Thursday, January 30, 2014

"The Fashion Fund" TV Documentary on Ovation

"The Fashion Fund" (go to official web site) is not your mother's reality show. In fact, it's a six-part documentary (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Ovation) showing the actual process through which designers try to win the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.  Unlike Project Runway this is a real industry award whose finalists you may not only have heard of, but you may own some of their designs.  The Fund has served as a launch pad of sorts for emerging and underfunded designers with mentoring as well as funding. Examples of past finalists include Alexander Wang, Thakoon, Proenza Schouler, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Derek Lam and Creatures of the Wind.

The requirements are more stringent here than on PR.  One must have a current US business for at least two consecutive years, have orders from major retailers, have press, and have employees. This is the second televised series (2011 was shown on Hulu) however it is the tenth year that the award has been given.  Anna Wintour as the main judge explains that the idea for the award came about after 9/11 which coincided with the first day of fashion week.  She recounts how many of the less established designers had lost big deposits on a show space and didn't know where to turn after the tragedy so the monetary prize ($300,000 for the winner, $100,000 for each of the runners-up) as well as specific business mentoring would be of great help.

The judges (click on image for larger view)

The series began last week (Jan. 26 but you can catch up with the two missed episodes as they are frequently on Ovations rotation) with 150-200 submissions of portfolios.  Each of the judges received their allotted portfolios and they were to put them in yes and no piles. (Anna says "no" to crazies; a marked difference from Project Runway, right there)!  If a designer's portfolio was to be considered then the judge who viewed it would have to advocate their pick to the other judges until they could agree on just 10!  The portfolios ranged from notebooks to handmade boxes covered in lamb fur or authentic, one-of-a-kind hand marbled paper to a monstrosity that included an upholstered back board with an inset flat TV screen, antique looking chair, wine bottle, high heels, maybe even the kitchen sink!  (Spoiler Alert:  The over-the-top designers weren't selected).

The judges are all highly respected (and sometimes feared) members of the fashion elite.  Besides Anna, there's Diane Von Furstenberg (who loves to ask each designer who they'd like as a mentor), Ken Downing, Senior VP and Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, Jenna Lyons, President and CEO of J. Crew, Steven Kolb, CEO of CFDA, Andrew Rosen, CEO of Theory, Reed Krakoff, President of Reed Krakoff and formerly of Coach, Mark Holgate, Vogue Fashion News Director, Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of Jeffrey, now VP and Fashion Director Designer of Nordstrom and David Neville and Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone (they were the winners of the 2006 award).

Winner (with brass swan trophy) Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of PUBLIC SCHOOL, Runners-up: (l-r) Juan Carlos Obando, Marc Alary of Marc Alary Jewelry

Once the ten finalists are agreed on and telephoned with the news on camera, they then have only five days to ready their presentations and sales pitches as well as actual samples of their work (the theme is "Past, Present and Future") and impress the judges with their abilities both creatively and in business.  Womenswear designer Juan Carlos Obando was on vacation in Spain when he got the call necessitating a return to NY and leaving him with about 24 hours to prepare his presentation.  One of the two brothers of Ovadia & Sons is on his honeymoon in Israel so the other, less vocal one must do the presentation (he brings along a photo of his bro for support).  Todd Snyder is literally down to the wire and receives a fur collar for one of his menswear coats from overseas about 30 seconds before the presentation.  You can feel the tension as the designers line up in the hallway before they have to face the looong table of judges "seeing them in the flesh, all lined up like Mt. Rushmore" as Shelby Drummond, Vogue Accessories Editor (check out her Google Hangout at 9:30 p.m. before the show) describes it.  Some of the designers seem outwardly calm while others (one in particular) run around like the Martin Short SNL character Ed Grimley.  (I promise you will figure out who it is).

Most of the designers express their awe, admiration and fear (sheer terror, really) of going before the esteemed panel who, starting at some ungodly pre-dawn hour, give them each exactly 15 minutes (with a ticking clock) to make their pitch as they fire questions at them.  Designers known as Public School (2nd Spoiler Alert:  if you don't know already, you will hear a lot more from them wink wink) use a catchphrase about "blending in while sticking out in NYC" which tickles the panel while others serve breakfast to try to curry some favor.  One French born designer has DVF marveling over the "articulation" in his jewelry however Jenna doesn't like that he seems to denigrate American jewelry designers.  The whiniest judge (Jeffrey) is always taking the opposing position and seems to play the role of the last holdout on the jury that you'd like to slap.

Suffice it to say, it is worth catching up on and watching the rest of the season just to have a taste of authenticity in your fashion diet.   As Robert Weiss, chief creative director of Ovation, said when he made his pitch to co-producers Conde Nast Entertainment  and as reported by Cathy Horyn of the New York Times "A consistent theme of mine is authenticity.  The last thing I'd want to do is make things up.  There's no running down the hallway with scissors here" her article quotes him as saying. I guess that's why, at least to me "The Fashion Fund" is less spellbinding entertainment than Project Runway.  Without the crazy, it's like watching the frumpier, more serious sister getting ready for bed as opposed to the unhinged, party girl getting ready to go out.

