Friday, June 26, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

  "Paraiba Star" Gets Glowing Reviews

Paraiba Star of the Ocean Necklace
(Click on image for full size view)

I spent Wednesday night in the company of a rare and unusual beauty. No, I wasn't at a party with the latest young Insta-model; the beauty was of the inanimate kind in the form of an incredible jewel. This almost 200 carat (191.87 to be exact) Paraiba Tourmaline from Brazil was listed in October 2009 as the Guinness World Record holder for largest cut Paraiba Tourmaline and became known as "Ethereal Carolina Divine Paraiba." In late 2013 it was set in a necklace designed by Moneca Kaufmann of Kaufmann de Suisse Jewelers (of Montreal and Palm Beach, Fl) to become the Paraiba Star of the Ocean Jewels Necklace, which is how it remains to this day.

The necklace was on view, courtesy of Art Bodega Magazine at Astro Gallery of Gems, on 38th and Fifth Avenue, for only one night as part of a world tour, where I met its designer and got to hear a bit about its history. The ultra unique, bluish green, glowing, luminescent stone (for every 10,000 diamonds mined, only one Pairaiba Tourmaline turns up) is currently owned by Vincent Boucher, a Montreal Financier and CEO of Billionaire Business Inc. Ms. Kaufmann had previously designed jewelry for various gemstones that he had brought to her. With this one she helped him file for its GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certification. When he asked her to design a piece of jewelry to showcase it, she was initially stymied. "First, I was thinking about it as the king of the gemstones and I tried to make it into a lion" she said. "I didn't like it at all. Then I got inspired by the sea."

Holly Signorelli, Moneca Kaufmann

One look at the necklace in the case definitely brings to mind the Caribbean! The piece itself, although majestic, is also whimsical and includes a large yellow diamond directly above the show-stopping tourmaline. White and pink diamonds, and other pave colored stones are woven in a chain of turtles, crabs, fish, octopus and various sea creatures, all leading to the spectacular luminescent pendant enveloped in a multi-colored shell design.

The price of the necklace:  it's been appraised between $15 and $25M-- which is really a steal since the second largest Paraiba Tourmaline (62.12 carats set in a solitaire platinum ring) was valued at $10M.   Interestingly, that one is also for sale and being offered on at a "bargain" price of $4M-- it is said to be owned by  "Hollywood Royalty who only wore it once on the red carpet," albeit Royalty who is now going through a divorce necessitating the quick sale.  I'm wondering who could be the current owner?   Mariah Carey comes to mind

I've noticed quite a few celebs wearing Paraiba Tourmalines lately including Taylor Swift whose earrings matched her teal high-low Grammys dress, Emily Blunt at the Golden Globes (Lorraine Schwartz earrings and bracelet adding contrast to her white dress); in a large cabochon ring on Paula Patton; earrings on Lea Michele, Salma Hayek and America Ferrare. Speaking of celebs, as part of its tour, the necklace was recently on display at the Cannes Film Festival and will go next to the casino at Monte Carlo and finally on to Dubai, which I think could be the locale with its best chance for a sale. Apparently there are a few people so wealthy there that they encase valuable gems or jewelry in a case and display it in their homes! Maybe they are the one-half percenters; those even wealthier than the one-percenters. HA

Since this event was for the current Summer 2015 issue of Art Bodega, several of those featured in its pages attended. Those included L.A. Dawson, who wrote "The Stone Cold Truth About Style" on the magazine's last page, about (you-guessed-it) precious stones, and Holly Signorelli, author of "Do You Know Where Your Money is?" with a several page lifestyle spread. Dawson's article featured turquoise stones which she also sported at the event, in earrings contrasting with her coral dress, while Signorelli wore a scuba inspired dress in black and teal, perhaps also inspired by the ocean theme.

I spoke with Gisela A. Reis, a Sales and Marketing Professional at Astro Gallery about the museum-like store and their clientele. "We get people of all ages and all nationalities, tourists, locals, and celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, who was on the guest list " she said. "We have items for just a few dollars and all the way up!" She remarked that she'd like to see security camera footage of the gallery after closing, musing that much like "Night At The Museum" perhaps the dinosaur skeleton and other featured creatures move around. She gave me the gallery's list of stones and their properties which is quite extensive. For Tourmaline (of all colors) it reads: Dispels fear, negativity, and grief. Promotes healthy environment, tranquil sleep, balance in relationship, self-expression. Eases compulsiveness. All of which got me musing on who should own this special necklace.

Tourmaline (along with Opal) is the birthstone for October. I immediately realized whose birthday just happens to be in that month? Yes, I'd like to think that I just saved Kanye West hours of trouble trying to decide what to gift Kim with this year. This is the absolute perfect gift for her! Not only is it her birthstone (check), she loves things that look like Elizabeth Taylor would have worn them (check), it's a one-of-a-kind item (check), it's blue for the boy that they're expecting and can double as a "push present" ie. gift to the mother for a new baby (check), not to mention all of the properties just stated above about Tourmaline ("easing Impulsiveness" may even help Kanye resist those grandstanding "moments" that he's famous for).

There you go Mr. West, I got you covered with the perfect baby mama/birthday gift! If you can blow $25K on champagne in one night drinking with Drake, Future and 2 Chainz, you can certainly afford this bauble for your "one and only." No need to thank me...just send along my 15% finder's fee!

