Saturday, May 28, 2016

Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

Fashion, Food & Fast Cars

Townsend Bell in Robert Graham fire suit

The 100th running of the Indy 500 takes place on May 29th and veteran racecar driver, Townsend Bell, was in New York this week to celebrate two of the California brands behind his Indy car.  Bell, a California native, made an appearance at the California Pizza Kitchen in Manhattan to discuss the restaurant’s first time sponsorship of his car.  They are joining California based apparel company, Robert Graham, a cosponsor of Bell’s cars for the past three years.

Robert Graham limited edition shirt

To commemorate the Indy 500’s big birthday, Robert Graham has created a special, limited edition hat and shirt, the latter features images of vintage newspaper articles about the race on the back and custom detailing on the collar and cuffs.  Naomi Holland, Robert Graham’s Vice President of Marketing, commented on their ongoing involvement with the race, “ It’s a very natural partnership because many of our customers are car spectators, car enthusiasts, car collectors, so we’ve got a lot of mutual audiences; and then the connection is very organic, you know, Townsend’s fire suit is very creatively designed with all of the Robert Graham details.”

Townsend Bell pizza
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Bell’s other sponsor, California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), worked with him to come up with a recipe for; you guessed it, a Townsend Bell pizza. CPK’s Vice President of Public Relations, Kathleen Bush, said that Bell was intimately involved in creating his namesake pizza: hand tossed dough topped with white truffle oil and cream, oregano, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, fresh basil and fennel sausage.  Judging from the reactions of those sampling Bell’s creation in New York, the resulting pizza is a winner.

Townsend Bell
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Of course on Sunday, with all of the pre race hoopla behind him, Bell will be focusing all of his attention on winning.  “ It becomes a game of chicken, basically, between you and the track to see what you can get away with, says Bell…not only am I competing against the track, I’m competing against 32 other guys that are trying to do the same thing, and who’s going to be the bravest and have the best finesse and make the best adjustments in the car.”

Watch the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 race, Sunday, May 29th on ABC (check your local listings).  To purchase the limited edition Robert Graham shirt and hat go to:

-Rhonda Erb
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Friday, May 27, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

Spring Flinging with The Lower Eastside Girls Club

Jenny Dembrow and Lower Eastside Girls Club
All photos: Laurel Marcus

Wednesday night I had the privilege of attending Spring Fling: A benefit for the Lower Eastside Girls Club at The Bowery Terrace at the Bowery Hotel. The evening's honorees were financial wizard Kimberley Hatchett and fashion inspiration Patricia Field, both supporters of the LESGC. The theme was a festive and fun prom with girls from the Club in donated prom dresses, some of which they had "customized" with Artist Scooter LaForge from the House of Field, known for his collage-like art often featuring clowns.

Kimberley Hatchett, Debi Mazar, Patricia Field, Miriam Shor

Upon arrival and after climbing the stairs to the rooftop location I was greeted by several girls giving out handmade "corsages" of fabric flowers, ribbon and feathers.  As I walked into the party I remarked on how the summer-like weather and the space worked together synergistically providing an easy flow of indoors-outdoors. Guests mingled out on the roof deck or just inside by the bar area with a large dance floor and music by band Sonido Costeno.  The overall effect was as if an arts fair, fiesta, prom and a circus had all come to town!

Scooter LaForge, Patricia Field and friends

High profile attendees included many of New York's most influential and connected business leaders, creative innovators and philanthropists who give freely of their time and money to the 20-year-old Girls Club which relocated in 2013 from a leaky basement to a 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art space complete with a planetarium on Avenue D, thanks to funds raised at events such as this one.

Tyra Banks from L.A

Eventually everyone gathered for the remarks portion of the evening which began with Jenny Dembrow, co-founder and director of programs (as well as former Jeremy Scott muse and Limelight club kid back in the mid 90's) welcoming the crowd followed by a step performance by some of the girls. Tyra Banks, supporter of the Girls Club and founder of the T-Zone Foundation located at the LESGC, spoke via video, to introduce Morgan Stanley Executive Director Kimberley Hatchett. Tyra spoke of how Hatchett rose to prominence in a predominantly white, male dominated field. She is now responsible for handling $200 billion -- which she accomplished by jumping through "hurdles" just like she had as an Olympic hopeful in the '80s.

