Monday, March 31, 2014

In the Market Report: Espadrilles & More

Let Me Show You The ‘Ropes’

Grace Kelly

It still feels like winter, but if you want to instantly get that easy, laid back vacation vibe more commonly associated with spring and summer, all you need to do is simply switch from heavy boots and leather soled pumps, to rope soled espadrilles (though, not in the rain of course). Espadrilles date back to Spain in the 1300s, and they were originally a working class shoe, made of strong and cheap materials like rope and jute. They became popular in other countries (and amongst other people than peasants), but really gained ‘cool’ status when worn by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly in the 20th century.

Chanel ivory and black canvas

The list of fashion icons who have long embraced this chic, timeless and unisex wardrobe staple goes on and on, and for good reason. They look great in town or country, and of course, at the beach (whether your beach of choice is the South of France, Southampton, or, er, South Jersey). And now that low heels, and especially flats, are having their ‘moment’ (even die hard high heel aficionados are succumbing to the comfort and ease that flats provide), they are practically ubiquitous and being offered in dizzying incarnations.

 Celine leopard printed espadrilles

That being said, there are two specific styles that from my point of view, simply cannot be improved upon and have become classics: the Chanel slip on in white, ivory, or tan, with its signature black cap toe (first introduced a few years ago, and offered in canvas or leather); and Phoebe Philo’s Celine leopard printed calf hair slip on from spring summer 2013. While alas, these exact pieces may not be available right now (unless you are lucky enough to find them), there are currently many wonderful re interpretations which are readily available at a range of prices.

Tory Burch

Channeling Chanel: Jeffrey Campbell’s “Atha” leather espadrille in ivory or nude with black cap toe, $134.95, ; the ivory Tory Burch “Catalina” espadrille with black cross cross front, $125,

Manebi Accra pony leopard printed double sole espadrilles

Seeing ‘spots’: Jeffrey Campbell’s “Abides” giant leopard printed calf hair espadrille, $149.95,; Elyse Walker’s Los Angeles calf hair espadrille, $395,; Manebi Accra’s leopard printed calf hair espadrilles, $145 and $185, and ; Ralph Lauren’s  Denim & Supply Emery ocelot printed flat canvas espadrille, $59; Ralph Lauren’s leopard printed canvas lace up espadrille, $250, (which is also available in zebra),

And speaking of zebra, a zebra stenciled calf hair trench from the 70’s; a cropped  camel mouton jacket from the 50’s with an amazing shape (it reminded me of something Marc Jacobs showed for fall 2014); a Dorothy Bis long black wool shawl trimmed with playful red knit pom poms from the 80’s; a pair of red patent leather Roger Vivier flats with a silver buckle and silver heel (date unknown but they are always objects of desire - just take a look at Ines de la Fressange); a  Lanvin charcoal gray wool jersey ‘Goddess” dress from fall 2005 that is short in front and has a train in the back; a mini white glazed wicker trunk bag with distinctive gold hardware from the 50’s (which resembles some of the structured bags Nicolas Guesquiere showed for on his freshman fall winter 2014 Louis Vuitton collection); a Comme des Garcons red leather minimalistic structured bag. These are the things I bought at two vintage shows (that for the first time, overlapped) this past weekend.

The Manhattan Vintage show (held at the Metropolitan Pavillion), , was held on Friday and Saturday, and The Pier Antiques Show (at Pier 94), was on Saturday and Sunday. The consensus of opinion, from both dealers and customers I spoke with, was that it would have been far better to hold these two popular shows on different weekends, as it sort of muddied the waters, and was a bit confusing and distracting. But on a cool, rainy weekend, it was nonetheless a fun way to kill time (and of course, browse and shop) with my partner in ‘crime’: friend and Washington D.C. based vintage dealer Madge Novel (Madge Novel Vintage.Modern). We have toyed around with the idea of going into business (keep posted). At this point, I am really not looking for anything in particular, but I am always hunting, especially if something really grabs my attention, and it’s the serendipity aspect that holds such an enormous appeal. You never know what you will find. FYI, I won’t tell you what I paid, but suffice it to say, in each case it was far less than retail.