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Fordham's Fashion Law Institute First To Have New Degrees All Sewn Up

Susan Scafidi, DVF, Steven Kolb & Stephen Freedman
(Click images for larger views)
All photos Laurel Marcus

"I'm sure you wondered why I called you all here today" began Professor Susan Scafidi early Monday morning,fresh off a business trip to Milan. Despite her introductory statement, Scafidi, the creator of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University was not investigating a murder mystery but rather launching a new educational initiative: the world's first academic degrees in fashion law. With CFDA President Diane (pronounced Dee-anne) Von Furstenberg (the CFDA is a large supporter of the Fashion Law Institute) as well as Provost of Fordham University Stephen Freedman, the announcement was made at a press breakfast at Fordham's beautiful new building next to Lincoln Center.

"Today is the last step in taking away the question mark after the words "Fashion Law" and replacing it with an exclamation point" Scafidi continued. This initiative, five years in the making, means that those who already have a general law degree can get a Master of Laws or LL.M in Fashion Law. For those without a law degree but involved in the fashion business as designers, executives or other fashion industry professionals, the new Master of Studies in Law, or M.S.L. will offer a specialization in fashion law in order to educate those who would benefit from this knowledge. "In this new era of transparency we would like to open this (information) up and I'm very excited to do that today."

Susan & Diane

In this mutual admiration society, Von Furstenberg was touted by Susan as the "patron saint" of Fordham (a Jesuit school) while, in turn, DVF was quick to sing Scafidi's praises. "None of this would have happened without Susan's passion--she's passionate about both fashion and law," The Queen of the Wrap Dress (there were two women present wearing the same chain link design, in a black & white iteration) mentioned that 25% of the world is involved in some aspect of the fashion business: "It's an industry that reaches everyone at every level and although there are some frivolous aspects of the business, it IS important as it gives a lot of jobs to a lot of people. Although the idea of fashion law seems obvious, somebody had to think about it and somebody had to make it happen and that's Susan. And, Fordham is not a bad home," DVF said. While Scafidi agreed about the location of the university, she none the less lamented the loss of her former neighbor. "It is the best location but I'll miss having Fashion Week here" she said.

The reason for the five year wait for these degrees to be made possible, according to Provost Stephen Freedman, is that it "took a while to get the State of New York to realize that these programs are good." Von Furstenberg chimed in by adding that these programs are "extremely valuable" and may prevent designers from "losing their Intellectual Property and their names."

"So many young designers are so desperate to make a deal that they'll just sign their life away," Von Furstenberg added emphasizing the need for this type of knowledge at the early stages so that designers learn to protect their interests. The University plans to award scholarships to those who can't afford the $53K for the yearlong (two semesters) program, or even the discounted 25% off for the fashion industry ("Who never pay retail" quips Scafidi. Applications are available and classes will begin in the fall. Specialized courses will include Fashion Law & Finance, Fashion Ethics, Sustainability, & Development, Licensing, Fashion Modeling Law, Fashion Law Practicum and Fashion Retail Law.

As for why this is so important now, Von Furstenberg spoke of Eleanor Lambert who founded the CFDA in 1962. "Fifty years ago there was a lot of fashion but no designers were recognized the way they were in Europe. Eleanor Lambert was a publicist who made the world aware of Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, and Halston. Before that the law didn't address it because it didn't exist."

As for the bureaucracy involved in getting this initiative to fruition, DVF (admitting she finds the subject of law to be "the most boring thing in the world") said "Susan is absolutely relentless. She has an idea and she fights for it. She makes it happen." Stephen Freedman looked at Diane: "You're pretty relentless yourself!" he said. "Not anymore," she replied and departed shortly thereafter to attend a funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Other attendees at the press breakfast included Designer and Author Jeffrey Banks; Anna Dalla Val, VP of Intellectual Property, Ralph Lauren Corporation; Steven Kolb, CEO, CFDA; Gary Wassner, Co-CEO, Hilldun/Co-Founder & Chairman, Interluxe, and several Fordham University Faculty Members.

"I'd like to think that having a LL.M. in Fashion Law will become the Sine Qua Non of the fashion industry" said Scafidi, as she urged us to help ourselves to more coffee on the way out. I realized sadly that all the caffeine in the world would not make me half as energetic as either of those two exceptional women.

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, June 22, 2015

In the Market Report

Let’s Hear It for the Red, White, & Blue

There’s no denying the fresh, classic and unapologetically all American appeal of red, white, & blue. Even though admittedly, with July 4th looming in the near future, it may seem obvious and clichéd -- if not a bit corny. But. like anything else, when something is done particularly well it always looks good and never loses its appeal (as the following examples perfectly illustrate). And besides, what’s so bad about a little ‘corn’ every now and then?

Victoria Beckham resort 2016

As soon as I saw the model wearing that perfect slouchy red cashmere v neck sweater tucked into hip slung dark denim roll cuff jeans, accessorized with the sturdy yet feminine white pointy toed sling backs, (on the runway of Victoria Beckham’s recent resort 2016 presentation), I immediately thought, “what a chic way to look on July 4th! Her fresh take on a classic standby was simple, straight forward and easy to duplicate by simply taking distinctive wardrobe basics you already own (in red, white, and blue), and moving them around (the combinations are almost endless).

