Monday, December 29, 2014

In the Market Report: "Oh Jackie"

We’re about to end this year, begin another, and start yet one more fashion cycle. Right about now, after seeing a few too many decorations, embellishments, tinsel, (too much of everything) etc., I feel the urge to pare down and the idea of simplifying and streamlining is especially appealing. I begin each year with the same resolution: buy less but buy better. And if you (like myself) found yourself in large department stores in recent weeks, you can attest to the fact that there is too much crap around (with all due respect, who is buying all this stuff anyway?). Quelle turnoff. But luckily, it makes it easier for me to stick to my resolutions. If I had to write a book about fashion, the title would be, “It’s not that complicated” because, it really isn’t (with age comes wisdom). Sure, you can complicate things if you want to, (the fashion business is all about getting us to buy), but you don’t have to, and I’ve found it’s always the simplest things that are in the end, the best and most satisfying (and that applies to fashion as well).

Left: Jacqueline Kennedy wearing YSL embracing black and  navy
Right: Altuzarra Pre Fall 2015

Regardless of what is deemed in and out, I’m always on the hunt for distinctive wardrobe basics, classic yet highly distinctive, played out in a palette of neutrals which focus on black, navy, gray, white, ivory, tan, with a touch of red. Come to think of it, those are the same elements that comprised the wardrobe of Jacqueline Kennedy, the legendary and enduring fashion legend known for her elegant restraint. Many women (of all ages), continue to cite her (as well as Audrey Hepburn) as their style icon, and I am one of them. And it’s not as though we don’t have a few things in common: our height (approximately 5’7”); we both went to Kenneth to have our hair straightened; and, my mother, in response to my extravagant spending habits, would often ask, “who do you think you are: Jackie Kennedy?” LOL.

Left: Jackie Kennedy in black t shirt and white jeans in  Capri
Right: Louis Vuitton Spring 2015

But seriously, speaking of paring down and simplicity, Jacqueline’s look was quite minimal and fuss free, and she embodied Leonardo da Vinci’s quote, “simplicity is the utmost sophistication”. This was illustrated in countless images of her in Capri, wearing a simple black t shirt, white jeans, headscarf, and oversized sun glasses (she was either bare foot or wearing flat thong sandals), and those in which a fitted black turtleneck was the focal point of her outfit. These are looks that were stripped down to their bare bones, did not rely on bells and whistles, and simply put, cannot be improved upon, even to this day.

Left: Jackie in leopard coat and hat with President Kennedy
Right: Michael Kors Pre Fall 2015  

When something’s good, it’s always good. It’s hard to find another woman who did simple quite like Jackie. She always looked effortlessly pulled together, glamourous yet sporty, healthy, easy, relaxed, and comfortable. It was all about finding perfectly cut, perfectly proportioned and utterly simplistic pieces, and having a sense of what is appropriate. She basically eschewed prints and patterns in favor of monotone solids. When she did wear prints, they were classic Breton striped t shirts (while sailing in Hyannis Port); iconic Pucci, Marimekko, or Lilly Pulitzer printed dresses (which she wore in the summer or on vacation in warm weather locations), and Hermes scarves (which she wore on her head).

Left: Jackie in black turtleneck and Cartier watch
Right: Elizabeth and James Pre Fall 2015

Her signature accessories were her classic Cartier watch (she did wear pearls for certain occasions), oversized sunglasses, flat boots, low heeled pumps (often by Roger Vivier), Jack Rogers and Bernardo flat sandals, the chicest shoulder bags (Gucci, Hermes), and smart gold chained handbags. She embraced a uniform that was comprised of perfect black turtlenecks, black t shirts, white jeans, button down shirts, skirt suits with boxy jackets, tailored riding jackets, well cut trousers, simple shifts and sheaths, and unadorned, regal, long sculptural evening columns. When she tapped into her bohemian side, suffice it to say, it was rich gypsy all the way. Most importantly, she had an enviable collection of coats. She understood that a great coat is the focal point of a look, and she was often seen out and about wearing one of her many trench coats, tautly belted or high waisted and abbreviated double breasted a line coats, gold buttoned officer coats, pea coats, sculptural capes. And then there was that famous leopard coat (many leopards lost their lives so that countless women could follow her lead).

Left: Jacqueline Kennedy in belted Valentino trench and flat boots
Right: Navy belted trench and flat boots Tomas Maier Pre Fall  2015

While time and time again, one can always find her influence within fashion, it seems especially the case right now, since the fashion world is having (yet another) love affair with the 60’s and 70’s (the decades when Jackie was in her style heyday). Coincidentally, the upcoming exhibition at the Museum at FIT (, is entitled, “Yves Saint Laurent + Halston, Fashioning the 70’s”. It runs from February 6th to April 18th, 2015, and will explore the two designers who “defined the sexy and glamorous fashion of the 197o’s”. (Jackie wore a great deal of Yves Saint Laurent, and Halston created the famous pillbox hat she wore for the 1961 Inauguration).

Left: Jacqueline Kennedy in white Oleg Cassini gown
Right: Valentino-Sala Bianca 2015

I myself am completely obsessed as of late. Following the Valentino Bianco 945 Collection shown at the Whitney this past month (it was inspired by the all-white collection from 1968 from which Jackie selected the dress she wore for her nuptials to Aristotle Onassis), I began searching the web for images of her. While most of the pictures I found (dating back some 45- 55 years) were not necessarily new to me, when I saw them all together, one after another, I was reminded of how fabulous, modern, hip, cool, and up to date she looked, and I was struck by the way so many of the designs she wore, looked exactly like what I’ve been seeing on recent runways. For those who like to point out that sure, everything comes back, but it comes back differently, take a look at these pictures. While in some cases, her sense of style seems to have been used as a reference or jumping off point, in others, it appears to be a doppelganger.