By the way, I did spot inveterate collectors and Vogue contributors Lynn Yaeger and Hamish Bowles at The Pier show on Saturday, and I could not resist grilling Hamish about Vogue’s controversial April cover featuring Kimye. He broke into a broad smile and said, “It has certainly gotten people talking” (I am sure all the Vogue editors are used to being asked about this by now, since it is such a hot topic). Naturally, I was hoping to get some ‘dirt’. You know, maybe he would admit that some of the seasoned editors, like Grace Coddington, (who I would assume are more into the art than the commerce side of things), actually stormed out of the Vogue offices upon hearing Anna’s idea. But alas, that was not the case. Quite the opposite. Hamish, who got up close and personal with Kimye, and wrote the accompanying piece, said that “Kim actually won everyone over” as she could not have been “nicer”. When I pointed out that she had no reason not to be nice (after all, she is finally getting her wish), he retorted, “yes, but she didn’t have to be”. He also told me that Grace Coddington really wanted to style the Annie Liebovitz shoot. Which she did, I might add. Working her usual magic, she made Kim look about as chic and elegant as could be.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Calvin Klein White Label Presentation

Calvin Klein: Easy Does It

Kevin Carrigan and models
All Photos Neil Rasmus/
(click images for full size views)

Being cozy, comfortable, sporty, and casual, is the new black. And so is gray (shades of gray to be exact). This message rang loud and clear at Wednesday's men’s and women’s Calvin Klein white label apparel, jeans, performance, and accessories presentation for fall 2014, where everything was shown with flats (trainers, sneakers, slip ons, sandals), to further accentuate the mood. It was all about hip, young, urbane, utilitarian, and multi purpose (the height of modern).

Held on the main floor of 205 West 39th street, it was once again, an informal installation on models. There was an additional selection of items hanging on racks, and accessories were displayed on tables, allowing editors to get up close and personal with merchandise that included bags (sculptural and linear hair calf clutches, Saffiano leather satchels, totes, backpacks, portfolios); shoes (slip on flats, double strap sandals, zip sneakers, track sneakers and trainers, and one fierce leather over the knee boot on a high heel); watches (transparent bands with stainless steel for women; silicone straps with aluminum cases for men); translucent eyewear; a smattering of smart and chic rose gold jewelry that highlighted polished metal chains.

It’s apparent Kevin Carrigan, Global Creative Director, ck Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans, and Calvin Klein, is feeling strongly for slouchy, over sized ribbed and cabled sweaters; rich textures and tactile fabrics; chicly comfortable outerwear in multi layered mohair, alpaca, and felted cool;  pajama inspired 'loungey' pieces in blush (to be worn inside and out); and of course, denim, which has long been a house specialty. This season, it’s all about the new boot leg slouchy and extra-long jean, and the straight boy fit or rolled girlfriend, for the gals; the slim cut engineered concealed jean with minimal top stitching for the guys, in black or deep indigo washes, rinsed or finished with varnish or glaze.

What was lovely, in addition to the chic late morning refreshments and beverages served by elegant young men, were the cherry blossoms, which served as a backdrop to the fashion, and a reminder that even though it is still frigid, it IS spring after all. Speaking of which, though fall winter merchandise was being shown, it had an unapologetically season less feeling thanks to the emphasis on the yin and yang that always exists in fashion: the play of structured and soft, dark and pale, masculine and feminine, covered up and bare; over sized and narrow, etc. To better show off the new Calvin Klein Perfectly Fit Underwear for fall 2014 (made of a soft warp knit high tech fabric that offers superior stretch and a luxurious feel), push up bras, triangles, bare under wires, and bikinis, were on display, often juxtaposed against the decidedly heftier tweeds, flannels, felts, and of course, the androgynous denim.

FYI, upon leaving, in addition to a pair of Calvin Klein sunglasses in a nifty case, each editor received an iconic wire free bra and matching bikini. Now, if only it can finally get warmer and brighter.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fashion, Function, Conformity & Irony...

Jumpsuit with side button closure
Fashion and function:  can the two live together in peace and harmony?  If the two "F's" were on a dating site it's probably safe to say that they would never be matched together.  I had this epiphany recently, when an article of clothing that had caught my eye in a store window and had been in the back of my mind ever since finally got tried on.  It was not the most practical of items in the first place:  a black lace, one shouldered jumpsuit with skinny legs almost resembling a catsuit --at my age--Really?

Yes, I went there, middle age be damned and all, however this item of apparel was made for a person with an innate ability to button up countless little buttons (think back of a wedding dress) but placed to one side. Even the young saleswoman was having trouble fastening it on me so  definitely not an age related issue.  Was this garment intended for a superhero, an angel or someone who, if they were able to fasten it up in the first place, would never need to use a restroom during the course of its wearing?  Even the unbuttoning would be extremely challenging as most of us humans don't have eyes at the sides of our heads to be able to see each and every small button and even smaller loop let alone the manual dexterity required to "thread the needle."

I started thinking that a man must have designed this contraption under the assumption that women are meant to look sexy but have no real need to get through their day or night with any practicality.  The same concept must have been behind stiletto heels, corsets, hoop skirts, tight pencil skirts or any number of other injustices throughout history that women have been asked to don in the name of fashion and beauty.  The saleswoman admitted that the last person who purchased the jumpsuit had added snaps but I was still confounded.  I asked if a zipper could be sewn in leaving the skeuomorphic (pronounced "skew-morphic") buttons in all their glory to be rendered strictly decorative which they should have been in the first place!  I am still waiting to see how it turns out but would love to ask the designer "What were you thinking?"