Kimberley Hatchett

Hatchett gave a rather short speech concluding with her favorite quote "We rise by lifting others." Then Actress Debi Mazar, (who was accompanied by her fellow castmate Miriam Shor of the TV show "Younger" on which Field is the costume designer) introduced Pat Field mentioning that they had been friends for 35 years, and knew Jenny Dembrow for 25 years. Regarding Mazar's relationship with Pat: "We're both Queen's girls. Bridge and tunnel and we own it" she quipped. "Pat was godmother to the kids of NYC. She provided a creative outlet and jobs." Mazar recounted how she had left her unstable home at 15, ending up at Pat's store where she used her beauty school training to cut Pat's hair. "She welcomed us to her shop, gave us fabrics and a good way to stay out of trouble and off drugs. It was a safe haven and Pat created a family of artists."

Pat Field speaks

The raspy voiced Pat spoke of the "good will that went into building this beautiful building" as well as expressing her wish that "their experience opens the doors so to speak. This Girls Club should be a prototype for similar clubs around the country." After adding that she never saw herself as a girl or a boy, but rather just as a person. "My mother is the same way. There are no girls or boys brains. It's just a brain." After thanking Scooter LaForge, she had a message for the girls.  "You've got a life ahead of you and it's gonna be beautiful."

Step dancing girls

Next the girls chorus sang "I Am Superwoman" followed by Jenny Dembrow instructing everyone to text their pledges. At 9 p.m. the after-party began with all getting their groove on to the tunes of DJ Natasha Diggs. All funds raised will sponsor the Lower Eastside Girls Club programs connecting at-risk girl to healthy and successful futures while offering a safe haven and studies in the arts, sciences, leadership, health and wellness.

Lyn Pentecost, Executive Director at The Lower Eastside Girls Club

Of course, prom dresses are fun but they do present some challenges. "This should be an adventure," a beautiful young woman in a teal satin full-skirted "Cinderella-at-the-ball" gown said as she entered the stall. At the sink,  I found out that she was a former "girl" at the Girls Club and had since "married in" to the family with a son of one of the directors. "I was told to wear this" she said. "Well, you totally rock it!" I answered, and went off into the night reassured that fairy tales do come true.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, May 26, 2016

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Taste of Hope 2016 Benefit 

Drew Nieporent, Jean Shafiroff & David Burke
Photos: Marilyn Kirschner

Yesterday evening, The American Cancer Society held its 11th annual Taste of Hope Benefit. This year’s three worthy honorees were famed chef David Burke (Culinary Honoree), iconic New York restaurateur Drew Nieporent (Corporate Honoree), and tireless philanthropist Jean Shafiroff (Philanthropic Honoree). Jean was wearing a show stopping fuchsia gown with black embroidery designed by Peter Copping for Oscar de la Renta. It’s safe to say that the philanthropist and humanitarian won’t be taking this, or any of her fancy evening gowns with her when she soon heads off to Nicaragua on a weeklong animal rescue mission with her daughter.

Sponsored by the Taste of Hope volunteer committee, event chairs were Jamie Koff and Mark D. Friedman. Hosts for the evening were CBS News Anchor Chris Wragge and the actor, Richard Kind. Over $1.5 Million has been raised thus far to support the American Cancer Society’s mission and goal of eliminating cancer as a major health problem.

The Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, could not have been a more perfect setting for an event that is not only a major fundraiser, but a major culinary event. Guests were able to walk around and sample a dizzying variety of great food, wine, spirits, and creative cocktails from some of New York’s most popular restaurants and beverage vendors who set up stations throughout the sprawling loft like space.

Benziger Family Winery

Among the participating restaurants that offered up their signature dishes: Nobu, BLT Prime, Fresco by Scotto, Serendipity 3, Barney Greengrass, Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, Todd English, La Fonda del Sol, Magnolia Bakery, Rock Center Café, and Luke’s. My oversized lobster necklace turned out to be a perfect accompaniment to my lobster roll lol. Sips were provided by Benziger Family Estates, Sapphire Bombay, Tommasi Family Estates, Allegrini, Cesari, Domaines Paul Mas, and more.

Marilyn with her lobster roll at Luke's

There was also a live auction of 89 items that ended at 9:30. Categories were Beauty, Health/Fitness, Fashion, Travel, Home, Technology, Sports, Experience, and Dinner and a Show. At the top of that list was a ticket for two to see the 16 time Tony nominated hit “Hamilton” this fall. The starting bid was $2500. The winning bid was $3000. Its value was described as “Priceless”.