Left: Jacqueline Kennedy in belted short coat
Right: Gucci Fall 2014

I think it’s important for women to find their own look, and stay true to that, and I hardly mean to imply that everyone should strive to emulate Jacqueline Kennedy. But even if you don’t have the high profile, glamorous lifestyle she lead, her limitless clothing allowance, or her natural beauty, it’s almost impossible to not look good if you simply follow her lead. There’s a lot to be said about finding a uniform, simplifying, and paring down.

-  Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New York Fashion Week: What & Where Next?

‘Downtown’ Abbey

Battery Park

The news on Thursday, that the upcoming shows in February for fall winter 2015 will be the last at Lincoln Center, means that the race is on to find another ‘home’ until New York Fashion Week permanently relocates to the Culture Shed at Hudson Yards in 2018. The formidable challenge will be to find something suitable on many levels; one that will satisfy and appeal to most. Yeah, good luck with that. Let’s get one thing straight. There will never be a venue that will appeal to all of the people all of the time. It ain’t gonna happen. That being said, Bryant Park came pretty close. It was hard to argue with its amazingly convenient, central location. Don’t forget, the reason why things were centralized in the first place was to make life easier and safer for show attendees who previously had to scatter around town and deal with sometimes dangerous conditions caused by overcrowding in small spaces, elevators, and seedy venues. When the ceiling collapsed at a loft space in the 20’s, that Michael Kors used for a show in 1990, and the plaster landed on Suzy Menkes’s head, Fern Mallis, who just started at the CFDA was compelled to organize Fashion Week. (Of course, a group of editors including Andre Leon Talley, got stuck in the elevator leaving Oscar’s show last September, so you can’t always prevent that sort of thing from happening).

 Bryant Park was close to all forms of public transportation, hotels, restaurants, and everything else you could want or imagine. It had a bustling, vibrant, center-of-New-York-feeling. It didn’t hurt that the entire area was utilized to utmost efficiency. And. in addition to the erected tents, some designers were able to make use of the grand iconic New York Public Library’s Astor Hall, Celeste Bartos Forum, and McGraw Rotunda as their space of choice (how much more New York can you get?). Back in that day, there was a festive party feeling in and around the tents. Yes, I know fashion is big business, but it is and should also be fun. And while some key designers (Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Proenza Shouler, etc.), nonetheless opted to do their own thing and show off site, many important shows took place in the tents and there were many big fashion moments.

I can still recall Bill Blass’s final bow on September 17th, 1999 with Hurricane Floyd wreaking havoc and threatening to stop the show (and many others), because water began leaking through the ceiling. And, I will never ever forget walking over to the tents on the beautiful sunny morning of September 11, 2001. As I made my way from Lexington Avenue to 6th Avenue on 42nd Street, I witnessed first-hand, the towers going up in smoke one minute, and completely gone the next. People were in shock, fashion week was cancelled, and I, along with many others, were forced to walk home (I almost could not get dressed, let alone think about fashion for weeks after).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

But good things unfortunately have to come to an end, and we were forced to leave Bryant Park. The good news was that many were upbeat and optimistic about our next chapter and new home: Lincoln Center. The fact that it is the iconic and elegant epicenter of the arts in New York, made it seem like a step up from 42nd Street, and many were hopeful that this move would inspire and help ‘up’ the game of New York fashion (which many consider to be an art form). Well, that didn’t happen. Speaking of which, this is a season of fantasy and dreams, so pardon me if I want to indulge. As someone who loves fashion as much as art, and loves to equate the two (sometimes), my ultimate fantasy would be to have Fashion Week set up in Central Park, right next to, or behind, the glorious Metropolitan Museum of Art. Maybe Anna Wintour could use her formidable muscles and do something to make this happen (perhaps some shows could even be staged inside?)

Hudson Yards

In any event, Lincoln Center was somehow never utilized properly, and many insiders began to shun it, as it became over run with crashers, hanger- oners, wannabees. They deemed it too commercial and convention like, even though on paper, it had a lot going for it: its iconic stature and its relatively convenient, central location and proximity to hotels, restaurants, shops, services, transportation, etc. Eventually, some well respected designers had always showed there - Vera Wang, Michael Kors, Ralph Rucci, Diane von Furstenberg, abandoned ship and went south. It got to the point that if you said you did not attend one show at Lincoln Center, but rather, found yourself at the Spring and Milk Studios, the Park Avenue Armory, various galleries and spaces in west Chelsea and West Street, you probably saw everything you needed to see. And conversely, if you only went to shows at Lincoln Center, you totally missed the boat. And it went from bad to worse. While security was tightened in the past few seasons, (a good thing), they made it so dark inside, shutting out any light, it was not only disorienting, but rather depressing. Talk about being careful what you wish for: while we love to bellyache and complain and find fault, I have a feeling that wherever we go next, there will be those who will find it has bigger problems than Lincoln Center, and many will yearn for the good old days.