Pebble watch

All of this got me to ponder not only non-function in fashion but also fashion terms which have been bandied about recently: "skeuomorphic" being one of them.  It seems that a lot of design terms are coming from the tech world and are eventually applied to fashion.  Skeuomorphic, as I understand it, means something vestigial that was once necessary to an item but is now completely ornamental.  Some examples could include woodgrain panels on the sides of cars (they now use faux wood to achieve the look on car dashboards) and rivets on jeans (denim is now stitched together not riveted however the rivets still exist as embellishment). I would be tempted to add to this ever-growing category watches that have so many dials on their faces that the wearer can't even determine the time.  I've noticed a number of Pebbles lately (a watch that was originally funded on Kickstarter that runs apps) which has a very clean, monolithic design, perhaps as a reaction to the previously over cluttered timepieces.

VW with skeuomorphic woodgrain

Of course, many of these terms would not exist without "hipsters" (to me, anyone young who lives in Brooklyn) who can be credited with coining the concept of wearing an item ironically.  For instance, my college freshman son who doesn't classify as a hipster and in fact, makes fun of them, had an integrally important zipper fail on his coat in the middle of this brutal winter in Cleveland and could not close his coat.  With the zipper challenged jacket he had been complaining about the fact that his legs were always cold so, ever the concerned mother I purchased, and sent him a somewhat longer down coat.  His reaction was priceless: "Why did you send me a dress?" he queried.  "Too long, too wide. When I tighten the waist it makes me look like a Bavarian beer garden wench."  While I LOL'd and suggested he send it back; he did agree that it was warm and finally sighed and said that he would "wear it ironically."  I can only guess what that means, although The Onion ran a hysterical article back in 2005 in which the author wears an expensive business suit "ironically" and can't understand why people weren't "getting it" and why he kept being promoted at work. (Click here for article).   I have not seen my son in his "coat of irony" so I'm unable to report on whether he has fared any better in his quest than the satire writer.

Jerry Seinfeld epitomized normcore

In case you aren't confused enough, there is also a trend known as "normcore" which completely baffles me.  From what I've been able to gather, this is the wearing of very bland, generic clothing (think "Seinfeld" but not the puffy shirt or the suede jacket episode) worn by normally trendy youth (I won't use the hipster word).  It is heavily reliant on  '90s brands like Adidas, Levis, gray Nike sweatshirts;  items that one would see on mall goers in the heartland of middle America but somehow on the cool younger generation it became a fashion statement or  anti-fashion statement.  Normcorers want you to believe that they are too cool to be slaves to fashion and are so over it.  Have they considered that they risk falling into Try-hard territory; someone trying to create an image as the polar opposite of what they really are so that it's obviously contrived?  Urban Dictionary defines an example of a try-hard as an affluent suburban dweller who covers themselves in piercings and tattoos.   We used to call them posers or wannabes.

Madonna at Costume Institute Gala 2009

With true normcore, if you are walking behind a proponent it should be near impossible  to tell if the wearer is 18 or 50.  Interestingly, President Obama has been touted in the press as our "normcore" president because, in his precious little bit of downtime, he wears windbreakers, mom jeans and white sneakers.   Unless you are POTUS or a scientist working on the cure to cancer, there really is no excuse for embracing normcore as a fashion statement. As Cathy Horyn has espoused, only the young can pull off fashion irony whether it leans to excess or banality.  Ms. Horyn's 2009 The New York Times article entitled "Irony and The Old Lady" (click here for article) which was written as commentary after Madonna wore a hair ribbon that suggested bunny ears, thigh high swashbuckler boots and a bubble dress to the Met Costume Institute Gala that year, begins "First go the knees, then goes irony."  And clearly if Madonna can't pull it off, there's little hope for the rest of us over the half century mark. That being said it's not going to stop me from wearing my racy jumpsuit assuming I can get it closed.   I'll leave the lapin ears to the cottontails.

- Laurel Marcus

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vogue's April Cover: "Huh?"


Huh? That was my first reaction when I heard that Kim and Kanye were going to grace the April cover of Vogue. I mean, really, this couple could be easily be considered as the "Poster Children" for shameless self- promotion, and are more commonly seen on the cover of weekly gossip magazines. And let’s not forget that Kim basically became ‘famous’ in 2007 after a sex tape she made with her then boyfriend, went viral.

Yes, okay, well, she has a pretty enough face, and is photogenic, but for me, she somehow always looks tacky and cheap, regardless of how expensive and elegant the label (she wears or carries).  I just loved that customized Birkin bag Kanye gave her as a Christmas gift, hand painted with nudes (NOT!) Could it be those larger than life boobs, hips, and behind?

