isn't that always the way? Going from one thing to the next, and having the ability to quick change when the mood strikes, is part of the fun of fashion. Who wants a steady diet of just one thing? There are always many different plots and subplots going on at the same time, and one can make a case for all of them. It just depends on what your needs and desires are. By the way, that's why I so hate it when so called fashion experts on television, advise you to throw or give away anything you haven't work for, say 2 years. That is the dumbest thing I ever heard. When you have something great, it pays to hold onto it because you never know. You may see something that inspires you to re-think it and wear it again, maybe in a different way.

Marc Jacobs short black dress worn with flat sandals

It's always hard to describe a Marc Jacobs collection, but suffice it to say that it not only looked like nobody else this season; it was the exact opposite of what he presented last year, which is very typical. Actually, if you want to know what Marc will do from one season to the next, just think of what would be the most opposite of what he had just shown. The collection, played out in dark moody colors, was notable for its gorgeous fabrics and the over the top use of embellishments and decoration (on everything). You didn't know where to look first. There were tassels, embroideries, pom-poms and beads, and they were all used together. Some of the jackets could be described as vintage YSL on steroids. And the shapes were exaggeratedly large as well; many looked at least 3 sizes too large for the models wearing them. Actually, I have a vintage black wool jacket decorated with white embroidery, that I purchased awhile ago, and I was planning to take to the tailor because it's quite large on me. I just realized that it looks very much like what Marc showed on the runway last night, so I might save myself money and just wear it as is.

I also loved that Marc sort of mixed it all up. It wasn't day and it wasn't evening. He blurred the lines and this was best illustrated by his use of grounded, athletic looking at times, flat footwear (yay!!!!). Not one heel in sight. I love it when designers show alternatives to high high heels. Women think that heel height is equated with fashion but it could not be farthest from the truth. Maybe with a designer like Marc endorsing flat shoes and boots, women might begin to follow suit.




-Marilyn Kirschner





The Daily Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

Epson SureColor F2000 Series Inkjet Printers



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Thursday, September 12, 2013

New York Fashion Week Notes


"Message" to Michael


Spring 2014 Michael Kors white linen crepe jacket,
white linen gauze dance skirt
(Photos: Vogue.com)

Michael Kors presented his spring show Wednesday morning, and while the 56 piece collection certainly had enough of those distinctive wardrobe staples that have become the designer's signatures, I was a bit disappointed. Michael's shows are nothing if not spirited and energetic, and this one just fell a little flat. I guess I was expecting a blockbuster given his recent honor (exactly one week ago he received FIT's prestigious "Couture Council Artistry in Fashion Award" and all that positive energy and feedback can really stir a designer's creative juices).

Michael Kors barley tissue python cap sleeve tee
indigo cashmere cotton denim slit skirt

The overall color palette was chic and neutral, relying on white, sand, pearl, sand, barley, indigo, black, but at times it got a bit too murky; and I'm not sure "nutmeg" is the most flattering color for evening wear. I did not especially like the little pansy print which was used for a number of pieces (it looked a bit old fashioned and 'last season', and even Karen Elson couldn't manage to do justice to a pansy printed crepe de chine dress with clunky lace up platform sandals). The short skirts, short shorts, and briefs were often, too, well, brief, considering his customer and price range and the pairing of briefs with some otherwise standout coats, looked a bit forced and contrived. While the golden sable 'ring' worn over the pearl cashmere and cotton sweatshirt and sand crushed techno cotton trousers looked chic (sort of a glammed up version of Lauren Hutton), the oxford and white crushed cotton stripe boyfriend shirt and indigo bonded denim shorts would have looked just fine without the white fox ring. And did he really need to show those small fur pieces for a spring collection? (Jean Shafiroff wore Michael's white fox stole to the Couture Council Luncheon last week and considering the warm summer like temperature, it looked a bit silly).

Michael Kors white cotton linen gabardine chesterfield grass white
stretch jersey mini paillette vine halter gown

On the plus side, his tailleur, classic chesterfields, and trenches, never disappoint (and they didn't this time either). He has a way with simple sportswear separates that is always appealing: for example, the sheer white linen gauze turtleneck and white linen crepe pants (in my opinion, it's hard to improve on a perfect white turtleneck sweater and perfectly cut white pants). His "dance skirts",  which showed up throughout the collection, are flattering, easy to move AND dance in. His pythons, another signature, are always stellar, and they looked good in a neutral color called barley (in addition to separate pieces, python was used for shoes and bags). His "luxe" takes on 'denim' were a neat idea; his are made of indigo and chambray cotton and cashmere.