Chelsea Piers

What are the alternatives? We will eventually be at Hudson Yards (on the far west side of Manhattan, facing the Hudson River), and everything is happening on the far west side anyway, so how about getting used to the idea and heading back to Chelsea Piers, which is just about 10 blocks south? Fern Mallis is one person who thought that it was a good location for the shows, and she told me, several years ago, that she felt the reason so many fashionistas didn’t like it, was because they found it hard to maneuver around there in their towering stilettos. Well, now that the fashion world has ‘discovered’ sporty, athletic, footwear, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore -- right? Of course, it will still be rather inconvenient in terms of public transportation, And since this February could be as cold and frigid as last year, it’s worth thinking about.

How about going even further downtown, to the tip of Manhattan (Battery Park to be exact)? Back in 1988, a large tent, the Grand Chapiteau, was erected there, to house Cirque de Soleil (isn’t Fashion always compared to one big circus?). And what could be more patriotic than having the Statue of Liberty and 1 World Trade Center in full view? (The Conde Nast editors, whose offices are now at 1 World Trade, would be able to walk to and from, as they did when their offices were in Times Square and the shows were a few blocks away at Bryant Park). It is also close to Tribeca, where many hip editors, designers, fashion insiders, and celebrities call home (it is also where the Spring Studios are, and the venues on West Street, where Ralph Lauren, among others, show). It’s also just a subway stop or two from Brooklyn, which is considered to be the hip of the hip (the Bowling Green Station, where you can get the 4 and 5 trains, and the Rector Street Station, the N and R trains, are close by). Should a designer decide to show in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, water taxis and ferries are right under your nose. There are some good restaurants nearby, and the Ritz Carlton Hotel is just across the street.

Marilyn Kirschner

Next Year at Governor's Island?

Lincoln Center venue

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center is the Rodney Dangerfield of venues; oversized, hilarious and unable to get respect. Most fashion insiders tended to malign the place while, as we know, many of the more discerning designers had turned away from showing there, opting instead for their showrooms or other remote and “exotic” locations. As we heard in the news this week, there will soon be nothing left to disparage as NYFW must find a new home. Thanks to Heidi Klum we are all aware that “In fashion one day you're in, and the next day you're out” as well as the devastating effect this can have on those that are eliminated. New York Fashion Week may be left scrambling as it was quite literally "out"-- ousted from its home of the past four years due to a settlement agreement regarding the private use of Damrosch Park. The result is that several park preservation groups won an appeal to have MBFW evicted and their park restored. This February marks the last of the Fashion Weeks to take place there. (background story here)

Big Apple Circus

It seems that the exclusionary element of the "by invitation only" fashion event, as the public is not allowed to attend Fashion Week, may have rankled some and spurred this action. "The groups argued the insular nature of the fashion shows that draw top designers and hundreds of buyers, editors and journalists violate laws governing public use of the land." according to this: (see article) Perhaps having to do with the proximity of shared space with the Big Apple Circus (which is open to the ticket buying public and not impacted by this change) but mostly due to having fallen out of favor with the fashion elite, the LC Tents (or "Elsie as I'd like to call it) somehow never commanded the aura of its diminutive predecessor in Bryant Park. BP had the additional cachet of being near the garment district, adding to its allure and convenience. “I love the fact that Bryant Park was where they chose to do the shows because I love the garment center,” Designer Anna Sui said in an interview with the New York Times in February of 2010 upon the announcement that the shows were to move to the cultural hub. “And to this day, we still wheel the racks to the show ourselves.” (see NY Times article) JSYK, Ms. Sui was one of the loyalists who continued to show at the Lincoln Center tents.

NY Fashion Week at Bryant Park

As the fashion animal is relentlessly on the move, so too is IMG's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. I believe it was generally assumed that it would stay put until 2018 when the Hudson Yards, with a yet to be built Culture Shed, would assume the mantle of "permanent home" of Fashion Week. However it is not to be so smooth a transition, as Thursday's edict decreed that Damrosch Park is to be restocked with trees and benches rather than racks and runway models. Upon first hearing of this plan, I actually felt a pang of regret. The Tents at Elsie are the site of my first fashion week and of course, good, bad, or indifferent, you always remember your "first one." I will have had three such fashion week notches on my belt when the tents are taken down for the last time, which actually may be the perfect amount. Any more and it might start to get old, any less and I might feel a sense of disappointment. This will have given me two winters (fall collection) to stand in the beautiful yet windswept plaza admiring yet scoffing at all the "posers" while posing yet dodging fashion bloggers myself, as well as one summer (spring collection) doing the same while baking and squinting in the oppressive heat.

I have to admit that I enjoy the "ride at Disneyland" quality of entering the tent even whilst agreeing that it often has all the charm of a police station. Flashing my press badge is akin to an all access pass, and I breeze in like a VIP. By day two or three I'm at Cheers where "everyone knows my name" or at least all the security people recognize me, waving me in like royalty, somehow part of the fray yet above it--always a good feeling. If my bubble gets burst somewhat by having to herd in cattle-style to the Theater, the Pavilion or the Salon, all the while being ever vigilant lest a large video camera strike me in my frontal lobe, then so be live by the sword... (or by the boom as the case may be).

As it is unclear where the immediate future of fashion week will take us, I will ruminate a bit on "where do we go from here"? Can the tent, with a few adjustments, be plopped down somewhere else like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz ("We're definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto!") or will Fashion Week somehow be made to adapt into an existing edifice such as the Park Avenue Armory or one of the waterfront piers? I hope we can rule out the Brooklyn Navy Yard or anyplace in LIC or Queens although there are probably some vacant warehouses which could be retrofitted in some way.  Meanwhile, September is not that far off. I cannot wait to see what IMG has up its designer sleeve. One thing's for sure: The (fashion) show must go on. Next year at Governor's Island?