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fashion Group International’s 2014 Rising Star Awards

Giovanna Randall of Honor winner
of the women's rtw award

Yesterday, I attended Fashion Group International’s ( 17th annual Rising Star Awards, and once again, the sold out event, which honors 17 outstanding individuals in 8 different fields, was held at Cipriani 42nd Street. I could think of worse ways to spend a frigid early afternoon in January, than by enjoying a wonderful meal of prosciutto and pear salad, Chilean Sea Bass, strawberries and chocolate mousse, (and enough spirits to warm anyone’s frozen body), in the company of my fellow ‘fashionphiles’, many of whom I’ve known for decades. All for the purpose of celebrating the “extraordinary accomplishments of emerging talents” whose creativity and vision are realized in the following categories: Accessories, Home/Interior Design, Beauty Corporate, Beauty Entrepreneur; Fine Jewelry, Men’s Apparel, Women’s Apparel, Retail, and Business Innovation.
And of course, getting a few laughs courtesy Simon Doonan, the outrageously funny Master of Ceremonies, doesn’t hurt. He is so humorous; many in the crowd (including Simon himself) started laughing before he even uttered 10 words. He started out by reminding everyone that he’s “been around since the Middle Ages” (he described himself as a “gay male version of Dame Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey”) and therefore he felt obliged to share some of his wisdom with the relative ‘newbies’ being honored. He had 7 pointers which he proceeded to deadpan:
#1- “Have at least one drag queen in your orbit”. 
#2- “You will have to travel as you become more and more successful. Always leave a huge tip for the chamber maid- or else your rising star will plummet quickly!” 
#3- “Make sure your star is on a dimmer so you can adjust it (this way you won’t blind us with your fabulousness!)” 
#4- “Always keep a jar of pickles in the fridge. I always do and don’t know why, but I’m afraid to find out what would happen if I don’t”. 
#5- “Don’t give away your frocks to celebrities. They can easily afford to buy them. In fact, you should over charge them 10% (think of it as a celebrity sur charge)”. 
#6 - “Don’t take from your parents’ 401K, this could lead to horrible consequences” which he began to innumerate. 
#7- “Always remember that fashion is fun. Don’t become neurotic. Enjoy your creative odyssey”.
Then it was time for the awards...
Lincoln Moore was the presenter in the Accessories category. Nominees were Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa for Warby Parker; Edmundo Castillo for Edmundo Castillo; Annie Jaroszewicz for Equipt For Play; Melanie Lopez for Roman & Sunstone; Deborah Sawaf for Thale Blanc; Annette and Phoebe Stephens for Anndra Neen; Michelle Vale for Michelle Vale. The winners were a tie between Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa, and Edmundo Castillo who noted “We all work in a challenging industry  that is also a lot of fun. It’s great to create beautiful things.”
The very animated designer Steven Stolman presented in the Home/Interior Design category. He told the crowd that the last time he attended a Fashion Group event was 30 years ago. When he was working for a large dress company on 7th Avenue (which he jokingly referred to as “Hideous Originals by Despicable Me”), he was asked to fill in for someone at the last moment, and found himself surrounded by about 1000 other people, including design icons Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Pauline Trigere. “Silly me, I thought I was one of them, and that I belonged” he joked. “I was honored to have been invited back by FGI”. He presented the award to Anna Karlin of Anna Karlin (“I have been in business for one year and what a year it’s been!” she stated). The other nominees were Jon Call, Mr. Call Designs, and Reinaldo Leandro and Ariel Ashe of Ashe & Leandro.
Leslie Blodgett presented in the Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur category. The winners were husband and wife team Tony Perez and Meredith Waga of Belle Fleur (they announced that they met when they were 6 years old). “Wow!” exclaimed Meredith. “I know it’s not very eloquent, but Wow!”, she exclaimed. “Our daughters taught us how to communicate in this incredible language of scent”, Tony chimed in.
Other nominees in that category were Kelly Jones, Kelly & Jones; Claude Morais and Brian Wolk of Ruffian Beauty; and Nathan Motylinski of Le Cherche Midi.
Kara Ross presented Margery Hirschey of Margery Hirschey the award in the Fine Jewelry category (“This is terrifying to stand in front of all these people” she admitted). Fellow nominees: Lisa Black of Lisa Black Jewellery, Amaia & Yolanda Torrubia of Turrubia & Torrubia, and Joseph Yushuva of Casa Reale.
When Rachel Shechtman of Story, accepted the Retail Award from Brooke Jaffe, she said “I’ve known (FGI President) Margaret Hayes for 12 years so this is an honor. One funny thing I have to share with you. My first job was working for Steven Stolman in his Southampton store 19 years ago.” Her fellow nominees were Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell of Hukkster, and Charlotte Neuville of The Fashion Chef.
Upon receiving the Beauty/Fragrance Corporate Award from Amy Astley, Ruhi Patil (International Flavors & Fragrances) thanked Fashion Group International for “creating such a wonderful platform”. She beat out Eileen Ahasic of The Estee Lauder Companies, Jean Michel Karam of Ioma Paris, and Sara Zucker of Nars Cosmetics.