Derek Lam resort 2016

Derek Lam is a designer known for his love of eased up and luxurious American sportswear. While I wouldn’t say red, white & blue was a recurring theme within his resort 2016 collection, (which was inspired by the off court style and the long athletic limbs of basketball players; notably those of Kareem Abdul-Jabbal’s), one red and white oversized gingham check puffer jacket shown over matching drawstring shorts and a navy cropped top, looked darn good.

Moncler Gamme Bleu     

Thom Browne has long been an advocate of great American (and British) sportswear, though his aesthetic can best be described as subverted preppy (or preppy with a twist). He loves to take what is basic and classic and make it "unbasic" and "unclassic". His menswear 2016 spring collection for Moncler Gamme Bleu, which was just shown in Milan, was inspired by rowing team uniforms (‘think’ Oxford vs. Cambridge). Broken into 4 color groups, the one in red, white, & blue was a standout.

Tom Browne resort 2016 collection

His eponymous resort 2016 collection for women (shown here in New York), was filled with his signature finely tailored jackets and coats, button down oxford shirts, rubberized tweeds, pleated skirts, ribbon trims, polo shirts, and scarf prints, (and accessorized with his handsome handbags and spiffy bi color brogues and boots). While it began with a group of pastels, it also included quite a bit of navy, white, and red. This combination came by way of tartan plaids, button down shirtdresses, and a group of white waffle knits edged in wide stripes of red and navy.

Saint James Naval 11 striped breton top

And speaking of stripes, it goes without saying that they are not only patriotic in an obvious way, but always right on point and a perennial favorite. The iconic Breton striped t shirt is a beloved wardrobe work horse, and you can’t get more authentic than the Saint James Naval ll unisex boat neck top (, $135). Saint James recently collaborated with J.Crew, for their good looking wool Nauplie sweater, available in ivory with navy, or red with navy stripes, $299.00, J. Crew’s ¾ sleeve sailor stripe tee with beaded side detail, $59.50, is another good choice.

Baja Vintage t-shirt 

Along those same lines, if you click on to, you will find Le Mont St. Michel’s classic red and white striped sailor stripe top, $95, as well as Jungmaven’s Baja Vintage t shirt, $96. Pre-shrunk, made of soft, durable hemp, and complimented with red and blue stripes using 100% natural dyes, it is directly inspired by The Declaration of Independence, which was written on hemp (it is sized for men XS- L). Also worth noting is A.L.C’s Robinson cut out neckline sweater in navy and white stripes, ($325,, and Saint Laurent’s navy and red striped cotton long sleeved top, $650,

Ashish blue white striped embellished long sleeved breton

If you want something a bit more unusual (and dressed up), check out Ashish Gupta’s hand embellished striped silk georgette tops that are interesting riffs on the classic cotton Breton striped pullover. The short sleeved red and white sequined ‘t- shirt’ is edged in gold sequins, clear beads, and faux pearls, and the navy and white striped sequined top has long sleeves (both are $1775 from I love them downplayed with jeans (white, dark wash, deconstructed), but you can also pair them with Ashish’s navy all over sequined cotton shorts ($1270). They don’t call him ‘The King of Sequins’ for nothing!

American flag scarf

And if you really want to show your stripes (and stars), how about adding an American flag scarf? Needless to say, they abound, but a few good choices are Gap’s oversized lightweight star printed navy and white scarf, (currently on sale for $23.96,, and the Rustic American Flag Scarf, ($25,

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The New Best Dressed List For 2015

     The notion of ‘Best Dressed’ is elusive and highly subjective. It means different things to different people, (it even means different things to me at times). And it means different things depending on the context it’s put in. And while everyone has an off day (well, almost everyone), the following 21 have been consistent within their own individual styles. I could have selected more, but 21 seemed like a good number. I suppose you could call them, “The 21 Club”.

I purposely steered clear of those who made my past lists because they would invariably be on my lists every year so I suppose you can consider them to be my "Hall of Famers" (and if I did use them again, it was not in the same way). Please see The 2014 New Best Dress List . I also prefer to vary my categories from year to year.

This year there are more men included than before (about one third) and it’s hardly coincidental, since men are undeniably the true style stars. In addition, there is a constant blurring of the lines between what is masculine and a trend towards gender bending or genderless fashion. As Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler observed, “The distinction between man and woman is disappearing, aesthetically at least. This is a big facet of our culture right now”.

It would be presumptuous to title this “Best Dressed in the World” because I am certain there are people as, if not more worthy, of the honor than the ones mentioned, but I have to rely on those who are in my radar. And speaking about lists, I’ve sometimes been tempted to do a Most Beautiful List (everyone seems to do them, a la People Magazine). But for me, beauty (which is both inside and out), is not simply about possessing certain God given assets (though that doesn’t hurt). It’s about the entire package: how you present yourself to the world. In other words, the ones on my New Best Dressed Lists.  I could not agree more with Iris Apfel, who observed that it’s far more important to possess great personal style, than physical beauty. After all, beauty fades, but style is forever.

In completely random order:

Best Dressed Media Powerhouse: Anna Wintour

Click images for larger views

What sets her apart: Named as one of the Hollywood Reporter’s 35 Most Powerful People in Media, Anna’s style is intimidatingly powerful and commensurate with her stature.   While she has access to anything she wants, she wisely steers clear of obvious trends du jour in favor of a look that can best be summed up as..well, very Anna Wintour. Among her signatures: that meticulous every hair in place bob, her sunglasses, a wardrobe of fabulous coats, furs, fur trims, Chanel tweed skirt suits, sheaths, waist defining dresses and skirts that go from knee length to ankle length, tall boots on a heel in the winter and flesh toned sandals in warmer months, and her Georgian collet necklaces (she often wears three or four).