Seth Rogen and James Franco spoof the Vogue April 2014 cover

Then I started thinking about this larger than life ‘thing’, and it all began to make sense (sort of). Inside the April issue, Anna is featuring a plus sized collection (the collaboration between Isabel Toledo and Lane Bryant), and she is featuring Kim and Kanye on the cover, with their plus sized egos (quite frankly, they do everything PLUS-sized, over the top, and in our faces). Without her actually realizing it, she has a theme going on. Maybe the cover lines should have read, Spring Chic: On the Plus Side. Although I must say that a few others, posting their comments online, had their own astute theories about the April cover, calling it one big April Fools’ joke. (Someone actually said, "At least Anna Wintour has a sense of humor. Kim and Kanye are the two biggest April Fools!"). Several went as far as to  suggest Anna has "lost it", and is "out of her mind". Out of her mind? No, I don't think so. Crazy like a fox, perhaps. Anna knows precisely what she is doing. There is almost no such thing as bad publicity these days and there have already been hilarious spoofs on the Annie Leibovitz cover, (check out James Franco and Seth Rogen), so it's destined to become a 'classic'. Undoubtedly there will be more to come (I can't imagine  that Jimmy Fallon doesn't already have something planned).

Quite frankly, I would prefer to label Kanye West "crazy" if not completely delusional. Look at what he boasted to Ryan Seacrest months ago: "There's no way Kim Kardashian shouldn't be on the cover of Vogue. She's like the most intriguing woman right now. She's got Barbara Walters calling her like every day … and collectively we're the most influential with clothing." He added, "No one is looking at what [President] Obama is wearing. Michelle Obama cannot Instagram a [bikini] pic like what my girl Instagrammed the other day… so when we [editor-in-chief of French Vogue ] Carine Roitfeld supports my girl (Roitfeld put Kim on the cover of her new fashion publication, CR Fashion Book ), that's a breakthrough … there's a wall of classism that we are breaking through."

It’s hardly surprising that so much has been written immediately following the news of the Vogue cover coup.  It was pointed out that for years, Anna had banned Kardashian from attending the Costume Institute Gala, “one of the biggest events of the fashion season that attracts every A-Lister imaginable”. Though she finally gave in, and Kim showed up last year with Kanye (she was pregnant and bulging out of her form fitting Givenchy floral dress), she was “conveniently cropped out of Vogue’s Best Dressed gallery”.  Yet just recently, I noticed Kim was actually featured on's/ Daily Celebrity Style Sightings, wearing a fitted two piece Alaia dress while out and about in Miami.

Polo Ralph Lauren socks and sandals

And last March, there was a vicious rumor, reported by a number of publications, that Anna had labeled Kardashian “the worst thing since socks and sandals.” Certainly, socks and sandals were always considered a big fashion faux pas, but not anymore. Fashion is nothing, if not fickle, and these days, they are not only being shown on some of the most highly influential runways, but are being worn by some of the chicest women, including some of Vogue’s editors and contributors. Oh, and just recently,'s/ Trends + Shopping column featured “Socks with Sandals - It’s Happening! (with good examples from Prada, Kenzo, Clergerie, Givenchy, etc).

Speaking of fickle, it is obvious that Anna has certainly had a change of heart. However, it remains to be seen how long Kim Kardashian will remain in “Vogue”  (I mean that literally and figuratively obviously). And I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that she is not being awarded the CFDA's 2014 "Fashion Icon Award"


- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, March 21, 2014

Isabel Toledo is A "Plus" for Lane Bryant

Isabel Toledo for Lane Bryant white black double faced
 T wrap coat, domino sheath dress

It’s no secret that the plus size market has long been neglected by the fashion industry. By right, the often larger than life persona's that inhabit this insular world, (with their over sized egos), should be embracing everything that is large. But judging from the way the plugged in fashion flock has feverishly embraced teeny tiny bags (which have been downsized to mini me proportions as of late), many are apparently sticking to their beliefs that good things come in small packages. Of course, for some, bigger is better, and to prove the point, one of fashion’s most well respected and revered designers, Isabel Toledo, has joined forces with Lane Bryant for their first fashion collaboration.The result? An exclusive collection sized from 14 – 28,

Isabel Toledo silver tweed inside out trench coat
 and cropped trousers

It was unveiled last evening during the course of a formal runway show, and I was wondering if her choice of the iconic Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and Phillip Johnson designed Seagram Building (it had been hailed as a modern architectural masterpiece) as her venue of choice, was at the very least, symbolic. After all, she’s helping to ‘rebuild’ Lane Bryant’s image; Isabel’s designs are sculptural and architectural; and she spent her early years surrounded by tools (rivets, studs, hammers, wrenches): hence her fascination with “spatial construction”. As she told Vogue during the course of an interview in 1995, “My designs are not about clothing but about building.” “I’m always thinking in 3-D”.