Ian Velardi and Kerby Jean Raymond with
Hal Rubenstein

Before Hal Rubenstein presented Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss with the Menswear Award, he told the audience, “Thank God for menswear otherwise I’d be freezing my ass off right now” (everyone laughed). Men are finally coming to the realization that there’s a world between work and weekend worth dressing for and the choices have never been so great.” He also reminded everyone that those powerhouse icons Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani both started as menswear designers.
For his part, Kerby called his work “a passion project and the greatest challenge of my life”. “It’s a one man business and I work from my apartment. I want to thank my  family, who is my team. But I especially want to thank my girlfriend, for letting me max out my credit cards. I promise to buy you a ring. We will make it”.
Others in his category were Matthew Orley, Alex Orley & Samantha Florence of Orley; Ernest Sabine of Ernest Alexander; Ian Velardi of Ian Velardi.
When Karen Harvey got up to present her Karen Harvey Business Innovator Award (which is now in its second year), she noted “we are all fortunate to live in an era of robust innovation. Good ideas by themselves are really meaningless. This year I am pleased to honor Michael Preysman and Everlane for its refreshing idea of transparency. It reminds me that great ideas can come from anywhere. Everlane is a brand and not just a retailer. Michael is a founder/innovator”. For his part, Michael acknowledged that “without a great team you can’t accomplish very much.”
Last but not least was the Women’s Ready to Wear Award, the largest category with 8 nominees: Julie and Jason Alkire of Haus Alkire; Vengsarkar  Budhu of Gavaskar; Charles Harbison of Harbison; Nary Manivong of Nary Manivong; Giovanna Randall of Honor; Tanya Taylor of Tanya Taylor; Frank Tell of Frank Tell; and Marissa Webb of Marissa Webb. Stephen Burrows announced the winner was Giovanna Randall of Honor.

 An ‘honor’ indeed.

 - Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Grammy Redux: Le Chapeau de Pharrell et Daft Punk vs Luxe Punk

Daft Punk

As if it wasn't ridiculous enough that body parts have been getting their own twitter following (Pippa Middleton's posterior after the 2011 royal wedding ,  Angelina Jolie's right leg after the 2012 Oscars),  now inanimate objects are getting their due as well.  Speaking of the latest item to go viral, It turns out that Pharrell's much maligned chapeau has a pedigree.  It's vintage Vivienne Westwood from her 1982-83 Buffalo collection designed by Malcolm McLaren (a former beau of Westwood's) and he's owned it for at least four years. It's pretty ironic that as singer/collaborator of  Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and the spokesperson for the publicity shy masked French robots who took home three Grammys including Record of the Year, Pharrell could appear onstage introducing and accepting the award for the helmeted and gloved duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, and yet, he's the one who received the most attention. 

Daft Punk's Grammy win was only the second time they performed on television, the first being at the 2008 Grammys.  They appeared in May of 2013 at the MTV VMA's but only to give an award to Taylor Swift.  Like the band Kiss with their stage makeup, Daft Punk never goes out without their robot disguise (they say that they were actually turned into robots at some point when they were experimenting in their studio with music).  It is part of their shtick but also a way to preserve their anonymity, I imagine.  They have referred to it as "sci-fi glam" and definitely see it as part their allure.  Their Grammys helmets were made to resemble Star Wars stormtroopers.  Homem-Christo wears the gold, Bangalter wears the silver.  Late breaking news:  The Hollywood Reporter claims that they were helmet-less for their after party at the Park Plaza Hotel however, naturally, there are no photos.

Just as I was thinking how  these tactile and shiny well-engineered props could be made into wearable art I stumbled upon something  interesting online in the form of  Spanish designer/artist Ines Figaredo.  Since 2011 Ms. Figaredo has been making really eerie/cool handbags and accessories that are art pieces made to last a lifetime (think Goth Judith Leiber meets Salvador Dali).  She combines the skills of Spanish leatherwork, jewelry, embroidery and sculpture into some amazing forms.  There are sculptural skulls called "Hamlet,"apples, walnuts, carousels, a bird cage with a little man in it, retro telephones, a girl's face that is happy on one side and sad on the other as well as some leather bags with eyes and human hair (eww)!

There is even a "hand" bag, available in the three colors of metal, which resemble the robot gloves. The skulls are quite reminiscent of the Daft Punk helmets and are also available in gold, silver and graphite with enameled teeth.  I do think it says "haute Halloween trick-or-treat bucket" however, these little treasures don't come cheap ($3,500 and up) as they are plated with 18 karat gold and sterling silver.  You certainly won't want junior to borrow these next October!  Ines Figaredo has a studio In Paris but you can purchase online at or on her website .  

Tell her Daft Punk sent you.

(Addendum to article:  It was brought to my attention by Pat Jacobs in my mention of Pharrell's hat designer, that I didn't stress the influence that both Vivienne Westwood, as one of the pre-eminent designers of UK punk and Malcolm McLaren, also a designer/impresario/musician who managed the Sex Pistols (one of the most iconic bands of the genre) and recruited Johnny Rotten, had on the Punk movement.  The fact that they were so involved in orchestrating the punk lifestyle would have been of interest to Pharrell in the selection of his polarizing hat which he claims to have "just liked.")

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Grammy's: Two Views

The Grammy’s Hit a High Note

Katy Perry in Valentino Haute Couture spring 2014 musical note dress
(Click on images for larger views)

Good taste / bad taste is the yin yang dichotomy that always exists in fashion. It is also highly subjective. Adding to the confusion, the word ‘bad’ (immortalized in Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit song “Bad”) actually means good in slang (as in, “that’s a BAD shirt”). But while the notion of what constitutes good taste vs. bad taste may well be up for grabs, within the confines of the entertainment industry (and particularly the music universe, which goes by its own style rules and over the top theatricality, and exaggeration are the norm), attention grabbing bad taste is almost to be expected… if not celebrated.  And as if to prove that injecting a dose of bad taste in order to shock and provoke can pay off, who could possibly forget Miley Cyrus cavorting with Robin Thicke onstage at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards? Quite frankly, that evening sort of cemented her star status and made her a household name.