Best Dressed Step-Sisters: Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon

Lou Doillon & Charlotte Gainsbourg

What sets them apart: What do you get when a British actress and fashion icon (Jane Birkin) has two daughters from two separate marriages?

The answer is: Charlotte Gainsbourg, (her father is the late Serge Gainsbourg, an iconic French singer, songwriter, pianist, film composer poet, painter, screenwriter, writer, actor and director), and Lou Doillion (her father is Jacques Doillon, an acclaimed French director and writer).

They are not only talented and accomplished actresses, singers, and musicians, but bona fide style icons in their own right, and they personify a look that is instinctive, casual, hard to duplicate, and Parisian to the core.

Best Dressed Indie Pop Singer/Songwriter: Lykke- Li

What sets her apart: The Swedish born artist and visionary’s spare and minimalist on and off stage style can best be described as unapologetically anti-fashion, timeless and androgynous. (She has described it as “strong, empowering, flattering” and “always with a dash of Bowie”). Almost entirely all black, it could easily rival that of the chicest fashion editor.

Best Dressed Maximalist: Lisa Eisner

What sets her apart: This Renaissance woman is a former fashion editor, a photojournalist, filmmaker, actress, writer, publisher (and muse to Tom Ford). She has an arty, eclectic personal style that is all about more is more. For her, it’s all about statement making jewelry (she has a particular fondness for turquoise and brass), and in fact, a few years ago, she started to design her own line of chunky, tribal looking jewelry.

Best Dressed Toddler: Baby North West

What sets her apart: Unequivocally, baby North is Kim and Kanye’s best collaboration to date, and boy oh boy, does she have attitude! Forget saccharin sweet pastels and flowers (traditionally seen on many other little girls). The two year old’s seriously chic wardrobe (bearing labels from the likes of Alexander Wang and Givenchy) is based around black and white and includes the hippest biker jackets, nail head adorned turtlenecks, and impeccably tailored blazers, always worn with her hair in a bun. Should a clothing line be in her future, a perfect name would be “North by North West”.

Best Dressed Tomboy: Caroline de Maigret

What sets her apart: This French music producer / model / actress’s natural beauty (offset by her long hair and girlish bangs) is a perfect counterpoint to her wardrobe, which is comprised of decidedly tomboyish button down shirts, sweaters, oversized blazers, overcoats, trousers, and jumpsuits; routinely accessorized with trainers, men’s oxfords, boots, or classic high heeled pumps.

Best Dressed Royal: Queen of Qatar Sheika Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned

What sets her apart: Her Royal Highness Sheikha Mozah, the second of three wives of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (former Emir of the State of Qatar), was named as one of Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2010. As for her chic, elegant, personal style: she eschews fussy patterns in favor of monochromatic solids, and in keeping with Qatar’s strict modesty rules, she always matches her covered up, custom made haute couture ensembles with her trademark turbans. Oh, and did I mention that she loves Valentino Couture so much, the Qatar Royal family bought the company back in 2012?

Best Dressed Fashion Magazine News Director: Jane Keltner de Valle

What sets her apart: Glamour Magazine’s Fashion News Director has a look that is unapologetically uptown and elegantly feminine; a perfect mix of classic American with a dose of Parisian chic. Relying on a palette of black, white, midnight, and pale neutrals, she eschews trends and opts for those things that suit her particular style. She favors skirts over pants which she generally pairs with a classic, perfectly fitting black turtleneck, crisp cotton button down, or silk blouse. Her accessories: lady like pumps and hand held bags. Her trusty Delvaux Le Brilliant satchel is proof that there is no better way to rev up an otherwise neutral wardrobe, than to add a touch of red.

Best Dressed Creative Couple: Sofia Sanchez de Betak and Alexandre de Betak

What sets them apart: Argentinian born Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea wears many hats as an art director, graphic designer, and founder of The part time model and social fixture undeniably found her perfect match when she met fellow “all around aesthete”, renowned event producer, Alexandre de Betak. Their weekend wedding on a deserted beach in Patagonia last December, was hailed as “The wedding of the year”, and together, (with their finely honed aesthetic based on a collective knowledge and love of fashion, art, travel, etc.), they’ve been happily collaborating ever since. This past February, they even curated Paddle 8’s ( first ever jewelry and watch auction, which was appropriately called “The Perfect Match”.

Best Dressed Stylist: Anya Ziourova

What sets her apart: With a tall lanky frame that could rival a top high fashion model, (which she was before becoming a stylist and fashion consultant), Anya can wear anything. You can count on her to be one of the first wearing THE looks of the season by THE designers the season. But to her credit, she is a good editor when it comes to her own choices.

Best Dressed Bride: Solange Knowles

What sets her apart: When Solange married Alan Ferguson in New Orleans last year, she gloriously broke the rules. She had the entire wedding party (which included sister Beyonce and Jay Z) dress in white (or some variation). Solange, (wearing a Stephane Rolland low cut ivory jumpsuit), and her husband to be, (wearing a white Lanvin suit), rode vintage white bikes on the streets of the French Quarter to get to their wedding ceremony, which was held at the Marigny Opera House. And for the actual nuptials, she wore an undeniably chic, minimal, covered up, and decidedly untraditional white cape dress designed by Humberto Leon for Kenzo.