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 -The Year of Naked Ambition

The year in fashion was both exciting and noteworthy, introducing us to a fresh group of fashion luminaries who have changed the face of fashion.  There were those whose "overexposure" broke the internet and conversely, others who gained stature with classic, and elegant attire. We were newly wowed by fashion stars Lupita Nyong'o, Nicola Peltz and Amal Alamuddin, while established icons such as Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama and Taylor Swift continued to dazzle. There were some unfortunate fashion moments, with indecent exposure being the most often committed transgression of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna.

Overall, the past year was filled with fashion triumphs and disappointments; however, regardless of which category you fell into, controversial sartorial garb ushered in superstardom for those who catered to the media obsessed culture. Examining the impact of fashion over the past 12 months, reveals some interesting shifts and allows us to make some predictions about future trends.

See also: The "New" Best Dressed List for 2014

The Good

Lupita Nyong’o Pastel Blue Prada Dress at the 2014 Oscars
(All photos: Vogue, Daily Mail, Getty Images, Harpers Bazaar,
The Guardian & People Magazine)

The year was dominated by rising movie star Lupita Nyong'o, who first caught the public's attention at the January 2014 Golden Globes in a red Ralph Lauren cape gown. She continued to astound throughout the awards season appearing in a splendid white cut-out Calvin Klein gown to the Critics Choice Awards and a bold turquoise crepe Gucci gown to the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The culmination of her fashion preeminence occurred at the 2014 Academy Awards where she appeared in a light blue heavenly Prada dress, which she said reminded her of Nairobi. Lupita collaborated with Prada on the Oscar gown and the dress's neckline and silhouette were a nod to old Hollywood starlets Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.

Amal Alamuddin red dress by Alexander McQueen

Similarly, Amal Alamuddin, who married George Clooney this past September, emerged this year as a fashion original appearing in some breathtaking designs during her wedding weekend. Beginning with a striped Dolce and Gabbana dress, progressing to a red high-low hemline Alexander McQueen gown, and astounding with a Giambattista Valli couture mini-dress, Amal took the world by storm. And then she topped it all off at the civil ceremony with a daring white Stella McCartney pantsuit accompanied by a wide-brimmed hat and her perfect Chantilly lace Oscar de la Renta wedding gown.

Nicola Peltz royal blue Balenciaga gown

While Nicola Peltz did not achieve the same fashion notoriety as these 2 starlets, her fashion choices have been noticed and she continues to amaze with her eclectic choices.  Nicola, 19, who starred in the "Transformers," captured the world's attention when she appeared at the New York red carpet premiere in a royal blue strapless Balenciaga gown replete with an elaborate bow in the back and a draped train. Her sparse jewelry and cascading waves enhanced the drama of the gown and added to the distinctness of her look. She then donned an orange Prada creation to the Tokyo premiere and a white lace embroidered Giambattista Vali gown to the Shanghai opening, sealing her fashion image as one of the year's "women to watch."

 The Overexposed

Kim Kardashian Vogue cover

The award for queen of overexposure goes to Kim Kardashian, who appeared on the cover of Vogue in April 2014, which lead to a firestorm of controversy.  Kim described it as "a dream come true," but the public felt the opposite with hundreds threatening to cancel their subscriptions. The article kissed Kim's overabundant butt cheeks with Kanye bragging that he and Kim "help communicate and educate and just bring more dopeness in general." Dopiness is more like it! Vogue then went on to describe Kanye as a "creative polyglot" and Kim as a "cultural phenomenon" whose looks were compared to Ava Gardner and Sophia Loren. Anna Wintour, who allegedly once referred to Kim as the worst thing since socks and sandals, even attended dinner with the power duo and invited them to The Met Gala.

Kim Kardashian Paper Magazine cover

Thankfully, Wintour recently admitted that, "if we just put deeply tasteful people on the cover, it would be a rather boring magazine." So this was clearly a commercial choice that proved profitable with over 500,000 copies sold. Fast forward to Paris Fashion week where Kim and Kanye took over the Balenciaga, Lanvin and Givenchy shows with the crowd booing their tardiness and bravado.  As if all this was not enough coverage, Kim chose to uncover all of her assets and "broke the Internet" with a naked frontal and rear-end picture for the Winter 2014 Paper issue. She justified this decision by stating she wanted to be "empowered" after feeling at the "lowest" she felt about her body when she was pregnant. Reading a book, giving charity, or running a 5k are some other ways normal women choose to feel empowered-nudity just brings more objectification and ridicule.

Rihanna at the CFDA Awards

Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W magazine, who normally remains silent, said that Kim "used" Paper magazine in her nude "spread" whereas W used Kim when she appeared nude in their November 2010 issue. Kudos to Kim for getting 2 normally reticent fashion editors to comment on her - a formerly unprecedented event. Some other victims of "too much information" are Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. In June 2014, Rihanna showed up at the CFDA Awards in an entirely sheer dress. This unfortunate gown undermined the legitimacy of her musical talent with most of the conversation this year being about her provocative fashion choices. This year has been the year of the "nipple" for Rihanna who has posted numerous selfies without shirts or with sheer or mesh tops.