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards

If you’ve tuned into the plethora of music award shows (especially the American Music Awards, the Country Music Awards, and the MTV Music Awards), you already know that it’s fairly easy to separate the good, bad (and I mean BAD, not good LOL), and the just plain ugly. Speaking of which, the granddaddy of them all, the 56th Grammy Awards, aired on Sunday evening, and prior to that, many had a field day with pre Grammy articles and TV segments that were completely dedicated to the most outrageous Grammy fashions, during which time good taste was completely thrown out the window.

Included were Jennifer Lopez in a Versace gown that left almost nothing to the imagination at the Grammy’s in 2000; Toni Braxton at the 2001 Grammys in a white Richard Tyler dress that looked more like a ‘loincloth’; Lady Gaga making an entrance (at the Grammys in 2011) arriving in an egg carried by scantily clad men and women; Nicki Minaj at the 2012 Grammies, dressed as a nun, with a pope as her accessory.

Beyonce and J Z

Alas, there was nothing quite as lastingly ‘memorable’ last night (it was truly about the music after all). Fashion wise, it was a real mixed bag. I loved the tongue in cheek whimsy and sense of humor displayed by Katy Perry in her choice of Valentino Haute Couture musical dress from spring 2014 (it was almost literally right off the Paris runway). When I initially saw images of it, I knew someone would wear it, and how appropriate. For the record, I hated her stiff overly retro "updo" (she should have worn her hair in a sleek ponytail).

Taylor Swift in Gucci

Taylor Swift (who is beautiful, has the body of a supermodel, and can wear anything), always gets it right at these award shows, and I loved her silver chain mail Gucci (it, had the simplicity of an elongated t shirt). She changed into a pale gray chiffon dress with swooping skirt and beaded detail, for her performance and then changed back again when she was seated. Beyonce, who skipped the red carpet because she (along with hubby Jay Z) was the opening act, was dressed (or should I say undressed), in a revealing black bodysuit with bondage straps, worn over fishnet stockings. Both the performance and her outfit were undeniably suggestive – so much so that many parents were up in arms about its appropriateness for a televised show.

 Madonna and eight year old son David dressed in Ralph Lauren

By the way, she was another one who made a change of outfits (she did a complete about face, switching into a body hugging white see through lace long dress when she took her seat). Pink looked great in strapless red (she admitted she never wears the color). Music legend Cyndy Lauper chose a short black Alexander McQueen cape with massive gold necklace, worn over narrow black pants. Pregnant Ciara was glowing in a narrow gold beaded floor length gown by Peter Dundas for Emilio Pucci. And then there was Madonna and Child (her adorable 8 year old son David) wearing matching dandy pantsuits. Her smile revealed shiny ‘grilles’ (her son gleefully gold reporters he was getting a set himself). She made a change for her performance, sticking with the natty pantsuit idea, but opting for all white, down to the cowboy hat and exposed garters (it’s the Grammy’s after all).

-Marilyn Kirschner

Hats Off to the 56th Grammys

Pharrell vs Harry

With no Gaga, no Riri...hell, not even Cher, it seems that, for some, the highlight of the 56th Grammy Awards was an accessory sitting atop  Pharrell Williams's head!  Ok, it was an impressively bizarre choice--half from the uniform of a Canadian Mountie, half  Harry Potter Hogwart's sorting variety, but still, it's a damn hat!  It doesn't deserve a Twitter account!  Stop doing that, People!  Sample  tweets include "Arby's called.  They want their hat back."

Beyonce serious bling

The show began with Beyonce in a flashdance-esque heavily bleeped lyrics routine to "Drunk In Love" (wet hair and all) in a sheer black bodysuit with collar and a turning chair.  She was eventually joined by hubby Jay Z in a Tom Ford tux as the power couple showed us their steamy moves.  Later she changed to a white, lace-in-all-the strategic places, Michael Costello (go Project Runway alum!) gown to great effect complete with bling on every finger.  I suppose she had to make up for her underwhelming Grammy ensemble last year of a black and white color blocked jumpsuit and to that end (yes, her rump looked amazing in the white gown) she was successful.  Also in white, Katy Perry in a Valentino  full skirted musical note embellished gown which had just walked the Spring shows runway.

Paula Patton

On a less successful (non-musical) note, Paris Hilton in an uncomfortably high-necked, nude side paneled gown resembling a longer version of an Ice Capades dress.  Most improved from the Golden Globes goes to Paula Patton in a zebra sequined gown featuring two animal heads at the bustline. It may have been a little too much zebra print but at least it was interesting in a Cavalli-esque way. Other than Taylor Swift in her usual award show get-up of sparkly silver, this time it was a Gucci chain-mail "suit of armor" as she described it and added that it was "very scratchy" (not sure Gucci will like that description) there was not a lot to talk about with the women's attire.  It seems, inexplicably, that what inspired me most was the menswear (no, not Madonna's Ralph Lauren suit) but what was actually on the men!