Best Dressed On The Social Circuit: Polina Proshkina

What sets her apart:  The former model has a wonderful eye for fashion and knows what suits her. She obviously does her homework before attending any one of the many high profile soirees on her calendar, and it’s impossible not to notice her given her well-considered ensembles that are more often than not, bold, sculptural, architectural, and art inspired.

Best Dressed Dandy: Hamish Bowles

What sets him apart: Vogue’s European Editor-at-Large (not to mention museum curator, couture collector, author and icon in the word of fashion and interior design) favors impeccably tailored pantsuits, loves mixing patterns, and is not afraid of color. And he almost always adds a playful element of surprise (a large flower pinned to his lapel for instance) to give his outfit a whimsical twist, a sense of humor, and some personality.

Best Dressed Guitarist/ Music producer: Nile Rodgers

What sets him apart: The award winning musician (who fronts the legendary band appropriately named, ‘Chic’) has a love of elegant tailoring. His uniform most always consists of an impeccably tailored suit, played out in a palette of monochromatic neutral colors (black, white, gray, navy), and more often than not, he tops off the look (and his signature dreadlocks) with a Kangol beret or cotton bandana.

Best Dressed Rockefeller: Indre Rockefeller

What sets her apart: Her personal style can best be described as sophisticated, artistic, eclectic, unique, and out of the ordinary. She is the walking embodiment of Delpozo, the Spanish based pret a couture luxury brand designed by Josep Font, which could not be more apropos, since she is its US President.

Best Dressed Male Editor-in-Chief: Stefano Tonchi

What sets him apart: When you look up the word “debonair” in the dictionary, there is a picture of Stefano Tonchi next to it. Flawlessly groomed and impeccably turned out, he always looks as though he stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, and with his formal correctness, he manages to look dressed up, even when he is going ‘casual’ (though ‘Dressed Down Fridays’ don’t really seem to exist in his vocabulary).

Best Dressed Former First Lady: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

What sets her apart: The Italian-French singer-songwriter, former model, and face of Bulgari, who is married to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is known for her elegant, understated, achingly French style. She favors little black dresses (with hemlines that demurely hit at her knee); perfectly tailored pantsuits; and jeans, t shirts, and blazers. Her accessories of choice are Roger Vivier’s simple yet luxurious handbags, and flats (or low heeled pumps or boots). At 5’9” (her husband stands at 5’6”), she does not really need high heels anyway.

Best Dressed Red Carpet ‘Newbie’: Dakota Johnson

What sets her apart: Regardless of the fact that the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson has had several acting roles under her belt, the 25 year old was a relative unknown until she was tapped to star as Anastasia Steele in “Fifty Shades of Grey” earlier this year. But she has handled her numerous appearances on high profile red carpets (movie premiers, award shows, Paris fashion week, the Met Gala) like a seasoned pro, and has been faultless in her choices. Favoring designs that completely suit her (with their unfussy clean lines, and accessories kept to a minimum), she has managed to look appropriately young, hip, modern, and elegant, whether opting for a sleek black off the shoulder Dior jumpsuit while attending the show during Paris Fashion Week last season; long, lacquer red and one shouldered (Saint Laurent) at the Academy Awards; short strapless and all over mirrored (Chanel Haute Couture), at the Met Ball.

Best Dressed Peacock: Di Mondo

What sets him apart: A man about town and country, Di Mondo (born Edmundo Huerta), is always ready for his close up. Once referred to as the “Most photographed man in New York”, (“It’s Di Mondo’s World” by Alexandra Jacobs, Fashion & Style, The New York Times, August 20th, 2014), he is both a fashion aficionado and an art enthusiast and exemplifies Oscar Wilde’s assertion: “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art”. He attends all the high profile happenings and galas, and you can always count on him to be perfectly put together and completely color coordinated from head to toe, regardless of the occasion. He also knows when to tone it down a bit (well, sort of).

Best Dressed Fictional Character: Amal Clooney

What sets her apart: The accomplished and brilliant human rights lawyer and law professor is also the ravishingly beautiful wife of George Clooney. Possessed of enviably mile long legs, fabulous hair, and radiant smile, she has a designer outfit to compliment every occasion of her glamorous, globetrotting, fairytale life. Wait. What? You mean she really exists? LOL

Photo Credits:

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™: Fashion Group Frontliners

  Not Your Mother's Bill Blass

Chris Benz & Maryanne Grisz

Arriving on time for the reception at Space 530 in the Garment Center was probably a mistake as I had time to drink a glass and a half of wine before settling into my front row seat just inches away from the featured speaker. Hoping I would not pull a Kanye at his daughter's Disneyland birthday party (he dozed while Elsa from Frozen sang!) I sat bolt upright when the program began 45 minutes later as Director of Special Events Maryanne Grisz informed us that this was Fashion Group International's 85th year (who knew)? In fact, when the organization began in war time 1928, it had 17 female members, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Edith Head. Now there are 25 regions globally which include males as well. Grisz then introduced the man-of-the-hour Chris Benz to the crowd.

When a heritage designer name is so evocative to a market segment outside of your repositioned demographic (boomers) what makes it relevant to your core target consumer (Millennials)? That is the question many seemed to struggle with last night at FGI's Frontliners event, "Reimagining Bill Blass with Chris Benz, Creative Director." Designer Benz was on hand to discuss his imminent reintroducing of the Blass name as an online bridge sportswear collection debuting November 2. Clearly this is not your mother's--or family friend's Bill Blass (more on that later) although Benz made a point of saying that the titular word "reimagining" was incorrect; he prefers the word "renovating."