As it turns out, the sprawling 11th floor space where the show was held, is currently unoccupied and is being rented out for events (so much for creative deductions). Speaking of Vogue, Anna Wintour is reportedly doing a feature on the collection in Vogue’s upcoming April Issue, and to say that is not often that a plus sized line is given those honors is an understatement (I can’t say I recall when it happened last). I guess Anna understands the potential advertisement windfall that would result from tapping into such a large overlooked demographic

Isabel Toledo Chantilly lace poet shirt

As for the clothes? Isabel kept to her chic and signature color palette: black, white, cream, stone, gray; accented with hits of metallic gunmetal, silver, and gold; and shots of strong color (mandarin orange and sapphire blue). There is no question that the standouts could best be described as, well, signature Isabel: the pieces that are always building blocks of her collections, regardless of the size they are made in. So, by definition, that would mean great shirts and shirt dresses (a color blocked shirt dress which could be a tunic or stand alone, and the black white Toledo Jazz print shirt dress stood out); lace and lace trim (there were a group of black lace trimmed and stretch lace dresses and one black Chantilly lace poet shirt looked especially good); draped front matte jersey dresses (whether in black or mandarin orange); and of course, coats. Best were the silver tweed inside out trench coat with black organza lining, black taffeta t shirt and silver tweed cropped trouser;  and the “T” wrap coats in black and white and black and tan, both shown over dresses. And at a time when there are so many wonderful art inspired face prints, let’s not forget that Isabel’s illustrator husband, Ruben, has been doing whimsical face prints for years, and one of them has been translated onto a stone charmeuse top.

Isabel Toledo stone charmeuse with
 Ruben Toledo face print top

The models wore their hair pulled back in buns as to not distract from the clothes, and other than a few statement making bangles, she wisely under accessorized, using only big sunglasses, extra-long hombre chiffon scarves tied backwards around the necks, great shoes (everything from high heeled pointy toed single soled pumps to of the moment heavy platform sandals), and of course, plenty of attitude. At one point, one of the models kept falling down in her high heels, eventually removed them and was finally able to walk (and the audience applauded in approval).

You know how everyone always criticizes fashion shows for being exclusionary? Well, Isabel’s models represented different ethnic groups and a range of heights, sizes, and shapes. Come to think of it, the only group left out was the "skinnies". By the way, on each seat there was a roomy trompe l’oeil tote in graphic black and white, and inside, an over-sized lace front tee, (both from the collection), as well as a copy of Isabel’s captivating autobiography, “Isabel Toledo: Roots of Style”.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thinking of L'Wren Scott

I began my market report summing up the 2014 fall/winter collections by paraphrasing Bill Cunningham, who wisely noted, “Fashion is the armor that gets you through daily life”. Uncannily, just days before L’Wren Scott’s untimely and tragic passing, she posted online: “Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of life.”

The tributes, (by many who admittedly have had closer personal ties with her than myself) have been pouring in, but as someone who truly admired the whole package (and it was a stately one at that), I felt I wanted to add my own thoughts. L’Wren was truly unique, gifted, talented, and highly charismatic, and she really stood out, even in the world of fashion. She had a naturally regal presence; she ‘owned’ her signature persona; and she possessed innately good taste. She was strong yet fragile; old fashioned yet hip; modern yet traditional, and her finely honed aesthetic was completely un-trendy.

She knew what suited her, and she stuck with it. At well above 6 feet tall in her stocking feet, she was one of the lucky few who could live in flats, and nobody looked as good in them (certainly, nobody looked as good in mannish flat oxfords, skinny jeans, and a fitted jacket). But because she also understood the notion of ‘appropriate’, she knew when to tap into that naturally tomboy personage, and when to be all woman.

I still remember her astute observation, regarding men and fashion: “If it has a waist, they understand it”. Assuredly, she was known for her love of form fitting dresses and impeccably tailored clothes: all the better to accentuate and attenuate that long and lean frame. You might want to keep that in mind the next time you are deliberating between that shapeless frock, or something that actually shows your form.

Reportedly, her clothes, beloved by stalwart fans (which include Nicole Kidman, Ellen Barkin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Obama), are now selling out at retail. But even if you can’t swing for one of her svelte, costly designs, you might want to check out her namesake fragrance, in collaboration with renowned perfumer Ralf Schwieger, and an exclusive at Barneys New York ($195 for 100 ml). Everything about it is the embodiment of L’Wren: from the sculptural red bottle, to the original and memorable spicy chypre scent, which includes absinthe, star anise, coriander, mandarin, marigold, tuberose, jasmine, geranium, curry, clove, leather, amber, and moss.

As Maria Shriver so succinctly put it: “Thinking of L'Wren, I'm reminded of this quote: "Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

I'm speechless.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beyond the Question of Terry Richardson...