Jared Leto "30 Seconds To Mars"

Ah, we go!    Loved Miguel in Saint Laurent complete with shiny pants...this is how you do Grammy chic!  Also Jared Leto and his band "30 Seconds to Mars" all looked incredible and event appropriate.  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis went the velvet tux route but Macklemore's was teal with a white shirt and black bow tie while Lewis was in a really eye-catching large scale gray and black hounds tooth print which worked really well with a black shirt and tie to tone it down.  Robin Thicke in dark blue Armani velvet also got the memo.  In the all shiny black tux/ shirt/ tie department there was Marc Anthony (dark shades, too) and Gavin DeGraw in a three- piece Varvatos tux as well as his signature hat (this time it was black embossed leather) and white shoes.  Why the white scuffed shoes?  "Cause something's gotta be not quite right" he added.  Steven Tyler decided to do an all-white tux/tails ensemble complete with multi-colored hair in pigtails but then again, its Steven Tyler.

Best couple other than the obvious king and queen of the night (Bey and Jay) would go to Wiz Khalifa also sporting a YSL velvet tux and his wife and Kanye's ex, Amber Rose who covered up all her body art (tattoos) in gold Naeem Khan for the evening.  Who says the Grammys can't be classy?  Now if we could just get Pharrell's hat to stop tweeting!

-Laurel Marcus

Friday, January 24, 2014

Olympic Fashions: America the Tacky?

The  United States Sochi Olympic uniforms were just debuted in the press and I'm still shaking my head.  Did Ralph Lauren seriously want to emulate the ugly Christmas sweater vibe or is this just something I'm mistakenly picking up on?  After the London 2012 Olympics uniform debacle (they were made in China, oops!) I think Mr. Lauren perhaps overcompensated with the stars and stripes and red, white and blue forever (in your face, that is)!

  It's a great thing to be patriotic but must it scream tacky holiday pullover?  Ralph is known for his classy, aristocratic, old money attitude, or at least the main floor of his Madison Avenue Mansion and Purple Label is purporting to lean that way.  On the upper floors one can find the more pedestrian RLX brand of sport and workout clothing which has featured neon colors as well as flag prints, however they are generally done in a less garish way.  Is the Olympics really the place to make this anti-fashion statement and perhaps brand the USA as the winner of the downhill when it comes to ugly garments?

- Laurel Marcus


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In the Market Report: Hunter Boots

All’s ‘Wellie’ that ends ‘Wellie’

I just found my new obsession. An email I received from Hunter Boots (the wellies that EVERYONE slushes around in) could not have been more perfectly timed, considering yesterday’s snowstorm. In it, they were introducing their newest edition: the Original Nightfall boots ( ). Hunter boots are a timeless classic which cannot be improved upon. But of course, adding different finishes, different colors, and different color combinations never hurts. Neither does forging into inspired design collaborations (who could forget the chic ‘crocodile’ embossed Jimmy Choo versions?). And at those relatively low prices (under $200 except for the high end collaborations), one can easily make a case for having a wardrobe, or at the very least, owning several pairs.

The Original Nightfalls are available in white with black or black with white (a chic no fail combo if ever there was one). The added bonus is that each pair is unique and completely individual thanks to a brand new innovation which allows for blending of the black and white natural rubber. The result is a painterly graphic swirling effect. From my point of view (since I’m a frustrated artist, that whole art thing is happening at the moment, and I have an ongoing love affair with black and white), this latest effort might just be their coolest, most inspired yet (of course, I thought the same thing when they initially partnered with Jimmy Choo). And of course they are unisex. So, I could equally imagine them on Hamish Bowles (with a proper English salt and pepper tweed overcoat), or say, on Kate Moss, with black leggings and black moto jacket.

 Oh, and I forgot to mention that that those darn things ‘bloom’ anyway (you know, those stubborn white marks that seem to appear on Hunters), so in this edition, they will be attractively camouflaged. Perhaps that was someone’s brilliant idea.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“Fashion and Folk Art” Exhibition

"Quilty" Pleasure

ThreeASFOUR dress with the Friendship Star Quilt that inspired it
(Click on images for full size views)

I can positively guarantee that after you see “Fashion and Folk Art”, a new and unique exhibition mounted by the American Folk Art Museum, (January 21 - April 23, 2014), you will you re- think  quilts, weather vanes, coverlets, sculptures, artwork,  furniture, and everything else traditionally associated with the genre. It’s a marvelous premise: in an effort to explore the ongoing relationship between inspiration and creation, thirteen established and emerging designers were invited to create original ensembles inspired by a selection chosen from the museum’s permanent collection, to be displayed alongside the original (they actually converged on the museum’s huge warehouse downtown and had their pick of the extraordinary pieces). The fact that folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative, but marked by a naivety, authenticity, and honesty often time lacking in flighty fashion, makes for a match made in heaven -- in my opinion.

Dr. Valerie Steele & Yeohlee

The entire creative journey, from beginning to end (complete with sketches, swatches, and images of the original inspiration and the finished product) is charted on the museum’s brilliantly interactive website ( But it goes without saying that there is nothing like getting up close and personal, which I did last evening during the course of a special champagne preview which boasted a live DJ. In addition to the designers who were on hand, the large crowd included such notables as FIT’s Dr. Valerie Steele, who was praised for her generosity during one of the several opening remarks, and Bill Cunningham.