Cocktail reception

"The House of Blass has great bones. It's a great American sportswear brand," Benz explained. "We are renovating the house and thinking of it in a totally new way." With a nod to the company's president and COO Stuart M. Greenblatt, the 32-year-old Benz acknowledged the man who gave him the brand's helm. Benz, in an unpressed collared shirt and blazer, rolled up Nantucket red pants, navy tie bearing the likeness of West Virginia complete with tie clip, white Converse sneakers and an Apple Watch, is designing for a legacy which had its heyday before he was even self-aware. The adorably boyish and spiky haired Benz came up by way of Parsons (1989), interned at Marc Jacobs and then took a job designing at J.Crew just as Mickey Drexler arrived on the scene, ("Mickey's graduate school," he quips). Winning a CFDA award for emerging designer spurred him on and in 2007 he launched his own line--"Five fabulous years of doing whatever I wanted," adding that he had a great following on social media, "just not necessarily people who bought clothes."

When he was "called out of the blue" for his current position he was initially unsure. "BILL BLASS?!? This is exactly what I don't want to do in fashion," he thought. But something changed his mind. "We're creating an entirely new company called Bill Blass," he intoned. It is to be direct to the consumer and a strictly e-commerce launch as this is "how people shop today: with their phones in the back of a taxi, on their tablets in bed on Sunday morning." Benz is convinced that if Bill Blass was around today he'd be quite vocal on Twitter with things he liked and didn't like. "Mr. Blass always had an ongoing dialogue with the consumer," he said. To that end, social media video guides spotlighting new ways to style items will be featured.

When asked to talk more about the future product, Benz alluded to a "high-low sensibility" assuming the customer will mix the product with a Zara pant or other fast fashion items rather than adopt a head-to-toe BB approach. There will be a focus on more special items: a sequin cardigan as opposed to a basic "Loro Piana navy cashmere;" embroidery out of India; printed pieces that will "speak to the inspirational," as well as handbags, shoes and fashion jewelry. Benz invoked Bill Blass' disdain for the seasonal push remarking that "Seasons felt ridiculous to him" and therefore furs will not be sold in the summer. "Collections are not interesting to me," said Benz, who said they will feature ongoing delivery of their capsule product so that there's always something new on the site. The consumer doesn't care if it's from Resort or Spring, "they just want something to wear to the party this weekend," he explained.

As for prices, the plan is to democratize the line by making something affordable for everyone. Most items will be comparable to bridge brands such as Acne or Phillip Lim with some "halo" items at a much higher price point which he predicted would be the first to sellout. As far as being able to see and touch the clothes in person, trunk shows are in the works. (To note: at just about this juncture, I dropped my pen, which fell as if in a game of Mousetrap, knocking over my half-filled plastic glass of white wine, which I hadn't finished at the risk of falling asleep. I watched it pool out on the floor. "Man down!" quipped Benz).

As for the consumer: "She's a casual American girl in flats. We want her to feel like she's in jeans and a T-shirt even if she's in a long floral dress. We're not for the red carpet...our customer is more of a mobile, traveling, professional woman with a specific point of view," he added. Audience member and man-about-town Robert diMauro quoted Blass as once saying that his " ideal woman is a woman with style who can go out and whistle for a cab." Benz countered with another Blass bon-mot: his ideal woman was never fussy because you can't ride a bicycle in a ballgown.

Benz also mentioned the great amount of archival references the company retains with over 2,500 pieces, although don't expect to see them brought back in a retrospective anytime soon. "It's a slippery slope to rely on past archives," he said. And what of those now gone mainstays of society who are so inextricably linked with the Bill Blass brand such as Nan Kempner or Pat Buckley? Someone suggested that they could be featured in social media TBT's (Throwback Thursdays). Asked for a show of hands on how many of the audience members are "ladies who lunch" and getting a smattering of laughter as response, Benz remarked that we're all women-on- the-go now and that anyone under 40 has no idea who those iconic ladies are. "Our audience is so specific and narrow that we really have to use it the right way."

Was there anything that surprised Benz when going through the archives? Apparently he was shocked to see such exuberance. "You think of Bill Blass as tailored suits with a level of restraint but what we found were feathers shooting out of everywhere; embellishments; color; levity," he said. I had a sudden flashback to one such Bill Blass outfit that I had seen at Nan Duskin in Philly back in the early '80s. Needless to say, it left an indelible mark on me with its fuchsia pink sequin pencil skirt, fuchsia satin draped halter top and matching fuchsia feathered chubby jacket; definitely one of the most TDF ensembles that I had ever seen. A good friend of the family bought it and I remembered seeing her wear it to a party. After the event last night I called her to reminisce and asked about that timeless, show-stopping outfit; something you could wear to this day. She informed me that it had long ago been lent to and ruined by a friend's daughter who tried to iron the sequins. I feel fairly sure that the new sequin cardigans will not meet a similar fate. After all, what Millennial owns an iron?