This whole Terry Richardson affair begs the larger question: Where does Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg, and the CFDA stand on protecting models from predatory photographers who are hired to shoot for their publications or brands?

 Funny, not word one out of any of them. You would think a few platitudes on the issue would at least be in order? We send a note over to Steven Kolb of the CFDA, but will not hold my breath for an answer any time in the near future! Mr. Kolb no longer talks to me because he says I am not a friend of DVF or the CFDA.

- Ernest Schmatolla

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Battle of the Bandage Dress

Bandage dresses

I recently watched a video with Stylists Robert Verdi, June Ambrose, Fashion Journalist Laurie Brookins, Senior Womenswear Editor at WSGN (trend forecasters)Jaclyn Jones and others in the business  sitting around a table at The Lion in NYC dining and talking fashion.  One of the subjects that they were discussing was that a large part of trend forecasting is driven by the textile industry. "I think fabrics really set the tone," says Jones.  "You can go to a fabric trade show and really predict what you're going to see coming down the runway."

WSGN starts tracking season trends two years in advance and so begins a version of the "trickle down" theory.  I imagine it going something like the scene in "The Devil Wears Prada" when Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) explains to neophyte Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) that her "lumpy" cerulean blue sweater is all part of a vast merchandising cog eventually sent down from the cerulean blue gowns shown at several haute couture fashion houses to the masses into "some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin."

This is all background for an observation that I made while browsing for contemporary dresses (ostensibly for my college age daughter) in a famous 5th Avenue department store.  When did everything become "Leger-ized"?  I'm referring, of course, to the Herve Leger bandage dress which has been around since the mid '80s when it was first created by "The King of Cling" Azzedine Alaia, then appropriated by Herve L. Leroux but was re-launched in full force with a runway show in 2008 after being acquired by BCBG Max Azria.  Since then the body-con dress has been knocked off by a company called Stretta  Moda(complete with a 2012 lawsuit) among others who emulated the bandage stripping of the original but used cheaper fabric and fabrication.

Ronny Kobo dress in similar fabric around $400

Many others jumped on the bandwagon including  Torn by Ronny Kobo who made a copy as well as French Connection and Bebe.   Even BCBG Generation is now doing a low priced version of the stretchy fabric effectively knocking off themselves.   Somehow this textile (or very similar ones in a knit of rayon and spandex, sometimes in jacquard) have taken over the market for the young and trendy.  I assumed this style was played out several years ago and replaced by the digital prints (Mary Katrantzou and at a lesser price point Clover Canyon) and by the cut-outs and illusion plunging neckline spandex dresses that seem to proliferate at my daughter's sorority date parties.  Apparently I was wrong, as a textile that feels even heavier and rougher (less pliant) and without the bandage stripping is in abundance on the sales floor if not on the dance floor.

I'm not sure who favors this fabric...I guess it would serve to suck in any "problem areas" almost like a girdle or Spanx,  however it must feel like armor and it certainly isn't breathing or letting the wearer breathe.  I would be curious to see if these dresses can stand on their own and how much they weigh.  How this thick, heavy fabric will fare in the warmer months is anyone's guess but they certainly don't scream Spring/Summer to me.  The good news is it seems that like the Tech Focus fabrics they are almost indestructible and probably impervious to liquids so if you do spill that glass of champagne no one will be the wiser.

Herve Leger jacquard dress

Meanwhile the real Herve Leger line continues to churn out everything from the original style bandage dress at around a $1,000 price point to some very intricately embellished items with jacquard and a crocheted appearance for around $3,000 as well as swim apparel including a $790 monokini. Bloomingdales is featuring an entire department of Leger on their 4th floor of designers across from Chanel.   The question is:  who is still buying them?   As Diane von Furstenberg is now celebrating the 40 year anniversary of her iconic wrap dress, expect to see an even bigger resurgence of the bandage dress next year for 2015 as  it turns the big 3-0!

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

CFDA 2014 Nominee Announcement Party

Anna Wintour & Steven Kolb

Last night, I attended the CFDA’s 2014 Nominee Honoree Announcement Party, held at the Bowery Hotel (this esteemed group will be recognized in a ceremony hosted by John Waters on June 2 at Alice Tully Tall). I was pleased that some of my nominees made the cut, though I won’t say who. It was a perfect, almost early spring evening; all the better to enjoy champagne and hors d’oeuvres on the hotel’s beautiful outdoor terrace patio, and inside, it was jam packed with guests that included Anna Wintour, Carolina Herrera, Stan Herman, Nadja Swarovski, Diane von Furstenberg, Steven Kolb, Jeffrey Banks, Michael Kors, Kay Unger, Adrienne Landau, Paul Cavaco, Ruth Finley, Cindy Weber Cleary, Hamish Bowles, Virginia Smith, Maria Cornejo, Joseph Altuzarra.