Miley Cyrus wears pasties to NYFW Afterparty

Similarly, after twerking her way to fame in 2013, Miley continued to shock and awe with her stupid antics, promoting drugs and sex and ending up in the hospital in April for an "allergic reaction." Miley showed up in nipple pasties to the Alexander Wang fashion after party and in a black crisscross band design to the 2014 AMFAR gala. Rihanna, who showed up in pasties to the gala, competed with Cyrus for the "who wore it sluttier" award in an attempt to be noticed at this black tie event. Some others I am personally sick of seeing on every runway and in every magazine ad are Cara Delevingne, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Their dour demeanor and "I am too cool to care" attitude is wearing thin, as are they, and I am hopeful that some fresh blood enters the fashion milieu this year.

 Enduring Classic Style

Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton and Taylor Swift proved for another year that fashion predominance is not always fleeting. Taylor Swift stole the show at the 2014 Grammy Awards in a golden Gucci column chain mail dress, a bouncy ponytail and minimal jewelry - Swift looked flawless. At the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards, she stunned again in a black J. Mendel slitted skirt with a white crop top. This look which was a surprising change from her normal sequined gown or mini-dress attire worked perfectly. Swift continues to remain a style and music phenom, an accomplishment that very few of her colleagues have been able to achieve. Swift is frequently seen in Oscar de la Renta gowns and thankfully, Michelle Obama ended her longstanding feud with Oscar this October by wearing one of his dresses to the White House Education Workshop cocktail party.

Michelle Obama in Monique Lhuillier gown
at the Kennedy Center Honors
While this year Obama's fashion choices have received less attention, she has gradually incorporated bigger brands such as Kors, Lauren and Herrera into her public wardrobe, while still championing lesser known designers such as Tracy Reese and J. Crew. Obama recently wore a spectacular pale pink beaded Monique Lhuillier gown to the Kennedy Center Honors gala reclaiming her supremacy in the world of fashion.

Kate Middleton wearing Seraphine coat

Kate Middleton, whose looks similarly inspire imitation and reverence, won over the New York social set with her modest and affordable clothing. The first night in the Big Apple, she appeared in a Seraphine maternity coat which retails for $159. Middleton wore a Bettina coat to the Nets basketball game which can be bought for $357 and ended her trip at a black-tie Metropolitan Museum of Art dinner in a Jenny Packham gown which she recycled for the third time. The message was clear that this is the "People's Princess" something Lady Diana frequently tried to portray.

Taylor Swift at Academy of Country Music Awards

This year in fashion was full of unexpected surprises and turbulence, with Ralph Rucci stepping down from his eponymous label in November and more recently, Frida Giannini and Patrizio di Marco leaving Gucci. However, the greatest loss was that of Oscar de la Renta who passed away at the age of 82. While Peter Copping was hired to replace him as creative director before his demise, it is abundantly clear that there will never be a substitute for Oscar's warmth, sophistication and humility. The fashion world should use Oscar as a paradigm of what fashion should be - sexy, elegant and timeless.

- Lieba Nesis

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In the Market Report: It's All "White"

Valentino Haute Couture Collection

As we head into the holidays and end the year, there’s been an endless parade of fashion shows for pre fall 2015. (Am I the only one who thinks of the word preschool when I hear the nomenclature?) That being said, and regardless of the fact that you can’t convince me that full culottes, which have been cropping up (pardon the pun) all over, are really un-flattering on most of us, I keep thinking that the pre seasons often outshine the others. There have been some really great clothes, lots of variety, and once again, coats shine. And with good reason, as exemplified this past week by a 5 month pregnant Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who managed to look fabulous regardless of the occasion, or weather, thanks to her wardrobe of versatile coats which acted as dresses and tunics, served many purposes, and can cover a multitude of sins (not that she has any mind you). Just throw a coat over anything, and you are instantly dressed and pulled together.

Oscar de la Renta Collection

In any case, this past week certainly had its share of intrigues, not the least of which was the first Oscar de la Renta collection without the beloved designer. While Oscar was reportedly involved somewhat (he wanted to use the crepe soled loafers as they added a sportier feeling), it was actually designed by studio director Laura Kim and her team, with some input from Peter Copping, the new creative director. Interestingly, while the collection touched on all of Oscar’s signature trademarks, not the least of which are his standout evening dresses, it was obvious to me that he was not fully involved in the finished product and we will have to wait for New York Fashion Week in February, to see what he has in mind for the label, going forward. He certainly has his work cut out for him as Oscar was such a beloved icon, and it is hard to separate the man from the label.

Valentino Haute Couture Collection
Photo: Harper's Bazaar

And then there was the Valentino extravaganza at the Whitney Museum of Art in celebration of the new Fifth Avenue Flagship. The “one off” haute couture collection (which was seemingly attended by “everyone who is anyone”) was a palette cleansing study in winter white. Inspired by the dress the house designed for Jacqueline Kennedy when she married Aristotle Onassis on Skorpios in 1968, it relied on clean lines, simple cuts and luxurious fabrics. Looking at the pieces, especially the capes, I could not help but be reminded of the amazingly chic white cape and gown Mrs. Kennedy wore to the 1961 Inaugural Ball designed by Ethel Frankau of Bergdorf Custom Salon. While the show assuredly had a hard to miss bridal vibe, suffice it to say it was about as far removed from Kleinfeld’s Bridal as could be (LOL).