Gary Graham coat dress ensemble and the Ann Carill coverlet
that inspired it

It was wonderful to actually see the exhibition come to life in such an inventive way, with each designer getting enough of his/her own space to really tell their story. Unsurprisingly, several of the designers were inspired by different versions of the iconic American quilt (considered to be a “glorious American art form” by the museum, and a favorite subject which has been the focus of countless exhibitions). To wit, Chadwick Bell took a cue from a white work quilt (early 1800’s), for his bold white dress; the jumping off point for Koos Van Den Akker’s colorful and shimmery collage gown was a contemporary art quilt constructed of kimonos, (in addition to 2 portraits, a cityscape, and needlework); Fabio Costa’s capelet and skirt were inspired by a 18th century white work quilt and a 19th century Sacred Heart woodcarving; ThreeASFOUR’s (Gabi Asfour, Angela Donhauser, Adi Gil) love affair with a 19th century Friendship Star quilt resulted in their laser cut flower printed patent leather dress.

Jean Yu black dress with straw adornment

The others found inspiration in a variety of textiles, sculptures, artwork, photography, and more. Gary Graham referenced a coverlet for his jacquard-engineered coat dress ensemble. Catherine Malandrino’s asymmetrical crochet handkerchief dress was inspired by an early 20th century Odd Fellow’s paper cut. John Bartlett’s creative juices got flowing when he spotted a late 19th century painted wood figure of a man in a green shirt and white suspenders- which led him to the whimsical green polka dot ensemble. Jean Yu found inspiration in a 20th century carved wood porcupine, the result of which is her straw adorned black chiffon dress.

Ronaldus Shamask and daughter Arianne
standing under his ensemble

Ronaldus Shamask was drawn to the “power and simplicity” of a 20th century James Castle drawing of a blue jacket for three kite shaped ensembles (they were actually suspended from the ceiling). Michael Bastian found divine inspiration in a painted wood carving of a man in a black suit and top hat, a weathervane, and two tenth anniversary tins items for his jacket, pants, top hat, and knit hood with earmuffs. Creatures of the Wind duo (Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters), conceived of their tight bodice dress, upon seeing Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s photograph of his wife (mid 20th century).  Bibhu Mohapatra’s organza dress with lace bodysuit was inspired by a tiny tattoo pattern book (1873- 1910). Yeohlee Teng used informal photographs she took of 4 animal wood carvings (20th century) for her Shamanistic Printed Prayer Flag Dress of Brown Kraft Paper.

John Bartlett next to his polka dot ensemble and sculpture inspiration

By the way, it was not lost on me that the Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square, is located right across the street from Lincoln Center, the current "home" of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. I left thinking, if only some of that some of the raw talent and creativity on view last night can find its way across the street when the fall winter 2014 collections begin.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Screen Actors Guild Awards

The Real "SAG" Awards

Gwynth Paltrow sagging is Alexander McQueen at 2002 Oscars

The 20th Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG), where actors honor other actors for their good work, aired on Saturday night. I have to admit that the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word SAG, is sagging breasts. Which are coincidentally symbolic of Hollywood, the Awards season thus far, and in retrospect, probably every award season, because of the actresses’ penchant for dangerously plunging necklines, deep v’s, and low cut dresses (not to mention their love affair with sheer and see thru materials that leave little or nothing to the imagination). All which practically ensure that breasts, many unfortunately saggy and droopy, will be on display.

Heidi Klum

And while this is something normally associated with old age, two glaring examples can easily put the age issue to rest. How could anyone forget Gwyneth Paltrow’s major misstep back in 2002 when she showed up at the Oscars in a sheer Alexander McQueen? Her saggy breasts landed her on many Worst Dressed lists that year and she finally admitted she should have worn a bra. In any case, Ms. Paltow was only 30 at the time. And last year, bodacious Heidi Klum (39 at the time) arrived at the Oscars with her ‘Golden Globes’ in full view.

Michele Dockery

Well, I didn’t take note of any droopy, saggy breasts last night (on second thought, there was Michele Dockery in plunge front black and white J. Mendel), and there were few major fashion faux pas to make note of (Mariah Carey looked better suited for a “Madonna concert” in her black mini and black fishnets, in the word of one critic, and I’m not sure I get Emma Thompson’s strange choice of flat Christian Louboutin ‘beach’ sandals). For the most part, everyone looked pretty good and did their own thing. If there was one overall trend, it was that it seemed like one big ‘rainbow coalition’ with many gals opting for solid dresses in strong colors (many of them jewel toned), eschewing fussy shapes and busy prints and patterns.

Camila Alves

There was Sandra Bullock in shimmery green metallic Lanvin (Joe Zee described it as “gorgeous gift wrapping”); Julia Roberts in a v neck fuchsia wide legged jumpsuit (it was a bit too 70’s for my taste); Camila Alves in a brilliant canary yellow satin vintage Donna Karan gown; Amy Adams in sapphire blue with arresting cutouts; and a very pregnant Kerry Washington dared to show off her bulging belly in a Schiaparelli pink beaded crop top and full black satin skirt by Miuccia Prada (“I’m not one to follow rules. Let’s have fun in fashion” she said).