- Laurel Marcus

In the Market Report: A Perfect "FIT"

Photos by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for FIT
(click images for larger views)

The Fashion Institute of Technology and the FIT Foundation ( held their annual gala, hosted by actress Debi Mazar on Monday night at Cipriani 42nd Street. This has long been considered to be one of the city’s most important fashion business events, the proceeds of which  benefit the Educational Development Fund and go to develop new programs, new initiatives, and scholarship funds to aid the school’s star students in need. (As usual, well over one million dollars was raised).

Debi Mazar making her welcoming remarks

The sit down dinner was preceded by cocktails at 7PM, during which time guests could sip Bellini’s, snack on mini lamb chops and caviar on toast, and take in the creative student designed installations which were planted throughout. Included was a Warhol inspired ‘Marilyn’  homage, and a matching pair of sculptures placed in the entry hall, which not only greeted, but congratulated this year’s two stellar honorees: Saks Fifth Avenue and Edwin A. Goodman, co-founder of Milestone Venture Partners. Each year, the gala pays tribute to outstanding leaders in his or her fields who are recognized for their commitment to supporting the “future leaders of the fashion and creative industries”.

Linda Fargo

Among the 600 guests (current leaders in the fashion and creative industries): Linda Fargo (a 2014 honoree), Lisa Perry, John and Laura Pomerantz, Stefano Tonchi, Nanette Lepore, Dr. Joyce Brown, Dr. Valerie Steele, Jacqui Lividini, Amsale Aberra, Nanette Lepore,  Saks Fifth Avenue’s Marc Metrick, Coco and Arie Kopelman, Rebecca Minkoff, Jane Hudis,  Jean Shafiroff, John Demsey, Jennifer Creel, Adrienne Vittadini, Josie Natori, Barbara and Donald Tober, Dennis Basso (several women, including Yaz Hernandez and Liz Peek were wearing his designs), Fern Mallis, and Jeffrey Banks.

Elizabeth Peek, Dr. Joyce  Brown Jane Hudis, & Yaz Hernandez

Speaking of the latter two, I couldn’t help but ask the two successful authors, what they had in the works. Fern, (fresh off the recent release of “Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis”) did not rule out a follow up to her well received book (nor did she rule out a book on another subject). Jeffrey, who has co- authored three fashion books with Doria de la Chapelle for Rizzoli, and who is seemingly never without a project, admitted that he indeed has a book in the works, but would only say that the subject is a male fashion designer who is no longer with us.

 Jeffrey Banks

And speaking of menswear, Jeffrey who won two Coty Awards for Outstanding Menswear and Men’s Furs, received the Cutty Sark U.S. Menswear Designer of the Year Award for his Extraordinary Contribution to Men’s Fashion, an Earnie Award for Boyswear, and the Pratt Award for Design Excellence, minced no words when it came to the menswear spring 2016 collections which are currently under way in London. “Ridiculous, especially when you factor in the current economic climate” is pretty much how he summed up many of the overly tricky and theatrical designs which have been coming down the runway.

But given America’s sportswear roots which Jeffrey knows a thing or two about since he worked as a design assistant to both Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein prior to launching his own name label in 1977, he is hopeful that the upcoming New York Fashion Week: Men’s (July 13 – 16), will be filled with the kind of great looking and wearable clothes we are known for.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, June 15, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

  Layering Up for Summer: A "Hot" Trend for Street or Stage

Designer Gene Kagan of  Lola & Sophie

Early summer heat wave be damned, the concept of layering is never far from my consciousness. These days I just don't feel fully dressed unless I've got a layer over my tank top, tank dress or t-shirt. The layers I'm referring to don't really add much in the way of warmth, they are more for style; a cotton jersey vest, mesh tank or lightweight denim shirt will do just fine. On a recent trip to Atlanta (more about that below) I had happened to hang up a chiffon animal print vest/bathing suit coverup next to a long striped maxi tank dress. Noticing that they looked good together tonally (in the same blacks and grays), and as an afterthought since I felt that the tank dress alone was too "beachy" for the brunch I was going to attend, I put them on and headed out.

To my surprise, a total stranger asked me where I purchased my "outfit" assuming that I had bought the two together. I was therefore in my element at a recent breakfast/open house given by designer Gene Kagan of the contemporary sportswear brand Lola & Sophie.  Judging by the offerings on view, lightweight layering will continue to stay strong through Holiday 2015. I had Lola & Sophie--named after Kagan's two dogs-- on my radar for a few years since discovering the brand and purchasing one of their versatile stretchy knit tops. I remember marveling at the excellent price point (many pieces hover under $100 and even the jackets are under $200). At last week's event, attendees were invited to select any item from either of the new Fall or Holiday collections as a parting gift. Sure beats the usual goodie bag!

To return to the layering aspect, the brand's casual yet luxurious aesthetic coupled with the sculptural shapes and easy flow of the fabrics make multiple tiers possible without any bulk or excess warmth. With Lola & Sophie tops, it's really easy to mix and match. Start with an under layer, either a solid or a sophisticated print, such as an asymmetrical hemmed tank in a flowy yet well weighted fabric. Add either a moto style ponte jacket, a distressed satin cardigan, a crepe jersey jacket or a super lightweight jacquard long duster (my personal favorite and the item I selected to have sent to me) and you've magically transformed separates into a totally polished yet comfortably chic look. For Holiday there are slightly heavier yet still relaxed fabrications including a toned down sequin top to be worn with jeans and a cabled or tweed-like sweater blazer. Colors include ivory, black, gray, navy, burgundy and taupe. The line includes a few dresses and casual pants which I did not try on but looked great on the model.