 Michael Kors white linen gauze turtleneck
white linen crepe pant

In a season of shirts, especially men's inspired oxford stripes, Michael's oxford and white striped silk georgette stripe blouse and sand gabardine skirt looked especially good. The wide legged trousers (almost wide enough to resemble a skirt) looked chic, and are a nice respite from skinny jeans and leggings (though many women seem to resist wearing them and they are admittedly hard to pull off unless you are tall or really understand proportion). Proving the grass is greener on the other side, I thought his grass hand embroidered daisy high rise bikini looked fresh, as did the finale, worn by Karen Elson: a grass white stretch jersey mini paillette vine halter gown, shown under a white cotton and linen gabardine chesterfield.

By the way, I was at the Tents just about the time the Anna Sui show was about to begin and I have never seen a more motly crowd hanging out in the reception area. I don't know if they were show attendees or not, but they looked very bridge and tunnel, Times Square. In any event, on my way out, I saw a man hawking several pairs of boots, right at the entrance to the Lincoln Center Promenade. When I told him they looked interesting and I wanted more information, he handed me a sheet printed out with more detail. The product is called Go Go Galosh (http://www.gogogolosh/), and they are packable all weather boots that will be available soon. They zip up, fit right over your shoes (any heel height), are lightweight, comfortable, easy to walk in, have no skid traction soles, and are available in several colors including red, purple, fuchsia.



-Marilyn Kirschner






"Don't Mesh with J. Mendel"

Spring 2014 J. Mendel white stripped shadow fox jacket
with white paneled lace top and lace crepe skirt
(Photos: Style.com)

The J. Mendel show was held at the Theater in Lincoln Center on what felt like the hottest day of the year.  Gilles Mendel began his career apprenticing under his father at his fur salon in Paris.  In 1981, he became CEO and designer of the company and opened his first boutique, eventually moving to Madison Avenue where the company's flagship store remains.  The company expanded to include a ready to wear collection in 2002 and established itself as a luxury brand catering to a high society clientele.  The exceptional quality and luxury of the clothing is what distinguishes it from the numerous fashion houses. While J. Mendel is predominantly known for its furs, over the past couple of years his dresses and gowns have been popular among celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Sandra Bullock. 

J Mendel nuage and soleil color blocked dress in silk with pleated skirt

This collection was indicative of the move of Mendel into luxury wear and gowns with very little fur displayed.  Gilles said he was introducing the concept of "sporty chic" to the runway  a common theme at this years shows.  The color palette of the collection was of the pale spectrum including green, pink, grey and yellow.  The problem with the use of these colors is that the clothing appears dull regardless of the richness of the material.  The first pieces in pale green were extremely mini and lost their impact due to the muted color. The white fox over the white paneled shirt and skirt was a cleaner, sharper look.  Lace was abundant with a geometric meshlike motif in white, pink and black. The appearance of mesh and lattice in much of the collection lent complexity and delicacy to the garments.  The jungle motif sprinkled throughout in green jacquard and grey and silver was not a strong part of the collection - jungle and luxury silk, in this case, were not a welcome combination.  Black and white were used in conjunction with a green jacquard jungle motif which was another odd ensemble.  The use of soleil throughout was a nice sporty touch in the silk short pieces and elegant in the gowns. 

J Mendel red jasper mixed lace off the shoulder gown
 with silk crepe asymmetrical wrap skirt

The introduction of shirts and wrap skirts appearing as gowns in white and red geometric lace, was a welcome addition of evening separates and beautifully executed.  A favorite look, and one which Mendel has become an expert in, was the grey python motorcycle jacket over a patent leather grey skirt.  Additionally, the grey mink with metallic graphic lace inserts was a knockout- the richness of the fur vest with the lattice inserts made this vest dress a piece of art.  The collection  concluded with the specialty of the Mendel house - its use of noir in everything evening; a lace paneled black pantsuit, lace paneled black dress and lace black skirt and shirtensemble. 