But not as priceless as eradicating cancer from the face of the earth.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

FIT Museum Brings Uniforms Front & Center

All photos Laurel Marcus

The shirtwaist dress, the military jacket, the pea coat, the jumpsuit, the striped Breton shirt, the trench coat, the safari jacket, the sailor pant, the camouflage print, the branded athletic wear -- although this reads like a list of must-haves for today's fashion conscious woman it is actually an itemization of clothing styles that have roots in the "lowly" uniform. Yesterday I attended the press preview for FIT's newest exhibition "Uniformity," on view until November 19, which culls 70 items, primarily from FIT's permanent collection.

Curator Emma McClendon

Curator Emma McClendon was a wealth of knowledge on a subject that I didn't expect to find interesting. Boy, was I wrong on that count! The exhibition takes on all four categories of uniforms: Military, Work, School and Athletic in separate sections. Here you can see an original uniform displayed alongside its high fashion version. According to McClendon, "uniforms have a very strong aesthetic.

Designers are particularly drawn to military uniforms as they convey power and authority. Although they are designed for mass production they are functional, good looking garments." McClendon attributes the fact that the museum counts many military pieces in their permanent collection to former curator of FIT and of the Met's Costume Institute Richard Martin (1946-1999) who was "very interested in the socio-political aspect of fashion."

Video of  Stan Herman & Thom Browne

At the beginning of the exhibition is a video in which former president of the CFDA and "Go-to" uniform designer Stan Herman as well as men's and women's wear designer Thom Browne speak about their experiences and thoughts on the uniform. Herman had designed the red Avis uniforms and was then asked in 1975 to design for TWA. "They wanted color. Color is the most important thing in uniforms. It represents who these corporations are." What they got was yellow, orange, cobalt blue and beige, complete with a patterned scarf which could be worn in any fashion expressing the wearer's individuality, all on view here.

Stan Herman's TWA uniforms 1975

Herman also designed the Federal Express uniforms, re-working them for the now ubiquitous FedEx logo, as well as the 1976 McDonald's uniforms-- in the video he says he "was shocked" when asked to design the first company-wide uniform for the fast food chain. Herman attributes his love for uniforms to his "orderly mind." Interestingly, Stan showed up briefly yesterday to check out the exhibition, asking when the party was only to be told that there was no party for the exhibitions in this smaller space. He also mentioned that he had bought the McDonalds uniform on eBay which he donated to the museum along with the TWA uniforms which presumably he had saved. Herman now designs for Jet Blue and was reminiscing about the condition of the old landmarked TWA Eero Saarinen at JFK building, now in partial use by Jet Blue.

Stan Herman views his McDonald's uniform next to Moschino's fashion version,
Chanel, Brasserie Gabrielle ensemble, fall 2015

Thom Browne did not make an appearance other than on video, saying this: "I went to Catholic school and as a kid wearing a uniform was important because it freed us up from having to think about clothes." He admits that as a designer he references uniforms all the time by "reinterpreting the classics" and "playing with proportion." Browne's 2009 Pitti Florence fashion show was a study on the classic white collar man's uniform of a suit yet he tweaks it with elements of a school boy uniform (an example can be seen displayed next to an Eton suit in the exhibition). The theme of a love/hate relationship to uniforms is revealed -- Browne's theory is that you get to see the real person when you're not looking at the clothing -- kind of an odd belief for a fashion designer.

A video sequence on the wall in the last room displays one of Thom Browne's recent shows which are always fantastical, theatrical collections set in elaborate and evocative sets; another screen shows Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel airport show at the Grand Palais, while a third row of screens features one of Jean Paul Gaultier's shows as well as his perfume commercials featuring the ever-present breton shirt and sailor uniform, now fetishized. Side note: Did you know that the stripes on a sailor shirt were originally there to make it easier to spot someone who went overboard?

Stylized designer camouflage including John Bartlett's dog print (left),
 an example of British Camouflage

At the various displays McClendon gave us several interesting facts about uniforms. It was fascinating to learn that the braiding and knot detailing seen on military jackets was originally designed as protection from hand-to-hand combat; that the original khaki or olive drab color used in WWI and WWII ( a "puke" green color) was not regarded highly and eventually phased out in favor of a grayer "army green;" that camouflage (developed in WWI) allows you to blend in but also to stand out, or at least the fashion versions in brighter colors do.

Left:Oscar de la Renta's Eveningwear Center: Jean Paul Gaultier; Right Sacai

That both the nurse's uniform and school girl's uniform became sexualized into the second half of the 20th century; that the sailor suit originally crossed over into the fashion world through children's wear, then into women's wear for "activewear purposes" including as beachwear or for playing tennis circa 1940's; and finally the idea that there is something subversive about outfitting women in military looks initially designed for men. Of course, now everything is trending towards the unisex and being watered down, making that dichotomy a thing of the past. A good example of this is that the nurse's dress has been replaced by scrubs since men entered the nursing profession.