If layering is not really your thing, there are still several styles in long sleeve tunic tops with and without button fronts which could be thrown over casual pants or jeans to give an instantly pulled together look. Several tops actually have a built in chiffon layer that make it look like you put extra effort into your ensemble with only one garment. I also love the faux-chinchilla vest and faux chinchilla sweater jacket for looking ahead to that first cooler snap in the weather. "These are clothes to experiment with and make your own" says Kagan. "I designed them to be both comfortable and flattering and to instill a certain sense of empowerment for the woman who wears them." Kagan has been in business for about four years with this line which can be found locally at Diana & Jeffries, and Ann Crabtree, both on Madison Avenue, Anik on Third Avenue and CPW Boutique on Amsterdam Avenue as well as online at

As for the gauze-like textured duster, of course it looked terrific on the approximately 6 ft. tall model there to display the clothes, but it was still wearable on a person of slightly less stature. When someone remarked that it really worked on just about everyone, Kagan said, "I hope so! We cut a lot of them." In retail parlance, the commitment has been made so everyone go out and buy a long duster; preferably the Lola & Sophie version!

Stones Concert at Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Another example of the power of layers was on full display when the Rolling Stones took the stage during their current 15-city Zip Code Tour. I saw them on their fifth stop--Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia 30332--last week and marveled at how, although the core four’s faces are obviously deeply lined, they seem to have more energy than normal folks half their age. Thanks Adam Levine of Maroon 5, but only Jagger actually "moves like Jagger" -- one month shy of his 72nd birthday, he doesn't seem to have missed a note or a step with his "strutting rooster on speed" run of the stage and catwalk.

Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards
in Atlanta (Creative Loafing photo)

I had read an interview with Mick in which he discussed his stage clothing and mentioned that he likes to wear very bright, almost day-glo colors for his stadium tours in order to be more easily seen. He opened the show true to form on that account in a shiny green brocade blazer that would not have been out of place in a Las Vegas lounge lizards’ act. A few songs in and off came the blazer revealing a black sequined satin shirt.Eventually he stripped that off too and was left in a tight see-through purple long sleeved t-shirt which either sprouted a hole under his right arm or the hole just got bigger as he put it through his paces. Even the great Mick Jagger is not immune to the occasional wardrobe malfunction! Jagger also wore a patterned shirt over the black tee which could have been Versace but reminded me of the hideous polyester Huckapoo shirts that were big in the '70s.

Mick performs Sympathy for the Devil

A few tunes later he appeared in a pewter leather trapunto stitched motorcycle jacket with '80s shoulders which I loved and again stripped down to a blue satin button down blouse. Under that was another version of the same long sleeved transparent tee shirt; this time in black sans hole. Finally for the encore of "Sympathy For The Devil" Sir Michael Philip aka Mick, appeared in a long, red feathered cape which worked well with the accompanying "flames" on the three-sided Jumbotron. Mind you this was on an 87 degree evening with very little breeze and heavy humidity! Keith Richards or Keef, also donned rainbow brights: teal sneakers, red satin jacket over a purple shirt, black and white striped headband, with a later change to an equally intense green jacket. One reviewer, Melissa Ruggieri of (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) likened his outfit to a "human package of Skittles." (I think I read that comment about the wardrobe in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” too). Ronnie Woods was a human chimney, smoking a cigarette hands-free throughout the latter portion of the concert. He wore a purple jacket with a bright yellow tee with a colorful design underneath. Eventually his jacket was removed too. Only Charlie Watts, behind the drum kit, wore a plain vanilla or maybe pale yellow generic tee, perhaps not wishing to be part of the Crayola parade.

As the night wore on... (Bill Dawers photo)

Knowing that Mick's late girlfriend, the designer and former stylist L'Wren Scott, used to dress the band for their concerts, I found myself wondering what she would make of this somewhat clownish tour attire. Under her tutelage Mick had previously donned a pinstriped jacket and fedora albeit for a more intimate club or even an arena setting, rather than a stadium tour. After all these years, the Stones can obviously do no wrong either musically or sartorially; the crowds will still turn out and make some noise for them as they did some 42,000 strong in Atlanta .It was kind of a magical evening for me and my Atlanta-based daughter as we could see the stadium and hear the opening act music from her new apartment's terrace getting us really psyched up. We reminisced about the last time we saw the Stones at Giants Stadium on their "Bigger Bang" tour, over a decade ago!

This time we were able to get to the stadium with a mere 15 minute walk thereby avoiding the massive traffic snarl that the ATL is known for; only made worse when an event of this magnitude comes to town. We also loved that the Stones, who select a local college choir at each location, chose my daughter's recent alma mater Emory University's choir for backup on "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Suffice it to say, I am glad I happened to be down South to witness this since the veteran rock 'n rollers are not coming any closer than Buffalo when they get up North.

Speaking of sound, I am including a link to a podcast which includes a radio interview of yours truly for Fashion Industry News (F.I.N.) Radio. My thanks to host Jennifer Torress, who had somehow come across the DFR and decided to track me down. As I mention in the interview I have FOSM (Fear of Social Media) and cannot be located through the usual channels of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,or Snapchat thereby making the task more difficult than one would think in today's zero privacy world. The interview begins at the 7 minutes 40 second mark, in case you want to skip ahead. I can't say I have the best voice for radio but I enjoyed the opportunity none the less.

- Laurel Marcus