J Mendel noir graphic lace embroidered gown

The finale, and one that did not disappoint was the noir graphic lace embroidered gown with a black cut out mesh bootie.  This dress was sexy, racy, bold and paradigmatic of the type of unparalleled style the house of Mendel is famous for. J. Mendel's show was a risky triumph. The sparse usage of fur and the new sporty motif were brazen moves forward with a return to streamlined elegance in the finale.  The abundance of sheer dresses and very mini-mini skirts point to a new momentum toward a younger, edgier customer. The Mendel label has been in existence for five generations and collections like this ensure it will stay for at least five more.




- Lieba Nesis






The Daily Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

Kingston DataTraveler Hyper X 3.0
 
Fashion Week is coming to a close and you have done your best to digitally chronicle every important moment.  This Kingston USB drive will allow you to transfer and store all of your digital files quickly and easily.  The pocket size unit comes in 64, 128, and 256 GB capacities and it supports Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP, & Mac.

Available at: www.amazon.com; 64 GB, $79.74

Win a 128 GB Kingston DataTraveler Hyper X 3.0.  Click betterbetsonline@gmail.com and register your email address before 11:59 PM EDT, September 17, 2013.  Be sure to put “Kingston” in the subject line.  One lucky winner will be chosen at random and notified by email.



On and Off the Runway

Hollywood Glam
 
Malan Breton Collection
Photo; Isabelle Erb
 
Old Hollywood merged with 60’s and 70’s British pop influences in Malan Breton’s Spring/Summer presentation.  The resulting looks were both polished and sophisticated but still a touch avant-garde.  The designer drew upon his background in film, music, and costume design to create body conscious, hourglass silhouettes for the women and precisely tailored suits for the men.  The models’ hair and makeup fit the dramatic mood that filled the room as a female soloist performed throughout the presentation. 

Not So Mad Hatter

Anya Caliendo Collection
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Russian-born milliner Anya Caliendo’s presentation at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was arguably the most unique collection shown this season.  To celebrate the fifth year of her millinery business, the designer created “Confessions”, a book of “short stories” told in hats.  Caliendo’s designs ranged from voluminous hats, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland to jewel encrusted Mickey Mouse ears.  Each hat was crafted by hand, using no machine stitching or glue.  To say that Caliendo is passionate about her craft would be an understatement.  “I live, breathe and dream couture hats,” she confesses, having apprenticed under Rose Cory, milliner to the Queen of England and millinery master Stephen Jones.

Gran Canaria
 
Douglas Hannant Collection
Photo: Courtesy of courtesy Fashionising
 
For his spring 2014 collection Douglas Hannant drew upon the painter’s palette of hues found on Gran Canaria Island, a Spanish archipelago located in the Canary Islands.  He showed dresses (both long and short), suits, and pants that captured the essence of the island’s “dunes, sea, and sky.”  Silhouettes and fabrics included two-piece tailored tweeds as well as sheer tulle dresses with flowing skirts.  Hannant’s Sunset Shadow dresses incorporated the varying shades of dusk, in contrast to the simplicity of his more neutral pieces, the standout of which was his effortlessly elegant Ivory/Gold Embroidered Beaded Gown. 

Rock & Roll Elegance

Venexiana
Photo Isabelle Erb

Each season, the sheer number of gowns created by Venexiana designer, Kati Stern, is a marvel in and of itself.  Her Spring Summer collection consisted of an amazing 73 gowns, predominantly in shades of blue, blush, green, aquamarine, and gold.  The multi-talented Stern, who is both an architect and musician as well, always uses the most elegant fabrics, sparing no effort in elaborately enhancing her designs with elements such as beads, sequins, and ruching.  Stern does, however, love to rock and roll, and her sumptuously dressed models are always strutting the runway to an up-tempo beat. 

- Rhonda Erb




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New York Fashion Week Notes by Marilyn Kirschner


Vera's Brush 'Stroke' of Genius
 
Spring 2014 Vera Wang white and charcoal silk gauze one shoulder top
hand painted white silk gazaar skirt opening
(All photos: Vogue.com)

Vera Wang's run of show included one page of notes that was about as short, sweet, and to the point as could be. She summed up the collection in one sentence: "Spring explores an Artful and Architectural Approach to clothes with a decidedly Athletic reference". Of course, these elements have always figured prominently into Vera's aesthetic, and they have contributed to her identifiable look. That said, she still finds new ways to explore the 3 A's. Art came by way of color blocks and an inkblot and a "Brushstroke" print, the latter of which was hand painted by Rebecca Moses, and used for a number of dresses both long and short.