Lupita Nyong'o

And once again, Kenya born, Yale educated Lupita Nyong’o is proving herself to be not only a formidable actress, but a major fashion star. She has a knack of choosing statement making dresses that look amazing on her but don’t take away from her. Not an easy feat. Last night, she looked sensational in custom made Gucci cerulean blue with a floral embellished top (why don’t more stars understand the importance of having interest at the top? It certainly makes for a great photo op).

Jennifer Lawrence

As for Jennifer Lawrence, who loves strapless, she looked great, and it was quite an improvement from the Golden Globes. Her dark purple beaded form fitting strapless Dior Couture gown was in fact so fitted, she admitted, “I feel like I’m squeezing my breath into my armpits”. And while I didn’t really love Cate Blanchett’s pale pink Givenchy halter gown (it had an unfortunately distracting front piece and not many others could pull it off), that is SO beside the point. Her choices are always interesting and informed. And she is terrific looking, so talented, and has such presence, that it really does not matter what she wears.

Cate Blanchett

By the way, speaking of sagging and aging, the one ongoing trend this awards season, which was also very apparent last night, is for the over 40 ( 50, 60, 70, and 80) set to be awarded the highest accolades and literally steal the show. It’s not just about the spring chickens nowadays. Just think about the impressive list of nominees in major categories across the board this year. Cate Blanchett (44), Julia Roberts (46), Sandra Bullock (49), Emma Thompson (54), Meryl Streep (64), Helen Mirren (68), Judy Dench (79), June Squib (84), and last but not least, Rita Moreno.

Rita Moreno

The fabulous 82 year ‘young’ actress, dancer, and singer, received the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award last night. Not only did she look great, she did it without professional hair and makeup, OR a stylist. With an  un- Botoxed face and naturally gray short hair, she arrived in her OWN (imagine that!) hip cool studded leather jacket worn over a long lean black gown printed with Asian inspired flowers (“I’m the only woman who paid for her own gown. I haven’t worn designer clothes for ages” she said). And appropriately, hers was possibly the coolest acceptance speech (or should I say, performance), I’ve heard in a long time.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Mature Women of SAG Are Flashy and “Quite Perky”

Coromandel screen
This past week I was visiting my family house in suburban Pennsylvania where I spent my high school and college years.  My father and step-mother avidly collected French furniture and antiques, only surrounding themselves with the best of the best.  While my taste in home décor lies firmly in the clean lines of modern, I always appreciated the beauty and drama of certain pieces, especially Chinese lacquer; my favorite being the Coromandel screen.  How fitting for me to return, tune into the Screen Actors Guild awards and be reminded of that from whence I came.

Oscar de la Renta for Fall 2013

The coromandel screen has been alluded to in the designs of Mary Katrantzhou for Fall/Winter 2011-12 and in Oscar de la Renta for Fall 2013 and of course, black and gold are a classic palette. I loved seeing this combination on the ladies over 50 on the red carpet.  My absolute pick of the evening goes to EGOT’s (EMMY, GRAMMY, OSCAR, TONY) winner Rita Moreno who at 82 is just “beginning the third act” of her life.  She walked up to the stage to claim her Lifetime Achievement Award after being introduced by her “old friend” Morgan Freeman, danced a victory lap (no kidding), dropped an F-bomb which the censors caught (the “man with the button” as she called it) and flirted with Jeremy (Renner) and Brad (Pitt) during the course of her speech which included her singing with a still clear voice.  Not only that but her outfit was the star of the show! Love that she’s rocking the studded Herve Leger motorcycle jacket over her low cut “Coromandel screen” type gown. Ah-ma-zing!  Way more interesting than some of the younger women in their yawn-worthy attire!

Helen Mirren

Also turning it out was Helen Mirren, who at 68 declared that she was not feeling a bit SAG-gy and was actually “quite perky.”  It showed as she brought it with a win in her category as well as a winning look in long sleeved and full skirted black and gold Escada.  Her hair, makeup and jewelry (love the earrings!) also win kudos in my book.

Emma Thompson

Even Emma Thompson (54) wearing her Louboutin gold flat sandals after her “bloodied feet” episode from her Louboutin stilettos last week at the Golden Globes was turned out in a similar theme.  Her vintage William dress was adorned with a large bird with gold beaded tail feathers going over one shoulder reminiscent of a Coromandel screen detail.

There were a few younger women who shared the love of black and gold including Katrina Bowden from “30 Rock” in Badgely Mischka and Betsy Brandt from “Breaking Bad” in Alice + Olivia looking good but they need to ripen.  It takes time to be able to look as good as the over 50 ladies!

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Anna Wintour Honored & IMG "Takes the Money and Runs"

Let’s "Face" It: Quite A Coup!

Anna Wintour
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Let's face it. Anna Wintour had already become THE "face" of the Costume Institute. Having help raised $125 million (she’s been a trustee since January 1999), she has co-chaired 15 benefits since 1995 and has raised the profile of the Met Ball considerably since her iron fist involvement. It is not only considered to be THE Party of the Year, with a glittery Who’s Who roster of guests from all segments of the social sphere, but has become one of the most “coveted” tickets on the social calendar. 