Valentino Haute Couture Collection

While it had a Courreges vibe, it was modern not Mod in a costumey-stuck-in a-time warp kind of way, and I was immediately inspired to follow suit. It had me thinking: what better way to stand out in a crowd of all black clad New Yorkers than to wear shades of white? Unless of course, you find yourself in a room filled with chic white clad fashion mavens (this was the case on Wednesday, when many of the well-dressed guests in attendance opted for white). And talk about a class act (not that it should be surprising: this is the house of Valentino after all, and elegance rules). There was not a platform stiletto or open toe bootie in sight (I can’t imagine Jacqueline Kennedy or anyone truly chic for that matter, wearing them), and the emphasis was on flats and demure low heeled pumps and boots. I loved that pale gold loafers accessorized many of the outfits; in my mind, the only thing that could possibly be better than white with black, is white with silver or better yet, white with gold.

Botanical Garden Gala
Photos: Laurel Marcus

Coincidentally, just days after the Valentino winter white show was held, one of the season’s most popular events took place: the New York Botanical Garden’s 16th annual Winter Wonderland Ball (, where the dress code for an evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing is, as always, black tie and winter white. Patrick McMullan, one of the many shutterbugs on hand (along with Bill Cunningham who was there to record it all), told me this is his favorite party to cover because it is filled with eye candy. There is so much to look at inside the Victorian style glass Enid A. Haupt Conservatory: not only the beautifully dressed guests, but the spectacular Annual Holiday Train Show, which is now in its 23rd year. And better yet, since it’s all about giving back, the proceeds from the event help support NYBG’s acclaimed Children’s Education programs, which specifically target underprivileged children in the Bronx.

Mark Badgley & James Mischka

The event’s chairmen: Byrdie Bell, Alina Cho, Cristina Cuomo, Brooke Gerschel, Emma J.P. Goergen, Dalia Oberlander, Alexandra Lind Rose, and Gillian Hearst. Honorary Chairmen: Mark Badgley, Sloan Barnett, Whitney Fairchild, Alexandra Lind Rose, James Mischka, Connie Ann Phillips, Milly Sims. It was sponsored by Northern Trust, Glamour and Badgley Mischka, the duo known for their dreamy evening wear (they had the honors about 10 years ago as well). I told Mark and James when I saw them, that I thought it was so apropos, as I recalled one show many years ago, where they turned the runway at Bryant Park (filled with fantastical, divinely beaded and embroidered confections), into a fairytale forest, down to the glittery trees.

Whitney Fairchild

To say that guests took the dress code directive seriously is an understatement, which is always the case. Many women showed up in white or off white dresses and gowns, many covered or trimmed with furs, feathers, and fringe (it did sort of look like one big fashionable wedding at times). Included in this list were Alina Cho, Ariana Rockefeller, Birdie Bell, Trisha Gregory, Alexandra Lind Rose, and Whitney Fairchild whose Badgley Mischka gown was accessorized with a white Ralph Lauren fur stole. In some cases, black and white were graphically combined, (Josephine Jenno wore beaded Balmain) and lacquer red was added to the mix (as in Joy Marks’ Victor de Souza). Sometimes red just stood on its own.

 Michelle De Mathew and Josephine Jenno

Another popular way guests mixed black with white was by arriving in twos: one wearing white, the other wearing black; or by relying on their tuxedo clad escorts. Some women resorted to ‘shock’ therapy (Jean Shafiroff’s hot pink gown, which was so voluminous I was afraid she wouldn’t fit through the wide hallways, was designed by Victor de Souza and directly inspired by the Charles James 4 Leaf Clover gown). And other guests let the dress code go to their heads (literally). Laurel Marcus, Rosemary Ponzo, and Annika Connor, were among those who wore black, white, or black and white headgear. And naturally, there were plenty of women in floral patterns (it's the Botanical Garden after all).

Fine feathered friends

Certainly, there were many designer labels in attendance, but as we all know, one needn’t wear designer togs or pay astronomical prices to look great. Alexandra Lebenthal, who always looks fabulous I might add, asked who made my white fringed top; which I must say, got a lot of compliments. I accessorized it with Chanel pumps, the Chanel perfume bag (yup!), vintage white pants, and large pearls. I was quick to tell her it was DKNY, $399. I spotted it in the window of their Madison Avenue store and bought it immediately, thinking it to be versatile and fun. She smiled and said that I was the second person who she had asked who designed their outfit (assuming it was very high end), only to be told it was more moderately priced (what she assumed was Valentino on one guest, turned out to be BCBG).

H&M faux fur jacket

I would be the first to admit that I am an equal opportunity shopper and am not a label snob. I buy what I like, and I am hardly above a good bargain. So, I had to share with Alexandra, (a financial wizard who certainly knows a thing or two about 'smart money') what has to be my biggest ‘cheap thrill’ this season: the black and white zip front faux fur jacket I purchased from H&M, which cost $34.99 to be exact ( I never fail to get compliments when I wear it, it is soft and warm, and looks and feels like the real deal (not that it matters, as faux furs have never looked better and even houses like Lanvin are including them in their lines). But that’s not why I bought it. I certainly don’t need more furs (I have a closet full of them and many are still in storage). I simply liked it. And seriously, what can you buy for $34.99?