Vera Wang cobalt silk crepe sleeveless top cobalt silk gauze dress
and white silk gauze circular seam skirt

The athleticism was evident in 'sporty' blouson crop jackets; baseball jackets (Vera's are made of silk gauze, stretch net, and techno net);  zip up merino wool cardigans; techo mesh inverted pleat skirts; and racer backs, which seemed to be omnipresent.  As for architecture, there were strong architectural shapes (like the blouson crop top that opened the show), and the use of circular seaming and collaging (in several silk gauze and silk chiffon dresses). Speaking of dresses, it was all about skirts and especially dresses, in a variety of lengths, though Vera still loves her high-low pieces (they are shorter in the front and longer in the back). There were almost no pants, but when the few were shown, they were wide legged palazzos.


Vera Wang black silk gauze cropped baseball jacket
black techno mesh pleated skirt

As for color, black is a Vera Wang signature, as is charcoal, but she lightened and enlivened through the use of white and sand, and the welcome addition of cobalt, citron and geranium. Fabrics (silk gauze, rette gazaar, silk chiffon, silk crepe de chine) were light as air, floaty, gossamer, and sheer, were often layered to create another dimension., and beau. There seemed to be emphasis on beautiful backs. Not only were many dresses quite bare, they often had trailing pieces of sheer fabric, which was quite effective as the models walked down the runway with the wind blowing.

Upon exiting the Tent right after the show, I bumped into Michael Gross and he told me: "I allow myself one show a season to remind myself how much I hated it. And you can quote me on that". For the record, he liked the Vera Wang collection, but was referring to the scene and everything that goes along with fashion week. "It's become such a freak show" he said, looking around the reception area of the main Tent. When I asked what specifically he didn't like, he replied: "It's too difficult to describe". But he did mention the frozen mask like expressions on many of the show attendees (and he illustrated by doing his best impression). I could not agree more and have always wondered why so many fashion people cannot smile. Is there something inherently, organically, impossible about doing so? I think this goes hand in hand with the idea of taking oneself too seriously, and acting as though one's self importance knows no bounds. Get over yourself: you're not finding a cure for cancer.

In the meanwhile, Michael certainly knows a thing or two about fashion. The American author, journalist, and editor, has an impressive resume FAR too long to list but among his books: 740 Park, Model: The Ugly Business of Beauty; Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren, Rogue's Gallery. And when he was at The New York Times and New York, he was one of the first American journalists to write about the most influential international fashion designers of the day, including Helmut Lang, John Galliano, and Marc Jacobs.

Earlier in the morning, J. Crew showed their spring collection for men and women. J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons, who not only made my best dressed list, but Vanity Fair's, was on hand and watched from the sidelines but also spoke with members of the press. I am a true fan of the popular label, and not only stock up on their great basics: each season, there is at least one special piece that catches my eye. This time it's the ivory bonded eyelet popover which was shown with white cotton and linen shorts. But I could see wearing it in a variety of other ways and think it would look good paired with black as well. In addition, they always have new designer collaborations, and this season, they have a group of ultra feminine and whimsical shoes by Sophia Webster. They were used to accessorize almost all the outfits.





-Marilyn Kirschner







Naeem Khan the Master of Evening Wear


Spring 2014 Naeem Khan red nude lace embroidered tulle gown
(All photos: Lieba Nesis)

The Naeem Khan show was held at the Theater in Lincoln Center with great anticipation from the celebrity and style studded crowd. Naeem Khan has gained prominence over the years through the wearing of his styles by top celebrities in Hollywood. Stacy Keibler and Michelle Obama both wore his dresses at the 2013 Academy Awards (Michelle Obama was on a video screen) and received high acclaim from fashion writers and pundits worldwide. Naeem Khan, 55, is an Indian-born American fashion designer. He is the designer and CEO of his label which was launched in 2003. Michelle Obama frequently chooses his gowns and evening wear for state dinners, dinners abroad and even inaugural events. So while Naeem's profile has risen over the past couple of years he remains somewhat enigmatic and low profile in the fashion arena. Nonetheless, the crowd was replete with style mavens such as Colin Cowie, Amy Fine Collins, Linda Fargo and Padma Lakshmi. Colin Cowie, a design and event planning expert, has know Naeem for seventeen years and only attends his show during fashion week because [he], "loves the massive dose of glamour this show brings, with Naeem constantly transcending all expectations every year." Amy Fine Collins, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, loves the "refined opulence" of his collections and his dresses which are "big entrance makers." His shows never disappoint and they almost always conclude with a standing ovation for the man behind the magic.