Original coverall, flight suits, Lauren Bacall's Fiorucci Jumpsuit from the '70s

The jumpsuit, so named because paratroopers jumped out of planes in them, was actually a spin-off of the coverall made by Henry David Lee (inventor of Lee Jeans) in 1913 who made one for his chauffeur to fix the car in. The jumpsuit started out in an olive drab but was eventually made in other colors once flame retardant fabric was invented. On display is a hot pink Fiorucci jumpsuit, donated by Lauren Bacall who wore it in the '70s when she would have been in her fifties, notes McClendon.

Geoffrey Beene, Football jersey dress, fall 1967 

Lastly, is the sports themed platform, which is where bright colors, logos, prominent insignias and even more branding really arrive on the scene in order to differentiate between teams on the playing field. McClendon mentions with pride that the museum's new acquisition of the white Geoffrey Beene 1967 sequined "football jersey" dress (which appeared on the Harper's Bazaar's cover) is her favorite piece of the exhibition.

Various examples of branding in athletic wear

When asked a question about the popularity of the Vetements DHL uniform T-shirts, McClendon just shook her head and said that she finds people's reaction to the sold out $330 shirt to be the most interesting aspect of the whole thing. "Meta-ism" of the week: If you order the Vetements DHL shirt, does it get delivered by DHL?

- Laurel Marcus

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Gordon Parks Foundation Holds Star-Studded Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street

Performers Jon Batiste and Stay Human
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

The Gordon Parks Foundation held its tenth anniversary dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 24th with hors d'oeuvres beginning at 6:00 PM. This dinner celebrates Gordon Parks, who was a noted African-American photographer, musician, writer and film director who died in 2006.

Photographer Peter Beard and gallery owner tony Shafrazi

Last week the exhibition "Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem" opened at the Art Institute of Chicago. Tonight honored seven individuals, similar to Parks, whose work has changed the landscape of music, fashion, photography, philanthropy and education including:

Granddaughter Bronte Kastenberg with Judy Glickman
and Leonard Lauder

Kathleen Cleaver-who coined the phrase "black is beautiful, acclaimed public interest lawyer- Bryan Stevenson, designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, philanthropists Judy and Leonard Lauder, photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier, and singer Janelle Monae.

Gordon Parks scholarship recipients left to right Ajani Russell,
Jaleel Wilson and Kiara dunkley

Moreover, we were introduced to the 21 talented students from across the country who were awarded the Gordon Parks Scholarship in photography, tap dancing, poetry and singing. Singer-student Maria Wirries wowed the crowd with her great voice and sparkling red dress - the guilelessness of these students is what this dinner is all about.

Instagram star and model Luka Sabbat

The room was replete with supermodels Chanel Iman, Martha Hunt, Constance Jablonski and internet sensation Luka Sabbat.

Chanel Iman with Alexander Soros

The combination of Alexander Soros, son of George, and DKNY designers Osborne and Chow, brought the fashion crowd out in droves as well as Gayle King, Usher, and Victor Cruz.

Honoree and DKNY designer Maxwell Osborne with Alexander Soros
and football player Victor Cruz

Maxwell Osborne, who took to the stage said he felt unworthy to receive the award and was upset that there were only 21 scholarships when there should be "one for every f-in person in the room"; he then apologized for the expletive since his mother was in the audience. His partner, Dai-Yi Chow, said he lived by the Gordon Parks quote "enthusiasm is the electricity of life" and felt super humbled to accept the award.

Emcee Swiss Beatz with Zara Beard

Swiss Beatz, the emcee of the evening, announced to enthusiastic applause that Beatz, Victor Cruz and Usher, per Osborne's exhortation, were funding 30 additional scholarships to the current 21. Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, introduced Leonard Lauder and Judy Glickman who have devoted time and energy to this charity and continue to amaze with the prodigiousness of their philanthropy.

Gayle King and Janelle Monae

There were other notable dinner attendees including Gayle King who looked extra svelte and told me she did not know who designed her dress but was excited to fit into it. Gayle fraternized with Usher and Janelle Monae while photographers snapped away feverishly.