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, December 12, 2014

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™: Big Ben Meet Big Apple

Kate Middleton in a Jenny Packham  three-peat but great jewelry
(Photo: Getty Images)

London's calling and the Big Apple not only answered on the first ring but put the Brits on speed dial. In the past week alone we've achieved transatlantic symbiosis by swapping with our sister city across the pond: 47 Angels for two Royals. I'm referring, of course, to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show much of which, since it was taped last week and aired this week, was sort of anti-climactic. Likewise, Prince William and Duchess Kate who, while radiant and barely showing a bump at five months along, failed to capture the fashion capital's fancy in a teal Jenny Packham three-peat. The emerald earrings and bracelet didn't disappoint however and were a far cry from her usual Zara jewels

Victoria's Secret London bound

Let me recap the VS show for those who are not quite up to speed. This was the first time in the nearly twenty years of the show's existence that it took place outside of the U.S. although they did film a segment in Paris last year. Interestingly enough, Victoria's Secret is a new brand to the U.K. having only opened there in 2012. It seems that most women buy their "knickers" at M&S (Marks & Spencer) and don't give them all that much thought.

Ariana Grande is clipped  by an Angel

After the taping and before the airing we learned way too much from the press (Spoiler Alert x infinity)! We got to hear conjecture on whether or not Taylor Swift got VS model Jessica Hart fired. The former angel had made a disparaging comment last year about Tay saying that "she didn't really fit in on stage with us," words that I'm certain became a bitter mainstay of her diet, particularly after seeing the new totally dope "Lingerie Taylor." The media also let us know that tiny Ariana Grande got shredded on the runway by Elsa Hosk's pink wings. Ms Grande, ever a good sport, tweeted #bangbangintomyface referencing her hit song however the scene was unfortunately cut in post production. Perez Hilton and other clued us in to watch Ed Sheeran's performance of "Thinking Out Loud." He awkwardly avoided glancing upon Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima as they pranced by in their $1.5 million dollar bras lest he be turned to stone or perhaps risk the wrath of a jealous girlfriend (just a guess on my part).

Karlie Kloss dressed a a ceiling fan or are those snow shoes?

While many of the Angels costumes were utterly amazing in both beauty and workmanship, particularly the gold feathered, jewel encrusted wings, I could not stop thinking that Karlie Kloss resembled either a ceiling fan or someone with snowshoes on her back (maybe she's a "snow angel") during her segment with bestie Swift performing "Blank Space." T. Swizzle rocked her extreme push up bustier however am I the only one who would have preferred to see her just a bit "above the fray" in a cocktail dress as she appeared last year? It seemed like it was not only an effort to brand her as a VS girl but also to address the absent Ms. Hart and drive the point home with Ms. Swift's negligee display. In general, there's only so much winking, blowing of kisses, wide grinning and dancing down the runway that a person can take and I actually kept nodding off during the show.

British Royalty meets American Royalty

In exchange for sending winged beauties to England we got to host a glowing duchess. It's been written that dear Kate may have been instructed to tone down her glamour quotient so as not to upstage Prince William mum the way his mum Princess Di did with his dad Prince Charles. Some observers were particularly disappointed in her final night's Met Museum black tie gown declaring that an evening such as this in our fashionable city deserved a new frock. I think it's quite possible that even royals might like to get several wearings out of a gown costing 5k. Even Princess Di wore her outfits more than once (usually no more than twice though, judging from the dresses that were auctioned off right before her death). Much was made and continues to be made about the meeting of Queen Bey and Jay Z ("American Royalty") crossing the basketball court into King Arthur's Court to do a meet and greet. I would have liked to see Bey curtsy (can't quite picture it though) and I'm still mortally offended at King James draping his sweaty arm around Kate in a half hug. LeBron, that would have been cringeworthy even if she weren't a duchess!

Another of our "national treasures" known as Kim Kardashian West is set to "break the mould" if not the internet in her triple January cover of Elle UK. She appears in three different outfits: first in a striped sequin tank while licking cupcake frosting, second in a low scooped white bodysuit, tight skirt and leather jacket and third in a belted white tunic blouse for the "Confidence" issue. Her noteworthy quote on why she gained so much weight during her pregnancy with North: "I'd think God was doing this for a reason," she told Elle U.K. "He was saying: 'Kim, you think you're so hot, but look what I can do to you.' Yeah, I'm sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with what she was stuffing her face with. Sounds more like the devil made her eat it.

Meanwhile fellow notable bumster (and royal sister) Pippa Middleton has come out against KKW's Paper Mag cover.Read about it here, Pippa says that her posterior is not in the same league as Kim's and she questions why Americans are so obsessed with bottoms while dubbing 2014 the "Year of the Booty".

Carol Garber

Furthermore on the subject of cross pollenization (cross colonization?) It's been brought to my attention by Carole Garber, a stylist and transplanted Brit who I recently profiled here, that there's been a bit of a "British Invasion" on Fifth Avenue. of course, there's the newest installation of Topshop but also there are boutiques such as Karen Millen and Ted Baker. I recently visited the Paul Smith men's store on 16th and Fifth after my son lost a button off of last year's shirt. A match was miraculously procured courtesy of their ginormous button jar and a patient manager with eagle eyes. It is worth paying a call even without a similar quest as the downstairs is like a museum complete with rare posters and British art, collector's editions of rock band posters (Stones, Beatles included), as well as an interesting library of art books for sale.

Speaking of Ms Garber, I'm afraid that she is absolutely desolate having never received an invite to see the Cambridges on their recent visit. From her Facebook she writes: "Alas, my outfits, accessories including special hats have now been stored away in my wardrobe for there is always the next time!" As far as this trip is concerned she continued: "Seriously, I would have LOVED to have been at all of the events but the one closest to my heart was the reception at NEUEHOUSE for Inovation is GREAT. British people in the Art and Creative living in New York. I am quite sure The Royal Highnesses will be enticed to return to the Big Apple by which time anyone they will be presented to will not be SWEATY and will have been taught correct protocol."