Naeem Khan fuchsia black floral gown with satin

The presentation had a leafy green backdrop lending an aura of woodsiness and romanticism to the afternoon. The Spanish Rose, a symbol of love and beauty, played a pivotal role in this collection and was utilized through various techniques in the embroidery. The prints were inspired by Mexican ceramics and tiles and the laces and embroideries were in tribute to the beauty and elegance of Latin culture. The show opened with a white floral embroidered chantilly lace gown with exquisite detailing and a partially sheer bodice. The woven lattice-like lace was delicate and sexy- against a nude palette it was a showstopper. The next looks were white and red floral dresses knee and floor length with a heavy Spanish influence conjuring up romantic images of flamenco dancers on the streets of Spain. Especially effective, was the red floral gown with a nude backdrop allowing the red embroidery to appear in its full flourish. The sheerness of the gowns were sexy bordering on overly provocative, but this is fashion week and the poor photographers need some eye candy. Black and white gowns and caftans were used to great effect with plunging necklines and thigh high slits, yet still extremely refined and reminiscent of the tiles at the Alhambra in Spain.

Naeem Khan black and white floral applique strapless faille gown

The next couple of looks seemed out of nowhere and created a dissonance in the collection with yellow and orange multicolored striped gowns and dresses coming down the runway; it seemed like this was part of a different show, yet the beading and design on these dresses were so exquisite it was a nice respite from the heavily Latin inspired garments. The use of fuschia and black with satin cording in the gowns were a modern take on the Spanish mantilla and were nicely executed. The white caviar beaded gown was luxurious and equally beautiful when transposed on a slim pant and t-shirt. The next coral and gold gowns were delicately laced and diaphanous throughout, with a beautifully tapered look while maintaining a soft silhouette. The black and white floral appliqued dresses were bold and brilliant, but my favorite was the blush tulle and caviar beaded empire gown- the intricacy of the embroidery and the perfection of the fit will make this a red carpet favorite. What would the collection be without Naeem's signature gold, metallic and black look something Khan does better than most with a hard edged feminism that has dominated the runway this season. After all this beauty how could Mr. Khan outdo himself? At the conclusion of the show a model walked down in a bridal dress embroidered with roses- which even had Linda Fargo, the fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, whipping out her phone to take pictures. As a harbinger of things to come we were notified that Khan will be launching a bridal collection on October 12th.

Naeem Khan blush tulle and caviar beaded empire gown

Naeem Khan's shows are filled with the glamour and extravagance of old Hollywood with a modern, and sexy bold edge. As Robert Verdi, the famed stylist said, "he is the go to guy for any celebrity that has to walk a red carpet. There is no woman who does not take a look at a Naeem dress who is about to attend an awards show. He has great gowns for both movie stars and socialites that turn heads when they walk into a room." While the collection was somewhat of a hodgepodge and the music was blaringly cacophonous the show was a knockout. Mr. Khan has not yet received the accolades of the truly great gown designers however, for someone who only debuted in 2003 he is quickly becoming a celebrity magnet and a rising star whose potential is boundless. When the show ended Mr. Khan had a big smile on his face- he mastered the evening gown and he knew it.




-Lieba Nesis








THE DAILY BETTER BETS BY RHONDA ERB
Sprout Cork Watch
 
 
 
Sprout Watches elevate sustainable elements to a new level of style.  This model is sure to garner attention with its unique cork strap.  It also features an ivory corn resin case, natural mother-of-pearl dial, and eight conflict-free diamond accents.




Miamica

Good Hair day! Hair Care Bag.
Miamica makes fun travel accessories that are both practical and chic.  This heat-resistant terry cloth bag is large enough to hold all of your hair care tools that you can’t live without: hair dryer, flat iron, etc…  It also has an inside pocket to hold small hair accessories.