After two years of extensive renovations, the Anna Wintour Costume Center will officially open on May 8, with the inaugural exhibition, “Charles James: Beyond” (and its attending gala on Monday May 5th).And it promises to be even more blockbuster than ever thanks to yesterday's official announcement, confirming that The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be renaming the space occupied by The Costume Institute as the Anna Wintour Costume Center. While hardly surprising: she has indeed worked tirelessly in its behalf, by any standards, (and especially considering that this it first time the Metropolitan Museum of Art has actually named a space after an individual who has not donated money), this is an undeniable honor, coup, and quite an accomplishment, for the woman who has widely been considered to be the most important person in fashion today. It’s like being on the Mount Rushmore of fashion: she is now officially immortalized.

"America's Single Women" Harper's Bazaar March 1976
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All I can say is, congratulations! I worked with Anna very briefly, many many (yikes, too many) years ago at Harper’s Bazaar, where we were both junior fashion editors. She was hired in 1975 and her innovative, “controversial” shoots prompted editor-in-chief Tony Mazzola to fire her after about nine months. I never really got to know her or work with her, but she was a strong personality and definitely stood out. This was perfectly exemplified when senior fashion editor Carrie Donovan had all the attractive single editors pose for a double page spread shot by the famed Bill King for the March 1976 issue (it had the cover lines, “America’s Single Women”). We were given identical long sleeved t shirts with the Harper’s Bazaar logo imprinted on them to wear, and while a few of us wore necklaces, and one wore a shirt beneath, Anna was the only to wear a vest (by Kenzo if I remember correctly), as though she wanted to practically cover the logo. The only thing missing was a touch of fur and of course, her signature shades.

Anna Dello Russo

FYI, as for the colorful Prada mink coat with the mural art inspired face design from spring 2014. I have to say I’ve been obsessed since seeing the group of them coming down the runway last September. They are truly collectors’ items, and recently, I found myself wondering who would wear it first: Anna Wintour (a great friend and customer of Miuccia’s), Anna Dello Russo, or Miroslava Duma (the two street stars with a penchant for eye popping put togethers). As it turns out, Anna Wintour gets the prize. She was photographed wearing it last week, when she attended the ‘Girls’ premier (how appropriate!). Though Anna Dello Russo was just photographed by Tommy Ton for wearing a version while attending the men’s’ fall 2014 shows in Milan; and it’s a no brainer that Miroslava Duma will show up at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week with yet another version. It’s a sure bet that the three of them (and perhaps Giovanna Battaglia), will wear them all at the same time during the upcoming shows. What a photo op that will be. Talk about a fashion ‘face-off’. Out of curiosity, I called the 57th street Prada 5th avenue store (724 5th avenue, 212 664 0010), and asked if they have any in stock. I was told there was one. The price? $43,000.

 Marilyn Kirschner

IMG: "Takes the Money & Runs"

Click on image for larger view

IMG announced via an email the other day that all credentialed media would also need a designer's seated invitation to gain access even to the lobby at Lincoln Center. So the question begs to be asked.  If writers and other members of the media need a valid invite to each show - then what function does the press credential perform? 

Anyone with a invitation to a Mercedes Benz New York fashion show does not need or is required to pay for a credential. So what are we, members of the "paying media" (forget the irony of having to pay for the honor of reporting on the shows) get for the $80 besides being included in the IMG  press list mailed to designers? (Original fee was $35) Lets face it, the "A list" editors & American Express card holding guests are not going pay for credentials, and they can be safely ensconced in some VIP lounge before the shows. So it just remains for the rest of us poor schnooks to pay IMG for wearing what amounts to an albatross - a badge with our picture hanging from our necks with no discernible function.

"IMG is going to make it even more difficult for the many, so as to make it more comfortable for the few, and as a result make all our jobs that much more difficult to do."

When the shows first began at Bryant Park, it was far different event than today. The registrants were treated with more good nature and respect. New York fashion week was truly a twice annual industry event and the only time when everyone in the industry could get together (journalists, designers, retailers, stylists, buyers) to meet, socialize, network as well as report on the shows. The open bar each afternoon stretching into the evening was fun, perhaps a little too loud at times, but it still brought us a sense of being in the "industry".  In recent years, there were no goody bags, no opening party, limited open bar, no free coffee, and more VIP areas than ever before. All IMG has really done since arriving at Lincoln Center was to create non inviting and sterile venues that closely resembled an airport waiting room and, in name of greater and greater profits helping to promote the mass exodus of designers from showing at their very venues.  Now, in the name of making the shows more "exclusive", IMG is going to make it even more difficult for the many, so as to make it more comfortable for the few, and as a result make all our jobs that much more difficult to do.

Some other concerns come to our minds. What is going to happen with those who want standing room tickets? Is IMG going to keep them waiting outside the venue? Can people once into the venue stay there all day, or are they going to be forced out without a current ticket?  How do the sponsors feel about limiting the number of people who can access the lobby? Does Anna Wintour and others on the "A list" really care about looking at the cars or other sponsor offerings? And realizing that many PR firms pad their clients' invite lists with people to fill up seats who really have little or no relation to the industry, how much more exclusive does this new policy make the shows?

These and other questions were directed yesterday to IMG public relations manager Andrew Serrano but he declined to discuss it on the record. In the words of a former long time "employee" of the shows, the entire event has become a "train wreck". So, in the end, you pay your money and accept the fact when it comes to IMG -- less is more.

-Ernest Schmatolla