Joseph Altuzarra, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors

Cocktails were called for 6 pm to be followed by the announcements at 6:30, and it was indeed on time, (if not early), unlike most fashion shows. Steven Kolb took the podium and made his welcoming remarks, telling the crowd that this was the “highest voting in recent years”. Next up was CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg who was quick to say how pleased she was that  this year’s host will once again be John Waters, who had the honors in 2012 at which time he accepted the "Fashion Icon Award"  for Johnny Depp and "The International Award" for Rei Kawakubo. She made mention of the wonderful 13 years it’s been since the CFDA Awards have been generously underwritten by Swarovski and gave big thanks to Nadja Swarovski. And she wasted no time in announcing the Special Awards.

Ruth Finley of The Fashion Calendar

Raf Smons for Dior will receive the International Designer of the Year; Paul Cavaco will receive the Media Award; Bethann Hardison is being honored with the Founders Award “in recognition of her advocacy for diversity”. “She deserves it and it is such a good idea” said DVF. Tom Ford will get The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award (“we are so proud of him” she beamed). Last but not least, The Fashion Calendar’s founder Ruth Finley will get the Board of Director’s Tribute Award. As Diane observed: “For designers of a certain age, she is the first phone call we ever make”. And looking around the room, I can attest to the fact that many in attendance were nowhere near that “certain age”.

Speaking of which, when it was Nadja Swarovski’s turn, she said, “I can’t believe it’s been 13 years”. “The designers are getting younger and younger, or maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and older”. She then proceeded to announce the nominees for the Swarovski Awards for the best of best of the new young generation of designers.

Swarovski Award for Womenswear
Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters for Creatures of the Wind
Rosie Assoulin
Wes Gordon

Swarovski Award for Menswear
Tim Coppens
Todd Snyder
Shayne Oliver for Hood by Air

Swarovski Award for Accessory Design
Irene Neuwirth
Jennifer Fisher
Marc Alary

When she was finished, Diane joked, “Now it’s time for the grownups” and she quickly made these announcements:

 Womenswear Designer of the Year Award
Alexander Wang
Joseph Altuzarra of Altuzarra
Marc Jacobs

Menswear Designer of the Year
Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow for Public School
Marcus Wainwright and David Neville for Rag & Bone
Thom Browne

Accessories Designer of the Year
Alexander Wang
Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough for Proenza Schouler
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for The Row

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

"Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning The Biker Jacket"

"Head Out on the Highway..."

All photos: Laurel Marcus
Click on images for larger views

Quick! Think of the coolest, most bad-ass item of apparel you own! The one you reach for to give you instant "street cred" and , if you're like me, you reach for it a lot! Times up... If you thought of a black leather biker jacket then congratulations and here's something else you'll like. I viewed "Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket" a new graduate student exhibit at the Museum at FIT (March 4-April 5) and got a compact history of this iconic garment. The exhibit serves to show how an item originally designed for the limited use or purpose of riding motorcycles has become something so versatile and commonplace that you can see versions of it just about anywhere, for any age and at any price point.

Harley-Davidson Jacket Black leather and metal 1983, USA

According to the exhibit literature, the original black leather biker jacket is widely recognized as the Perfecto by the Schott Brothers of New York City. It was created in 1928 at the request of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle distributor and its design is inspired from the black leather jackets of German World War I aviators. In the museum exhibit there is a chart showing how each design element of this "granddaddy of them all," archetypal motorcycle jacket was actually derived for functionality rather than for fashion. Rather than the button closures featured on military jackets it was determined that a zipper closure and a belt would better protect the wearer from the wind drafts. I did not realize that the function of epaulets was to hold down gloves when they were not being worn so I learned something as well.

Marlon Brando in "The Wild One"

The jacket got its "bad" reputation after WWII when motorcycle clubs like the Hells Angels cultivated a lawless image to break away from the conformity of post-war America. By 1947 a club known as the Boozefighters from Hollister, California clashed with police and inspired the 1953 film "The Wild One" with Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando's look in the film was complete with white t-shirt, cuffed jeans and Perfecto jacket which served to reinforce the rebellious "bad boy" persona in the public consciousness. I was a little surprised that there was no reference to James Dean in his leather biker jacket but maybe in the interest of not cluttering the relatively small space they thought one bad boy rebel was enough? It's hard to forgive an omission that blatant but I'll try to get over it.