Let's just hope that they are not so "chuffed" at Buckingham Palace that Will and Kate can never make a return visit; next time with big brother George and his sibling-to-be. They should plan to come back in the summer when there's no Nor'easter. Bey and Jay could lend them the Hampton's house.

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

New York Fashion Kool-Aid: "Transit"-ory Beauty

Drew Barrymore puts on concealer

While Eleanor Rigby may have kept her face in a jar by the door, real commuting women of NYC tend to take theirs with them and apply it on public transit. En route to an early morning appointment yesterday I dashed onto the 86th Street crosstown bus which was jam packed with commuters. Towards the back, a seated young woman with a large sack on her lap was engrossed in, shall we say, readying  herself for the day. So, maybe you're thinking a little lipstick, a little powdering of the nose...what's the big deal? Let me assure you, that this makeup application was quite a bit more than that including but not limited to at least ten separate products each using a different brush, as well as a separate compact. I was duly impressed that this woman could flawlessly paint on black gel eyeliner as the bus careened around a corner.  I can't even draw on a proper cat eye standing perfectly still in front of my bathroom mirror.

And there's this: I don't need to see how the sausage gets made and if I do, I'll watch a Youtube makeup tutorial. Unfortunately, it's not unlike an accident on the highway; you desperately want to look away but morbid curiosity prevents you from doing so.  I had no sooner transferred onto the subway when lightning (or was it Lancome? L'Oreal?) struck again. A beautiful redhead reached into her bag and began "putting on her face." I counted four lash products (a primer, a separator, a mascara applied with the requisite open-mouthed fly catching face, a curler) plus a powder blush all used expertly with seemingly no worries as to the multitude of stops and sudden starts endemic to subway travel. I became transfixed and craned my neck to see in what order she used each of these products. I nearly missed my stop. Although, I too am a "makeup girl" (or at least I thought I was until now) I began to wonder if I was old fashioned. I've always believed that a quick refresh of the lipstick is acceptable in public; affixing four shades of eyeshadow and plucking your brows, is not. In addition, who has the strength to tote around an arsenal of beauty products? My vanity drawer tells all the tales that my overtaxed shoulder doesn't need to.

Armed for battle

When I arrived, ironically enough, at my day spa appointment, I asked two of the women who work there if they had observed this AM rush hour phenomenon.  One proceeded to tell me about the time that she was convinced that she was watching a makeup artist judging by the huge carryall of products in use, only to catch a glimpse of a stethoscope in her bag as well (cosmetologist on call)? I suddenly remembered observing a woman on a plane last week while coming home from Thanksgiving in Atlanta as she applied false eyelashes in the center seat. "What's next?" I asked. "Someone will brush their teeth on mass transit?" Apparently this was "deja subway vu" for the receptionist/office manager. "There was a woman with one of those little tooth brushes that you use on safari in Africa or places where there is no water...the kind that folds over your finger and she was cleaning her teeth. When I saw that I really felt like saying something to her" she added.

MTA Rules of Conduct

Aside from being extremely humorous (at least to me) this is a trend that needs to stop. Is this just another taboo or boundary that's been broken down or pushed back by the internet and the excessive amount of makeup application videos? There seems to be little left of propriety if we are basically getting prepped for our day in full sight of everyone who maybe hasn't even fully digested their Egg McMuffin yet. I know that there are rules on the subway including a ban on eating and on hot beverages (maybe to prevent something like this: click here for article) but maybe there should be a rule concerning what the French call "faire la toilette" (translates to "grooming") instituted on this 110 year old institution.

Laura Geller's discontinued makeup bag

Numerically speaking, in a city that counts its inhabitants in the 8.4 million range, public transportation has got to be one of, if not THE single most important service and more than six million riders would no doubt agree. Another statistic: at least among NY singles, gender lines break down as 53% female vs. 47% male. Meanwhile, our fair city is naturally (or maybe I should say unnaturally) in the top 10 for the cosmetics obsessed according to this: click here for article all facts giving this "movement" the makings of a potential problem of epic proportion. Maybe we can find a way to blame Sephora for this "trillions of beauty products" epidemic the way we blame Starbucks for making everyone coffee obsessed or heroin mules for enabling junkies. We need to cut down on this practice soon, else I fear there will soon be an entire section of the train taken over for makeup classes. Interestingly, makeup mogul Laura Geller used to sell a NYC taxicab shaped pouch with about three items in it for application on the go. She should consider updating it in the shape of a NYC bus (one of the double-sized accordion ones for sure) or a subway car for today's woman.

All I know is that if I were Big Bird on Sesame Street, today's lesson would be brought to you by the letters "M" and "U" (for make-up) as well as the acronym "MTA." However, what's actually called for here is another kind of lesson; one maybe better served by a big purple dinosaur who featured the "Please and Thank You Song" on his TV show. My words to the legions of mobile women primpers are "Please stop! The eye you save may be your own" and "Thank you for respecting my disgust in witnessing your morning routine. Kindly do that in the privacy of your own home or maybe in your office cubicle with the door closed." If you really need to be in motion while you gussy yourself up go seek out an empty elevator. If not, how about this novel idea--wake up ten minutes earlier! This has been a public service announcement from your future orthopedist.

- Laurel Marcus