Left to right Stephen Orso, Peter Brant Jr., Martha O' Grady, Anna Olbrycht,
Adam Spoont, Jojo Anavim and Luka Sabbat

Janelle Monae, accepted her award and thanked her grandmother who was a sharecropper and her mother for "sacrificing her senior year in high school to give birth to me." Monae is a fashion and music sensation and said she wanted to kill the stereotype that African Americans are monolithic because "we are layered" and then said that "women are not objects but subjects, and the future is female."

Jacquelyn Jablonski, Constance Joblanski and Martha Hunt

To ensure the future of this foundation fundraising and an auction were held where $14,000 was raised for two tickets to the Chanel Paris show as well as a tour of Coco Chanel's house, and more than $65,000 was given for a Parks photograph featuring Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver.

Designers Prabal Gurung and Dai-Yi Chow

The surprise of the evening was a spectacular performance by Jon Batiste and Stay Human - which included a female horn player who stole the show. As I headed outside to grab some air, I bumped into Peter Brant Jr. and some of his socialite friends smoking and fraternizing before they headed out to the Rose Bar for Part Two to an incredibly inspirational evening.

- Lieba Nesis

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In the Market Report

The 2016 “Class” Act

Parsons Dean of Fashion Burak Camak addressing the guests
All photos Marilyn Kirschner

The late great Geoffrey Beene famously argued that it’s not what is “new” that matters, but what is “good”. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the possibility that something can be both.Such was the case yesterday afternoon, when the top collections from The New School’s Parsons School of Design, class of 2016, were spotlighted at a runway show held at Pier 60.

Design by Xingyuan Xu

I suppose you could say it was a dress rehearsal for the show which was repeated again last evening during the course of the 68th annual Parsons Benefit; a collaboration between Parsons School of Design and the College of Performing Arts. Hosted by Andy Cohen, honorees were Beth Rudin DeWoody (BA Liberal Arts’75), Arianna Huffington, Donna Karan (BFA Fashion design ’87), and Sarah Jessica Parker. Funds raised will go to support scholarships to The New School for students unable to attend the university.

Design  by Song Deoyoon

Joel Tower and Burak Camak, Parsons New School’s Executive Dean and Dean of Fashion, respectively, were on hand to make their welcoming remarks. Mr. Tower asked the faculty and new graduates who were seated in the audience to stand and called them (and “the staff across the university”), “an amazing group of people”.

Ya Jun Lin puffer jacket

He also acknowledged that this is the first time the runway show would combine Parsons College of Performing Arts and its Fashion School. He went on to say this would be our “first look” at the show that has launched the careers of many iconic designers including Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. The Dean echoed the sentiment that it’s been an “amazing year”.

The fast paced show began with fashion designer, performance artist and opera singer Alejandra Burguete (whose vision of luxury mixes creativity and sustainability) and included the designs of approximately 28 students (there were three to 5 pieces shown per each).

Design by Sarah Kate Belcher

Among the standouts: the work of 2016 Solstiss Award Winner Sarah Kate Belcher (her thesis collection, Free/Form was sponsored by Solstiss Lace and Kayrock Screenprinting); Natasha Kumar’s humane, ecologically sound, deconstructed designs; Xingyuan Xu’s geometric, color blocked 3D Orientalism;

Design by Natasha Kumar

Angela Luna’s distinctive outerwear (she is in the process of creating an accessible, humanitarian fashion brand); Han Wen’s mix of the cross cultural and the highly experimental, with couture like construction; Ya Jun Lin’s focus on the graphic and sculptural; Sijun Guo’s three dimensional sculpted shapes;

Design by Nicola Romagnoli

Nicola Romagnoli’s high tech, futuristic designs. They would have been right at home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition, “Manus x Machina”: Fashion in an Age of Technology, and could have easily been worn by some of the attendees of the recent Met Gala.

Design by Jackson Wiederhoeft

The show’s finale fittingly showcased New York based fashion designer Jackson Wiederhoeft. I was not at all surprised to learn that he has apprenticed in both fashion design and costume design and always seeks to imbue his clothes with serious “star quality”. For him, it’s not about age, look, or gender, but “attitude”. This was quite apparent in his debut collection, “The Dollies”, for which he cast a variety of models, drag queens, and club kids.

Thom Browne looking on as Jackson Wiederhoeft designs
come down the runway

And I was hardly surprised to learn that following graduation, where he was one of twelve Womenswear Designer of the Year finalists, he will begin working for Thom Browne, assisting the Design Development Team for both the men’s and women’s collections. Like a proud papa, Thom was taking it all in from a ringside seat.

- Marilyn Kirschner