Comme des Garcons (Rei Kawakubo)

It wasn't until 1960 that the biker jacket got a makeover as a high fashion item when Yves Saint Laurent took inspiration from beatniks and Left Bank Parisian students. He created a haute couture collection for Christian Dior with a jacket of black crocodile  skin trimmed in mink. The exhibit features a 2009 YSL leather jumpsuit (that I wanted to jump right into) that was designed with elements of a biker jacket. The relationship of punk rockers, heavy metal rockers as well as leather fetishists of the 1970s and 80's is also explored in the exhibit. Each group personalized the basic jacket whether it was adding spikes, metal studs or pins, cut-off sleeves, trapunto stitching or faux fur. There are several designer examples of the jacket including one from Versace with their typical gold hardware, a 2005 Comme des Garcons (Rei Kawakubo) heavily stitched (reminiscent of a baseball glove) version, a Jean Paul Gaultier mixed media jacket as well as a Rick Owens suit of denim, wool felt and leather, just to name a few.

Lastly, there is a wall featuring swatches of different types of leather (lambskin, cowhide, goatskin etc.) so that you can see the thickness and texture of each and compare and contrast. The entire exhibit took almost a year to curate and had to be well edited due to size constraints although it did seem (at least to me) that there could have been a few more items included just to "flesh out" the collection a bit more. Honestly, I'm embarrassed to admit it but I could have my own leather biker jacket exhibit just by opening my closet!

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

School of American Ballet 2014 Winter Ball

A Starry Night

Dancers with their choreographer
(All photos: Lieba Nesis)
click images for larger views

The School of American Ballet held its 2014 Winter Ball at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. The event began at 7 p.m. with a cocktail hour and red carpet on the ground floor.The crowd was a mix of New York's elite with billionaires, socialites, dancers and financiers sprinkled throughout the room. This event was celebrating the 80th Anniversary of SAB and Van Cleef and Arpels was the lead corporate sponsor for the 7th consecutive year, with Gilles Mendel, sponsoring the Winter Ball after-party. The School of American Ballet established in 1934 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, is the official training academy of the New York City Ballet and is considered the premier ballet academy in the United States. The proceeds of this event allow SAB to distribute 1.9 million in student scholarships as well as support the faculty and the state-of-the art facilities.

Jean Shafiroff, Fe Fendi, and Chiu-ti Jansen

David Koch, and his wife Julia, major supporters of the ballet, were one of the first to arrive, and they were quickly followed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and his wife Lisa, and social luminaries such as Fe Fendi, Jean Shafiroff, Alexandra Lebenthal, Chiu-ti-Jansen, Jill Kopelman and Kelly Rutherford. Mark Green, even showed up, sporting a full beard- I guess he got the memo that facial hair is in style for men. While there were no academy award attendees at the event many of the women looked at least as good as those present at last night's ceremony and some of them were wearing jewels to rival Tinseltown starlets.

Cocktail hour

The lobby of the theater was replete with photographers and their subjects and yet there was a certain intimacy present in the crowd that I attributed to a common love for the arts and culture. When I asked David Koch, who has donated upwards of 100 million to the ballet why he loved dance so much he humbly stated, "New York is the dance capital of the world. This theater bearing my name is like an old home to me and I have a strong bond with the building. The ballet is so great because it is a combination of so many magical elements: fabulous athleticism, gorgeous music and sets, and beautiful costumes. The youth of the dancers and the audience, as opposed to the opera, also lends an excitement to this art form."

Gilles Mendel

 J. Mendel similarly reiterated his love for dance originating from his Franco Russian heritage and much of his Fall 2014 collection was a tribute to the world of the ballet.  Mendel one of the sponsors of the event, has designed the costumes for two previous performances and whereas, he compares creating clothing for models to hangers on the runway he dresses dancers to enhance their work and help create their character- he is a tool in telling their story not his own.

Alexandra Lebenthal in Bibhu Mohapatra

The other major sponsor, Van Cleef and Arpels, sent Nicholas Luchsinger from Paris, the international retail director at Van Cleef, to attend this important event and collaboration that has existed between Van Cleef and SAB. Nicholas recounted how George Balanchine based his famous "Jewels" ballet where he referred to the dancers as diamonds, rubies and emeralds on his friendship with Claude Arpels and from viewing the gems on display in the window of Van Cleef. This partnership includes collaborative luncheons and ballet performances for Van Cleef clients held throughout the year. This important alliance is critical to Arpels and one they will continue to support.

Peter Martins

As the guests headed to the second floor, with its beautiful views and elegant ambience, the room was filled with stars on the ceiling and pictures of the dancers on a projection screen. The dinner which featured, to the dismay of many, beef pot pie and some side dishes, was accompanied by an incredible performance by 27 of the most promising SAB students. The dancers moved with an authenticity and naivete that brought me to tears and had the audience standing on their feet enthusiastically applauding these young artists. The crowd which had now filled up with young patrons arriving for the dessert segment of the night began dancing to the disco portion of the evening with the ballerinas, accompanied by Peter Martins, joining in the revelry. This vast space in Lincoln Center with its magnificent decor and scenery epitomized what makes New York so great; the richness of its cultural life coupled with the sophistication of its inhabitants makes it a metropolis that is in a league of its own.

 -Lieba Nesis